Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Research Articles

The Europeanisation of candidate countries: the case for a shift to the concept of EU member-state building

  • Davide Denti
The research on the impact of the European Union on its candidate countries has been traditionally framed within the concept of Europeanisation. But the term, notwithstanding two decades of usage, still lacks clarity in its attributes and its referent. Moreover, the statehood of candidate countries has emerged as a prerequisite for its effectiveness, providing no answer for cases of limited statehood and limited Europeanisation. The concept of member-state building, which refers to the EU’s purpose of building functional member states while integrating them, may help reframe the academic discussion on the impact of the EU on candidate countries, particularly in limited statehood contexts, by complementing it with insights from the literature on state building. Deriving from an understanding of sovereignty as responsibility, member-state building highlights the paradoxes of simultaneous state building and European integration, given their competing logics of sovereignty concentration and sovereignty diffusion. To solve the dilemma, nevertheless, member-state building has one further resource. By exploiting the lack of a single blueprint and the possibility of different solutions for institutions to be compatible with EU requirements, member-state building can also foster domestic ownership and legitimacy, thus evading the trap of imposed international state building.