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Ethnic Politics in Europe:
The Power of Norms and Incentives
Judith G. Kelley

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Chapter 1


IN 1991 LATVIA had only recently regained independence from Russia. After years under Soviet rule ethnic Latvians comprised just slightly more than half the population of 2.6 million, while Russian speakers made up more than a million. How should Russian speakers be accommodated? On October 15, 1991, Latvia's supreme council issued a resolution restoring citizenship only to those who had been citizens of Latvia before 1940 and their descendants, leaving about 700,000 inhabitants without citizenship. At the same time, naturalization requirements were extremely strict. Two years later, in October 1993, with a new citizenship law on the table, an opinion poll showed that 39 percent of Latvians favored annual quotas for granting Latvian citizenship such that ethnic Latvian citizens would form 75 percent of the population. Such a plan would effectively mean little to no naturalization for years to come. By early 1994 a proposal by the Latvian National Independence Movement set the main terms of the debate, including a strict key requirement limiting the future rate of naturalization to 1 percent of the total number of citizens, or about 2,000 per year--in effect, barring hundreds of thousands of people from ever receiving Latvian citizenship.

Meanwhile, emphasizing language as a proof of loyalty, in 1994 parliament passed a law that limited the participation of almost half of Latvia's population--noncitizens--from voting or standing in local elections. The law did not legally contradict international norms. Because of Latvia's large noncitizen population, however, vast numbers of people were now without any form of political participation. As a result, several regions with Russian-speaking majorities would be governed exclusively by ethnic Latvians. Even more problematic, the law barred from running for office anyone who was not proficient in the state language at the highest official testing level. This meant that even many ethnic non-Latvians who were citizens could not run for local office.

June 1994 brought much activity on the citizenship issue. On June 9 the parliament approved a law on citizenship in the second of three readings. On June 21, after nationalists scored a victory in local elections, the parliament passed the final version of the law on citizenship with strict quotas. But in a turnaround on June 24 the president sent the law back to parliament. A month later, contrary to prior party preferences, parliament replaced the controversial quotas with a more liberal "window system," allowing different categories of people to nationalize in stages until year 2003, after which all groups would be handled equally.

The spirit of compromise did not transfer to the national election law, however. In the spring of 1995 parliament adopted a national election law similar to the local election law. The law barred Communist Party members and non-Latvian speakers from running for national office, and required candidates who had not completed education in a school with Latvian as the language of instruction to submit a notarized document indicating the highest level of Latvian language skills. Thus, Latvia had curbed ethnic Russian political representation on both the local and the national levels.1

What explains the difference in Latvia's degree of compromise on the citizenship law and the election laws?2 Why in general did governments in eastern Europe sometimes accommodate ethnic minorities while at other times restricting their rights or ignoring them? Even more curiously, why did governments sometimes outright reverse their policies after fighting hard to pass them in the first place, while at other times similar attempts to revoke policies failed?

Scholars of ethnic minority issues have traditionally focused on three factors to explain such puzzles, namely, the roles of the ethnic minority, of the ethnic majority, and of the external homeland (Brubaker 1995). Given that the topic of ethnic minorities is inherently international, dating back at least to secessions from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 and later to the League of Nations (Reitz 1999), ethnic politics in eastern Europe in the 1990s cannot be explained without examining the unique role of international institutions as domestic policy actors. This introduces another round of questions. How do international institutions use traditional tools of states to influence domestic policies? What strategies are most effective? How do domestic factors influence international efforts? With the growing policy scope and increasing membership of international organizations, the influence of such organizations could eventually preclude harsher actions to enforce international will, such as military intervention. To accurately assess whether an international institution actually influenced domestic policy, however, is extremely challenging: some policy change might instead be related to domestic political incentives; in other instances, governments may make hollow promises to the international organizations. Thus, the key challenge is to isolate the effect of the institutions.

To assess when and how the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe (CE), and the European Union (EU) have influenced governments to pass certain legislation on ethnic minorities, I have analyzed ethnic minority policy in Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Romania from 1990 to 1999.3 Although the EU, the OSCE, and the CE made many specific recommendations on ethnic policy during this time, there has been little systematic examination of the policy effects within specific countries.4

Whereas previous studies have focused on one of these institutions and its particular methods and effects, this is the first to examine all three as well as two distinct institutional strategies for influencing behavior: "normative pressure," and conditionality. Briefly, normative pressure occurs when an institution advises a government on the direction a policy should take, offering no reward other than the approbation of the institution. Conditionality, on the other hand, involves explicitly linking the change advocated to an incentive, a particular benefit provided by the institution. I specifically examine the use of institutional membership as an incentive and the benefits that accompany progress toward admission, paying particular attention to the timing and design of conditionality strategies.5

Further, I ask how domestic factors, for instance, opposition in parliament to international policy preferences, shape policy outcomes and the overall effectiveness of international efforts. Some have protested that scholars operate in a shallow political environment when thinking about compliance and have thus failed to consider historic and domestic contexts (Collier 1997, 54; Killick 1998, 156). To avoid this pitfall, I examine how domestic politicians--nationalist politicians and parties, authoritarian leaders, or ethnic minority politicians--influence policy outcomes. (See figure 1.1.)


I argue that European institutions have been significant, active participants in shaping domestic policy on ethnic issues. I make three claims about their effects. First, membership conditionality by the EU and occasionally by the CE motivated most policy decisions, but normative pressure often guided them. That is, case after case illustrates the link between conditionality and decisions to change policies, but they also show how the CE and especially the OSCE often shaped the substance of the solutions. Second, domestic opposition posed greater obstacles to normative pressure than it did to membership conditionality. When European institutions used only normative pressure--which they did quite frequently--governments rarely changed their behavior. Normative pressure alone failed to build a sufficient coalition for policy change when the domestic opposition was strong. Subsequently, in the few cases in which normative pressure influenced ethnic policy without the added use of conditionality, the domestic opposition was usually low and the effect was only moderate. Third, as domestic opposition to concessions on ethnic policy grew, membership conditionality was not only increasingly necessary to change behavior, but it was also surprisingly effective. Membership conditionality enticed policymakers to compromise, whether they agreed in principle or not. Willingness to compromise, however, depended less on the initial position of policy makers than on how much they wanted the reward. Thus, given the countries' high desire to join the CE and EU, these institutions were well positioned to exercise political conditionality and were able to overcome surprising levels of opposition to their proposed policy changes. This was especially true on ethnic minority issues, which presented credible concerns about regional ethnic stability, and thus appeared as highly credible requirements. In addition, membership conditionality was particularly effective, because the prolonged multiple-step process of joining the EU provided multiple levers of influence over time and diverse ways of building confidence within the applicant states through gradual rewards for partial accomplishments.


