EU ZMK's Diary

Some critics argue that Croatia is not ready for an EU accession because of its national conflicts, its economic and political weakness. Minority Rights, Solidarity and inequalities are the key issues worth to examine in this regard.

(Source of the Phtoto © the Council of the European Union)

Historical heritage of Croatia as part of the Hungarian Kingdom, the Habsburg Empire and Yugoslavia

Croatia with its 4.000.000 population is the door to the Western Balkan, and since the beginning of its European history, the country was always part of a bigger economic integration. Following a royal family contract, the Hungarian kings inherited the Croat throne so Hungary and Croatia formed a common state from 1091-1918 which shaped their mindset and despite of some conflicts in the past (e.g. in 1848), the two states remained strong allies and responsible for each other. Croatia became later part of the Habsburg empire and the former Yugoslavia, so Croats are “mentally ready” to accept living within a greater economic integration.

It is important to note that the “Schumann-price” winning Hungarian EU presidency secured the Croatian EU accession at the very last day of the Hungarian EU presidency on 30 June 2011 .

1. Minorities: EU membership as a tool to overcome national conflicts and respect of minorities’ Rights

Europe witnessed several wars. As the EU was the cure for the post WWII Europe, it can be the same for a post war ex-Yugoslavia. Former members of Yugoslavia survived several wars in the 90s. Shame on Europe that it let it happen. Now, this is another reason why the sooner these countries become EU members the better.

The EU is far from being perfect. Sometimes, member States may use their voting rights in an abusive manner. (e.g. In respect of the single seat initiative for the European Parliament, France can always veto the debate since it is written in the Treaties that the headquarter of the EP is in Strasbourg and the Treaties cannot be modified unless every Member States agree). Cyprus can also block Turkey’s EU Membership and the same applies to Greece (and Bulgaria) who block Macedonia’s hopes.

But the EU also provides a regulated framework to overcome national conflicts in a peaceful manner. Slovenia is a positive example. The Slovenian Parliament ratified unanimously the Croatian accession Treaty in spite of a border dispute which is a very positive thing, I think.

The EU can also help to acknowledge the rights of people belonging to minorities. The Turkish minority in Bulgaria might be a good example for this in the future. Despite of the economic difficulties, this crisis can reopen the accession negotiations between the Greek and Turkish part of Cyprus, which would pave the way in a longer term for the respect of Turkish minorities in Bulgaria and even for the Turkish accession. Thus, the respect of the collective rights of Serb, Slovene, Italian, Hungarian, Roma and other minorities in Croatia is crucial.

2. Solidarity – Is Croatia economically ready for an EU memberhsip?

Some say that Croatia’s post-war economy is not competitive within the EU. It can be truth. Maybe Croatia will have difficulties when facing the economic competition within the EU, but that is why there are solidarity mechanism within the EU: to reduce existing inequalities. And Croats can benefit from the EU budget in a direct/indirect way which may help them to make reforms, reduce state dept and boost their economy.

There is a distinction between EU membership and the eurozone which is a closer economic integration. I think that only well prepared states should be part of a closer economic integration such as the eurozone but this does not apply on EU membership. However, the larger EU is a bit differet since it is not only an economic but also a political integration with common values. Countries without the eurozone (Romania, Hungary) applied for IMF help in the past without the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Briefly, as long as Croatia do not use the euro, it cannot be the next Greece.

Croatia will be provided with on opportunity to overcome its weaknesses within the EU with a greater chance than out of the EU. This is a clear advantage: even if it was not ready for an EU Membership, it could develop better than outside of the EU. An EU membership may give an economic impetus for the country with additional direct and indirect workplaces (the EU institutions will employ a considerable number of Croatians and the other Croatian linked lobby groups will offer another group of jobs, I guess).

3. Inequalities: will Croatia be the next Bulgaria and Romania?

Croatia’s accession was a political decision as it was the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 although they might not have fulfilled all the criteria in that time. These countries face similar challenges. Economic and social problems which are typical for candidate countries such as corruption or ruined industry are everywhere in the EU, mainly in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) countries. But this is not a reason to give up. The example of Finland can motivate countries belonging to the semi-periphery that overcoming difficulties is possible. My point is that countries deserve some respect and help. European decision makers realised by granting Croatia a EU membership that being within the EU is a more effective way to reduce inequalities.

