Chinese Western Balkans Presence Forces EU to Follow Geopolitical Suit: A Transformation of the EU’s Enlargement Strategy From 2003 to 2018.
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Although EU enlargement was long considered one of the success stories of its normative power, in this thesis is argued that this is no longer the case. Failure of the EU to initiate structural progress in the accession negotiations forced it to rethink its enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans. The perception amongst EU policymakers that growing Chinese presence in the region has a negative impact on the accession process, consolidated the EU’s transition away from a normative power vested enlargement strategy. Prioritization of the Union’s self-interest was the consequence of the refugee- and European debt crisis. As the EU underwent an identity crisis, it lost the ability to shape what is ‘normal’ in international politics. Elements from the Chinese Western Balkan model have become incorporated into the EU’s enlargement strategy, which since 2018 is centred around material incentives in the form of infrastructure- and energy investments. The EU is reasserting itself as a traditional geopolitical actor in the region, albeit with a focus on economic- rather than military power. The aim of this research has been to contribute to the academic debate on the EU’s role as a global actor by applying the Tocci and Manners typology of four ideal type of global actors to the EU’s enlargement strategy. Moreover, this work builds further on the Tripartite analytical framework and hopes to provide better understanding of the ongoing process whereby the EU is reconstituting its presentation as a global actor based on the reception of its foreign policy.