In the second one of this semester’s Visegrad Fund lectures, we have the pleasure of welcoming Matúš Mišík, PhD from the Faculty of Philosophy, Comenius University in Bratislava, who will talk to us about the results of his long-term study of formal and especially informal decision-making practices in the Council of the European Union and the impacts Eastern enlargement has had on these “traditions.”

The upcoming lecture is based on a recently published book, which examines the influence of Eastern enlargement and especially the perceptions – by the older member states – of newcomers, their behavior, activities, and their impact on the functioning of the decision-making mechanism within the Council of the EU, focusing especially on the mechanism’s „subjective“ nature built around informal rules, norms and processes. 

The monograph is based on several dozens of semi-structured interviews with representatives of the original member states at their permanent representations in Brussels as well as at the national level.  

The results of the research indicate that the Eastern enlargement of 2004 is perceived by representatives of the original member states in a rather positive light while the respondents were much more critical towards the second part of the Eastern enlargement in 2007 when Romania and Bulgaria got on board. The decision-making mechanism of the EU was affected by the enlargement, however the changes were not perceived negatively, but mostly as a necessary consequence of the enlargement process that had to be taken into account. 

The research has also shown a rather low activity of the newcomers in general, except in areas of national interest in which these countries are seen as very active. When it comes to the behavior of the new members within the decision-making mechanism, the respondents noted problems of these countries in the area of so-called „compromise culture.“ The newcomers were pushing through their own national preferences while not supporting common, EU-wide solutions. Nevertheless, the new member states have shown significant learning ability – ability to understand, over time, all the fine details of formal as well as informal rules and norms existing within the EU decision-making mechanism.