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EU Conflict Resolution in Kosovo: Lack of Legitimacy, Lack of Authority?

Bilge Yabanci

The paper examines the long-standing legitimacy problematique of EU foreign policy within the framework of conflict resolution. It aims to bring an alternative perspective through placing 'the actual policy recipients' at the centre of analysis. First, the paper suggests that self-declared loyalty for multilateralism, support for universal values and civilian instruments for conflict resolution are depicted as right and effective way to transform the behaviour of conflict parties within the EU academic and policy circles. These normative judgements also (implicitly or explicitly) embrace a claim to 'legitimate (i.e. just and accepted) foreign policy'. The paper argues that such an inward-looking legitimation is no longer sustainable, if the EU wants to establish a solid international identity and an effective role through foreign policy (Laidi, 2008). The second part of the paper recapitulates on the argument that the EU has to avoid legitimacy claims as a mere by-product of self-declared normative telos through addressing the potential asymmetries between the EU justifications of policy and actual recipients' reactions. The non-EU publics can create 'another Europe' and tell a different story of a Eurocentric and neo-liberal EU compared to normative and model EU. The paper states that once legitimacy is understood in intersubjective terms (between the Union and their multifarious non-EU local addressees) local actors would bring essential input in legitimating EU conflict resolution policies. The third part of the paper focuses on the specific case of Kosovo. It assesses various legitimacy-related frames of reference present in public sphere and elite discourses regarding EU policies as embedded in local media, civil society publications and formal policy documents. The paper argues that self knowledge and self justification of the EU meets variegated responses from different segments of Kosovo public and legitimacy becomes a functioning form of social communication (Barker 2001) between different EU bodies on the ground and local actors. The Kosovo case suggests that oscillation between reinstatement of the importance of multilateral solution to the conflict and further Europeanisation/integration of 'independent Kosovo' into the EU sends mixed signals to Kosovar elites and public and creates a desultory record of legitimation in the eyes of local publics.

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