Project

Europeanisation of memory politics in Croatia and Serbia

Goal: This research project examined the relevance of ‘dealing with the past’ in the European Integration process of the post-Yugoslav states.

Methods: Non-Participant Observation, Public Policy Analysis, Elite Interviewing, Content analysis

Date: 17 December 2019

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Project log

Ana Milosevic
added a research item
In this study, I examine the ways in which ‘Europe’ has been built as a mnemonic community based on a shared past. Numerous academics and practitioners have argued for the emergence of a ‘European memory’ – i.e. a shared narrative about the past as an instrument to strengthen a sense of common European identity across populations in Europe. Over the last 30 years EU institutions and political elites have been promoting this approach – i.e. the rebuilding of a divisive and dividing past into a shared memory – so extensively that we might speak of the emergence of an ‘EU politics of memory’. Mainstream explanations on the transnationalisation of memory discourses and practices, however, do not highlight the role of collective memory in the process of Europeanisation (Assman 2014; Banke 2010; Calligaro 2013; de Cesari & Rigney 2014; Gensburger & Lavabre 2012; Pakier & Stråth 2010; Mälksoo 2009; Mink & Neumayer 2013; Neumayer 2018; Sierp 2014). Europeanisation literature observes countries as being reactive to the rule transfer that in turn will lead toward the internalisation of new norms and development of new identities following interaction with the EU institutions and representatives (Börzel & Risse 2003). This dissertation, however, proposes an alternative understanding of Europeanisation. This understanding allows to take into account the possibility that countries not only respond to but also manipulate the process of transferring European rules and norms. For their own political gain, they align themselves with EU memory politics. Croatia (an EU member state) and Serbia (a candidate country) with their effectively shared past in post-1945 Yugoslavia and as former warring parties in the 1990s, are selected for in-depth analysis. The key argument is that both countries have exploited the EU’s memory framework, albeit to a different extent, using the same tools and methods to affirm their mutually divergent ethnonational narratives of the past at (trans)national level. In order to substantiate this argument, the thesis elaborates on historical institutionalism and draws from both rational choice and constructivist scholarship to study the relationship between collective memory and Europeanisation. It argues that constructivist models, which theorise a causal link between identity and Europeanisation, cannot fully explain the complexity of this relationship. This thesis develops an interpretive theoretical framework in which memory politics and Europeanisation are conceptualised as mutually constitutive and need to be studied at the level of mnemonic practices. This approach permits us to understand not only who remembers and how, but importantly what are the purposes assigned to political mobilisation of the past at (trans)national level. The research conducted through this model highlights the normativity of discourses on European memory and shallowness of political ‘dealing with the past’. It shows that memory politics is malleable as the meanings assigned to memorialisation bend to the purposes and objectives of a wide variety of memory entrepreneurs on both national and transnational level. This is illustrated in the case studies, which focus on official narratives concerning the Second World war, the Yugoslav wars and their legacies. The empirical analysis shows that Croatia and Serbia gradually, yet selectively converged with the imperatives of EU memory politics in the pre-accession period, using salient EU identity and memory markers to reformulate and reframe their domestic narratives of the past in order to support their EU bid. In the post-accession period, countries (Croatia) have been more intensively projecting domestic discourses by employing mnemonic practices and dominant memory canons onto the transnational level in order to pursue symbolic and political gains. Finally, through the comparison of national discourses in the EU discursive arena, the dissertation asserts that European memory, nevertheless, proves to be a highly contested and elusive concept.
Ana Milosevic
added a research item
A board game in which players try to escape from Communist countries reinforces a narrative which identifies Nazism and Communism as equally evil – an idea that’s being used by historical revisionists in the Balkans to whitewash fascists.
Ana Milosevic
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Seminar with Simona Guerra, Davide Denti and Heleen Touquet
17 October 2018, KU Leuven
 
Ana Milosevic
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Conference presentation, European parliament 18 October 2018
 
Ana Milosevic
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CONFERENCE PROGRAM
Memory Laws in Post-Transitional Democracies:
Case Studies from Post-Communist States Conference
 
