Local elites in post-communist accession countries have a limited knowledge of the EU and were not engaged in the accession process, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
"Local officials, business people, the media and the cultural intelligentsia feel that the accession process is relevant only to national decision-makers and has little to do with them," says Dr. Jim Hughes of London School of Economics, who led the project, which is part of the extensive One Europe or Several? Programme. "The gap between the pro-Europe views of the national elites and the increasingly Euro-ambivalent attitudes among local elites and public opinion could have a negative effect on implementing the agreed conditions of EU membership," he says.
The research, which is one of the largest studies of elites in Eastern Europe undertaken by UK academics, included 446 interviews about attitudes to economic and political transition and to the EU and NATO in second cities in Hungary, Romania, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia, as well as in Russia and Ukraine. In addition, the researchers conducted 30 interviews with officials in the Enlargement and Regional directorates of the European Commission.
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