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In the frame of party competition: citizenship, voting rights and nation-building in the post-Yugoslav space

Final Report Summary - COMPCITXU (In the frame of party competition: citizenship, voting rights and nation-building in the post-Yugoslav space)

Project: COMPCITXU - In the frame of party competition: citizenship, voting rights and nation-building in the post-Yugoslav space
Researcher: Dr Jelena Dzankic
Host institution: European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS)

The COMPCITXU project is an interdisciplinary analysis of the relationship between party politics, electoral rights and citizenship in the post-Yugoslav states, whose political and social realities are shaped by the concurrent processes of state and nation building and Europeanisation. Having in mind that the regulation of citizenship, as the link between individuals and the state, sets the boundaries for inclusion in/exclusion from the polity and that franchise legislation defines who, and under what conditions, can take part in the political competition, the key questions of this project were: 1) Do some polities exclude some ethnic groups from their citizenship if these challenge the dominant nation-building project? 2) Does this change when different parties are in power and if so, why? 3) Why do some polities grant external voting to non-resident citizens, while others do not? 4) Do differences in the citizenship status affect the exercise of voting rights in the post-Yugoslav states? 5) How is the change in the dynamics of party competition reflected in voting rights legislation?

To answer these questions, the project’s key objectives were fourfold: 1) to enhance the researcher’s methodological and project management capabilities via ‘training through research’; 2) to improve the researcher’s theoretical understanding of party competition, franchise and citizenship and contribute to the development of Europe-based models for the study thereof; 3) to reach professional maturity by publishing research outputs, conference participation, dissemination and invited activities, thus contributing to the participation of female researchers within the European Research Area; 4) to establish durable collaborations with colleagues from the EUI and elsewhere with the aim of applying for major research funding in the coming years.


During the two years of the fellowship, the researcher has accomplished the following activities, directly related to the realisation of the project aims and objectives. In the first year, in cooperation with the scientist-in-charge she developed a Career Development Plan (CDP), laying out specific milestones for the project and outlining its potential impact for the researcher’s future career. She undertook training in qualitative research methods through discussions of her project with the host EUI community, and attended quantitative research sessions at international conferences. In line with the work plan, the researcher took German and Italian courses through the EUI’s language centre, and in French through individual sessions with French-speaking students. The researcher also collected and analysed secondary data, including academic publications, as well as citizenship legislation and electoral results in the seven post-Yugoslav states. She also conducted fieldwork activities in three former Yugoslav states (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia), collecting primary materials and interviewing key stakeholders and policy analysts (five per country). The analysis of these materials enabled her to devise and develop her book proposal, which she successfully submitted to Ashgate in March 2014, resulting in a book contract in the following month. Supported in her dissemination activities by the scientist-in-charge, the researcher attended five major international conferences in Europe and the United States. At the end of the first year of the fellowship, she published her open access working paper at SSRN as the first printed output. In the second year, the researcher continued her ‘training-through-research’ activities, while focusing on the production of research outputs and developing her research networks and collaborations. She conducted fieldwork in the remaining four post-Yugoslav states (Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo), collecting materials and interviewing key political actors, as per the work plan. During the second year, the researcher completed her book manuscript (published in August 2015), and finalised outputs planned within COMPCITXU (two academic articles – one forthcoming in November 2015; one under review). She also used the project’s results as grounds for her contributions to two forthcoming edited collections - with Rowman and Littlefield and Routledge, respectively. As a part of her training, based on the summer course she gave at the University of Graz in 2014, she developed two further academic courses on citizenship, which she subsequently offered at the University of Freiburg (Switzerland) and University of Passau (Germany). As a result of her collaborative networking efforts, she contributed a further book chapter on migration and citizenship to the Routledge Handbook on Immigration and Refugee Studies, and participated in a consortium within the Horizon 2020 call for research funding (Western Balkans). In terms of dissemination, she attended five major international conferences, and a number of smaller workshops and seminars. She also organised an EUI-based workshop, leading to a special issue and an edited volume that she co-edited. To disseminate to non-academic audiences, she wrote debate contributions, blogs, and was extensively interviewed by mainstream media.

Main results:

Combining qualitative and quantitative research, this project started from the premise that the examined concepts are intimately related. The loyalty to nation-building projects in the post-Yugoslav states ranges from conflictual (in deeply contested plurinational states, with Bosnia at the extreme end) to consensual (in consolidated mono-national states, with Slovenia at the other extreme end). In the consensual states party competition revolves around political ideologies, while in the conflictual ones it is driven by national ideologies. As the main aim of citizenship and franchise legislation is to regulate who can take part in political processes, the different nature of party competition will be reflected in nationality and voting rights laws through rules for inclusion and exclusion. Based on this approach, COMPCITXU generated a conceptual framework for distinguishing the developments in the politics of citizenship and franchise between contested and consolidated post-partition states. The project’s results have been presented in published outputs, and disseminated to academic audiences through conference and workshop participation, and to the broader public through the project-related websites and communication to key stakeholders and policy-makers in the Western Balkan states.

Final results, impact and use:

As per the work plan, the results of this project have a twofold contribution. First, in terms of academic excellence for the ERA, this project contributes to European competitiveness in the study of citizenship and electoral rights by: a) showing how dynamics of nation and state building and Europeanisation affect the matters of inclusion and exclusion in the Western Balkans; b) how political competition shapes legislation thus reflecting an array of interests, which in addition to political parties includes diasporas, migrant populations, etc. As such, the project can be an informational tool for the ERA and the European institutions on how to approach the regulation of citizenship and franchise in this region. This carries particular relevance in the context of states, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Kosovo, where vulnerable groups are excluded from key political processes. Considering the current debates on legislative reform in the context of EU accession of these countries, COMPCITXU results can inform future policy studies on how to approach conditionality in the Western Balkans. Secondly, COMPCITXU have significantly enhanced the academic prospects of the researcher, who has built on her teaching and research portfolios. This is a further benefit for the ERA, since the integration and participation of a female researcher from the Western Balkans into mainstream political science research helps to bridge the gender gap in the field.