From conditionality to Europeanization in Central and Eastern Europe: administrative performance and capacity in cohesion policy

John Bachtler, Carlos Mendez, Hildegard Oraže

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This article assesses the role of administrative capacity in explaining the performance of eight Central and Eastern European countries (EU8) in managing and implementing Cohesion policy over the 2004-08 period. Drawing on a conceptual framework from the Europeanization literature, it explores whether pre-accession administrative adjustment to comply with the acquis continued in the post-accession period, against a backdrop of critical assessments about the state of administrative capacity for managing Cohesion policy. We conclude that administrative capacity was developed faster and more substantially than commentators predicted at the time of accession. The findings have important implications for our understanding of the post-accession compliance record of the EU8, challenging the contention that they fall within a ‘world of dead letters’. We argue that administrative capacity, as a rationalist mediating factor of Europeanization, has been underestimated and that insufficient attention has been given to the dynamics of capacity evolution and the role of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-757
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Issue number4
Early online date1 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • cohesion policy
  • structural funds
  • European integration
  • conditionality

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