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Account for the EU's 'big bang' enlargement of 2004

Account for the EU's 'big bang' enlargement of 2004

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Richard Jackson. Originally submitted for Politics at Queen's University Belfast, with lecturer Dr. David Phinnemore in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Richard Jackson. Originally submitted for Politics at Queen's University Belfast, with lecturer Dr. David Phinnemore in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 1
 Account for the EU‟s „big bang‟ enlargement of 2004
. Abstract
The „big bang‟ enlargement of the European Union (EU) occurred when, on 1 May
2004, eight Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries
 –
Czech Republic,Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia
 –
and Cyprusand Malta, joined the EU. The following essay seeks to determine why this historicalaccession occurred, and why it did so in 2004. The discussion will firstly analyse howthe geopolitical situation in Kosovo in
1999 stimulated the European Commission‟s
decision to reassess its enlargement strategy in favour of a more inclusive andurgent approach. Secondly, the investigation suggests that, in spite of the increasedimpetus to alter the enlargement agenda stimulated by the Kosovo crisis, the role of conditionality was of key importance in accounting for which applicants became part
of the 2004 „big bang‟.
Finally, this essay asserts that the European Commissioncritically influenced the timeframe of the enlargement, resulting in its culmination on 1
May 2004; specifically by injecting momentum to negotiations through its „roadmap‟,
its use of constructivist rhetoric to influence incumbent member states, and its
shrewd decision to delay the „big bang‟ until May 2004
to avoid institutional unrest inthe EU and to aid the CEE countries financially. Whilst constructivists and realistshave conversely
sought to explain the eastern enlargement in „either‟, „or‟ terms,
thispaper offers a unique argument, which contends that a fusion of both realist andconstructivist theories is best equipped to fully explain the reasons for, and the timeof,
the „big bang‟ enlargement of 2004.
Keywords:
EU; eastern enlargement; big bang; European Commission; Kosovo 
 
The „big bang‟
enlargement of the European Union (EU) occurred when, on 1 May2004, eight Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries
 –
Czech Republic,Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia
 –
and Cyprusand Malta, joined the EU (Verheugen 2007: 1; Schimmelfennig 2006: 208; Nugent2005: 1). Of unprecedented scope and historical impact (Landaburu 2007: 9), thesimultaneous accession of these states in 2004, was coined the
„big bang‟
 enlargement (Nugent 2005: 1). Explanations of this unique enlargement haveincluded emphasis on:
the EU‟s
 
„special responsibility‟
to enlarge based on a pan-European identity (Sedelmeier 2005),
“rhetorical entrapment” (Schimmelfennig
 2001), geopolitical considerations (Skalnes 2005), member state preferences(Moravcsik and Vachudova 2003), institutional advocacy (Sedelmeier 2005), the
 
 2
impact that NATO enlargement has on the EU (Fierke and Wiener 2005),
„collectiveguilt‟ (Lasas 2008)
, and the preparedness of the EU for enlargement with regard toinstitutional and policy reforms. The brevity of the following discussion renders itimpossible to analyse all such factors. Nevertheless, the following discussion will
investigate why the „big bang‟ occurred, and why
so in 2004. Having analysed theextent to which the geopolitical situation in Kosovo caused the EU to reassess itsenlargement strategy in favour of a more inclusive approach, the discussion willoutline the importance of conditionality in accounting for the
„big bang‟
. Finally, thesignificance of the Com
mission in ensuring that the „big bang‟ took place in 2004
willbe analysed. Whilst constructivists and realists have conversely sought to explain theeastern enlargement
in „either‟, „or‟ terms,
 
