European funds in Central and Eastern Europe: drivers of change or mere funding transfers? Evaluating the impact of European aid on national and local development in Bulgaria and Romania

Neculai-Cristian Surubaru*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In recent years, there have been numerous academic and policy debates on the delivery mechanisms of European Union (EU) funds in member states. Studies focused on issues arising, for instance, during the management and implementation of EU aid at the local level but devoted less attention to the economic and institutional impact of EU funds. To what extent do EU funds act as drivers of socio-economic development and institutional change? Theoretically, this paper contributes to debates about economic convergence and the institutional spillover effects generated by EU aid across national and local settings. Empirically, the paper evaluates the impact of EU aid in Bulgaria and Romania after a decade of EU membership. Firstly, the paper examines a mix of quantitative indicators and secondary sources on the socio-economic impact of EU funds in the two countries. Secondly, using original qualitative evidence, the paper assesses the spillover effects of EU aid on domestic institutions and stakeholders, policies and practices. Finally, the paper provides an analysis of the unintended domestic consequences triggered by EU funds. It contributes to growing debates on the impact of European aid and suggests potential avenues for policy development and for further academic research in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-221
JournalEuropean Politics and Society
Issue number2
Early online date18 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • European Union
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • EU funds
  • Convergence
  • spillover effect
  • institutional
  • socio-economic impact

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