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The EU's Democracy Promotion Meets Informal Politics: The Case of Leaders' Meetings in the Republic of Macedonia.

Previous studies of the effects of EU political conditionality on democratic consolidation in the candidate countries have been predominantly centered on the formal aspects of institutional compliance. But what happens when EU demands are met by EU brokered decisions in an informal, extra institutional setting? International actors, predominantly the USA and the EU, have played an essential political role in the democratization of the Republic of Macedonia ever since its independence. In times of political crises, the role of the international actors is further accentuated by the inability of domestic political parties to find a solution to specific political dead ends that seem to occur regularly in Macedonian politics. The paper analyzes the effects of EU engagement in stimulating, instigating, and managing extra-institutional political formats of decision making on democratization and institutionalization in Macedonia. The analysis focuses on the leadership meetings during political crises that have resulted in such package deals as the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the Law on Territorial Organization, and the May Agreement, with a predominant accent on the 2014 political crisis in Macedonia and its ongoing resolution. The paper argues that while such informal practices of conflict resolution might be effective in the short run, they could negatively impact the long-term prospects of institutionalization.

This article is based on research carried out in the project "Inform: Closing the Gap between Formal and Informal Institutions in the Balkans." This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 693537. Qualitative data has also been obtained through grants from the Faculty of Law, SS. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, and the SDC Regional Research Promotion Programme. The authors would like to express their gratitude to Ilina Mangova for her engagement in the interview process as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and suggestions.


Political conditionality has been the most successful democracy promotion strategy of the European Union (EU). The establishment of specific political criteria in 1993, (1) at the very beginning of the enlargement process with the former communist states from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), has framed the democratization of those societies in a course of institutional transformation and legal adaptation with Western standards and liberal values. Ever since, institutional change and the empowerment of formal democratic institutions in transition societies has been at the heart of the EU's democracy promotion in Eastern Europe. Consequently, previous studies of the effects of EU political conditionality on democratic consolidation in the CEE candidate countries have been predominantly centered on the formal aspects of institutional compliance.

On the other hand, the accession process of the Western Balkan countries has taken a more divergent route. Weak democratic outputs, low governance capacities, challenged statehood, ethnic divisions, differing cultural traits, and the legacies of civil war have become major impediments to an already contested process marred by a much lower credibility of membership perspectives. Thus, the EU's approach to fostering democratization has had to adapt by accompanying the formal aspects of conditionality with securitization agendas and conflict resolution strategies. Such constellations provide fertile grounds for the emergence of top-down informal institutions of decision making as agents that provide efficient dispute settlements which, however, are not always sufficiently aligned with Western democratic standards. So, what happens when EU demands are met by EU-brokered decisions in an informal, extra-institutional setting? The dynamics of resolution of political conflicts in Macedonia in the past two decades present a fruitful ground for such inquiries.

International actors, predominantly the EU and the USA, have played an essential political role in the democratization of the Republic of Macedonia ever since its independence. In times of political crises the role of international actors becomes even more accentuated due to the inability of domestic political parties to find a solution for the specific political dead ends that seem to occur regularly in Macedonian politics. The Ohrid Framework Agreement of 2001, the Law on Territorial Organization of 2004, and the May Agreement of 2007 are just some of the examples where external actors had much more than a mediatory role in reaching political solutions. The latest political crisis in Macedonia, which began in 2014 and resulted in the so-called Przino Agreement in 2015, seems to confirm the decisive role of international actors, the EU especially, when it comes to initiating political negotiations in a climate that is burdened by institutional distrust and inefficiency. This is the exact reason why most of EU-brokered political agreements do not, in fact, occur within the institutional framework but rather in the realm of extra-institutional politics, or in a format commonly known as "leaders' meetings." Although European Commission reports constantly criticize the lack of good governance and circumventing of the institutional design to solve political problems, in reality EU actors seem not just to accept but often to instigate extra-institutional solutions, as an effective way of reaching political decisions in a deeply divided society.

This article analyzes the effects of EU engagement of stimulating, instigating, and managing extra-institutional political formats of decision making on democratization and institutionalization in Macedonia. The analysis focuses on the history of the leadership meetings during political crises whose EU brokered settlement has resulted in several package deals that have had ambivalent effects on Macedonian democratization. The paper argues that while such informal practices of conflict resolution might be effective in the short run, they establish two negative patterns: weakening of formal institutional designs and empowerment of personalized networks of political elites.

Our examination of the impact of leadership meetings as informal institutional frameworks is inductive, i.e., centered on two case studies, on the basis of which we try to come to a common conclusion. The cases include the May agreement negotiations in 2007 and the Przino Agreement negotiations in 2015. The first case is indicative of a shift in the facilitation of the leaders' meetings as the EU has taken the lead in mediating the negotiations and played the role of a power broker based on its increased conditionality leverage. The second case follows the most complicated political crisis to date, whose resolution has been dependent on a robust application of leaders' meetings and a full array of diplomatic activities in order to solve a deep political crisis that displayed the complete dysfunctionality of the domestic political setup, which only reaffirmed the role of the leadership meetings as a necessity. Our analysis is based on a qualitative methodological approach (2) that predominantly relies on process tracing. Having in mind the specific nature of our dependent variable, the major source of primary data have been semistructured interviews conducted with party and EU officials directly involved in the leaders' meetings.

EU Democracy Promotion and Informality

Ever since the collapse of the Communist bloc towards the end of the 20th century, the European Union has established itself as probably the most successful democracy promoter ever, based on its track record in Eastern and Central Europe. (3) The success of the Big Bang enlargement of 2004 and, to an extent, the enlargement of 2007 and their transformative effects on the societal, economic, and political dimensions of democratic consolidation in the newly established member states has propelled EU enlargement as the most effective EU foreign policy in terms of its contribution to better performance in a number of democratic principles such as respect for human rights, minority protection, conflict resolution, and stability in Eastern Europe. (4) The effects of the EU's democracy promotion strategies on democratization in Eastern Europe have inspired a number of studies that have analyzed the mechanisms and factors that have been able to provoke institutional alignments of the postcommunist political systems and economies with those of Western Europe. (5)

In their study on EU democracy promotion, Lavanex and Schimmelfennig define democracy promotion as a process that "comprises all direct, non-violent activities by a state or international organization that are intended to bring about, strengthen, and support democracy in a third country." (6) Their model encompasses three different strategies of EU external democracy promotion. The first strategy is "linkage," which is manifested through activities of providing support to the democratic opposition and other civil society actors in the target states or through intensified transnational exchanges with democratic states. The second strategy is "leverage," which introduces democratic reforms in the target states through political conditionality as a top-down approach towards formal democratic change of state institutions and their behavior, induced by the bargaining power of the EU based on the promise of membership. The third strategy is the "governance model" of promotion of democratic principles through policy-specific, functional cooperation between the EU and third countries.

Similar assumptions, albeit in a broader context, are drawn by Levitsky and Way's study on the effectiveness of international influence on regime change and democratization. (7) They link cross-country variation in compliance with international pressure for democratization with the interplay of levels of intensity of two factors of democratization: leverage, defined as " the degree to which governments are vulnerable to external democratizing pressure," and linkage to the West, or "the density of ties (economic, political, diplomatic, social, and organizational) and cross-border flows (of trade and investment, people, and communication) between particular countries and the United States, the European Union (EU), and western-led multilateral institutions." The role of linkage is emphasized, as in the most successful cases such as Central and Eastern Europe, the effectiveness of international conditionality has been connected to the presence of high levels of both leverage and linkage. However, while in some cases, high linkage can override the absence of leverage, low linkage has been found to impose serious limitations on the effectiveness of international pressure for democratic reform.

