And speaking of Eurovision

Just a quick update on Croatia’s EU candidacy.

Eight countries have signed a letter to British PM Tony Blair supporting Croatia’s membership. The letter was presented to Blair — who currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, and will until January 1 — in the recent confence at Newport, in Wales.

The signing countries were Austria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Now that is an interesting list. Four from the “Old Fifteen”, four from the “New Ten”. One big country, two mediums and five smalls. Is there a pattern here?

Well, let’s take a look at the countries who have the most investment in Croatia. In order, they are:

1. Austria
2. Germany
3. USA
4. Luxembourg
5. Italy
6. Netherlands
7. Slovenia

Interesting. Who are Croatia’s main trading partners, in terms of imports plus exports?

1. Italy
2. Germany
3. Bosnia
4. Slovenia
5. Austria

So there’s a piece of our answer right there: Italy, Austria and Slovenia have strong economic motives to bring Croatia into the EU.

Next, historical ties. Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia were all part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire together until 1918. I wouldn’t overemphasize this, but I wouldn’t ignore it either. Slovenia, of course, was also part of Yugoslavia.

Regionalism is also obviously playing a role here; Italy, Slovenia and Austria are Croatia’s neighbors, while Malta, Greece and Slovakia are all neighbors-of-neighbors.

But what about Greece, Malta, and for goodness’ sake Latvia? What’s their interest?

Well, let’s look at the governments of the eight signatories.

Austria — Center-Right coalition
Greece — Center-Right coalition
Italy — Center-Right coalition
Latvia — Populist-nationalist-Green-right coalition
Luxembourg — Grand coalition with the center-Right party (Christian Socialists) as senior partner
Malta — Nationalist; basically a Christian Democrat party of the Right
Slovakia — Technocrat/Center-Right coalition
Slovenia — Center-Right coalition

So, with the partial exception of Latvia, all of the signatory countries have center-right governments.

Additional datum: Croatia’s accession has the strong support of the European People’s Party, the largest “party” in the European Parliament. The EPP is, basically, the party of the center-right. EPP support is the reason the European Parliament would admit Croatia tomorrow, if that power belonged to them.

I’m really not sure when and why Croatian accession became a left-right thing. Is it because hunting down war criminals seems to be a touchy-feely left-wing “justice is more important than economic convenience” sort of thing? Or is it the influence of the Catholic Church, which has been quietly pro-Croat forever? Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta are all strongly Catholic countries; is that a factor?

I don’t know. But it’s interesting to flip this around and look at it from another angle. Who are not signatories?

Major investors — The Netherlands. Right-wing government. Hm. Other hand, it’s not /that/ big an investor. And then of course there’s the Srebrenica thing. )(The Dutch are the only country who had a government resign for failing to prevent war crimes.)

Former Austro-Hungarian countries — The Czechs and Hungarians are conspicuously missing in action. It’s even odder given that both these countries have expressed support for Croatian accession.

Hungary has a left-wing government, though, with a Socialist Prime Minister. The Czech government is a weak center-left coalition, under Socialist Jiri Paroubek. Hmm.

Catholicism — Of countries where Catholicism still plays a major part in politics, we’re missing Poland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and to a lesser extent Germany. I’m not going over all those, but I will note that Spain and Portugal have Socialist governments, while Poland has a (minority) Social Democrat-Socialist-ex-Communist coalition.

I note in passing that the Croats have been placing a lot of hope in Angela Merkel and the German right. The election results in Germany have been very unnerving to Prime Minister Sanader and other Croat Europhiles.

Looking at these factors, it should come as no surprise that Britain — distant, Protestant, run by a center-left government, and with minimal investments in the region — has emerged as the most prominent opponent of Croatian accession. That raises an interesting question: who else would we expect to support or oppose it?

