The Authoritarian Temptation


Here is the English version of a comment I wrote for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung called “The Authorititarian Temptation in the Balkans”. It draws on an article (co-authored with Irena Ristić) and a book chapter published in 2012.

The Serbian elections 16th March end a year of political speculation. These are already the seventh early parliamentary elections since 1990, they are unnecessary as there was no government crisis ahead of them being called. The coalition government consisting of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS ) of Aleksandar Vučić and the Socialist Party (SPS ) of Ivica Dačić was stable and had a solid majority . However, SNS wanted elections to translate their popularity into a large parliamentary majority. In 2012 SPS could still bargain hard to obtain the post of prime minister. Today, this is hardly imaginable. Although the SNS is unlikely to be able to govern on its own after the election, it can determine the shape of the government.  The early elections are an example of the authoritarian temptation of governing parties in the Balkans, weaken the rule of law to secure their own dominance.

The “semi- democracies” of Southeast Europe

Regular studies of the Bertelsmann Foundation and by Freedom House show, that a particular type of democracy has taken hold in South Eastern Europe: elections are democratic, the political landscape is diverse, but populist and corrupt governments hinder the consolidation of democratic structures. Most post-communist countries in Central Europe developed into consolidated democracies. In the  South Eastern Europe, however, was intermediate form dominants, the democratic formalities be observed, but at the same time, populist parties control the state through patronage structures. This is particularly evident through the dominance of political parties over the media, the state and the weak rule of law.  The election campaign had not yet begun in Serbia, as the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vučić saved a child stuck with its family in a snowstorm on the highway from Belgrade to Budapest. Conveniently,  the state television on hand to film it. While this ‘performance’ was quickly mocked in social networks, the message got through : Vučić rescues children, while others go campaigning.

Not only in Serbia have governing parties used their dominance to engage in a continuous election campaign.  Even when elections are not upcoming [this was written before early elections were called in Macedonia], the ruling party of Macedonia, VMRO-DPMNE constantly advertise their successes on billboards and in advertisements. Due to this non-stop campaign by governments, it is difficult for the opposition to formulate alternatives. In early elections governing parties already have a decisive edge.  A second aspect of the authoritarian temptation is reflected through control of the media. Only a few critical media of the nineties have survived the past decade. The economic crisis and the state as the most important advertiser to have resulted in a media landscape in the region in which critical voices hardly find a place. This is particularly pronounced in Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia. In Macedonia all important critical media, such as the private channel A1 have been forced to close done and only few journalists dare to openly criticize the government. In Montenegro, there is often to attacks by “unknown” perpetrators against independent media. In Bosnia is the businessman and media tycoon Radoncic to became security minister [he was dismissed the day the article was published], despite persistent rumors of his contacts to the underworld. In the Republika Srpska the media is local President Dodik, criticism is only aimed at against the opposition, “Sarajevo” and foreign powers. In Serbia, only few media nowadays dare to openly criticize Vucic.
Media loyal to the government, however, weaken the opposition. Allegations of corruption, often without evidence, are part of the strategy here. The tabloids in Serbia regularly accuse members of the DS government that was in power until 2012 of corruption. Even if these allegations are certainly partly justified, they are used to discredit political opponents.  In addition to accusations of corruption, government media also regularly challenging the loyalty of the opposition and suggest that it is committing treason of the state or nation, particular in Macedonia or the Republika Srpska.
A final aspect is the dominance of political parties over the state. Careers in the public administration and in government-controlled companies are usually only possible with party membership. Thus,
parties acts as employment agencies and can thus secure the loyalty of its voters. This reduces the potential for protest as public criticism may result in loss of employment.

Political, not cultural causes
the danger of populism with authoritarian tendencies is not limited to the Western Balkans. EU member states such as Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria show that with EU accession the danger is not over. The temptation is great to attribute this development to “Balkan political culture,” but it has more to do with weak states and social and economic crisis that predates the global economic crisis. Often the EU overlooks the authoritarian temptation too readily, as long as the governments
cooperate. Thus, the willingness of the Serbian government to compromise in dialogue with Kosovo helped to distract from domestic political populism. However, if the rule of law cannot take hold, this will either lead to social protests, as recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or to illiberal governments, which seek to preserve their power with populist means, as in Macedonia and, probably soon, Serbia.

A Macedonian Moment for the Balkans?

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After years of democratic decline in the Western Balkans, the new Macedonian government that took office in May 2017 constituted not just the first democratic transfer of power in the region for four years, but also a apparent break with the success of autocratic rule.The results of the local elections last Sunday ratify this change of government and give it not just much needed backing, but also clarify that after a decade of increasing authoritarian rule, nepotism and nationalism, most citizens back a different political course

Is there are “Macedonian moment” and what can be learnt from it? First a warning, the electoral success of Aleksandar Vučić in 2012 was by many seen as democratic normalization and a sign of Serbia’s democracy maturing. Instead, the state of media freedom and democracy has regressed significantly since. In Albania, the success of Edi Rama helped to break the nationalist and autocratic temptations of the Berisha governments. The re­cord of the Rama government, reelected just this year, has been mixed: on one side, it succeeded in sig­nificant reforms, on the other, the dominance of a strong self-centered prime minister does bear its risks.

These recent transfers of power stand as a warning to not just focus on people and their ability to “de­liver”, but rather on structural changes that make government more transparent and accountable. To some degree the new Macedonian government holds more promise as Prime Minister Zaev cuts a less charismatic and dominant leadership figure than Vučić or Rama and his power is based less on a hierarchical pyramid of power.

The Macedonian transfer of power holds two lessons for the wider region. The first is on the transfer of power itself and the second is on the aftermath. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the buz­zword for democratic change in the Balkans and beyond was “electoral revolution”, the change of an autocratic regime through a decisive election. This helped end Meciar’s nationalist thuggishness in Slovakia in 1998, the corrupt and nationalist Tudjman regime in Croatia in 2000 and the warmon­gering Milošević in the same year. Here the focus was on a broad opposition coalition that would over­throw the incumbent in an election, monitored by civil society with strong social movements and inter­national support.

The record of these transitions has been varied. Slovakia and Croatia did relatively well, Serbia had a mixed record, but the break with Milošević was decisive and liberating. Further east, in Ukraine or Geor­gia, the outcome was less clear cut, at least after an initial fury of reforms. A new generation of au­tocrats has been able to control electoral processes better than their predecessors and have also, for the most part been less antagonistic to the West. Thus, unseating them requires a different strategy. In Macedonia, it required a nearly two year long process that not only brought the undemocratic practices of the government to light to a domestic audience, but also gradually convinced the EU and key mem­ber states that the government seized being a partner (although some members of the European Peoples’ Party continued supporting the incumbent VMRO-DPMNE until after the elections in 2016). A combination of external pressure, such as the Priebe Report, the EU mediation that set up the special prosecutor, large scale so­cial movements and protests led to a change of government that only took place after intense interna­tional pressure following the violence in parliament orchestrated by the governing party in April 2017. Thus, unseating autocratic incumbents in the region will require a similar mix of revelation, mobiliza­tion, external pressure, and a critical juncture.