There is an all-encompassing consensus in the literature on the role of political conditionality as the most effective strategy of EU democracy promotion. (8) In a literature that is dominated by rationalist explications, the effectiveness of accession conditionality is claimed to be primarily dependent on the credibility of external membership incentives, the clarity of EU demands and favorable domestic political constellations that consequently significantly increase the EU's leverage in triggering institutional and legal reforms. (9) While the role of domestic factors is fundamental for successful transition towards liberal democracy, the external push factors stemming from an array of international organizations and political actors have been playing a key complementary function. Due to its attraction of membership and its wide policy scope, the EU has been the most influential actor, (10) especially in relation to postcommunist institution building as an opportunity to fill the institutional void created by the collapse of communist ideology and the corresponding undermining of its beliefs and norms. (11)

In this sense, the democratic transformation of formal institutional designs in the candidate countries has been at the very core of political conditionality. The key political Copenhagen criterion explicitly refers to the attainment of "stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities" (12) as a necessary condition for any advancement in the accession process. Furthermore, institutional checks and balances in decision making and institutional accountability are the most important benchmarks that have been continuously emphasized by the European Commission progress reports and other EU documents in each country-specific accession process. However, the ambivalent nature of political conditionality has been a source of many inconsistencies that constrain the formal aspects of EU-induced institutionalization. The determinacy of the EU conditions has been pinpointed as an important factor in compliance. (13) The varied clarity and precision of EU demands across policies has had a differential effect on compliance outputs in the candidate countries. Authors have criticized the imprecise nature of the EU's political criteria as a source of numerous inconsistencies ranging from vague conditions that are not based on EU-wide standards to contradictory application and assessment of political conditionality across issues and candidate countries. (14) Even more, it has been argued that conditionality in some instances has had adverse effects on the democratization of the candidate countries. The elitist and technical nature of the EU integration process coupled with demands for accelerated adoption of EU rules are seen as sources of an "executive bias" (15) and asymmetrical strengthening of the power of the executive over the legislative branch of government. (16) According to Raik, it is precisely the dominating principles of enlargement, such as efficiency and expertise, that have imposed significant constraints on democratic politics in the candidate countries by narrowing down the playing field of the accession process in Central and Eastern Europe to a small sphere of elites. (17)

The ambiguity of political conditionality has been more prevalent in the enlargement process in the case of the Western Balkans. The lack of a strong normative justification for the EU's enlargement policy in the Western Balkans has had a negative effect on compliance in sovereignty and statehood-related issues. (18) The problem of limited statehood in the Western Balkan candidates has been seen as a major obstacle to the processes of Europeanization. (19) At the same time, the institution building strategies already employed in political conditionality in the Eastern enlargement had to be extended with state building strategies which have had limited success. (20) Furthermore, the EU's leverage in democracy promotion has been challenged by country-specific political conditions that touch upon sensitive issues of national identity that have polarizing effects on society and have increased domestic adoption costs. (21) In this sense, the susceptibility of the region to ethnic conflict and the structural deficiencies in its policies of reconciliation have forced the EU to complement its democracy promotion strategies with security strategies. Richter has argued that this conjunction of approaches in the Western Balkans has created a conflict of objectives whereby the prioritization of security and its immediate success has had counterproductive long-term effects on democratization, with Macedonia's postconflict democratization being an exemplary culprit of this collision of objectives. (22)

Especially in the Macedonian case, the EU's democracy promotion through political conditionality had to be expanded with additional instruments of external pressure related to peace-building, crisis management, and conflict prevention. (23) Having in mind the destabilizing effects of Macedonia's ethnic and political cleavages, the EU has been favoring solutions focused on power-sharing forms of democracy, support of elite-controlled processes, and an uneasy coupling of the processes of liberalization with policies that favor mediation and the roles of individual leaders. (24) While in such a constellation, the EU's influence still relies on leverage, the formal aspects of its political conditionality are often limited and dictated by domestic political determinants. (25) The case of leadership meetings in Macedonia certainly fits this mode of reasoning. While on the one hand, the EU's leverage and mediation strategies have been successful in relation to two key dimensions of mediator effectiveness, goal attainment and conflict settlement, (26) on the other hand the outcomes of such exercises impose significant constraints on formal institutionalization and leave room for the development of durable macrolevel informal practices. In this sense, the case of leadership meetings is quite peculiar as it represents a rare example of a top-down approach of informal institutionalization of decision making that often produces rules that circumvent the formal legal and constitutional boundaries. Similar practices of leadership meetings, frequently occurring in times of political crises, can be found throughout the region of Southeast Europe, especially in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania. The most recent examples in these countries include the judiciary reform in Albania in 2016, the adoption of the EU Coordination Mechanism in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015 and 2016, as well as the political deadlock concerning the formation of the Government of Kosovo after the parliamentary elections in 2014. From a theoretical standpoint, this constellation invokes a discussion on the role of informal institutions.

Externally influenced efforts at modernization in the Balkans have in many cases been met with processes of "simulated change," where powerful informal orders and practices have been able to overcome the institutional demands of Europeanization processes. (27) Differentiated paths of modernization and varied cultural legacies have forged two distinctive views on institutional evolution: one of a formalized, predictive decision making in Western Europe and one of a postcommunist transition hampered by personalized informal institutions and networks undermining the democratization process. (28)

These dynamics between formal and informal institutions have captured the interest of a growing number of scholarly outputs. The starting point is North's classic definition of institutions as "rules of the game in a society" and "humanly-devised constraints that shape human interaction." (29) Institutions can be manifested in two operational patterns: formal and informal. Formal institutions have legal legitimacy, they attribute written and intentional constraints (30) that define a society's political, economic, and protection systems. (31) They are "rules encapsulated in formal structures such as constitutions, political institutions, formal, legal and property rights systems" which are enforced by official entities. (32) In contrast, informal institutions are based on unwritten rules and procedures that evolve over time, (33) are usually self-imposed and maintain their existence outside normative frameworks. In contrast to the rational-legal legitimacy of formal institutions, informal institutions base their existence on charismatic and/or traditional rule (34) and local cultural traits.

Consequently, as our study analyzes the informal aspects of decision making in Macedonia, we follow Helmke and Levitsky's outline of "political" informal institutions. We employ their definition of informal institutions as "socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated, and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels." (35) While the rationale behind their formation can be associated with intentions to reduce transaction costs and improve the inefficiency of formal decision making, their interaction with formal institutions is crucial, as it can take varied forms, from complementarity, substitution to conflict. (36) Helmke and Levitsky (37) further expand this typology by distinguishing between four types of interaction between formal and informal institutions: complementary, accommodating, competing, and substitutive. In the first case, the informal institutions complement the formal institutions by filling gaps that are not considered by formal rules and thus increase efficiency. In the second case, the accommodating role is played by informal institutions that pursue outcomes that are diverse to the goals of the formal institutions but do not directly violate them in the sense that they "contradict the spirit, but not the letter, of the formal rules." In the case of competing informal institutions, the outcome of their actions is violation of the formal rules as the goals these institutions pursue are incompatible with formal rules. Finally, informal institutions can substitute for formal institutions when the latter have failed in their enforcement of formal rules.