My (entirely hypothetical) list:

Denmark
Sweden
Finland
Estonia
Spain (Catholic, but distant, with a Socialist government)
Portugal (ditto)
Lithuania (Catholic, but distant, with a leftish technocrat government)

Swing votes

Belgium (distant, but Catholic w/rightish gov’t)
Ireland (distant, but Catholic)
Netherlands (distant and Protestant, Srebrenica thing, but rightish government and some investments)

Probably pro-Croatia

Hungary
Czechs
Cyprus (tend to follow Greeks, don’t like this whole war criminal business)

So those are my Eurovision guesses. It may be some time before we know if I’m right. In the meantime, we can all read the next report on accession candidates when it comes out next month.

Thoughts?

20 thoughts on “And speaking of Eurovision

  1. Nice background post. You know, if Dutch prime-minister Balkenende would poke his head out his office window and shout “Carla”, chances are that Del Ponte can hear him from her office. Dutch pleading for Croatia’s accession would be weird and, most of al, foolish. As for now that is. Speaking of accession candidates, I came this way expecting a post on EP’s ‘not so fast’ to Turkey.

  2. On what do you base your claim that Britain would oppose Coatian EU membership?

    It seems to me that it would be in Britain’s interest to have an EU that is large, with many members, and dis-united, given Britain’s long-standing historical antipathy towards the Continent being under the domination of a single power (read: Germany and/or France, and also Russia, though that is not relevant at this point). It seems to me Croatian membership would further this objective, unless Croatia is somehow dominated by, say, Germany (which you are saying it isn’t).

    Seen in this light, German/French opposition would also make total sense.

  3. Czechs are opposed because they have found cheaper alternative to Croatia in form of Montenegro. Hungarians have some issues with the campaign to demolish illegally built houses on Adriatic, many of them owned by Hungarians.

    Incidentally, Croatian media have recently signalled start of accession negotiations as a done deal. Today headlines scream at Sweden as major blocker of the process.

  4. @Jerry:

    On what do you base your claim that Britain would oppose Coatian EU membership?

    The fact that they, um, already do.

    Oh, they don’t oppose /membership/. Nobody does that. They just oppose starting accession talks (which means starting the inexorable conveyor belt to membership) until Croatia hands over their war criminals.

    It seems to me that it would be in Britain’s interest to have an EU that is large, with many members, and dis-united,

    To a great extent, this has already happened. And is continuing to happen; Romania and Bulgaria will join in either 2007 or 2008.

    So increasing membership from 27 to 28 isn’t that big a deal.

    @Dragan:

    Czechs are opposed because they have found cheaper alternative to Croatia in form of Montenegro. Hun

    Oh, but they’re not *opposed*. They still support Croatian accession. They’ve just gone all lukewarm and shy, is all.

    Incidentally, Croatian media have recently signalled start of accession negotiations as a done deal. Today headlines scream at Sweden as major blocker of the process.

    That’s interesting. I’d love to hear more.

    @Randy

    Is it possible to oppose the openings of negotiations with Croatia but supporting the opening of negotiations with Turkey?

    I think so, yes. It’s a question of what conditions were made in advance.

    You can certainly argue that the EU should have set the bar higher for Turkish accession talks. But, well, they didn’t.

    Also, Turkey has enacted significant reforms in the last five years. Croatia, after a burst of activity in the first year or two post-Tudjman, has settled back into doing nothing.

    There’s an attitudinal aspect here. The Croats seem to think that EU membership should be theirs by right; the Turks, OTOH, recognize that it will require major and far-reaching change. Which many Turks are nervous about, and some actively oppose… but at least nobody thinks they’re going to just, y’know, /drift/ into the EU.

    High school metaphor: Turkey is the short, hairy kid from a bad family who has behavioral problems and iffy grades, but who really really wants to make the basketball team.

    He might get cut from the team for fighting, for showing up drunk, or because his grades aren’t good enough. Still, you know he’s going to show up to practice and play hard.

