BELGRADE – Recent years in the Western Balkans have been shaped by stabilitocracies – governments that claim to secure stability, pretend to espouse EU integration and rely on clientelist structure and control of the media, writes Florian Bieber, Professor at the University of Graz, for the latest Horizons issue.
In this issue titled “The Belt and Road – Pledge of the Dragon,“ Bieber explains that between many shades of consolidated democracies and outright dictatorships, the term stabilitocracy “add the key component of external legitimacy.”
Professor notes that all the restrains of conditionality are being removed once the country is being awarded the full EU membership. He explains that in the Western Balkan region a special structure of authoritarian regime exists partially due to the high influence of the EU.
“What makes the experience of the Western Balkans particular is that the offer of EU accession is based on formal equality and democracy, driven by shared norms and values. This would represent a break with the classical understanding of foreign policy driven purely by interest and maintaining inequality between the centre, such as Western Europe, and the periphery, such as the Western Balkans,” writes Bieber for quarterly magazine Horizons.
He believes that stabilitocracies are a paradox since they are producing instability to legitimize their existence.
Looking at the case of the Western Balkans, there are several events that have led to creating a fertile ground for stabilitocracy. One of the key events was the 2008 economic crisis, that has resulted in EU being less concerned with the enlargement, believes professor. However, he thinks that each country of the Western Balkan has had its own causes to foster this kind of regime.
In Montenegro – the hegemonic position of the Democratic Party of Socialists, in Macedonia the cause can be found in the name dispute with Greece, in Kosovo – the shortcomings were overlooked in exchange for cooperation with Belgrade, in Serbia with the rise of Aleksandar Vučić, in Albania was the rule of Sali Berisha and later Edi Rama, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina the cause was a tripoly of ethno-nationalist parties, writes Bieber.
On the question how do they rule, he explains that it is like “dancing on the edge of a volcano.”
“With citizens seeking EU membership and an EU that enjoys greater leverage during the accession process, stabilitocracy relies on its leaders either to claim to be committed reformers truly seeking EU accession, of frustrated reformers unable to advance towards the goal of EU membership due to external or internal obstacles,” Bieber claims.
Out of the Western Balkan countries, the only country to break the cycle of stabilitocracy was Macedonia.
“It took more than two years of social movements and the convergence of protest groups with the main opposition parties and international mediation to end the regime,” concludes Bieber for the Horizons.