A WAKE-UP CALL FROM THE EAST:
The effect of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine on the framing of enlargement policy in the European Parliament
Mária Žilinčíková University of Amsterdam
Thesis supervisor: Dr. Rosa Sanchez Salgado Second reader: Dr. Dimitris Bouris
Master’s Thesis Political Science: Public Policy and Governance June 2022
Even though enlargement policy is considered one of the most successful policies of the European Union, in recent years it has been characterized by widespread fatigue and stagnation.
This research analyzes whether the security crisis induced by the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has the potential to trigger a change in enlargement policy. It will consider the change and continuity in the way enlargement policy is framed in speeches in the European Parliament, before and after the invasion. The paper finds an increase in self-identifying framing, in the use of security-based and geopolitics-based frames, and in framing enlargement policy as an urgent issue. The use of frames focusing on the fundamental values of the European Union also increases, in line with the findings of the interviews which suggest that while the Parliament is more politically favourable to enlargement after the invasion, no concessions shall be made on the standards and values of the EU. The most significant changes come in the framing of Ukraine and Moldova as possible candidate countries, with some changes to the framing of current candidates from the Western Balkans and no effect on the framing of Turkey.
Furthermore the paper discusses differences among political groups and nationalities, with the most significant differences found for self-identifying and urgent framing among speakers from new Member States. The paper concludes that both multiple streams theory and punctuated equilibrium theory offer important insights into understanding the impact of the war in Ukraine on enlargement policy at large. While the paper analyzed discourse only, in line with these theories it is expected that political elements of enlargement policy might be shifted, while technical aspects and standards will remain.
Keywords: EU in crisis, enlargement policy, 2022 invasion of Ukraine, framing analysis, European Parliament
I would like to express thanks to my thesis supervisor Dr. Rosa Sanchez Salgado for providing me with constructive feedback on my writing process, and especially for accommodating for my internship, allowing me to develop professionally and academically at
the same time.
Further, I would like to thank MEP Vladimír Bilčík and his assistants Laura Heymans Trimaj and Karolína Koščová, who provided me with continuous support and guidance throughout my internship, as well as contributed to my thesis process. It cannot be emphasized enough
how transformative the 3 months in your office were for me.
Consequently, I would like to thank all interviewees, for not only providing me with essential data for my thesis, but also engaging me in eye-opening conversations about the meaning of
the European Union and the possibilities for personal contributions to its development.
Eternal gratitude belongs also to the thesis buddies of the Public Policy and Governance programme, as well as other great friends who provided me with the necessary emotional
support and laughs throughout the whole process.
Rada by som sa tiež poďakovala mojim rodičom, ktorí neúnavne podporujú moje vzdelanie a rozvoj. Bez vás by som to nikdy nezvládla s teším sa, keď vám budem môcť všetku podporu
Table of contents
List of abbreviations ... 5
Preface ... 6
Introduction ... 7
Literature review ... 9
EU in crisis ... 9
EU enlargement policy ... 9
Aims of enlargement and European integration ... 9
The enlargement process ... 11
The last decade of enlargement – spread of enlargement fatigue ... 12
Enlargement and the politics of old and new Member States ... 14
European Neighborhood Policy ... 15
Eastern Partnership ... 16
Role of the European Parliament ... 19
Parliament and foreign policy ... 19
Discourse in the European Parliament ... 20
Political groups and enlargement discourse ... 21
The role of MEP nationality in the European Parliament ... 21
Theoretical framework ... 23
Theorizing European enlargement ... 23
Continuums of EU foreign policy framing ... 24
Framing of enlargement policy ... 25
Framing third countries ... 26
Policy change and the policy process ... 27
Punctuated equilibrium theory ... 27
Multiple Streams Framework: ... 28
Methodology ... 30
Data collection ... 30
Debates ... 30
Interviews ... 31
Coding of debates ... 32
Data analysis ... 32
Hypotheses: ... 33
Data ... 35
Debates: ... 35
Interviews: ... 35
Results ... 36
Key findings: ... 36
Framing foreign policy: security increases while values remain high ... 36
Enlargement framing: an increase in urgency... 40
Framing third countries: closer to We, while Turkey remains Other ... 42
Nitoiu’s second continuum of foreign policy framing: not applicable? ... 44
Co-occurrence between the three levels of frames – self-interest and identity are associated with urgent enlargement: ... 45
Discussion ... 46
Enlargement theory ... 46
Differences between Old and New Member states: a mix of geography, sympathy and effects of past enlargements ... 46
The continuity of values ... 47
Effect on the ENP ... 49
Policy process ... 50
Punctuated equilibrium theory ... 50
Multiple Streams Framework ... 51
EU in crisis – time to head forward? ... 54
Limitations ... 55
Conclusion ... 57
Bibliography: ... 59
Appendix 1: Code-Document and Co-Occurrence tables from Atlas.ti ... 64
Appendix 2: Interview Guide ... 79
Appendix 3: List of debates and statements included in analysis ... 80
List of abbreviations
EU = European Union EP = European Parliament
MEP = Member of the European Parliament
AFET = Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament EaP= Eastern Partnership
ENP= European Neighborhood Policy
IPA = Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance AA = Association Agreement
NMS = New Member States OMS = Old Member States
This thesis was written for the research project “European Policies and Politics in Crisis”.
Although my original intention was to analyze the rule of law crisis in the EU, two developments altered this decision. Firstly, on February 24th, the Russian Federation initiated an unjustified attack on the sovereign state of Ukraine, thus violating international law. Four days later, my personal trajectory changed, as I started working as a trainee in the European Parliament. For me, these two events would come to define the following months, both personally and academically. Witnessing the Parliament’s crisis response to the invasion first- hand, especially in the enlargement discussions of the Foreign Affairs Committee, led me to change my thesis topic. Through conducting research on enlargement on the backdrop of my involvement in the Parliament, I hope to be able to deliver an academic product with relevance also for future policy developments.
“The idea that there could forever be two Europes—a democratic, stable and
prosperous Europe engaged in integration and a less democratic, less stable and less prosperous Europe—is, in my opinion, totally mistaken. It resembles a belief that one half of a room could be heated and the other half kept unheated at the same time.
There is only one Europe, despite its diversity, and any weightier occurrence
anywhere in this area will have consequences and repercussions throughout the rest of the continent.”
