Power in Albanian EU Ascension Negotiations: A Case Study

Power in Albanian EU Ascension Negotiations: A Case Study

Power in Albanian EU Ascension Negotiations: A Case Study
Forest and Nature Policy 

Ky studim i pukianit Gjin Ceca është në gjuhen angleze. Po e publikojmë ketu dhe në të ardhmen do kemi dhe versionin në gjuhën shqipe.

Author: Ir.ing. Gjin Ceca

Wageningen, April 17th 2009

1. Introduction

1.1. The European Union

The European Union is a very important international organization. It started as a collection of six European countries that “sought to establish a common or single market in which goods, capital, services, and people could move freely within the European Community” (Dinan 2005). From these origins, the EU has expanded to include 27 member states with 3 candidate countries (EU 2009a). The most recent members to join were Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004) and Romania and Bulgaria (2007) (EU 2009b). In addition, a number of West Balkan countries are also considered as “potential candidates” (EU 2009b). Most of the candidates and the potential candidates are Balkan countries, with the exceptions of Turkey and Croatia (see Fig.1.)

        Fig.1. Yellow indicates potential candidates; green indicates 
       candidates and blue indicates current members. (EU 2009b)

The ascension of these countries is important for both the candidate/potential candidates and the EU. There are many reasons for this. 

1. Economic aspects

Trade: members within the EU enjoy free trade. That means that barriers and tariffs to trade have been removed. This means consumers in EU states pay less for high quality goods produced within the EU (OECD 2007)

Funding: the EU can provide funding for many projects in countries. In fact, the EU also provides financial support for candidate and potential candidate countries, so that they can meet the criteria needed to join the EU. This funding “aims at medium to long-term changes in society and its economy as a whole” (EU 2009c). So by joining the EU, a country is provided with money to develop its institutions and to make improvements that will benefit society generally. These funds can be substantial. For example, the EU allocated €70.7 million for Albania’s ascension fund in 2008 (CEC 2008)

Political aspects

The goal of EU ascension is a strong motivation for countries to improve their institutions. Balkan states are historically, geographically and politically in an extremely important location. They are in between 2 of the worlds most powerful hegemonies; Russia and the EU. Many of the Balkan states (with the possible exception of Serbia) are keen to join the EU “to provide a shield against future threats” from Russia (Aral 2002:81). Conflict in the area is also a threat to the EU. This has been demonstrated by the dispute between the Ukraine and Russia over gas payments in January 2009 many of the EU members expressed were worried about the impact of this dispute on their gas supplies (RFERL 2009)

1.2. Ascension Criteria

The EU has clear criteria that must be met by a country before it is allowed to become a full member. These have been outlined in the Treaty on European Union, from Copenhagen 1993. There are three criteria that a country must meet:

Political: the country must have stable, democratic institutions; rule of law; respect for human rights and protection of minorities
Economic: the country must have a working market economy and be able to cope with the competitive EU market
Legal: the country must be able to implement and comply with EU laws.  
(EU 2009d)

The EU refuses to negotiate ascension with a country that does not fulfill the political criteria (EU 2009d). However there is some evidence that the legal criterion is a lower priority in ascension negotiations. For example, Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007 but already in October 2007 they received warning about their failure to comply with the EU Birds Habitat Directive (SSI 2008). So it seems that political and economic criteria are more important for joining the EU than meeting legal requirements, although legal requirements are clearly also important after ascension.

1.3 Joining the EU

Expansion of the EU has been an important part of EU policy for many years now, demonstrated by the high number of recent additions in 2004 and 2007. Joining the EU is still an important goal for many countries. But it is clear that the EU has very strict conditions for a country that wants to join. This study will look at how the EU and a candidate country (Albania) have negotiated joining the EU and how power in negotiations has manifested itself and shaped the course of negotiations.

2. Problem Statement

One of the potential candidates to join the EU is Albania. Albania is in South Eastern Europe, in the Western part of the Balkans. It is a small country, being 28745km2 and with a population of 3,619,778. Nearly one third of the population lives in the capital, Tirana. It is mainly an agricultural/forest country (Fig 2.). Agriculture makes up 35% of total exports (Pjetri 2009).