Leaders' Meetings: A History of an Informal Institution

Ever since the Republic of Macedonia's independence in 1991, its political process has clearly displayed great potential for generating crises. The character of the crises has evolved over time from interethnic to intraethnic, and the conflictual potential of different political predicaments has varied historically. The variation included everything from violent political conflict, as in the conflict of 2001, to political negotiations on reforms, the judicial system, and legislation, as in the case of the Przino Agreement in 2015. However, regardless of the conflict potential or the actors in specific political crises, the resolution of all political gridlocks has bred a pattern that continuously repeats, indicating that the involvement of the international community is the ultimate solution of all political dead ends in Macedonian politics.

The involvement of the international community in resolving political crises began when the country gained its independence in 1991. However, the specific format of leaders' meetings was not popular until the negotiations on the occasion of the Ohrid Framework Agreement in 2001, a crisis spurred by a serious interethnic conflict between the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia and ethnic Albanian rebels. After the crisis developed into a full fledged armed conflict sparked by previous disagreements regarding ethnic rights and the position of the Albanian ethnic group in Macedonia, the international community, represented by NATO, the EU, and the USA, got involved diplomatically in the resolution of the crisis. As the special envoy of the USA, James W. Pardew, remembers, "[I]in June 2001, a decision was made in Washington, Brussels and Skopje to appoint a team of negotiators to work full-time on the ground to help arrange a negotiated solution to the conflict." (38) He was paired with a skilled French diplomat, Francois Leotard, as an EU special envoy; the two were tasked with making all sides come to an agreement. Apart from hostility cessation talks in the field with Albanian rebels conducted by the NATO diplomat Pieter Feith, (39) the political part of the negotiations took place in Ohrid, in the format of leaders' meeting of the four largest Macedonian political parties: Vnatresno makedonska revolucionerna organizacija-Demokratska partija za makedonsko nacionalno edinstvo (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity--VMRO-DPMNE, Socijal demokratski sojuz na Makedonija (Social Democratic Union of Macedonia--SDSM), Partija za demokratski prosperitet (Party for Democratic Prosperity--PDP), and Demokratska partija na Albancite (DPA--Democratic Party of Albanians). After long negotiations the four leaders of the parties, supported by Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski and the facilitators Pardew and Leotard, signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA), (40) a peace agreement that in addition to cessation of hostilities included basic principles of reform and political action intended to guarantee an improvement in the position of Macedonia's Albanian ethnic group (non-majorization, local self-governance, use of minority language, etc.).

The EU and the USA had different roles during the OFA negotiation process, with the USA playing the dominant role. The strategy of both partners was to use "carrot and stick" politics; (41) the USA applied direct political pressure and the EU offered financial incentives for the postconflict period in order to stimulate all sides to reach an agreement. (42) This strategy proved to be successful since the OFA, with all its flaws, was signed on 13 August 2001. The "partitocratic" and elitistic manner in which the Ohrid Framework Agreement was negotiated, i.e., the combination of leaders' meetings and international "guarantees," is in fact one of its most commonly criticized points. (43)

After the success of the Ohrid process, the format of leaders' meetings has been utilized in all following political negotiations on various occasions. A historical overview of political crises in Macedonia and the modalities used to overcome them (44) indicates that leaders' meetings were also used during the crisis spurred by the 2004 Law on Territorial Organization, the May Agreement in 2007, and the parliamentary crisis in 2012 as well as the latest crisis (2016-17) and the Przino process. What all the processes have in common is the involvement of the EU and USA. Another commonality is the highly informal format of leaders' meeting used in all cases. What has varied is mainly the roles of the EU and the USA, and the shifting balance between these two actors over time. The change in balance also spurred a change in the tactics of the international actors in this informal setup. This is visible when comparing the leaders' meetings on the occasion of the May Agreement in 2007 and the Przino process in 2015.

The May Agreement of 2007

The imperfections of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, especially on account of government formation in the Republic of Macedonia, led to yet another intervention by the international community, represented by the USA and the EU, on the occasion of the 2007 political crisis. Namely, Article 90 of the Macedonian constitution provides for the formation of the government, (45) but representation of ethnic minorities is not regulated in any respect. The issue was again ignored in the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement, i.e., the constitutional amendments stemming from it. Thus, by established practice governments would by default be formed by the winning political parties of the two biggest ethnic blocks (ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians). This rule was violated, however, in the parliamentary elections of 2006, when the winning ethnic Macedonian party, VMRO-DPMNE, formed a government with the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), which had fewer votes and mandates than the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the winning ethnic Albanian party. Additionally, after the government was formed, legislation requiring the so-called "Badenter's majority" (46) was adopted by bypassing the DUI, i.e., with the votes of the DPA and other minority member MPs from other parties. This led to a revolt by the DUI, which claimed that the majority will of ethnic Albanians was being manipulated, and ultimately ended in the DUI's boycott of the Macedonian parliament in January 2007. This provoked a profound interethnic and parliamentary crisis, with protests on the streets organized by the DUI. Such an escalation required a new interethnic agreement that would secure the winning ethnic Albanian party's participation in the government by means of an additional package of ethnic requirements set forth by the DUI.

In regard to the crisis, the EU, through its EC progress report on Macedonia for 2007, briefly stated that "the normal functioning of the parliament was disrupted by a dispute between the government and the main ethnic Albanian opposition party (Democratic Union for Integration) over the application of the double majority mechanism and the proper functioning of the committee on relations among communities," being that "the double majority mechanism is a constitutional principle and a key guarantee for the non-majority communities." (47) Based on these findings, the EU invested its political efforts in overcoming this crisis, imposing itself as an important political actor.

The tackling of the 2007 political crisis in Macedonia shed a completely new light on the EU as a power player on the domestic political scene. Namely, the May Agreement was the first occasion where the EU, through its representatives, shifted from a supporting political role to that of a major player equal in influence to the USA, with a visibly increased political leverage compared to 2001. Firstly, the increased leverage came from the fact that in 2005 Macedonia gained the status of a candidate country for EU accession, which boosted the importance and influence of the EU as a political actor in the country. Candidate status also enabled solution of the crisis to be elevated to the level of a political requirement for further progress in the EU accession process. Secondly, according to actors involved in the political processes at the time, the USA chose the occasion of the negotiation of the May Agreement to "push forward" the EU as a political actor, i.e., to intentionally withdraw its influence in order to create maneuvering space for the EU to handle problems in its own neighborhood. (48) With the conclusion of the May Agreement, the EU's role was for the first time shown to be indisputably on a par with that of the USA:
   The EU and the US played a key role as facilitators in the
   management of relations between the political parties. This is a
   slightly different role for the EU from previous engagement of
   brokering peace, pushing for implementation of the OFA, guiding the
   reform process and to some extent the EU integration process.
   However it does have the mitigation between political
   representatives of different ethnic communities in its core. The EU
   has now become a power broker, accompanied with the US, on disputes
   between the political parties in Macedonia. (49)

