Evaluating democratic governance: a bottom up approach to European Union enlargement

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To be admitted to the European Union (EU), an applicant country is expected to meet five conditions for democratic governance set out in the EU's Copenhagen criteria. The first section compares the EU's criteria with alternative criteria of democracy and of governance. Secondly, the article uses New Europe Barometer sample surveys to demonstrate how the bottom-up evaluation of governance by a country's citizens can complement top-down evaluations by external institutions. Evaluations by citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Ukraine are compared with those of citizens in eight post-communist countries admitted to the EU in 2004. Factor analysis demonstrates that, unlike democracy indexes, democratic governance is a multi-dimensional concept. Citizens characterize their system of democratic governance as acceptable on some criteria but not on others. Taken singly, each Copenhagen criterion can be a tool for diagnosing an area of weakness in democratic governance. However, political pressures lead policymakers to lower demands for improving governance as a deadline approach for deciding whether or not to admit an applicant country to the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-271
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • European Union
  • governance
  • democracy
  • survey
  • Copenhagen criteria


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