Books on Croatia
% of GDP
Update No: 099- (26/07/05)
Croatia in the dock
Croatia's relatively good level of cooperation with the International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), hitherto, had accelerated the
country's accession to candidate status until recently.
However, the new government, headed by Ivo Sanader, elected in November 2003, is
under enormous pressure at the moment from Carla Del Ponte of the ICTY regarding
the case of indicted war criminal, General Ante Gotovina, accused of the
deportation of more than 200,000 Serbians. These pressures have pushed back
membership negotiations of the European Union (EU), scheduled to open on March
17th 2005. Due to Croatia's unwillingness to collaborate with the ICTY,
negotiations over membership have - for the first time - been postponed.
The case of Croatia and the "Gotovina affair" illustrates the
undetermined nature of the relations of the EU with non-member states.
Particularly where the Balkan block is concerned.
Gotovina, who is still on the run, will certainly have to answer for his crimes
in court. But many Croats interpret this European stubbornness about the arrest
of one man, however guilty he may be, with disfavour, especially when the
fundamental laws in other candidate countries are questionable. The Luxemburg
presidency has demanded more information on the case before taking decisions on
initiating discussions with a view to eventual membership in 2007. Furthermore,
the Croatian government's responsibility in the non-arrest of General Gotovina
remains to be proved. However, the EU does recognise the democratic, political
and economic efforts that Croatia has made to come in-line with the Community
standards, an essential condition of the negotiations.
The problem is that Gotovina is a war hero to many Croats. Generally, they see
themselves only as victims of the events of 1992-95, victims of course of the
likes of Milosevic and the Serbs, which is true but not the whole of the truth.
They too perpetrated outrages against Serb civilians.
Most Croats oppose EU entry: poll
It would be a mistake to suppose that the Croatians are as eager as other
Central and Southern Europeans for EU membership, with the Gotovina factor
highly relevant here. A majority of Croats are opposed to their country becoming
a member of the EU, according to a poll published by the daily Vecernji list
The poll found that 44% of Croats would vote against EU entry in a referendum,
while 42% would endorse joining the bloc. Some 13% were not sure which way they
would vote. Vecernji polled 900 people.
This is the first time that a poll has shown a majority of Croatians opposed to
joining the EU. Analysts attributed the drop in support precisely to the "Gotovina
The ghosts of the war
Following the chaos that the war in Yugoslavia caused, the Balkans are still a
long way from finding a peaceful and lasting stability. The EU is aware of this
and has initiated a process of stabilisation and association in this region.
Relations between Croatia and Slovenia, which has been a member of the EU since
May 2004, are perhaps the most strained as the two countries are still arguing
over their maritime borders. While President Mésic insists on creating an
exclusive economic zone for Croatia in the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia, supported by
Italy, is understandably not in agreement. However, as an existing member of the
EU, the Slovenian government is not in a good position to play on its
'superiority' over Croatia, its historical brother.
'Full cooperation' with the ICTY remains the determining factor before Croatia's
membership discussions can be initiated. The decisions will be all the more
significant as they will be made in a very uncertain context. NATO forces will
progressively withdraw their remaining troops from the Balkans, leaving behind
them a situation that is far from being resolved. Speaking about the Slovenian
border, Croatian writer Predrag Matvejevic wondered if "a wall, a gate or
even a bridge or a bastion would be erected facing the neighbours with whom we
share so much history". Perhaps the EU will encounter difficulties in
carrying its integration policy through to a successful conclusion with the
Hungary backs Croatia to EU
One country that is keen to get the Croats to join up is Hungary, a
neighbour with an ancient and less sensitive relationship with Croatia than
Slovenia. Hungarian President Ferenc Madl, on a one-day official visit to
Croatia recently, said in Zagreb that Hungary would support Croatia's progress
towards the EU, Croatian News Agency, HINA, has reported.
Madl, who met in Zagreb with his Croatian counterpart, Stjepan Mesic, said
Hungary would do its best to help Croatia become a full EU member as soon as
possible. President Mesic said such Hungarian support would be very important
for Croatia, which already has good cooperation with Hungary in the fields of
economics, culture and education. The two presidents also discussed
possibilities of further improvement of cooperation especially in the banking
sector and oil industry.
But for all the good offices of Budapest, Zagreb has first got to persuade its
own people of the advantages of EU membership.
Other European leaders also have made sure they have sent some encouraging
signs to Croatia, besides the "Gotivina affair." During an official
visit to Zagreb, Chris Patten, the then European Commissioner for External
Relations, described Croatia as an "exemplary candidate", capable of
influencing its Balkan neighbours on the road to integration.
It is true that Croatia has returned to a state of remarkable health, mainly
thanks to tourism, after the dramatic episode of the war in the 1990s. It has a
higher GDP than Romania and Bulgaria, who are both supposed to join the EU in
2007, but its GDP is also higher than that of some new member states such as
Lithuania and Latvia.
But, obviously, it is not just economic criteria that counts for membership to
the EU, and Europe prides itself on enforcing democratic and elementary Human
Croatia and IMF meet
Top Croatian financial officials led by Finance Minister, Ivan Suker, visited
Washington in June to present a package of fiscal proposals that should shore up
this year's budget and save the stand-by arrangement with the International
Monetary Fund, (IMF), ministry officials said recently, New Europe reported.
"They presented measures to boost revenues and reduce spending," the
official said. A visiting IMF mission urged the former Yugoslav republic earlier
in June to take urgent measures to bring this year's fiscal gap as close as
possible to the targeted 3.7% of gross domestic product (GDP). Croatia ended
2004 with a budget deficit of 4.9% of GDP, compared with the 4.5% target agreed
in the US$140m 20-month stand by arrangements with the IMF. Without changes to
the current budget, analysts believe the deficit would end at above 4.5%, which
would render the IMF deal off-track. Croatia needs the deal to assure foreign
investors of its commitment to further financial reforms.
Croatia opens rebuilt bridge
Croatia on June 17th officially opened the rebuilt Maslenica bridge which was
destroyed during the 1990s Croatian-Serbian war. The 315 metre long bridge over
the Maslenica Gulf, considered to be one of the most important bridges in
Croatia, is near the Adriatic city of Zadar, as well as nearby central Adriativ
islands such as Pag, Pasman and Dugi Otok.