In the eyes of the people. An analysis of the impact of EU membership on new member states
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This study analyzes the impact of EU membership on new member states. The focus is on the citizens’ perceptions of the benefits of EU membership taking the eastwards expansion in 2004 as a point of departure. Considering the maze of complexities linked to the countries different political, economic and historical contexts, this enlargement is an especially tangled case. The question addressed is: What can explain whether or not the EU membership is considered a country benefit? The economic and political dimensions are analyzed to explore which impact they have on how the citizens evaluate the benefits of EU membership as these two dimensions are expected to be of particular importance to them. The Central and Eastern European countries in addition to the two Mediterranean states, Cyprus and Malta are examined. The results of the comparative analysis show that the economic dimension has the strongest effect of the two as the economic variables are important to the citizens in all of the ten member states. The political dimension, on the other hand, does not have the same equivalent impact. In Estonia for instance the political variables do not have any effect on the citizens’ evaluation of the benefits of the membership. Also, it does not matter to the citizens in any of the countries whether or not the EU is considered to be promoting human rights, except for in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Therefore, this study questions the use of Western European theoretical models on the Eastern European world and argues that perhaps other factors might have stronger effects than those of the political dimension. Nevertheless, the analysis of the impact of EU membership on the ten new member states which joined in 2004 indicates that the political and economic variables are indeed of importance when seeking to understand how the new EU citizens evaluate the benefits of the EU membership.
PublisherThe University of Bergen
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