Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Denis Latin's Euro Shock

March 29th 2004 would enter history books as the day when Euroscepticism became the force to be reckoned in Croatia.

That happened in Latinica, Denis Latin's popular TV talk show. Last evening's instalment gathered panel to discuss pros and contras of Croatian entry into EU. The discussion was interesting, but not as much as the results of phone poll being conducted among viewers.

According to the poll, 82 % of Croatians (at least those to watch Latin's show) are against Croatian entry into EU.

To say that this result is shocking would be understatement. I'm quite certain that it would be ignored by political parties and media establishment, at least for a first few days. Than the convenient excuses (poor polling techniques, vote stuffing by fanatics etc.) would be found.

Yet, despite all the flaws in polling techniques and poll definitely not being accurate representation of Croatian general population's attitudes towards EU, last night's poll represents important precedent. So far not a single poll conducted in Croatia ever gave majority to Eurosceptics.

But the number of Eurosceptics have been on the rise in past few years. Two or three years ago, Croatians opposed to EU had single digit numbers. Recently this number rose between 10-20%. The most anti-EU polls gave Eurosceptics around 20-25%.

Needless to say, Croatian popular opposition towards EU was unimaginable. If there is one issue to unite all Croatian political parties, this is necessity of Croatian entry into EU, which must happen as soon as possible. Of course, various parties want Croatia in EU for various reasons. Most of Croatian right-wingers see Croatian membership of EU as validation of Tudjman's dreams – Croatia is finally going to become part of Western, civilised Europe, unlike their Asiatic barbaric neighbours from Balkans. Croatian leftwingers, on the other hand, see Croatian membership in EU as a guarantee that Croatia, as part of liberal, democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious Europe, would never succumb to 1990s levels of ethnic chauvinism and authoritarian rule. Those Croatians who didn't care about politics saw EU as solution of all of Croatia's economic problems – big nanny that would flood Croatia with billions of euros of economic aid and immediately transform former Yugoslav republic into "Adriatic tiger.

Relatively clear prospects of Croatian entry into EU began to change all that, at least when the general population is concerned. Just like in Poland and other soon-to-become-EU-members farmers began to grumble. HSS, trying to rediscover its populist essence after 2003 election fiasco, began to exploit their fears. HSP, being right-wing party, began to exploit Croatian chauvinism and xenophobia by expressing worries about Croatian real estate being sold to foreigners.

Despite potential dangers, the rise of Euroscepticism in Croatia isn't something to be worried of. On the contrary, it represents another sign of Croatia's political maturity. Pro-EU consensus that reigned over Croatian popular opinion was impediment to healthy debate about the issue. The mere fact of this important subject being discussed is serious improvement compared with the similar occasions in Croatia's past.


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