There are several reasons to focus on ethnic issues in Europe. First, ethnic issues facilitate a good research design for understanding the role of international actors on the domestic scene. Ethnic issues subject institutions to a stringent test, because ethnic reforms are generally more difficult for international actors to influence than technical or economic reforms; while technical or economic issues may face powerful domestic lobbies and the like, they do not address core identity the way ethnicity does (Hardin 1995). Further, ethnic issues lend themselves to analysis because good variation marks the independent variable: involvement by international institutions. Although ethnic issues have tended not to hit the international radar screen until tensions turned violent, European institutions have been involved in many of these issues at preconflict stages, in large part because of concerns raised by the war in former Yugoslavia, coupled with the process of how such issues could affect institutional enlargement and integration in Europe--if cooperation between postcommunist and western Europe were to increase, western Europe wanted to minimize potential instability. International institutions, however, could not and did not get involved in every ethnic issue, nor did they have the political will to engage equally in all countries. Furthermore, each institution had unique resources and strategies for engagement. Such variety in the methods and degrees of institutional involvement thus provides excellent material for studying the role of international institutions as domestic policy actors and for examining the compelling questions surrounding early intervention in ethnic issues.

Second, ethnic issues hold high priority on the international agenda. At the 1919 Peace Conference, President Wilson said, "Nothing . . . is more likely to disturb the peace of the world than the treatment which might in certain circumstances be meted out to minorities" (quoted in Macartney 1934, 297). Indeed, the roots of ethnic politics can be traced to religious minorities as far back as the thirteenth century and more recently to the Berlin Congress in 1878. With the establishment of League of Nations, the issue of minority protection reached a new level (Rosting 1923; Claude 1955). The peace settlements that followed World War I firmly linked territorial transfers to obligations for international protection of ethnic minorities.6 After World War II, however, the emphasis shifted from minority protection to the promotion of individual human rights. Human rights standards have unfortunately proven insufficient to address ethnic minority problems. Today, laws on citizenship and national minorities continue to be matters of public debate in Europe, as in the rest of the world. What are the membership principles of citizenship? What rights do immigrants have? Are they aliens or citizens-in-waiting? How should states treat national minorities? Do states assimilate or recognize difference and encourage separateness?7

In Europe, such issues became hot policy topics after the fall of Communism and after the war in the former Yugoslavia. The shifting occupations and geopolitical influences of twentieth-century Europe left large ethnic minority groups outside their national homelands; indeed, in central and eastern Europe, about one in four persons lived as minorities (Weidenfeld 2000). In Slovakia Hungarians comprised nearly 10 percent of the population of five million, and in Romania they comprised 7 to 8 percent of the population of twenty-two million. Both countries also had considerable numbers of Roma or gypsies and other minority groups. Several Russian-speaking peoples from the former Soviet Union constituted almost a third of Estonia's population and half of Latvia's population. Thus, in the 1990s, such "host" countries--especially Baltic and central European states--struggled to address ethnic minority issues including residency rights, citizenship, language and education rights, and so forth, with significant variation in solutions and results. Furthermore, the timing for the resolution of issues varied among countries, just as degrees of accommodation varied among issues. Thus, the ethnic conflicts of the last decades demonstrate that the relationship between a state and its ethnic minorities is of pressing practical relevance to issues such as democracy and conflict (Dixon 1993).

Finally, how the international community can calm ethnic issues is a growing field of interest to regional organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and others. Although ethnic issues in Europe illuminate the role of international actors in domestic politics, however, research on the role of such institutions in shaping domestic politics on ethnic issues is scarce and tends to focus on a single institution (Michalchuk 1999; Kemp 2001; Ratner 1999).8 While journalists and observers in general have tended to credit, for example, EU enlargement with policy reforms in the candidate states, little theorizing and systematic inquiry has explored the specific effects on ethnic minority policies or on how different institutional efforts have contributed to outcomes. Studying several mechanisms of influence side by side thus delivers both practical and theoretically valuable insights.


The literature offers several alternative explanations for a state's choice of ethnic minority policies. To understand domestic policymaking, political scientists examine domestic factors and how domestic redistribution of power among social groups and political actors leads to certain outcomes. Thus, scholars of ethnic issues emphasize the role of a nation's demographics, political system of representation, and the relationship among the ethnic groups within a country.9 While such factors naturally represent an important part of the puzzle of explaining ethnic policy, outcomes were nevertheless more compatible with international norms than with the preferences of the dominant domestic actors, even when domestic opposition was quite strong. Gaining a more detailed understanding of how the domestic politics interacts with other factors is therefore important.

Another set of influences on a state's ethnic minority policies comes from homelands such as Russia or Hungary, which may use economic or military leverage to influence states to moderate their treatment of ethnic minorities (Brubaker 1995; Brubaker 1996; Van Heuten 1998). I explore such homeland pressures but find that they do not account fully for the pattern of legislative changes that occurred. While Russia in particular had a complex and influential relationship with the Baltic States, little evidence supports that Russia motivated legislation to accommodate ethnic minorities. Indeed, in several instances Russia's efforts created more resentment than cooperation. Russia and Hungary, however, did play an indirect role by using international institutions to call attention to ethnic issues. This may at times explain why institutions became involved but does not explain the outcomes.

Finally, ethnic policies may simply improve over time, perhaps because general democratic improvements within the state lead to policy improvements, perhaps because the type of institutional involvement matters less than the duration of involvement. Since institutions tend to use normative pressure as a first resort and add incentives only later, the analysis could thus erroneously credit incentives when the real cause of change may be persistence. This explanation, however, is also unsatisfactory; several cases contradict such a time-based pattern, as evidenced both by aggregate data analysis and in the policy issues I carefully trace in chapters 4 through 7. (I return to these alternative explanations in chapter 8.)

