ECMI Publications Database

#126: Conceptual Disputes over the Notions of Nation and National Minority in the Western Balkan Countries
Ljubica Djordjević
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The paper analyses the texts of the constitutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia as a basis for exploring how these states deal with the (ethnic) diversity and balance between civic and ethnic concepts of nation. The four countries offer an interesting spectrum of different approaches, caused by different social contexts: the main feature of the approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the category of “constituent peoples”; Montenegro has opted for a civic concept; North Macedonia tries to balance between multiculturalism and a binational state; and Serbia juggles the concept of the nation-state combined with comprehensive protection for national minorities. The analysis shows that the constitutions struggle to various degrees with the balance between the civic (political) concept of a (supra-ethnic) nation and the ethnic (cultural) concept of nation(s), and, in essence, fail to contribute to interethnic interaction and wider social cohesion. Although it is clear that the recognition of specific group identities and accommodation of (minority) rights is essential for pursuing peace, stability, diversity and genuine equality in each of the four analysed countries, it is also evident that imbalance favouring the ethnic concept of nation and failure to establish stronger institutional links of common citizenship, inevitably leads to parallel (one could even argue “segregated”) societies where different groups simply live next to each other but do not genuinely interact, which is detrimental to social cohesion and social stability and prosperity in the long run.

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