The ACCESS project focused on current encounters between the “East” and the “West” in the European economy to predict the chances for convergence between the twin economic cultures. The research fields – entrepreneurship, governance and economic knowledge – were explored in four countries of South-Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro) and in four East-Central European countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia). The selection of the research fields was based on the conviction that among the producers of economic culture, businesspeople, civil servants and economists exert a vast influence on the economic and social performance of the respective countries in the course of European integration.
Instead of relying on a simplistic scheme, in which the “strong Western” culture devours the “weak Eastern” one, we found a great variety of lasting cultural hybrids in economic and social behaviour. Thus, in an unprecedented way, Eastern Enlargement was studied in conjunction with its neglected counterpart, Western Enlargement. East-West encounters generate a complex dynamics that includes cultural gaps (tensions, frictions, conflicts), strategies to bridge the gaps, and compromises between cultures. In studying them, our project went beyond the world of the acquis communautaire to discover forms of cultural co-existence which are hard to regulate ex ante by introducing new organizational/legal systems.
ACCESS brought together leading sociologists, political economists, historians, anthropologists and social policy experts in Central and Eastern/Southern Europe. It resulted in a large set of country studies, field reports, case studies, media and literature reviews as well as a large data base containing many hundred expert interviews.