Candidate Countries’ Engagement with European Union Agencies – Alternative Modes of EU Integration?
Decentralized EU agencies have played an important role in the Union’s institutional landscape over the last three decades. Various engagement logics and types of cooperation have previously been investigated for the European Economic Area and EU Eastern Partnership countries, but not for the five countries that received EU candidate status by 2021—Turkey and four Western Balkans countries—Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, and Northern Macedonia. Covering the period between 1999 and 2001 analysis found that 23 out of 34 agencies observed had some type of engagement with these candidates, while serving both EU’s broader foreign policy interests and advancing the sector-specific alignment of candidates. This also suggests that it is possible to frame these engagements as a form of external EU differentiation.