EUropanisation of the Balkans: a near future or ‘mission impossible’?
This paper addresses the problems of the current process of and prospects for further post-communist ‘Europeanisation’ (primarily understood as a process of incorporation of the core norms and principles upon which the western EUropean political and socio-economic structures function) of the Balkan states. While there is a wide academic and political consensus that Europeanisation of the post-communist countries from East Central Europe (ECE) and the Baltics has been more or less successfully accomplished primarily thanks to the process of EU enlargement, the achieved level and prospects for further Europeanisation of the post-communist Balkans, and particularly Western-Balkan states remain a highly debatable issue. On the one hand, a large part of mainstream literature and most EU leaders and officials argue that this group of countries simply (and differently from their counterparts in ECE and the Baltics) cannot be (fully) Europeanised due to the structural disadvantages inherited throughout their long history of socio-economic and cultural backwardness. A continuously low level of consolidation of democratic institutions, particularly reflected through persistently high corruption and problems with respect for the rule of law in all the Balkan states, including Bulgaria and Romania which have now been EU members for more than a decade, are often highlighted as proof of the inability of these countries to adopt European standards and norms, even if they are subjected to the (forced) adoption of these through the EU accession process. On the other hand, some authors and pro-EUropean political elite in the Balkan states claim that these could quickly catch up with their ‘more Europeanised’ post-communist counterparts if the EU starts treating them in a similar way and providing them a similar level of assistance for post-communist reform as it did to the latter throughout their accession in the 1990s and early 2000s.