Václav Havel (as cited in Zielonka, 2004)
Since the start of the European Union, enlargement has been a key question defining its development. While the original block consisted of only 6 members, it soon began expanding, starting with the accession of the UK, Ireland and Denmark in 1973 (Longo & Murray, 2015:
20). Overtime, the community grew and the Union admitted more of its southern and northern neighbours. The largest expansion happened in 2004 with the ‘eastern’ round of accession, which admitted much of the new democracies of Eastern Europe formed after the fall of communist regimes (ibid). Since then, Bulgaria and Romania joined as well, and the accession round ended in 2013 with the admission of Croatia.
Throughout the years, the reasoning for enlargement changed. Taking in Eastern states after the fall of communism was seen both as a path towards democratization and prosperity of the whole continent (Nitoiu, 2017: 89), as well as a defense mechanism aimed to ensure peace and security (Moravcsik & Vachudova, 2003: 43). In the past decade, the European Union has been shaped by multiple crises, increasing in frequency (Riddervold et al., 2021: 4). First the financial crisis, followed by the refugee crisis, the crisis of democratic backsliding related to decreasing legitimacy, Brexit and lastly, the public health crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic (Riddervold et al., 2021). As a result of the accumulating problems within the Union, enthusiasm for enlargement started dropping both among EU Member States and the candidate countries in its neighborhood, a phenomenon termed ‘enlargement fatigue’ (O’Brennan, 2013:
36). Nowadays, EU’s negotiations with its neighbours and candidate members are practically at a standstill and many expect no new accessions will happen in the near future (Wallden, 2017:1).
But just as the Union started slowly emerging from the covid crisis, it was hit by the arguably biggest crisis to this day - the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As Russia began mobilizing military forces around Ukraine’s borders, many started perceiving the crisis as an existential threat to the EU as a whole. On the 16th of February, the president of the European Parliament declared “What we are witnessing here today is also a threat to peace in Europe”
(European Parliament, 2022a). This crisis brought about a re-awakening of the public debate on what the goal of the Union is, and opened new questions on enlargement. Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is perceived to be partly motivated also by the country’s ambition to follow a European path (Apelblat, 2022). However, the invasion did not deter Ukraine from this ambition, it rather solidified its determination to pursue a European perspective. The country officially applied for EU membership as a response to the invasion, and was soon followed by Georgia and Moldova, other countries experiencing an existential threat from Russia (Gehrke, 2022). It became clear that EU membership represents not only security, but also an expression of shared identity and the will of EU’s neighbours to follow its democratic path (Gijs, 2022). This will was also met by some EU Member States. Eight of them, all belonging to the block of new members, called on the EU to adopt a fast-track procedure to grant Ukraine candidate status in a swift manner (Apelblat, 2022). Members of the European Parliament expressed that the crisis in Ukraine is a wake-up call for Europe (European Parliament, 2022a). With the rise in solidarity and applications for EU membership, could the crisis also serve to wake the Union up from enlargement fatigue?
This thesis aims to contribute to the ongoing academic debate on the role of crisis in shaping European integration. In doing so, it will analyze the effect of crisis on the development of enlargement framing in the European Parliament, guided by the research question: “What were the effects of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine on the framing of enlargement debates in the European Parliament?”
Using frameworks for the framing analysis of foreign policy (Nitoiu, 2017), enlargement policy (Belanger and Schimmelfennig, 2021) and third countries (Vieira, 2016), the research will aim to answer the descriptive sub-question: “How did the framing of enlargement change over time and what are the differences among MEP political groups and nationalities?” Furthermore, theories of enlargement and policy process will be used to answer an explanatory sub-question: “What are the reasons for these differences? “
The thesis will first review the state of academic knowledge on European enlargement, the European Neighborhood policy (with a focus on eastern neighborhood), and the role of discourse in the European Parliament in shaping enlargement policy. Through a mixed-method approach of a co-occurrence analysis of frames in Atlas.ti and semi-structured interviews of MEPs and their staff members, the thesis will study how framing of enlargement changes over time, between political groups and between MEPs from new and old member states. These findings will further serve for a discussion on the future course of enlargement and neighborhood policy.
EU in crisis
“Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”
Jean Monnet (as cited in Ikani, 2019:41)
Policy making is characterized by inertia and path dependency. Large-scale policy shifts thus often occur as a result of crises, which serve as catalysts of change (Ikani, 2019:41). Today, academics conclude that the various crises the Union has gone through, had triggered fundamental changes to its decision making, as well as a re-evaluation of the goals and meaning of the Union (Riddervold et al., 2021:4). According to Rosenthal et al (1989, as cited in Riddervold et al., 2021:7), a crisis is a threat to the “fundamental values and norms of a system”.
It is characterized by the need for urgent action in response to a fundamental threat (Riddervold et al., 2021:7). The key question is whether a crisis can also represent an opportunity, trigger necessary changes that will make the system stronger over the long term, or whether it will destabilize it and lead it to disintegration. According to Riddervold et al. (2021: 8), the studies of EU crises have identified 3 distinct scenarios of the influence of a crisis on the EU system:
breaking down, muddling through and heading forward. If the Union does not manage to grapple the crisis effectively, it can lead to its breakdown and disintegration. If it makes incremental changes but does not fundamentally transform or address the crisis in a sustainable manner, it will be considered to be muddling through. If, however, the crisis serves as a window of opportunity to make transformations which will make it stronger in the long term, the Union will be heading forward. In this scenario, the crisis opens up new avenues of integration and innovative institutional solutions in the given policy area.
EU enlargement policy
Aims of enlargement and European integration
Since the beginning of the European project, the debate on European integration has been shaped by two distinct flows - widening and deepening (O'Brennan, 2013: 37). The key question was whether the success of the European project rests on widening, thus further enlargement and the accession of other states on the European continent, or whether it should rather be concerned with deeper integration and cooperation between the already admitted Member
States (ibid). A key consideration of this debate was whether the EU will be able effectively integrate potential new members (Borzel, Dimitrova & Schimmelfennig, 2017: 158). This was essential both for the preservation of stability and cohesion of the Union itself, as well as for the new states themselves.
Enlargement refers to the policy of opening the European Union to possible accessions by third countries – countries not currently part of the EU (European Commission n.d.a).
According to the official language of the European Commission (European Commission, n.d.b), the objective of enlargement is to benefit both existing EU Member States and the countries surrounding the European Union. For third countries, enlargement policy aims to protect peace and stability in the regions, as well as assists those countries who wish to align themselves with European democratic values and legislation (ibid). On the side of existing Member states, enlargement aims to increase the prosperity and opportunities of businesses and citizens through integration. Both sides are also envisioned to benefit from cross-border cooperation, leading to improvements in the standards of living (ibid). Vachudova (2014: 126) points out that foreign policy and enlargement used to function as distinct policies, but enlargement soon became the key tool of foreign policy, as it proved to be the most effective in achieving the EU’s foreign policy goals.
