Outline of the book and findings

Structure of the volume and individual contributions

The volume is structured in three parts. Part I locates the argument of the impact of EU rules in the Western Balkans in the larger literature on enlargement and post-communist transformation, while identifying the conditions that distinguish these countries from the wider universe of post-communist cases. The empirical chapters that follow are organized around the division of contested stateness, which we argue is the crucial missing link between the transformation power of the EU enlargement, domestic structural obstacles, and the scant will to reform in the target countries. Thus the chapters of Part II take up the influence of the EU in Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania, which are more or less consolidated sovereign states (if not always nations). In contrast, the chapters of Part III focus on contested entities, Bosnia, Kosovo and inter-state secessionist groups, which altogether lack a basic consensus on the national unit and some of the main attributes of state sovereignty.

The next chapter by Phinnemore provides a general background on the EU enlargement strategy in the Western Balkans. By drawing parallels with the frame of enlargement utilized in CEE, the chapter emphasizes the ambiguous nature of the EU commitment in the Western Balkans, and the increasing fatigue on the EU side to absorb a new wave of enlargement. The chapter shows that the SAP draws on the tools and mechanisms that the EU has developed in its relations with CEE, yet it cautions against the assumptions about the SAP based exclusively on the CEE countries’ experience. More particularly, the implementation of the SAP has advanced but remains short of triggering prompt accession processes; membership-related language used towards the Western Balkans has evolved, but tends to eschew references to ‘accession’; conspicuous too is the absence of any timetables, even on when EU negotiations with these countries might open; the previous regatta enlargement approach has also shifted towards differentiation of candidates and exacting of conditionality. Additionally, what the EU is willing to offer to the Western Balkans has changed and shifted according to a general withering of public support for enlargement on the EU side.

Opening Part II, Boduszynski’s chapter on the trials and triumphs of Europeanization in Croatia shows how ‘heavy’ legacies, including economic structure and state-building, have cast a long shadow on post-communist transition. They have also impeded Europeanization in key areas of conditionality: economic liberalization, rule of law, foreign policy and cooperation with the ICTY. Initially, nationalist and authoritarian elites capitalized on mixed economic conditions and used clientelistic tactics to hold on to power, a strategy which held back economic liberalization and the fight against corruption. Preoccupations with nation- and state-building, on the other hand, have come into conflict with the EU’s conditions on regional integration and cooperation with the ICTY. However, a credible offer of membership and change in elite and public attitudes have helped Croatia to become an example of how the burden of structure, while heavy, can be made more bearable through a determined course of Europeanization.

The next chapter from Stojanovic analyses Serbia’s cooperation with the ICTY, the single most important condition for the country until very recently. The empirical analysis, based mostly on primary sources, shows convincingly that patterns of compliance are contingent upon the strength of pro-EU government forces and leadership, but also the inherited institutional structures that enables them to take action or not. Until 2000, Milosevic’s nationalist regime refused to cooperate with the ICTY. The pro-EU government that followed after the 2000 elections maintained an uneasy cooperation with the Tribunal as all its initiatives could be outvoted by anti-EU factions. The strong leadership of Premier Djindjic was essential to jump-start a new stage of cooperation with the ICTY, which slowed down after his assassination, at least until 2009. Afterwards, a strengthened pro-EU coalition proved intent on pursuing cooperation as the only alternative to proceed on the path to EU integration. In contrast to Croatia, however, pro-EU allies were often too fragile to surmount the legacies of nationalist politics and the resistance of institutional players left over from the Milosevic era.

Giandomenico’s chapter takes a closer look at a politically costly area of conditionality, namely the transposition of electoral standards in Macedonia. The analysis of different electoral polls suggests that the EU’s pressure proved successful in improving the legal aspects of reform. Yet, domestic factors, including the lack of political will to adopt a fair game, but also the lack of administrative capacities and knowledge to implement the adopted rules, have distorted the working of new legal transfers, especially at the implementation level. Persistent clientelism — elites’ use of personal rewards in return for votes — is put forward as the node that links corrupt elites, ethnic divisions, weak administrative structures and a society which tends to support parties that deliver. Such rent-seeking schemes proved difficult to root out as long as they catered to the ruler’s domestic power base and continue to be a winning electoral strategy.

