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The strengthening of the populist radical right poses an important challenge for European integration. This article explores whether democratic backsliding among member states has acted as a catalyst for broader PRR cooperation at the EU level. Studying the co-sponsorship and contents of parliamentary questions and roll-call vote cohesion of PRR representatives in the European Parliament from 2009 to 2019, we examine the extent and substance of their joint polity-based contestation of European integration. Our findings indicate that overall levels of PRR cooperation remain low and concentrated within European party groups, suggesting that ideological divergences between PRR actors and their institutional fragmentation within the EP still hamper their formal cooperation at the European level. These insights feed into debates on the potential and limitations of transnational cooperation of PRR actors.

This publication has no abstract

Protecting the rule of law among member states is one of the EU’s main challenges today. Yet, divergent interpretations of the recent European Council summit’s compromise jeopardize the introduction of a new rule of law mechanism. The brief recommends that the German Council Presidency must work towards concretizing and depoliticizing the agreed conditionality regime for EU funds.

in LSE - The London School of Economics and Political Science - EUROPP Publié en 2020-05-20

Several countries in the Western Balkans have responded to the Covid-19 outbreak with draconian measures that entail a further erosion of democracy, writes Natasha Wunsch. She argues the pandemic is shining a spotlight on the impact of geopolitical competition in the Western Balkans, where authoritarian forces are undermining the EU’s democracy promotion efforts.

in Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group Publié en 2020-04
BIEBER Florian
EMINI Donika

First lines: The global COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken by governments around the world constitute a major rupture to the “business as usual”, and this includes the Western Balkans, too. The pandemic has been overshadowing other developments while also accelerating existing trends, and it will continue to do so. This analysis establishes the COVID-19 pandemic as a critical juncture, a crisis that can permanently shake up institutions and societies. There are considerable dangers beyond the impact of the pandemic on human lives, ranging from an economic crisis which could turn out to be worse than the one in 2008/9, to a heightened crisis of democracy and a geopolitical shift. None of these developments are inevitable and some of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Western Balkans can be mitigated. By exploring nine critical fields, this analysis will highlight ways in which the pandemic and government responses pose particular challenges: 1. The Role of the State, 2. Democracy and State Capture, 3. Geopolitical Shifts,4. New Nationalisms, 5. Social Resilience, 6. Environmental Impact, 7. Migration and Health Care, 8. Health Care and Social Security and 9. Economic Implications. With regard to all of the critical fields, the study examines the impact and outlines possible risks and opportunities before identifying specific interventions that could prevent the worst consequences for the region.

Days after the publication of the European Commission’s proposal for a new methodology of accession negotiations, the most important questions are whether it will help persuade sceptical members to drop their opposition to opening talks with North Macedonia and Albania, and will Serbia and Montenegro join the new methodology, if it is adopted. We talked about the main aspects of the Commission’s proposal with Natasha Wunsch, Assistant Professor of Political Science/European Integration at Sciences Po and Senior Researcher at the European Politics Group at ETH Zurich. Wunsch is also a member of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG).


The Western Balkan countries are stuck in a hybrid status quo on their way to democracy. Traditional arguments related to cost–benefit calculations, national identity or conflicting objectives fail to explain the observed decoupling between gradual improvements in formal compliance with membership criteria and stagnating, if not declining, democratic performance. We explain the limited impact of the EU’s political conditionality in the Western Balkans with rampant state capture and proceed to unpack how EU conditionality has effectively contributed to the consolidation of such detrimental governance patterns. First, EU pressure for simultaneous economic and political reforms opened opportunities for business actors to build powerful clientelist networks that reach into politics. Second, top-down conditionality has weakened political competition and mechanisms of internal accountability and deliberation. Finally, formal progress towards membership and high-level interactions with EU and member state officials legitimize corrupt elites. A congruence analysis of the Serbian case provides empirical evidence for the hypothesised linkages between EU conditionality and state capture.

Publié en 2019-11 Collection BiEPAG Policy Brief

EU enlargement policy appears to have reached a deadlock. Following years of stagnation and relative neglect, the European Commission’s attempts in 2018 to reinvigorate the EU’s engagement with the Western Balkans and to provide a credible enlargement perspective to the region have been thwarted by a lack of commitment on the part of (some) EU member states. The October 2019 European Council decision to once again postpone the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia is but the latest in a long series of delays in the enlargement process over the past years. This latest stunt has left the region reeling, with local leaders alternately endorsing a rapprochement with Russia and China or calling for snap elections to confirm their countries’ European path. The new BiEPAG brief which was presented during the policy event in European Policy Centre on November 14, offers recommendations on: Overcoming the enlargement deadlock: An action plan for the incoming EU Leadership

in Internationale Politik Publié en 2019-11

First lines: Die EU-Erweiterung als außenpolitisches Instrument hat in den vergangenen 15 Jahren einen spektakulären Verfall erlebt. Galt sie zu Anfang des Jahrtausends im Zuge der Osterweiterung noch als Transformationskraft schlechthin, scheint ihr heute die Puste auszugehen. Die Türkei hat sich unter Recep Tayyip Erdoğans autokratischem Kurs offenbar langfristig vom Ziel der Rechtsstaatlichkeit abgewandt. Aber auch auf dem Westbalkan sieht man allenthalben gedrosseltes Reformtempo, Stillstand in den Beitrittsverhandlungen, teils gar Rückschritte. Nicht zuletzt ist die EU mit anderen Dingen beschäftigt, vom Brexit über die Nachwirkungen der Migrationskrise bis hin zur Sorge um einen erneuten wirtschaftlichen Abschwung. Angesichts dieser offensichtlichen Überforderung auf beiden Seiten ist es legitim zu fragen: Sollte die EU nicht ehrlicherweise weitere Erweiterung absagen, zumindest aber auf Eis legen?

In the framework of its enlargement policy, the EU has placed considerable emphasis on supporting civil society organisations (CSOs) both as domestic drivers of change and as a means to foster new, more participatory modes of governance. Our research examines the impact of the EU accession process on state–civil society relations in the Western Balkans and assesses the extent to which new forms of interaction are becoming institutionalised. Comparing minority rights and environmental regulation in Serbia, we find that enlargement negotiations lead to increased dialogue and more formalised interactions between government and CSOs. However, the institutionalisation of state–CSO cooperation remains partial and is hampered by a lack of political will. Whereas civil servants are generally open to civil society input, political officials frequently resort to façade cooperation in response to external pressures. We conclude that the emerging governance model is nothing like the ‘double weakness’ or agency capture found in earlier studies, but instead consists of strong hierarchy and a narrow group of highly professional CSOs engaged at the margins.