Yugoslav successor states Croatia and Serbia have been described as sitting in ‘Europe’s waiting room.’ From Serbia’s political leadership class – a cadre of notoriously ardent nationalists – becoming the lapdogs of Brussels’ Eurocrats, to public support for Croatia’s membership hitting an all-time low precisely at the moment it is set to join, it is no stretch of the imagination to think of the drama of EU enlargement in the Western Balkans as ‘theater of the absurd.’ The question of European integration in the region resembles a landscape of actions and attitudes that conjure images of Beckett’s famous play, as the scene is replete with foolhardy optimism, disenchantment, indifference, and inevitability. This seminar will recount episodes of Croatia and Serbia’s European ‘journey’ and offer comparative remarks regarding the capacity of the EU to act as an external agent of post-conflict reconciliation and democratic institutional reform. Is the wait for European membership endless and in vain? Amidst the backdrop of the simmering Eurozone crisis, the more critical existential question to ask may be: is it the arrival of Europe that offers these states the hope of salvation or is it their arrival to the EU that offers the European project the hope of salvation?
Luke Hartman is PhD candidate in Political Science, Boston University; currently he is Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
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