First of all, the EU has aimed to bring a ‘trickle-down effect’ regarding civil society promotion in CEE mainly related top down approaches to bolster civil society. After the Dayton Agreement in 1995, the democracy promotion goals of the EU have gained more prominence. Since state building requires the involvement of various actors, in this sense the EU has had a leading role. By improving transnational actions of the EU, it was supposed to be successful in facilitating a democratic system. However, it has brought about the undermining of local context and bottom up approaches.
Secondly, the EU mainly focuses on an NGO-led approach that is expected to improve civil society engagement to attain ideal democracy. However, there are deficiencies in these initiatives as well. Since political communist regimes collapsed in BiH, NGOs are considered as the only international agencies which could channel the all aid to the region and have been subsequently burdened with much of the responsibility.
1. Increase in Political Dependency
It is very likely that the democratization process of BiH could be at risk of a highly fragmented structure created by the interference of international actors, especially the EU, which favour clientelistic relations and a patronage system. In my opinion, this might bring about an increase in political dependency. Although BiH and many other countries are already under great influence from the EU regarding political issues, this rising influence causing higher dependency could hamper civil society and the democratization process. Another detrimental impact of the EU democracy promotion programmes stems from the bureaucratic characteristics of NGO-led approach which are encouraged by the EU. The administrative requirements of NGOs are highly dependent on the bureaucracy and local political structures which are not always accessible. Otherwise, only if they favour the local bureaucracy will their influence spread. The involvement of NGOs in policy making procedures bolsters the elitist approaches of local actors.
Thus, I believe that these complex tasks and initiatives of the EU have brought about more deadlocks within the political context of Bosnia in terms of policy making or citizen participation.
2. Increase in Financial Dependency
The other point is related to increasing financial dependency of BiH on EU funding in order to promote the involvement of civil society. It is related to the decrease in self-sufficiency which could be a catalyst for democratic transition in BiH. After the 1990s, the EU emerged as a single major donor which promoted funding for the reconstruction of BiH. The EU’s major financial assistance program in CEE is based on Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Europenisation (CARDS) (EUROPA, 2007). BiH was the country which received the largest funding from CARDS within the Balkan region. The funding was around 295 million euros i.e. 24% of funding for promotion of civil society. This was replaced by Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). From 2007 onwards, funding for civil society development has been challenged by IPA in terms of increasing financial dependency of BiH. Contrary to expectations, external funding will make BiH more dependent on the EU agenda and its granting of funds for civil society. One of the major objectives should be to foster self-reliance in BiH, which could be considered as a crucial part of an ideal democracy. Otherwise, the level of financial dependency of BiH to the EU will continue to sharply increase in the following years.
*The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not represent those of The Political Analysis.