The Potential of EU Normative Power to Diffuse Values to Post-Conflict States with Divisive Governance Structures - Case Study of Bosnia And Herzegovina

  • Denisa Sarajlic-Maglic

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The role of the European Union (EU) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was strengthened in 2011, when the mandate of the EU Special Representative was transferred from the High Representative of the International Community, to the Head of the EU Delegation in BiH. The EU thus assumed a leading role within the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a state-builder and as democratiser. The EU’s growing prominence puts on it even more responsibility for the future of democratisation in BiH, but it continues to suffer from inconsistencies between its principles and actions, weak legitimacy, and a lack of credibility. Although I subscribe to Ian Manners’ concept of the EU normative power, I argue that the EU does not act as normative power in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This thesis argues that the EU is a normative power in principle, but not in practice, and provides a critique of the EU’s role in promoting and strengthening democracy in BiH. I attribute the exceptionalism of BiH to a restrictive context that is saturated with ethnic nationalism, which permeates all aspects of political life, including constitutional structures, institutions, decision-making, political parties, their policies and rhetoric. I argue that in this post-conflict society in which democracy has not consolidated, the promotion of EU norms is hampered by elite agency, an unfavourable context, and the exiting norms and values that are incompatible with EU norms. Based on my findings about the quality of democracy in BiH, I label it an eclectically unconsolidated democracy, which contains many features of different types of unsuccessful democracies. I argue that the legitimacy, identity, and effectiveness of the EU normative power have been compromised and weakened in the context of an unconsolidated democracy. The case of BiH is exceptional, which the EU fails to recognise, and it falsely applies a ‘cookie-cutter approach’ that treats it as any other aspiring democracy and potential member state. Rather than having a distinct international identity (Manners & Whitman, 1998), the EU suffers from a ‘confused international identity’, which is a consequence of many discrepancies in the way in which various EU actors see their own role in BiH, and how they see the role of the EU. My intention is not to dismiss some aspects of EU normative power, but rather to enrich a debate by providing an alternative perspective. For that purpose, I apply a tailor-made framework of analysis which assesses the level of normative transformation under EU democratisation in the case of two dimensions of democratic quality: equality and trust.
Date of Award1 Sept 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorScott Thomas (Supervisor)


  • EU, Bosnia-Herzegovina, democratisation, nationalism, EU normative power, democracy

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