Thus, prior explanations for compliance in the area of ethnic minority policies are insufficient. Indeed, after discussing Brubaker's classic triangular nexus of minority, majority, and homeland, van Houten acknowledges that "extending the theory by incorporating the role of other states and international organizations (including the interaction between [homeland] state and these external actors) is a promising direction for further research" (1998, 140).

The Role of International Institutions

International relations theory offers several mechanisms through which international institutions may influence state behavior. This study focuses on two specific mechanisms, which are defined according to whether or not they rely on membership incentives. First is straight membership conditionality, whereby institutions link admission directly to behavior; this is akin to the conventional use of conditionality and incentives. With this mechanism, states respond to incentives and sanctions imposed by international actors, thereby maximizing a (mostly) constant set of preferences or interests. Such theory corresponds with a rationalist set of assumptions that defines actors as cost-benefit-calculating, utility-maximizing creatures. A comment by Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov in April 2000 fits well with this theory: "The West does not really interest me . . . So, with all my respect for the West, I am watching there only the opinion of the structures, which finance Bulgaria. All the others, whatever they say, are of no importance."10

The second mechanism, normative pressure, groups a broader set of socialization processes that may include social influence or persuasion efforts. The defining feature of this mechanism is that external actors do not link any concrete incentives to behavior but rely solely on the use of norms to persuade, shame, or praise actors into changing their policies. Several causal mechanisms can thus be at play.11 Along the line of more constructivist explanations, normative pressure may operate by changing actors' beliefs and ultimately their behavior ( Johnston 2001, 488). Normative pressure, however, also describes other forms of socialization such as social influence that can lead actors to display pro-norm behavior in the absence of exogenous material incentives (ibid., 495). Actors may, for example, rely on a more calculating use of norms as a way to solicit behavior change through a state's concern for its reputation (Schimmelfennig 2001). While reputational concerns are essentially focused on benefits of future exchange (Kreps 1992), social influence is still a much softer method than outright conditionality. As I discuss in chapter 2, this study does not evaluate which of these causal pathways is at work but instead uses this theory to derive hypotheses about when normative pressure is likely to result in behavior change.

Conditionality and normative pressure are thus similar to enforcement and managerial explanations of compliance. As Kal Raustiala and Anne-Marie Slaughter (2002) note, tying aid or other concrete benefits to a discursive process corresponds with managerial theory, while linking compliance and payoff corresponds with enforcement theory. In reality, however, the two mechanisms are by no means mutually exclusive, as actors presumably base their actions on a combination of normative and rationalist considerations. This, indeed, is what makes studying both under the same framework so compelling.12

Doing so, however, requires a strategy for sorting out the effects of norms and incentives. This is tricky because rational choice scholars who study incentives tend to focus on behavior change, while constructivists who study norms tend to study belief change. With the proper caution, though, it is possible as well as productive to study both mechanisms in terms of their policy effects. Therefore, I treat the theories and relevant variables side-by-side, develop testable hypotheses about the policy effects of both mechanisms, and subject them both to extensive empirical analysis in the context of domestic politics.

This study builds on mutual theoretical concessions that constructivists and rationalists have recently hinted at but have not fully developed (Fearon and Wendt 2002). While the economic models of compliance traditionally assume that inducing compliance "is a matter of getting the incentives right" (Checkel 2000a, 4), some rational choice scholars suggest that norms influence how actors maximize their interests. Thus, Judith Goldstein and Robert Keohane (1993) argue that under conditions of uncertainty or incomplete information, instrumentally rational actors can use ideas as road maps or signposts indicating how they could best realize their interests under given circumstances. At the same time, several constructivist scholars emphasize that instrumental and normative actions work in tandem or that instrumental action may dominate the early stages of socialization or even trigger the effects of socialization (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 909; Ikenberry and Kupchan 1990, 284). Thus, this study feeds into the debate about the respective role of norms and incentives, and advances beyond the either/or debate between rationalists and constructivists.

Policy Tools: Achieving Compliance

Many scholars and practitioners question the effectiveness of non-incentive-based methods that rely on persuasion or social pressure. Talk is cheap, but do results follow (Shannon 2000)? Organizations such as the OSCE and the CE have been praised for easing ethnic tensions, but few comparative studies systemically evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts toward persuasion in terms of achieving policy goals. The level of detailed case studies required often leads to one- or two-country case studies, which makes it harder to extrapolate general implications from the findings. And because these studies tend to have belief change, not policy change, as the dependent variable, applying the findings to policy is harder. This study, on the other hand, examines cases of non-incentive-based methods in the light of their policy results. By so doing, this study is less able to speak to the causal mechanisms of norm-based methods but is better equipped to inform policy choices about when to use such methods.

The policy effects of different kinds of conditionality are also ambiguous. Research on aid conditionality identifies several weaknesses of the approach, such as recidivism (Bird 2001a; Bird 2001b; Vermeersch 2002), moral hazard, lack of ownership, and pure ineffectiveness (Martinez-Vasquez et al. 2001; Bird 2001a; Bird 2001b; Baehr 1997; Collier et al. 1997; Killick 1996). Similarly, some scholars of sanctions find them blunt and slow (Drezner 2000), while others conclude that sanctions can be effective (Hufbauer, Scott, and Elliot 1990).

Although aid conditionality and sanctions differ from membership conditionality, membership conditionality may very well suffer from similar weaknesses. Most relevant to the goals of this book, EU scholars have specifically criticized EU conditionality (Grabbe 2001). Some point out that EU conditionality is too externally imposed and thus causes anger within applicant states (Fierke and Wiener 1999), or that western Europe's "missionary" attitude endangers the social and political progress of eastern Europe.13 Others point out that the EU preaccession strategy is too broad and difficult to measure in practice among different applicants (Grabbe and Hughes 1998, 41 ff). Most often, however, critics argue that EU advice has sometimes been internally inconsistent, either because different institutional actors have contradicted one another or because individual member states have instituted policies that violated EU-espoused norms (Amato and Batt 1998; Grabbe 2001; De Witte 2000).

