Perverted Conditionality: The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Serbia

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Series Details Vol.16, Issue 4, November 2011, p465-489
Publication Date November 2011
ISSN 1384-6299
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The accession strategy based on the conditionality principle has turned out to be the European Union (EU)'s most successful external governance tool.

It provides the civilian power EU with the means to Europeanize the continent, that is, to project her identity beyond the borders, making acceding countries similar to herself. Yet, the South-East European (SEE) enlargement currently suffers from defections, fake compliance, and blockades. The case of Serbia is particularly interesting, since Serbia holds the key to providing peace and stability to the entire region.

The research question therefore reads: To what extent has the EU's conditionality strategy been effective in the Serbian case? The theoretical argument is based on identity theory. In this perspective, the EU's (problematic) behaviour vis-à-vis Serbia stems from her uneasiness to come to terms with the 'near other' of the Western Balkans. Conversely, Serbia still struggles to find her place in Europe.

In order to highlight this identity mismatch, the negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) will be examined in detail. It will be demonstrated how the Kosovo question and the war criminals' affair overshadow Serbia's accession.

The hypothesis is that the EU's conditionality strategy is overstrained since the EU pursues too many different goals and the EU's inconsistent rhetoric resonates badly in the Serbian discourse. As a consequence, the conditionality principle has degenerated to a policy of farce.

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