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Assessing the EU’s ‘new approach’ to enlargement policy: The case of rule of law reform in Serbia

Webb, Jonathan (2018) Assessing the EU’s ‘new approach’ to enlargement policy: The case of rule of law reform in Serbia. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Rule of law is an important European Union (EU) principle. The EU aspires to promote it externally, particularly in the context of EU enlargement. In new Member States such as Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, problems with rule of law ‘backsliding’ indicate that the rule of law was poorly embedded during previous accessions. Consequently, the EU’s ‘new approach’ has made rule of law reform central to the accession processes of Candidate States in the Western Balkans. Despite this policy shift, it remains unclear whether this new approach supports the construction of both formal rule of law institutions and corresponding norms and practices, or whether formal compliance is decoupled from a change in practice. This thesis analyses the EU’s new approach and its capacity to enact change by focusing on rule of law reforms in the Candidate State of Serbia. This thesis addresses two research questions: What are the key logics, imaginaries and interactions driving the delivery of rule of law reforms in Serbia? How effective is the EU’s approach for ensuring the institutionalisation of the rule of law in practice? To answer these questions, this thesis adopts a Cultural Political Economy approach. It analyses how key actors interact, understand, interpret and construct rule of law reforms. This analysis demonstrates the multiple understandings of rule of law that emerge and draws attention to the different political visions these understandings represent. The central argument of the thesis is that while the EU’s new approach increasingly draws actors’ attention to rule of law issues, it remains driven by a strategic logic. This reinforces the reproduction as opposed to contextualisation of its rule of law criteria, generates contestation and reinforces existing power relations. This leads to the partial institutionalisation of the rule of law in practice, while simultaneously creating contestation and resistance to reforms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: EU enlargement, enlargement policy,the rule of law, rule of law reform, Serbia, Western Balkans, Cultural Political Economy
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Politics (Sheffield)
Depositing User: MR Jonathan Webb
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2018 11:23
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2018 11:23
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21542

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