Larger Perspectives

On Ethnic Accommodation

Based on the comparative and case-specific analyses discussed in above sections, the rest of this chapter reflects on the wider questions this book seeks to answer. What do the findings reveal about ethnic accommodation between political elites in post-conflict Bosnia and Macedonia? What do they imply about their prospects for full democratic consolidation and integration in the EU and NATO?

9 See discussion in Chapter 2, as well as literature on EU conditionality and EU's 'transformative power', such as: H. Grabbe, The EU's Transformative Power: Europeanization through Conditionality in Central and Eastern Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). The findings show that ethnic accommodation is a complex process. Most of the institutional tools employed to improve inter-ethnic relations in the postconflict context are aimed at reaching and adopting agreed solutions. However, ethnic accommodation is about more than voting; it includes implementation of policies and incorporation of policy feedback into future policy cycles. The latter elements of ethnic accommodation rarely receive attention commensurate to that given to policy negotiations. Indeed, without successful negotiations, there would be no need for implementation and evaluation of policies. However, it is during these stages that the effects of agreed solutions directly affect society and interethnic relations. Therefore the effectiveness of a negotiated solution in relaxing ethnic tensions depends on its implementation and evaluation, which is why this book argues for a wider, more holistic approach to the subject. Focusing only on negotiations could lead to prematurely evaluating some policies as success, before their effects and consequences have been considered.

In addition, ethnic accommodation is not an irreversible process. As the policy cases in earlier chapters show, policies can inadvertently result in outcomes that further aggravate inter-ethnic relations. For example, functional autonomy in education in Macedonia was the unintended outcome of policies aimed at improving minority education. It resulted in increased division between Macedonian and Albanian youths. Moreover, a change in the balance of political power between groups can also reverse the process of accommodation and raise new ethnic tensions. For example, termination of the mandate of the High Representative in Bosnia, or significant changes in population ratios of the ethnic groups, could affect the relative power of different actors in the political process and result in increased resentment and tensions between ethnic groups. Finally, a change in the strategy of political parties or the emergence of political actors who challenge the established power-sharing logic of politics could also destabilise ethnic relations. Therefore, sustained ethnic accommodation requires continuous efforts by the political elites in an institutional frame that is sufficiently flexible to accommodate unforeseen issues and challenges. As these countries move further beyond the conflicts in their pasts, some of the institutional mechanisms established by the peace agreements could become obsolete. However, institutions will need to remain capable of managing ethnic relations, since ethnic diversity is a permanent feature of their societies. They will need to enable political elites to tackle new political challenges. For example, Bosnian politicians face major difficulties in responding to the challenges of NATO and EU integration within the institutional structure established by Dayton. The highly decentralised institutional structure and clashing political agendas prevent political elites from pursuing the required reforms with sufficient pace and effectiveness. Ultimately, the frustration with the stalled EU integration processes may breed additional resentment and

ethnic tensions.

Though the complexity of power-sharing institutions is often cited as the main factor stalling these countries' pace of reforms and keeping them at the back of the EU accession queue, this book demonstrates that this is not
the case. The findings suggest that rather than treating power-sharing institutions as either promoting or inhibiting ethnic accommodation in the country as a whole, as aggregate-level studies tend to, a more detailed and nuanced picture of their effects can be drawn by analysing the effects they produce in policy processes. Under certain conditions, power-sharing mechanisms can lead to greater ethnic accommodation, but they can sometimes result in greater division and exclusion. Rather than rejecting or embracing them as the appropriate solution for political problems in divided societies, the analysis explored the conditions under which accommodating influences are stronger or weaker, pointing to potential areas for institutional reform.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >