«ABSTRACT EU-related issues and patterns of behaviour are permeating the new member states’ domestic environments.The literature assess- ing the ...»
Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán
EU Accession and Interest Politics in Central and
EU-related issues and patterns of behaviour are permeating the
new member states’ domestic environments.The literature assess-
ing the domestic impact of the Eastward Enlargement focuses on
the institutional capability of the new member states to meet the
accession criteria as defined in Copenhagen in 1993. This article
expands the remit of the debate on Europeanisation in the new member states from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) by assess- ing the impact of EU membership on interest politics. The analy- sis undertaken here focuses on Business Interest Associations (BIAs), their behaviour and patterns of interaction with decision makers at the national and transnational levels. Their experience illustrates the effect of EU accession on the new member states’ repertoires for interest intermediation and the relevance of pol- icy transfer paradigms as suitable research frameworks. At the same time, the impact of the communist heritage and the con- straints of domestic political cultures reveal patterns of behaviour at the national and supranational level in a path-dependency fash- ion.The evidence presented here will show that the Europeanised activities of Central and Eastern European interest groups con- stitute a peculiar model of interest intermediation, where the exchange and ownership of information take prominence over the actual impact on policy-making.
Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 5.2 © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2004 Introduction In view of their accession to the European Union (EU) in May 2004, EU- related issues and patterns of behaviour are permeating the new member states’ domestic environments. The literature assessing the domestic impact of the Eastward Enlargement focuses on the institutional capability of the new member states to meet the accession criteria as deﬁned in Copenhagen in 1993. 1 This contribution seeks to expand the remit of the debate on Europeanisation in the new member states2 from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) by assessing the impact of EU membership on interest politics. The analysis undertaken here focuses on Business Interest Associations (BIAs), their behaviour and patterns of interaction with decision makers at the national and transnational levels.
I argue that collective action and interest intermediation in the post-com- munist context are limited by an elitist perception and by the slow deﬁnition of subjective identities amongst Central and Eastern European citizens.
Secondly, it is possible to identify the impact of EU membership in the domestic patterns of interest intermediation through shifts towards more EU oriented priorities and an increasing identiﬁcation with the EU amongst BIAs.
Similarly it is also evident, that organised interests are utilising their EUrelated activities as means to learn from their more experienced European counterparts (particularly European BIAs based in Brussels), while beneﬁting from the latter’s existing networks. Thirdly, presence at the EU level and recognition as trustworthy partners by European interest associations are used as source of support, recognition and legitimisation at the domestic level. The impact of the communist heritage and the constraints of the domestic political culture reveal patterns of behaviour and interaction with policymakers both at the national and supranational level in a path-dependency fashion. In sum the evidence presented here will show that in the accession context, the Europeanised activities of Central and Eastern European interest groups constitute a peculiar model of interest intermediation, where the exchange and ownership of information take prominence over the actual impact on policy-making.
For the purpose of this analysis, the article will be divided into the three
244 • Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán The ﬁrst section will present the neo-functionalist and Europeanisation paradigms as suitable analytical tools for the study of domestic change as a result of closer integration with the EU. This is not conceived as a thorough analysis of both conceptual frameworks but as a reﬂection of their validity for this study. The second section will analyse the impact of EU membership on the strategies for interest intermediation in the new member states from CEE.
The emphasis will be placed in the domestic and supranational environments.
As explained above, BIAs are the main case study because they are recognised as the avant-garde sectoral interest representation in CEE. Thus EuroCommerce3 in its analysis of the accession process maintains that “these economic actors in particular contribute signiﬁcantly to the transformation of these economics” and their integration with Western Europe.4 The ﬁnal section will provide a number of concluding remarks regarding the effect of EU accession on the new member states’ repertoires for interest intermediation and the relevance of policy transfer paradigms as suitable research frameworks.
Analytical Tools: Neofunctionalism and Europeanisation
Neo-functionalism The neo-functionalist framework provides an answer to the logic of collective action at the EU level, by explaining why groups form and develop while portraying interest groups in coalition with the European Commission as the driving force behind Europeanisation.5 Due to the integration project and the limited scope of the Community’s policy making, Commission and European interest group activities encourage solutions at the technocratic rather than at the political level. According to Lindberg “the necessity for lobbying will force groups to emphasise collective needs rather than national differences”.6 Furthermore, “interest groups and political parties organise beyond the national level in order to function more effectively as decision-makers vis-à-vis the separate national governments or the central authority”.7 In this increasing Europeanisation of interest group activities Haas foresaw the creation of a European community of interests. Similarly, the progressive Europeanisation of policies would provoke a “transfer of loyalties” away from the national level to the supranational level.