To understand the practical domestic implications of conditionality in general and political membership conditionality in particular, more research is necessary.14 Empirical analysis of the effectiveness of positive incentives in various fields such as development, international trade, environmental policy, and arms control has emerged only in the last decade (Oye 1992; Keohane and Levy 1996; Bernauer and Ruloff 1999). Davis notes, "Positive incentives, defined here as transfers of positively valued resources from one actor to another with the aim of influencing the recipient's behavior, are among the most understudied if frequently employed tools of international statecraft" (2000, 312). Bernauer similarly notes, "Theorizing about the conditions under which positive incentives are used and are effective or efficient lags far behind developments in the 'real world' " (1999, 157). For example, can institutions apply conditionality to require "peace reforms" that will decrease conflict (Boyce and Pastor 1998; Reinicke 1996; World Bank 1997; Boyce 1996)?

Furthermore, the potential benefits of positive incentives warrant continued study. While a promise can be turned into a threat and vice versa, as argued by Shelling (1960, n. 24), positive and negative incentives cannot always be reduced to two sides of the same coin. The key difference is in actors' baseline expectation and whether others' actions represent a gain or a loss relative to that baseline (Baldwin 1971, 24-27). The distinction is important because positive incentives have different behavioral implications than do negative incentives. Because they create less resentment in the recipient, positive incentives are more likely to facilitate constructive dialogue and greater interaction and understanding (Cortright 1997, 11; Long 1996). Indeed, Baldwin notes, "B's immediate reaction to sticks usually differs from his immediate reaction to carrots. Whereas fear, anxiety, and resistanceare typical responses to threats, the typical responses to promises are hope, reassurance, and attraction" (1971, 32).15 Whereas sanctions and negative incentives are usually applied as a punishment in response to an action, positive incentives have the advantage that they can be employed preemptively (Hurlburt 1997, 226), which makes them better suited to a range of issues where avoidance of conflict is a high priority.

Finally, existing organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and others have opportunities to put knowledge about membership incentives to use. New organizations also emerge at a considerable rate and can design admission policies to optimize leverage (Shanks et al. 1996). In addition, this study may also have implications for general membership organizations. Ongoing approval by an institution may also be a useful incentive, as became evident when the EU in 2000 condemned the Austrian government, which included the nationalist Freedom Party; although furious, the Austrian government took EU concerns seriously and made efforts to commit itself to a course of action compatible with EU wishes to maintain normal relations with the institution.16 Thus, in a world of growing interdependence, the ability to include and exclude remains a potent tool.


Because this study seeks to understand the role of international institutions as domestic policy actors, it assesses most rigorously and productively the effectiveness of international institutions by examining policy as a dependent variable (Ruggie 1998, 880-84). Chapter 2 discusses this decision in much greater depth, including the ramifications for theoretical and practical inferences as well as the relationship between compliance and implementation. I evaluate policy in terms of compatibility of legislation with international recommendations and international standards in general.17 Compatibility or compliance indicates when state policy accords with the recommendations that international institutions express (Simmons 2000, 1). Measurement of compatibility rests on a thorough examination of the legislative outcome and implementation, not of the attitudes of actors or their willingness to comply.

Country Selection

Because domestic factors are an essential part of understanding policy outcomes, appropriate case selection is crucial; herein are case studies from Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Romania from 1990 to 1999. These four countries provide a good analytical set; Latvia and Estonia share several historical, cultural, and economic traits, as do Slovakia and Romania, although to a lesser extent. Also, the main ethnic minority group in both Latvia and Estonia is the Russian-speaking population, while the largest ethnic group in both Romania and Slovakia is the Hungarian population. Thus, good grounds for comparison exist. At the same time, when one examines the individual policy of each government, the variation in how European institutions treated each country becomes evident. For example, the institutions tended to use conditionality more frequently in Slovakia than in the Baltic States. Sometimes institutions pursued one strategy in one of the four countries, while pursuing a different strategy in another. Sometimes an institution pursued similar strategies in different countries simultaneously but achieved either different results or differently timed results. And several cases did not involve institutions at all. Naturally, too, domestic factors varied over time and between issues. In particular, Slovakia and Romania had periods of authoritarian leadership, while Latvia and Estonia did not. On the other hand, while Latvia and Estonia had larger proportions of ethnic minorities, only Slovakia and Romania had actual minority representation in government.

These four countries represent a balanced empirical sampling and thus afford analysis with good variation in both dependent and independent variables. The data also allow the hypothesis about normative persuasion and conditionality to be rejected, because about half the cases included herein are not cases of successful policy adaptation. At the same time, I have included an approximately equal number of cases that completely lack institutional involvement (as a control group) and those that involve the two institutional mechanisms under consideration.

Domestic Contexts

Latvia and Estonia both enjoyed independence in the interwar period. In June 1940, however, the Soviet Union annexed both countries, followed a year later by German invasion and at the end of World War II by Soviet reoccupation. After World War II Moscow encouraged large-scale immigration to Estonia and Latvia from other parts of the USSR, and in 1949-1950 deported many Estonians and Latvians to Siberia. Russians immigrants arrived either as workers or as part of the Soviet military. Since Moscow did not encourage Russian immigrants to integrate, few learned to speak Estonian or Latvian, and two separate ethnic communities emerged in each country. By 1989 the Latvian share of Latvia's population had declined from 82 percent in 1943 to 52 percent, and the Estonian share of Estonia's population had declined from 98 percent in 1945 to 62 percent.18

When Latvia and Estonia regained independence, they faced the challenges of dealing with large non-Latvian and non-Estonian populations, including questions of citizenship, residency, education, elections, and language.19 Ethnic tensions naturally emerged. Decades of Soviet occupation left many Latvians and Estonians with ethnic nationalist preferences, and few of the proposed solutions favored the Russian-speaking ethnic minorities. For example, Latvia's initial resolution and law on citizenship prevented a third of the country's population from acquiring citizenship. These so-called noncitizens not only lacked citizenship in Latvia or Estonia, but most were essentially stateless because the collapse of the Soviet Union.20 They faced critical restrictions on their rights, including limits on travel, the inability to pursue certain professions (e.g., as firefighters or airline pilots), and the denial of certain state benefits. Many noncitizens had voted for independence and felt cheated when they were denied citizenship and voting rights in the newly independent countries. Latvians and Estonians, on the other hand, were weary of fifty years of "occupation," as they called the period of Soviet rule, and felt a need to assert their cultural and linguistic identity.