Such a Macedonian moment is increasingly becoming the only path toward renewing democratic rule in several Balkan countries. Key for long term change and transforming the “Macedonian moment” into a lasting legacy requires more than a change of leadership or new parties in power. From Milorad Dodik in the Republika Srpska in 2006 to Vučić in 2012, too often the hope of Western actors was pinned on finding the next reliable, reformist partner. The result has been support­ing the current generation of strongmen, who talk of reform when it suits them, but building a highly personalized system of control. Key for sustainable change will be strengthening institutions over people and the willingness of the new Macedonian government to building professional and transparent institutions and to break the power of patronage networks that are the main transmission belts between politics and citizens across the region. It is easy to conjure up the image of a generational change, yet the autocratic incumbents are often young, from Vucic and Gruevski, both 47 years old, to Milo Djukanovic, 55 years old. All came to power in their twenties and thirties, reminding us that youth is no protection from autocracy and even less from long rule.

The biggest failure of the democrats in the 2000s across the region was the failure to build and respect institutions and rules, often with the tacit consent and encouragement from outsiders. The informal presidentialism of Boris Tadić, the dubious coalition building in Kosovo and informal power of Milo Dju­kanović, just to list a few examples, all preventing the emergence of strong institutions and rules that are not easily bent.

Making the “Macedonian moment” sustainable also will require a new type of party politics. To date, most parties in the region have been essentially interests groups focused on gaining and main­taining power with only formal adherence to European type ideological distinctions. Overwhelmingly, these differences are superficial, pro-forma and purely instrumental. The result has been that parties are deeply distrusted and joined to get a job not to pursue a political commitment. Just following an external template and focusing on the form is not going to deliver.

Thus, thinking of new types of party politics will be necessary. One promising start was the election campaign in Macedonia’s most recent parliamentary election, continued in the recent local elections where the social democratic party SDSM sought to actively court Albanian voters and included candidates from the social movements against the government. Moving beyond the still too rigid ethnic divides in politics of the region and also in­cluding civil society are opportunities, as long as both do not evolve into tokenism and mere co-option. This transformation is all the more challenging as the Western European model of political parties is it­self in deep crisis as populist groups and “movements” seek to bypass conventional party politics. The Western Balkans had their share of populists, flash-in-the-pan candidates, and nationalists. However, without parties which are based on internal democracy and shared values and programs, such easy temptations that might turn into long autocratic hangovers remain likely. Thus, the “Macedonian mo­ment” is a reminder that it is an opportunity for a much longer and more uncertain transformation that awaits not just Macedonia, but most of its neighbors. ­

An earlier version of this text was first published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Political Trends & Dynamics Emerging Leadership in Southeast Europe

Harry Potter’s 6 rules for resistance


There are lessons to be learned throughout space and time on how to confront autocrats. Some are out of space and time: Harry Potter battled Lord Voldemort in his seven adventures and his story is a classic story of fighting against an overwhelming, ruthless enemy. His eventually successful struggle offer some insights for our Muggle (in the US No-Maj, non-magic) world, beyond wands, charms and magic:

1.Name him

In Harry Potter, even before Lord Voldemort returns, wizards are afraid to speak his name, using euphemisms like “You-Know-Who”, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”. Harry Potter is the one who speaks his name. This is how true dictatorships work, people are afraid to mention the name of the ruler for evoking his (or rather his minions’) wrath. When I spent a month in Syria in 1993, I was told in no uncertain words by Syrian acquaintances not to use the word “Assad”, no matter what I said (good or bad), as just mentioning his name creates attention by the wrong guys. Thus, naming the one responsible is essential. If you no longer can, you have crossed into the land of fear and outright authoritarianism.

2. Mock him

The charm to defend against a Boggart is the Riddikulus spell. It transforms the Bogart, the stuff of your greatest fears, into something silly. While a commentary in  The Times recently argued that comedy and satires of Trump are just leftist and liberal self-indulgence, the opposite is true. Silliness, irony and satire can challenge not just Boggarts, but also authoritarian forces, who thrive on being taking seriously.Autocrats cannot stand to be mocked (see Trump and SNL). Mocking them is their worst challenge, as Otpor in Serbia demonstrated and one of its activists, Srdja Popovic, promoted to movements challenging dictators around the world.

3. Find allies

When Harry Potter fails to share his knowledge with others, Luna Lovegood reminds him in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix “Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else; because if it’s just you alone, you’re not as much of a threat.” Dumbeldore’s Army was how  Harry Potter and his friends rallied together, motivated and organised and imagined resistance. Authoritarian regimes live from the fragmentation of opposition. The more there are, the more self-absorbed with in fights, the better.

4. Don’t trust the media

The Daily Prophet was the original wizarding fake news. The main news paper of the wizarding world denied the return of Lord Voldemort and instead attacked Harry Potter, so it was misleading out of fear of the power that be. Instead, The Quibbler, a publication of odd articles, conspiracy theories and discussions of imaginary creature becomes the critical voice. As the wizard Ted Tonks states: It’s not so lunatic these days, you’ll want to give it a look. Xeno is printing all the stuff the Prophet’s ignoring, …” A critical eye of the media cannot be replaced by the inflationary use of fake media and news.

5. Don’t rationalize and normalize the abnormal

The first big battle in defeating Voldemort was convincing the Ministry of Magic that the dark wizard had returned. Minister Cornelius Fudge went to great lengths to deny the obvious. The temptation to ignore and dismiss what does not fit into ones desired view of the world (‘he will not win’, ‘he will be impeached’) it great. It is easier to downplay, normalize and otherwise dismiss the threat and acknowledge it. Harry Potter and his friends persisted, yet only when deniability was no longer plausible did they succeed. Keeping a careful watch of what ‘normal’ should mean and comparing reality to it helps to not be the metaphorical frog in water slowly being brought to boil.

6. Find the Horcruxes

No, autocrats do not split their soul into multiple pieces and hide them in different objects to stay immortal. But it is a fitting metaphor. Confronting autocrats means collecting horcroxes and destroying them. Autocrats are difficult to challenge head-on, but rather their power-basis have to be weakened. These power-structures are often informal and obscure, just like the horcruxes Harry and his friends found. Thus discovering  and destroying them is a time-consuming and necessary quest to deprive autocrats of their power.

Of course all of this is a lot easier with charms, a Patronus, magical friends and all kinds of other magical tools, but muggles can make it too.


*I originally thought of writing these rules as six lessons on how to fight autocrats from the Balkans, but Harry Potter seemed like a more fitting and universal metaphor. Real life examples from around the non-magical world, however, are plenty.

The meaning of Klaus Iohannis’ victory in Romania


The election of Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of Sibiu as president of Romania has been remarkable for a number of reasons. Not only did he lag behind in the first round of elections by 10 percent (30.37 to 40.44%) to Victor Ponta, the prime minister, but also few of the opinion polls expect his victory that turned out to be fairly decisive (for official results see here) after a close run at first, leading 10 percent over Ponta. However, it is less the election arithmetics that are striking as background of the victorious candidate and the type of politics of his opponent.

