Ethnic groups and institutions: A study of institutional engineering in four Central and Eastern European countries

Maria Ilcheva, Florida International University


The issue of institutional engineering has gained a renewed interest with the democratic transitions of the Central and Eastern European countries, as for some states it has become a matter of state survival. The four countries examined in the study – Macedonia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria – exemplify the difficulty in establishing a stable democratic society in the context of the resurgence of national identity. The success of ethnonational minorities in achieving the desired policies affirming or expanding their rights as a group was conditioned upon the cohesion of the minority as well as the permissiveness of state institutions in terms of participation and representation of minority members. The Hungarian minorities in Slovakia and Romania, the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, and the Albanian minority in Macedonia, formed their political organizations to represent their interests. However, in some cases the divergence of strategies or goals between factions of the minority group seriously impeded its ability to obtain the desired concessions from the majority. The difficulty in the pursuit of policies favoring the expansion of minority rights was further exacerbated in some of the cases by the impermissiveness of political institutions. The political parties representing the interest of ethnonational minorities were allowed to participate in elections, although not without suspicions about their intent and even strong opposition from majority groups, but participation in elections and subsequent representation in legislative bodies did not translate into adoption of the desired policies. The ethnonational minorities' inability to effectively influence the decision-making process was the result of the inadequacy of democratic institutions to process these demands and channel them through the normal political process in the absence of majority desire to accommodate them. Despite the promise of democratic institutions to bring about a major overhaul of the policies of forceful assimilation and disregard for minority rights, the four cases analyzed in the study demonstrate that in effect ethnonational minorities continued to be at the mercy of the majority, especially if the minority was unable to position itself as a balancing actor.

Subject Area

East European Studies|Industrial engineering|Political science|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Ilcheva, Maria, "Ethnic groups and institutions: A study of institutional engineering in four Central and Eastern European countries" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3381958.