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The Geopolitics of Tolerance: Minority Rights under EU Expansion in East-Central Europe

Written by Lynn M. Tesser, this article apperead on the third issue of Vol. 17 of East European Politics & Societies in August 2003. 
 
Post-communist states aiming to join European organizations such as the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union felt pressure early on after 1989 to adopt emerging European norms on minority rights. Though scholars have already noted frequent acceptance of these standards, the question remains of how European norms actually affect the political salience of identity. Pressure to adhere to them undoubtedly reigned in potential conflict over the Hungarian minority in Slovakia as well as over Russians in Latvia and Estonia. Yet such beneficial results can be offset, first, when political elites' strategic acceptance of European standards undermines the legitimacy of liberal values, and second, when such norms create friction by unintentionally encouraging ethnic groups such as Moravians in the Czech Republic and Silesians in Poland to transform themselves into “nationalities.”

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