Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan L. Woodward


Christa Altenstetter

Committee Members

Christa Altenstetter

Irving Leonard Markovitz

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations


statebuilding, resistance, international interventions, European Union


Unfaithful Allies: Local resistance and the failure of statebuilding in the Western Balkans

Adviser: Professor Susan Woodward

International efforts to build strong and legitimate states in developing societies often present a paradox. In many instances they are undermined by the resistance of very local actors with whom the Union partners up. The form that this resistance takes varies by country. In some instances the domestic partners show open defiance. In other cases they formally conform, while working behind the scene to undermine statebuilding.

My dissertation examines the factors that shape the domestic resistance to statebuilding projects by examining EU statebuilding in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. I claim that resistance is the product of the interaction between statebuilding and domestic politics, a process which often generates friction. The main cause of friction is the fact that statebuilding affects how power is distributed in a given society. The local partners will be motivated to resist those aspects of statebuilding that they believe will undermine their authority/power, have a negative impact on local populations, or contradict local values. On the other hand, the local partners will support those aspects of statebuilding that provide them with opportunities to enhance their position, are not threatening to important domestic constituencies, and do not challenge local norms or beliefs. I contend that it is this dual aspect of statebuilding, its potential to both strengthen as well as replace local powerholders, that shapes the local reaction to the international mission, i.e., acceptance or resistance.

Resistance to statebuilding is puzzling because of the alleged asymmetric interdependence between local actors and international statebuilders. This asymmetric interdependence is presumably caused by structural conditions, such as the local dependence on the military and financial resources of the statebuilders. I will argue in this essay that local resistance is made possible by a second set of structural conditions that attenuate the asymmetric interdependence, such as the statebuilders’ prioritization of security over institutional reform or divisions among statebuilders. The corollary to this is that the state is neither the product of foreign imposition nor does it represent a rejection of alien institutions. Instead, the state is the result of bargaining between the locals and the interveners, a bargain that is shaped by structural conditions.

I contend that the form of resistance is influenced by the domestic legitimacy of statebuilding. If statebuilding is legitimate in the eyes of the local population, the domestic partners do not engage in open resistance, otherwise they do. While both forms of resistance can be equally successful at undermining international statebuilding, I maintain that the form that resistance takes is important. Overt resistance not only undermines those institutions that are opposed by the locals, but it also challenges the ideological hegemony of statebuilders and opens up the possibility for the development of alternative ways of organizing the state.

This dissertation compares EU’s efforts to reform the civil services of Albania and Macedonia and the judiciary of Kosovo so as to shed light on the dynamic of domestic resistance to statebuilding.