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Promoting Stability and Facilitating State Capture

This paper argues that the EU facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia – though presented as the primary means by which both would make progress towards EU integration – has made the EU a shareholder in the process of state capture and the legitimization of corrupt political elites.
The term ‘state capture’ was first used by the World Bank to describe the process by which groups and individuals came to exercise control over government decision- making in post-communist states. This term is particularly relevant to certain states in the Western Balkan which have become stuck in a hybrid status-quo on their transition to democracy via the EU integration process. State capture in the Western Balkans is unique as it entails externally and internally driven processes involving stakeholders both inside and outside of the region. While the EU integration process for the region necessitates the implementation of a range of reforms, the current situation proves not only that this process has failed to deliver substantive reform, but that it has gradually turned the EU into a stakeholder in the very process of state capture.
The EU facilitated dialogue designed to achieve the ‘normalization of relations’ between Kosovo and Serbia, gradually became in practice a conflict prevention process. The elites in both states employed a range of tactics that compelled the EU to abandon its more transformative goals in favor of a narrow focus on maintaining stability. Thus, political elites in Kosovo and Serbia manufactured a climate of instability and looming disorder which they then claimed to be the only actors capable of
solving; as the EU acceded to the elite’s agenda, they strengthened their position. Thus, the manner in which the dialogue has evolved has enabled elites in both Kosovo and Serbia to remain in power with the EU effectively legitimizing their state capture.

Authors: Donika Emini, PhD Candidate, University of Westminster, London and Aidan Hehir, Reader in International Relations, University of Westminster, London


Local Regime Capture in the Western Balkans

Ethnic conflicts in Kosovo, southern Serbia, and Macedonia ended with one side in the conflict, an ethnic minority at the conflict’s end, confined to ethno-territorially distinct enclaves (Petersen, 2011). Recent work on civil conflict and institutional development has found that in cases where combatants control territory they develop parallel institutions or counter-states to maximize efficient control (Kaldor, 2012; Arjona, 2016). Levels of parallel institutionalization within these ethnic territories during conflict affects the willingness of leaders to engage in peaceful post-conflict politics (Ishiyama & Widmeier, 2013) and these structures carry over into the post-conflict phase (Arjona, 2014; Dahlman, 2017). A chief problem in the resolution of ethnic and intra-state conflict then becomes integrating territorially distinct ethnic minorities into sustained governance processes when they already possess formal and informal means of local governance. This paper provides a study of three such cases in the Western Balkans – Kosovo, southern Serbia (Presevo Valley region), and Macedonia, the purpose of which is to identify and test mechanisms that facilitate cooperation in state governance after settlements are reached. Through systematic analysis of these three cases – the settlement, bargaining, and political processes – this study argues that resource capture provides a means of inducing political cooperation of otherwise uncooperative ethnic minorities. Local ethnic leaders who have incentives not to cooperate in peaceful politics can be induced to do so by a combination of transferable resources they can use to strengthen their positions and weak oversight of their distribution. While this does create local-level competition amongst ethnic parties, it is not necessarily violent as Steele and Schubiger (2018) suggest. Rather this mechanism can create a ‘race-to-the-top’ for local leaders to compete to play by the rules of the national regime, and they have incentives not to revert to violence or contentious politics as that is tantamount to forfeiting their access to distributable resources. This is unstable, however, and by nature facilitates illiberal politics at the communal level. Political changes at the state-level can disrupt patronage flows and in seeking to outbid local co-ethnic opponents, local elites coopt criminal actors and institutionalize illiberal practices such as corruption, clientelism, and election-related violence and intimidation.

Author: Christopher Jackson, PhD Candidate, Georgia State University, United States of America

The role of regional political parties and sub-state autonomy in promoting and inhibiting state-capture
State capture is most often conceptualized as a process that occurs at the national level. Country leaders seek control over political and economic resources, distributing them in exchange for support. In countries with institutionalized power-sharing capturing the national level may not be possible or may not give the greatest benefits. In such cases the capture of subnational institutions may yield greater rewards. In multi-ethnic states, it may be the only possibility. This paper will compare instances of authoritarian politics into countries with far-reaching subnational autonomy. It aims to identify actors and factors, such as regional political parties, territorial autonomy, and subnational institutional arrangements, that impact state capture, or the lack thereof. The interplay of institutional capture at the subnational and national levels is of particular importance. From an empirical point of view, the paper will comparatively analyse subnational politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Malaysia. Bosnia and Herzegovina display power-sharing features that both promote and inhibit national level state capture and allow for the agency at the subnational or group level. Malaysia, which gives greater autonomy to its two eastern states, allows them to act as a check on national authoritarian tendencies, but this also promotes institutional capture within Sabah and Sarawak. The contribution of this paper is to go beyond state-centric discourse on state capture and give greater focus to the agency of subnational institutions.

Author: Damir Kapidžić, Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Science, Univesity of Sarajevo