UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Final Conference (INFORM)

On 8 February 2019, the INFORM project hosted the final conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Press Release
Researchers deliver broad insights of informal practices in Western Balkans


On Friday, the 8thof February 2019, the final INFORM conference Closing the gap between formal and informal institutions in the Balkans took place at the Holiday Hotel, in Sarajevo. This conference provided an opportunity for exchange of opinions between the INFORM project team and the EU representatives from Brussels, the EU regional offices, academics, international institutions, policy makers and the general public.

About forty researchers from the Western Balkans region, the UK and Latvia, participated in this three-year research project exploring the discrepancy between formal institutions and informal practices and its effects on the EU integration process in the Western Balkans. The consortium of nine research centres was led by the University College London (UCL).

The project's findings show that the informal economy and various informal practices are widely present phenomena in the region. Whether it is buying groceries at the market, getting math lessons or a taxi ride without a tax invoice, informality remains a part of everyday life of many Western Balkan citizens. Although formal institutions should strive to establish equal opportunities, they are often characterized by the informal rules and practices around which they are built. In the Western Balkan countries, where the ordinary citizen complains about the system's functionality, various informal practices enable people to achieve desired goals.

Constructive and limiting segments of informality have been comprehensively covered within the project through the fields of economy, politics and everyday life. The causes of the emergence of informality have been investigated through the monitoring of the informal networks and practices, looking at the effects that arise when formal and informal institutions are in discrepancy. Among others, researchers have identified useful aspects of informality such as the positive effects of ethnic diversity in entrepreneurship, creation and utilization of social capital and using informality as a survival strategy. On the other hand, a high level of informal economy, followed by high justification of tax evasion by citizens, and high level of informality in political decision-making or vote buying practices in the elections, are recognized as limiting factors for the sustainable development of Western Balkan societies. In line with the project results, recommendations were made to overcome these obstacles, sublimated in a policy book “Meaningful reform in the Western Balkans- Between formal institutions and informal practices”.

Since the beginning of the Inform project (2016) within the EU Horizon 2020 program, over twenty workshops and conferences were held, while the results of the project were disseminated in 17 countries around the world.


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