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The Western Balkans and the EU in Multilateral Organisations: Measuring Europeanisation and Understanding the Politics of Alignment

Florent Marciacq

‚ University of Luxembourg/University of Vienna, Luxembourg/Austria


With the gradual consolidation of EU structures of external governance and the intensification, in foreign and security policy matters, of EU’s relations with its closest neighbours, Europeanisation has become a pregnant reality for all Western Balkan states. In multilateral organisations, their foreign policies are increasingly exposed to Europe’s transformative power. This expectedly entails that important changes take place, not least through increasingly convergent foreign policy behaviour. This development is of outstanding interest, as it illustrates how the ideational foundations of European security are being built, beyond the EU. Although much has been written on Western Balkan’s relationship with the EU, little knowledge has been acquired as to how this relationship has transformed the way these states position themselves more generally, in international politics. This paper responds to this lack of research by measuring and explaining the Europeanisation of Western Balkan states’ foreign policy in multilateral organisations. More specifically, it examines the foreign policy positions of six Western Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) between 2001 and 2011. In the first part, the research explores quantitatively the extent to which Western Balkan states’ voting behaviour in the UNGA and declaratory diplomacy in the OSCE have been affected by intense interactions with the EU. In the UNGA, it models EU voting behaviour using Luxembourg’s positions as median-based best proxy, and accordingly measures Western Balkan states’ voting distances to the EU. In the OSCE, it uses the possibility that is offered to Western Balkan states to align themselves with EU statements, and measures the corresponding frequency of declaratory alignment. The paper shows that in these intergovernmental fora, the shared prospect of EU integration acts as a gravity force conducive to Western Balkan states’ ideational rapprochement with the EU as regards international affairs. It unambiguously points at EU-convergent patterns of voting and declaratory behaviour, although with some notable limitations. In the second part, the paper examines qualitatively the driving forces that underpin such Europeanisation, as well as the reasons of nonalignment. Based on a dozen of interviews with relevant diplomats from the Western Balkans and the EU, it scrutinises actors’ structural responses to the legal-institutional pressures emanating from EU’s conditionality regimes; the teleological motives that prompt Western Balkan states to emulate EU positions, or seek utilitarian solutions through alignment; and the dispositional forces that induce them to behave in an appropriate manner, having internalised alignment with the EU as a norm. It concludes that in foreign policy matters, compliance plays a non-essential role in reorientating the multilateral diplomacy of Western Balkan states; that other mechanisms, such as emulative learning, rational choice, persuasion and socialisation play a deeper role; and that higher degrees of foreign policy convergence could be achieved with simple improvements in EU’s alignment procedures.


About author:


Florent Marciacq is a Research Associate in the European Governance Programme of the University of Luxembourg and a Researcher in Residence in the Prague office of the OSCE Secretariat. He is currently working on a joint-PhD in the Universities of Luxembourg and Vienna, and supports, as scientific advisor, the work of Felix Kreissler Research Department of the Vienna Diplomatic Academy. Florent Marciacq holds a Master’ degree in Advanced International Studies from the Vienna Diplomatic Academy and a Master’s degree in Sciences of Management from the École Supérieure de Commerce of Reims, France. His curriculum vitae includes academic stays in Hungary, Denmark, Turkey, and participation in several conferences in Australia, Iceland and the United Kingdom. Florent Marciacq previously worked as a chargé de mission for Ambassador Peter Jankowitsch, former Austrian foreign Minister, in an intergovernmental organisation promoting regional cooperation in Europe and socioeconomic development in the Western Balkans. He also worked as a junior auditor in the European Court of Auditors.