Challenging path dependence? Ideational mapping of nationalism and the EU’s transformative power: The case of infrastructural politics in SEE
The research employs historical institutionalism, amplified by ideas to explain path dependent political behaviour. The theoretical framework is applied to explain political behaviour in the Balkans, where Greece and Bulgaria, despite many similarities have developed highly antagonistic path-dependent policies of obstruction towards each other that remained remarkably persistent, regardless of changing external factors during most of the XX c. The main hypothesis is that such behaviour could be properly understood neither by leverage of Great Powers, nor by ancient hatreds, but by exploring the crucial role, played by path dependent institutionalized ideas (programmatic beliefs) in shaping policy outcomes. Only when ideas change- policy change does happen. The main task of this research is to outline historical ideational impediments to Balkan regional cooperation and explore if regional cooperation is attainable. The second hypothesis argues that after the 1990s EU was such a powerful idea, that for the first time since the Independence revolutions, started to successfully challenge old institutional settings in the region, that have persisted for decades, even centuries. Political elites in the region encountered a new complicated situation, having to balance between the traditional nationalist ideational contexts and the `integration and cooperation´ ideational impetus, coming from outside. The implications of this tension between continuity and change are explored in the case studies on cooperation over common infrastructure projects between Bulgaria and Greece in the period 1990-2010. So, we are considering the long-term historical force of path dependence and the possibility it can be rooted out, or at least significantly modified. The research is not only an endeavour to study the EU´s role in the Balkans, but to contribute to the growing debate in the field about the role of ideas in political life and to use such theoretical discussions, and the comparative method, to enhance our understanding of the evolution of modern EU states.
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