Higashino (2004: 347) however, notes that in the case of the Eastern enlargement of 2004, security was the primary driver of enlargement support among Member States. She further concludes that the security discourse constructed by EU institutions has been characterized by an emphasis on the urgency of enlargement. According to her study, it was especially this security-based argumentation which convinced Member States to disregard their previous skepticism and adapt their strategies to pursue further enlargement.
Enlargement also has a symbolic and historical aspect. It represents an eventual culmination of historical processes through which all states on the European continent will finally “return to Europe”. This discourse was evident during the Eastern enlargement round of 2004, which was by many considered a form of reunification of the continent following the division created by the Cold War (Borzel, Dimitrova & Schimmelfennig, 2017: 157). To this day, a “return to Europe” narrative is evident among proponents of enlargement, even those which are notably sceptical of EU integration, as exemplified by the enlargement discourse of Hungary (Huszka, 217: 594).
11 The enlargement process
The origins of the EU’s enlargement policy lie in the Treaty on European Union. Article 49 of the Treaty posits that any country on the European continent can join the EU if it fulfills and promotes the standards of European democratic values (European Commission, n.d.b). These values are further specified in Article 2 of the Treaty (ibid). Countries wishing to become part of the EU can apply for membership and must work to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria, consisting of three main parts (European Commission, n.d.c). The first is the political criterium – the country must have functioning institutions which can ensure respect for human rights, democracy and rule of law. Secondly, the country must have a stable market economy which will be able to sustain the competition of the single European market. Lastly, the country must have the capacity to implement the rules and aims of the Union, including common legislation called acquis communautaure (European Commission, n.d.d). In order to achieve EU standards, candidate countries are engaged in dialogue with the EU and are provided with technical and financial assistance to facilitate compliance (Borzel, Dimitrova &
Schimmelfennig, 2017: 164). Financial assistance is provided under the framework of the Instrument of Pre-Accession assistance (IPA) (European Commission, n.d.e). An accompanying process of negotiation between the EU and candidate countries progressively rewards those complying with EU standards and punishes those who don’t (Borzel, Dimitrova
& Schimmelfennig, 2017: 163). Currently, the candidate countries for EU membership are Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania and Turkey, while Kosovo and Bosnia &
Herzegovina are recognized as potential candidates (European Commission, n.d.b).
Studies on the effects of enlargement policy on countries aspiring for EU membership conclude that the conditionality mechanism – the motivating force of EU membership – transforms third countries into an image of the Union and thus increases standards in those countries (Gateva, 2019). Analyses conclude that EU conditionality has had a positive impact on new members, both in terms of increasing the competitiveness of their economies, as well as raising democratic standards of rule of law and human rights (Borzel, Dimitrova &
Schimmelfennig, 2017:158). However, over time scholars also noted that the real success of conditionality depends on the perception of credibility – how credible is the threat of losing the potential for membership (2017: 164).
The last decade of enlargement – spread of enlargement fatigue
The Union has gone through 5 distinct rounds of enlargement (O’Brennan, 2013:37). A turning point was the so-called „Big Bang“ enlargement of 2004 (Borzel, Dimitrova &
Schimmelfennig, 2017: 157). During this accession round, the EU expanded by 10 new Member States: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia (Gateva, 2019). Subsequently, the EU enlarged through the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. The most recently admitted member has been Croatia in 2013 (Gateva, 2019).
Overall, enlargement has had positive effects on the Union – both new and old member states have greatly benefited from the process, both economically and in terms of security (Vachudova, 2014:122). Furthermore: “The European Union (EU) has embraced enlargement as its most effective foreign policy tool – and can credibly argue that the EU’s enlargement has been the most successful democracy promotion policy ever implemented by an external actor“
(Vachudova, 2014:122). The Commission recognizes the dual effect of enlargement in democratizing third countries and increasing the stability of the whole continent (Vachudova, 2014:122).
Despite these positive developments, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 raised the question whether these states were sufficiently prepared for membership. The continuing struggles of Romania and Bulgaria to fight corruption even after accession add to the overall feeling that any further accessions would be detrimental to the standards of the Union (Vachudova, 2014:123). This was further exacerbated by the growing rule of law crisis in Hungary and Poland, which shed doubts on the accession procedure as such (Borzel, Dimitrova and Schimmelfennig, 2017: 158). At the same time, the effect of EU conditionality has been weakened by its inconsistency in moving through the stages of the pre-accession process. It led to doubts about the effectiveness of the accession procedure, which consequently decreased trust about the effectiveness of future accessions (Borzel, Dimitrova &
Schimmelfennig, 2017: 158). All of this was further happening at the backdrop or rising dissatisfaction with prior EU integration. The public opinion of citizens from old member states was often concerned with the loss of a voice in the Union as a consequence of its expansion.
Meanwhile, citizens of new member states were often disappointed with the discrepancy between expected and real effects of EU membership on the quality of democracy and standards of living (Borzel, Dimitrova & Schimmelfennig, 2017: 159). All these elements combined have led to so-called ‘enlargement fatigue’ (O’Brennan, 2013:36). On the side of the EU, public
opinion among the citizens has increasingly been turning anti-enlargement, some arguing that the policy is essentially dead (Vachudova, 2014:123). Adding to this, the multiple ‘existential crises’ which consecutively hit the Union over the past decade significantly diluted the enthusiasm for further enlargement (Wallden, 2017:1). As the Union encountered crisis after crisis which required domestic attention, it was increasingly less eager to dedicate energy and resources towards its neighbours (Khaze, 2018:50). Nowadays, both Member State governments and the general public are increasingly swinging in favour of stopping enlargement, as it is seen as one of the causes of internal European divisions (Wallden, 2017:1).
What was once seen as the most successful EU policy is now effectively at a standstill.
The fatigue further increased after the accession of Croatia in 2013, whose accession process lasted a decade. Khaze (2018: 48) claims that lengthy accession procedures characterized by enlargement fatigue further lead to „accession fatigue“ among candidate countries. Accession fatigue is characterized by increasing apathy towards the EU among citizens who feel they have been let down by the unfulfilled promises of accession. At the same time, pro-European political elites in candidate states lose legitimacy as a result of slow progress and are replaced by skeptical elites who show less commitment towards reforms.
