Protection of minorities is an integral part of the EU political criteria for accession, which are considered to be essential for the start of the accession negotiations. In the Western Balkans, which as a region is in the queue for accession, minority protection is an issue of increasing importance, because of the multiethnic character of the region and the legacy of recent inter and intra-state conflicts. Having in mind the multifaceted nature of EU conditionality and its impact on the Western Balkans' political transformation, the question how external pressures have affected domestic institutional and policy changes remains still unanswered. In light of the significance of the EU as an actor in the domestic minority politics in the candidate countries, this paper aims to examine how EU conditionality has affected domestic minority policies in the case of Macedonia. This paper will utilize qualitative methods, i.e. document analysis and open-ended interviews. Document analysis will be conducted of the EU and national strategic documents for European integration. In addition, original data from semi-structured interviews in Brussels and Skopje with EU and national officials, representatives of international organizations as well as civil society organizations will be used. To analyse the impact of EU conditionality, this paper will utilise the policy-tracking approach adopted by Hughes et al, which focuses on how the candidates configured institutional and policy choices in the context of EU requirements. The paper will provide original empirical findings on the impact of the EU in the current candidate countries and will be relevant for the rest of the Western Balkans countries which are currently applying for EU membership.
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