Sunday, March 06, 2005

EU? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ EU!

Opinion poll showing less than 50 % Croatians supporting Croatian entry into EU has recently created shock among Croatian political establishment. According to various polls, in a year support for EU – something which used to be opposed only by lunatic right-wing fringe – has slipped for 25 %.

Those who oppose EU might be lunatics and right-wing, but they aren’t fringe any more.

And picture is even more depressing for Euophiles if the ranks of Eurosceptics are joined by those who simply don’t show any enthusiasm for the whole project. A week ago results of another poll, conducted few months ago for European Commission, showed that only around 33 % Croatians believe that entry to EU will improve life in Croatia in any meaningful way.

In the context of Gotovina affair and upcoming March 17th fiasco, many Croatian political commentators are trying to find some rational explanations and convenient excuses for such dramatic rise of Euroscepticism in Croatia.

Some blame Carla del Ponte, chief ICTY prosecutor, for trying to maintain the waning authority of her organisation by pushing the hard line in the Gotovina affair at the Croatian expense.

Others tend to blame Sanader for not spending a dime on PR campaign that would explain what EU is all about and how many wonderful are going to happen once Croatia becomes a member. Some blame Sanader for making March 17th into such a big deal in minds of Croatians that any minor setback could be interpreted as nothing less that absolute disaster.

All this is, of course, accompanied by the usual set of conspiracy theories that range from those claiming that EU uses Gotovina as a leverage in order to turn accession negotiations into Diktat to those claiming that Yugonostalgic and pro-Serb elements within EU want to have Croatia in the same package with Serbia and the rest of “Western Balkans”.

Croatian political and media establishment is trying to prepare for the upcoming disaster in different ways. The easiest ways seems to be discrediting Eurosceptics through association with the darkest elements of Croatian politics.

Colonel Mirko Čondić (Mirko Condic), disabled war veteran who have led the protests against ICTY, gave them one such present. Four years ago he and Sanader were together at 150,000-men protest in Split and lambasted Račan’s (Racan’s) government as bunch of traitors for even daring to think about accusing Croatian Army generals for any sort of wrongdoing, let alone extraditing them to Hague. Sanader, almost immediately after winning elections by pandering to those sentiments, completely changed his tune and disassociated himself from leaving Čondić and his crowd to sink into oblivion. But the whole Gotovina brouhaha brought Čondić back into public spotlight. Čondić recently stated that disgruntled war veterans don’t have anyone to represent their interests and oppose co-operation with ICTY. Čondić said that veterans should form their own political party, including its “military wing”.

Words like “military wing” were enough to allow Croatian media establishment to rally around Sanader and accuse Eurosceptics as hard-line nationalists, ultra-rightwingers and dangerous fanatics who would reintroduce violence in Croatian politics. Experiences from 2001, when war veterans paralysed Croatia with roadblocks – in a way eerily resembling start of 1990 “Krajina” rebellion – are good reason for concern. So, there are so many editorials and op-ed pieces which use words like “Weimar”, “stormtroopers” and “right-wing military putsch” to describe what awaits Croatia if EU doesn’t greenlight Croatian entry on March 17th.

Needless to say, this is mostly likely the last desperate argument Sanader is using while trying to convince EU diplomats to change their mind. If they say “no” to Sanader today, they might not have Sanader to make business with in couple of months.

President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic), on the other hand, has chose different, and in a way, more proper way to respond to the upcoming fiasco. He jovially said that “March 17th wasn’t such a big deal”.

His words were followed by some commentators who took common sense approach to these matters and stated previously heretical thought that Croatian entry to EU won’t solve all Croatian problems. Using examples of Britain, Germany, France and other countries which had their economies and living standards slump despite being part of the wonderful world of European integration, they point that the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of Croatia lies within Croatian people, regardless whether Croatia is within EU or not.

In other words, March 17th fiasco should be taken as an opportunity rather than disaster. Before joining EU, Croatia has a lot of work to. Things like decaying economy, medieval health services, rampaging crime rates, corrupt and inefficient administration and disgraceful judiciary must be tackled, and they must be tackled hard, without ever thinking that EU will be a magic potion to solve those problems. This illusion – shared by uneducated masses (who expected EU to be free lunch just like those 1970s foreign loans for Tito’s Yugoslavia) and intellectual elites (who believed that the words “European Union” by itself means anti-thesis of everything which was wrong with Croatia) – should be shattered.

In that way, Croatian Euroscepticism is justified. Croatia in its present-day state should never become part of EU. That would be a bad thing not only for Croatia, but for the rest of Europe. Instead of making Balkans look more like Europe , this move only make Europe look more like Balkans.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...A week ago results of another poll, conducted few months ago for European Commission, showed that only around 33 % Croatians believe that entry to EU will improve life in Croatia in any meaningful way..."

Hmmm, I'll bet if you asked any Croatian in 1990 whether his life would improve if they went to war with Serbia or Bosnia, you'd get more than 33% saying it would be a real bad idea!

Moral of the story?

Most anything can be seen at as bad for you, IF you look hard enough through a very pesimistic set of eyes!

Here is a suggestion...

Get Mesic or Sanader to send out a telegram (does anyone send out telegrams any more - perhaps e-mail would be more appropriate) to all the EU countries leaders informing them that HR is pulling its application for EU membership due to the Del Ponte's intransigence.

Two things would come out of that; at least two, probably more:

- The Croatians who are against HR joining the EU would rejoice, and vote either Mesic or Sanader (or both) to a life-long office terms.
Thus, the politicians win too.

- HR would appear to have "balls" in the eyes of EU. As such, it would gain a whole lot of respect for leading it's own life - such as it is.
After all, Croatians didn't want the Serbs telling them what to do, so what's a bunch of puny, little bureaucrats in Brussels gonna do...?

Maybe even the Brits would take note of HR's moves, and move to separate themselves from the EU since they are already unhappy "campers".

Imagine, that may start a whole new movement; a dissolution of EU!!!


9:42 PM  
Blogger Michael M. said...

HR would appear to have "balls" in the eyes of EU.The only balls they would appear to have would be the marbles everyone would think they had lost. Pulling out of membership talks would flush investor confidence in Croatia right down the toilet. And I'm certain the EU (Croatia's largest trading partner and inarguably an economic powerhouse) would seriously consider making "an example" out of the renegade country, perhaps flexing its muscle a bit to make sure it didn't set a bad example for everyone else.

8:53 AM  

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