Europeanization without Decommunization: A Case of Elite Conversion

After its spectacular 1989 'televised Revolution,' Romania has spent most of its political transition struggling with its own past. For political scientists, these confusing times only confirmed what they had already labelled as Romanian 'exceptionalism,' a pattern dissimilar from Central European countries. However, in the early 1990s, Romania's ways were not so exceptional when compared to Belarus or Albania - it was just another case where the exit path from a totalitarian regime did not lead to democracy, but instead to some form of mild authoritarian populism.

With the benefit of hindsight, what is exceptional and needs some explanation in Romania's case is not her difficult separation with its communist past, but the final positive outcome: the signing of the Accession Treaty with the European Union (EU) in April 2005. Despite important similarities with countries such as Belarus and Albania at the beginning of its transition, why has Romania done so well by comparison? In McFaul's classification, Romania is the only post-communist country which succeeded in becoming a consolidated democracy with a balance of power clearly in favour of the former communist elites. This invites some explanation.