Faced with heavy resistance by the political actors involved in the negotiations, especially VMRO-DPMNE, which was unwilling to accept the DUI's demands and constantly refusing to "fulfill the demands of the Albanian ethnic community," (50) the USA and the EU had to find adequate pressure points in order to facilitate a viable political solution. In the case of the USA, in the tradition of its diplomatic approach in 2001 in Macedonia, direct political pressure was applied to domestic political actors, thus creating a "dominant influence over political processes in the country," (51) while the EU chose a strategy similar to the one applied in 2001, albeit with a visibly increased political influence and involvement. If the USA once again applied "stick politics," the EU mitigated the political cessation of the crisis through financial stimuli for the country that would enable "the implementation of political principles that the country should rely on by guaranteeing its European future and perspective." (52) After obtaining candidate status in 2005, this political floscule proved to have much more political weight than previously, with the European perspective of the country now being improved. The EU had an "enhanced role at the time in order to facilitate the conclusion of an agreement that would stabilize the political situation." (53) Along these lines the EU was perceived as:
   the side that prescribes and insists on implementation of standards
   as a very important factor in the stabilizing and the development
   of every consensual democratic society. This contributes to
   increasing of the trust among political elites and the general
   public. The concrete projects of the EU for supporting specific
   projects in the state compensate for the lack of financial assets
   and know-how in order to achieve the goals of these projects. (54)

During negotiations on the May Agreement, the EU increased the modalities through which it had operated in 2001, and in addition to being a stimulator of political processes through political promises and financial aid, it also became a direct moderator between actors as well as a political force that prescribes democratic standards through its soft pressure approach, imposing requirements on the country in its process of accession to the EU. The EU also insisted on "creation of capacities on both sides for overcoming the problem" (55) which meant direct contact with domestic political actors. This is confirmed by political actors involved in the process, who point out that the most frequent direct meetings while the negotiations lasted were with EU representatives, most notably advisors or ambassadors of the embassies of the EU countries in Macedonia, or EU officials. (56) The final version of the May Agreement was never made public, but it nevertheless contained points that met the requirements of the Democratic Union for Integration, (57) with the government that came into existence after the parliamentary elections in 2008 being formed by the political parties with the most votes and mandates in the parliament, from the two biggest ethnic communities, Macedonians and Albanians. As a consequence of the May Agreement (based on provisions from the Ohrid Framework Agreeent), in 2008 the new Law on Languages (58) was adopted in parliament, broadening the scope of the Albanian language's use on the central and local levels. (59)

However, the mannerism in which the May Agreement was reached displayed political informality in the country at its highest. From the very beginning of the crisis, it was clear that the institutional capacity to reach an agreement has been depleted, which culminated in the DUI's January 2007 parliamentary boycott. This development once again displaced the process outside the institutions, especially outside parliament, which was confirmed in the 2007 EC progress report on Macedonia, where the EC states that "a dialogue between the government coalition and the opposition on issues of mutual concern was gradually established, although outside the parliament." (60) The need to establish an alternative mechanism for political negotiations imposed the already implemented (in 2001) leaders' meetings, where the leaders of the four most influential parties would directly negotiate political outcomes. In the case of the May Agreement, the leaders' meetings were directly between the leaders of VRMO-DPMNE and DUI, Nikola Gruevski and Ali Ahmeti, with the participation of the DPA, which from the very beginning advocated against the May Agreement as a direct modality for its main political rival to take part in the government. (61) The secretive and informal nature of the leaders' meetings was mostly a consequence of the sensitive nature of the negotiations (62) and was raised to the level that no formal document was ever presented to the media or the general public in the country. Even more so, the highly informal manner contributed to opposing interpretations of what had been agreed upon and the very content of the agreement, which required additional pressure on the part of the international community in the framework of fulfillment of the obligations stemming from the May Agreement. The culmination of the side effects of the informal setup in which the May Agreement was reached was the denial of the VMRO-DPMNE's leader that the May Agreement is a formal agreement, and that it has been formally adopted by his party. (63)

This presents a blatant example of how political informality leaves maneuvering space for political actors driven by short-term political gain, which in fact creates additional informal pressure on political actors to respect the points already agreed upon. Notwithstanding the fact that the EU (and the USA) once again utilized informal political mechanisms and their own influence in overcoming a very serious political crisis, the May Agreement demonstrated that no political stimuli or increased political leverage by international actors outbid short-term political gains by domestic political players. On the contrary-the more informal (and extra-institutional) a political process/agreement, the more domestic political players are stimulated to manipulate and strategize concerning the agreed-upon political actions. So long as political negotiations, such as those during the May Agreement process, are kept away from the institutions and the public eye, political elites can manipulate both the content of the agreement as well as the obligations undertaken. In this specific case, informal mechanisms that displace the formal political process are being stimulated by international actors' (the EU and the USA) acceptance of their extra-institutional setting, which is a consequence of the fact that institutions belonging to the political system are being obstructed (especially parliament with its deliberative function) and cannot fulfill their role. Political blockades consequently lead to the search for practical solutions, for whatever works for both domestic and international political actors. However, for the first time EU political conditionality displayed its stimulating effect on domestic political elites who, to some extent, had the incentive to work out a functional solution, although once again in the format of leaders' meetings.

The Przino Agreement

In 2015 the decline of democratic processes in Macedonia brought about a new crisis that required the involvement of the international community. In fact, the origins of the crisis are to be found in 2014, when the biggest opposition party, the Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) rejected the results of the parliamentary elections, stepping out of the parliament and presenting demands to the government for the normalization of the political process. One of the opposition's demands, the formation of a technical government, was unacceptable to the governing VMRO-DPMNE, and not much was done to meet the other demands either. (64) The political gridlock caused, once again, by paralysis of the political system, resulted in the very direct involvement of the EU, which immediately appointed Peter Vanhoutte as a mediator between the government and the opposition, albeit without much success.

The situation was further complicated by the release of wiretapped materials acquired by the opposition begining in February 2015, materials that included the phone conversations of high government officials, with many of these audio tapes directly referring to potential criminal wrongdoing. The opposition claimed that the source of the audio materials was in the Macedonian security structures, i.e., that the Ministry of the Interior had wiretapped over 26,000 Macedonian citizens. The audio files were publicly released by the opposition at regular intervals, in press conferences, which caused a massive polarization of society on both sides and a political rift that was unprecedented in Macedonian political history.

With the political crisis deepening, and especially after a complete non-action by the Public Prosecutor's Office regarding the wiretapped materials, it was the European Parliament that was the first to initiate a political dialogue between political actors in the country. In March 2015, three members of the European Parliament, Ivo Vajgl (ALDE Group), Eduard Kukan (EPP Group) and Richard Howitt (PES Group) mediated a meeting between governmental and opposition politicians (Radmila Sjekerinska from SDSM and Nikola Poposki from VMRO-DPMNE), which in practice meant a more direct involvement of EU officials in the political crisis in Macedonia. Moreover, in April 2015, it was the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Asian Affairs, Hoyt Brian Yee, who involved the USA directly in the crisis, conducting direct meetings with Nikola Gruevski, Zoran Zaev, and Ali Ahmeti as a political effort to initiate a solution to the crisis.

The involvement of the EU on the highest level in the political crisis in Macedonia increased with a series of leaders' meetings facilitated by the EU that took place in May and early June, with the final agreement (65) being reached on 2 June 2015. The Przino Agreement, signed in the residence of the EU ambassador located in the Przino area, envisaged the holding of free and fair elections in April 2016, return of the opposition in parliament, a committee of inquiry into the wiretapped materials, an intelligence committee on the wiretapping as well as the opposition's handing over of the wiretapped materials to the public prosecutor's office.

