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Clientelism in the Western Balkans

19 pages, pdf
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Clientelism in the Western Balkans

Publisher: Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group

Volume: 19 pages, pdf


Given the many challenges facing the Western Balkan countries, we aim to understand whether and what kind of role clientelism plays in the crisis of democracy in the region. Our aim is to explain why clientelism is so dominant in Western Balkan societies and how it undermines the main pillars of democracy such as the rule of law and protection of civil liberties. In the chapter, we argue that the persistence of clientelistic practices originates in the historically present practices of informality that have been adapted to the current political environment. Since 2000, with the establishment of more defined political power structures, both electoral promises and public policies were more focused on protecting individual and small group interests, while the broader society’s aspirations were pushed to the background. It also is difficult to portray the Western Balkans' political context outside the framework of EU accession and any assessment of the nature of the informal networks in these countries must be viewed also through the prism of their aspiration to join the EU. For all the improvements that have been made since 2004 to the tools, methods and approaches to enlargement, illiberal practices and authoritarian tendencies abound, much to the dismay of the EU and the citizens of the Balkan aspirants. We argue that political clientelism is one of the most difficult problems in the Western Balkans and its existence has been continuously undermining democratic principles that started emerging in the new states.