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Friday July 19, 2024
Testata per la stampa

Social Policy and International Interventions in South East Europe

edited by: Bob Deacon and Paul Stubbs
published by
Edward Elgar Publishing
pp: 272
ISBN: 978-1-84720-096-9
price: € 81.60

The volume investigates the role of international actors in the making of social policy in South East Europe. Introductory chapters on transnationalism and Europeanisation are followed by a series of nine linked case studies depicting research undertaken within the region.
The book charts the variable influence that international actors such as formal organisations, non-governmental organisations, consulting companies and individual transnational policy entrepreneurs, have on key policy issues, including pensions, social protection, labour markets, and health.
The authors conclude that welfare settlements are a complex product of historical and institutional legacies, the neo-liberal interventions of the World Bank, the emerging impact of the EU, and the crowded international arena resulting from war and post-war reconstruction agendas.
Over the last couple of decades, international interventions in South East Europe have consistently represented a focus of analysis and discussion in both political and social scholarship. The relationship between local and international actors has generated ongoing concerns through processes of transition and stabilization, conflict relief and resolution, globalization, and ―with a considerable expansion of literature in the last few years― Europeanization.
Furthermore, the plurality of international institutional and non-governmental subjects playing a part in domestic processes and policies has created a need for assessing their allying or competing influences, coordination, or lack thereof.

Social policy and international interventions in South East Europe, stemming from a work programme of Thessaloniki's South East European Research Centre (SEERC), investigates the role played by international actors in the shaping of social policy in South East Europe.
Throughout the volume, an interdisciplinary pool of authors ―comprising economists as well as political and social scientists from both the Anglo-Saxon and South East European academia― engages with the transnational dimension of social policy design and implementation. After two complementary introductory chapters on transnationalism and Europeanization, nine regional case studies ―respectively devoted to Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania, and Kosovo― address the impact of international agencies in national social policies, with focus on the key social policy issues of pensions, social protection, labour markets, and healthcare. In the light of the case studies, the final chapter is an analytical reprise of the research questions presented in the introduction.


Table of contents

Bob Deacon and Paul Stubbs, Transnationalism and the Making of Social Policy in South East Europe
Noémi Lendvai, Europeanization of Social Policy? Prospects and Challenges for South East Europe
Mojca Novak and Katja Rihar Bajuk, Slovenia
Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos and Luana Pop, Bulgaria and Romania
Paul Stubbs and Siniša Zrinšcak, Croatia
Burcu Yakut-Cakar, Turkey
Maja Gerovska Mitev, Macedonia
Reima Ana Maglajlic Holicek and Ešref Kenan Rašidagic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mihail Arandarenko and Pavle Golicin, Serbia
Arlinda Ymeraj, Albania
Fred Cocozzelli, Kosovo
Bob Deacon, Noémi Lendvai and Paul Stubbs, Conclusions


1. Transnationalism and the Making of Social Policy in South East Europe by Bob Deacon and Paul Stubbs
A review of the analytical frameworks of policy-making transnationalization that can be drawn from state-centrist and cosmopolitan-transnationalist international relations theories, policy transfer and policy diffusion studies, and politics of scale literature.