The format in which the negotiations took place was clearly the identical extra-institutional format of leaders' meetings since the parliament, as habitually happens in Macedonian politics, was once again blocked and removed as a possible arena for problem solving. Within this context, however, the roles of the international players had radically evolved since 2007. From the very beginning, the obvious lead in the process was taken by the EU, with the involvement of Peter Vanhoutte, EU commissioner Johanes Hann, and the trio of European Parliament MPs Vajgl, Kukan, and Howitt. In its progress report on Macedonia in 2015, the EU recognizes the role of Hann and the EP trio, stating that
   the Commissioner, with the help of three members of the European
   Parliament, facilitated a political agreement in June/July. The
   leaders of the four main parties committed, inter alia, to a
   transitional government which will prepare early parliamentary
   elections in April 2016 [...] The leaders also committed to
   implement all of the Commission's recommendations on systemic rule
   of law issues (Urgent Reform Priorities); implementation of these
   has slowly been started, but without sufficient results to date.

The scope of actors brought in by the EU indicates the increased, even dominant, role of the EU in the process. The involvement of MPs of three major political groups in the EP to serve as mediators in the process seems a very serious strategy on the EU's part. Membership in three different political groups enabled the MPs individually to address each of the domestic actors involved, if problematic issues were to occur at certain points in the negotiations. (67) No previous crisis (with the obvious exception of the conflict in 2001) has been treated with so much political investment by the EC, and the dominant role of the EU in the political process has been confirmed by direct actors. (68) In addition to the EU's obvious mediating role, (69) actors in the process confirm the strong adherence to EU principles of the negotiating team representing the positions of the EU. (70) What is specific in the case of the Przino Agreement was that in fact EU accession was once again the main stimulus to the negotiations process. However, on this occasion it was not the very start of the negotiations but the "return of the country on the EU path," (71) which indicates Macedonia's seriously eroded position apropos of EU accession. Notably, when the process came to a halt, the loss of the recommendation for opening negotiations, which was given to Macedonia seven years in a row by the European Commission, was used a threat to motivate getting the political process unstuck and moving forward. Unlike the carrot-and-stick politics of the EU and the USA in previous political processes, in this case both the carrot and the stick were in the hands of the EU. Even the involvement of the USA in the Przino process was more or less on the initiative of the mediator Peter Vanhoutte, which speaks sufficiently to the power constellation of international actors in the process. (72) Clearly, the EU took the lead in resolving the process and involving a variety of actors on several levels (direct mediation, EC, EP) being a typical pull factor, with the role of the USA being a push factor in the tipping points of the crisis. (73) Clearly, the EU took the lead in resolving the process, and the involvement of a variety of actors on several levels (direct mediation, EC, EP) was a typical pull factor, with the role of the USA being a push factor in the tipping points of the crisis.

However, the Przino agreement was far from a political success. The following events of 2015 and 2016 indicated that the parties to the agreement were not prepared to follow the agreed-upon points, especially in the case of the governing VMRO-DPMNE, (74) which led to a new crisis and two postponements of parliamentary elections (5 June and finally 11 December 2016). The aftermath of the Przino Agreement was colloquially named "Przino 2"; the role of the EU remained unchanged, with EU ambassador Aivo Orav and US ambassador Jess Baily being the main mediators in the process. This resulted in "a welcome accord on the implementation of the Przino Agreement [being] reached on 20 July 2016 [...] including setting the date for early parliamentary elections on 11 December 2016." (75)

Compared to the May Agreement, the Przino process presents a case of "broadened" informality. The leaders' meetings were once again the fundamental format within which extra-institutional political processes took place, and consequently institutional responses (dissolution of parliament, formation of a technical government, legislation adoption, etc.) were simply a consequence of the agreed-upon processes. However, there were two idiosyncrasies that marked the entire process: an increase in the number of actors involved compared to other crisis resolution efforts on the part of the international community (and especially the EU); and a change in the political leverage of the actors involved in comparison to previous negotiations (OFA, the May Agreement, etc.). The EU decided on a multilevel approach that included direct meditation (Vanhoutte), political pressure (Hann and Orav), and direct individual communication with all parties involved through Vajgl, Kukan. and Howitt. The multilevel approach, as well as the fact that the EU initiated the mediation in the first place and invited US administration to participate, speaks to the fact that it was precisely the EU that played the compensatory role in the whole informal process. Using accession benefits as a stimulus and the recommendation for opening negotiations as an intimidating factor, the EU (supported by the US administration) played a role typical of an informal institution that makes interaction between social actors possible, even in cases where such informality is not easily accepted by all actors. (76)

Discussion: Characteristics and Effects of Extra-institutional Political Formats of Decision Making in Macedonia

Defunct institutions and the inability of political elites in Macedonia to come up with an internalized solution to frequent political crises impose the need for the political actors involved, among them the international community, to come up with new rules for the political game that will help overcome occasional political impasses. While the literature on informality has been predominantly focused on meso- and microlevel examples of informal decision making, the leaders' meetings are a rare case of a top-down informal institutionalization of macrolevel decision making. Since the conflict in 2001 and the Ohrid Framework Agreement process, leaders' meetings have proven to be a very successful modality for agreeing upon and (subsequently) implementing political solutions. In a situation where formal institutions lack both legitimacy and efficiency and the country is faced with frequent parliamentary boycotts, leaders' meetings appear as informal institutions that are not just outside the normative framework, i.e., the envisaged political system, but are also "enforced outside sanctioned channels." (77) In both cases, the May Agreement in 2007 and the Przino process in 2015, they were the modality through which political agreements were reached, although the informality of the process at times allowed manoeuvring by domestic political elites when it comes to implementation of the agreed-upon points.

In cases when the political game has highly conflictual potential, interethnic in the case of the May Agreement and both interethnic and intraethnic in the case of the Przino process, leaders' meetings clearly displace conflict (78) and hamper the possibility of violent clashes framing the political process in an extra-institutional setting. Although informal, this specific setting is nevertheless imposed as a necessary one, with the effect of defusing the possibility of direct confrontations in the streets, a serious threat in both cases.

Moreover, leaders' meetings have played a significant role as informal institutions from the perspective of constraints, (79) meaning that on the occasion of the leaders' meetings the representatives of the EU and the USA have often posed direct constraints on domestic political actors in facilitating political agreements. In the case of the May Agreement, the EU used its newly gained political leverage to pose the reaching of the May Agreement as a soft conditionality restriction that stimulated the actors to reach a common solution. In the case of the Przino process, the scope of the actors involved by the EU broadened with the constraints being even stronger by putting the European future of the country at stake, i.e., questioning the recommendation for the start of the negotiations for accession to the EU. In the second case there was a direct constraint imposed on political elites in the country should an agreement not be reached, with the USA adding direct political pressure when needed, but not leading the process.

Since institutional solutions were not an option either in the case of the May Agreement in 2007 or the Przino process in 2015, from the perspective of the theoretical points made by Helmke and Levitsky, (80) one could clearly argue that leaders' meetings have a typical substitutive character, taking the place of formal institutions by filling gaps that are not considered by formal rules in order to increase political efficiency. In fact, the most precise definition would be that formal rules do consider institutional solutions in both the cases of the May Agreement and the Przino process (through the deliberative role of the parliament), but the blockade of the political system makes formal rules inefficient, hence requiring extra-institutional and informal modalities through which the political process can evolve further.

