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Understanding the European Commission's Social Representation of the Western Balkans

Christos Marazopoulos

My paper approaches the initial construction of the Western Balkans by the European Commission via theutilisation of a constructivist framework of social representations. The paper starts from the assumption thatinternational actors formulate social representations to understand reality. Actors make sense and formulatemeanings of the world by anchoring their own structural features (identity, norms and past experiences) to thepolitical subjects they are interested to develop substantial relations with. Following this, the actors (in this case,the European Commission) attempt to subsequently ‘sell’ their ideas and policies via social mechanisms(legitimation, appropriateness and institutionalisation).Adopting a macro-historical perspective, the investigation will begin from Yugoslavia and its close relation with theEuropean Community which formed the basis to understand the Balkans in the 1990s. The paper identifies arepresentation of Yugoslavia by the European Commission as a sui generis representation closely affiliated withcore European signifiers. This was reified in the transition period of 1989-91, where the Commission largelycontinued to discuss and reflect on Yugoslavia in the same terms despite the radical changes in the Eastern bloc.In the context of the Balkan Wars, the social representation of Yugoslavia rolled over and became attached not toits natural successor (SFRY), but to the other constituent republics, as the actual embodiments of Yugoslavia’s‘European signifiers’. In the aftermath of the Dayton Accords, the emergence of an ‘amorphous regionalrepresentation’ - that of the Western Balkans - was depicted and elaborated on ideas and imagespreviously utilised for Yugoslavia by the Commission.

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