Does the EU Enlargement Influence the National and European Identity? A Cross-National Analysis in Old and New Member States

  • Abstract:
    The most recent enlargements of 2004 and 2007 meant the formal inclusion of approximately 90 million citizens into the European Union (EU). The inclusion of 12 new Member States moved the EU border eastward and diminished the heavy influence of some Old Member States (e.g.: the Polish and Czech influence on the Lisbon Treaty). The macro-consequences of the enlargement were within a few years: faster circulation of capital throughout Europe, higher migration flows, rapid economic growth in Eastern Europe, and increased support for extreme right parties in many European countries. However, it is unclear if the enlargement coincides with changes in the attitudes of individuals towards their country or the EU. In this respect, our paper investigates whether changes occurred in the national and European identities of the citizens from the old and new Member States. If such changes occur, we seek to identify their causes. Consequently, our analysis is driven by two interrelated research questions: Is there a change in the identity attitudes after the enlargement? If so, what drives these changes? To provide answers, we focus on the 27 member states and use individual level data from the 2002-2008 Candidate Countries and Standard Eurobarometers. We use bivariate and multivariate (hierarchical models) quantitative analyses to investigate the changes in national and European identities and their possible causes across years and countries. The tested explanations are political attitudes (i.e. attitudes towards the national democratic system), economic variables (i.e. satisfaction with economy and prospective evaluations), trust the in national and European institutions, EU membership evaluations and willingness to accept new members. Our results are not only valuable for further research, but bear important implications for the current and prospective candidate countries.