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SIGNALING VALUES: Europeanisation and Memory Politics in Croatia and Serbia

In this study I examine the ways in which ‘Europe’ has been built as a mnemonic community based on a shared past. Numerous academics and practitioners have argued for the emergence of a ‘European memory’ – i.e. a shared narrative about the past as an instrument to strengthen a sense of common European identity across populations in Europe. Over the last 30 years EU institutions and political elites have been promoting this approach – i.e. the rebuilding of a divisive and dividing past into a shared memory – so extensively that we might speak of the emergence of an ‘EU politics of memory’. Mainstream explanations on the transnationalisation of memory discourses and practices, however, do not highlight the role of collective memory in the process of Europeanisation (Assman 2014; Banke 2010; Calligaro 2013; de Cesari & Rigney 2014; Gensburger & Lavabre 2012; Pakier & Stråth 2010; Mälksoo 2009; Mink & Neumayer 2013; Neumayer 2018; Sierp 2014).


Europeanisation literature observes countries as being reactive to the rule transfer that in turn will lead toward the internalisation of new norms and development of new identities following interaction with the EU institutions and representatives (Börzel & Risse 2003).  This dissertation, however, proposes an alternative understanding of Europeanisation. This understanding allows to take into account the possibility that countries not only respond to but also manipulate the process of transferring European rules and norms. For their own political gain they align themselves with EU memory politics. Croatia (an EU member state) and Serbia (a candidate member state) with their effectively shared past in post-1945 Yugoslavia and as former warring parties in the 1990s, are selected for in-depth analysis. The key argument is that both countries have exploited the EU’s memory framework, albeit to a different extent, using the same tools and methods to affirm their mutually divergent ethno-national narratives of the past at (trans)national level.


In order to substantiate this argument, the thesis elaborates on historical institutionalism and draws from both rational choice and constructivist scholarship to study the relationship between collective memory and Europeanisation. It argues that constructivist models, which theorise a causal link between identity and Europeanisation, cannot fully explain the complexity of this relationship. This thesis develops an interpretive theoretical framework in which memory politics and Europeanisation are conceptualised as mutually constitutive and need to be studied at the level of mnemonic practices. This approach permits us to understand not only who remembers and how, but importantly what are the purposes assigned to political mobilisation of the past at (trans)national level.


The research conducted through this model highlights the normativity of discourses on European memory and shallowness of political ‘dealing with the past’. It shows that memory politics is malleable as the meanings assigned to memorialisation bend to the purposes and objectives of a wide variety of memory entrepreneurs on both national and transnational level. This is illustrated in the case studies, which focus on official narratives concerning the Second World war, the Yugoslav wars and their legacies. The empirical analysis shows that Croatia and Serbia gradually, yet selectively converged with the imperatives of EU memory politics in the pre-accession period, using salient EU identity and memory markers to reformulate and reframe their domestic narratives of the past in order to support their EU bid. In the post-accession period, countries (Croatia) have been more intensively projecting domestic discourses by employing mnemonic practices and dominant memory canons onto the transnational level in order to pursue symbolic and political gains. Finally, through the comparison of national discourses in the EU discursive arena, the dissertation asserts that European memory, nevertheless, proves to be a highly contested and elusive concept.


Date:10 Sep 2015 →  19 Dec 2019
Keywords:European memory, Europeanization, Enlargement, Balkans, Reconciliation, Dealing with the past
Disciplines:Other economics and business, Citizenship, immigration and political inequality, International and comparative politics, Multilevel governance, National politics, Political behaviour, Political organisations and institutions, Political theory and methodology, Public administration, Other political science
Project type:PhD project