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

Introduction - Rethinking Approaches to Europeanization of Minority Politics

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

Introduction - Rethinking Approaches to Europeanization of Minority Politics

Article excerpt

It is today nearly impossible to understand transformations of domestic politics and legislation in European states without factoring in the process of European integration. Minority rights constitute a policy field significantly affected by European-level policies, legislation and new normative frames. Europeanization studies developed as European integration deepened and as domestic effects were traceable to the growing European-level policies, institutions and legislation. While early European integration studies focused on explaining why member states join an integration process, even if national sovereignty may be reduced (Caporaso, 1999; Moravcik, 1998), Europeanization research treats European integration as the independent variable whose effects are studied in domestic political arrangements (Featherstone and Radaelli, 2003; Graziano and Vink, 2007; Ladrech, 2010). Empirically Europeanization research has emphasized change in, for instance, domestic institutions, among political actors domestically or in policy styles (Bulmer and Radaelli, 2012), but also how normative appraisals are affected (Radaelli and Exadaktylos, 2014). Early scholarly work treated the European Union (EU) as the main source of change; compliance with EU law was studied and legal convergence was predicted between domestic and European-level politics (Ladrech, 1994; Goetz and Hix, 2000). Later Europeanization studies try to explain differential domestic change, by examining what factors enable or hinder processes of change (Falkner, et al., 2005). Besides change in formal rules, Europeanization is also studied as a source which affects ideas and cultural developments (Hay and Rosamond, 2002). Sociologists study how individuals and collective actors translate European norms into domestic practices (Jacquot and Woll, 2010). The gradual shifts have introduced new theoretical positions into Europeanization research, new conditioning factors expected to affect domestic change and broader versions of Europeanization effects.

Europeanization as a research agenda remains to be explored in minority studies. Earliest studies on the Europeanization of minority rights attracted scholarly attention with the three recent EU enlargement rounds (Ram, 2003; Kelley, 2004; Schwellnus, 2006; Rechel, 2009). The main reason for such interest was that minority protection became a key criterion for EU accession. Most studies therefore evaluated the EU's role during the accession process in Central and Eastern Europe; the politics of conditionality was treated as the main mechanism of change and Europeanization came to be measured by the degree of compliance with EU law (Grabbe, 2005; Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2005). Besides such overly "compliance-driven studies", less attention has been paid to the Europeanization of minority rights. There are two important reasons for this: first, it is due to the paucity of competencies on minority rights in EU frameworks which could be used to harmonize domestic minority policies and, second, to the common assumption that Europeanization is equivalent to 'EU-ization'. Thus the lack of legal competences in EU frameworks, preventing the EU from producing standards on minority rights and from prescribing clear rules to the EU member states, made Europeanization a neglected framework in minority studies.

1. New bridging of Europeanization and minority studies

Why then bring the two together? Three recent developments make the bridging of the two fields not only warranted, but also necessary, in order to understand the effects of European-level norms and rules pertaining to minority rights both on domestic policy and among minority groups i.e. the impact of Europeanization. First, Europeanization as a framework has developed approaches applicable to the study of changes noted in domestic minority policies and the shifting activities of minority groups in Europe. Although Europeanization research developed through studies that emphasized domestic change through the implementation of well-established and formal EU policies (Ladrech, 1994), such top-down studies now coexist with a broader interest in the role of both formal and informal rules as catalysts of domestic change (Irondelle, 2003; Graziano and Vink, 2007). …

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