Europeanisation of the Serbian Party System – Accountability to Brussels or to the People?

  • Abstract:

    Candidate states usually begin their EU accession process with high level of EU enthusiasm and end up with significant euro skepticism. Serbian case is different due to strong pre-existing divisions regarding EU integration during the initial phase – negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Agreement (2005). However, in the last 10 years euro skepticism has been gradually pushed away from the mainstream arena of Serbian politics, reaching the point that the anti EU parties have not even been represented in the parliament in the last years. In this paper we are analyzing the process of Europeanization of the Serbian party system as the consequence of EU integration process and cooperation of Serbian parties with their European ideological counterparts. Initially, we are focusing on the ideological shift from anti-EU toward pro-EU positions of two old regime parties – Milosevic’s Socialist party and nationalistic Radical party. Being an anti-EU party during the first years after the democratic change in Serbia had become an obstacle for old regime parties and significantly decreased their coalition potential. Therefore, party leaders initiated gradual ideological shift. This process was possible since Serbian parties are extremely leader-oriented and not institutionalized on programmatic grounds. Electoral manifestoes and platforms for 2008, 2012 and 2014 Serbian parliamentary elections are examined in this paper as the most salient elements of this ideological shift. Furthermore, we are investigating Serbian pro-EU parties and their ideological development during the same period. Since those were ruling parties, it is important to notice how they use success in the EU integrations as the validation of their governance and democratic character (in opposition to old regime parties). Therefore, we can argue that EU-friendly positions had become the core ideological standpoint of modernistic and liberal political forces in Serbia. Two additional questions can be raised regarding the outcome and the consequences of the Europeanization of Serbian party system. The first one is about the significance of ideological change from anti-EU to pro-EU positions – was this change just superficial and on symbolical level? We are using Voter survey and Comparative Candidate Survey conducted after the last elections to evaluate ideological change among political elites and voters. The second question deals with accountability – if the change was driven by the outside (EU) pressure and approved by candidate state status for Serbia, are new Serbian euro-friendly leaders responsible to Brussels or to Serbian citizens?