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Europeanizing the Balkans: rethinking the post-communist and post-conflict transition

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This paper argues that the post-communist and post-conflict transition of the Balkans requires a methodological shift in line with globalization, which shapes political and economic transformation from within through transnational networks. As a specially tailored mechanism leading to the accession of the Balkans into the European Union, the Stabilization and Association Process (SAp) sets the framework for political and economic transformation of the region. The paper posits that the weakness of the EU's approach derives from the fact that it is informed by the dominant transition paradigm, which marginalizes the impact of globalization, and specifically the role of transnational actors. The paper provides a critique of the transition literature and its explanatory potential to account for the post-conflict and post-communist transition in the Balkans. It goes on to examine the Balkan transnational space and the role of transnational actors in the process of transition as an important additional explanation, while taking into account a double legacy: the domestic legacy, inherited from communism, and the transnational and post-communist legacy acquired during the conflict. It advances an argument that a weak state offers us a conceptual nexus for the study of democratic transition in the Balkans in the global age. We demonstrate that transnational networks benefit from a weak state and perpetuate the very weakness that sustains them. At the same time, these networks exploit multi-ethnicity and stir ethnic tensions, lest stabilization should limit their scope for action. As a result, state- and nation building appear as mutually enfeebling rather than reinforcing, thus subverting the existing EU mechanisms.

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