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Between Historical Legacies and the Promise of Western Integration: Democratic Conditionality after Communism

Written by Grigore Pop-Eleches, this article apperead on the first issue of Vol. 21 of East European Politics & Societies in February 2007. 
 
Post-communist democracy promotion has been most important in “borderline” countries, which had less favorable structural conditions than the East-Central European frontrunners, but where a domestic democratic constituency nevertheless existed and could benefit from Western support. External democracy promotion efforts have ranged from “soft” diplomatic pressure to economic and military sanctions and have acted through a variety of channels: (1) promotion of democratic attitudes among citizens yearning for Western integration, (2) political incentives for elites (in government and in the opposition), (3) domestic power balance shifts in favor of democratic politicians, and (4) promotion of better democratic governance through incentives for public administration reform. The most effective approach to democracy promotion thus far, however, has been the combination of political conditionality with significant political/economic incentives, best exemplified by the European integration process. Furthermore, the success of any strategy hinges on its fit with the geopolitical and domestic environment of the country in question. In particular, external actors must be more sensitive to the national sovereignty implications of such interventions, which can be easily exploited by domestic antidemocratic actors to undermine democracy promotion efforts.

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