Enlargement of the European Union and the problem of popular consent
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe erosion of popular support that has accompanied the expansion of European-level governance has given rise to interesting debates about the origins of public support for the European Union (EU). The utilitarian explanation that focuses on rational cost-benefit calculations competes with a cultural approach that ties evaluations of the EU to dominant societal values and individual socialization experiences. A third approach regards domestic political dynamics as an important determinant of public support for the EU. Empirical tests of these explanations have been limited almost exclusively to current EU member states, while the growing differentiation of popular attitudes in the Central and Eastern European candidate countries has received much less attention. This dissertation brings the Western European literature to bear on the EU's Eastern enlargement, seeking to explain extensive variations in the level of popular support for the EU both within and across post-communist societies. Hypotheses derived from the utilitarian, cultural and domestic politics explanations are tested with individual- and national-level data from a variety of candidate countries and, for purposes of comparison, three non-applicant Eastern European states. The results lend some support to all three explanations, suggesting that support for the EU is influenced by micro-level expectations of gain, changes in macro-economic conditions, the prevalence of democratic norms, and trust in domestic political incumbents. The dissertation also examines the implications of growing popular euroskepticism for the integration process, situating the discussion of popular attitudes in post-communist societies in the broader discourse on European-level democracy and legitimacy. The dissertation reviews the controversy over which standards of legitimacy are suitable in a non-state polity such as the EU, and presents an overview of the various institutional channels through which European electorates can influence European governance. In sum, the dissertation adds an interesting bottom-up dimension to the predominantly elite-centered study of the Eastern enlargement and contributes to the construction of general theories about the logic of public support for regional integration and international governance.
Degree ProgramGraduate College