On the Adriatic coastline in southern Europe is a hidden gem full of majestic mountains, classic cities and sparkling beaches. Although it may seem like a beautiful vacation, only ten years ago Croatia was a deeply war stricken country.
Rebuilding the country has been a challenging task for the governments and only now do they believe that they are ready for international relations. Before anyone can judge the situation they must look at the plethora of problems in the past and present, perspective of other European nations and the changes in the country which are helping its cause. Despite current instability and tensions, Croatia is still a favored nation to be accepted as a part of the European Union. In the past decade of Croatia’s independence they have had considerable problems with their governments.
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As a result it is crucial to look at the government, furthermore its issues from the past and leading into the present. At the time of independence in 1991 the ruling political party in the country was the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), lead by authoritarian president Franjo Tudjman. He had brought victory to his nation during the war and was praised by many, yet his corruptness slowly leaked out into public view. Economic troubles plagued the nation with “unemployment rates reaching roughly 20% at the time” (Author not available, Analysis: Croatian Politics and economy) and it was, for the most part, blamed on “human and civil rights abuses, sheltering of war criminals, mismanagement and virulent nationalism”. (Author not available, Analysis: Croatian Politics and economy) With the HDZ having a tight grip on the nation, its standards of living were slowly declining and many people were living below the poverty line while their leaders were the richest tycoons. Although the Croatian people saw this happening they still maintained support because of propaganda by their leaders through state owned television and radio. Only recently have the people decided to elect a truly democratic government after Tudjman had passed away. The economic footprint left by the former government will take years to fix and is hindering Croatia’s success with respect to the European Union.
Unfortunately, the mistakes of the past are sometimes shadowed by the current problems with war criminals During the civil war many of Croatia’s top military leader’s were accused of committing war crimes. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has been requesting that certain military leaders be extradited to The Hague, an international court, so they can stand trial for anything they may have done. Although this is not as widely publicized as Serbian President Milosevic, it did raise suspicions when the government decided that they would not send all of them. The two men in particular would be Generals Janko Bobetko and Ante Gotovina. Bobetko is recovering from a double heart by-pass operation at the age of 84 and the other, according to Croatian officials, is not in the country. (Author not available, EU/CROATIA: Membership Application by the End of February) A large reason for the government’s decisions is the pressure from nationalists who don’t believe in sending its soldiers to be punished for protecting their country.
“When current president Stipe Mesic announced that his government would have to extradite war criminals it sparked a crisis that almost lead to the fall of the pro-western democratic government after only 18 months in power”. (Author not available, Croatian Government Teeters) These are two of the major complicated issues surrounding the controversy of Croatia’s entrance. The Croatian government has made some movement to eradicate the mistakes of the past and has been successful. Other European nations have noticed this success and are pushing with Croatia to help them attain European Union membership. “At the recent summit of the Quadrilateral, leaders from Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia gathered in Zagreb and adopted a joint statement which notes full support to Croatia’s bid to join the Union. Prime Minister Ivica Racan felt that his country had an exceptional chance and described the meetings as “substantial and successful”. He feels that the EU’s open door policy is key for countries to solve their current problems in hopes of getting the offer of integration into Europe.”(Author not available, Summit adopts joint statement approving Croatia’s EU entry) Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berusconi assured Racan that Italy would fully support Croatia to become full EU and NATO members however possible. The support showed by fellow nations is a clear indicator that Croatia is ready to step up to the European Union and help develop itself and Europe for the better. In the process of becoming a member of the European Union, Croatia must meet the criteria and keep improving itself to show long-term commitment.
“In the year 2000, Croatia signed a financing memorandum with respect to the EU technical assistance support program. This shows that the EU is aiming towards Croatia entrance. The program was set up to target the improvement of the country’s state administration bodies. These include strengthening the legal structure in the country to be in line with EU regulations and attacking specific problems in the different ministries throughout the government”. (Author not available, More Technical Assistance to Hasten Croatia in EU Fold) The results have been impressive with the rebuilding of the national highway and a strengthened tourism department which is slowly putting Croatia on the map.
“Croatia recently joined the World Trade Organization, signed a stabilization and association agreement with the EU and is push towards entering NATO”. (Author not available, Analysis: Croatian politics and economy) These are some of the key steps that Croatia has taken to strengthen their country and chance of entering the EU. The acceptance into the European Union is a goal that all aspiring European nations wish to achieve. It is a step forward in terms of economic and political stability as well it shows that people around the world are ready to unite and take on the future as one. These reasons alone are grounds for Croatia trying to gain admission.
They see the benefits of joining and are embracing change to better the nation. Although skeptics may say they have their faults but most nations do and it’s important look at the positive side of their entry. It is more than apparent that Croatia is, despite their problems, ready to join the EU in hopes of uniting themselves with the best that continent has to offer.
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