Mesmerized by enlargement: the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood Policy and New Member State transition experience

Simon Lightfoot, Balázs Szent-Iványi, Kataryna Wolczuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accession of the East-Central European (ECE) countries carried a promise of enhancing and enriching the EU’s Eastern policy. The new member states had the strongest interests among EU member states to ensure that countries in the East are prosperous, stable and democratic. Yet, EU’s Eastern policy has been largely criticised for its ineffectiveness. So why have they not been able to address the shortcomings in the EU’s Eastern policies? The article argues that the ECE countries supported the way the EU’s Eastern policies were conceived and implemented because they saw it as a potent vehicle to promote their own transition experience not only in the region but also within the EU. We argue that the ECE states have experienced three types of challenges when promoting their transition experience. First, uploading to the EU level remained largely at a rhetorical level. Second, there are conceptual and practical difficulties in defining what constitutes transition experience and harnessing it, as well as coordinating its transfer between the ECE states. Finally, while using transition experience as the basis for their development assistance strategies, the ECE countries actually insufficiently conceptualised the ‘development’ aspect in these policies. Being so driven by their own experience, they have not drawn the lessons from enlargement to use in a non-accession context, especially by incorporating the broader lessons with regard to development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-684
Number of pages21
JournalEast European Politics and Societies
Issue number3
Early online date19 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

Funding: ESRC (RES-360–5–096).


  • East-Central Europe
  • transition experience
  • European neighborhood policy
  • post-Soviet states


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