Klaus Iohannis (or Johannis to use the German spelling of his last name), is a member of the tiny German minority of Romania. He has been mayor of Sibiu for 14 years as a candidate of the German minority organisation, the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania. The fact that he won the election in 2000 and subsequently with a large majority, desping Germans constituting only a small minority in Sibiu (less than 2%) suggest a broad appeal transcending classic minority politics. His victory at the national level, now as candidate (and president) of the conservative PNL confirms this. The switch from minority to main stream political parties is difficult in most European countries and the election as president as a member of a minority is quiet extrodinary. Several media attacked Iohannis for his minority background and in particular to him not being a member of the Orthodox church and Ponta himself made use of this theme in a convoluted comment“It’s nothing bad about Mr Iohannis being a German ethnic, but no one can accuse me of being a Romanian ethnic. We live in Romania after all and I am proud to be Romanian. The same about religion. It’s nothing bad about Mr Iohannis being a neo-protestant, but no one can reproach me with being an Orthodox”. Considering the close link of religion and national identity makes the victory of Iohannis more important. In a region where minorities have been included in parliaments and in governments, but the distinction between minority and majority has remainded salient, his victory is important. While Macedonia had a Methodist president, Boris Trajkovski, he was still clearly identified with the Macedonian majority and Slovakia had Rudolf Schuster as president (1999-2004), who is of German and Hungarian background, but this was not a feature of his political career and he was not a minority representative, but rather a former Communist who had joined the democratic opposition in 1989. The victory of Iohannis highlights the potention of minority politician become national politicians and that starting a career representing a minority does not preclude a broader appeal, in fact without it, Iohannis would have never been able to represent the German minority effectively. A caveat is in place here, the fact that Iohannis hails from the small German minority, associated with Germany and thus the EU and ‘the West’ makes him more able to transcend the majority-minority divide than if he had been a member of the much large Hungarian minority or a socially stigmatized group, such as the Roma.


The second level at which the victory of Iohannis is striking is in the defeat of Victor Ponta. In recent years, Ponta has been on the way to emulate the emerging pattern of soft semi-authoritarian rule in Central and Southeastern Europe, as Hungary under Viktor Orban, Macedonia under Nikola Gruevski, Milorad Dodik in the RS in Bosnia, Milo Djukanovic in Montenegro and recently also Aleksandar Vučić in Serbia. A combination of populism and clientalism has been able to combine control using undemocratic practicies with EU membership (or integration). These elections demonstrate that it them that are the archiles heel of these regimes. While they can manipulate and use state resources to their advantage, they still have to win on election day. A strong social media campaign and highly motivated Romanian voters abroad helped to undermine these practices. Of course, Ponta remains in office as Prime Minister, but complete control over politics in Romania remains elusive for him (unlike Orban). After Dodik suffered an important setback in Bosnian elections last months, it shows that these regimes might have been enduring, but also are weak.

The victory of Iohannis might thus have a demonstration effect on other countries in the region.  While some observers have warned of excessive optimism, in particular in terms of addressing the economic and social ills of society, it does send two clear messages to neighboring countries: First, a member of a minority can become a president and soft semi-authoritarian regimes can be broken, through elections.

Frivolous Elections and a Heroic Super First Vice President

Late in 2013 three singers calling themselves the “three piggies and the bad wolf zahar” performed the song “the first vice prime minister” for the ever popular/awful entertainment show grand parada, the Serbian version of the Musikantenstadl. What might sound cryptic to an outsider is clear to anybody following Serbian politics: the Prvi Potpredsednik (or short just PPV, V stands for Vlada , government) is a title that formally does not exist, but the job Aleksandar Vučić currently holds. The composer Milutin Popović Zahar claims it to be a humorous tribute to Vučić and judging by his previous ‘tributes’, he is talented in telling from where the wind blows. Among the 2,500 compositions, there is Živela Jugoslavija (Live Yugoslavia!) from the 1980s and more recently Vidovdan.

The musical tribute is just one of the sillier aspects of the growing personality cult surrounding Vučić, who after a year or so of discussions whether early elections should be held, finally announced parliamentary elections for 16th March (officially called by President Nikolić). Just a few days later, as a snow storm blocked the highway Belgrade-Subotica, the new super hero jumped into action. Together with the other Serbian ‘saint’, tenis player Novak Djoković, he himself went to the blocked highway to savee passengers stuck in the snow. This PR stunt in best Putinesque style, unleashed a flurry of mockery on-line, including the above-pictured photos and a number of videos. However, the message in Serbian tabloids was clear.

kurirVučić and Djoković are heroes, while Tadić and Daćić are secretly meeting in Munich (also signaling that the current PM is fair game). For good measure, Kurir also listed what ten public personalities did instead of saving children (such as drinking, watching TV, featuring Čedomir Jovanović, Saša Radulović who recently resigned as minister for the economy and has since been viciously attacked by the media loyal to the governing SNS and, for good measure, Roger Federer).

This is just the beginning of the election campaign for these superfluous parliamentary elections. Serbia has had  more than its fair share of elections over the past 24 years. In addition to three Yugoslav parliamentary elections (1992, 1996, 2000), 10 Serbian presidential elections (1990, 1992, 4 rounds in 1997, 3 failed rounds in 2002, 1 failed round in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2012), Serbia held nine parliamentary elections. Thus, excluding local elections, Serb citizens had the ‘opportunity’ to vote in 22 elections in 24 years. In fact, of all the parliamentary elections since the first ones in 1990 (1990, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2011) only three were regular elections (1997 and 2007, 2012). The others were called early because governing coalitions broke down (2003, 2008), or because the ruling party hoped to improve its chances (as in 1992 and 1993), as is the case today.As some earlier parliamentary  elections, the forthcoming elections serve no obvious purpose besides consolidating the SNS political dominance. The current governing coalition is not in crisis and the despite the continuous talk of early elections, this had little to do with bad relations between parties in the coalition or some political difference in terms of substance or style. It is only clear that the junior partner, the Socialist Party (SPS) is likely to be pushed aside after new elections. Being the only party able to form a coalition with both large parties (DS and SNS) last time around, Dačić was able to negotiate a disproportionally large share of political power and this is coming to haunt him now, as Vučić apparently no longer wants to be just PPV, but take over the primeministership. Even though it seems unlikely that his Progressive Party will be able to governing without partners, there is no shortage of potential coalition partners. In fact, candidates are lining up. Thus, last time around the SNS had very few potential coalition partners that could drive up the price for forming a coalition, now SNS will be able to drive down the price and bargain hard. In addition to allies such as Rasim Ljajić’s Socialdemocrats, the Liberal-Democrats have signaled their willingness to join a coalition, as have some minority parties in addition to the Socialists and their partners.

To some degree, it seems merely logical that the most popular party should govern and also lead the government. The construction of the current government has been awkward and meant that for crucial decisions, such as negotiations with Kosovo, not only the prime minister, but also the PPV had to be fully included. The popularity of the SNS is compounded by the weakness of the opposition and thus, a resounding victory seems appropriate. However, the attacks by media close to the SNS on the opposition, the populist reflexes of Vučić and calling for elections when there is no other justification than maximizing power, the risk of Serbia moving towards a populist “demokratura” is real. Already in Macedonia and Republika Srpska, the combination of constant campaigning, the instrumental use of early elections (in Macedonia), reducing space for critical media and the social and nationalist populism of the government has seriously eroded the democratic system and its institutions. If Serbia moves this way, it is important for outsider to look more carefully. So far the temptation for the EU and other outsiders has been to ignore such trends over the government’s willingness to compromise over Kosovo.




