The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of the European Union (EU) accession process on the restructuring and privatization of the steel sector of the four largest steel producers in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), namely Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia. The outcome to date for these countries' steel mills has been relatively uniform in that they have been integrated into the global production networks of some of the largest multinational steel enterprises. The pressures which brought this outcome about, however, were far from uniform. The variability in the modes of convergence is highlighted by the surprising timing of the sales to strategic foreign investors. The countries in the forefront of the EU accession process, i.e., the Czech Republic and Poland, actually privatized their largest steel producers to strategic foreign investors after Romania and Slovakia. Moreover, in the case of the Czech Republic and Poland, the steel sector represented an important impediment to the closure of the competition chapter of the accession negotiations. The case of the steel sector thus poses three puzzles. The first is that the outcomes in the four countries converged despite these countries' very different legacies. The second puzzle is that the convergence took place in all four of them late in the transition process. The third, related, puzzle is that Poland and the Czech Republic actually sold their largest steel producers to foreign investors after Slovakia and Romania.

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Copyright © 2006 Nomos. This chapter first appeared in Das Erbe des Beitritts: Europäisierung in Mittel- und Osteuropa.

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