Under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) the Commission has rigorously monitored progress in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Bulgaria and Romania since 2007. Sofia and Bucharest have continuously raised concerns about the emergence of double EU standards in areas with very limited acquis, as the unprecedented monitoring mechanism has been applied only to the two Balkan countries. The latest set of reports illustrates the growing gap between Bucharest and Sofia. The Commission noted progress in many areas in Romania and 'highlighted the track record of the key anti-corruption institutions as an important step towards demonstrating sustainability', whereas in the case of Bulgaria, the Commission registered that many of its recommendation had not been followed up and stressed that 'continuation of the reforms is crucial for the quality of life of citizens, both because of the impact of corruption and organised crime on the Bulgarian economy and because of the importance of the rule of law for a functioning and free society' (European Commission, 2015a; 2015b). Although there is an impressive body of literature on the impact of EU enlargement conditionality, research has largely neglected the impact of the unusual post-accession monitoring instrument. Few studies have highlighted the weaknesses of the CVM and noted its lack of leverage (Gateva, 2013; Dimitrov et al, 2014). Furthermore, none of the studies generated high expectations of impact. The aim of the paper is to examine the differentiated impact of the unusual monitoring instrument. As the CVM has inspired and shaped the development of the EU's internal and external policies in the areas of anti-corruption policies and judicial reform, understanding its success and failure will provide the basis for new policy solutions at national and EU level.
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