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International Studies Quarterly (1999) 43, 83–114

Norms, Institutions, and National Identity in Contemporary Europe
JEFFREY T. CHECKEL ARENA, University of Oslo
The constructivist study of norms faces two central challenges—reintegrating agency into its largely structural accounts and unpacking its arguments at the national level. This article addresses these issues, and does so in fourparts. First, I briefly review the burgeoning constructivist literature, exploring the ontological and theoretical reasons for its neglect of agency. Second, by adding social content to the concept of diffusion, the transmission mechanism linking international norms to domestic change, I explain the motivation of domestic actors to accept new normative prescriptions, thus making a start at restoringagency to constructivist accounts. Third, I argue these key actors will vary cross-nationally as a function of statesociety relations (“domestic structure”). Fourth, the argument is applied to the politics of national identity in post–Cold War Europe. In particular, I examine the degree to which international norms are affecting debates over citizenship and national minorities in contemporaryGermany, with empirical data drawn from the European human rights regime centered on the Council of Europe.

This article examines changing conceptions of citizenship and the rights of minorities—that is, national membership—in contemporary Europe. War in the former Yugoslavia and conflicts between Russia and the Baltic states suggest that defining such membership is fraught with dangers. However,these facts should not obscure that similar questions are being raised in many West European countries. Unfortunately, our explanations for these processes are underspecified and typically consider domestic factors alone. Yet, in a Europe with ever more permeable borders, it seems shortsighted to isolate the domestic and international political arenas. I probe this domestic-international nexus byexamining the degree to which norms—shared expectations about appropriate behavior held by a collectivity of actors—promoted by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe (CE) are affecting debates over citizenship and national minorities in contemporary Germany. Council norms regarding these issues are my independent variable. The dependent variable

Author’s note: Thanks to Jim Caporaso, AndrewCortell, Matt Evangelista, Marty Finnemore, Peter Katzenstein, Rey Koslowski, Andy Moravcsik, Thomas Risse, Fritz Scharpf, Frank Schimmelfennig, Hans Peter Schmitz, and Michael Zuern for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. Barbara John, Commissioner for Foreigners’ Affairs of the Berlin Senat, Francis Rosenstiel, Director of Research at the Council of Europe, and numerous individualsin Berlin, Bonn, and Strasbourg were superb hosts and facilitators during research trips to Berlin (May 1996), Bonn (March and May-August 1995), and Strasbourg (May 1994, June-July 1995, April 1997). The European Documentation Center on Nationality (Directorate of Legal Affairs, Council of Europe) kindly shared its files and correspondence. Generous financial support was provided by the Alexandervon Humboldt-Stiftung, Academic Council on the United Nations System—American Society of International Law, German Marshall Fund of the United States, and Norwegian Research Council.
©1999 International Studies Association. Published by Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK.


Norms, Institutions, and National Identity

isstate-level definitions of citizenship and the social/cultural rights of minorities—together, national membership. These explanatory and outcome variables are linked via an institutional argument: domestic norms shaping the preferences of agents predict the degree to which international norms resonate and have constitutive effect, while domestic structure identifies these key agents and how...
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