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European Union Unrivaled in the Western Balkans: Regional Order, Hegemony and Emerging Powers

Abstract : This communication proposes a conceptual model to account for the European policy at work in the Western Balkans, while trying to explain why the power of the EU persists and the rise of emerging countries is limited. Encountering speeches emphasizing the multiplication of threats that the involvement of emerging countries would constitute, it shows that the regional order is unipolar and hierarchical as it is dominated by the hegemonic power of the EU. In other words, there is a pole of power both in terms of resources - notably economic - held by the EU and in terms of influence exerted on the behavior of the states of the region. The dependence of the states in Western Balkans is obvious: the EU has an unprecedented attraction for the region, it is the main economic partner and ties are growing. The involvement of emerging states remains sectoral and struggles to balance the power of the EU. The objective causes, relating to rational calculations in terms of cost-benefits explain the absence of rivalry for leadership. This is also true for Russia, which maintains historical emotional relationships with certain actors: its revisionist policy offers no credible alternative, including for Serbia. The material structure seems (all the more) sustainable as the emerging states do not offer an external balancing strategy (Waltz 1979: 168): absence of coordination or of an informal coalition and even less of a formal alliance between them. In addition, this internalized hegemonic order led it to export stability: the leadership of the European hegemon made it possible to avoid a return to conflicts, to initiate bilateral problem-solving processes, to strengthen interstate cooperation in order to improve the situation on the ground (without removing all the tensions). The hierarchy in favor of a benevolent power like the EU explains the stability of the system. The EU does not threaten the interests of the states of the region: on the contrary, it protects their security. In addition to stability, the EU exports liberal standards - democracy and the market economy - and does not hesitate, through enlargement mechanisms, to monitor and punish those who do not respect them. The acquis communautaire cannot be renegotiated by those wishing to accede to the EU and monitoring procedures are put in place to assess progress made (Behr 2007). The content of peace settlements is determined under the leadership of the EU; on the ground, the European missions oversee, impose and condition the structural reforms; and sometimes go so far as to replace, with quasi-governmental functions, the local authorities considered as unwilling to carry out the necessary reforms. Hegemony does not erode the power of the EU, it strengthens it by attracting others and shaping the system to its advantage. Ultimately, it is not so much the presence of emerging countries that threatens the legitimate order promoted by the EU: its supremacy may be further challenged in the longer term by the ambiguities of the EU due mainly to its internal problems.
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Contributor : Karine Jenart <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 4:09:07 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 4:08:55 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-02947053, version 1



Ardijan Sainovic. European Union Unrivaled in the Western Balkans: Regional Order, Hegemony and Emerging Powers. ECPR General Conference, Panel : Projecting Credibility. Geopolitical Dynamics and the EU Strategy in China and Indo-Pacific, ECPR, Aug 2020, Hambourg, Germany. ⟨halshs-02947053⟩



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