The focus of the thesis is the process leading up to Romania’s accession to the European Union in 2007. In this theory-guided case study, I will draw on the insight from rational and constructive theories and seek to synthesize these two very distinct theoretical outlooks with the empirical material deriving from different vantage points. Since process-tracing has been chosen as the methodological approach, where much attention is paid to the importance of unbroken causal chains, the empirical material is presented into two separate chapters, one chapter devoted to the domestic Romanian evolution from the end of communism to EU accession, and the other chapter on the EU institutions – the European Council, the Commission and the European Parliament – and their role in relation to the enlargement process and Romania.
The analysis that follows, where the actual synthesis of the theoretical and empirical material takes place, gives room for different explanations to the Romanian accession. However, the mixed picture that emerges still allows for the identification of three main causes for the acceptance of Romania into the European Union. The most decisive cause was Romania’s increased military-strategic importance and the support from a critical group of important member states. The other two causes were Romania’s relative success compared to many of the countries in its immediate geographical proximity and the perception that the alternative of not granting Romania accession would have been an even worse. In the closing remarks, it is observed how the intense study of a single case has permitted an encompassing but theoretically informed account of the accession process, something which is rarely done in the enlargement literature.