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In libreria

The Rise and Fall of Peacebuilding in the Balkans

by Roberto Belloni

6 novembre 2020
Versione stampabile

This book examines the evolution of liberal peacebuilding in the Balkans since the mid-1990s. After more than two decades of peacebuilding intervention, widespread popular disappointment by local communities is increasingly visible. Since the early 2010s, difficult conditions have spurred a wave of protest throughout the region. Citizens have variously denounced the political system, political elites, corruption and mismanagement. Rather than re-evaluating their strategy in light of mounting local discontent, international peacebuilding officials have increasingly adopted cynical calculations about stability. This book explains this evolution from the optimism of the mid-1990s to the current state through the analysis of three main phases, moving from the initial ‘rise’, to a later condition of ‘stalemate’ and then ‘fall’ of peacebuilding.

Roberto Belloni is full professor at the University of Trento, Department of Sociology and Social Research

From Chapter 1: Peacebuilding in the Balkans (pagg.14-16)

Against this background, the following chapters focus on the implementation of the liberal peacebuilding paradigm.  This paradigm is adopted, implemented, contested and/or rejected by a number of different actors, including international organizations, NGOs, domestic elites, and ordinary citizens. Needless to say, this multiplicity makes it difficult, perhaps impossible, to examine exhaustively the role and agency of all actors involved in the peacebuilding process taking place in the region for over two decades. Accordingly, the book is divided into three parts, each focusing primarily on a set of actors, while maintaining the liberal peacebuilding paradigm as overall theme. 
Part I discusses the rise of peacebuilding intervention since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) in November 1995, which ended the brutal 1992-95 Bosnian war. It considers a range of actors, but concentrates primarily on the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina and UNMIK in Kosovo. Much has been written on this initial period, characterized by the establishment of de facto protectorates in both countries. Despite some achievements in pacifying these troubled areas, peacebuilding intervention came with a cost. Several scholars have highlighted, among other issues, how external assertiveness has led to the creation of domestically unresponsive and scarcely legitimate institutions (i. e. Chandler, 2010). Peacebuilders’ focus on democratization through elections and marketization has contributed to both the state’s capture by ethno-nationalist elites and the dismantling of state’s assets. Rather than rehearsing these quite well documented developments, this first part focuses on the largely neglected but central role of corruption in entrenching the rule of ethno-nationalist parties. It shows how, contrary to the rhetoric of peacebuilding agencies, international intervention through its focus on ‘stability’ has legitimated both the rise of ethno-nationalists to power and the closure of any political space amenable to civic alternatives. While contributing to guarantee the structural conditions that favoured mismanagement, clientelism and corruption, international peacebuilding agencies have attempted to address the symptoms of flawed domestic governance systems through civil society building programmes. 

Part II focuses on the role played by the EU in advancing the peacebuilding agenda. In the early 2000s, the EU committed itself to accept Western Balkan states as potential candidates for EU accession and, as a result, became the key international peacebuilding player in the region. Since 2002 the position of the High Representative of the International Community and EU Special Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been filled by a single international official with closely related mandates. After Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008, the EU adopted extensive supervisory responsibilities. In addition to raising its diplomatic status both in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, through its promise of membership the EU hoped to provide a positive reforming influence in all other Western Balkan states. The basic template of institutional reform throughout the region became the Stabilisation and Association process with the EU (Pippan, 2004).
The EU’s regional approach aimed at improving the cross-border relationships among former enemies, while providing concrete support for the restructuring along liberal lines of domestic political, economic and judicial institutions. Most significantly, the EU’s promise of enlargement drastically changed the relationship between international interveners and domestic political actors. Rather than blatantly imposing policy frameworks on recalcitrant domestic leaders, as during the initial peacebuilding phase, the new EU approach was expected to stimulate domestically driven reforms. The broader peacebuilding goals involving democratization and marketization objectives did not change but they were tailored to meet the benchmarks established by the EU enlargement process. Reporting, monitoring and self-discipline were elevated to essential components of this peacebuilding phase. The EU’s celebrated ‘normative’ or ‘transformative’ power (Grabbe, 2006), in addition to a large amount of economic aid, contributed to several positive developments in the region, in particular by sustaining post-war reconstruction, the development of infrastructure projects, and the establishment of regional links and new security structures. On balance, however, numerous obstacles remained to hinder further peacebuilding progress. Above all, the EU approach proved unable to provide domestic leaders with sufficient incentives to support the democratization process and did not meaningfully involve citizens in the peacebuilding transition.  

Part III examines citizens’ (re)action to and views about the effects of liberal interventionism. Since the early 2010s it has become increasingly evident that aspiring new EU member states have developed various forms of Euroscepticism which, in turn, have paved the way for geopolitical competitors such as Russia to play a more assertive role. In addition, growing dissatisfaction with political, economic and social conditions across Western Balkan states have contributed to the emergence of various forms of protests. Citizens have denounced the costs of the seemingly endless peacebuilding transition and have demanded the defence of the commons (that is, cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society) and the fulfilment of long-neglected citizens’ needs. In response, the EU has reacted by (re)affirming its commitment to the status quo dominated by ethno-political leaders while attempting to re-launch ‘a credible enlargement perspective’ for the region (European Commission, 2018).
Although this approach achieved some short-term success, in particular by containing migration flows, in the long-run it could actually undermine stability by fuelling popular discontent, damaging the appeal of European institutions (which are seen by pro-democracy movements in the region as an impediment to democratization) and thus opening the way for other geopolitical actors such as Russia to gain further influence. 
Each of these 3 Parts is titled after a city which, respectively, epitomizes the rise of peacebuilding, followed by stalemate and then fall. Part I is named ‘Dayton’, the city which marks the beginning of large scale peacebuilding intervention in the region; Part II is called ‘Brussels’ to symbolize the beginning of the transformative expectations which have accompanied the process of EU enlargement in the region; Part III is named ‘Tuzla,’ the Bosnian town where large scale protests against governmental inefficiency, poor governance and corruption broke out in February 2014. While different actors are the primary focus of each Part, their actions are all evaluated against the overarching liberal peacebuilding framework. In particular, corruption and civil society – both key components of the liberal peacebuilding framework - are recurring themes across all chapters, thus providing the focus around which the analysis is structured. As of international actors, their role in the rise (Dayton), stalemate (Brussels) and fall (Tuzla) of peacebuilding is ultimately driven by the attempt to manage the existing reality rather than transforming it, while experimenting with a variety of more or less intrusive intervention tools.

Courtesy by Palgrave MacMillan