Powerful Norms with Weak and Inconsistent Policy Support: The EU’s normative power and the EUropeanisation of the post-communist Western Balkans
Pressured by ‘enlargement fatigue’ of the mid-2000s and multiple economic crises from 2008 onwards, the EU has increased the toughness of the original 1993 Copenhagen accession conditions for new candidates for EU membership and started to impose new conditions and different criteria for meeting these conditions. However, neither the assessment of compliance with the given conditions nor the definition of additional conditions for the Western Balkan candidates for EU membership have always been made in accordance with a well-prepared common EU policies that are based on the EU’s and internationally recognized universal norms and rules. Rather, like most other EU foreign policy actions, these have reflected the perceptions and/or particular (short-term) interests of the most influential EU member states. The paper argues that the main reasons for the slow adoption of EU standards and norms and further democratization of the Western Balkan states vis-à-vis their post-communist counterparts which joined the EU in 2004/2007, do not primarily stem from the structural inabilities of the Western Balkan states to adopt the EU’s (‘Western’) values and norms, as is often claimed by some scholars and EU officials, but rather from the inconsistency of the adopted accession conditions and EU policy incentives towards these states.