EU: Collector of bad and worse, now adding Croatia

Josipovic and Van Rompuy
Josipovic and Van Rompuy

On Monday, when Canadians will celebrate another Confederation birthday, largest European political, economical and population Union will officially welcome another 28th member. Slovenia as first of the ex-Yugoslavian countries will be joined by Croatia in the exclusive European club as full member with all rights and responsibilities. In days when Croatia is celebrating success, after a decade of negotiations with EU, another Balkans country got a green light to start accession talks, and its first neighbor got a yellow light to get ready for same. Serbia will start their negotiations process sometimes in January of 2014, Kosovo will follow upon fulfilling first round of requirements for the accession negotiations. All this sounds very good and promising but EU over the last few years collected all the bad and worse from Eastern and Southern Europe, beside the fact that they have a major problems with some of the old member nations. Unemployment, recession, UK’s flip-flopping and ideas of leaving the Union are just few of the problems gathered for this once imagined the best organization for today more than 500 million people inhabited inside the borders of 28th member states.

The Czech Republic is embroiled in a sex-and-bribe scandal involving now former PM and his closest aid, Bulgaria and Slovenia latest governments are faced with anti-corruption protests, Slovenia’s economy is in such state that many expect it to be next bailout candidate, and ultimately Hungary is lurching towards old good authoritarianism.

Judy Dempsey, senior associate at Carnegie Europe said in an interview recently that “there’s terrible fragility and weakness in part of this [eastward expansion] enlargement, we are seeing this in Hungary now”, she also added that 2007 enlargement on Romania and Bulgari was a disaster.

“The institutions of democracy, the practice of democracy, the implementation of democracy are not taking root. We need much, much stronger pressure on these countries to pursue reforms”, she said. 

Croatian and Lithuanian PM's at the European Council Meeting
Croatian and Lithuanian PM’s at the European Council Meeting

Croatia as second of 6[7] ex-Yugoslavian countries to become full member of EU on Monday starts bumpy road in the Union bringing in even more problems. To be honest Croatia which is entering EU is somehow different from a one which started accession decade ago. Anti-corruption fight started at the head of the state with arrest of the former PM, Ivo Sanader, who’s at the moment faced with dozens of accusations and spends his days in jail. Prime Minister Milanovic and his government are working on improvements and reforms, but after 20 years of bad governing by Croatian Democratic Union [party created by Tudjman and lead by Sanader] is hard to expect results fast.

“Yet, while accepting that Croatia has made great strides in overcoming war and authoritarianism, there are compelling reasons why the country’s admission could be premature. Widespread political and economic corruption persist, and its courts often show an overly lax attitude toward due process. The biggest threat, though, is the country’s economic weakness, which may make it very difficult for Zagreb to sustain an already beleaguered reform agenda.

The fact is that the Union may well be about to repeat the mistakes of the last round of accessions, jeopardizing Croatian hopes for a better future, diminishing membership prospects for other Balkan states and Turkey, and may be even stalling the bloc’s enlargement efforts for the next decade or more”, writes prof. Alan Riley in his op-ed in The International Herald Tribune on Friday.

In majority I agree with Prof. Riley’s opinion, although I would like to disagree in one element. He says that Croatia’s admission “could be premature”. Admission is totally premature because majority of EU is in trouble, EU Commission should think twice or even three times before making such decision as this one, because while they’re fighting already mentioned problems on the East and huge unemployment in the West [Spain] now they’re bringing in another member with enormous unemployment and bad economy. This is not exclusive Croatia problem, because all other ex-Yugoslavia country are in even bigger problems and all of them are potential members.

8789235848_a97752df1d_o“But Croatia has been in a protracted recession since 2009, and we not have yet implemented deep economic reforms to resolve governance issues and remove barriers to investment. The unemployment rate is nearly 20% and even higher among young people. The World Bank recently forecasted that Croatia’s GDP will grow at 1.5% in 2014. But stronger growth will require additional changes, such as reducing nonstrategic state holdings and reforming labor laws and the civil service. We must also reduce overall government spending while increasing expenditure on research and development.

Above all, obstacles to private-sector growth need to be removed. Croatia ranks 84th in the World Bank’s Doing Business survey this year. It is imperative that we make it easier to create, operate and protect business activities. There have been successes on this front: Since last year, for instance, we have improved insolvency resolution and made it easier to pay taxes”, writes in an opinion Croatian President Ivo Josipovic in The Wall Street Journal Europe.

 President Josipovic, who’s well known legal scholar in Croatia and around the world, should be praised for his openness and ability to concede that his country has a numerous problems. Croatia’s problems could easily spill over the EU “borders” causing even worse situation to other members, or in the worst case damaging Croatia’s ability to fulfill membership duties.

All above give us a right to conclude that EU is still making same mistakes which they made several years ago when they welcomed large group of new member states without proper determination was it good or bad for the Union as whole. What’s gonna happen over the next few years in EU is quite easily predictable. Problems will continue to mount and two leaders will continue to play their not so intelligent game. Holland and Merkel will continue to promote austerity and not dealing with mounted problems, while UK as one of the strongest economies will probably continue doing what they do now oppose to axis Paris-Berlin. This situation will have very strong and effective results not only on European continent but all over the world. EU leaders should start looking at the bigger picture. Croatia is 28th member state, but I’m not sure that citizens of the Union should be happy about it. I hope they’ll prove me wrong as soon as possible.

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