This book offers a timely exploration of the nature and scale of the emergent EU human rights regime by critically examining how and why EU intervention in human rights matters (with a key focus on child protection in Romania) as part of Eastern enlargement, has had feedback effects on the EU’s own institutional and policy structures. By drawing on the human rights conditionality (particularly in relation to children’s rights) as applied to Romania, this book demonstrates that the feedback effects regarding children’s rights have transformed the EU institutions’ role and scope in this policy area both in EU internal and external human rights dimensions. The process-tracing dimension illustrates why policy issues emerge on EU political agenda, which is in line with agenda-setting processes, and why they persist over time, which reflects historical institutionalist accounts. It is also shown that Eastern enlargement has raised the profile of Roma protection, international adoptions, the disabled and mental health at the EU level. The impact of these developments has been further reinforced by the constitutional and legal provisions included in the Lisbon Treaty. It is argued that Eastern enlargement along with the post-Lisbon constitutional changes have generated the emergence of a more robust and well-defined EU human rights regime in terms of its constitutional, legal and institutional clout.
This provides an overview of the historical background to the EU’s involvement with human rights and, at the same time, it fleshes out the main analytical frameworks employed in this book to explain the feedback processes. The Europeanization East analytical perspective describes how the EU, mostly the Commission, transformed candidate states’ institutions and policies during the EU accession negotiations. It is argued that the EU ‘Europeanized’candidate countries with respect to those conditions which involved the transposition of the already existing EU set of laws and rules – the acquis communautaire - at the national level. Yet, given that there is no EU acquis with respect to most human rights matters, the EU exported a human rights EU-topia (Nicolaidis and Howse 2002) to non-EU countries with regard to those human rights issues where the EU has limited internal mandate and has no EU acquis communautaire. The feedback effects triggered by this intervention are conceptualised as conducive to policy development (via policy entrepreneurship and agenda-setting) in EU internal policy sphere and to policy continuation (in line with historical institutionalism) in EU enlargement policy.
This chapter examines the breadth and depth of the EU intervention in human rights and minority protection provision in Romania. The main EU financial, technical and legal instruments are examined in relation to the transformations that occurred on the ground. The application of human rights conditionality in Romania led to transformations in relation to a wide range of social, civil, political and minority rights. The role played by EU institutions, national and international NGOs and other external donors is highlighted. The human rights conditionality applied by the Commission went beyond the existing EU acquis and internal mandate in human rights, particularly in relation to policy sectors such as minority protection, mental health and prison conditions. This external human rights function provided the European Commission with invaluable experience and expertise regarding the reform of the human rights systems of former communist countries.
This chapter examines in great depth the transformation of the child protection sector, which was the most visible and highly politicised EU accession condition in relation to human rights agenda in Romania. All former communist countries had child protection systems that violated children’s rights. However, due to the role of EU policy entrepreneurs, the child protection in Romania saw the most substantial EU intervention – in terms of the EU pressure and instruments to forge change – compared to other former communist states. The Commission’s interventionist policy in child protection – an area where it lacked any expertise and experience - led to the overhaul of the legislative and institutional framework of this policy sector. One of the key transformations supported by the Commission was the ban on inter-country adoption due to the breach of children’s rights and the corruption underlying this practice. Yet, the international adoption lobbies exerted significant pressure on the Commission demanding that Romania lifted the ban on international adoptions. Due to the EU’s transformative role, today Romania boasts one of the most advanced child rights systems among the former communist states.
This chapter provides evidence supporting the feedback effects triggered by the Romanian children’s case at the EU level. It is argued that the feedback effects amounted to the introduction of children’s rights as an EU issue in EU internal policy, which generated policy development processes, while in EU enlargement policy, elements of policy continuation have become entrenched. It is demonstrated that EU policy entrepreneurs seized the window of opportunity provide by the Romanian case to introduce children’s rights as an overarching EU policy, developed and implemented particularly as part of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. Externally, children’s rights have become a formal EU acquis accession condition and, consequently, a wide spectrum of issues pertaining to children is now strictly monitored in the current candidate countries. The Romanian children’s case, therefore, acted as a catalyst for the establishment of children’s rights, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child principles, as an overarching EU policy sector.
This chapter provides insights into the analytical frameworks explaining the feedback effects triggered by the EU intervention in child rights in Romania, and the institutionalisation of this policy area at the EU level. Kingdon’s (1984) model of multiple streams coupling accounts for agenda-setting processes, via policy entrepreneurship, which led to the emergence of an EU child rights policy as part of EU internal policy. It is argued, therefore, that policy feedback occurred due to the opening of a window of opportunity which allowed EU entrepreneurs to push certain human rights issues, such as children’s rights, high up on the EU’s policy agenda. In line with the Europeanization scholarship, it is claimed that the EU has started to import its own EU-topia, which was initially intended only for external consumption. Historical institutionalist elements, such as path-dependency, lock-ins, institutional development and self-reinforcing institutions, are employed to explain the feedback effects on the EU enlargement policy. Path-dependency and lock-ins illustrate how and why the protection of the rights of the child is now an entrenched EU accession condition, which was initially developed in relation to Romania’s accession agenda.
From Eastern enlargement to the Lisbon Treaty and beyond
This chapter charts the key developments in areas – such as the Roma, mental health, disability and international adoption – whose profile has been augmented due to Eastern enlargement and post-accession events. The chapter then proceeds by mapping the role of human rights in the current enlargement process. The legal and constitutional changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, along with the binding nature of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, have further enhanced the EU’s internal and external human rights commitments. The EU accession acquis criteria focusing on human rights issues has become more entrenched and formalised, as the accession monitoring process of current candidate countries demonstrates. Despite this, the ‘lack of competence’ mantra is still employed by the EU to justify its limited reach in most human rights matters inside the Union. However, more and more violations of human rights at the national level require cross-border cooperation and policy coordination, and in this respect, the EU is particularly well-placed to promote cross-national cooperation in Europe. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Member States realised the added value of EU-driven actions and policy initiatives in addressing human rights violations.