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Power-Sharing Revisited: Lessons Learned in the Balkans?

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For more content, see Review of Socialist Law.

In this article, the authors discuss the use of power-sharing instruments in the Western Balkans. While the comparison will focus on the use of power-sharing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia, there will be occasional references to Kosovo, the third country in the region that displays elements of power-sharing. We argue that the region has been a laboratory of power-sharing instruments, with rather mixed results. While in all three cases, power-sharing was part of a larger strategy of peacebuilding, and was, therefore, successful in ending violent conflict and supporting peaceful conflict resolution, the introduction of power-sharing has also had some negative side effects. We will discuss, in particular, the consequences of complicated political systems, veto rights, as well as far-reaching ethno-territorial autonomy. Furthermore, the article will asses the risk of blockages arising from complex political arrangements and resulting international mediation. A particular focus of the article will be to distinguish between federalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina and alternative forms of autonomy (both territorial and non-territorial) in Macedonia and Kosovo. Rather than suggesting that power-sharing as such has failed in the region, we submit that the experience in the region suggests that: (a) there are no viable alternatives to power-sharing in the selected countries; (b) that different types of power-sharing need to be considered; and (c) that potential membership in the European Union continues to be the only incentive for the efficient implementation and application of power-sharing in the cases discussed.


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