EU Conditionality In Sensitive Matters: Serbia’s Policy Towards Kosovo

  • Abstract:
    The unresolved Kosovo issue is considered a major factor of instability in the Balkans, since it is not only a dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, but it also undermines regional relations. The EU is interested in stability of the region and for the last ten years, it has played a major role in the Balkans. Thus, it is interested to help resolve this issue, but due to lack of unity on this case, these efforts have not been too successful. However, recently the EU started imposing more openly certain conditionality towards Serbia on this issue and urging Belgrade to cooperate with Pristina. This conditionality, because of the lack of unity in the EU and the fact that it is dealing with “sensitive” issue for Serbia, has certain distinctive features, which makes it an interesting case study. Using this case study, this paper examines the argument of EU external governance approach that, in order to be effective, has to have clear and direct conditions. It shows that, contrary to this argument, indirect and unclear conditionality can produce certain compliance, and that conditions are sometimes even more efficient if they are not put directly, at least not in the beginning. This paper further reaffirms importance and effectiveness of short-term incentives, such as visa liberalisation, not only for acquis conditionality, but also in sensitive matters which are perceived as important for national identity. However, this study also reaffirms the importance of clear EU membership perspective for deeper changes in prospective member states, thus providing recommendation for the EU that it should offer more credible membership perspective for the Western Balkans.