Although the situation was generally similar in Latvia and Estonia, the influence of nationalists varied.21 Latvian politicians wanted to reestablish and protect the Latvian state. While this was on its face a positive agenda, many party programs included specific policies that were less benign. Many politicians, for instance, supported limiting naturalization so that "Latvians" constituted about 75 percent of the population. Thus, parties such as Fatherland and Freedom (FF) and the Latvian National Independence Movement (LNIM) opposed the Russian population.22 Initially, even the leading Latvia's Way party, which was not perceived as nationalist, strongly opposed citizenship rights for the Russian population.

Although Estonia's share of nonnationals was less than Latvia's, ethnic relations were acute throughout the transitional period. Only a third of the Russian-speaking population favored independence, while another third categorically opposed it. After decades of repression of national identity, Estonian politicians urged caution about language and other rights for noncitizens and ethnic non-Estonians. The Estonian National Independence Party (ENIP) and the Fatherland coalition, which came out of the independence movement, were representative of the nationalist trend in Estonia. Although their programs were less extreme than the nationalist parties in Latvia, and although Estonia adopted a technically more liberal citizenship law than Latvia, Estonian reluctance to accommodate noncitizens was pervasive. Nationalism did not simply wane over time.23 Comparison of Latvia and Estonia is particularly fruitful because the governments' degree of opposition to accommodating ethnic minorities varied, as did the timing of policy issues and the actions of the European institutions.

Slovakia and Romania share the key feature of having about a 7 to 10 percent Hungarian minority, many of whom live concentrated in regions or in border areas with Hungary. Before the 1990s both countries were strongly Communist, downplaying ethnic identity in favor of party identity, and both countries had long-term relationships with Hungary. In Romania, the key region for ethnic Hungarians is Transylvania. During the Communist period Romania denied ethnic Hungarians minority privileges and bulldozed many Hungarian villages in the name of land reform. By the mid-1980s not a single Hungarian secondary school remained open and bilingual signs had all but disappeared. Ironically, it was ethnic minorities who initiated the overthrow of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ç eausescu. The revolutionary move toward democratization fueled--not decreased--ethnic tension (Verdery 1993; Stan 1997). When tensions flared in Transylvania, they led to a deadly encounter in March 1990.24 This was the first serious interethnic flare-up in eastern Europe following the collapse of communism. "Once again Transylvania seemed to be the paradigm example of an ethnically-based territorial dispute in Eastern Europe," as Tom Gallagher wrote (quoted in Stan 1997, 29). Anti-Hungarian sentiment continued throughout the 1990s, accompanied by controversies about language rights and education, and continued even after election losses in 1996 (Gross and Tismaneanu 1997, 30).25 Indeed, although Ion Iliescu won the 2000 presidential election with 67 percent of the vote, even more telling was extremist Corneliu Vadim Tudor's capture of 33 percent of the vote.

Slovakia has shared some traits with Romania, although historical, economic, and cultural differences abound. After World War II Czechoslovakia turned Communist and, in accordance with urban integration policy, built houses only in so-called central settlements, not in smaller villages, resulting in school mergers and closure of countryside schools that had benefited ethnic minorities. Thus, the number of students in schools with Hungarian-language teaching almost halved between 1970 and 1989. When Soviet influence collapsed in 1989, problems emerged in ethnically mixed regions. In the 1992 elections, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (PSDR) secured overwhelming support and quickly created a coalition government with the nationalist and xenophobic Slovak National Party (SNS). In July 1992 the new Slovak National Parliament proclaimed Slovakia's sovereignty--in contrast to Romania, where borders did not change. With the January 1993 dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Hungarians became a much more visible minority group, their proportion rising from 3 percent in Czechoslovakia to about 9 percent in the new Slovakia. With only a brief interlude, Vladimir Meciar's nationalist government ruled until the 1998 elections. Romania and Slovakia thus provide good cases for comparison because the ethnic population has similar proportions as well as some shared cultural and historical traits.

The foursome of countries also offers some opportunities for larger scale comparison and contrast. Unlike Latvia and Estonia, for instance, both Slovakia and Romania have had periods of authoritarian leadership in the 1990s. In Romania during Iliescu's reign the postcommunist secret service directly influenced political personalities, publication of secret service files, and surveillance of journalists and other critics of the government (Tismaneanu 1996). Iliescu depended on nationalist parties and his own renowned use of nationalist rhetoric to gain popularity. As one analyst noted in 1996, "The country has been governed primarily by decrees. Pressures on local officials to toe the government line intensified after 1993 . . . [T]he real center of power is thus located in the presidential palace, rather than in the government or in the two parliamentary chambers" (ibid., 8, 10).

Meciar ran Slovakia in a manner similar to Iliescu--only worse. He too depended on nationalists and nationalism to keep power. In the early-to-mid-1990s, he became a political outcast from the West, his authoritarian arrogance stemming in part from his belief that Slovakia was too important for the West to shun; he repeatedly reassured the citizenry that the West "has no other option than to embrace Slovakia" ("Constitution Watch" 1997). Also like Iliescu, Meciar was reluctant to join the EU. As a Slovak policy expert put it, "There was no compatibility between the national government under Meciar and the declared foreign policy goals."26 Meciar was more comfortable with his relations with Russia.27 He despised EU meddling in his governing style and feared, correctly, that following EU standards of democracy would undermine his hold on power.28

The cases studied herein further detail the influence of domestic opposition in the four countries. Table 1.1 summarizes the changes of governments and the varying influence of more nationalist-leaning politicians in domestic politics. While table 1.1 makes an overall evaluation of domestic opposition to minority rights during each government period, the larger study allows for greater consideration of the details. Furthermore, table 1.1 evaluates the influence of nationalist-leaning parties in parliament, not the level of racism in the country, which may be very different. For this period, Slovakia has demonstrated a strong nationalist influence for the greatest percentage time, followed closely by Romania. For most of the time, Latvia has experienced a strong or moderately strong influence by politicians and parties opposed to extended minority rights, with Estonia having the mildest overall influence of nationalist-leaning parties.