Conclusion: EU membership is the answer

Yes, there are serious problems within the EU. The challenges Croatia faces (defending national minorities or reducing state dept) are not Eastern Europe specific. Therefore, both the Western and Easter side of the old continent should work together – hopefully within the framework of the EU – to tackle them successfully.

There are huge inequalities within the EU. The fact that Croatia was out of the European Integration is due to historical circumstances. And tackling these inequalities is in the best interest of the EU’s richer Member States, as well. Therefore: Croatia’s EU accession serves the EU’s interests.

I remain at your disposal.

the compressed URL of this blog-entry ► http://bit.ly/14VHiOt

Related earlier updates:

A long road from the “Schuman-price” winner Hungarian EU Presidency to the possible suspension of voting rights

Unprecedented International Legal Mistake from an EU Member State: Hungary Delivered the Axe Murderer to Azerbaijan : c’est plus qu’un crime, c’est une faute

Hungary’s place in the sun of the EU – What does the international media think about Hungary? And You?

European Youth Capital – the Example of Cluj, the Treasure City, Kolozsvár, a Kincses Város, Klausenburg, die Schatzstadt

Was it Legal/Fair to Block the Start of the Official Bailout/Safety net Negotiations between Hungary and the IMF?

Quo vadis, Hungary? – the Policy Briefing of Viktor ORBÁN Prime Minister of Hungary

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  1. ‘There are huge inequalities in the EU’ You have that correct Mr Massay-Kosubek.There are the countries that pay into the EU and always have. And there are the countries that have never paid into the EU (charity countries I call them) that only take money out. Why should I as a tax payer from one of the countries that pays it’s way give free money to countries that just take and take and take.
    There is no doubt in my mind that Croatia will become a burden of the few countries that keep the EU afloat. Until a country can prove that it can survive without EU aid then it should not be allowed in.

    1. Dear Philip,

      thank you very much for your comment.

      The inequalities are unfair and unjust since they determine the future possibilities of European nationals solely based on their place of birth.

      To give you a clear answer I would like to draw your attention to the following publication: The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better from Richard G. Willkinson:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Level:_Why_More_Equal_Societies_Almost_Always_Do_Better

      “The book argues that there are “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption”.[5] It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries. The book contains graphs that are available online.”

      I hope you will find it interesting.

      I remain at your disposal.

      Zoltán

  2. You’re right sir. There are a lot of charity countries within the EU. Why don’t you kick them out? Or why don’t you leave the Union? The earlier the better.
    As to Croatia: they do not need the EU. They’d be better off without it than within it. They are not a rainy land like the perfidious Albion.

  3. Why should the richer Member States tackle the inequalities in the EU? They shouldn’t and they wouldn’t. The EU is not a state, but a divided and broken continent that will become a third-world region in ten years. The Croats were foul to join it.

    1. Dear Al Gislander,

      regarding inequalities, see my previous answer to Philip: reducing inequalities in the best interest of richer member states to avoid negative impacts.

      The future of the EU is not happened, yet, it depends on us. And I believe that we do not want a third-world Europe, do we?

      I remain at your disposal.

      Zoltán

  4. Dear Massy-Kosubek.
    I speak as a person tied to the EU against my will. I am not political in any way and am not a member of any political party. I am just an ordinary man living an ordinary life. Going to work and paying my taxes.
    I live in a country (UK) that joined the common market. I even voted for it! But what I didn’t vote for was the EU as it stands now. I would vote in a second to leave it. But for the time being I and many others are stuck with the EU and the disastrous consequences of it’s unelected Commissioners Presidents other top people and out of touch Parliament.

    Why exactly does your country want to join the EU? Well having watched many countries join over the years I can only conclude that Croatia want’s to join for purely financial reasons. It knows, having viewed other countries that have recently joined the EU that it is a cash cow. It will help to build its infrastructure and improve the standard of living for it’s citizens. It will inject money for industry and and make the country prosperous. All very noble and If I was part of the Croatian Government I would probably do the same.

    But hers my rub. Why should I pay for it, Why should I and many millions who are against the EU getting any bigger and more powerful, pay for your countries prosperity?
    Let me tell you a story. I have a friend in the UK he is presently unemployed why? Because the EU made it finically beneficial for the factory he worked at in the UK to move to a Eastern EU member country. Now people in this Eastern EU country have work and pay taxes, very nice! But my friend? My country is no paying him benefits whilst looking for a job in a market place that id filled with men and women that come from the country that now has his job.
    Where is the solidarity in that. Why should I pay my taxes just to give to a country that is going to, eventually, complete with mine?
    Why is the government of Croatia incapable of improving the lives of it’s county men and women on it’s own?

