‘Fuzzy statehood’ versus hard borders: The impact of EU enlargement on Romania and Yugoslavia

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Series Details No.46, July 2002
Publication Date July 2002
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For Central and East European states, there is no contradiction between the aspiration to 'national self-determination' and the aspiration to 'return to Europe', meaning chiefly, joining the EU. European integration is understood as an essential security framework within which nations can live together in peace on equal terms, overcoming mutual animosity and mistrust between states and mitigating their continuing internal weaknesses in the face of internal regional and ethnic centrifugalism.

The inherent problems of the 'Nation-State' as a political ideal, especially when freighted, in the CEE context, with the baggage of ethno-cultural understandings of the 'Nation', were early identified by important, but long-neglected CEE political thinkers. They proposed an alternative, 'fuzzy' model of statehood that combined internal pluralism and decentralisation, de-territorialisation of ethnicity, and permeable borders, with a complementary pan-European framework of political and economic integration. This vision of a reformed Austrian Empire has re-surfaced since 1989 in CEE expectations of the EU.

States like Romania and Serbia continue to suffer acutely sensitive regional and ethnic centrifugal tendencies. Exclusion from EU enlargement at least in the medium term perpetuates the sense of insecurity that makes these tendencies appear deeply threatening, and encourages 'hard' nationalist resistance to decentralisation and accommodation with minorities in the name of state sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Moreover, deepening internal integration within the EU, and prevailing fears of illegal immigration and cross-border crime, are leading to a hardening of the EU's external border regime. This has a damaging psychological impact on those states left on the 'wrong side' of the border, especially in those regions that have traditionally looked westwards, have ethnic minority ties to new EU Member States (in this case, Hungary), and economic interests in maintaining unimpeded passage across the border. The evidence so far points to exclusion from the enlarged EU leading to increased regional discontent and worsening centre-periphery relations in the 'outsider' states.

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