Thursday, March 31, 2005

With Friends Like These

In the last hours before E-Day fiasco, state media has pushing the official line about Ivo Sanader's last-ditch lobbying efforts producing some results and that the number of EU countries willing to greenlight Croatian accession negotiations was constantly increasing. There were rumours and speculations about actual number – some claimed that there were five countries, some mentioned seven, some mentioned ten.

But most observers claim that the actual number of governments willing to support Croatia openly was much smaller. EU countries identified after the fiasco were Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Slovakia.

Many commentators were all too willing to interpret this sympathy for Croatia with the memories of another time, when all those nations together with Croatia used to enjoy prosperity under the same banner and benevolent rule of multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire.

Other commentaors, however, point that Schwarz und Gelb nostalgia can never be sufficient motive for governments to stick their neck for countries like Croatia. Needless to say, sympathies for Croatia is fueled by something much more solid – financial and political interests.

For example, most of Croatian banking industry – 45 % - is owned by Austrian banks.

MOL, Hungarian oil firm, has recently gained 25 % of stakes in INA, Croatian state-owned oil company. Novi list just reports that Sanader's government is preparing to fill hole in its annual budget by selling another 25 % and thus putting Croatian oil industry under Hungarian control.

Slovenians, apart from having Sanader more than willing to yield to any of their demands in numerous border disputes, have firms that control large supermarket chains in Croatia.

Slovakian firms also control some of the most lucrative betting shops in Croatia.

Interestingly enough, Czech Republic, despite being another member of Schwarz und Gelb Nostalgia Club, chose not to support Croatia. Some Croatian commenators found reason for that in Montenegro – former Yugoslav republic apparently considered more suitable for sugardaddying.


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