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Title: Regional and European integration of the Western Balkans candidate countries : the dynamics of two-level norm compliance
Author: Zarin, Irina
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 1514
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2019
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The European integration process in the Western Balkan candidate countries (WBCC) is characterised by a double discrepancy in the field of norm compliance. First, there is a gap between norm compliance at European and regional level. Second, there is a gap between the discourse and the behaviour of the elites of the WBCC. This double discrepancy occurs despite the use of the same socialisation tools at the European and regional level. This presents an interesting puzzle: why do similar socialisation tools produce different outcomes at both levels, European and regional? Conventional rational choice approaches, assuming that political elites are driven by a logic of consequences - cost benefit calculations related to conditionality - cannot fully explain this puzzle. It is essential to understand as well how the logic of appropriateness leads to different socialisation outcomes. For this reason, a constructivist approach imposes itself. It is against this theoretical background of rational choice and social constructivism that this dissertation seeks to answer the question why the political elites of the WBCC comply differently with European Union (EU) norms at the European and regional levels of integration. The research focuses on the rule of law (RoL) as the key norm in the EU. The central theoretical focus of this dissertation is on socialisation of elites in the WBCC and socialisation-led compliance. Constructivist perspectives on socialisation are complemented by elements of social psychology, in particular cognition. Socialisation, in the context of the EU accession process, is approached through the central concept of argumentative persuasion. While it is expected that norm compliance is the expected outcome of socialisation of elites through argumentative persuasion, this is found to vary strongly between the European and the regional level, as well as, between the discursive and behavioural sphere. This results in two different dynamics of integration. The process of argumentative persuasion and the diverging norm compliance are analysed at the regional level through the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and at the European level through the Stabilisation and Association Council/Intergovernmental Conference (SAC/IGC), with a specific focus on the sectoral fields of fighting corruption and organised crime. Driven by its constructivist approach, the dissertation seeks to trace the divergences in socialisation-led compliance at the European and regional level and to detect the reasons for diverging socialisation through the construction of images of integration by the WBCC elites. As language is key to this research, the methodology draws primarily on the analysis of official documents and discourse. Qualitative discourse analysis (QDA) is used to analyse official EU and RCC documents to find out how RoL norms are promoted, how argumentative persuasion gets form and how this reflects interaction between EU and WBCC elites. Political discourse analysis (PDA) is used to analyse the discourse of WBCC elites to find out how they construct understanding of integration and arguments about RoL compliance. As a third main method, case studies are used of socialisation and norm compliance in the RCC and SAC/IGC, allowing to distinguish between regional and European levels. These methods are further complemented by a range of semi-structured interviews of privileged witnesses to explore understandings of compliance and motivation and to corroborate findings. Finally, the analysis makes use of the methodology of the European Commission as a point of reference for the evaluation of norm compliance of the WBCC, more specifically the five-point tier scale in the regular progress reports on candidate member states. It is argued that the diverging socialisation outcomes at regional and European level result from the differentiated effectiveness of argumentative persuasion. The political elites are found to engage in shallow compliance as a result of internal (intersubjective) conflicts of material and ideational factors that motivate EU norm compliance differently on the level of regional as opposed to the level of European integration. They pay lip service to RoL norms, instrumentalising this norm in the absence of political will and/or capacity at the European level and politicising meaning making. This work contributes to the literature on Europeanisation through its focus on the dimension of socialisation-led compliance and the discursive construction of understandings of integration and RoL compliance. In doing so, it adds an innovative theoretical perspective to studies on EU enlargement. The double distinction between the European and regional levels of integration and discursive and behavioural dimensions adds new insights and a more nuanced understanding of the EU norm compliance dynamics in WBCC.
Supervisor: Casier, Tom Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available