Discourses and Practices of Competing Region-Building in the Eastern Neighbourhood: The Case of Moldova
Neither can the rivalry between Russia and the EU be explained without considering the geopolitical choices of the countries ‘in-between’, such as Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia or Armenia, nor can domestic politics in one of the countries ‘in-between’ be explained without considering the external actor’s policies and their impact on domestic politics. Thus, in order to understand Moldova’s domestic politics as well as the effects of EU policies towards Moldova (i.e. the Eastern Partnership, EaP) the regional and the domestic dimension need to be treated as strongly intertwined. In order to do so the dissertation utilizes a constructivist and poststructuralist region-building approach (RBA). The EU’s and Russia’s policies constitute two controversial, at times even conflicting, region-building projects. Following the theoretical strand of RBA, the thesis criticises the traditional conceptualization of Europeanization mechanisms based on the logic of appropriateness and the logic of consequence and develops an analytical framework on the basis of Foucauldian understanding of discursive power and insights from practice theory in order to explain how such discursive power travels between the regional discourse to the domestic discourse. The theoretical part argues that a that the poststructuralist perspective and the specific understanding of power that comes with it is a useful analytical lens to transcend the longstanding mismatch between empirical observations and conceptual assumptions about external impact in the EaP – such as the dyad of values versus interests and the complexity stemming from the relational triangle EU-Russia-neighbourhood countries. Europeanization is not understood in the traditional way as a process of norm and value – possibly identity – transfer through socialization and conditionality but as a process of impacting political practices (rites, speech acts and more generally discourses) in the target country and ‘transnationalizing’ domestic power struggles embedded in those discourses and practices.
The empirical part applies this analytical framework and finds that discourses and political practices of Europeanization foster first and foremost the transfer of the perception of the European Self against an Other instead of substantial European norms and values. This is described in as ‘unintended processes’ of Europeanization which leads to the creation of Bourdieuian ‘doxa’ as a compensation for Moldova’s foreign policy identity crisis. It furthermore shows that those unintended processes have led to strong polarization of the domestic political landscape which is likely to torpedo or at least stall reform processes an entail political instability in Moldova. It is argued that two factors contribute to such dynamics: First, a foreign policy identity crisis through which neither a ‘Europanness’ nor a ‘Eurasianness’ of Moldova have ever been self-evident but strongly contested and second, more than one regional integration projects compete over domestic influence.
The Eastern partnership has often been blamed of inefficiency in fostering peace and stability in the contested neighbouhood. Although some studies identified the geopolitical context as a constraining factor of conflict resolution, the EU’s revision of the ENP in 2015 and the EU Global Strategy from 2016 have failed to produce solutions to this problem.
The intended research project examines how EU-Russia relations contribute to further fragmentation of the political landscape in the shared neighbourhood countreis. It argues that the ENP is unlikely to produce its intended outcome if no particular attention to the geopolitical context is paid.
- Since 2017: Visiting Researcher at the Union of International Associations (www.uia.org)
- Since 2015: Editoral assistant of the Review of Central and East European Law (RCEEL)
- 2014 – 2015: study visit to Belgrade, Serbia, PENTA Join EU-SEE grant
- 2011 – 2013: residency in Romania, studies at Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca as well as internships at the Austrian Embassy Bucharest and the German-language newspaper ADZ
- Joint master’s degree in South-East European Studies (MA)
University of Graz (Austria) and University of Belgrade (Serbia), 2015
- Bachelor’s degree in Political Science (BA)
Universität München (LMU), Germany, 2012
- East european politics
- European Neighbourhood Policy
- Europeanization and norm transfer
- Political Sociology
- Discourse Analysis
- Data mining and Network Analysis
- Wolfschwenger, Johann and Kevin L. Young. 2019 (forthcoming). Multi-causality and equifinality. in: Morin, Jean-Frédéric, Christian Olsson and Ece Özlem Atikcan (eds). Key Concepts in Research Methods. Oxford: Routledge.
- Wolfschwenger, Johann. 2017. The EU Governance Approach to the Transnistrian Conflict: A Powerful Tool for Conflict Management? in: Bellak, Blanka, Jaba Devdariani, Benedikt Harzl and Lara Spieker (eds). Governance in Conflict. Selected Cases in Europe and Beyond. Vienna: Lit-Verlag.
POLICy and working papers
- Wolfschwenger, Johann. 2018. Georgia in European Discourses: An Austrian Perspective. Policy Memo No. 27. Georgian Institute of Politics. May 2018. online <http://gip.ge/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Policy-Memo-27.pdf>.
- Wolfschwenger, Johann. 2014. The Russian Dimension in the Transnistrian Conflict – Possibilities for Conflict Resolution. Public Policy Research Paper No. 4. REEES Graz. online <http://unipub.uni-graz.at/reees/periodical/titleinfo/301654>.
- Wolfschwenger, Johann. 2018. Book Review: Theorizing the European Neighbourhood Policy. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 18(4). 599-600.
- Matrakova, Marta and Johann Wolfschwenger. 2018. Book Review: Assessing European Neighbourhood Policy. East European Politics 34(2). 241-242.
- Wolfschwenger, Johann. „Gut gemeint aber schlecht gemacht!“ – Die Östliche Partnerschaft der EU und ihre unbeabsichtigten Konsequenzen. CPD Policy Blog. 7 November 2017. online <https://policyblog.uni-graz.at/2017/12/ostliche-partnerschaft-unbeabsichtigten-konsequenzen>.