This article documents and explains the puzzling lack of backsliding in political reforms among the new postcommunist EU members, even though these countries are no longer subject to the powerful incentives of the EU membership promise. Using a combination of cross-national statistics, expert interviews, and public opinion data, the authors show that the new EU members have experienced at most a slowdown in reforms rather than a genuine backlash. The authors attribute this finding to the fact that the loss of leverage after the countries joined the European Union was balanced by a combination of alternative leverage and linkage mechanisms, including greater dependence on EU aid and trade and greater exposure to the West for both elites and ordinary citizens. For the latter, expanded work and travel opportunities seem to be associated with higher expectations of government performance and greater political involvement, which may be crucial for future governance reform in the region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Central and Eastern Europe
- Democratic performance
- European Union