Since 1993, EU candidate countries must prove their adherence to the principles of democracy and the rule of law to be eligible for pre-accession assistance. For their eventual accession to the EU, they have to comply with a catalogue of demands which are regularly reviewed by the Commission. But which are the conditions that make the EU's assistance and pressure the most efficient? The two current candidates Croatia and Macedonia both encountered considerable domestic political problems during the 1990s and early 2000s. However, while being both under the influence of EU conditionality, they followed different paths of democratization. Thereby, they offer a fruitful ground to test the applicability of lessons learnt from the 2004 and 2007 enlargements to the Western Balkans. Their development is analyzed on the basis of the EU's regular reports and assessments by leading NGOs in the fields of corruption and minority rights. I argue that the EU's use of conditionality has been one of the driving forces behind the democratic development in Croatia and Macedonia but that it has not been the main source for improvements. Due to unequal domestic circumstances, Croatia and Macedonia currently find themselves at very different stages of the pre-accession process.
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