The paper explores the rationale behind the European Commission's most problematic piece of conditionality: tackling corruption during and after the accession in the Bulgarian and Romanian cases. The widely accepted picture of conditionality is that it moved away the candidate countries and the new Member States from their old political, economic and social ways and launched them on a liberal, brighter path but with various degree of success. My main argument is that the rationale behind the Commission's requests might have, partially, a different meaning than the one accepted until now in the literature. I argue that the European Commission used the accusations of corruption against the domestic political class, strategically in order to advance a certain pattern of interests and actors while creating an effective Damocles sword above the domestic governments that could have been effectively used to put a pressure on them to accept the advance of such interests/actors in other fields of the acquis communautaire. Theoretically, the paper demonstrates the inability of the mainstream conceptual frameworks (mainly neo-functionalism, liberal intergovernmentalism and constructivism) to critically assess the technocratic discourse of the Commission expressed in its Progress Reports and demonstrates the necessity to adopt a more critical stance. So, conceptually, the argument draws on the neo-Gramscian view regarding ideology and power.
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