The region of Southeast Europe has been expected to progress almost linearly on the European and democratic path, accepting, implementing, and internalizing the democratic and liberal values that the European Union stands for. The EU was founded as the “greatest peace project of all time”. Its steady political and economic progress before the Great Recession of 2008 had attracted neighboring countries, especially those coming from post-communist and post-conflict zones, promising a realistically “utopian” horizon and the promise of a better, normal life.
In these times of obvious crisis for the European model in Southeast Europe, it is our message that a true transfer of European norms and values is possible only with a strong participatory democratic process that allows citizens to exchange opinions and construct shared definitions of the public good. We cannot have this process without creating society engaged in critical public debate where SEE citizens can socialize as active citizens and are treated as equal, responsible, and responsive towards their communities. This is the only path towards living as European citizens, no matter whether we live in the European Union or not. However, the first and the most important struggle in the region is for democracy of active citizens – a condicio sine qua non before we can talk at all about European values and any meaningful future of Southeast Europeans.
Featuring contributions by Gazela Pudar Draško, Vedran Džihić, Bojan Baća, Nilay Kilinç, and Senada Šelo Šabić, the most recent study in our “Academia in Dialogue” series investigates the idea of European values and their limits. The authors suggest a new “normative marketplace” is emerging, where the universality of EU norms and values such as democracy, human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law may be at stake. The paper aims to analyze this “new marketplace” and to engage in thinking about possible utopian horizons, which undoubtedly remain relevant beyond the current state of emergency.
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