However, leaders' meetings as informal institutions serving as a foundation of political processes in Macedonia have a number of adverse effects. Although practical and efficient in imposing political solutions, leaders' meetings in fact serve as a substitute for political institutions. Insofar as they are a long-term, established practice, most visibly since the violent conflict of 2001, domestic political elites rely on facilitation by the international community, thus very often failing to invest sufficient effort in resolving political disagreements internally. In the case of the May Agreement, there was no contact between VMRO-DPMNE and DUI until foreign mediation was deployed. On the occasion of the Przino process, the scenario was similar, i.e., there were no contacts between the governing and opposition elites until such contact was initiated by the MP trio Kukan, Vajgl, and Howitt. The international community's constant intervention in internal political processes and mediation and conflict-resolution efforts make domestic political elites dependent on international facilitation of political disputes, which on the long run weakens their capacity for "domestication" of solutions to political disagreements.

The second problematic aspect is the "internalization" of the solutions reached at the leaders' meetings. The case of the May Agreements showed that although an agreement was obviously attained, the actors involved failed to internalize the agreed-upon points and even negated the very existence of the agreement. This speaks to an opportunistic political position, where actors do not stand behind the solutions reached but rather manipulate them in order not to endanger their own political rating. In the case of the Przino process, similarly to the first case, attempts to avoid unpopular political moves were constantly deployed, regardless of the points and the urgent reforms package that all actors agreed upon. Such behavior is allowed by the highly informal character of the leaders' meetings as well as the lack of transparency of the process, which is often dictated by the sensitivity of the political process.

The third adverse effect relates to the constitutionality of the solutions reached during the leaders' meetings. In the case of the May Agreement several aspects were problematized, such as the 2008 Law on Languages (a consequence of the May Agreement), insofar as constitutionalists differently interpret how far minority languages can be used in various areas of society without contradicting the constitution as well as the amendments stemming from the Ohrid Framework Agreement. (81) On the other hand, although this principle was not formalized, the May Agreement created an informal obligation for the electoral winner in the Macedonian ethnic bloc to form a government with the winner of the Albanian ethnic bloc. Such an obligation is not envisaged in the Macedonian constitution, so there is no constitutive ground for such a requirement, notwithstanding the fact that such coalitions remove uncertainty in government formation and power sharing between the country's two largest ethnic communities. In the case of the Przino process, the most frequently problematized topic was the status of the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO), given that a number of experts questioned the constitutional ground on which it was formed. (82) Solutions deriving from the leaders' meetings might be accepted by all actors involved, but the constitutionality of the agreed-upon points is related not to consent but rather to the alignment of these solutions with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

Finally, in relation to the effectiveness of leaders' meetings as informal alternatives to decision making, our findings reveal mixed results. If we look at the phenomenon from a utilitarian and rationalist standpoint, then the short-term gains of the leaders' meetings are quite positive. The EU's support and management of these extra-institutional formats of decision making has had a tremendous impact on overcoming severe deadlocks of political dialogue in the country that have threatened the overall stability and cohesion of Macedonian society. Bearing in mind the intensity of interethnic and party cleavages in postcommunist Macedonia and the severity of the two cases of political crises that have been the subject of our analysis, external mediation appears to have been the only plausible solution for peaceful conflict resolution. The leadership meetings have been useful platforms to the extent that they have provided grounds for a more balanced distribution of power and resources among key political stakeholders. In a game of confronting, even antagonizing elite preferences, EU accession incentives and conditionality have played the role of a common denominator for elite willingness to engage in negotiation and dialogue. The frequent logjams in political dialogue in Macedonian politics are in many cases a reflection of formal institutional inertia and incapacity for effective decision making. The weakness, instability, and political dependency of the institutional system in Macedonia provides grounds for decision making in informal settings. In this sense, the leadership meetings can be seen as "problem solving strategies" (83z0 since they have reduced transaction costs and have utilized external pressures through mediation to "get things done." Thus, in regards to goal attainment and conflict settlement, the EU's mediation strategies and the leadership meeting format can be evaluated as a success. In both cases examined in our study, they succeeded in stopping the downward spiralling effects of the political crises on democratic backsliding in the country and at the same time managed to pacify the conflicted parties and restore minimal standards for democratic deliberation and formal governance.

However, the short-term effectiveness of the leadership meetings could potentially set a dangerous trap for the long-term prospects of democratization and institutionalization in Macedonia. The continuous utilization of this informal decision-making mechanism could gradually transform its nature from an ad hoc arena for the settling of political disputes to a formalized policy-making instrument. The stimulation of the leadership meetings as conflict solving instruments constrains democratization in at least two distinctive ways. First, the establishment of informal channels of decision making outside of the constitutional framework significantly undermines the formal institutional set up in the country. By extracting decision-making authority outside of the established order of separation of power they further weaken the fragile institutional architecture. In a paradoxical way, this delegitimization of formal institutional designs further compromises key aspects of EU political conditionality in regard to institutional stability and accountability of decision making. Second, the practice of leadership meetings has provided ground for the further empowerment of political elites. As the party system in Macedonia is heavily burdened with intraparty democratic deficits and quasi-authoritarian models of party governance, the concentration of excessive decision-making power in a single person or small number of party officials further enhances their capture and control of political processes. By amplifying personalized governance networks, these extra-institutional formats of decision making accelerate the uneven distribution of power vis-a-vis the formal channels of policy making and thus undoubtedly weaken the legitimacy, transparency, and accountability of democratic governance in the country.


European Union efforts to positively influence the political field in the candidate countries involve a set of strategies that are implemented according to context. Most of these strategies include direct political involvement and give varying results, although the immediate effect of these policies is predominantly positive. The Republic of Macedonia is certainly a specific case, having a very unstable political field and a weak institutional design manifested in its the frequent inability to cope internally with the political dead ends that regularly pose challenges in the political arena of the country. A simple historical overview of the biggest political crises in the country indicates that no critical political predicament since independence has ever been overcome without the immediate help of the international community. As the country evolved, so too did the role of various actors, among whom the two most important by far are the USA and the EU. In time, the EU's supporting role turned into a leading role, notwithstanding the fact that the US presence is still very strong and its role is important in the country's overall political processes.

The May Agreement of 2007 and the Przino process of 2015 present ideal case studies that clearly display all critical features of the main modality used for mediation and intervention by the EU and the USA. That modality is the leaders' meetings. As a typical informal institution, not envisaged anywhere in the political system of the country, leaders' meetings were more directly introduced in 2001 during the negotiations on the Ohrid Framework Agreement. After that, they were they were used as a basic model for settling political crises among party leaders, including in 2007 and 2015. Although the case studies examined here differ dramatically in intensity, duration, and the structure of the involvement of the EU and the USA, one can conclude that the leaders' meetings have become the fundamental modality that is not always simply utilized by international actors, but also initiated by them, in lieu of an institutional solution for political crises in the country.

In this regard it is clear that the leaders' meetings have a substitutive function related to formal institutions of the country. Although a practical solution, the adverse effects of the leader's meetings cannot be denied, for in the long run this modality creates dependency on the international community as well as a serious problem with the internalization of the solutions stemming from the meetings. Moreover, the solutions of the leaders' meetings are often troublesome from the constitutional point of view, with the biggest danger being the trade-off between their short-term effectiveness and the long-term negative impact on the democratization processes and especially the institutionalization of the country which, for the time being, cannot find a better solution to overcoming political dead ends.