      Fig 2. Albania land use (Pjetri 2009)

Historically, Albania has been occupied by Italians, Turks and Russians. So it is typical of a Balkan country, in that it has been under the hegemony of many different powers (Pjetri 2009). Recently it has sought to promote its ties with the EU rather than with Russia, as is the case with many of the other Balkan states. This has been demonstrated by Albania’s ascension to NATO, in accordance with EU wishes but against Russia’s (COC 2008). 

                  Gjin Ceca

After the collapse of the communist regime in 1990, Albania opened discussions with the EU in 1992. Initially, these were trade and co-operation agreements. But as EU influence grew, Albania increasingly expressed its wish to join the EU. In 1997, the EU Council of Ministers set political and economic conditions for Albania and other countries in the West Balkans. This can be seen as the first real step towards Albanian integration in the EU. Many other developments have occurred since then. In 1999-2000, further conditions were set, some trade barriers relaxed and Albania was officially granted the status of potential candidate for EU membership. From 2000-2007 Albania and the EU negotiated conditions for Albania’s ascension to the EU. Since 2007 Albania has been working to meet these conditions, but is still uncertain how long it will take Albania to join the EU (EU 2009e).

After 17 years of discussions between Albania and the EU, Albania is still very far from becoming an EU member. The slow rate of progress is interesting because many other former communist states have already been integrated into the EU (e.g. Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic etc.). Albania, along with the other Balkan states seem to have lagged behind, even though they started from a more or less equal start point in 1990 (Demetropoulou 2002). 

Why is Albania so slow to become an EU member compared to other former communist countries in Eastern Europe? There are many possible reasons. Some of these reasons are caused by Albania, both the government and public. In Romania, public and government support for joining the EU was very high but in the Balkans generally this has not been the case until now (Demetropoulou 2002). Another reason is that Albanian government has not had good diplomatic relations with its EU neighbor, Greece. This could have contributed to the lower public support for joining the EU in Albania (AIIS 2007). However, the low Albanian public support seems to be more explained by the loss of Albanian identity. Fig. 2. shows that this was the main reason why the Albanian would vote against joining the EU. 

                      Fig 2. Reasons for voting against joining the EU (AIIS 2007) 

Others problems may have been caused by the EU. Demetropoulou (2002) says that Romania and Bulgaria (which started in a very similar situation to Albania) had much clearer goals and strategies provided by the EU. Especially, the EU concentrated funding on improving institutions and standard of living in these countries. In Albania, the EU did not make such a clear strategy for ascencion. This was mainly because the Balkan states were seen as being extremely unstable. Although Albania did not suffer from ethnic war like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Kosovo, the EU treated the Balkans as a block. So Albania did not receive so much money for developing institutions, but much more for improving security and border control. This means today Albania is very far behind countries like Romania in terms of institutional strength, administrative capability and fighting corruption. 

These different reasons suggest that Albania and the EU are playing very different roles in negotiations. On one side, Albanian public and government must want to join the EU, like in Romania. There has been growing support for joining the EU in recent years (AIIC 2007). Also the EU must want to integrate Albania. This has increasingly been the case as now the EU seems to think that encouraging Balkan countries to join the EU is a good way to help stop the fighting in the area (Demetropoulou 2002). This means the negotiations between the EU and Albania is an interesting issue to study. There have been many political and economic changes in the relationship between the EU and Albania over 17 years but now it looks like both groups are looking to reach the same goal as soon as possible. Although there are many possible reasons listed above to explain why these negotiations have taken so long, they do not really explain  anything about the relationship between the EU and Albania, only they look at problems and concerns from both sides. I think to understand about the relationship between Albania and EU it is important to look at the negotiations between the 2 countries. 

Looking at negotiations gives a chance to understand how the 2 groups work together and how important is the poer in negotiations. It is clear that both sides need to cooperate and want Albania to be in the EU. But how are these 2 parties cooperating in negotiations? Is it only that the EU is dominant in the negotiations and tells Albania what to do? Or is power in the negotiations much more complicated and nuanced? This is the specific goal of the research. To answer this question, I will look at many theories about power and see what they can explain about the power in EU-Albanian negotiations.

Research aim: To understand the distinct characteristics of power in negotiations between EU and Albania.

Research questions: I make 2 broad research questions, with 2 detailed questions each. The 2 detailed questions help answer the broad question. 

What are the distinct characteristics of power in the negotiations?

