Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Minority Policies and EU Conditionality - the Case of the Republic of Macedonia

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Minority Policies and EU Conditionality - the Case of the Republic of Macedonia

Article excerpt

The EU in the Western Balkans has been significantly engaged in the promotion of improved minority protection in the framework of its political criteria for accession. Despite the EU's involvement in these policies, the question of how external pressures have affected and interacted with domestic institutional and policy changes is still not well understood. This paper sheds light on this debate by examining the interactions between the EU and national actors in the case of the Republic of Macedonia in relation to minority policies. The theoretical and methodological approach for this research largely follows the work of Hughes, Sasse and Gordon on the Eastern enlargement. The paper argues that political conditionality should be understood as a process encompassing both its formal and informal elements and emphasizes the problems of analysing minority conditionality as an independent variable. The analysis is focused on two examples: the adoption of the law on the use of languages and the policy of equitable representation of non-majority communities. The paper tracks and explains developments in EU conditionality in relation to minority protection over time through document analysis and interviews with various stakeholders.

Keywords: EU conditionality, minority policies, Macedonia, EU enlargement

As a candidate country for European Union (EU) membership, Macedonia is subject to conditionality in relation to minority policies primarily through the Copenhagen criteria for accession. According to the first Copenhagen criterion, in order to join the EU a new member state must ensure the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.1 Conditionality in relation to the protection of minorities was also part of the last enlargement round which was completed in 2007 with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. In the Western Balkan countries that are in the queue for the upcoming enlargement, minority policies have been high on the EU accession agenda primarily due to the legacy of recent inter- and intrastate conflicts. Scholars and practitioners have highlighted that the democratic consolidation of the region depends upon the management of minority issues (Gordon et al., 2008).

In this context, the EU has significantly engaged in the promotion of improved minority protection in the framework of its political criteria for accession. Despite the EU's involvement in these policies, the question of how external pressures have affected and interacted with domestic institutional and policy changes remains little understood (Sasse, 2005, 2009). On the one hand, studies guided by rational choice institutionalism do not see much space for the impact of the EU on minority protection because of the high associated domestic costs and the lack of consistency in the application of this norm. Empirical studies, on the other hand, have found that in some cases the EU has fostered interethnic cooperation, while in others it has increased polarization (Tesser, 2003; Schwellnus et al., 2009; Sasse, 2009). Overall, studies of minority politics and policies in the accession process have indicated the need for contextualized analysis of the EU's impact, especially in the candidate countries for accession.

In light of the significance of the EU in domestic politics in the candidate countries, this paper extends the research from the previous enlargement to the Western Balkans, and examines conditionality in relation to minorities in the case of Macedonia. The theoretical and methodological approach for this research largely follows the work of Hughes, Sasse and Gordon on the Eastern enlargement (Hughes et al., 2005; Sasse, 2005). Hughes et al. argue for the need to study conditionality as a process by taking into consideration its formal and informal pressures, questioning the suitability of the external incentives model for studying 'soft areas' of the acquis communautaire (hereafter acquis), such as minority policies. …

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