Nenad Markovikj

Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law

SS. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje

Blvd. Goce Delcev 9b

1000 Skopje

Republic of Macedonia

Ivan Damjanovski,

Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law

SS. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje

Blvd. Goce Delcev 9b

1000 Skopje

Republic of Macedonia

(1) The European Council in Copenhagen in June 1993 further streamlined its conditionality policy by adopting a set of broadly defined criteria for membership in the EU. They have been divided into three categories: political criteria, i.e., stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities; economic criteria, i.e., the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union; and the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic, and monetary union. See European Council, Presidency Conclusions 21-22 June 1993,, accessed 10 May 2017.

(2) Two sets of interviews with politicians, political analysts and international community representatives are used in the article: interviews from 2011 stemming from the Regional Research Promotion Programme's project "The Role of the European Union in the Democratic Consolidation and Ethnic Conflict Management in the Republic of Macedonia" as well as interviews from 2017 stemming from the H2020 project "INFORM: Closing the Gap between Formal and Informal Intuitions in the Balkans."

(3) Richard Youngs, The European Union and Democracy Promotion: A Critical Global Assessment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

(4) Frank Schimmelfennig, "EU Political Accession Conditionality after the 2004 Enlargement: Consistency and Effectiveness," Journal of European Public Policy 15, no. 6 (2008): 918-37.

(5) Frank Schimmelfennig, Stefan Engert, and Heiko Knobel, International Socialization in Europe: European Organizations, Political Conditionality, and Democratic Change (Basingstoke, UK: PalgraveMacmillan, 2006); Geoffrey Pridham, Designing Democracy: EU Enlargement and Regime Change in Post-Communist Europe (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Paul Kubicek, ed., The European Union and Democratization (London: Routledge, 2003); Milada Anna Vachudova, Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration since 1989 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

(6) Sandra Lavenex and Frank Schimmelfennig, "EU Democracy Promotion in the Neighbourhood: From Leverage to Governance?," Democratization 18, no. 4 (2011): 888.

(7) Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, "Linkage versus Leverage: Rethinking the International Dimension of Regime Change," Comparative Politics 38, no. 4 (2006): 379-400.

(8) Frank Schimmelfennig and Hanno Scholtz, "Legacies and Leverage: EU Political Conditionality and Democracy Promotion in Historical Perspective," Europe-Asia Studies 62, no. 3 (2010): 443-60.

(9) Frank Schimmelfennig and Ulrich Sedelmeier, eds., The Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005); Judith Kelley, Ethnic Politics in Europe: The Power of Norms and Size (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); Wade Jacoby, The Enlargement of the European Union and NATO: Ordering from the Menu in Central Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

(10) Geoffrey Pridham, "The Effects of the European Union's Democratic Conditionality: The Case of Romania during Accession," Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 23, no. 2 (2007): 233-58.

(11) Antoaneta Dimitrova, "Enlargement, Institution-Building and the EU's Administrative Capacity Requirement," West European Politics 25, no. 4 (2002): 171-90.

(12) European Council, Presidency Conclusions 21-22 June 1993,, accessed 10 May 2017.

(13) Frank Schimmelfennig and Ulrich Sedelmeier, "Introduction: Conceptualizing the Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe," in Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe, 1-28.

(14) Dimitry Kochenov, EU Enlargement and the Failure of Conditionality: Pre-accession Conditionality in the Fields of Democracy and the Rule of Law (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2008).

(15) Heather Grabbe, "How Does Europeanization Affect CEE governance? Conditionality, Diffusion and Diversity," Journal of European Public Policy 8, no. 6 (2001): 1013-31.

(16) Antoaneta Dimitrova and Geoffrey Pridham, "International Actors and Democracy Promotion in Central and Eastern Europe: The Integration Model and Its Limits," Democratization 11, no. 5 (2004): 108; Kristi Raik, "Bureaucratization or Strengthening of the Political? Estonian Institutions and Integration into the European Union," Cooperation and Conflict 37, no. 2 (2002): 137-56.

(17) Kristi Raik, "EU Accession of Central and Eastern European Countries: Democracy and Integration as Conflicting Logics," East European Politics and Societies 18, no. 4 (2004): 567-94.

(18) Gergana Noutcheva, "Fake, Partial and Imposed Compliance: The Limits of the EU's Normative Power in the Western Balkans," Journal of European Public Policy 16, no. 7 (2009): 1065-84.

(19) Tanja Borzel, "When Europeanization Hits Limited Statehood: The Western Balkans as a Test Case for the Transformative Power of Europe," KFG Working Paper Series, no. 30 (2011).

(20) Florian Bieber, "Building Impossible States? State-Building Strategies and EU Membership in the Western Balkans," Europe-Asia Studies 63, no. 10 (2011): 1783-1802.

(21) Tina Freyburg and Solveig Richter, "National Identity Matters: The Limited Impact of EU Political Conditionality in the Western Balkans," Journal of European Public Policy 17, no. 2 (2010): 263-81; Jelena Subotic, "Explaining Difficult States: The Problems of Europeanisation in Serbia," East European Politics and Societies 24, no. 4 (2010): 595-616; Othon Anastasakis, "The EU's Political Conditionality in the Western Balkans: Towards a More Pragmatic Approach," Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 8, no. 4 (2008): 374.

(22) Solveig Richter, "Two at One Blow? The EU and Its Quest for Security and Democracy by Political Conditionality in the Western Balkans," Democratization 19, no. 3 (2012): 507-34.

(23) European Commission, A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy (Brussels, 12 December 2003).

(24) Richard Youngs, "Democratic Institution-Building and Conflict Resolution: Emerging EU Approaches," International Peacekeeping 11, no. 3 (2004): 527.

(25) Nathalie Tocci, The EU and Conflict Resolution: Promoting Peace in the Backyard (London: Routledge, 2007): 178.

(26) Julian Bergmartn and Ame Niemann, "Mediating International Conflicts: The European Union as an Effective Peacemaker?," Journal of Common Market Studies 53, no. 5 (2015): 957-75.

(27) Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, "Deconstructing Balkan Particularism: The Ambiguous Social Capital Of Southeastern Europe," Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 5, no. 1 (2005): 49-68.

(28) Christian Giordano and Nicolas Hayoz, eds., Informality in Eastern Europe: Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices (Bern: Peter Lang, 2013).

(29) Douglas North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 3.

(30) Alice Sindzingre, "The Relevance of the Concepts of Formality and Informality: A Theoretical Appraisal," in Linking the Formal and Informal Economy: Concepts and Policies, ed. Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis, Ravi Kanbur, and Elinor Ostrom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 65.

(31) Svetozar Pejovich, Law, Informal Rules and Economic Performance: The Case for Common Law (Cheltenham:Edward Elgar, 2008), 11.

(32) Indra de Soysa and Johannes Jutting, "Informal Institutions and Development: How They Matter and What Makes Them Change," in Informal Institutions: How Social Norms Help or Hinder Development, ed. Jutting, Denis Drechsler, Sebastian Bartsch, and de Soysa (Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2007), 31.

(33) Sindzingre, "Relevance of the Concepts of Formality and Informality," 65.

(34) Mungiu-Pippidi, "Deconstructing Balkan Particularism," 51.