Who has power in negotiations?
How are they using their power?

This broad question tries to explain about the power in negotiations. I try to find out about power in negotiations by looking at who has power and if they use it.

How have the distinct characteristics of power effected the negotiations?

Have they had a negative effect – (e.g. slowed down, caused animosity between groups, made one group feel less powerful)?
Could this help explain why negotiations have taken so long?

This broad question tries to explain about the effect of distinct characteristics on negotiations. Maybe there is one group with all the power or different groups have different power. But what does this mean for the negotiations? Is it negative effect, making many arguments? Is the power characteristic explaining why negotiations take much longer for Albania than Romania? I try to say about the importance of looking at power in negotiations for understanding about those negotiations.
3. Theoretical Debate

1.1. Defining Power

The first problem to define what is meant by power in this study. Giddens (1984) said power is the “capacity of agents to achieve outcomes in social networks”. But this would only focuses on outcomes of negotiations. I am also interested in the process of negotiations. So it is not very helpful for our analysis. Another idea of power is the two faces of power (Bachrach and Baratz 1962). This theory says that power is not only the ability to do something but also the ability to say what is important to be done. So in this definition power is also about the control over problem framing. This is more interesting in EU Albania negotiations because we can look at who is framing the problems. For example, for research question 1 we can look at who is framing the problem and say they have the most power (e.g. EU setting criteria, deciding what Albania must improve to join). This is also very useful for answering the research question about how groups are using their power, because it will explain whether and how they are using power in both framing and outcomes.  

3.2. Analyzing power

Two faces is an interesting idea for defining power. But Barnett and Duvall (2005) argue that to analyze power, it is important to look at many forms of power. In this paper the two faces theory can give us a foundation to understand what power is. But to analyze power we need to have a framework which can look more closely at the problem. For example, above it was argued that two faces theory could show that EU has most power because it is framing the problem. But this only partly helps us understand why negotiations have taken so long or explain about it has a negative effect on negotiations. To really understand the role of power in negotiations, we need to look more closely at the negotiations to understand how power is being used and what the consequences of this are.

Barnett and Duvall (2005) divide power forms into “a taxonomy of power” (p.p. 39). The taxonomy has 4 parts: compulsory, institutional, structural and productive. This paper can look at each of these perspectives to gain a better understanding about the shaping of power in negotiations. This will help identify interesting points about who has power in negotiations (and how), whether a group is using the power that is available and what effect this is having on negotiations (to explain why it is taking so long). 

Compulsory: Compulsory is direct control. This is defined as the ability of A to get B to do what A wants it to do. This is often done through the control of resources by A. In this paper, this is interesting because it looks at the importance of resources, especially money. Do we see the EU directly controlling negotiations because EU has control over financial resources? Especially this is important for framing, which I an important part of Gidden’s definition about power. Analyzing compulsory power can help understand who has power to frame the problem.

Institutional: Institutional is indirect control by making rules. In EU – Albanian negotiations, there are very clear EU rules about succession (the 3 criteria must be met). Is the EU more powerful in negotiations because of these rules? Also how well is the EU ensuring that Albania is complying with these rules?   

Structural: Structural power is when there is authority because of the role that a group/individual has. For example, Albania has been given the category of potential candidate by the EU. This means the EU has defined what Albania’s role is in the EU community structure. For Albania to change it’s role to EU member, it must do what the current EU members think is important (e.g. meet the ascension criteria).

Productive: Productive power is similar to structural power because it is also about identity. But structural power comes from a hierarchical structure or institution, like the EU. Productive power is not only coming from in a structure. An example of productive power is the EU grouping of Albania with other Balkan states, like Montenegro. Because EU treats Albania as part of a block, EU produces a new kind of identity for Albania. This could have had many implications for negotiations between EU and Albania, especially because a survey in Albania found loss of national identity was the publics biggest concern. Maybe this is a very counter-productive use of power by the EU because it makes Albania more resistant to EU influence?

Using the Barnett and Duvall (2005) taxonomy as the analytical framework will help this paper look at many different aspects of the negotiation process. Especially it helps to focus on the importance of framing (compulsory), rules (institutional), structural hierarchy (structural) and identity (productive) in power negotiations. This will make the paper much better at explaining about the power in negotiations and help answer the research questions more fully.