Lowered EU presence in the region creates a power vacuum which is quickly taken over by Russia and China, which gradually exert political and economic influence over the Balkan countries (idem: 49). We can thus observe a vicious cycle in which accession fatigue and the negative influences of China and Russia lead to a stagnation in the democratic development of candidate countries, which further fuels enlargement fatigue among Member States and EU institutions. Further fueling accession fatigue were also the repeated political blockages of candidate states by Member States with bilateral issues. These slowed the accession process of Turkey as well as North Macedonia (Belanger and Schimmelfennig, 2021: 409). Accession fatigue was also visible among countries previously attempting to take part of the accession procedure – in the years 2013 and 2014, Iceland, Azerbaijan and Armenia all stopped their process of association (Belanger and Schimmelfennig, 2021:408).
Although the EU recognizes accession fatigue among candidate countries (Borrell, 2022), it has been progressively decreasing the institutional role of enlargement. First, in 2014, the Commission declared that no further accession would take place within the next 5-year mandate. It consequently rebranded the Directorate General for Enlargement into a Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, which Wallden (2017: 1) characterized as “a move evidently intended to downgrade the role of enlargement”. It can therefore be concluded that enlargement fatigue reigns also on the institutional level of the EU.
In order to combat both enlargement and accession fatigue, Borzel, Dimitrova and Schimmelfennig (2017: 171) recommend to enforce strict conditionality towards candidates, while improving public communication about enlargement with the citizens, especially focusing on European identity and common values.
Enlargement and the politics of old and new Member States
Furthermore, enlargement is a policy in which national interests of individual Member States continue to play a significant role (Vachudova, 2014:122). Among these, a pattern stands out between so-called New Member States (those that acceded to the Union in or after 2004), and Old Member States (all previous members) (Vachudova, 2014:122).
For a variety of reasons, New Member States seem to be more inclined to support enlargement than Old Member States. Firstly, as they have been subject to the process recently, NMS can feel empathy towards other countries aspiring for EU membership. They also understand the struggle of post-communist transformation much more vividly than the established democracies of the Western part of the continent (Huszka, 2017:595). Secondly, geography matters. The current accession round concerns countries which (with the exception of Greece) border New Member States. Since enlargement is assumed to be a stabilizing force, likely to prevent the breakout of another conflict in the Balkans, countries which directly border this region have a higher interest in increasing its security (ibid). Similarly, countries geographically close to the Balkans can also benefit from expanding their trade more easily to these countries, and thus reverse the usual flow of capital, strengthening their economies. This could explain why even countries which challenge EU integration, such as Hungary, are vocal advocates of accelerating the speed of current enlargement procedures (idem: 591). For an illustration of the relevant geographic dynamics, see Figure 1:
Figure 1: European states sorted by their affiliation with the European Union. Created by the author using MapChart.net
European Neighborhood Policy
Enlargement policy and European neighborhood policy (ENP) are dual policies, both aiming to define the EU’s role vis á vis its neighbours (Nitoiu, 2017: 88). ENP concerns 16 countries, divided into the Eastern and the Southern Neighborhood (European Commission, n.d.f). This thesis will focus specifically on the Eastern portion of this policy. ENP was launched in 2004 and since then revised in response to events in neighbouring countries, such as the Arab Spring and the annexation of Crimea (Schumacher & Bouris, 2017: 2). Much like with the initial countries considered for enlargement, the EU’s activities in the neighbouring region were partly motivated by values and democratization, and partly by the internal interests of the Union. It was assumed the Union would inevitably be affected by the trade and security aspects of
stability in neighbouring states (Nitoiu, 2017: 89). Therefore, the policy aims to have a transformative effect on countries surrounding the Union, especially with the goal of resolving conflicts (Schumacher & Bouris, 2017: 2). However, in contrast to the Balkan region, eventual membership is not on the agenda of EU’s relations to its neighbouring countries (Nitoiu, 2017:89).
In 2009, the EU launched the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative to complement ENP (Vieira, 2021: 297). This initiative was aimed at increasing engagement with the EU’s Eastern Neighborhooud through Association Agreements (AAs) and trade cooperation. In 2015, the EU has reviewed the policy, also in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and abandoned some of the original ambitions. Crombois (2019) notes the changes have been incremental and the policy is characterized by path-dependency (Crombois, 2019). At the same time, the region of Eastern Partnership has become a site of competing geopolitical interests between the EU and Russia (Vieira, 2021: 298). Russia was originally even offered a place in the Eastern Partnership but declined the offer (idem: 303). Instead, it has been attempting to consolidate its own influence over the region through the creation of the Eurasian Union. The divide between pro-European and pro-Russian EaP countries culminated in the years 2013 and 2014, when Armenia stopped its association procedure, while Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia signed Association Agreements with the EU and proceeded to implement key reforms (ibid).
The EU uses Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements as a basis for their policy towards the Eastern Neighborhood (Ikani, 2019:22). They aim to solidify a form of economic and political integration of the region with the Union. The countries which signed these agreements – the „Association Trio“ of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia - also seem to be the most motivated to join the EU (Vieira, 2021: 303). The Union’s engagement with these countries took a path of lesser cooperation than with candidate countries, but still stronger engagement than a mere partnership would offer. In supporting democratic and economic reforms, the EU has essentially created a new category among its neighbours – the potential future members, whose accession process is, however, for now nowhere to be seen (ibid). According to Vieira (2021: 304), an analysis of discourses of Georgia and Ukraine shows they exhibit signs of desiring a ‚Return to Europe‘ and framing association with the EU as a civilizational choice.
Despite EU’s ambitions to be a transformative force in the region, all evidence suggests that the tools of the ENP, such as Association Agreements, cannot deliver the same results as EU membership conditionality, neither in terms of security nor with regards to democratization.
As Vachudova (2014: 126) concludes: „there is not a single country on the EU’s borders with an association agreement but without a membership perspective that can be described as a stable, democratic and dependable political ally and economic partner for the EU“. Borzel, Dimitrova and Schimmelfennig (2017: 159) further found that the association policy has led to no significant effects on democratic standards or good governance. Enlargement fatigue is therefore detrimental to the potential for democratic transformation of EU’s neighborhood (Borzel, Dimitrova and Schimmelfennig, 2017: 159).
The full overview of countries covered in the previous sections is provided in Table 1:
Potential candidate countries
Partnership (not associated)
Serbia Bosnia &
Montenegro Kosovo Moldova Armenia
(waiting to open accession negotiations)
North Macedonia (waiting to open accession negotiations) Turkey
Table 1: Countries involved in the EU’s enlargement and Eastern neighborhood policies.
Ukraine crisis of 2014
The origin of the 2014 crisis in Ukraine lies in November 2013, when the country was set to sign an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU (Ikani, 2019: 22). Due to economic problems in the country, president Yanukovych postponed signing the agreement in order to secure a bailout from Russia. Citizens who saw the agreement as a way to finally move away from Russian influence and towards a European path responded by protesting on the streets (ibid). These protests were met with pro-Russian counterprotests and the crisis erupted into violent encounters across the country. Russia proceeded to support insurgent movements on the east of the country, culminating in the illegal
annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 (idem: 23). According to Ikani (2019:23), the ENP was part of the causes of the events that took place, and fundamentally affected the EU’s relations with the Eastern neighbours. Although the EU has reformed its discourse on the neighborhood in response, it has not made an effective reform of the policy (Ikani, 2019: 20), only reformulating its goals while maintain the same tools and targets (idem: 39). Ikani (2019:21) further states that the attack on Ukraine served to remind countries formerly under Russian influence (especially Poland and the Baltic states) of their potential vulnerability to future attacks. Meanwhile, Germany and France struggled to balance their economic relationships with Russia with the need to effectively respond to the crisis (ibid). The attack was a direct challenge of Russia against the EU’s ambitions for forms of integration with the Eastern Neighborhood (idem: 20), a pattern to be repeated in 2022. Ever since 2014, Russia has been framing the EU’s attempts at integrating the EaP region as a direct attack on its own interests (idem: 26). At the same time, some believe it was the first instance in which the Ukrainian citizens demonstrated how deeply they want to follow a European path (Vieira, 2021:298).
Russian invasion of Ukraine 2022
After months of military build-up, the army of the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine and began a full-scale attack on February 24th, 2022 (Sangal et al., 2022). Four days later, Ukraine applied for EU membership (Van der Loo & Van Elsuwege, 2022). A day later, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging for the EU to grant this request (European Parliament, 2022c). Ukraine’s bid was closely followed by the other associated Eastern neighborhood countries – Georgia and Moldova (Van der Loo & Van Elsuwege, 2022). While many support these requests, others are concerned about the geopolitical and economic consequences, as well Ukraine’s readiness to meet accession criteria (Van der Loo & Van Elsuwege, 2022). Prior to the invasion, enlargement towards the Eastern partnership has been discouraged by Russia’s insistence on a strategy of spheres of influence and their attempts to create a competing regional organisation (Belanger and Schimmelfennig, 2021: 408). Now, there are voices from several Member States calling for a fast-track accession procedure to swiftly bring Ukraine closer to the EU (Taylor, 2022). The discussion on various aspects of this decision is thus turning the Eastern Partnership from becoming solely the subject of the ENP, to a potential new subject of enlargement policy. This has in turn raised concerns about what such a move could do for the Western Balkan countries which have been waiting for their accession process to progress for
years (Taylor, 2022). When discussing enlargement fatigue, Wallden (2017:1) concluded that
“the revival of the (enlargement) policy is conditional upon a necessary, but improbable, major shift in the EU, with the strengthening of solidarity.” The following research will aim to uncover whether current events could lead to such an improbable, major shift.
Role of the European Parliament
Parliament and foreign policy
The European Parliament has been enjoying increased powers since the Lisbon Treaty of 2007.
These extended powers included the ability to influence EU foreign policy and relations towards third countries (Nitoiu, 2017: 87). Although it is not the primary legislator on EU foreign policy, every year the European Parliament adopts multiple resolutions which aim to communicate its external policy goals to other European institutions (Nitoiu, 2017: 90).
Additionally, the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty has increased the Parliament’s oversight over the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as its powers related to the budget and to concluding international treaties (Kaminska, 2017:136).). Parliament’s extended influence reflects especially on its ability to contribute to policy towards the neighborhood. Due to its increased budgetary powers, the EP has gained greater influence also over the financial aspects of foreign policy, specifically the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance, the European Neighborhood Instrument and the Partnership Instrument (Kaminska, 2017:145). Similarly, any further accessions of Member States must be approved by the EP Belanger & Schimmelfennig, 2021:410). Kaminska (2017: 137) notes that although the ENP is seen as a technical file, it is really one of the most political aspects of the functioning of the Union, which has created an opportunity for larger engagement on the side of the Parliament. Further, the year 2011 brought about a revision of the ENP, which also included a strengthened position for the Parliament. At the same time, the role of various tools of foreign policy such as parliamentary diplomacy and specifically EU-Eastern Partnership Parliamentary Assembly (EuroNest) has also been growing in recent years (ibid). Kaminska (2017: 137) further notes that against the backdrop of the EU’s crisis of legitimacy and increasing calls to decrease the democratic deficit, the Parliament is seen as a legitimate body for contribution towards foreign policy.
The EP’s main body concerned with foreign policy is the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) (Kaminska, 2017:138). Furthermore, it’s delegations to third countries allow it to exert significant informal influence through meetings with stakeholders and building networks
(idem: 139). This contributes also to the long term goals of enlargement and the transformative power of the EU, since such connections between European and third-country Parliamentarians are considered effective tools for the socialization of the latter towards European standards (idem: 144). In cases of need of ad-hoc missions to partner countries, the EP establishes temporary delegations whose role is to investigate and meet stakeholders of third countries, especially those subject to Association Agreements (idem: 140). As a result, an EP delegation was sent to Ukraine in the events of 2013 and 2014. Thanks to its direct contact with stakeholders, political opposition and civil society on the ground, the EP became a key information provider for the Commission (idem: 141). Kaminska (2017: 145) notes that these frequent exchanges and network building have given the EP an advantage over other EU institutions when it comes to context-specific local knowledge necessary for effective policy design. Since Association Agreements with third countries have to be ratified by the Parliament, the EP started actively seeking out connections with third countries in order to inform its decision making on the ratification. In order to ratify the Association Agreements with Eastern partners, the EP was part of a special group established in 2011. These activities not only strengthened cooperation between the EP and third countries, but also between the EP and the Commission, facilitating a greater contribution of the Parliament towards foreign policy (ibid).
The EP has engaged in similar efforts towards partners in the Southern Neighborhood, but these exchanges are considered beyond the scope of this thesis.
Discourse in the European Parliament
Through its creation of meaning, discourse eventually also determines the political reality and decisions taken by policy makers (Belanger & Wunsch, 2022: 656). MEPs express their views on issues by a) making speeches in committees and plenary sessions and b) voting on legislation (Proksch & Slapin, 2009: 588). Both of these expressions are public, however speaking on issues can take on a strategic or symbolic importance, as Members can aim to justify their vote or influence others (idem: 589). Analyses of Parliament discourse show that speeches of MEPs can reveal cleavages between different national fractions within European political groups (Slapin & Proksch, 2010, Hoyland and Goudbout, 2008, cited in Lord and Tamvaki, 2012).