Old News

March 2019

Eurozine published by reflections on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Cold War in an article called “Anxious Europe.”

Why a border change between Serbia and Kosovo is a bad idea and how this debate gained traction in “What could a Serbia-Kosovo border swap achieve?” for New Eastern Europe.

January 2019

Together with Wondemagegn Tadesse Goshu, I wrote an analysis on the transformation of Ethiopia and what lessons can be learnt from Yugoslavia for Foreign Policy.

November 2018

Ethnopolitics published a symposium with my article “Is Nationalism on the Rise? Assessing Global Trends” and comments by Erine Jenne, Zsuzsa Csergö and Siniša Malešević, as well as my response.

July 2018

My article “Patterns of competitive authoritarianism in the Western Balkans,” was published in East European Politics in a special issue on Rethinking ‘democratic backsliding’ in Central and Eastern Europe

March 2018

My article on  “The Rise (and Fall) of Balkan Stabilitocracies” was published in Horizons. In addition, I wrote two comments on the EC strategy for Danas and the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue for NIN (in English on the blog)

February 2018

Analyzing the newest EU strategy for the Western Balkans, I wrote a comment for Foreign Affairs, as well as several interviews and statements (DLF, Der Standard, Swedish Radio, Financial Times, .

December 2017

My chapter on “Tourism, Nation-Branding and the Commercial Hegemony of Nation Building in the post-Yugoslav States” was published in  Ulrich Ermann and Klaus-Jürgen Hermaniek (eds),  Branding the Nation, the Place, the Product. by Routledge.

September 2017

The Routledge Handbook of East European Politics, edited by Adam Fagan, Petr Kopecký was just published by Routledge with a chapter of mine on the Belated Transitions in Southeastern Europe.

May 2017

My chapter on Post-Yugoslav Patterns of Democratization was published in  Building Democracy in the Yugoslav Successor States Accomplishments, Setbacks, and Challenges since 1990, edited by Sabrina P. Ramet, Christine M. Hassenstab, Ola Listhaug, with Cambridge University Press.

April 2017

On 28 March, BiEPAG released its latest study on the state of democracy which we presented at the European Parliament in Brussels and subsequently I commented on the study’s findings and Serbian elections for Financial Times, New York Times, Wiener Zeitung, and Spiegel-Online.

March 2017

The Austrian journal Der Donauraum released the special issue Remembrance Culture and Common Histories in the Danube Region I edited following a conference hosted by the IDM in late 2014.


February 2017

My first book chapter on the history of Hvar was published in German as “Die Insel als Provinz. Isolation, Identität und die Beziehungen zum Zentrum in Dalmatien”


December 2016

Early Macedonian elections were of interest as a test case for challenging authoritarian rule, as I wrote in a comment for Balkan Insight. Furthermore, I offered a number of interviews and comments for Economist, VOA, Politico, DW, AFP, Der Standard, Wiener Zeitung (and here), among others.

In addition, I wrote an analysis of the Austrian presidential elections for the New York Times and what is means more broadly for defeating far-right populists in Europe and gave an interview for Der Standard on the Balkan foreign policies of FPÖ candidate Hofer.

November 2016

I presented the final study we wrote at the Centre for the Council of Europe on best practices from a large-scale project on minority empowerment at the local level in Tirana.

Routledge published Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Semiperipheral Entanglements, edited Stef Jansen, Čarna Brković, Vanja Čelebičić, in the Series Southeast European Studies I edit, including a response to two chapters I authored.

October 2016

Elections in Montenegro have been putting the question of the state of democracy in the region on the agenda. In addition to some media statements (NZZ, Europe Western Balkans, RFE) and a blog post, I also wrote a comment on it for Balkan Insight.

BiEPAG  published the latest policy brief on EU Enlargement in the Western Balkans in a Time of Uncertainty, Marko Kmezić and I co-wrote.

September 2016

I published an article in Die Zeit on Yugoslav and Greek refugees in the Middle East during World War Two, a fascinating story that I have been researching on in archives in New York and Split.

June 2016

In response to the Brexit referendum, I wrote a short analysis for Freedom House what it means for the Balkans, as well as some media statements  (Der Standard, NZZ)

May 2016

Here is my take on the Austrian elections for the New York Times, as well as a comment on the larger European context.

April 2016

I have published a few comments and analysis on the early Serbian elections, including a longer analysis for the BiEPAG blog, as well as  interviews for the Economist,  Deutsche Welle, and Tageswoche.

Another topic has been the Dutch rejection of the free trade agreement of the EU with the Ukraine, and what it means for enlargement in the Balkans. See my comment and article in the Serbian daily Politika.

I joined a discussion at Freedom House at the launch of the annual Nations in Transit report on the state of democracy in Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

February 2016

Turkish Weekly carried my analysis on why the Balkans are back on the radar (for all the wrong reasons).

The refugee crisis and Austrian policy in the Balkans was the topic of an interview for the Austrian radio station FM4.

January 2016

Between February and June 2016, I will be on a sabbatical as a visiting fellow at the Remarque Institute of New York University.

December 2015

The article “The Serbia-Kosovo Agreements: An EU Success Story?” was published in Review of Central and East European Law. A short comment on the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement was published in Europäische Rundschau (in German).

November 2015

The 20th anniversary of Dayton was topic on which I gave media statements for Harpers and Der Standard.

For Radio Free Europe, I wrote my one week diary under the impression of the refugee flow through the Balkans.

October 2015

The refugee crisis dominated this month with interviews for Der Tagesanzeiger, and Swiss Radio.

September 2015

The refugee crisis has dominated this month, including an op-ed for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Balkan Insight, and discussion for the ORF Europastudio, as well as interviews for numerous media (Bloomberg, NTV, 20 Minuten, Blick)

August 2015

As part of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BIEPAG), I contributed to the civil society component of the Vienna Western Balkans summit in late August and BIEPAG presented a study on bilateral relations for the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was mentioned in the final conference statement and also included a declaration on bilateral relations and EU integration signed by all ministers of foreign affairs of the Western Balkans. My notes on the summit are on my blog, as well as in a number of interview for the summit  (Der Standard, and here, Kleine Zeitung, N-TV). The study is available here.

The articleThe Construction of National Identity and its Challenges in Post-Yugoslav Censuses” was published in a special issue of Social Sciences Quarterly.

The FWF-funded research project on workers in Serbia and Montenegro during the 1980s was discussed in an article in Der Standard.

May 2015

The edited collection “Universities and Elite Formation in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe,” I co-edited with Harald Heppner has been published in the series Transkulturelle Forschungen an den Österreich-Bibliotheken im Ausland by the Lit-Verlag

The political crisis in Macedonia has been the focus on a few blog posts I wrote and media commentary (for Deutsche Welle, Reuters, also here).

In early May, I presented a “food for thought paper” on “The challenges of Freedom of Expression in the Western Balkans in the
context of EU integration” at a conference organized by the MFA in Albania on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Albania’s membership in the Council of Europe.

At the conference of the ABDOS in Graz, I gave a keynote speech on “Die Krise der Demokratie auf dem westlichen Balkan. Wo liegen die Grenzen der EU-Integration?”