Heleen Touquet
added a research item
The shared memories of the Second World War have played a crucial role in the process of integration of the European Union. After the Enlargement to the East, the EU also sought to accommodate the historical experiences of the former communist countries. The result of this process was an EU memory framework that focused on shared suffering under totalitarian (both fascist and communist) regimes. This article examines the impact of this framework and its equalisation of fascism and communism on Croatia (new member state) and Serbia (in accession talks). We conclude that the framework is used locally as an opportunity structure to renegotiate ideological conflicts.
Ana Milosevic
added a research item
Call for papers for the edited volume: Europeanisation and memory politics in the former Yugoslavia Ana Milošević (KU Leuven) and Heleen Touquet (Harvard, KU Leuven) Deadline for proposals: 15 June 2018 Notification of acceptance: 15 July 2018 Submission date: 15 December 2018
Ana Milosevic
added a research item
This chapter investigates the similarities and differences between national and European commemorations by observing who, how and with what purpose memorialise. It analyses how Croatian political elites since the EU accession of country (2013) have framed and commemorated the main national lieu de mémoire – Vukovar, both on national and European level. This chapter draws evidence from ethnographic observation of Vukovar commemoration in loco and in the European parliament (2013-2017), analysis of commemorative speeches and interviews with political elites. Croatian political elites employ divergent narratives to frame and commemorate Vukovar (trans)nationally. At the EU level, the memory of Vukovar is instrumental in gaining endorsement of Croatia’s ethno-national narrative of the Yugoslav wars. Commemorative initiatives promote one-sided narrative of the Homeland War, that excludes victims of other ethnicities, yet it assigns to Vukovar a pivotal role in reconciliation. As such, the European commemoration is in stark contrast with local/national commemoration and the state of affairs between the Serb minority and ethnic Croats in Vukovar.
Ana Milosevic
added an update
Two main thoughts of my article published in the Balkanist:
  1. Making a monument in a public space to memorialize a tragic event (perceived as collective tragedy) is a political statement.
  2. Making a monument is a zero-sum game. Surplus in memorial activities produce outcomes contrary to their initially stated goals. When this becomes widely accepted practice, making a memorial has very limited impact on a society.
 
Ana Milosevic
added an update
In the framework of the “Charles V” European Award, the Yuste Foundation awarded me with a Research and Mobility Grant on the topic of “Peace and European values as a potential model for integration and progress in a global world”.
Between 24 and 27 of July (2017), I had the pleasure of presenting my own contribution at the seminar held in the Monastery of Yuste, Spain.
The paper: "¿Un acervo de valores europeos? La europeización y la memoria colectiva / An acquis of European values? Europeanization and collective memory" deals with the effects of Europeanization on national politics of memory. What's more, I analyse under which conditions these processes occur, who guides them and with what outcomes.
Together with contributions of other scholars, this paper will appear in print in January 2018.
 
Ana Milosevic
added an update
June 16th 2017 |  11am – 12.30pm  | KU Leuven, Faculty of Social Sciences
Is there a European memory? And if so, how shared moral and political attitudes towards the past relate to the process of EU Integration? These will be some of the questions addressed by this seminar.
Ana Milosevic will argue that as a result of the process of European Integration, we can observe the emergence of a shared European past in political discourse and institutional practices, transcending national forms of memory. She will explore the ways in which the process of Europeanization is affecting the politics of memory in Croatia, an EU member state, and Serbia, a candidate country.
Seminar will be moderated by Dr. Heleen Touquet (KU Leuven) and Davide Denti ( University of Trento); followed by a presentation of French artist Edith Bories who explores architectural and symbolic meanings attached the communist monuments of the former Yugoslavia.
Due to the limited capacity of the venue, we kindly ask you to express your interest in attending this event before 14 June 2017.
 
Ana Milosevic
added an update
Delighted to announce that this project has been awarded by the European Academy of Yuste Foundation.
I received the Research grant Carlos V European Award aimed at researchers who are preparing a doctoral thesis on european issues.
 
Ana Milosevic
added an update
An exciting field trip with Vjeran Pavlaković between Zagreb and Belgrade. Check out my blog to learn more about the places we visited, people we interviewed (former president Stjepan Mesic, prof. Todor Kuljic and many more).
You are most welcome to use photographs and videos posted, but don't forget to add reference.
Themes: WWII, Homeland War, Vukovar, Jasenovac, Communist memorials, Attending commemorations.
 
