Viral vulnerability: How the pandemic is making democracy sick in the Western Balkans

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Publication Date December 2020
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The COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has accentuated Western Balkans countries’ pre-existing vulnerabilities related to the rule of law and democratic governance – but has not brought about a new political era in the region. Western Balkans governments have often taken selective and arbitrary approaches to applying restrictions in response to the pandemic, sometimes using these measures to silence their critics and opponents.

The measures could have the most severe long-term effects of any aspect of the crisis response. They exacerbate the greatest threat to the accession process in the Western Balkans: backsliding on the EU’s political criteria. Yet the European Union seems less inclined than it once was to allow Western Balkans governments to get away with democratic backsliding just because they align themselves with the bloc geopolitically.

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