Conflicting Logics? Implementing Capacity and EU Adaptation in a Postcommunist Context

University dissertation from Department of Political Science, Lund University, Box 52, SE-221 00 Lund

Abstract: It is generally recognized that the EU accession process has profound effects on state transformation in the postcommunist applicant countries. A key problem of postcommunism has been a weak ability to implement public policy. This study explores how efforts to fulfill EU conditionality may influence implementing capacity. Firstly, it advances a theoretical framework for this purpose, focusing on how governments may respond to the demands of the accession and what effects this leaves on policy-making structures and hence on implementing capacity. The analysis of implementing capacity centers on the inter-organizational nature of policy-making. The study also investigates what changes of policy-making structures that are likely to be vital to enhance implementing capacity in the East Central European countries. It is argued that there is a potential conflict between measures needed to meet EU requirements and measures needed to strengthen implementing capacity. Secondly, it applies the theoretical framework to an in-depth study of child protection in Romania. This subsector has been exposed to very strong EU conditionality, which provides an opportunity to study the process of influence. It is concluded that child protection has emerge as an "island of efficiency". Efficiency has been induced in specialized child protection entities at the national and local level. These have had intense exchanges with EU and other international actors, but have been isolated from the state at large. This has strengthened the ability to implement some specific policies (to close large-scale institutions for children and replace these with family-type care), but has impeded implementation of more complex child protection policies (e.g. to prevent child abandonment). The dissertation advances ideas about when a conflict between EU adaptation and implementing capacity is likely to emerge and when, on the contrary, the first may lead to a strengthening of the latter. It is argued that negative effects are related to that decision-makers respond in a defensive manner to the demands of the accession and/or that they are forced to over-simplify policy-making procedures in order to carry out necessary policy changes. This can manifest itself in that actors whose resources and participation would have been needed for effective implementation are excluded and that channels of interaction are undermined. A similar development is most likely when a government has weak policy-making resources and the changes called for in a subsector are radical. Moreover, when EU demands concern formal changes but are vague about implementation and rapid compliance is required, it is more likely that responses will be negative from an implementation perspective. This implies among others that the countries or sectors that are the furthest behind are at the greatest risk of experience this type of adverse effects of EU adaptation. The study also shows at the importance of carefully targeted EU conditionality and that domestic accession strategies are linked to overall plans of the restructuring of the state machinery and capacity-building.

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