Assessing the role of the EU

Our focus on domestic factors and structural legacies seeks to bring to the fore the distinctive characteristics of the Western Balkan region, which have so far been ignored in the large Europeanization via enlargement research. However, the assumed relation between structural obstacles and effective Europeanization is neither deterministic nor linear. Indeed, the task of our empirical chapters is to identify the mixture of the EU strategy-, domestic elites- and structural-related factors that render intelligible the dynamics of Europeanization in a particular country, specific area of reform and at a given time period.

The methodological approach

The contributions to this volume investigate the domestic impact of the EU rules and the conditions for their effectiveness in different national cases and areas of reform. The empirical analysis covers the whole spectrum of national cases in the Western Balkans and a wide variety of reform areas, including state bureaucracy, the judiciary, electoral competition, environmental management, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), economic liberalization, foreign policy, general institution-building and stabilization. This variety of empirical cases enables us to compare and contrast the role of EU- and domestic-related factors to the extent they feature different forms of EU involvement, EU conditions and related rewards, as well as different blends of agency- and structural-based domestic challenges.

In line with our focus on domestic factors that test the role of the EU in the target countries in the Western Balkans, most chapters are case studies which provide a contextualized account of the adoption of EU rules. The empirical chapters delve into the role of agency- and structural-related domestic factors as outlined in the introduction, but also bring into the analysis more case-based idiosyncratic factors, and specify how these factors combine to influence the path of Europeanization.

Finally, all our chapters focus on long-term processes and dynamics of rule adoption, rather than analyzing one-shot moments of compliance with the EU prescriptions. Such focus on extended processes of rule adoption enables our volume not only to trace and distinguish the ‘added value’ of the EU against other international and domestic factors at play, but also explore the evolution — including the stability and functioning — of the rules and institutions established as part of enlargement. More particularly, it allows us to differentiate between the short-term formal adoption and the implementation of EU-driven rules, and to corroborate different explanatory factors with different stages and degrees of domestic transfers.

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