Members can use speeches to justify their positions to their national or European group members. In this process, frames are used to justify the position of the speaker on the given issue and support their argumentation (Belanger & Schimmelfennig, 2021:411). Kaminska (2017:136) argues that it is especially the Parliament’s informal powers in terms of facilitating dialogue, monitoring and calling for change, which allow it to influence the political narrative in the EU, and by extension also trends in foreign policy. Since the accession of candidate
countries needs to be approved by the Parliament, discourse in the Parliament can reveal the interpretations and deliberations of MEPs which will have consequences for enlargement decisions (Belanger & Schimmelfennig, 2021:410).
Political groups and enlargement discourse
The most vocal opponent of enlargement in the European Parliament is the radical right group (Belanger & Wunsch, 2022: 653). Over the years 2004-2019, the parties belonging to this group have grown in size within the European Parliament and consistently used identity and culture- related arguments to construct an anti-enlargement discourse. The analysis by Belanger and Wunsch (2022: 655) further finds that the discourse of mainstream parties is also becoming more skeptical towards enlargement, but it does not reproduce the identity-based arguments of the radical right. Rather, they respond by constructing their own enlargement skepticism as an issue of democracy and human rights, as opposed to focusing on the technical aspects of the accession procedure. Another interesting finding of the study is the fact that there is decreasing cohesion of enlargement discourse with all political groups, with the exception of radical right parties, which demonstrate increasing cohesion (idem: 661). Mainstream parties are constructed as those belonging to the EPP, the ECR, S&D and Renew (Helbling et al, 2010, as cited in Belanger & Wunsch, 2022:658). Belanger & Wunsch (2022:658) analyzed the statements of MEPs regarding candidate countries (Western Balkans and Turkey) prospective of EU membership. Since they analyzed enlargement discourse up to the 8th legislature, this research aims to build on their work by analyzing a part of the discourse during the current, 9th term.
Furthermore, Belanger & Wunsch did not include MEP nationality in their analysis, even though according to Vachudova (2014: 122) there are significant differences in attitudes towards enlargement between different nationalities. Therefore, the present research will look at the political group as well as nationality as possible predictors of enlargement discourse.
The role of MEP nationality in the European Parliament
Although the political groups in the Parliament are seen as transnational communities of shared values, national interests do play a role (Costello & Thompson, 2014: 774). The EP provides a venue for voicing national and regional interests (O’Brennan, 2013:38).
The voting decisions and stances of MEPs are shaped by a variety of factors. On the one hand, MEPs are expected to vote along the party lines of their EP group (Frantescu, 2015: 104).
However, they are also seen as representing their national constituencies and state interests (ibid). At times, these two are in conflict. Regional interests can be a source of significant division within EP political groups (Costello & Thompson, 2014: 773). When the national
interests of the MEPs seem to be especially affected, MEPs are more inclined to break away from the lines dictated by their political group (ibid). On such occasions, groups often allow their members to break away, since their votes are seen as a political message for their constituencies (Frantescu, 2015: 106). This can be partly explained by the fact that MEPs are elected in their Member States, thus their positions on issues of national importance are likely to have a strong impact on their chance of re-election (Costello & Thompson, 2014: 774).
Furthermore, if the national delegation of a Member State is in a weaker position in the Council, they might be inclined to exert pressure on the MEPs and in that way counterbalance the Council through the EP and swing the policy closer to national interests (Costello & Thompson, 2014:773).
Statistically significant differences between MEP stances arise especially when discussing controversial issues and issues of strategic national importance. This is, however, true mostly only for groups of states with vested interests in the issue. Braghiroli (2015:74) found that when voting on actions towards Russia, political groups were on average the greatest determinant of MEP stances. However, this was not the case for certain national groups whose history and geography was especially affected by Russia, specifically the Baltic states and Poland. A similar result concerns the rhetoric on security. When discussing asylum (before the refugee crisis), an analysis of the speeches of MEPs found that MEPs from New Member states put a lot more emphasis on security than those from older Member States (Frid-Nielsen, 2018:
344). As illustrated by Costello & Thompson (2014, 781): “When salient national interests are at stake, national groups of MEPs are significantly more likely to deviate from their party group’s policy position and come out in support of their member state’s position”. It can therefore be hypothesized that on issues of strategic national importance like security and geopolitics, MEP nationality will have a significant influence on their stance and rhetoric. This thesis aims to contribute to this academic debate by examining the role MEP nationality plays specifically on the intersection of the issues of enlargement and security. Evidence from the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 suggests that the security threat this event represented increased the feeling of a European identity in the EU, as well as trust in European institutions and support for common European policies (Gehring, 2021). Notably, this effect was the strongest among Member States who had the highest threat perception of this crisis, those who are geographically closest to Russia (ibid). I therefore expect MEPs from New Member states to also have a higher threat perception of the current crisis in Ukraine.
The following research will be theoretically informed in 3 parts. Firstly, theories on the use of frame in enlargement and foreign policy research will be analyzed to provide groundwork for coding the data. Secondly, theories of European enlargement will be used to understand the motivations of speakers for their use of frames in speeches. Lastly, theories on policy process will serve to explain the expected changes in framing, and inform the discussion on possible effects of discourse change on policy change.
Theorizing European enlargement
Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier (2002: 503) conceptualize enlargement within the study of international organizations. According to their definition, enlargement is „a process of gradual and formal horizontal institutionalization of organizational rules and norms“ (ibid). The emphasis on the horizontal aspect reflects the notion of widening, rather than deepening of institutionalization. They further define institutionalization as „the process by which the actions and interactions of social actors come to be normatively patterned, “ (ibid). Following this definition, they analyze the motivations for enlargement among countries aspiring for membership, existing Member States, and EU institutions. They construct these along the lines of rationalist and constructivist logics.
Through the lens of rationalist theory, actors are expected to weigh their costs and benefits and pursue the options which result in the highest net benefit calculation (Schimmelfennig & Sedelmeier, 2002: 510). On the side of the EU, an „organization expands its institutions and membership if, for both the member states and the applicant states, the marginal benefits of enlargement exceed the marginal costs“ (idem: 513). Therefore, the organisation will continue pursuing enlargement as long as the marginal benefits are higher, or equal to marginal costs. This point represents an equilibrium, the ideal size of the organization.
Individual member states make their own cost-benefit calculations. Their costs include losing influence in the organization as membership expands, and having to share goods (such as EU funds) with more members. On the other hand, they receive greater control over the external policies of candidate countries and the share of common goods which new members bring in.
