Southeast Europe has seen a century of continuous transformation and “transition” – the disappearance and emergence of states, political and legal systems, ideologies, institutions, and social classes. This has been accompanied by a stability of social practices resistant to change. Shaken by radically changing ideological and legal structures, citizens rely on customary and informal social networks of kin, symbolic kin, and friends for meeting economic needs, and on clan- or kinrelated structures rather than the rule of law for security and protection.
The Project INFORM traces the persistence of informal practices to:
- the external origin of major transformations, including the “transitions” to and from socialism;
- the incomplete character of change, which has tended to be replaced by equally radical but diametrically opposed projects;
- the development of a buffer culture based on informal practices, directed to enabling people to survive under unstable conditions; and
- the widening gap between formal institutions and informal social practices.
The distance between proclaimed goals and existing practices represents the key challenge to the European integration of Balkan societies. The integration process could end with superficial change, behind which the real social life of corruption, clientelism, tension, inequality, and exclusion will continue to unfold.
The INFORM team explicates the key formal and informal “rules of the game”, and to identify and decipher the "unwritten rules" which underpin tactical maneuvering between formal and informal institutions, in various spheres and at various levels of social life. These would then be compared to the demands and recommendations laid out in the key EU documents outlining expectations from Southeast European states.
The goal of the INFORM is to contribute to the formulation of policy recommendations which would aim not to eradicate informal practices, but to close the gap between formal and informal institutions in Balkan societies.