The study design herein relies on understanding the variation of institutional engagement in the four countries. The EU, OSCE, and CE were the most engaged in ethnic issues, and they operated with different resources and strategies. Sometimes the institutions engaged heavily, while at other times ethnic issues went seemingly unnoticed. Sometimes institutions made clear links between behavior and institutional membership, while at other times they relied primarily on persuasion of policy actors. The real independent variable was not the institutions themselves, however, but their mechanism of influence. Institutions and mechanisms are not congruent but can work with both normative pressure and membership incentives, except in the case of the OSCE. Thus, the variable is not only the identity or function of the institution, but what it does.

The OSCE admitted most new states quickly, and thus never directly used membership conditionality as a mechanism for influence.29 Rather, it used normative pressure in the form of persuasion and social influence as its primary method. The OSCE has several lengthy texts that specify educational and language rights for ethnic minorities. Since these are not legally binding and since the OSCE was quite liberal in granting admission in the late 1980s and early 1990s, countries initially paid little attention to the OSCE's comments. Nevertheless, the OSCE has gradually gained stature from the EU's reliance on the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities as an expert on minority rights. Finally, the OSCE has had the highest degree of "on the ground" involvement and thus perhaps the highest level of in-country expertise and political dialogue; it has also made the greatest effort to normatively persuade policymakers to change their behavior.

The OSCE has three primary instruments for addressing minority rights issues. Fact-finding and rapporteur missions are short-term visits by experts and personalities from OSCE-participating states to ascertain how well recently admitted states are progressing with OSCE commitments.30 Missions, or field offices, are the OSCE's principal instrument for long-term conflict prevention, crisis management, conflict resolution, and post-conflict rehabilitation in its sphere of influence. The purposes of the missions usually are to facilitate the political processes that are intended to prevent or settle conflicts, and to inform the OSCE. The OSCE has not deployed missions in Romania or Slovakia, but it did open missions in Latvia and Estonia in 1993.

Most relevant to this study, however, was the OSCE's creation in 1992 of the position of High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) as "an instrument of conflict prevention at the earliest possible stage."31 Netherlands Minister of State Max van der Stoel was appointed as the first high commissioner in December 1992, and throughout the 1990s he worked with all four countries examined in this study. He visited them frequently--often two or three times a year, sometimes twice in a month--and wrote several letters with specific comments on legislation. He operated primarily within the framework of normative pressure, using persuasion and social influence.

The CE admitted Estonia, Romania, and Slovakia in 1993, and Latvia in 1995. Although the CE did at times pursue the strategy of using admission to solicit changes in the behavior of states, as in the case of Latvia, this was not its primary approach. Instead, the CE obtained "commitments" from states to take certain actions by specific dates with regard to human rights and the treatment of noncitizens.32 The council chose this strategy in the belief that it could most effectively influence states that were inside rather than outside the council. Thus, the CE's approach has mostly been one of persuasion and social influence rather than use of incentives.

As an institution with an extensive human-rights mission, the CE has generated specific documents related to the protection of minorities. The first and most controversial document on minority issues is Recommendation 1201. Drafted in 1993, it refers to the rights of ethnic minorities in CE member states.33 Since 1993 it has been included as a "commitment" in the assembly's officially issued "opinions" on the admission of new member states to the CE.34

In addition, the CE has two treaties related specifically to minorities. The first is the 1992 European Charter on the Protection of Minority Languages.35 CE member states, however, protective of their own legislation, have been slow to ratify the charter.36 Neither Slovakia, Romania, Latvia, nor Estonia has signed this treaty, and all the signatories have attached reservations to their ratification of the treaty.37 The second is the 1993 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.38 The committee of ministers is called on to "monitor" the implementation of the convention, with the assistance of a committee of experts.39 A delegation of the official advisory committee, created to oversee the convention, can visit the countries, but only after the contracting state provides a required initial report.40

In addition, the CE has several practical tools for interacting with states on minority issues. The CE sends fact-finding missions and monitors (or rapporteurs, in CE terms) to the target countries. A series of visits occurs before admission, followed by another series of monitoring mechanisms after admission that trace how states work to fulfill the promises they made on joining the CE. Monitoring mechanisms can be closed and then reopened when there are causes for concern. Visits normally result in a written report stating causes for concern and stressing the changes needed to address deficiencies. Another, more distinct CE function is to send teams of legislative experts to aid in the drafting of legislation. The CE also offers a special guest status to engage nonmembers in institutional activities.

The EU differs most starkly from the OSCE and the CE in that its substantive background in ethnic issues is quite thin. Until the 1990s EU references to human rights and democracy were not explicit and did not emphasize minority rights.41 In 1993, however the Copenhagen European Council laid down more specific political criteria for the associated countries of central and eastern Europe that wished to accede. The war in the former Yugoslavia contributed to the redefinition, particularly in western Europe, of the nature and importance of minority issues; it also lent credibility to addressing these issues as more than rhetoric. Among the binding political criteria was the ensurance of respect for human rights as well as respect for and the protection of minorities.42 Thus, more than any other institution in Europe, the EU has practiced political membership conditionality.

The EU's explicit linkage of political criteria, including minority rights, to admission was credible because it made sense from a security perspective. Candidate states knew that current member states had to address very real concerns stemming from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The emphasis on democracy, human rights, and minority rights was also increasingly obvious to candidate states as the EU developed enlargement processes and mechanisms, such as annual reports and official "accession partnerships," by which the EU could publicly review the issues. Nevertheless, at least until the mid-1990s, how the EU would weigh such political issues in comparison to other EU concerns such as agriculture and economic reforms remained unclear.