    Croatia is the tall, snotty kid from a well-to-do family who thinks that he should be on the team because he’s the Right Sort of People. When told he has to bring his grades up, he gets very petulant and hissy.

    Doug M.

  5. A very interesting post. One factor I think you’ve overlooked in assessing the Netherlands lack of support for opening accession talks with Croatia is the recent EU constitution referendum. The way I see it, one of the many reasons that the EU constitution took a pasting in the Netherlands is because of the electorate’s conern about the rapid expansion of the EU, and uncertainty about how far that process should go and how fast. Given that, how can the Dutch government then turn around just a few months later and actively support the beginning of a process to add yet another member?

    I’m sure all the other factors you mentioned play their part in the Dutch govt’s reasoning too, but I’d be amazed if the referendum result wasn’t also a significant factor.

  6. Also, Turkey has enacted significant reforms in the last five years.

    Although the extent to which Turkey has gone on to implement the laws that it has passed is questionable, and the sense of entitlement to EU membership regardless of Turkish implementation that politicians and journalists alike have advanced is offputting. Turkey has its own war criminals, too, from the war against the PKK–to a certain extent, the EPP seems right to be talking about the EU’s double standard. Of course the proper thing to do is to go against war criminals in both countries.

    What makes Turkey a better candidate for EU membership than Croatia? Even if the two countries can be placed at a single level, Croatia’s of much more manageable size. A worst-case Croatia inside the European Union just couldn’t be nearly so disruptive as a worst-case Turkey. Croatia, at least, is richer.

  7. In 2005, Croatia is clearly the better candidate, for most reasonable values of “better”.

    But remember, Croatia is looking to join around 2010. Turkey, around 2016 or so. (They’re hoping for 2015, but that’s probably not going to happen.) So the better comparison is Turkey today : Croatia six years ago.

    Six years ago, Tudjman was still alive and in charge. Croatia was still under a racist and deeply corrupt authoritarian regime, and war criminals were still publicly feted as heroes.

    People keep missing this. It’s not about Turkey today, but Turkey 10-15 years from now.

    It took Greece just 7 years to go from the junta of the colonels (another racist and deeply corrupt authoritarian regime) to EU membership. Spain, 9 years from the death of Franco. The ex-Communist members, 13-15 years from the various falls of Communism. Portugal, 16 years from the Carnation Revolution.

    And, of course, Slovakia went from the autocratic Meciar regime to membership in less than six years, while East Germany went from full-blown Communism to membership in a blistering 11 months.

    So it’s not like there isn’t precedent.

    Doug M.

  8. People keep missing this. It’s not about Turkey today, but Turkey 10-15 years from now.

    I agree. I’m just starting to wonder whether the decision to let Turkey into the European Union shouldn’t be made 10-15 years in the future, once it’s clear that Erdogan’s government is (or is not) presiding over Turkey’s equivalent of the Carnation Revolution or die Wende.

  9. That’s a legitimate point.

    On the other hand, it’s also true that the carrot of EU membership has been a powerful incentive to reform.

    Doug M.

  10. I don’t disagree. There have been cases, however, where countries have been unwilling to change to suit the EU. Spain in the 1960s comes to mind.

    What happens if (for instance) it turns out that Erdogan isn’t presiding (as I hope) over a party that’s a Muslim equivalent of Europe’s Christian Democrats, but is rather interested in making Turkey a liberal Islamic republic? Or, if the military decides that it has had enough and stages another coup?

    From my perspective, undertaking negotiations on EU membership with Turkey now is somewhat like doing the same with Poland in 1989 or Romania in 1990. There’s certainly cause for optimism and membership is a good idea if it can be made to work. It’s just too early to be sure that things will work.

  11. There’s one important country missing from the analysis: France! They usually have an opinion on everything. Historically both France and Britain have been concerned about Croatia’s often very close ties to Germany. Anyone think that might be on the minds of some?

  12. Oh, they don’t oppose /membership/. Nobody does that. They just oppose starting accession talks (which means starting the inexorable conveyor belt to membership) until Croatia hands over their war criminals.

