National Identity Matters: The Limited Impact of EU Political Conditionality in the Western Balkans.

2010, Journal of European Public Policy 17(2): 262-80 (with S. Richter) [»].

Political developments in South Eastern Europe raise serious doubts about the prospects for the effectiveness of the European Union's external democracy promotion via political conditionality. They make it questionable whether the European Union (EU) can repeat its success story as it is widely acknowledged in Central Eastern Europe. With reference to countries characterized by legacies of ethnic conflict, this article shows that incentive-based instruments only trigger democratic change if certain domestic preconditions are met. It will be argued that if national identity runs counter to democratic requirements, this will ‘block’ compliance by framing it as inappropriate action. The argument is empirically demonstrated using the example of one of the most problematic issue areas in Croatia, for which the EU has only partially succeeded in bringing about democratic change: the prosecution of war crimes.