Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Democracy without Citizens: Inadequate Consolidation in Two Decades of the Western Balkans Democracy

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Democracy without Citizens: Inadequate Consolidation in Two Decades of the Western Balkans Democracy

Article excerpt


Potential candidate countries of the Western Balkans have to be(come) stable democracies in order to be allowed to join the European Union (EU). In reaching this goal they are, besides economic and institutional challenges, being contingent upon not only by the legacies of recent large scale inter-ethnic conflicts, but also by the socio-cultural characteristics of their citizens. The empirical data presented in this paper reveal that citizens of the Western Balkans countries generally do not trust in political institutions, demonstrate almost apathy for social and political actions and believe they themselves are not able to influence the political process. This all results in low and inadequate political participation in all surveyed countries, and along with their undeveloped political culture, it indicates inadequate democracy promotion in the EU's accession policy in the entire region. This paper therefore argues that the EU should consider changing the pre-accession democratisation approach, since mere export of its regulatory framework so far has not contributed to the democratic consolidation and development of democratic political culture in the future Member States from the Western Balkans.

Keywords: democracy promotion through the Stabilisation and Association Process, consolidation of political culture, external socialization, Western Balkans, European Union

1. Introduction

European Union, which serves as a chief motivator of democratic consolidation in the (potential) candidate countries of the Western Balkans, define democratisation as

"a complex task which can only be achieved if numerous factors are put in place: free elections, institutional and legislative reform, an independent justice system, rights of minorities, the fight against discrimination, independent media and the fight against corruption"

(Barroso, 2008).

Although there is an understanding that "acceptance of these elements depends in turn on the presence of broader conditions, such as peace and development" (Barroso, 2008), this paper will demonstrate a lack of understanding in the democratisation process on the EU's side since it keeps neglecting the importance of democratic consolidation of political culture in the Western Balkans (potential) candidate countries. In demonstrating this argument, this paper will apply a social constructivist paradigm, arguing that values of ordinary people influence an outcome of the democratization process.

At the outset, social constructivist Europeanization theories will be evoked as they treat socialization as externally induced norm of compliance that requires acceptance of preferred behaviours, eventually resulting in the internalization of new values and norms (Grabbe, 2005; Schimmelfennige & Sedelmeier, 2005; Schimmelfennige, 2006; Blokker, 2008). If citizens are willing and able to adopt values that push for, and may be conducive to democracy, their democratic mass orientations should subsequently translate into effective democratic institutions (Welzel & Inglehart, 2008, pp. 126-140). This is what Dimitar Bechev (2008, pp. 87-95) probably has in mind when he stresses the "ability of Brussels to create demands for reform 'from below'". In order to support this hypothesis, results of the inter-generational survey "A Tale of Two Generations - From Yugoslavia to the European Union", conducted in late 2011, will be analysed (Kacarskaet, 2012).

This article presents just a small part of the research results, which disclose attitudes and behaviours related to a political participation and political culture. The results reveal that political pessimism and dissatisfaction with institutions are deeply rooted in Western Balkans countries. However, this paper does not mean to "orientalise" Balkans by asserting that prevailing subject political culture across the Balkans is not conducive to participatory democracy, only to show that the democratization approach need to be adjusted to regions/countries in a non-standard way because each region has its own set of unique historical, economic, political obstacles to democratization. …

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