4. Methodological Account

4.1. Research Design

This is a case study. Particularly it is a clinical case study. Clinical case studies “use theories to understand a case” (de Vaus 2001). This paper will use power theory to analyze the history and ongoing negotiations between Albania and EU to explain about the power in negotiations and the effect this has had on negotiations.

4.2. Research Strategy

Study groups: 
This research is concerned with 2 institutions: the EU and the Albanian government. To study these groups it is important to study the people who were involved in negotiations for both these groups. Also another important resource is the records from meetings and also documents made about Albania ascension.

Access to study groups: 
The first thing is to find out who is available and who wants to take part in the study. This might be easier in Albania because of personal contacts. I can use my network to arrange introductions to people who have been involved in Albania’s ascension negotiations. These people may also have contact with people from the EU negotiating group and at least will know the names of important representatives from the EU negotiating group. Then I can try and contact these people from the EU. Many official documents are available from the EU website and the Albanian government. The people who have been involved in negotiations might also be able to provide documents that are not publicly available (e.g. draft papers, notes taken in meetings).

4.3. Methods   

The main data collection method in this case study will be interviews. It is better to use unstructured interviews because this allows more flexibility in the interview (Kumar 2005). The interview should be guided by the research questions and the analytical framework of Barnett and Duvall (2005). For example, I want to know more about whether resources was an important point in negotiations. Because this will show if the EU was using compulsory power in negotiations.

For documents, the literature review should also focus on answering the research questions within the analytical framework. For example, looking for particular references to negotiations about the ascension criteria for Albania – this might show if the EU is using institutional power or not. Also the documents are important because they tell a lot about the outcome of negotiations. Interviews are likely to tell us a lot about the process. So by comparing documents to interview data, it should be possible to build a better idea of the power in the negotiation process. 


AIIS (Albanian Institute for International Studies) (2007) Rethinking EU integration: Albanian perceptions and realities AIIS, Tirana, Albania 

Aral, Berdal (2002) The Black Sea Economic Co-Operation after Ten Years: What Went Wrong? Alternatives: Turkish journal of International Relations 1:73-87

Barach & Baratz M S. (1962) Two faces of power Amer. Pout. Sd. Rev. 56:947-52

Barnett, M and Duvall, R. (2005) Power in International Politics International Organization 59: 39-75

CEC (Commission for European Communities) ALBANIA 2008 PROGRESS REPORT
Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2008-2009  CEC 5.11.2008 http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/press_corner/key-documents/reports_nov_2008/albania_progress_report_en.pdf visited 10.4.09

COC (China Org CN) “NATO agrees to invite Croatia, Albania to join alliance” 3.4.2008 http://www.china.org.cn/international/news/2008-04/03/content_14180276.htm

Demetropoulou, L. (2002) Europe and the Balkans: Membership Aspiration, EU Involvement and Europeanization Capacity in South Eastern Europe Southeast European Politics 3 87-106

de Vaus, David (2001) Research Design in Social Research ; Sage Publishers

Dinan, D. (2005) “Ever Closer Union: An Introduction to European Integration” Houndmans, UK

EU (2009a) www.eurunion.org/states/home.htm

EU (2009b)http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/index_en.htm

EU (2009c) http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/how-does-it-work/financial-assistance/index_en.htm

EU (2009d) http://europa.eu/scadplus/glossary/accession_criteria_copenhague_en.htm

EU (2009e) http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/albania/key_events_en.htm. 

Giddens, A. (1984) The constitution of society; Polity Press Cambridge

Kumar, R. (2005) Research Methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners SAGE publications, London

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2007) Economic Survey of the Eutropean Union 2007  OECD

Pjetri, Enkeleda (2009) Evolution and Analysis of the Albanian Forest Legislation from 1923 to 2008 Master thesis presented to University of Sarajevo 03.09

RFERL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) 3.1.2009 “EU Feels Impact Of Russia-Ukraine Gas Dispute” http://www.rferl.org/Content/EU_Feels_Impact_Of_Russia_Ukraine_Gas_Dispute/1366022.html accessed 10.4.09

SSI (Seventh Space Interactive) Environment: Commission warns Bulgaria about poor environmental performance 27.11.2008 http://7thspace.com/headlines/298755/environment_commission_warns_bulgaria_about_poor_environmental_performance.html visited 10.4.09