(35) Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky, "Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda," Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 4 (2004): 727.

(36) Hans-Joachim Lauth, "Informal Institutions and Democracy," Democratization 7, no. 4 (2000): 21-50.

(37) Helmke and Levitsky, "Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics."

(38) James Pardew, "Diplomatic History of the OFA," in Ten Years from the Ohrid Framework Agreement--Is Macedonia Functioning as a Multi-ethnic State, ed. Blerim Reka (Tetovo: South East European University, 2011): 22.

(39) Ibid.

(40) For an integral version of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, please see neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/the_former_yugoslav_republic_of_macedonia/ framework_agreement_ohrid_130801_en.pdf, accessed 5 July 2017.

(41) Nenad Markovic, Zoran Ilievski, Ivan Damjanovski, and Vladimir Bozinovski, The Role of the European Union in the Democratic Consolidation and Ethnic Conflict Management in the Republic of Macedonia (Skopje: Regional Research Promotion Programme, 2011), available at, accessed 25 April 2017.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, Tribina na tema: Nacrt-ustavnite Amandmani i Natamoshniot Razvoj na Pravniot Poredok na Respubika Makedonija, in Nacrt-amandmanite na Ustavot na Respublika Makedonija--prilog kon javnatarasprava, ed. Dobrinka Taskovska (Skopje: Univerzitet Sv. Kiril i Metodij-Praven fakultet, 2001), 123.

(44) NenadMarkovikj and Misa Popovikj, Political Dialogue (Skopje: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung & IDSCS, 2015): 18, available at pdf?i 50915164626, accessed 5 July 2017.

(45) The Constitution of RM states that "the President of the Republic of Macedonia is obliged, within 10 days of the constitution of the Assembly, to entrust the mandate for constituting the Government to a candidate from the party or parties which has/have a majority in the Assembly." See Constitution of RM, Article 90 at http:// pdf, accessed 5 July 2017.

(46) Badenter's majority is a principle established in the OFA stating that specific legislation concerning ethnic groups requires not just a simple majority in the parliament but also the majority of the votes of the nonmajority community MPs.

(47) European Commission, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2007 Progress Report (Brussels: SEC(2007) 1432, 6.11.2007), 6.

(48) Interview n.1, 2017.

(49) Nenad Markovic, Zoran Ilievski, Ivan Damjanovski, and Vladimir Bozinovski, The Role of the European Union in the Democratic Consolidation and Ethnic Conflict Management in the Republic of Macedonia" (Skopje: Regional Research Promotion Programme, 2011), 9, available at html, accessed 25 April 2017.

(50) Interview n.1, 2011.

(51) Interview n.2, 2011.

(52) Interview n.3, 2011.

(53) Interview n.4, 2011.

(54) Interview n.3, 2011.

(55) Ibid.

(56) Interview n.1, 2011.

(57) The five points agreed upon in the 2007 May Agreement were as follows: (1) the parties agree to a list of 46 laws subject to vote according to the Badenter principle, which will be included in the new Book of Procedures of the parliament; (2) the parties agree to a replacement of a member of the Parliamentary Commission for Relations between Communities from VMRO-DPMNE with one from SDSM, and drafting a new law for the composition of this body; (3) the parties agree to address the issues of providing material and social support to the victims of the 2001 conflict and their families within current laws and procedures; the parties agree to the continuation of the working group on this issue; (4) the parties agree to draft and submit for adoption to parliament a law on the use of languages that is in full compliance with the Framework Agreement and with Amendment 5 of the Constitution; the parties agree to the continuation of the working group on this issue; (5) upon the DUI's return to the parliament, the parties agree to the continuation of discussions on the issue of the method of government formation.

(58) The full name of the Law on Languages is the Law on the Usage of the Languages Spoken by at Least 20% of the Citizens of the Republic of Macedonia and in the Units of the Local Self-government. The integral text of the law in available on, accessed 2 June 2017.

(59) In March 2018, a new political crisis occurred related to the broadened scope of usage of the Albanian language in the country, i.e., the new law on the use of the languages. The new law broadens the language rights of the Albanian ethnic group in the Republic of Macedonia in several societal spheres such as state institutions, local self-government, court procedures, fiscal bills, money, notary, etc. The law was adopted in the parliament of the Republic of Macedonia in March 2018 and instigated allegations from the main opposition VMRO DPMNE party and parts of the expert and academic community for breach of parliamentary procedure. The current president of Macedonia refuses to sign the Law on the Use of Languages on account of its not being aligned with the Macedonian constitution as well as being adopted in a defective procedure in the parliament. However, the latest Law on the Use of Languages was part of a coalition agreement between the ruling SDSM (Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia) and its Albanian partner in the government DUI, and was not drafted through a process of leadership meetings.

(60) European Commission, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2007 Progress Report, 7.

(61) Interview n.5, 2011.

(62) Interview n.2, 2011.

(63) "Za Gruevski ne postoi majski dogovor,", accessed 5 July 2017.

(64) The leader of the opposition posted four demands: 1) formation of a technical government for the organization of elections; 2) regulation of the separation of state and party; 3) balanced media representation of the opposition; and 4) revision of the Voters' registry and Implementation of census. For more details see "Zaev with Five Requirements to Gruevski," Radio Free Europe, 19 June 2014,], accessed 15 October 2016.

(65) The first leaders' meeting was held on 14 May among Nikola Gruevski (leader of the VMRO-DPMNE), Zoran Zaev (leader of the SDSM), Ali Ahmeti (leader of the DUI), and Menduh Thaci (leader of the DPA), whereas EU ambassador Aivo Orav and US ambassador Jess Baily joined as observers of the process. The next meeting took place in Skopje's MPs' Club on 18 May, with the following meetings being held in Strasbourg on 19-20 May, between Gruevski and Zaev. These meetings were facilitated by MEPs Vajgl, Kukan, and Howitt. The next meeting took place in Skopje on 26 May, with all four leaders participating and in the presence of EU ambassador Aivo Orav and US ambassador Jess Baily. The final agreement was reached on 2 June among the four leaders--Zaev, Gruevski, Ahmeti and Taci-mediated by the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, with the US ambassador in the capacity of an observer.

(66) European Commission, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Report 2015 (Brussels: SWD(2015) 212 final, 10.11.2015).

(67) Interview n.2,2017.

(68) Interviews n.1, 2017; n.2,2017; and n.3, 2017.

(69) Interview n.4, 2017.

(70) Interview n.3,2017

(71) Ibid.

(72) Interview n.2, 2017.

(73) Interview n.1, 2017.

(74) Interviews n.2, 2017; and n.3,2017.

(75) E The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Report 2 015, 6

(76) Lauth, "Informal Institutions and Democracy," 24.

(77) Helmke and Levitsky, "Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics," 727.

(78) Lauth, "Informal Institutions and Democracy."

(79) North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance

(80) Helmke and Levitsky, "Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics."

(81) Siljanovska-Davkova, "Tribuna na tema: Nacrt-ustavnite Amandmani i Natamosniot razvoj na Pravniot Poredok na Respublika Makedonija," 127-28.

(82) See, for instance,, accessed 5 July 2017. For opposing opinions, see, accessed 5 July 2017.

(83) Nicolas Hayoz, "Observations on the Changing Meanings of Informality," in Giordano and Hayoz, Informality in Eastern Europe, 47.
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Date:Jul 1, 2018
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