Democracy in a Wider Union: Europeanization as Differentiation
Sociology University of Trento Trento, Italy
Most accounts of democratization in Central and Eastern Europe have in one way or the other entailed an attempt to assess the New Member States' rapprochement towards a 'normal', liberal democratic regime. In this regard, the EU has been understood as a 'beacon of democracy', and membership of the EU as a confirmation of the consolidation of the new democracies. This paper argues that while in an institutional-structural sense such a reading of democratization as 'normalization' and, in a related way, Europeanization as the institutional convergence to a West-European type of democracy has some merits, in general it tends to overlook the cultural dimension to both processes, and the emerging variety in democratic cultures between and within the New Member States (NMS). In this, it seems that one of the more significant conflicts that has emerged in the wake of the Eastern enlargement is that concerning the specific understanding of the EU for national democracy. While a widespread consensus on EU membership was prominent in the run up to enlargement, in its wake political-cultural conflicts over the meaning of Europe have emerged more clearly in some of the NMS. The paper analyses democratic discourses with regard to European integration and European democracy in three countries: Hungary, Poland, and Romania, and relates different understandings of the politicization of the EU to different democratic cultures.