April 2015

At the annual convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities in New York, I presented a paper on “Constructing Inclusive National Identities: The Trajectory of Socialist and Post-Socialist Montenegrin Identity.” It discussed the intellectual debates, mostly during the socialist period about how to define Montenegrin national identity.

The Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung published an article I wrote about provocations of Vojislav Šešelj.

I gave several interviews on the situation in Bosnia, including for  Novo Vrijeme, and Al Jazeera Balkans and for the Macedonian TV stations Alsat and Telma TV on the political crisis in the country. Der Standard reported about corruption and dubious practices in higher education in Southeastern Europe for which I provided comments and background.

March 2015

Central European University Press Civic and Uncivic Values in Kosovo. History, politics, and value transformation, edited by Sabrina P. Ramet Albert Simkus Ola Listhaug which included a chapter I wrote on “The Serbs of Kosovo”.

February 2015

Democratic backsliding in the Western Balkans has been a key theme. Following a public lecture at LSE in late January, a wrote a blog on 10 rules of Machiavelli for a 21th century Balkan prince that became widely circulated in the region, as well as more detailed analysis for the NZZ and several comments for media, in particular on Macedonia.

December 2014

The Austrian journal Europäische Rundschau published an article on the state of democracy in the Balkans.

The French online journal Regards Sur l’est published an short article on Hvar I wrote as part of a special issue on islands in Eastern Europe.

The Journal Southeast European and Black Sea Studies published a special section I edited on the first multiparty elections in Bosnia in 1990. My introduction is available for free online. This elections was crucial in bringing to power the key protagonists of the Bosnia, but has been insufficiently understood. These articles seek to shed some new light on this key episode .

Following up on our conference on the centenary of the beginning of World War One, I published an op-ed article in Die Presse.

November 2014

In the Europastudio of Austrian television ORF, I discussed new nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe.

October 2014

The edited collection from our conference on the Dissolution of Yugoslavia was published with Ashgate. The book, co-edited with Armina Galijaš and Rory Archer, seeks to offer some new directions in which the research of the dissolution of Yugoslavia can be taken. Glad to have some greatauthors in it, including Eric Gordy and Chip Gagnon, but also Ljubica Spasovska and others.

September 2014

I honored to be joining the advisory board of the Croatian International Relations Review.

Juni 2014

A key theme in media conversations were the floods, for example for Foreign Policy. Another theme has been the EU policy towards the region, on which I gave an interview for the Bosnian weekly Novo Vrijeme, The 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One also received attention, in particular the controversies over the commemorations, one which I talked about for an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education 

An article with Erin Jenne on “Situational Nationalism: Nation-building in the Balkans, Subversive Institutions and the Montenegrin Paradox” in Ethnopolitics.

May 2014

In May I participated in the launch of the policy paper and policy briefs of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group in Sarajevo and later in Belgrade.

March 2014

I just published an analysis of the authoritarian temptation in Southeastern Europe on the occasion of the Serbian elections in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

February 2014

The protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina created considerable renewed interest in Bosnia and some lively debates. In addition to several analysis (and here) for my blog, quoted in European Voice, several European newspapers (including in Portugal and Spain, and Austria) a contribution to a debate for Balkan Insight, I gave several interviews, including for Le Monde, Radio Free Europe,and another interview in German and also signed an open letter on the protest, signed by a number of academics, published in the Guardian (full text here).

A long analysis of the different protest movements in the Balkans was published by the Council for European Studies at Columbia University, called the New Tragedy of the Commons (written before the protests in Bosnia).

January 2014

I published a comment on the contested nature of the centennial commemoration of World War One for the Austrian daily Die Presse.

December 2013

Oxford University Press published The Milosevic Trial. An Autopsy edited by Timothy William Waters to which I contributed two chapters (Do Historians Need a Verdict? and The Show and the Trial: The Political Death of Milosevic)

The International New York Times published an article on private universities in Eastern Europe to which I contributed a comment.

Eastern Approaches, an Economist blog, mentioned my analysis on the Croatian referendum.

November 2013

Kleine Zeitung published a reportage on the project Skopje 2014.

I was guest on the Graz radio show Die Neue Stadt of Helsinki Radio on the conference Rebellion and Protest from Maribor to Taksim. Social Movements in the Balkans. The podcast is available for download here.

Radio Free Europe and Anadolu News Agency published analyses with my comments on the 18th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

October 2013

The Macedonian daily Dnevnik published an interview with me on Macedonia’s relations with the EU and the larger international context.

In Graz, we launched the Research Advisory Group, a new initiative of the Centre for Southeast European Studies and the European Fund for the Balkans to develop policy suggestions for the Western Balkans.

August 2013

Ö1 ran a detailed reportage “Alma Mater Absurda. Über private Universitäten, fiktive Ehrentitel und dubiose Diplome” on private universities in Southeastern Europe featuring an interview with me.

July 2013

I just published a comment the EU enlargement in the Balkans after Croatia’s EU membership in Die Presse.

June 2013

The Index on Censorship ran a report on the protests in Bosnia including some of my observation.

May 2013

The Taiwan Journal of Democracy published a special issue on power-sharing including one article by myself on “Power Sharing and Democracy in Southeast Europe”

The new Routledge Handbook of Regionalism & Federalism edited by John Loughlin, John Kincaid, Wilfried Swenden includes a chapter “Federalising the Federation’: The Failure of the Yugoslav Experiment” I wrote.

A new edited volume on power-sharing was published edited by Joanne McEvoy and Brendan O’Leary on “The Power Sharing in Deeply Divided Places”, including a chapter by myself “The Balkans: The Promotion of Power Sharing”

April 2013

At the ASN convention, I had the pleasure to be part of an exciting round table discussion on “Scholars as Public Intellectuals Weighing in on History and Politics in East Central Europe” with Katherine Fleming (History, NYU), Timothy Snyder (History, Yale), Kim Scheppele (International Affairs, Princeton), and István Deák (History-Emeritus, Columbia), and Holly Case

The German journal Südosteuropa Mitteilungen features a special section on the recent controversial decisions of the ICTY including a comment by myself on “The ICTY’s Limits: After the Acquittals of Gotovina, Markač and Haradinaj”

After having served as editor-in-chief of Nationalities Papers for four years, I have handed over the job to Peter Rutland. Here some thoughts on my time as editor.

February 2013

The European Parliament published a study on “Mainstreaming Human and Minority Rights in the EU Enlargement with the Western Balkans” to which I contributed.

I participated in a Ditchley Foundation conference “Problems in the Western Balkans: settled or dormant?” with leading policy makers, analysts and diplomats. Here are some notes of mine from the conference.

Recently Perspectives on Politics published a review essay of mine on several books dealing with democratization and popular mobilizations in the Balkans.

January 2013

The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an article about a policy paper written by myself and Leon Malazogu. The report was also re-published in a shortened version in Südosteuropa Mitteilungen. The original report, published in October 2012 is available at the website of D4D.

The Serbian weekly NIN published a comment I wrote on a analysis written by Boris Begović. The English version, as well as the original text are available on my blog. My comment triggered further reactions published in NIN and a response also available on my blog.

April 2012

The Centre for Southeast European Studies is launching its new website with news of events, projects and publications:

January 2012

Comment for Anerkennung Sloweniens und Kroatiens vor 20 Jahren „Oder es wird zerfallen“, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 15.1.2012

Article on the Conference Debating the End of Yugoslavia in Graz in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11.1.2012.

