Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The Ambivalent Role of the EU in the Western Balkans - "Limited Europeanisation" between Formal Promises and Practical Constraints. the Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The Ambivalent Role of the EU in the Western Balkans - "Limited Europeanisation" between Formal Promises and Practical Constraints. the Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Article excerpt

Abstract:

It became a shared opinion among European policy-makers to state that without a serious commitment from the European Union (EU), the Western Balkans (WB) will find itself increasingly isolated from the unfolding developments around it and this may endanger the stability of the entire continent. The scope of this paper is two folded: first, to examine the role of the EU in the WB with a focus on democratic institution-building; second, taking Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) as a case study, the article aims to determine whether there is a need for a new theoretical framework in order to more accurately define the specific process of the Europeanisation in the WB. In this regard it proposes the term "limited Europeanisation". The main theoretical aim of the article is to identify some clear-cut criteria of this phenomenon in the last 14-year evolution of BiH in relation with the EU.

Keywords: Bosnia and Herzegovina, democratisation, Europeanisation, institution building, Western Balkans.

Introduction

It became a shared opinion among European policy-makers to state that without a serious commitment from the European Union (EU), the Western Balkans (WB)1 will find itself increasingly isolated from the unfolding developments around it and this may endanger the stability of the entire continent. Besides that, it became also clear over the past several years that there is a stark contrast between stated goals and their actual implementation coming both from EU and WB countries in particular. The coherence of the EU approach to the WB became therefore one of the most challenging subjects in European studies2. Even though the involvement of EU in democracy building is crucial for the region, studying its overall approach and its results one may observe an ambivalent role: both positive and negative, both helpful and confusing.

In this context, based also on the idea that "Europeanization looks different when seen from Brussels and from the countries at the receiving end"3, the article tries to define the emergence of a new concept in order to incorporate the so-called "Balkan Exceptional ism" paradigm into the actual trends of Europeanisation. So first the article provides a short literature review of the main definitions and understandings of the intricate political phenomena called Europeanisation.

The second part of the article will have a more analytical dimension, first describing the main stages that BiH has been going through in its relations with the EU, and then analysing whether a "political community" (as a criterion of viable institution-building) emerged in BiH during the first phases of Europeanisation (1997-201 1). The period will be divided in 4 main chronological stages marked by specific actions towards democracy building in BiH. The analysis will show that all these actions were caught between formal promises and practical constraints, going through stagnation (which will be defined as "limited Europeanisation") and not towards deepening Europeanisation as it was expected by both local and international policy-makers. As long as BiH failed to create 'citizenship' homogeneity when 'ethnic' or 'political' heterogeneity was the case and as long as a degree of acceptance of differences is still missing, the "Balkan Exceptionalism" paradigm could be further on employed in understanding BiH's evolution. This particular process would be analysed in the final part of the article where the main characteristics of this "limited Europeanisation" process will be discussed.

The main argument put forward in the concluding section is that the WB region as a whole is severely challenging the theories of Europeanisation and the "goodness of fit" concept. Dealing with WB requires EU to "rethink" its concept of enlargement and its criteria of evaluation, which cannot simply be a replica of the pattern successfully implemented in Central Europe. It reveals that EU puts a lot of stress on formal criteria of development, loosing out of sight the contextual elements which hinder Europeanisation in the WB and the specific "limits" embedded in these countries' late de;mocratisation. …

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