The next chapter from Elbasani traces the role of the EU in building a stable and professional civil service system in Albania against the many historical odds. Similar to the Macedonian case, the EU proved effective in fostering formal changes aimed at the creation of a professional bureaucracy. Yet, governing actors have used informal practices at the borderline of legality to take political control of the state and serve their socio-political clientele. Old practices of political control over the state have lingered all around intermittent efforts to introduce new rules of administrative reorganization. The legacy of the one party-state regime, and the continuity of elites related to that tradition, explains why Albania’s consecutive governments have only paid lip service to the EU’s requirements by ‘talking the talk’ of reform, but refraining from changing informal rules of political control.

In the last chapter of Part I, Mendelski follows the same line of research as the two previous chapters when analyzing EU-driven judicial reforms in a comparative perspective. The differentiation between capacity- and political impartiality- related dimensions of the rule of law enables a nuanced assessment of the scope of reforms. The analysis shows that the EU’s conditions have engendered change in almost all capacity-oriented aspects, but few real changes in the impartiality- related aspects and neutral enforcement of the law. Altogether, formal changes in both dimensions do not necessarily lead to overall progress and might even decrease effectiveness, especially when the adopted rules are vaguely formulated and lack a coherent strategy. The findings on partial and limited compliance with the rule of law requirements are explained by the inadequacy of the EU’s technocratic approach to tackle informal and illicit tactics, including clientelistic power structures, but also semi-mafia and criminal structures used by illiberal actors.

Papadimitriou and Petrov open Part III with an investigation of the capacity of the EU to orchestrate domestic reform in the context of incomplete sovereignty in Kosovo. Given the legal uncertainty surrounding the Kosovar state and the lack of a common EU position on its recognition, but also the EU’s involvement in all aspects of governance and state-building, the country presents a uniquely complex problem of Europeanization. In fact, the EU has found it difficult even to coordinate its own multi-institutional presence and exert leadership over the many organizations on the ground. Not surprisingly, the EU has failed to regenerate the economy, foster new institution-building and ensure political stability and security in Kosovo. The EU’s poor record to foster reform in all the areas under investigation is explained by the EU’s incoherent and insufficient strategy and Kosovo’s hard realities, especially the uncertainty that comes with contested stateness and poor administrative capacities in the making.

Fagan’s chapter takes up the topic of contested stateness and uses mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to empirically test the impact of the EU’s rules on environmental governance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The analysis suggests that Europe’s transformative power is working at the level of formal compliance. Yet, substantial adoption of EU environment rules is hampered by the poor capacity of non-governmental actors to engage in policy deliberation and the lack of state capacity to coordinate the various actors involved. What is missing in Bosnia is a shadow of central state hierarchy: decision-making and enforcement is not just fragmented, there is also a lack of a clear hierarchy and the threat of intervention from the centre to ensure effective compliance at the periphery. The devolution of the state, embedded in the post-war constitution, is reinforced by the lack of administrative capacities at each level responsible for environmental governance. Similar to the case of Kosovo, contestation of state unity poses clear limits to the transformative power of Europe even in policy areas which do not involve high political costs such as environmental governance.

The final chapter by Biermann analyzes where and how the threat of secession- ism impedes the process of Europeanization in the Western Balkans. Although secessionism has abated as a prevailing sentiment and a serious policy option compared to the previous decade, it remains a dormant problem able to disrupt contested and consolidated states in Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia. Secessionism not only exacerbates uncertainties of nation-building, but it outright conflicts with the very idea of integration. The EU, however, disposes of different policy options to diffuse separatist sentiments: support for power-sharing institutions and internal autonomy options, as well as different tailor-made policies towards secessionist groups and leaders. As a last resort, the EU should leave the door open for consensual secession, which is always a better alternative than explosion of conflict.

The concluding chapter by Tanja A. Borzel revisits the main theoretical arguments on the relationship between the EU and the factors mediating the transformative power of Europe in the light of the empirical analysis. In the Balkans context, not only is the misfit with the EU’s demands much greater than in case of CEE, but also their willingness and capacity to implement the EU rules are far lower. Weak statehood is distinguished as the most important missing link between EU conditionality and the scant willingness and capacity to reform in the target countries. Unfavourable domestic conditions, including the breaks of stateness, have not prevented the formal adoption of the EU’s norms and rules, which has taken place at least to some degree in almost all of the countries under investigation. The issue is effective application and enforcement. The weaker statehood in a country is, the more likely we are to find a decoupling between formal transfers and prevailing informal practices and institutions, which results merely in shallow Europeanization.

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