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61 Program on Central and Eastern Europe

The International Promotion of Political Norms in Eastern Europe: a Qualitative Comparative Analysis

May 29, 2024 – Frank Schimmelfennig


Since the end of the Cold War, European regional organizations have been engaged in promoting the core norms of the emerging pan-European liberal international community in Eastern Europe: democracy and human rights (including minority rights) and the peaceful and integrative settlement of international and interethnic conflicts. When were these efforts effective? Starting from the two most prominent models in the literature on international norm promotion - the social learning model and the external incentives model - the paper uses Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to examine the conditions under which governments in eastern Europe have complied with the political demands of European regional organizations. It shows that a credible perspective of EU and/or NATO accession combined with low political adaptation costs for the target governments was a sufficient condition for compliance; it thus corroborates the external incentives model. However, in the final phase of accession negotiations, a positive identification with the West proved sufficient as well - even when compliance threatened the survival of the government. By contrast, the other conditions of the social learning model (legitimacy and resonance) were irrelevant to the effectiveness of international norm promotion.