    The simple fact id that of the 27 countries so far in the EU only 10 give in to the budget. The remaining 17 only take money out. Tell me when is that going to chance? When will my country feel the benefits? I will be a long time dead before that ever happens. But in the mean time you want to take my money my industry and my jobs.
    Solidarity is or should be a two way street At the moment it’s well and truly one way.
    I am sorry if this post offend you but I am just tired of the EU and all that it’s polices have inflicted on the countries and people of Europe.

    1. Dear Philip,

      I appreciate and respect your opinion – and I am very pleased to highlight again my points.

      It is true that the EU is more an economic integration at that time when the UK joined and since the Treaty of Maastricht, the community method has been expanded to other policy areas (environment, transport, monetary policy) and the EU got more and more competences. Moreover, it was provided with a Human Rights dimension by adoprting the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The next step would have been the Constitution which has fallen and since the crisis started the process has been going backwards.

      The historical evolution is complex – the current institutional structure reflects the old times when everything was just about economy: unelected President, Council negotiations behind closed doors. I fully agree with you in this respect: the EU lacks appropriate democratic checks and balances. The EU is in an intermediaire stage: either it has to develop further or return back to national states.

      First, may I make a correction: I am Hungarian and my country is Hungary, not Croatia.But it does not change your point since you cover the recently joined countries, as well.

      What I can honestly say, the same frustration was visible in recently joined countries: the people are disappointed since the EU has not brought the desired economic prosperity. The borders have been opened: the factories have been bought by foreign investors and then they have been closed. The amount of agricultural direct payments for farmers of those countries are only a fragment of similar amounts he richer countries’ farmers receive. And so on.

      What I am trying to say: the coin has two sides. The new countries receive financial help but on the other hand, they have to compete the well developed foreign economies. Recently joined countries payed a high social cost for the accession and the inequalities between rich and poor remained at the same level, sometimes they deepened than before.

      Paying those countries would help to reduce those inequalities, would motivate the migrant workers to return their home country which could have beneficial effects on the UK economy as well.

      What happened to your friend is a very sad story: and yes, solidarity must be shown to everybody. But every country faces the same problem: unemployment is high almost everywhere.

      And the point is. The U.S. is a world power. Japan is still the third economy of the World. The BRICS countries are emerging. The UK, DE or FR alone simply cannot compete them anymore. The EU could give the necessary safety net and framework which would allow the European economies to re-gain growth and give work for those who lost it – including your friend.

      I do not say that EU is the only option. But what I can see: the EU is the most reasonable option to survive and regain strength. In a way or other, the UK might need help, as well. And within an EU, Member states will be able to show solidarity to the UK, I am sure.

      I might be wrong but I had recently had a vision about the EU. You might be interested in reading it:

      41. Why not Base the United States of Europe on the EU-Turkey Reconciliation? Vision of an Amoeba EU Integration: http://bit.ly/156uCEp

      I remain at your disposal.

      Zoltán

  5. Dear Sir
    I do understand that in “democratic” Europe some people are out of “argument”. They should be shunned even if they have a point. I appreciate your short answer.

    When one argues, one should not cite anyone – except the classics (that is Hellenes and Romans). There are no obvious “authorities” in today’s Europe. “Prestige” is propaganda, without any substance.

    Inequalities are neither unfair nor unjust. We were born unequal, that is with unequal abilities. We all must be equal when we’re judged by a fair judge. Otherwise, equality brings poverty to all of us.

    The gentleman from the UK is right – in a way. Some workplaces migrated from the UK to Eastern Europe. Only some! Most of UK and generally European workplaces migrated to China. And now, that Shanghai has become a bit pricy, the workplaces will migrate to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indonesia.
    Conversely: There are a lot of workplaces in Europe that could be taken only by “native speakers of English”. (Look at EUROACTIV’s job listing!) Why? Why do we use this impossible language? Why don’t we use Latin? Why do we grant an unfair advantage to the British? Why should the Croats speak English? Or German? Or Russian?

    If UK subjects do not want to contribute to joint EU efforts, they must leave the EU. If the German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Finnish citizens do not want to contribute to joint EU efforts, they must leave the EU. No one will cry for them. Let them form their NorthWestern Alliance. And let us reinvent the Roman Empire.

    1. Dear Al,

      I appreciate your contribution.

      I have two things to add at this stage.

