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Acta Politica

, Volume 45, Issue 1–2, pp 41–69 | Cite as

Civil society in Central and Eastern Europe: The ambivalent legacy of accession

  • Amelie KutterEmail author
  • Vera Trappmann
Original Article

Abstract

Civil society organisations in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have remained weak players compared to their counterparts in established democracies. Given the particular incentives that the EU offered for the empowerment of non-state actors during pre-accession, it has often been assumed that EU intervention improved this situation. We argue that, instead, the EU's impact was highly ambivalent. Although the EU aid and EU-induced policy reform levelled the way for established actors’ involvement in multilevel politics, it reinforced some of the barriers to development that the civil society organisations face in CEE. In particular, EU measures have failed to address the lack of sustainable income, of formalised interactions with the state and of grassroot support. Drawing on the experiences of trade unions and environmental groups, we show that this ambivalent ‘legacy of accession’ is due to an unfortunate interrelation between various, often implicit mechanisms of the EU's enlargement regime on one hand, and particular problems inherited from state socialism and transition on the other.

Keywords

Europeanisation EU enlargement civil society trade unions environmental NGOs Central and Eastern Europe 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This contribution draws on the book Legacies of Accession: Europeanization in Central and Eastern Europe co-edited by the authors. The text benefitted from the systematisation of pre-accession Europeanisation in Kutter (2008). We thank Tanja Börzel, François Bafoil, Timm Beichelt, Guglielmo Meardi and the anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for European Integration, Otto-Suhr Institute for Political Science, Free University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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