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Marek Mikuš / 'The Distant Democratiser: Representations of the EU and their Political Uses in Serbia'

Marek Mikuš / 'The Distant Democratiser: Representations of the EU and their Political Uses in Serbia'

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Published by marek_shin
First version of my paper to be presented at the RRPP 2011 Annual Conference in Montenegro.
First version of my paper to be presented at the RRPP 2011 Annual Conference in Montenegro.

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Published by: marek_shin on May 09, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Marek Miku
THE DISTANT DEMOCRATISER:Representations of the EUand their Political Uses in Serbia
‘Social, Political and Economic Change in the Western Balkans’Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, 25–26 May 2011
Given the Copenhagen criteria for the European Union (EU) membership refer to democraticgovernance, it follows logically that democratisation figures as one of the key EUconditionalities toward candidate countries. The EU provides these countries ‘assistance (…)to support political reform, in particular institution building, strengthening the rule of law,human rights, protection of minorities and the development of civil society’.
Students of EU policies implementation in non-member states are increasingly aware that to adequatelyunderstand policy outputs, they must pay attention not only to determining and explaining the‘success’ or ‘failure’ of policy transposition, but also to the hows and whys of theimplementation process itself (Treib 2008; Barbé
et al.
2009).While departing from this basic premise, my approach is distinctly anthropological. Itstudies specific, strategically chosen aspects of social reality, not seeking to address thesubject in an all-embracing manner. What it aspires to, though, is offering an empiricallygrounded perspective on whether and how socio-political practices and discourses in Serbiareflect and transform the supposed link between ‘Europeanisation’ and democratisation of governance.Rather than in the institutionalist terms of governance and policy, I examineEuropeanisation through the post-structuralist lenses of governmentality and politics. Insteadof supranational institutions ‘impacting’ on domestic institutions, I see it as an encounter of ‘political-cultural formations (…) and ways of governing and being governed throughlanguage, practices and techniques’ (Lendvai 2007: 26). The Union emerges not as a set of self-evident institutions, values and norms, but rather as a multiplicity of experiential andambiguous constructions negotiated by complex assemblages of actors.Taking cues from the anthropology of public policy, I approach policies as ‘myths’ inthe anthropological sense of socially functional and productive ‘cosmological blueprints’ (Ferguson 1999: 13) or, less loftily, implicit and explicit articulations of models of society (Shore & Wright 1997: 7).Policies enact nation-building projects by tapping intocitizens’ everyday lifeworlds and reconfiguring their subjectivities. My focus is on ‘
 subjectivities’, i.e. on how people come to understand themselves in relationship to possibility
*This paper is a part of my doctoral work-in-progress at the LSE, currently in its fieldwork phase, entitled
 Rerunning theTransition: Democratisation, Civil-society Building and Europeanisation in Serbia.
‘Financial Assistance’, the website of DG Enlargement. Accessed athttp://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/how-does-it-work/financial-assistance/index_en.htmon 26 Apr 2011.
and desirability of political action (Greenberg 2007: 24–5) in a (nominally) democratising andEuropeanising Serbia.Here, I am specifically concerned with the (attempted) building of a democratic andEuropean Serbian nation, and my general method is the one of ‘studying through‘ – followingthe source of a policy (its discourses and prescriptions) through to those affected by it (Wedel
et al.
2005: 40–1). After establishing key features and functions of hegemonic media and policy discourses on ‘European Serbia’, I analyse how they are read, transformed and actedupon by the members of ‘civil society’. Proceeding to the case study of the 2010 BelgradePride Parade, I show how EU-promoted democratic principles such as LGBT rights can endup presented and approached as something foreign and driven by an ‘elitist’ alliance. Finally, Icontrast this with a different, ‘populist’ kind of advocacy of the same cause.
‘Europe has no alternative’: Hegemonic performative discourse and its effects
In Serbia today, the discourses of the media and the public and civil sectors seem to explodewith the word ‘Europe’ and its derivatives. On Serbia’s ‘path to Europe’, her citizens hear daily about ‘European values’ (
evropske vrednosti
) and ‘European standards’ being, or failingto be, ‘promoted’, ‘introduced’, ‘accepted’ and ‘adopted’. RTS, the state TV, brands itself the‘public service of the European Serbia’.
daily publishes an EU-fundedsupplement whose subtitle reads
Serbia Next to Europe with Europe to Europe
. An EU-funded project entitled
Speak European
(in imperative) trains civil and public servants ‘to strengthen[their] broad understanding of the values, standards and practices of the European Union’.
 In the second round of his re-election in 2008, President Boris Tadi
ran under theslogan
 Let’s win Europe together!
He subsequently led the winning coalition of the 2008Serbian parliamentary and local elections and Vojvodina parliamentary election called
 For a European Serbia – Boris Tadi
One of the coalition’s billboards claimed that ‘Europe means jobs for 200,000 unemployed’. My interview and textual data indicate that in the nationalmemory, ‘Europe has no alternative’ (or ‘The EU has no alternative’) figures as the real
All translations from Serbian are mine.
‘About the Project’. Accessed athttp://www.govev.rs/index.php?action=about-the-projecton 22 Apr 2011.

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