The Implications of the European Union’s East-West Divide for the Future of European Integrations?
Many would consider the European Union’s enlargement policy as one of its most successful initiatives. The enlargement towards Eastern Europe is economically, politically and strategically of utmost importance for the future of the European Union. However, as efficient and valuable the policy may be, there still persists a wide economic and democratic divide between the Eastern and Western states within the EU. The history of this divide began after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and its power projection, when the post-communist countries embraced liberal democracy and turned their gaze to the new alternative that would hopefully offer them economic development, political integration, security and a new European identity. After their accession to the European Union, most countries have experienced significant progress. However, individual member states in Eastern Europe have still not been able to reach Western states’ level of social and economic development. This study will begin with the analysis of this divide between East and West in Europe with emphasis on its history and on the current literature debate on the matter, which revolves around whether the enlargement has brought Eastern and Western Europe closer regarding economic and political development. The research will ultimately aim at finding the unrevealed reason for why, for example, a country like Bulgaria, who has been a member of the European Union since 2007, is still one of the Union’s weakest and most vulnerable nations. By taking the form of a case-study of Bulgaria, the study explores the factors that determine the country’s main reasons for trailing behind in certain aspects. In this sense, the central thesis of the research paper will revolve around the argument that because of the neglect of these essential factors, the European Union has not been able to develop a proper integration strategy for Bulgaria and Eastern Europe, which contributes to the fact that these vulnerabilities are becoming a huge drawback for the continuing integration of the European Union as a whole.
First and foremost, to understand the importance of European integration, we must define some of its core values and principles. These values have an essential role in guiding the European Union in its pursuit of closer cooperation in a more prominent political, social and economic union of diverse actors. It is explicitly stated in the Common Provisions of The Lisbon Treaty, that the European Union “shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member states.”