Applicant countries are faced with a calculation of losing control over their policy, in return for protection from other actors and a share of common goods (idem: 511). As long as these calculations lead the states to conclude that the net benefit is higher than if they did not enlarge,
24 they will be pursuing enlargement.
In contrast, constructivist theories explain enlargement through the lenses of culture and ideas (Schimmelfennig & Sedelmeier, 2002: 515). In this regard, a shared identity and common values seems to be the strongest factor determining the pursuit of enlargement on both sides.
On the level of the Union, enlargement will be motivated by the pursuit of reuniting actors with a shared identity and will continue until the institutional and cultural boundaries of a group match (ibid). In general, applicants and Member States will be more favourable to pursue enlargement if they perceive a higher overlap in their values and identities (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2002: 513). In cases of disagreement within the Union on whether an applicant matches the identity of the community, states will engage in a process of argumentation in order to convince others of their point of view. Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier (2002: 515) note that “arguing and discourse have the potential to modify old, or construct new, identities and norms. Incumbents and outsiders continuously seek to define and redefine the boundaries of the community, between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and to interpret and reinterpret the organizational norms”. They further emphasize that “we will observe change in the definition or extension of the international community and in its enlargement practices”. Therefore, changes in discourse will have an effect on the understanding of enlargement, and consequently on enlargement policy itself.
Continuums of EU foreign policy framing
Nitoiu (2017) analyzed how the European Parliament framed its discourse on policies towards the European neighborhood. In his study, he considered multiple academic perspectives on EU foreign policy. Firstly, one perspective argues that the EU altruistically uses its foreign policy to promote democratic values such as human rights and rule of law, thus exhibits a value-based foreign policy (Nitoiu, 2017: 91). Other academics suggest that the EU is inherently self-interested in its foreign policy and uses its relations with other countries to promote its own interests in the areas of economy and security. On another spectrum, the framing of EU foreign policy is on a continuum from transnational to intergovernmental. On the one side, EU institutions are perceived to be acting unilaterally, on the other side, foreign policy is disintegrated and shaped by the individual interests of member states (ibid). The two continuums can be visualized as seen in Table 2:
1st continuum - democracy - rule of law - human rights
- civilizational power - EU as an altruist
- security - economy - energy
- geopolitical focus
- EU as self-interested actor
2nd continuum - Commission and Parliament as key decision makers - Common voice of EU
- Focus on institutions
- Member States and Council as key decision makers
- bilateral rather than common European approach
- Focus on member states
Table 2: The two continuums of EU foreign policy (Nitoiu, 2017:91)
Nitoiu (2017: 95) found that the Parliament’s discourse on neighborhood policy most frequently used the frames of democracy promotion. Frames on security and stability falling into the interest-based perspective appeared nearly half as frequently. Furthermore, while the Parliament argued for an increase in its own involvement when framing democracy promotion, when discussing the EU’s relationship with the Russian Federation, it framed the issues as an intergovernmental one, emphasizing the role of individual Member States. It will be interesting to see whether any changes appear in the analysis as an effect of the invasion.
Framing of enlargement policy
Belanger and Schimmelfennig (2021: 410) analyzed the discourse on enlargement in the European Parliament and some Member State parliaments. They define enlargement discourse as the sum of the frames and positions taken by speakers in debates concerning enlargement (idem: 411). They conclude that throughout the past decade, the discourse on enlargement has grown increasingly negative, while enlargement as such has also lost salience in debates. The analysis further shows that while there do not seem to be differences in frames based on the left-right political spectrum, negative framing is especially prevalent among nationalist, culturally conservative political parties (idem: 410). They note that negative discourse on enlargement goes in parallel with the lack of progress on enlargement policy (idem: 417).
They construct the position of speakers in three categories: against enlargement, for enlargement, or conditionally supporting enlargement (Belanger and Schimmelfennig, 2021:
415). Considering the exceptional security circumstances of the time frame of this research, I
have decided to adapt their framework with the consideration of security in mind. An analysis of enlargement discourse by Higashino (2004: 350) showed that the securitization of enlargement has, at that time, brought a sense of urgency to the policy. Beyond favourable position towards enlargement will therefore be those claims which specifically frame enlargement as an urgent issue and call for an acceleration of the current process. Such claims are statements such as “We need to urgently grant Ukraine candidate status” or “Accession negotiations with North Macedonia must be opened immediately”. The adapted framework for the analysis of enlargement frames can be seen in Table 3:
Enlargement as a dead project
Enlargement as conditional on the fulfillment of criteria
Enlargement as the
inevitable culmination of historical processes
Enlargement as an urgent policy needed to preserve the Union Themes -appeal to close
negotiations -appeal to stop calling a country candidate
-they will never be part of the EU -criticism of the inefficiency of enlargement policy
-emphasis on the reforms still needed to be done - cautious support - acknowledgement of progress but focus on the road ahead
- mentioning that standards must be upheld and cannot be circumvented
-favourable position but no appeal to faster action or urgency -Return to Europe frame, emphasis on historical culmination and shared
-appeal to fast action
(granting candidate status, moving to the next stage of accession process) - focus on negative consequences of stagnation Table 3: Adapted framework for the analysis of enlargement frames from Belanger and Schimmelfennig (2021)
Framing third countries
Discourse on foreign policy and enlargement is also constituted specifically of frames of countries being considered for EU membership. In 2016, Vieira (2016:129) conceptualized EU’s identification vis à vis Russia and the Eastern Partnership. She noted that EU perceives itself as We, opposed to the Other that is the Russian Federation. At the same time, its
enlargement policy framed its candidate countries as a firmly established category of Prospective We. In this framing, the EU emphasizes that they have to undergo a process of reforms to meet EU standards, but it does not doubt that they will eventually become part of the European family. Through the creation of the ENP and Eastern Partnership, the EU started crafting a new category for its Eastern neigbours – the Potential We. This category was distinct from Prospective We, as membership was not on the table, but still closer to the EU than the Otherness of Russia. Through the construction of the Potential We, the EU has attempted to challenge Russia’s claim on the countries of the Eastern Partnership. However, it did not go as far as to suggest a clear path towards eventual EU membership.
Devrim and Schulz (2009: 1) note that over the recent years, EU’s discursive patterns about candidate and neighborhood countries have been increasingly merging. They attribute this to the rise of enlargement fatigue. Therefore, in my analysis I will consider the category of Potential We also for countries which are officially recognized as candidates. If Potential We appears more frequently than Prospective We, it will indicate that the speakers doubt the inevitability of the candidate’s eventual membership in the European family. Furthermore, Belanger and Wunsch (2022: 657) found that the category of Others is also used to describe candidates in the framing of radical right parties in the European Parliament . The emphasis on Otherness becomes a justification for enlargement fatigue. Therefore, the entire spectrum of frames will be considered for both categories of third countries.
