The Eastern enlargement of the European Union to former communist dictatorships has seen scholarly interest from several disciplines of theoretical schools. The security implications of EU enlargement to the East has seen theoretical disagreement, as there are arguments that EU enlargement both worsens the security situation for the current EU members, and that security is an insufficient cause for explaining enlargement to the former communist countries. On the other hand, security is one of the most cited motivations for enlargement policy by scholars, EU officials and politicians. Thus, the security dimension of EU enlargement is unclear in terms of why it matters and how it matters. This project investigates the security dimension in EU enlargement through a case study of one of the latest additions to the Union, namely Bulgaria, and the empirical analysis of data acquired through in-depth interviews.
The analysis finds that the Union utilized enlargement for security purposes, following two distinct logics: one of realpolitik and geopolitical considerations, and one of democratic peace and the extension of the security community. There were evident security gains for member states that were decisive in their decision to enlarge to Bulgaria, both through exporting democratic governance, norms and values, as well as the establishment of many-sided economic relations between Bulgaria and the Community, but also the presence of long-term geopolitical, security-political and strategic interests, such as the containment of Russian influence in Bulgaria, fighting transnational threats to internal security, energy security and regional stability, to name a few. The Union acted strategically in both the decision and in the execution of the enlargement strategy towards Bulgaria, taking risks and undermining reform efforts when needed, in order to reap both long-and short-term strategic benefits. The study therefore finds support for both models of democratic peace as well as realist assumptions.
However, as the study shows, normative security considerations were less evident, and the Union promoted its own interests as primary interests when needed even at its own cost, often risking efforts to achieve normative goals such as implementing rule of law and fighting organized crime and corruption. Thus, the project finds that the security dimension of EU enlargement in the case of Bulgaria questions the notion of ‘normative power Europe’, and paints a picture of the EU as an actor that is uncommon in EU security studies. These findings can have implications for both traditional enlargement debates, as well as the study of the EU as a security actor, as the EU both actively and strategically exercised their power for security gains in the enlargement to Bulgaria in a way that up until now have been largely neglected by scholars of both enlargement and the EU more broadly.