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Extra resources for The EU's Transformative Power: Europeanization through Conditionality in Central and Eastern Europe
In particular, all ﬁve countries that started negotiations in 1998 had become functioning market economies and were close to becoming competitive in the single market. The EU was able to conclude negotiations at the end of 2002 because Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia caught up fairly quickly with the front-runners, despite starting negotiations two years later. However, Bulgaria and Romania lagged behind, although the Soﬁa government made better progress than its counterpart in Bucharest. The ﬁnal two years of negotiations were slowed by hold-ups over the free movement of persons and the allocation of regional funds.
Moreover, by 2000, the EU’s accession policy was already ﬁrmly set, owing to the structure of the negotiations and the rules governing Phare and other aid funds. It is generally difﬁcult for the EU to use progress in negotiations or aid strategically to encourage or reward countries for reasons that are not directly related to accession. The Regular Reports in 1999 and 2000 used encouraging language about Bulgaria, and Bulgaria’s prospects were improving owing to greater macroeconomic stability, so it was possible for the Commission to argue that Bulgaria had made sufﬁcient progress to warrant negotiations.
The Accession Partnerships extended the Commission’s mandate further by giving it responsibility for setting priorities, reviewing the applicants’ progress in meeting objectives, and recommending whether candidates should be in negotiations or not. Although ﬁnal decisions on applying conditionality (either on aid or accession) were left to the Council, the Commission largely determined the agenda by overseeing the whole process and managing the programmes. 11 In this way, the parallel operation of the Accession Partnerships alongside negotiations gave the Commission a much larger inﬂuence over accession terms than had been the case in previous enlargements.