Ana Milosevic
added an update
This week I will be doing some interesting field work in Croatia and Serbia. Actually, it is going to be more of a road trip which shall include visit to several places of memory, attendance of Jasenovac commemoration and lots of interviewing.
Follow updates here: http://www.milosevic.eu/zg2bg
#Zagreb2Belgrade
 
Ana Milosevic
added a research item
This paper discusses the way in which a post-conflict European Union (EU) member immediately after accession both shapes and adapts to EU memory politics as a part of its Europeanization process. I will analyze how the country responds to the top-down pressures of Europeanization in the domestic politics of memory by making proactive attempts at exporting its own politics of memory (discourses, policies, and practices) to the EU level. Drawing evidence from Croatian EU accession, I will consider how Croatian members of the European Parliament “upload” domestic memory politics to the EU level, particularly to the European Parliament. Based on the analysis of elite interviews, discourses, parliamentary duties, agenda-setting, and decision-making of Croatian MEPs from 2013 to 2016, I argue that the parliament serves both as a locus for confirmation of European identity through promotion of countries’ EU memory credentials and as a new forum for affirmation of national identity. The preservation of the “Homeland War” narrative (1991–1995) and of the “sacredness” of Vukovar as a European lieu de mémoire clearly influences the decision-making of Croatian MEPs, motivating inter-group support for policy building and remembrance practices that bridge domestic political differences.
Ana Milosevic
added an update
One of the main pillars of my empirical research strategy are elite interviews. Over time, I have conducted numerous interviews with EU decision-makers, as well as with national political elites in the Western Balkans.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Štefan Fule - the former EU Commissioner for the Enlargement. The topic of this interview was dealing with the past and the process of EU Integration in the Western Balkans.
 
Ana Milosevic
added 2 research items
This paper explains how historical memory affects the attitudes of the Members of the European parliament (MEPs) towards the House of European History (2016), a museum built by the European Parliament (EP) with an aim to serve as a locus for European identity and showcase shared European history. This qualitative research was the first to empirically address the contents and aims of the HEH though perceptions of the MEPs. The empirical strategy consisted of 30 interviews: exploratory interviews were conducted with the MEPs involved in the creation and implementation of the project (e.g. president Dr. Pöttering, the vice-president Martinez Martinez), MEPs in the informal group ‘Reconciliation of European Histories’ (e.g. Doris Pack) and the Academic Staff of the HEH. Core interviews were conducted with the MEPs representing all political parties in the EP including Non-attached members. The results have implications for our understanding of Europeanization of memory, and the role of the EP as ‘memory entrepreneur’. The findings show that MEPs oppose strongly to the House of European History and support the diversity of historical memories. While the vast majority of respondents identify with Europe and the EU, acknowledging their own European identity existing mostly in cultural terms, MEPs across all political parties disagree with the European identity building aims assigned to this museum and see it as an attempt to ‘re-write of the history’. A 'European historical perspective', in the opinion of the MEPs, is an attempt of the EP to induce Europeanization via memories across Member states, by de-nationalizing historical narratives and creating a Transnational memory reservoir which will supply new energy to the process of European Integration.
Ana Milosevic
added an update
Research seminar on "Europeanization of memory" at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
 
Ana Milosevic
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The democratic transition which Central and Eastern Europe had undergone since 1989, did not follow the same path as in the Balkans, where ethnic war provoked the disintegration of Yugoslavia (1991). Using anti-fascist politics of memory, its actors and narratives, the Yugoslav regime not only disseminated its political ideology (‘home-grown’ socialism) but encouraged Yugoslav identity building efforts. As such, the Yugoslav inter-war regime affected not only individual and collective identities but it helped forge value-based memories of a joint, trans-ethnic anti-fascist struggle, posing today a challenge for the post-Yugoslav memory space. How to deal with the communist legacy and the crimes of Yugoslavia without belittling the role of partisans in anti-fascist liberation? This paper explores the nexus between Europeanization and dealing with the past in Serbia through the debate on de-communisation. I analyse under which conditions, through what mechanisms and with what aim political elites in Serbia defuse the communist past-in-the-present using the process of Europeanization and the EU models in dealing with the past of totalitarian regimes.
Ana Milosevic
added an update
Happy to share some of the latest findings of my project at Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies of the University of Heidelberg. The topic of my conference presentation: How post-Yugoslav countries are fostering Anti-totalitarian stance during the process of EU Integration and what this implies for their dealing with the legacies of Communism?
Annual Conference 2016 - October, 12- 14.
Making, Sustaining, Breaking – The Politics Of Heritage And Culture Forum Transregionale Studien, Max Weber Stiftung, Cluster Asia and Europe in a Global Context (Universität Heidelberg), Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
 
Ana Milosevic
added a project goal
This research project examined the relevance of ‘dealing with the past’ in the European Integration process of the post-Yugoslav states.