Political Criteria vs. Political Conditionality: Comparative analysis of Slovenian and Croatian European Union accession processes

Abstract

This study analyses the differences in content and procedure in the application of political criteria and political conditionality in the EU accession processes of Slovenia and Croatia. The article ascertains that with regard to substance, the Commission and EU member states did apply political criteria more extensively and meticulously to Croatia in comparison to Slovenia, but mainly due to the difference in the states’ initial assessment of preparedness for EU membership and the application of the principle of own merits. Empirical results, however, show that the differences in political conditionality did not only stem from Croatia’s post-conflict conditions, but also from the EU’s experience of the 2004 and 2007 enlargements and the concern about the EU’s absorption capacity. As for the accession process procedure, the latter has increasingly empowered the Commission rather than EU member states, which bears relevance for future (Western Balkans) enlargements.

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