Study by Bence Csizmadia
Since the Eastern enlargement rounds in 2004 and 2007, the European Union has been affected by a prolonging ‘enlargement fatigue’. Membership aspirations of third countries, who are located in the Danube Region, are since then faced by the more or less open refusal of several EU members. This has led to a strategic shift by the EU Commission in regard of its enlargement and neighbourhood policy. With new ‘horizontal Europeanisation’ approaches being realised in the last 12 years, the regional cross-border cooperation formats experienced as external governance instruments a particular political valorisation. Through carrying out an overview analysis of the main cooperation programs as well as a case-analysis of the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), this study assessed these network-like cooperation in regard of their actual impact and added value. A central conclusion of this article was that while the EU tried to realise a comprehensive improvement of the Danube countries’ membership perspective it failed to do so. Therefore, a firm capabilities-expectation persists within the EU’s enlargement and neighborhood policy.