EU security sector reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Reform or resist?

Attempts to explain the failure to reform the security sectors in post-conflict countries have often resorted to two sets of explanatory factors: international and local factors. This article seeks to move from that unhelpful dichotomy to an explanation linking both factors. Drawing on a Foucauldian approach and the concept of “counter-conduct,” it examines the rationality and practices of European Union (EU) governmentality and how governing technologies are resisted and reversed by local elites involved in security sector reform (SSR). Instead of understanding power and resistance as binary opposites, this article argues that counter-conduct can be conceived as implicated in the very relations of power that it seeks to resist. To tease out these relations, the article analyzes the EU’s efforts in SSR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it identifies four forms of counter-conduct: upholding European standards, using the local ownership trap, simulating reforms, and lowering the bar.

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