this „division of 
 
labour‟ (Katzenstein
et al.1998: 137) fai
ls to fully account for the „big bang‟ of 2004. Instead,
the followingdiscussion will attempt to do so by presenting a unique argument, in which
a „fusion‟
(Wessels 2001: 201) of realist and constructivist factors can more accurately accountfor what was a
„multifaceted‟ (Sedelmeier 2005:
137) enlargement.The decision of the European Council at the Helsinki Summit of December 1999 to
formally invite the „second
-
wave‟ candidates to open accession negotiations in early
2000 reflected a shift in enlargement strategy focus that laid the foundations for the
„big bang‟
enlargement
to develop (O‟Brennan 200
6: 35; Baun 2000: 115). In
abandoning the „enlargement in waves‟
strategy for 
the „regatta‟ approach that had
previously been championed by Denmark at the 1997 Luxembourg summit but to noavail (Skalnes 2005: 225; Baun 2000: 127), the EU altered its enlargement policy asa result of the wider geopolitical situation in Europe. Whilst in 1998 there was nosense of urgency to start negotiations with the
„second
-
wavers‟
(Higashino 2004:359), the Kosovo war acted as a major catalyst in a shift in sentiment (Baun 2000:123), and undoubtedly contributed to the more inclusive approach that followed(Phinnemore 2010: 299). In October 1999 the Commission outlined that enlargement
was the „best way‟ to achieve peace, security and democracy in the Balkans and in
wider Europe (Phinnemore 2010: 299; Higashino 2004: 358). In addition to grantingTurkey candidate status, the EU also offered the prospect of EU membership to thecountries of the Western Balkans through the Stabilization and Association Pact of 1999 (European Commission 1999a
). Influenced by Kant‟s democratic peace theory
(Kant 1795)
and the Deutschian „security community‟
 
(O‟
Brennan 2006: 155), it washoped that enlargement could be used as a measure to spread liberal democracyand in doing so avert conflict spreading to Balkan neighbours and/or CEE countries,and incentivise the Balkan countries to gravitate towards Brussels (Skalnes 2005:
 
 3
213). However, by granting candidate status to those whose political and economicties with the EU were weak, and who had never officially applied for membership, theEU risked causing Bulgaria and Romania to suffer from a
„threefold dissatisfaction
atbeing outstripped from South-Eastern newcomers
(Higashino 2004: 360) thatthreatened to undermine the political and economic reforms being undertaken by thepair to meet the 1993 Copenhagen Criteria (Higashino 2004: 361). Furthermore, theEU was all too aware of the economic hardships that Bulgaria and Romania wouldface as a result of the Kosovo conflict
(O‟Brennan
2006: 127). Notwithstanding, if theEU were to raise the status of Bulgaria
and Romania who, in the „Agenda 2000‟
review
, had been declared unfit to be included with the „second
-
wave‟ CEE countries
 (Mayhew 1998: 358)
, the EU‟s relations with the CEE cou
ntries would also need tobe upgraded. Therefore, the decision was made at the Helsinki Summit in December 
to allow the „second wavers‟, plus Bulgaria and Romania, to join the „first wave‟ CEE
countries in negotiating accession (Wallace 2000: 17). The resulting decision at theHelsinki Summit to implement the mo
re inclusive „regatta‟ model
laid the foundationsfor more applicants to become involved in accession negotiations, and alsoaccelerated the process; both of which are key contributing factors when accountingfor t
he „big bang‟ enlargement
(
O‟Brennan 20
06: 130).This decision is explained by realist conceptions of rational institutionalism, in whichmember states follow a logic of consequentiality (March and Olson 1989: 160) tomaximise their utility; by enlarging further eastwards the incumbent member stateswould gain more than if they decided not to, as security on the continent would bestrengthened.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that not all member states‟ cost
benefit analysis of the eastern enlargement in relation to the wider geopoliticalclimate resulted in them concluding that a broader enlargement would be in their bestinterests. However, the decision by such member states (namely Spain, Portugal andIreland)
to refrain from vetoing the „big bang‟
can be explained, in part, byconstructivism. In fusion with the realist logic of consequentiality, the Copenhagen
School‟s concept of „securitization‟
through
speech acts
in the global media (Buzanet al. 1998), constructed the threat created by the Kosovo co
nflict as an “existentialthreat”
(European Commission 1999b: 4), which became widely accepted by elitesand the popular masses across Europe. To challenge this threat would be toundermine the fundamental wellbeing of the EU and in doing so, would demoralize
the common European „identity‟
 
and constitute an “illegitimate policy goal”
 (Schimmelfennig 2002: 52). Such speech acts significantly altered the attitudes of previously reluctant audiences (Higashino 2004: 364). Therefore, whilst the decision

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