2. Europeanization of Social Policy? Prospects and Challenges for South East Europe by Noémi Lendvai
The chapter discusses how and how much the EU matters in the making of domestic social policy in the region, both in the light of the accession processes and the widespread academic interest in the subject. The essay provides broad concepts for interpretation through a theoretical overview of Europeanization literatures, mostly focusing on institutionalist/governance and post-structuralist/governmentality approaches, with mention of neo-Gramscian, neo-Marxist, and post-colonialist critiques.
3. Slovenia by Mojca Novak and Katja Rihar Bajuk
The Slovenian case study takes a chronological approach to the analysis of external input in domestic social policy-making during the transition and European accession stages. Namely, the chapter focuses on the dominant role played by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ―especially in terms of pensions reform― and on the conflicting influence of the International Labour Organization, that has played a part in the rejection of an extreme neo-liberal stance.
4. Bulgaria and Romania by Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos and Luana Pop
The chapter examines the two countries taking into account analogies and specificities with respect to the rest of the South East European region. This essay too traces the competing influences of the WB, the IMF, and the ILO, highlighting how the logic of pressure by the first two contributed to the creation of serious social gaps.
5. Croatia by Paul Stubbs and Siniša Zrinšcak
The case study stresses the importance of a strong historical framework in the analysis of social policy systems. Thus, the authors envisage the Croatian welfare system as a product of combined historical factors and legacies: a specific mix of Bismarckian and Yugoslav social policy; a successive combination of independence, war, authoritarian nationalism, and humanitarianism; a delayed restructuring process associated with neo-liberal globalization; an even more delayed Europeanization.
6. Turkey by Burcu Yakut-Cakar
The essay highlights the historical legacy of a long-standing inegalitarian corporatist welfare regime, failing to provide comprehensive assistance and heavily relying on informal and family networks for support. The author further engages with the challenges currently faced by such system, namely urbanization trends and the increasingly widespread informality in the labour market. In terms of transnationalization, the chapter emphasizes a degree of difficulty in reforming social policy according to international guidelines: on the one hand, because of a certain resistance to comply with IMF and WB directives; on the other hand, a disinterest on the EU side in advocating and supporting alternative policy frameworks.
7. Macedonia
by Maja Gerovska Mitev
The study is an explicitly critical account of international influences in the country's social policy, emphasising its dimension of imposition and conditionality. The author identifies three chronological stages and traces the development of varying international influences: the emergence of international actors in a context of local inertia (1991-1996); a pronounced paternalism of international agencies against the backdrop of equally strong dependency of impaired local actors (1996-2003); a scene characterised by conflicting pressures of Europeanization and Americanization, yet consistent in advocating a shift from egalitarian universalism to a safety net model (from 2003 onwards). The author further emphasizes the inadequacy of such a selective model in the light of increased demand for social inclusion, its problematic ethnic dimension emerging from minorities discrimination, and the absence of national consensus over its adoption. 
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina by Reima Ana Maglajlic Holicek and Ešref Kenan Rašidagic
The essay is based on the authors' working experience in the NGO sector since 1993. The account is framed in a periodization that singles out the war period (1991-1995), a post-war phase of intensive international involvement (1995-1998), and a stage of international disengagement (donor fatigue) and consequential increasing localization of social policy management. On the one hand, the authors stigmatise the elements of self-interest in the international non-governmental organization's work; on the other, they express concern over what they define the hijacking of the social sector “by an army of translators” (p. 156) ― i.e., the fact that during the war and immediate post-war period NGOs were crowded by personnel selected on the sole basis of their knowledge of English rather than specific professional competencies, leaving out an older, more experienced generation and thus creating both resentment and loss of human capital.
9. Serbia by Mihail Arandarenko and Pavle Golicin
The case study identifies three layers of heritage in the country's welfare trajectory: Yugoslav self-management combined with the Bismarckian legacy, the economic and structural collapse of the nineties, and the reforms aided by a crowded arena of international actors ―each with its own agenda― after October 2000. As in the Macedonian case study, the author emphasizes the cross-sector conditionality of the international agencies' support ― e.g., the World Bank's subordination of assistance in the energy sector to acceptance of health care reforms (p. 181). Further, the analysis stresses how the World Bank's hegemony has remained virtually non contrasted in the light of the ILO's exclusion and the EU's laid back position.
10. Albania by Arlinda Ymeraj
After introducing specific factors shaping the country's context (corruption, migration and the related loss of human capital, and the role of remittances in the economy), the chapter reviews the range of external interventions in the country and the parallel frameworks shaping social policies: the domestic, EU, and UN levels. 
11. Kosovo by Fred Cocozzelli
The chapter delineates a picture of policies shaped by donors and international relief and reconstruction agencies, in the context of marginal and non influential domestic forces. The country's social policy formation is periodized over three phases: the internationally led emergency response, the UN-sponsored programme and, since 2002, a gradual taking of responsibilities by local actors. Kosovo's current welfare system is described as a strictly targeted one, encouraging ethnic and economic stratification. In this regard, the author stresses the international institutions' accountability, in the light of the role they played in its making.
12. Conclusions by Bob Deacon, Noémi Lendvai and Paul Stubbs
In the light of the country studies, the concluding chapter summarizes developments in social policies and international influences, draws analytical conclusions, and makes suggestions for further research.
The main conclusions highlight: a significant variance of the extent of international influence ― the two extremes of the continuum identifiable in Slovenia and Kosovo; the hegemonic role of the World Bank, only marginally counteracted by the EU; the absence of consensus over the adoption of neo-liberal policies. In this regard, the relationship between international financial institutions and the EU emerges as one that is conflicting in principle, yet often virtually homogeneous.
Against the backdrop of common elements and trends emerged in the case studies, authors highlight how “welfare settlements are a complex product of historical and institutional legacies, the neo-liberal interventions of the World Bank, the emerging impact of the EU, and the crowded international arena resulting from war and post-war reconstruction agendas” (p. 236). Finally, in the light of the diffused resistance to neo-liberal policy directives, they suggest these should be problematized in a theoretical perspective as well, rather than taken for granted.


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