Croatia’s EU prospects and voices from the past

The conclusion of negotiations between Croatia and the European Commission is great news for the region. After nearly six years of talk, this crucial period of EU accession for Croatia has been completed. There is little doubt that Croatia will manage to join within around two years due to the cumbersome ratification process (note for any politician in the region: if it takes 8 years for Croatia between beginning talks and membership, it’s unlikely to be faster anywhere else.

Now the question is how to “sell” accession to the current member states. Here, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in a commentary today [paywall] clearly heads into the wrong direction. The author writes “In some [European] capitals, the candidate Croatia is considered a Balkan country and a corner stone of Tito’s Yugoslavia.” He goes on to note that the “former Hungarian crown land is as central European as Slovenia and resisted Belgrade’s Serb hegemony.” While the comment notes that the difference between Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim sozialisation (whatever that means) is not a source of conflict in the EU, they are not irrelevant when it comes to national specificities (Eigenheiten). Implicitly, the comment suggests that Croatia completes the European Union rather than opening the door to the inclusion of the rest of the “Western Balkans”: Every inclusion is also an exclusion of those who are not joining at the same time. To argue that Croatia is joining due to its Catholic and central European nature is not only doing the EU a disservice which is more than a club of Central and West European countries, but it also challenges the process of enlargement over the past decade and serves cheap and rather dated Balkan stereotypes (recently revived thanks to the Greek crisis). Finally, it also throws an ugly light on the way on way the FAZ has been commenting on the dissolution of Yugoslavia exactly twenty years ago with offensive commentaries by Johann Georg Reissmüller which lacked any critical distance towards the Tudjman regime and in its blatant Balkan stereotyping.


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