Questioning Europe's Transformative Power: The EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo (1995-2015)
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The European Union (EU) has long been credited as having an inherent transformative power in foreign policy. European enlargement, in particular, has been often seen by the scholarly literature as a transformative process, in which the EU acts as the indispensable catalyst and engine of change and modernization in transitioning candidate countries. This dissertation tests the limits of the transformative power of the EU by studying the problematic outcomes of Europe’s engagement in the process of economic transition and democratic consolidation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. In these cases – it shows – the mix of lingering post-conflict dynamics, dysfunctional institutions and unresponsive political systems has proved characteristically impermeable to Europe’s inducements, and stubbornly resistant to Europe’s attraction. The huge investment the EU has made, as a consequence, has at best only stabilized these countries in some kind of negative equilibrium. At worst, it is holding back the floodgates for renewed conflict. The existence of Europe’s transformative power – this dissertation concludes – is not demonstrated. As a consequence, the overall usefulness of the transformative narrative of European enlargement is called into question. For years, scholars have been struggling to find a theoretical explanation of the reason why Europe has failed to transform countries such as Bosnia and Kosovo. In their frustrated attempts to reconcile the theory of Europe’s transformative power with the problematic evidence coming from Bosnia and Kosovo, they have sunk into an intellectual cul de sac that limits their capacity to make sense of reality, rather than enhancing it. Furthermore, the idealization of EU enlargement as a process capable of transforming candidate countries irrespective of their characteristics may turn into a potentially dangerous delusion bound to over-inflate expectations, raise frustration and undermine effectiveness. The implications of this study are important at different levels. At regional level, they press the EU to make a deliberate choice between enlargement and transformation in the Western Balkans: the long-term stabilization and integration of the whole region – in this perspective – is not necessarily reconcilable with Europe’s determination to prove the existence of its transformative power. At European level, they question the efficacy of enlargement as a strategy to deal with post-conflict situations: if the EU has failed to stabilize two relatively small, deeply integrated countries in the Western Balkans, then how can it realistically succeed in ‘transforming’ bigger, more complex countries such as Ukraine or Belarus? At global level, it calls for a realistic approach to international state building in remote and challenging environments: Bosnia and Kosovo represent state building operations in which both the conditions on the ground and the motivations of the main players were conducive to a relatively smooth transition and consolidation. such as the Middle East, North Africa, or the Caucasus.