Reviewing the narrative of the double standard Europe concerning collective minority rights

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  • Helga Molbæk-Steensig
The topic for this article is the narrative of discrepancies between the minority rights that the European Union (EU) demands of potential candidate states, itself, and the current member states. Several scholars on the Western Balkans have noted that EU conditionality towards the Balkans; first within the Regional Approach and since the Stability and Association Process (SAP) have demanded the establishment of collective minority rights and active state duty for their protection, while the EUs internal approach to minority rights is based on the principle of non-discrimination. In this article, I will review whether this narrative has root in a real double standard. Second, I will look into why either the narrative or the double standard has been established, and finally whether it is a reasonable policy or narrative to cultivate. The article will start out with an introduction to the differences between individual and collective rights, and positive and negative state duties. Following this, there will be a chapter on the traditional use of collective rights Yugoslavia before the wars. Third will follow an account and analysis of the human rights regimes currently in use within the EU. Fourth will be a section describing the demands concerning minority rights that the EU has for SAP members. Finally, there will be a conclusion comparing the use of individual and collective minority rights historically in Yugoslavia, currently in the EU, and in EU conditionality towards the post-Yugoslavian states.

The reason for asking this question is closely linked with EU soft power. The concept of EU conditionality towards third countries and potential future member states was first applied to the Western Balkans. If we consider the EU a force for peace and prosperity, which the EU certainly does itself and which the award of the Nobel Peace prize also suggests, then the preservation of its soft power is important. In Joseph Nye’s conceptualisation, soft power is getting others to do what you want by making them want what you want. When UK diplomat Robert Cooper analysed EU soft power specifically, he found it to rest on three things, protection, recipe for success, and participation. If a double standard is present between EU domestic policy and conditionality as the authors displayed above suggest, then the EU is not sharing its recipe for success with candidate states, and is undermining the option of participation for SAP states by making it harder to become member states. Such a situation could dent EU soft power and thereby its potential positive influence on human rights development within and outside the union.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalInternational Journal on Rule of Law, Transitional Justice and Human Rights
Pages (from-to)13-24
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
EventInternational Sarajevo Summer School: Transforming legal systems of South-east European countries to respond to human rights challenges - Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Duration: 15 Jul 201525 Jul 2015
Conference number: 2015


ConferenceInternational Sarajevo Summer School
CountryBosnia and Herzegovina

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Law - Human Rights, Collective rights, Minority rights, EU Enlargement

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