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3.2.4 Conditionality – normative mechanism?

The activities to diffuse norms overviewed in the previous chapter stem from the social constructivism perspective. The key term that unites all above mentioned mechanisms (except “transference”) is socialization which is a process of “inducting actors into the norms and rules of a given community” (Checkel, 2005: 804). Agents involved in the process tend to accept and internalize promoted norms through redefining their own interests and preferences. Unlike conditionality, this mechanism does not provide any material incentives in reward for compliance. However, compliance can be motivated by the agent’s desire to get social rewards (e.g. Public declarations of support, status, etc.) or to avoid possible social punishments, for instance, shaming. For this reason, Kelley (2004: 31) uses the term “normative pressure” to describe its functioning. However, being an extremely mild strategy socialization possesses the specifications qualifying it as normative mechanism.

Still, some authors (e.g. Therborn 1997: 380) while listing possible mechanisms of normative power include there also conditionality. In terms of theoretical genesis, principle of conditionality emanates from rationalist social theory which prioritizes cost-benefit calculations whilst making decision to accept/reject promoted norms. Authors have suggested various categorizations of conditionality (Killick 1998, Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2004 etc). But in this short analysis of conditionality I will use only two broadly accepted types– negative and positive conditionality. First of all, it should be noted that unlike socialization that relies on normative rationality, c0nditionality rests on instrumental rationality. It means that in order to succeed in promoting norms, it should have very strong incentives. In case of negative conditionality, the punishment or “stick” should bear a real cost for a target agent. (Kubicek, 2005: 273). Whereas positive conditionality should offer the incentives valuable enough to prevail over the costs in rational calculations of the agent (Sjursen and Smith 2004). Positive conditionality is designed to shift the ongoing situation in the target country that is unsatisfactory for the donor (Fierro, 2003: 100). If the country succeeds in fulfilling conditions, then it is rewarded with promised benefits. Otherwise, the party imposing changes withholds rewards.

Conditionality here presumes “rational utility maximization based on actor’s perceived constraints and opportunities” (Sissenich, 2007: 9). Thus, adoption of norms rests on the level of asymmetric interdependence between the EU and target country. Such asymmetric nature of relations implies the absence of equality between the parties. In practice, however, positive conditionality has been quite successful in introducing changes during pre-accession period of many Central and Eastern European countries to the EU. And, indeed, this mode of conditionality is peaceful and not backed by the use of coercion and force. However, it does not meet the requirements to be called normative method. Resting on material incentives, positive conditionality underlines the economic capabilities of the EU thus creating an image of Europe as an economic power – the concept that Manners was trying persistently to avoid in the conceptualization of Normative Power Europe along with a military perception of the EU.

Negative conditionality also fails to meet the requirements to be called a normative method. For non-compliance it bears sufficient punishment (“stick”) in the form of sanctions – decreasing, ceasing, totally removing the benefits or even imposing restrictions on the disobedient governments. Economic sanctions can be as harmful to the economy and well-being of people as military campaigns. Such measures can assessed as coercive intervention in order to change the cost-benefit calculations of the governments as they leave no other alternative option. Moreover, reduced contacts as a result of sanctions (e.g. Libya, Belarus) did not prove to be successful in positively affecting domestic political processes (Tocci, 2008: 10).

3.2.5 Normative impact

Finally, to become a credible normative power it should produce tangible results in the form of changes in the target country’s behaviour. One of the main prerequisites for normative impact to take effect is successful accomplishment of all three variables described above – norms, goals and means. Causing normative impact reflects external aspects of Europe’s actions. Spotting Europe’s normative impact on target countries is as much important as studying its internal instruments and logics of behaviour. First of all, tracking the results helps to identify actual objectives of European foreign policy, ensuring that they do not convey cloaked intentions. Secondly, inspection of results reflects consequentialism which is placed on the basis of normative foreign policy by Manners (2006). However, integrated into normative concept consequentialism does not conform to utilitarian ethics.15 Thus, normative effect advents only as an outcome of pursuit of normative goals by means of normative tools and achieving normative intent (Tocci, 2008: 11).

Most desirable impact that Normative Power Europe seeks to exert on third parties is adoption of norms. However, adoption of norms is a long and complicated process and, therefore, when assessing normative impact additional factors should be taken into account. For instance, media coverage plays a crucial role in raising awareness about changes to be introduced and consequently contributes to their inclusion into the agenda of political discourse. Intensity of domestic discourses concerning the norms can foretell their adoption (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2005). Acceptance of new norms usually occurs by introduction of amendments into national legislation. But even when they are instilled into national law yet it does not indicate the advent of normative impact. It is necessary to ensure a consistent use and implementation of norms in practice. Moreover, norms introduced into domestic practices should preserve their actual meaning as it is possible that government-recipient may interpret the norms in different context and thus deprive them of authentic essence (Niemann and de Wekker, 2010: 11). For this reason, evaluation of normative impact requires a particular attention to the analysis of speeches and statements made by officials of target countries.

Another important point is to verify whether impact is caused solely by relevant activities of the EU. In the contemporary international system, there are various organizations and channels that put pressure on the governments in order achieve several normative goals, although, exercising means which do not comply with Manner’s normativity. So, the activities of the EU and these actors may coincide in some parts obscuring the identity of real patron. To assure that the EU exerts normative impact in particular cases it is necessary to find out explicit traces showing that discourse and implementation of norms are shaped in line with the EU actions. Ultimately, the conclusion that can be drawn from aforementioned peculiarities of achieving normative impact brings me to the definition formulated by Tocci (2008: 11): “A normative impact is one where a traceable path can be drawn between an international player’s direct or indirect actions and inactions (or series of actions) on the one hand and the effective building and entrenchment of an international rule-bound environment on the other.” This particularly explains why we will use process tracing method as part of the case study focused on the freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, where normative impact will be explored deeply.

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