OPINION | Croatia in European Union: Implications by Debangana Chatterjee
IndraStra Global

OPINION | Croatia in European Union: Implications by Debangana Chatterjee

By Debangana Chatterjee, 

Croatia, an Eastern European country, situated at the cross-roads of Central Europe and Balkans, officially became the 28th member of the European Union on July 1, 2013, the first since Bulgaria and Romania back in 2007, concluding a 10-year campaign for a state that came out of the debris of a bloody civil war in 1991. It was a festive moment for the small, predominantly Roman Catholic country. In Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, thousands of Croats turned out to celebrate, although many remained in the ambivalence of joining a divided Union stalled with lingering debt crisis. The nation of 4.4 million people became the second Balkan country to join the union after Slovenia.

Croatia's Ex-President Ivo Josipovic with Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite, celebrating Croatia's accession into the EU.

Apparently Croatia will get a benefit of around $18bn of EU financing between 2014 and 2020, albeit with conditions and an access to larger EU markets of 500 million consumers, with the prospect of foreign direct investment. But on the flipside, with a stumpy credit rating and a political class blemished by allegations of widespread corruption, Croatia's challenges are unlikely to fade away easily. Growth prospects of the economy confronted the state with greater challenges. The fiscal collapse of 2008 brought about an inconsiderate double-dip recession that left the country's economy in the doldrums. Croatia's GDP has declined by 0.7 percent this year, and its debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to reach 62 percent by 2016 - above the 60 percent limit mandated by the European Union's Maastricht Rules. Rampant unemployment across the country set it further back. The EU seems not to be a panacea for Croatia's economy as EU’s own economy is pretty fragile and competitive for its survival. Moreover some countries of EU remain wary and dubious about management of an over-expanded Union.

INFO-GRAPHIC COURTESY: www.independent.ie 
"From an economic point of view, there is indeed a crisis, but I think we are stronger together, and that the crisis did not originate from the European Union itself, but rather from the economies of a few specific countries, that is why I think that to put an end to this crisis, we need more Europe and not less Europe," Ivo Josipovic, the President of Croatia at that time, convincingly declared in favour of Croatia’s inclusion in EU. But it is important to note that economy is not the only consideration behind it.  Croatia faced an enormous instability only 15 years ago and sustainable peace is the most lucrative thing that can be expected within the structural outline of the European Union. For Croatia, enlargement of the European Union towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia is the other way of assuring no further hostility in the region.

Some other factors also coincided with it. Firstly, a civic initiative opposing gay marriage, called "In the name of family", collected more than 500,000 signatures in two months, commencing an ugly dispute between the Catholic Church and the government. Croatia's treatment of its sexual minorities is concerning many about the democratic nature of the country, and these concerns will surely continue with merciless ferocity after the accession to the EU. Secondly, before entering the EU, the skeleton of the "Perkovic case" tumbled out of the cupboard. Josip Perkovic, an ex-covert agent for the infamous Yugoslav secret police, suspected of the assassination of a Croatian protester in West Germany the 1980s, was prevented from extradition to Germany to face a trial. Although Germany was one of the most prominent supporters of Croatia's path to EU membership, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not participate in the celebration of Croatia's accession to the EU. Some linked this up to the Perkovic affair, though this was firmly refuted by Merkel's spokesperson. Thirdly, Croatia's accession to the EU has irked the rage of right-wing nationalists like Ruza Tomasic, a former anti-drug activist who has portrayed herself as a politician with a goal to protect the Croatian national identity and interests. Fears of some Croatians with the inclusion of Croatia in EU often help nationalist politicians to feed that fear to attain political points on the basis of its cultural dilemma. Furthermore, many Croatians are more anxious about their fundamental economic needs rather than putting an emphasis on the flowery dreams of massive economic progress through foreign investments.

Nevertheless, the best answer to the various erupting questions all around needs considerable time to be answered. On the one hand EU vulnerabilities raised thousands of questions on the viability of it, especially after the instances of economic stagnancy in Greece and Slovenia; on the other hand it ignites hopes in many Croats to overcome a strangled economy eradicating rampant corruption of its public sector. Alongside this, it leaves all six ex-Yugoslav republics including Croatia’s arch rival Serbia, Ukraine and Lithuania with an opportunity to become a member of the Union. In spite of all divisions within EU, the flagging legacy of the Union still lures a number of states.

  • Dan Bilefsky, Joyous Croatia Joins Europe Amid a Crisis, published in The New York Times, July 2013 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/world/europe/croatia-joins-european-union.html?_r=0 (accessed on July 4, 2013)
  • Filip Mursel Begovic, Croatia Joined the EU: Now what? in Al-jazeera, July 2013, (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/201376104219682555.html (accessed on July 4, 2013)
  • http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/07/201371734990309.html (accessed on July 4, 2013)
  •  Filip Mursel Begovic, op. cit.