The Role of the EU Improving Control of Corruption in Romania: Has EU Conditionality Made a Significant Difference?

Liljana Cvetanoska

Despite EU efforts to curb corruption during the accession process of Balkan countries, controlling corruption still remains a serious problem in the region. Rather than following the narrative that the EU plays a key role, this paper argues (a) that EU anti-corruption conditionality has been mainly limited to the adoption of anti-corruption laws and (b) that its success depends on specific domestic circumstances in candidates. The paper employs documentary analysis and semi-structured elite interviews with national and EU experts on corruption and enlargement. Drawing on theoretical insights from Europeanization and corruption literature and using Romania as a case study, it argues that while the EU can influence adoption of anti-corruption laws and formal creation of institutions of accountability; effective EU conditionality and sustainable positive changes in controlling corruption are predominantly dependent on case-specific factors. The paper initially assesses anti-corruption reforms in Romania during the EU accession process. It argues that the even though the EU had an impact on the adoption of laws and formation of institutions, it had little to do with the implementation of such reforms in practice. Nevertheless, changes in political power in the country, yielded changes in domestic circumstances, which resulted in positive developments over time, such as strengthening the role of Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate. The second part looks at anti-corruption developments in Romania after EU accession. It analyses whether the state of corruption has changed over the past ten years, and if so, whether these changes can be attributed to EU pressure, especially the CVM. This paper concludes that even though Romania still faces serious problems with corruption, it has noted a positive trend over time. Finally, by drawing comparisons to Bulgaria and other Balkan countries, it identifies the specific domestic conditions that have supported EU pressure in Romania and have contributed to such positive developments.

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