Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Robert J. Pauly Jr.

Committee Chair School

Coastal Resilience

Committee Member 2

Dr. Casey Maugh Funderburk

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Joseph J. St. Marie

Committee Member 3 School

Coastal Resilience

Committee Member 4

Dr. Tom Lansford

Committee Member 4 School

Coastal Resilience


Yugoslavia’s dissolution in the 1990s resulted in seven distinct nation-states vying for functional institutions, ethno-nationalistic coalescence, and external validation. To this end the European Union (EU) offered a pathway to nation-state building and membership via democratization, economic liberalization, and legal and civil improvements. However, to date only Slovenia (2004) and Croatia (2013) are EU member-states. Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia are candidate countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates. What are the incentives for Western Balkan countries to reform and join the EU? Were motivations driven by rational, economic benefits of membership, or was the impetus identity-oriented to be seen not as “Balkan” but as “European?” This dissertation analyzes official presidential speech texts for all seven post-Yugoslav countries from 2000-2021 through a comparative case study. The research folds into Constructivist epistemology and utilizes K. J. Holsti’s (1970) Role Theory as a model. Speech text was examined through content analysis and discourse analysis to garner breadth and depth of presidential discourse and its motivations. The results indicate that identity populates presidential speech three-times more often than rational, economic language. Further, regardless of status or role a country fell under, positive developments in the step-by-step EU accession process did not increase the use of either identity or rational language. EU membership and progress did not incentivize a specific linguistic response. These findings bolster the existent literature on identity in international relations, especially regarding the Western Balkans. The findings also call into question whether membership-based intergovernmental organizations can incentivize the idioms of national leaders.