Policy change and the policy process
Punctuated equilibrium theory
In their Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET), Baumgartner and Jones (1993, as cited in Allen, 2020: 120) conceptualize how policy change comes about in stable systems. In general, policy is characterized by path-dependency, with only incremental changes adjusting its course. This is due to the compartmentalized systems in which policy is designed, which require high levels of expertise and dedicated departments, thus preventing large-scale changes (Princen, 2013:
855). Public administration structures are designed to focus on a narrow set of issues, maintaining stability. According to PET, every once in a while, this policy equilibrium is punctuated, leading to a large shift in policy (Joly & Richter, 2019: 42). This punctuation can happen as a result of two possible events. The first reason is that the issue definition changes, meaning the actors involved in the policy change their understanding of the issue. Princen (2013: 855) notes that issue definitions can change as a result of a significant external event
that exposes an ignored problem, or when the ineffectiveness of the current policy becomes too large to ignore. The second possibility is a change in agenda-setting, which occurs when new actors, who were not interested in the issue before, are suddenly pulled in (Joly & Richter, 2019:
42). Since in these cases, long-ignored problems are often exposed, the policy change which follows is rather radical, attempting to make up for the lost time (Princen, 2013: 855). Path- dependency and change in policy making therefore go hand-in-hand and alternate in triggering each other.
Joly and Richter (2019: 42) further note that although PET was originally designed to explain phenomena in public policy, it can very much be applied to changes in foreign policy as well. The punctuation of the equilibrium can be triggered by an external crisis which requires a change in foreign policy. The mechanism is illustrated by Figure 2.
Figure 2: Visualization of the punctuated equilibrium theory (Holt & Barkemeyer, 2012)
Multiple Streams Framework:
The Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) emphasizes the power of ideas in driving policy change and was established by Kingdon in 1984 (Allen, 2020: 12). Thierse (2019: 270) notes that the structure of the EU, as well as the European Parliament specifically, are especially fitting for an analysis through the MSF. The framework hypothesizes that policy change occurs at a point of intersection of three different streams (Thierse, 2019: 268). The first is the problem stream. The problem means that there is a discrepancy between an ideal state and the reality, which is seen as deserving a policy reaction. Secondly, the political stream refers to the political positions of policy makers, as well as pressures from media and interest groups, which together determine which problems are granted attention. Lastly, the policy stream constitutes of concrete policy proposals which are put forward by stakeholders and policy actors. When the three streams collide, they create a “window of opportunity” for policy change. MSF works with the assumption that the nature of problems is very much up for interpretation and re- interpretation, leading to a multitude of policy alternatives. This means individuals who want to push through their preferred policy option can act as „policy entrepreneurs“, using information and communication to convince the other actors to get on board. In this process,
framing and argumentation function as informal tools of agenda-setting (ibid). Frames can be defined as ‘patterns of justification’ (Helbling et al., 2010, Belanger & Wunsch, 2022: 657) used to construct a certain interpretation of reality. Framing is thus a significant tool of the policy entrepreneur, allowing them to re-interpret the meaning of a problem in order to gather more support for a concrete policy proposal (Thierse, 2019: 270). The European Parliament is an arena of political dialogue, exchanges of views and consultation of stakeholders. As a result, it has a significant role in shaping the political discourse of the EU (Thierse, 2019: 268) and will thus be a fitting arena for the current research.
MSF has traditionally been applied to domestic or internal EU policy arenas. Smith (2003: 559) notes that the European foreign policy space is continuously subject to re-framing.
When foreign policy issues become politicized or securitized, EU policy makers can become uncertain about how to correctly interpret events and information at hand (Voltolini, 2016:
1504). Further, external crises can evoke fear among the citizens, which creates a politically favourable environment for reform (Blavoukos, 2019: 26). Voltolini (2016: 1504) concludes that these securitized situations open windows of opportunity, thus allowing policy entrepreneurs to initiate change. The re-framing provided by policy entrepreneurs can resolve uncertainty among policy makers and lead to a specific policy alternative.
Figure 3: Multiple Streams Theory visualized (Bontje et al., 2016).
Both MSF and PET are useful theories for the understanding of change in enlargement policy.
Firstly, the invasion of Ukraine is a significant external event which can change the issue definition of enlargement and thus trigger a puncture of the established enlargement policy equilibrium. At the same time, the crisis could lead to the collision of policy streams, allowing policy entrepreneurs who favour a reform to the enlargement policy to pursue policy change.
The research question and sub-questions are going to be answered using two complementary methods. A framing analysis of debates at the European Parliament will establish the most common frames used in debates on enlargement, and identify any differences in time, nationality and the political group of the speakers. The semi-structured interviews will serve to uncover the motivations for this framing.
Frames are part of discourse on an issue and can be defined as tools which serve to label, categorize and justify interpretations of reality (Pan & Kosciki, 1993: 64). Their key feature is a selective emphasis on certain elements of an issue, often combined with the exclusion of other elements (ibid). Frames can be used to attribute causal explanations to problems and solutions.
In so doing, they can serve to instill a preference for a given policy option among the audience (ibid). Following this logic, I have chosen a frame analysis for this research, in order to understand how speakers use framing to argue for or against changes to enlargement policy.
In order to identify the reasons and mechanisms behind frame developments in the speeches of Parliamentarians, I conducted semi-structured interviews with employees of the European Parliament. Semi-structured interviews use a combination of open-ended or closed questions (Adams, 2015: 493). Their added value consists in the continuous interaction between the researcher and the interviewee, which allows for a flow of conversation, facilitated by follow-up questions asking for further explanations (ibid). This method leads to a deeper understanding of the meaning the interviewee attributes to the topic of the interview. The interviews in this research will focus on elements of enlargement theory and policy process which could serve to explain the differences, such as policy entrepreneurship, issue definition and motivations for enlargement. Furthermore, they will ask about influential events in the past 1 year of enlargement policy, as well as the dynamics between political and national groups.
The full interview guide can be found in Appendix 2.
Data collection Debates
Firstly, Parliamentary debates on the topics of enlargement and EU membership from the past year were collected. The debates were retrieved from the Plenary website of the European Parliament (European Parliament, n.d.a), in the time frame from the 1st of April 2021 to the end of May 2022. Originally, the time frame was supposed to be one year exactly, to represent