Call for Papers: Human rights in the EU’s conditionality policy towards enlargement countries in the Western Balkans

Posted Date: 2016-06-02
Expiry Date: 2018-02-19

Western Balkan states have been in the focus of European foreign policy for the last two and a half decades, from the Yugoslav wars to the asylum seekers arriving through the Balkan route. Both the most recent and the upcoming EU accessions concern countries from the region, which is why the EU’s engagement is central for the future of this region.

Enlargement is considered to be the EU’s most efficient foreign policy instrument in terms of its ability to transform existing practices and institutional structures outside of its borders. Less is known about how it works on the ground in specific contexts. Despite high leverage at the general level and the efforts of monitoring, for example through the meticulous assessment in the Commission’s annual progress reports, a large part of the enlargement literature shares the view that the EU’s record in spreading human rights and democratic norms in a credible and effective fashion during the accession process is mixed at best. Compliance may stop at the level of formal changes, seemingly satisfying both sides, the candidate country’s government as well as the EU, while falling short of bringing about sustainable reforms that are hard to be reversed. Experiences from the Central Eastern European enlargement have also revealed the limits of the EU’s democratic conditionality, as measured by implementation, sustainability and post-accession performance. This means that new member states carry their deficiencies of democracy and human rights with them, which calls for new mechanisms to address problems with human rights and the rule of law within the EU.

Academic research should map the factors that explain the under-performance of pre-accession conditionality and suggest ways to improve the effectiveness of conditionality. Despite the burgeoning scholarship, most authors assess democratisation and the promotion of human rights without considering specific human rights questions within the broad topic area. This allows for analysis at a relatively high level of generality. Only a few studies have looked into the details of human rights conditionality during the accession process, and focused on the content of the EU’s human rights promotion in the Western Balkans from the perspective of specific individual rights.

We invite contributions that discuss the situation of human rights in the Western Balkan states from an empirical perspective, focusing on one or a few individual rights. Research studies that examine the actual impact of conditionality, in addition to identifying gaps in the rhetoric and action of the EU, are preferred. Studies are welcome that analyse individual human rights issues in the context of EU enlargement in one or more countries in depth, or those that focus more on the consistency and credibility of the EU’s human rights conditionality concerning selected individual rights. Comparisons with previous enlargements such as that of the Central and Eastern European states, Croatia or across enlargement countries are also encouraged. Contributions could assess critical approaches to human rights and their (in)ability to transform, and we also welcome accounts critical of the EU's legitimacy to enforce these standards. Finally, studies that focus specifically on the lessons of earlier enlargement rounds, with an outlook on how these can inform conditionality in upcoming accessions, will also be considered.

We invite scholars to submit an abstract of no more than 800 words including a short bio and the description of the main question(s) and finding(s) of the paper along with the methodology applied, by 15 July 2016 via our online submission system. Authors will receive feedback from the editorial team by 8 August 2016. The deadline for submitting the final papers is 31 October 2016.

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Beáta Huszka ( and Zsolt Körtvélyesi (

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Beáta Huszka is assistant professor at the Department of European Studies of ELTE U., Budapest; she completed her Ph.D. in international relations at the Central European U. in 2010; and has been, since 2012, leading work package six of FRAME Fostering Human Rights Among European Policies, a large-scale, collaborative research project funded under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme. She is the author of the book ‘Secessionist Movements and Ethnic Conflict – The Development and Impact of Nationalist Rhetoric’ published by Routledge in 2014.

Zsolt Körtvélyesi is doctoral candidate at the Comparative Constitutional Law Programme at Central European U., junior researcher at the Institute for Legal Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and assistant professor at the Department of European Studies of ELTE U., Budapest. He holds a Hungarian law degree from U. of Szeged, a Nationalism Studies MA from Central European U. and an LLM degree from Harvard U.