The commission opinions--the EU Commission's official evaluation of countries preparedness to join the EU, released in July 1997--clearly emphasized political criteria. The commission systematically considered whether candidate countries had adhered to the European Convention on Human Rights and to the primary UN instruments related to human rights and ethnic minority rights, among other conventions. The commission opinions furthermore took a broad conception of what constituted a minority, including in its definition that part of the permanent population that does not hold citizenship in its given country. The opinions made it clear that political criteria, including human rights and minority rights, would be considered in the admission process. The principal legal advisor to the EU Commission said, "I was surprised in [the] 1997 [opinions] that the commissioners allowed as much of the human rights material to remain in the final reports produced as they did."43

The seriousness of these political criteria gained credibility when, based on the July 2000 commission opinion, the EU chose not to open negotiations with the politically offensive Slovakia. The December 1997 summit had already confirmed the importance of the Copenhagen criteria for opening accession negotiations, and the official accession partnerships that had been forged in the spring of 1998 included further conditionality clauses to be applied if an applicant country breached the initial criteria.44 The accession partnerships also set out practical short- and long-term political goals for candidate states.

The EU's primary tools for addressing minority concerns have been annual reports and various official declarations, such as presidency declarations, demarches, and EU parliamentary resolutions.45 Dialogue has remained open through local missions, visits by EU presidents and commissioners, the commission country-desk personnel in Brussels, and interaction in joint-committee meetings at various levels in EU candidate countries. The EU has also used key events, such as the issuance of reports or the holding of European Council meetings, to prompt and accelerate policy change. In sum, the EU has clearly practiced concrete conditionality but has lacked the depth of political dialogue characteristic of the CE and OSCE.

While these European institutions have different strategies, resources, and levels of engagement, their activities can nonetheless be divided into two fundamental mechanisms: normative pressure and membership conditionality. While the OSCE used only the first, and the EU mastered the latter, the CE straddled the divide by using both methods at various times. Further, the institutions often joined forces to apply both persuasion and conditionality. Table 1.2 outlines the practical tools associated with the two mechanisms.

The Membership Incentive: What's the Attraction?

The argument of this book is based on the assertion that membership in European institutions alters the payoff calculations of domestic policy actors, that is, that such membership is a valuable and unique asset. "Membership has its privileges," as the saying goes. But what exactly are they?

In the early 1990s membership was a positive incentive for postcommunist states, which were just then forming expectations and hopes about joining the "West" (Checkel 2000a; Schimmelfennig 2000). With the exception of some more extremist nationalist groups, for most policymakers membership served as proof of being modern or liberal and as a sign of their states' return to Europe as a democratizing, lawful country.46 In James Baldwin's terms, membership was a positive incentive because it represented a gain from the baseline condition of having been outside the institutions for so long. Membership clearly had utilitarian benefits as well; emaciated by communism, states wanted to gain not only recognition and security but also prosperity by joining the "club" of institutions (Chayes and Chayes 1996, 118-127).

Most policymakers value EU membership in large part because of its economic advantages, but membership in the CE--and less so in the OSCE--also has concrete benefits, given the signals it sends to investors about political stability. Because information on government performance is costly, private agents may find it preferable to free ride on the decisions of international institutions and donors who are known to have invested considerable resources in monitoring performance (Collier 1997). Thus, joining the OSCE and the CE sends a signal of political stability, which is beneficial for investments, economic growth, and eligibility for international assistance. Catherine Lalumiere, who became the secretary-general of the CE in May 1989, stated that membership in the CE provides a "seal of respectability," offers proof that the member state is a pluralist parliamentary democracy and therefore eligible for Western support and benefits.47

Illustrating the benefits of membership, the president of the CE parliamentary assembly, Miguel Angel Martinez, assured Latvian parliamentarians that Latvia would receive extensive support from international organizations following its acceptance to the CE.48 The CE secretary-general also discussed economic reform issues extensively on a visit to Romania.49 Indeed, in June 1993 Slovakia was simultaneously negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about funding and with the CE about membership. Prime Minister Meciar said that during his talks with the IMF in Switzerland, the issue of CE membership arose. He emphasized the significance of CE membership, saying

Our admission to the Council of Europe does not just have the symbolic importance of a membership ticket As in the case of the IMF, which provides creditworthiness with banks, such an acknowledgement by the Council of Europe is a sign of confidence in the political system existing within the state. This is why we have been struggling to be accepted as a member of the Council of Europe. We see in it a logical continuation of our endeavors to join the structures of more advanced states, more advanced political and economic systems. (emphasis added)50

Thus, in 1994 the head of the Latvian delegation to the CE, Andrei Panteleev, stressed that CE membership was of great importance to Latvia in securing already-promised investments from European institutions and as a first step toward joining the EU and NATO.51 In sum, the majority of policymakers in aspiring member states clearly saw admission to the CE not only as an end in itself but as a means to other ends.

In the 1990s, however, OSCE and CE membership was primarily beneficial as a gateway to EU membership, good standing with the CE and the OSCE being an acknowledged requirement for admission to the EU.52 As early as 1993, heads of state stressed that CE membership was a prerequisite for EU membership.53 Thus, many eastern European countries applied for admission to get the CE stamp of legitimacy as a step toward integration with Europe (Manas 1996). Given the size of the candidate pool and the logistical restrictions on EU enlargement, candidates raced against one another to move forward. This competitive environment encouraged candidate states to meet compliancerequirements to preserve their place in the accession queue (Grabbe 2001).54 Thus, in several ways membership offered states improvements.


This study uses both quantitative and qualitative tools. To increase the number of observations beyond four large national cases and to enable a quasi-experimental design, I divide the country studies into sixty-four subcases, using different issues and governments over time to define cases (King, Keohane, and Verba 1994, 34).55 Indeed, treating each country as one case would make it impossible to code, as there are multiple issues and types of intervention and outcomes within one country. Thus, how a specific government in power addresses education, for example, is a separate issue from how it addresses election laws; how a different government addresses these two issues again represents two different cases. Such division utilizes the variation within the four countries to make the analysis more efficient and systematic.

