EU Conditionality and Minority Rights: Translating the Copenhagen Criterion into Policy
Human and minorities map an area in which the EU's external relations have pushed for a (partial) rethinking of the EU's internal values, objectives and policies. While minority issues have been at the forefront of the enlargement rhetoric and are often singled out as a prime example of the EU's positive stabilising impact in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the EU has in fact promoted norms which lack a basis in EU law and do not directly translate into the acquis communautaire. The analysis of EU conditionality presented in this paper will proceed in two steps. Firstly, the EU's minority criterion will be 'unpacked' both in terms of its inherent dilemmas and the way in which the EU translated it into an institutional process. Secondly, this paper locates the EU's minority criterion in the domestic political context of three accession countries (Hungary, Slovakia, Romania) in order to establish the balance between internal and external incentives for policy change and the effectiveness of EU conditionality. The empirical evidence suggests that, on balance, international actors and a vaguely defined European norm framed the debates and perceptions and affected the timing and nature of specific pieces of legislation, while the domestic political constellations and pressures ultimately had a more significant effect on the institutional and policy outcomes.
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