This thesis analyses the discourse on the potential Southeastern enlargement of the EU since the Kosovo war. It focuses on the successor states of former Yugoslavia and assumes their interest in EU membership a given matter of fact. The central questions guiding this thesis are:
Has the European discourse on Southeastern enlargement affected the outcome of the process so far? And has it created a situation of rhetorical entrapment with an imperative to enlarge?
The thesis argues that the EU indeed committed itself rhetorically to admit in the countries as soon as they fulfil the Copenhagen criteria and that this commitment was inspired by certain explanatory factors. These are e.g. interests, discursively constructed logics, the success of the “golden carrot of membership” in combination with the strict conditionality principle, and recurring regional crises which acted like catalysts for further commitment. Within the constructed rhetorical entrapment, the “brakemen” of enlargement employed certain rhetorical strategies to escape the entrapment, e.g. by attempting to redefine existing norms or by suggesting new scenarios as alternatives to full membership.
The theoretical perspective chosen is mainly based on the concept of rhetorical action by Schimmelfennig. It is furthermore briefly compared to a constructivist view on the role of discourses by Sjursen, though this approach was not applied to the empirical findings due to different ontological assumptions.
The empirical analysis of the discourse itself is conducted with the help of accepted tools of discourse analysis methodology, which allow tracing the evolution and spread of arguments over time and within the “discourse elites” quantitatively and qualitatively. In order to cover a longer period in total and to compare the discourse at different stages, the analysis concentrates on four significant focal periods, in which the contractual relations between the EU and the Southeastern European Countries advanced most. This permits tracking down the gap between the “de jure” liabilities of the EU and its “de facto” commitment to enlargement.
Furthermore, the analysis assembles the most influential discourse elites, including “drivers” and “brakemen”. It further depicts the gap between the “de jure” decision-makers and the “de facto” discourse elites and examines the role of the European Commission as a “norm entrepreneur” or “policy advocate” of enlargement.
The Enlargement Discourse
The European Union and its Southeastern Neighbours
Publication date: 28/09/2010
Analysis of the discourse on the potential EU Southeastern enlargement
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