On the Causes of the Lack of Rule of Law in the Western Balkans

Mahir Muharemović


The Western Balkan region continues to face significant challenges in establishing the rule of law. This paper examines the socio-legal factors contributing to the weakness of the rule of law in the Western Balkans. It identifies three key factors: inefficient and unaccountable state institutions, the rule of informal institutions and corruption networks, and impotent formalistic judiciary. These are traced back to underlying historical, sociological, and legal prerequisites in the region. The analysis finds that state institutions in the Western Balkans are often extractive and controlled by political elites, undermining checks and balances. Additionally, informal institutions like clan networks continue to thrive, promoting corruption and impunity. Finally, the judiciary retains vestiges of socialist legal formalism, hampering impartial adjudication. Recommendations focus on the need for substantive domestic ownership of reforms by local actors. Sustainable rule of law requires capable and accountable state institutions along with strong civic engagement. The EU and international donors must re-examine their technocratic approach and insist on tangible improvements.


rule of law; Western Balkans; institutions; judiciary; corruption; European Union

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.51558/2490-3647.2023.8.3.471


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