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Abstract: Now that EU accession conditionality has lost its weight as an external anchor for reforms in the Western Balkans, what are the prospects for democratization in the region? This is the central question of this regional paper authored by Agon Maliqi with the support of a team of experts from the region. Democratic backsliding is not the main story at the regional level. Positive or negative trends in particular countries aside, none have been or seem close to becoming the kind of liberal democracies in which independent institutions, civil rights and the rule of law are able to constrain arbitrary power. The region faces structural impediments which make the current situation more of an "illiberal equilibrium". The paper starts with a big picture regional overview of how external authoritarian actors, the political economy, the media environment and developments in civic space are helping to sustain the context conducive to illiberal rule. The paper builds an anatomy of the “illiberal equilibrium” with root causes feeding into three key dynamics. It ends by looking at what can be done to break the “illiberal equilibrium” and free up democratic space. In a context where the transatlantic community of democracies seems set to adopt a fresh and joint approach to the region centered around democracy support, we hope that the analysis and ideas set out in the paper can help inform policies and instruments.
Author: Agon Maliqi
Contributors: Ana Marjanović-Rudan, Borjan Gjuzelov, Dr. Damir Kapidžić, Donika Emini, Dr. Flutura Kusari, Dr. Florian Qehaja, Gentiola Madhi, Igor Novaković, Dr. Jovana Marović, Dr. Tena Prelec
Peer review: Dr. Dimitar Bechev
Illustrations: Driton Selmani
Supported by: National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF). The views and analysis here do not reflect the opinions of the donors.