Research on the enlargement conditionality of the European Union sustains opposite positions on the question of whether it represents a means of coercion or an invitation to voluntary adaptation. However, it reveals no dialogue between advocates of these opposed views. In an attempt to replace this gap in communication with a research agenda, this article undertakes a theoretical investigation of the main arguments for regarding compliance with conditionality either as an effect of coercion or as a voluntary choice. It is found that both of these views are worth taking seriously but also that they are premature and in need of further theoretical and in particular empirical clarification. It is suggested, moreover, that coercion and voluntary adaptation are best viewed as complementary rather than competing descriptions of complying with conditionality.
Since the end of the Cold War the European Union has made use of conditionality in an increasing number of policy areas. Lending programs, trade agreements, foreign aid, and the Eastern enlargements have been promulgated through processes in which countries are required to meet certain conditions. Conditionality is also part of an established practice in global governance, featuring most notoriously in the development programs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And although trends like China’s economic engagement in Africa and the repayments of foreign debts in South America might limit the impact of Western conditionality, its scope and political significance remain incontestable. Indeed, in Angola, Belarus, Cuba, Indonesia, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Zimbabwe, and many other places, people continue to be subject to conditions set for them by international powers.
2009. Vol. 8, no 1, 1-18 p.