EU Accession and Interest Politics in Central and Eastern Europe • 245 However, the automatic nature of this transfer of loyalties has been contested for it undermines the role played by national authorities. As argued by KohlerKoch, the growth in the number of European interest group federations did not occur as a result of the increase in the EC’s policy-making powers. Rather, “it was the anticipation of a growing importance of the EC [...] that stimulated the establishment of transnational organisations”.8 Furthermore, it overlooked the fact that interest groups operating in Brussels, particularly Eurogroups (usually federations of national groups) are not completely autonomous from their national counterparts, thus restricting interest group activity and effectiveness. Clearly, the peculiarities of the EU polity and governance do not allow for the simple adaptation of normative frameworks of state-group relations to the analysis of the role of interest groups at the EU level, “the European system of intermediation has its own speciﬁc features”.9 In the context of this contribution, the neo-functionalist approach and its critics serve the purpose of providing the analytical backbone to our proposed case study. Hence, by assessing the Europeanisation of Central and Eastern European interest representation, it is possible to identify the characteristics that deﬁne interest politics in the post-communist context. In this manner, this contribution accounts for the impact of EU membership without overlooking the inﬂuence and constraints emanating from the domestic environments.
Europeanisation The concept of Europeanisation has traditionally been used in order to assess the impact of EU governance on the member states’ domestic environment.
Radaelli deﬁnes Europeanisation by incorporating both its mechanisms and effects as A process of construction, diffusion, and institutionalisation of rules, procedure, paradigms, styles, ways of doing and shared beliefs and norms, formal and informal, deﬁned and consolidated ﬁrst in the decision-making process of the EU and then incorporated in the logic discourses, identities, political structure and policies at the domestic level.10 Ladrech offers a narrower deﬁnition of the process highlighting its incremental nature and the domestic policy shift “to the degree that EC political 246 • Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán and economic dynamics become part of the organisational logic of national politics and policy-making”.11 As Radaelli, Cole and Drake focus on the mechanisms of Europeanisation and deﬁne the process as “an independent variable, a form of emulative policy transfer, a smokescreen for domestic reform, and as an imaginary constraint”.12 Knill and Lehmkuhl identify two effects of Europeanisation on the domestic setting: the alteration of domestic opportunity structures with certain domestic actors beneﬁting over others; and the alteration of beliefs and expectations of domestic actors leading to changes in cognition and preference formation.13 The 5th Enlargement of the EU has challenged this inward-looking use of the concept. The experience of the new member states from CEE14 shows that Europeanisation is not self-contained and limited only to the existing EU member states. Indeed as Pridham argues the effects of Europeanisation are more easily identiﬁable in the former because they are more recent, extensive and abrupt.15 Grabbe identiﬁes the rapid speed of adjustment, the openness to EU inﬂuence, the breadth of the EU’s agenda in CEE and the asymmetrical relationship in favour of the EU as the features differentiating Central and Eastern European Europeanisation distinctive from that observed in the existing ﬁfteen member states.16 In their analysis, Lippert, Umbach and Wessels deﬁne Europeanisation as a process “about the resources in time, personnel and money directed by current and future members states towards the EU level”.17 Ágh offers an additional dimension by stating that a precondition for the accession to the EU, Europeanisation “has to be accompanied by the emergence of public support for integration as tested ultimately in a referendum”.18 The overwhelming support for EU membership shown in the accession referenda would conclude that public support is well secure in the new member states.19 Unlike the alternative approaches to Europeanisation reproduced above, Grabbe elaborates further in her analysis and highlights the signiﬁcance of the EU’s conditionality principle as an Europeanising force in the applicant countries. She argues, “The EU accession process is pushing the applicant countries towards greater convergence with particular institutional models than has occurred within the existing EU”.20 In her view, gate-keeping, benchmarking and monitoring, models, aid and technical assistance and advice and twinning are the mechanisms that illustrate the EU-ization of CEE.21 EU Accession and Interest Politics in Central and Eastern Europe • 247 I maintain that this so-called conditionality model while suitable for the study of the institutionalisation of EU rules in the accession countries from CEE, fails to account for the effect of EU membership when non-governmental actors are concerned. In the context of interest politics, the EU model of interest intermediation while incorporated into the domestic discourse has not been fully embraced by BIAs in the accession countries from CEE. As the examples discussed below will show, the 2004 Enlargement has developed through a process of formal and informal integration which at times, ﬂows parallel and beyond EU activity. This informal process includes transnational networking of policy-makers, political parties, interest groups and NGOs.
This mode of integration is more extensive than the accession process itself as I will argue in the next section of this article.
The Europeanisation of Eastern European repertoires for interest representation During the negotiation of the Association Agreements in the early 1990s, national governments from post-communist Europe were the main interlocutors voicing the interests of CEE at the EU level. They were the only legitimate representatives of their countries’ interests at a time when the process of domestic political and socio-economic transition was still at a very early stage of development. Consequently, during the negotiations of the Europe Agreements, the most active interest groups trying to inﬂuence the outcome of the negotiation process were those Eurogroups whose members and interests were to be most affected by the result of such negotiations.