Summary: Membership of the European Union on 1 May 2004 will undoubtedly have a major effect on the course of political developments in the countries of central Europe, although it is difficult to predict any particular consequences for, or direct impact on, the party systems of the region. Analysis of party system development in the already established members of the European Union has in fact suggested that this form of Europeanisation has had remarkably little direct impact on national systems. The indirect impact of EU membership may have been considerably stronger, but precise definition and measurement of this influence has so far been highly problematic. The position of party systems in central Europe is likely to be different from those in Western Europe due to their being more fluid and less consolidated, as well as having been the object of wide-ranging EU support and influence throughout the 1990s. On this basis, a number of exploratory hypothesis and tentative principles concerning central European party system change are put forward. Parliamentary elections have been held in six of the eight countries studied, and an initial survey of their results suggests that the direct impact of enlargement issues has indeed been limited so far. Poland constitutes the sole exception to this generalisation: by 2001, the range of party attitudes towards Europe in Poland had become considerably more critical than they had been at the time of the previous elections in 1997, although the salience of enlargement issues in the 2001 campaign was not high. Referendums on EU membership were also held in all prospective member countries during 2003, and it became apparent at an early stage that any problems in this area were less concerned with the levels of support for, and opposition to, EU membership than the reluctance of many voters to participate in the ballot at all. Established views on the EU had little predictive value in this context, and various national factors were more likely to affect turnout. Early observations le
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