November 2011

Just published with Soeren Keil ” The Bosnian Crisis and the Independence of Kosovo” in Kosovo: independence, status, perspectives

Interview for Vijesti

Just published: Special issue of Europe-Asia Studies on Unconditional Conditionality? The Impact of EU Conditionality in the Western Balkans

Visit the website of the conference “Debating the End of Yugoslavia” with Podcasts and Photos

Interview for Buka

June 2011

The Western Balkans after the ICJ Opinion in the Chailliot Paper The Western Balkans and the EU: ‘the hour of Europe’ edited by Jacques Rupnik

Interview for the Novi Sad daily Dnevnik.

May 2011

Op-ed in the Austrian daily Die Presse on the arrest of Ratko Mladic: Der Massenmörder, der Held

Interviews for Vecernji List, Glas Srpske, Radio Free Europe, Buka and Slobodna Bosna on the political crisis in Bosnia

March 2011

Op-ed in the Austrian daily Die Presse on the arrest of Jovan Divjak in Vienna: Zur Verhaftung von Jovan Divjak: Der falsche serbische General

Feburary 2011

Op-Ed in the Austrian daily Die Presse on the lessons learnt for the Tunisian democracy movement from Eastern Europe:  Was Tunesiens Demokraten von Osteuropa lernen können

October 2010

See new EUI working paper on dual citizenship including my contribution “Dual Citizenship can be a solution, not a problem”.

September 2010

Presentation at a Conference on Power-Sharing in post-Ottoman States (Bosnia, Lebanon and Iraq) in Beirut.

Since 1 September I have taken up the post of Professor for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz.

July 2010

Articles, comments and debate about funny student exam answers on Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe from my blog.

Comments on the ICJ ruling: Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia after the ICJ ruling for Open Democracy.

Comment on the ICJ ruling: After the ICJ Opinion: Ways Out of Deadlock for Balkan Insight.

Working Paper on Policing the Peace after Yugoslavia: Police Reform between External Imposition and Domestic Reform published by GRIPS (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies), Tokyo.

Comment on Dual Citizenship can be a solution, not a problem to the EUDO citizenship debate.

April 2010

Op-ed for European Voice with Rosa Balfour on Bosnia fatigue, and how to deal with it

Policy paper for the European Policy Center on Constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina: preparing EU accession

Interview for BBC Serbian, Stajnberg i Moratinos u BiH, 7.4.2010.

March 2010

Interview for Most, Radio Free Europe: Dodika zanima vlast, a ne otcjepljenje RS

Interview for Radio Free Europe: Ne verujem da Srbija želi da joj Ganić bude izručen, 7.3.2010 (for some of the same arguments in English, see my blog).

February 2010

Chapter “Executive Power-Sharing” in Marc Weller and Katherine Nobbs (eds), Political Participation of Minorities. A Commentary on International Standards and Practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Chapter “The Challenges of Democratisation and Human Rights–1998-2008” in Erhard Busek, Björn Kühne (eds), From Stabilisation to Integration. The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Vienna-Cologne-Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2010, Vol. 1, 33-44.

Chapter “Granice stvaranja drzave: Da li Bruxellesu dovoljan Dayton?” in Helmut Kurth (ed.), Bosna i Hercegovina – 2014. Gdje zelimo stici?, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung 2009. (click here to download book)

January 2010

Interview for the Bosnian weekly Slobodna Bosna on constitutional changes and the current crisis in Bosnia

A special issue of Global Society on the Global Impact of 1989 was just which I co-edited with Holly Case.

December 2009

A comment for Balkan Insight on the situation in Bosnia: Dayton Bosnia May Be Over – But What Next?

Just published with Sören Keil an article on power-sharing in the Balkans: Power-Sharing Revisited: Lessons Learned in the Balkans?, Review of Central and East European Law, Vol. 34, No. 4, 2009 , pp. 337-360(24)

November 2009

Interview for Radio Kosova is available on the radio website.

Interview for Radio Dukagjin, Kosovo was just published on

The blog entry on Butmir was just re-published in Bosnia at Buka.

Just published with Jenni Winterhagen an article on Montenegro in Südosteuropa: Erst der Staat – dann die Nation: Staats- und Nationsbildung in Montenegro, Südosteuropa, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2009), 2-24.

Gave a talk at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University on 16 November “The End of Dayton Bosnia?” about the failure of the Butmir talks and the false weight given to constitutional reforms by international actors.

September 2009

The Final Report of the King Baudoin Foundation’s Minority Rights in Practice has just been published.

August 2009

Article on confidence building in the post Yugoslav states for Austrian TV-Radio Webportal in German entitled Vertrauen als Kriegsopfer.

Commentary on a report on how to reform higher education in the UK ‘Quality control’ is the problem, not the solution in the Times Higher Education.

June 2009

New Article: “Territory, Identity and the Challenge of Serbia’s EU Integration,”  Wolfgang Petritsch, Goran Svilanovic, Christophe Solioz (eds), Serbia Matters: Domestic Reforms and European Integration (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2009).

As for April 2009, I have been named editor in chief of Nationalities Papers. As part of the changes since taking over, the journal is receiving a new visual identity, changing its description. Submission are welcome!

May 2009

Op-ed commentary with Gülnur Aybet on the visit of the US vice president Joe Biden to the Balkans for Newsweek/Washington Post PostGlobal website, 27.5.2009.

Interview for Radio Free Europe on the third anniversary of Montenegro’s Independence, 22.5.2009

April 2009

Interview for Radio Kosovo, 30.4.2009

New Article: “Serbien zwischen Europa und Kosovo. Politische Entwicklungen seit der Unabhängigkeitserklärung” Südosteuropa, Vol. 56, No. 3, 2008

Comments for Koha Ditore on the case at the ICJ over Kosovo’s declaration of independence. For an English version, see the blog.

March 2009

Interview for the Blog East-Central Europe Past and Present

Talk on How Independent Is Independent: Kosovo, Year One, Peace Studies, Cornell University, 5 March 2009

February 2009

A short article on the first year of independent Kosovo: Kosovo: one year on, Open Democracy

Commentary on an article by Anthony Oberschall, Creating an Ethnic Peace, Sociological Analysis, Vol. 2, 2008, pp. 139-141.

January 2009

I am joining the team of the journal Global Society as Associate Editor. Contributions are welcome!

From January until May I am at Cornell University as the Luigi Einaudi Chair in European and International Studies.

December 2008

Interview for the Bosnian weekly DANI on the political situation in Bosnia and reforms.

Workshop on EU and NATO integration of Bosnia, the final event of the BA funded project with Gulnur Aybet.

Discussion on the Western Balkans with James Lyons for the program Most with Omer Karabeg on Radio Free Europe

November 2008

New publication: Political Parties and Minority particpation, Friedrich Ebert Foundation

Comments regarding reconciliation and ethnic politics in Bosnia for Radio Free Europe

Conference on where Bosnia and Herzegovina is heading by 2014, organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Sararjevo

October 2008

Report on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities for the Council of Europe, presented in Strasbourg

September 2008

Presentation of a book on power-sharing in Macedonia, the book is available at the FES website in Engish, Macedonian and Albanian.

