Fostering institutionalisation? The impact of the EU accession process on state–civil society relations in Serbia

  • Adam Fagan
  • Natasha WunschEmail author
Original Article


In the framework of its enlargement policy, the EU has placed considerable emphasis on supporting civil society organisations (CSOs) both as domestic drivers of change and as a means to foster new, more participatory modes of governance. Our research examines the impact of the EU accession process on state–civil society relations in the Western Balkans and assesses the extent to which new forms of interaction are becoming institutionalised. Comparing minority rights and environmental regulation in Serbia, we find that enlargement negotiations lead to increased dialogue and more formalised interactions between government and CSOs. However, the institutionalisation of state–CSO cooperation remains partial and is hampered by a lack of political will. Whereas civil servants are generally open to civil society input, political officials frequently resort to façade cooperation in response to external pressures. We conclude that the emerging governance model is nothing like the ‘double weakness’ or agency capture found in earlier studies, but instead consists of strong hierarchy and a narrow group of highly professional CSOs engaged at the margins.


Civil society organisation Environment Institutionalisation Minority rights Serbia 



The authors would like to thank their interview partners in Belgrade for their time and gratefully acknowledge the constructive feedback from two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen Mary University LondonLondonUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Center for Comparative and International StudiesETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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