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Reaching the Individual: EU Accession, NGOs, and Human Rights

  • ANA BRACIC (a1)


Can human rights institutions influence individual behavior? This article tests the ground level effectiveness of two strategies that aim to eliminate discrimination: a powerful, top-down combination of incentives and norm promotion and a bottom-up NGO-based effort. The study uses a hard case, that of discrimination against the Roma (commonly known by the disfavored term “Gypsies”), spans three towns, Murska Sobota and Novo mesto in Slovenia and Čakovec in Croatia, and includes altogether 606 subjects. Levels of discrimination are estimated via trust games played with money, which are particularly appropriate because the Roma are widely stereotyped as cheaters and thieves. The findings suggest that the EU accession process, widely regarded as a strong incentive-based and norm promoting rights change mechanism, may not substantially reduce discrimination on the ground. Instead, they suggest that ground level organizing aimed at improving relations between Roma and non-Roma helps reduce discrimination.


Corresponding author

Ana Bracic is Assistant Professor, in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma (; web:; 301 821 5887.


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The appendix is available online at

I would like to thank George Downs, Michael Gilligan, Bernarda Bračič, and W. Nicholson Price II for invaluable help in developing this project. I am also very grateful to Štefan Bajič, Vanessa Bobetić, Dragan Bogdan, Željko Balog, Mojca Bečaj, Jožek Horvat Muc, Manja Munda, Živa Kleindienst, Vera Klopčič, Jaka Kukavica, Rebecca Morton, Tena Posel, Sabina Ranogajec, Monika Sandreli, David Stasavage, Filip Škiljan, Eva Trapečar, Joshua Tucker, Milena Tudija, Lucija Vihar, the APSR editorial team and four anonymous reviewers, and an anonymous Croatian government official.



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