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97 Working Paper

National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement

2003 – Milada Anna Vachudova and Andrew Moravcsik


The EU enlargement process and its consequences are decisively influenced by material national interests and state power. Current EU leaders promote accession primarily because they believe it to be in their longterm economic and geopolitical interest, and applicant states embark on the laborious accession process because EU membership brings tremendous economic and geopolitical benefits, particularly as compared exclusion as others move forward. As in previous rounds of EU enlargement, patterns of asymmetrical interdependence dictate that the applicants compromise more on the margin—thereby contributing to a subjective sense of loss among those countries (the applicants) that benefit most. Domestic distributional conflict is exacerbated everywhere, but the losses are in most cases limited, inevitable and, in the longer term, even beneficial. Once in, we should expect applicant states, like their predecessors, to deploy their voting and veto power in an effort to transfer resources to themselves. While overrepresentation of smaller states gives the applicants an impressive number of votes, the lack of new “grand projects” essential to existing members, the diversity of the new members, and above all, the increasingly flexible decision-making structure of the EU, will make it difficult for the new members to prevail.