To examine how effective normative pressure and conditionality are at achieving compliance, I compare twenty-five cases in which normative pressure was used alone with nineteen cases in which institutions combined it with conditionality, and then again with twenty cases in which institutions were not involved at all. Statistical analysis makes it possible to isolate the independent effect of normative pressure and the combined effect of normative pressure and conditionality, and to control for other factors. Since conditionality is always used as an extension of normative pressure, however, evaluating the effectiveness of conditionality alone is more difficult. Thus, when drawing conclusions about conditionality, one should be cautious about how much the effectiveness is the result of normative pressure and how much is the result of conditionality itself (Checkel 2000a, 9). While I can infer the effectiveness of combining efforts, it may be that conditionality is completely responsible for achieving the outcome. On the other hand, even if I show normative pressure to be ineffective when used alone, I cannot conclude that, when combined with conditionality, it is not contributing to the outcome. In other words, statistically I can test if normative pressure is sufficient, but I cannot test if it is necessary. Conversely, I can test if conditionality is necessary, but I cannot test if it is sufficient. Finally, I can test if the combined use of conditionality and normative pressure is sufficient, but I cannot test if it is necessary. Table 1.3 shows the comparison of cases and the conclusions it facilitates.

Fortunately, the power of inference increases with the additional use of detailed case studies, which provide insights into the effects of each institution's individual actions. Here, it becomes somewhat possible to distinguish between responses to normative pressure and responses to conditionality by, for example, examining timing.

Thus, in detailed case studies, I rely on process tracing that may reveal the timing of events and action, the motives and attitudes of actors, and the substantive overlap between advice and policy outcomes. This helps me overcome Checkel's criticism that standard rationalist assumptions "lead many scholars to portray the roles of language and communication in purely strategic/informational terms and to erect a 'black box' around the interaction context from which decisions to comply emerge" (2001, 556). Furthermore, case studies help overcome the design issues discussed above in that, although I am still not able to separate the use of conditionality from the use of normative pressure, the examination of individual legislative cases through process tracing helps distinguish between different temporal phases in the influence process, phases characterized by no intervention, normative pressure only, and normative pressure plus conditionality. If behavioral change occurs only when conditionality comes into play, and if policy actors stress the need to adapt to meet the membership criteria, this strengthens claims that conditionality really was the efficient cause. In addition, in the conclusion I also employ counterfactual analysis to disentangle the effects. I discuss the variables and measurements more in chapter 3.

Data and Caveats

This study relies on careful analysis of all the legislative issues related to ethnic minorities from 1990 to 1999 in Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Romania. I followed each issue over time and observed how international institutions were or were not involved in the issue, how the legislature addressed the issue, and how the issue in general fit into larger events such as parliamentary changes, elections, institutional developments, and the like. I examined all formal communication from each institution to the governments, including press releases, letters from officials or offices, fact-finding reports and regular opinions, special resolutions or declarations by institutional bodies, and statements by officials to the media. When possible I also considered informal or confidential communication, although I am not able to refer directly to it. To evaluate the players' preferences I used party platforms and other party documents; the rhetoric displayed in public and published in the media, including during political campaigns; texts of relevant parliamentary discussions; records of prior legislative proposals by parities; and numerous interviews with party officials and other domestic elites as well as with representatives of the international organizations.

While all theorizing is a dynamic process between deduction and induction, some cases were still developing as the study was ending, thus presenting clear opportunities to test new data rather than to rationalize from existing cases. The subhypotheses, however, are mostly later developments prompted by initial examination of the data.

Data are rarely perfect and are even less so in studies such as this. First, there are data limitations regarding sources and selection biases. Chapter 3 discusses how these affect the analysis. Since this study does not examine cases in which institutions used incentives without normative pressure, it can at best identify the combined effect of using normative pressure and conditionality. Separating these effects is difficult. Furthermore, the way that quantitative data are created prompts some caution to take findings as suggestive rather than conclusive, which is why qualitative analysis is a crucial component of this study. This is particularly true when it comes to testing interactive effects, as chapter 3 also discusses further.


The book proceeds as follows. Chapter 2 discusses the theoretical framework more in-depth. I analyze the decision to examine behavior as the dependent variable and discuss the implications and inherent limitations of such a focus. Furthermore, I situate the mechanisms clearly in the context of previous scholarship by outlining how they connect to other concepts in the field. I pay particular attention to a discussion of normative pressure, since this term covers a range of traditional socialization mechanisms. Although the study does not aim to test the causal pathway of the different mechanisms, chapter 2 does debate the theoretical underpinning of each to derive a set of consistent theoretically rooted hypotheses.

Chapter 3 accomplishes two tasks. First, it discusses the data and clarifies how I transformed the qualitative case studies for the quantitative data. It also reveals the data sources and discusses the inherent limitations of the analysis. It includes an extensive examination of selection bias as well as a discussion about testing interactive relationship. The quantitative analysis then proceeds first by providing simple tabular overviews of the relationships between variables and then, when possible, by applying ordered logit analysis. The chapter's conclusion summarizes the quantitative findings in a discussion of predicted probabilities and discusses the relationships suggested by the data.

Chapters 4 through 7 present the bulk of the case-study evidence, the goal being to examine the findings suggested by the qualitative analysis. Each of these chapters begins with a brief introduction to the country under discussion, as well as an overview of domestic politics in each of the four countries during the 1990s. The chapters then discuss the inclusion of particular cases and what they illustrate analytically. Each case study, as well as each chapter, concludes with a brief summary.

Chapter 8 discusses alternative hypotheses. In line with more realist arguments, I examine the role of the homelands, such as Russia or Hungary, in using economic or military influence to direct policies. I also examine the hypothesis that, regardless of international efforts, the policies can be explained by the fact that the countries simply improved over time as ethnic tensions decreased and as democracy in the countries was consolidated. I address, too, the hypothesis that the type of involvement is less significant than its duration in explaining outcomes.

Chapter 9 concludes the book, discussing the findings more in depth and uses counterfactual analysis to sort out the effects of normative pressure and conditionality. It then extends the analysis to the existing relevant theory, draws some policy lessons, and discusses several questions raised by the findings. Thus, I examine issues such as durability of compliance, the sui generis question, as well as the relationship between compliance and implementation. I conclude by suggesting further research.

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File created: 8/7/2007

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