      Equality is insane. We witnessed it under the communism in Eastern Europe. The result was huge state dept and collective poverty. I am speaking about equity and the chance to have the same chances which is different from complete equality. I agree, people are different, they have different capacities and we should accept those natural differences. That is right. But the children of top EU politicians and a child borned to a Roma ghetto do not have the same chances – even, if the Roma boy would be a genious. This is something unfair. This intelligent Roma boy should have at least the chance to grow up in circumstances which respect human dignity.

      The second point is: the doors are open. The EU is based on democratic will of the Member states. I agree: if this will is not present anymore, countries should be free to leave – in an organised matter. Even if I argue for an UK EU membership, it is up to the UK to decide upon it.

      But even, if Ireland/ (an independent Scottland?) remained member of the EU, English could be maintained as official language.

      I remain at your disposal.

      Zoltán

  6. I did not say that equality is „insane”. It is not: as long as ancient Hellens do it. Equality before the law – yes. But that’s it! (Otherwise unachievable, but we must strive to achieve it.)
    I do not understand the „Roma” remark. Germans were ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe after the last lost war. Did they get any assistance? NO!!!! Did they get any sympathy? NO!!! Is Germany the leading power of Europe? Yes!!!
    Why are you talking about the Gypsies? Why are they so interesting? (If you’re a Gypsy, it’s Ok.)
    Why don’t you talk about the intelligent Bulgarian or Romanian boys? Aren’t they human beings? Aren’t they “Europeans”? Why don’t you talk about the intelligent Scottish, Catalan or Basque boys? Aren’t they human beings? Aren’t they “Europeans”?
    Your remark is clearly racist. You do not talk about dispossessed people, you do not talk about disadvantaged people; you talk about Gypsies. NO! No to racism!

    1. Dear Al,

      thanks for your contribution.

      I am talking about Roma because they need particular attention. Today, with an estimated population of 10 to 12 million in Europe (approximately six million of whom live in the EU), Roma people are the biggest ethnic minority in Europe. As you can find data on the Commission’s website provided by member states, many Roma face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives. They are marginalised and live in very poor socio-economic conditions. http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/roma/index_en.htm

      Due to the specific difficulties they face, they need a specific, targeted political response.

      It does not mean that other populations living in poor social economic conditions do not need help. Of course they need. PArticularly young unemployed peaople. And I welcome that on its last meeting the European Council put this question on the agenda. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/137634.pdf

      Making an existing problem as a priority (ex. Roma) does not mean that we should neglect other existing problems.

      I remain at your disposal.

      Zoltán

  7. Dear Zoltan!
    How can you state that „the Roma face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives”? It’s they who are the racially privileged population. They get jobs, because they’re Gypsies, they get aid because they’re Gypsies, they get attention because they’re Gypsies.
    Do you know who “face intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives”? The Poles, the Lithuanians, the Bulgarians, the Romanians! In one word: the Eastern Europeans. No one talks about them because, incidentally, they are Europeans, therefore whites and Christians. White Christians can be lashed, today, while brown Gypsies are allowed to do whatever they want to do. Did you read the reaction of Soumi, of the UK, and that of Deutschland?
    Do you know who have faced “intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives”? It is the Germans of Eastern Europe! They were ethnically cleansed from those lannds! Why don’t you write about them? Because they’re Deutsch? They lost the last war, therefore they’re left with one right: with the right to pay! To pay to the Gypsies and to everyone else. is that right, Zoltan?

    1. Dear Al,

      First and foremost, it is essential to keep the constructive spirit of our discussion because this can lead us some conclusions. Nobody can deny that a large part of the Roma population live under the poverty line, in very bad housing condition and as a matter of fact, the health and education status is lower than the average.

      Nevertheless, I agree with you in the second point: every minorities deserve protection and there is no exception. Yes, the population of the former East Germany suffered the reunification and after WWII the german minorities were punished in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania based on the principle of collectiv penalty which is inacceptable.
      Unfortunately, those discriminatory measures (the so-called Benes-decrees) are still in force in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which is completly against the European standard.

      Thus, if you fight the rights for oppressed minorities, I will be your ally.

      I remain at your disposal.

      Zoltán

    1. Northern Cyprus is part of the European agenda. I am sure the re-unification of the Island would be in the best interests of both parts of the country. Division is not healthy at all – see e.g. the example of Ireland and Northern-Ireland. A Belgium-like solution – creating a Federal state with strong regions and with Nicosia as the commoon capital would be a good step to that direction.

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