Commentary on Sonja Biserko’s “The EU and the Serbian Civil Society”, Europe’s World

See you at the next crisis!

Once more “the most serious crisis of Bosnia since the signing of the Dayton Agreement” seems to have been averted thanks to the mediation of Catherine Ashton and EU threats against the RS. However, as Tim Judah reminds us, this is just the latest installment of the worst crisis since the end of the war. There is little reason to believe that the next “most serious crisis since the end of the war” is not far off. Dodik put himself in a win-win-win situation with the referendum: If it would have taken place, it would have given him popular-populist legitimacy to challenge any OHR decision (see the question: Do you support the laws imposed by the High Representative of the International Community in BiH, especially those pertaining to the Court of BiH and BiH Prosecutor’s Office, as well as their unconstitutional verification in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly?), including any state-building done over the past decade, from the flag to currency and numerous state institutions. If the OHR had banned the referendum, it would have polarized public opinion further, likely to his benefit. So what is the current “win” for Dodik for backing down? He manages to avoid sanctions and can even get some public displays of support (“We welcome your leadership, Mister President,” Ashton said) and gets internationals willing to negotiate with him. The EU offered a “structured dialogue” in exchange for shelving, not dropping the referendum.

I concur with Dan Serwer that this seems like a bad idea. The EU needs to have talks and take the lead in BiH, but not (only) with Banja Luka and certainly not on Dodik’s terms on the judiciary. Instead, solutions are needed on the implementation of the ECHR ruling in the Finci-Sejdic case and ensuring progress in regard to EU integration, as well as forming a govenrment. Once more, the EU is caught on the back foot, reacted rather than clearly acting in BiH. Dodik will continue to hold the threat of a referendum over such talks and with a largely hapless EU on the ground he is likely to gain from the talks.

The negotiations between Ashton and Dodik have shown that the RS parliament is a rubber stamp in the whole process and Dodik’s word is all that matters. Taken together with the structured dialogue, this is just the latest example of how international intervention continues to reaffirm the extra-institutional practices in BiH.

There will be a temptation among international actors now to relax and hope BiH will go away for a while to deal with other issues. However, if there is no follow up to address the core problems, the next, most serious crisis since the end of the war, is just around the corner.

Oh yes, and there is also that crisis in the Federation over the legitimacy of the government and there is no state level government.


Past Talks, Lectures and Conference Presentations

  • Authoritarian turn: The Western Balkans’ move towards EU membership and away from democracy, SEESOX, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, 1.2.2017
  • How to Reanimate the Democratisation and the European project in the Balkans? BIEPAG, GPD, Belgrade. 16.12.2016.
  • Populism and authoritarianism and EU enlargement in Balkans. State of Peace Conference 2016 – „EU Action and Global Justice“, Graz, 24.11.2016.
  • Europäisierung als Mythos. Die langfristige Entwicklung des Begriffes in Südosteuropa, Pro Oriente Stiftung-Kommission für südosteuropäische Geschichte, Graz, 24.10.2016.
  • Fleeing the Balkans–Yugoslav and Greek Refugees in the Middle East (1943-1946), Along the Balkan Route. Refugees and Minorities in Southeast Europe and the Middle East, Universität Tübingen, Institut für Donauschwäbische Geschichte und Landeskunde, Tübingen. 20.10.2016.
  • The Balkan Crisis of Democracy as a Part of a Global Trend. The Interrelationship between Challenges to Democracy at Europe’s Core and Periphery,” Illiberal and authoritarian tendencies in Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe, Universität Fribourg, Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft, München. 14.10.2016.
  • After Ethnicity? Persistence of and challenges to the ethnicity paradigm in the Balkans, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, 26.09.2016.
  • Studying Dalmatian Islands from a longue durée perspective: Hvar in the 19th and 20th Century, VERN, Ivo Pilar, Vis-Croatia, 23.09.2016.
  • Refugee “crisis” in Europe: The Balkans, NYU, New York, 06.04.2016.
  • Inclusion and Exclusion in the Balkans University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh. 18.03.2016.
  • 25 years after the beginning of the transition process. Reflections on the appropriateness of the concept of transformation, AIIS, Tirana, 25.11.2015.
  • Zwischen Demokratisierung und Autoritarismus. Serbien, Bosnien und Kroatien 20 Jahre nach Dayton, University of Basel, Basel. 27.10.2015.
  • The Balkans today:A progress report, 4th Thessaloniki International Symposium in World Affairs, Thessaloniki. 18.10.2015.
  • The Never-ending Peace: How Bosnia Became Stuck in the Dayton Accords, University of Richmond, 23.09.2015.
  • Has post-war Bosnia failed? Limits of the Dayton Peace Agreement Georgetown University, Washington. 22.09.2015.
  • The Challenges to Democratization in Southeastern Europe. Bangkok. 03.06.2015.
  • Tourism, Nation-Branding and the Commercial Hegemony of Nation-building, University of Pula. 29.05.2015.
  • (De-)Democratisation Processes in Western Balkans in the Context of EU Integration. Queens University, Belfast. 06.03.2015.
  • The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans. The interrelationship between Europeanization and the New Authoritarian Temptation, LSE, London. 27.01.2015.
  • Non-conformist Identities: Challenging Identity Categories, ASN convention, 25.4.2014.

