Democracy after accession : evidence from Central and Eastern Europe

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Title: Democracy after accession : evidence from Central and Eastern Europe
Author: Sibinescu, Laura Elena
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2012
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Political Science, Politics
Yleinen valtio-oppi, politiikan tutkimus
Allmän statslära, politologi
Abstract: In my thesis, I was interested in exploring how and why the quality of democracy varied in Central and Eastern European countries after they became EU members. Throughout the accession process, these countries have, for the most part, successfully moved away from post-communist legacies and became increasingly more democratic. There is ample evidence in literature suggesting that this positive trend in democratic quality might be expected to continue post-accession. However, as data from major indexes of democracy shows, this has not been the case. A declining trend in democratic quality is at present prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe. In order to identify possible causes, I examined a sample comprising of the ten countries that gained EU membership in 2004 and 2007. Using crisp-set qualitative comparative analysis on data from the 2004-2011 period, I found that the main explanation for democratic quality variation among cases is economic in nature. Specifically, inflation can explain both the decline and the improvement of democratic quality: countries well equipped to deal with the consequences of high price fluctuations, in particular those caused by the economic crisis, were also able to improve their democratic quality slightly. Countries where the negative impact of inflation proved stronger saw a decline in democratic quality. Additionally, corruption emerged as an alternative explanation for decline. This thesis also briefly examines the post-accession influence of the EU on democratic quality in these countries. It finds that, while diffuse and difficult to quantify, this influence continued to be both significant and positive. These findings lend empirical support to Wolfgang Merkel’s theoretical framework of embedded and defective democracies. In particular, they support his claim that internal embeddedness – the interdependence of sound democratic institutions and practices – can be either reinforced or weakened by a sphere of external embeddedness containing elements such as economic development and international integration.
Subject: Eastern Europe -- democracy
Central Europe -- democracy
Itä-Eurooppa -- demokratia
Keski-Eurooppa -- demokratia

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