  • The Crisis of Democracy in Central and Southeastern Europe, University College London, 10.4.2014.
  • The International Relations of Kosovo in light of the Serbia-Kosovo Agreements, Graz, 21.3.2014.
  • Identity Construction through Population Censuses in Former Yugoslavia, University of Ljubljana, 21.1.2014.
  • Tourism, Nation-branding and new self-definitions of state and nation in Southeastern Europe, Annual Conference of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Skopje, 18.1.2014.
  • The Show and the Trial: The Political Death of Milošević, ASN Convention, 20.4.2013.
  • Scholars as Public Intellectuals Weighing in on History and Politics in East Central Europe, Roundtable discussion, ASN convention, 19.4.2013
  • War die Jugoslawische Volksarmee zum Scheitern verurteilt? Entscheidungen der JNA-Führung im Kontext des Ende Jugoslawiens, Der verhängnisvolle Irrtum- Zur Analyse von Fehlleistungen in politisch-militärischen Kontexten, University of Graz, 15.3.2013.
  • State-building and International Intervention in Southeastern Europe, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Convention, New Orleans, 16.11.2012.
  • Bosnien und Herzegowina, Europäische Integration und Westlicher Balkan, Hans-Seidl-Stiftung, Munich, 16.10.2012.
  • European Union and the Western Balkans.Current status and research perspectives, Keynote Speech, RRPP Conference Social, Political and Economic Change in the Western Balkans, Sarajevo, 25-26.5.2012.
  • Die Rolle der EU und europäischer Institutionen im Friedenprozess, Krieg(e) in Jugoslawien – War(s) in Yugoslavia, Zentrum für Friedensforschung und Friedenspädagogik der Alpe-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt in Kooperation mit dem Institut für Geschichte der Universität Klagenfurt, 1.12.2011.
  • Gibt es einen südosteuropäischen Populismus? Keynote Speech, Populismus und Euro-Skeptizismus in Südosteuropa nach 1989, Jena.Wissenschaftliches Symposium des DFG-Graduiertenkollegs 1412 “Kulturelle Orientierungen und Gesellschaftliche Ordnungsstrukturen in Südosteuropa” der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena und der Universität Erfurt, 17.6.2011.
  • Dinner Speech, PfP Consortium Arbeitsgruppe, Regional Stability in South East Europe, Reichenau/Rax, 13.5. 2011.
  • Montenegro seit der Unabhängigkeit: Monaco der Adria und Potemkinsche Reformen, Zentrum Ost-/Südosteuropa, St. Pölten, Austria, 4.11.2010.
  • Prospects for reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the elections,  75th Rose-Roth, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, South Eastern Europe: Creating New Momentum, Skopje, 20.10.2010.
  • Kontinuitäten und Brüche in der Entwicklung von Institutionen, 49. Internationale Hochschulwoche, Politische Institutionen und Kulturin Südosteuropa, Südosteuropa Gesellschaft, Tutzing, 7.10.2010.
  • Governance in Bosnia between Minimalism and EU Membership, State Building in Divided Socities, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Lebanese Association of Sociology,  Beirut, 24.9.2010.
  • Origins and Legacies of State Weakness in Southeastern Europe, Workshop The role of the state in South East Europe today, SEESOX, Oxford University, 21.5.2010
  • A (Un-)Democratic Contradiction? EU Democracy Promotion in former Yugoslavia, Indiana Democracy Consortium, Indiana University, 22.2.2010.
  • The Independence of Kosovo and its Implications for the Balkans, Waseda University, Tokyo,20.1.2010.
  • The End of Dayton Bosnia?, Harriman Institute, Columbia University, 2009.
  • The Balkans after Kosovo’s Independence: Between a European Perspective and Stagnation, University Bologna, 2009.
  • How Ethnic Diversity Delays Democratization: Lessons from Bosnia & Lebanon, Cornell University, 2009.
  • EU Conditionality in Bosnia, Columbia University, 2009.
  • Power-sharing and its Alternatives in former Yugoslavia, MIT, 2009.
  • Kosovo one year after Independence, Cornell, 2009.
  • EU and NATO Conditionality in Bosnia: The Impact of Police and Defence Reform on State Building, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 2008
  • The Balkans: Promotion of Power-Sharing by Outsiders, University of Pennsylvania, 2008.
  • EU and NATO conditionality in state building in Bosnia, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, 2008.
  • Between Europe and Kosovo? Serbia after the Presidential Elections, Nationalism Studies, Central European University, 2008.
  • EU and NATO state-building in the Balkans; Synergies and Linkages, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, January 2008.
  • Historical and Political Background of Montenegro [in German], Commerzbank, 2007.
  • The Contradictions of Nation- and Statebuilding in Montenegro, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 2007.
  • The Kosovo Precedent? Secession and Frozen Conflicts,  Schapiro lecture series, London School of Economics, 2007.
  • Referendum, Status, Loss? State and Nation-Building in Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro, The Harriman Institute, Columbia University, 2006.
  • One Nation, Many Nationalisms? Competing Strategies of Nation and State-building in Former Yugoslavia, Luigi Einaudi Lecture, Cornell University, 2006.
  • (Why) Does Nationalism Persist in the Western Balkans? South East European Studies, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, November 2004.
  • Nationalism, Ethnicity and the Dissolution of Yugoslavia, Romanian Institute for Recent History, Bucharest, January 2004.
  • Political Perspectives for Montenegro, Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Vienna, November 2003.
  • Reconciling Ethnicity with Democracy: The Record of Institutional Design in Bosnia, Centre for Policy Studies, CEU, Budapest, March 2003.
  • The Dynamics of Nationalist Mobilization, Fragmentation and the Difficult Demobilization: The Case of Serbia, Nationalism Studies, CEU, Budapest, March 2003.
  • Multiethnicity and Governance in Post-War Kosovo, Nationalism Studies, CEU, Budapest, March 2002.

Fixing the Institutions will not Fix Bosnia: To Butmir or not to butt mir

Convening Bosnia’s political leaders in an EUFOR base outside of Sarajevo is not only reminiscent of Dayton where Tudjman, Izetbegovic and Milosevic were ‘impressed’ by a US air force base in Ohio, but also of an ill-fated session of the Yugoslav presidency in Spring 1991. The Yugoslav People’s Army in an effort to persuade the Yugoslav leadership to declare a state of emergency convened the meeting in an army barracks in Belgrade. However, its show of force failed and the Bosnian representative of the presidency, Bogic Bogicevic case the crucial vote against the army intervention.

Of course, unlike the JNA in 1991, EUFOR and the EU wants to disengage, rather than engage, so the differences begin here. The sense of crisis is similar, and palpable. Observers and politicians from different background and with diverging interests keep emphasizing the crisis Bosnia finds itself in—only the depth of the crisis appears to be a matter of debate.

Many commentators mistakenly identify the institutions as the prime problem of Bosnia. The complicated institutional set-up with veto rights, ‘vital national interests’ and entity voting appears to block reform at every turn of the corner. Looking at the unwieldy reality and the frequent stalemates in Bosnia’s institutions, it is tempting to see all ills in the Dayton institutions. Nevertheless, this analysis is plain wrong. True, the institutions are flawed and cost too much. They are not the core of the political crisis. Instead, badly conceived and impatient efforts to change them have been to blame for the crisis Bosnia finds itself in.

So why are institutions not the biggest problem? No matter of how many or little veto rights there are in Bosnia, it will be impossible to impose a decision on either entity without its at least tacit consent (or agreement to disagree). Even if entity voting (the ability of each entity’s MPs to block decision in Bosnian parliament) where to be abolished, a walk out by MPs could still stop decisions from being taken. If a decision against the will of one entity were taken, this would hardly lead to its acceptance in the entity in question and would further antagonize relations. Reducing opportunities for blockage are likely to make the decision making process smoother, but it will also increase the temptation to outvote the non-dominant communities. If one were to find issue with the institutions, it is less with the details of decision making, number of MPs, but with the larger institutional set-up, which pits two entities (and the two dominant nations) in a binary zero-sum game against one another. However, this element of post-Dayton Bosnia is not on the agenda as it is too controversial and contentious to touch.

The reason the constitutional talks, first in 2006 (that ended in failure) and the Butmir talks now, have a negative impact on the political climate. The current Butmir talks convey a sense of crisis and ‘last chance’ which does not only build pressure on elites to compromise, but also reinforces a sense of ‘everything is falling apart’ which has a way to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Opening constitutional questions in such a dramatic way also is what lager parts of the elite like—it is these big issues which lend themselves so much more to defending national interests, than everyday boring politics. Furthermore, the EU and the US have no clear carrot and stick in this process. The only carrot (for some, i.e. Dodik) is the closure of the OHR, but it is also a stick for others (SDA, SBiH). Beyond this, the EU has not been able to offer anything which would be persuasive to compromise.

All this does not suggest that Bosnia does not need constitutional reform. However, this should not be hammered out in EUFOR basis in emergency-style meetings. Constitutional change has to be a gradual process which is not understood as a short term initiative. There is little beyond the obvious violations of the European Convention of Human Rights which needs to be changed with any urgency in the constitution. More important is that some constitutional changes lead to (re-)building a basic consensus one some key features of the Bosnian state. Such a process deserves the support of the EU.

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