    Yes, and isn’t that a reasonable position to take? Somebody has to stand up for the international war crimes tribunal, and investigation and prosecution of mass murder. By the sound of it that someone is certainly not going to be you.

  13. I see reported in the paper today (Der Tagesspiegel, front page) that Austria is blocking the start of accession talks with Turkey, demanding a priviliged partnership instead, and that Britain has called for EU foreign minister talks on Saturday ahead of the proposed opening of Turkey-talks on Sunday. The paper also claims that in Brussels, Austria’s latest move is being interpreted as a way to apply pressure on the EU to take up similar talks with Croatia. Interesting. The plot, as they say, thickens!

  14. Jerry wrote: “It seems to me that it would be in Britain’s interest to have an EU that is large, with many members, and dis-united, given Britain’s long-standing historical antipathy towards the Continent being under the domination of a single power (read: Germany and/or France, and also Russia, though that is not relevant at this point). It seems to me Croatian membership would further this objective, unless Croatia is somehow dominated by, say, Germany (which you are saying it isn’t).”

    Indeed, or as in Yes, Prime Minister:
    Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now when it’s worked so well?
    Jim Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely.
    Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing (the EEC) up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased, it’s just like old times.
    Jim Hacker: But if that’s true, why is the foreign office pushing for higher membership?
    Sir Humphrey: I’d have thought that was obvious. The more members an organization has, the more arguments it can stir up. The more futile and impotent it becomes.
    Jim Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
    Sir Humphrey: We call it diplomacy, Minister

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Yes,_Prime_Minister

  15. There are definitely double standards between Turkey and Croatia.

    Croatia has (as far as I can tell) one war criminal on the loose, but has sent others to the Hague. It is a stable democracy now and there are no widespread human rights abuses or threats of army coups. Its economy is relatively small and already fairly well integrated with Europe.

    Turkey refuses to acknowledge any war crimes for anything (Armenian genocide, Greek expulsions, Kurdish ethnic cleansing, etc.). It is under constant threat of a military coup. The last soft coup was only a few years ago. It does not respect human rights, particularly freedom of speech and freedom from torture, and is only slowly moving in that direction. It doesn’t respect freedom of religion or minority cultural rights, and largely refuses to change. It occupies one EU member that it refuses to recognize and regularly threatens to invade other countries that it has disputes with (Iraq, Syria, Greece, etc.).

    Let me use a different analogy for the two countries. Croatia is a smaller kid who was forced into a gang (Yugoslavia) after a lot of roughousing. It extricated itself with a lot of fighting under dubious leadership. Now it is trying to walk the straight and narrow but occasionally slips. Turkey is a bully that has beaten up all the other kids in the neighborhood, including its younger brother, Kurdistan. Partly because of this, the neighborhood is poor and unpleasant, so Turkey wants to transfer to a richer school in another neighborhood. But it refuses to improve its test scores, and it insists on fighting with people in the new school every day.

    Why should the EU dis Croatia and allow in Turkey, Doug M.? And don’t give me this crap about stabilizing the Middle East. Stabilizing the Middle East is not the objective of the EU.

  16. I would be surprised if Germany opposed Croatian membership, regardless of who heads the next government. For Europe it would probably be a pretty good expansion chance, and certainly cheaper than either Poland or Turkey in the short and long term.

    Pi.

  17. Adding Croatia is a given but so is the rest of the former Yugoslavian republics. Adding Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia at the same time just makes more sense and is in the long run much better.

  18. Adding them together is not very realistic as their current state is very different both economically and politically. In the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia and Croatia basically financed the whole country. The economic differences are huge. Both Slovenia and Croatia are doing better than many of the new EU 10, and certainly better than Romania and Bulgaria. Had it not been for the trouble with the Hague, Croatia could have easily joined up in 2004. Politically Croatia has a fairly normal European left, left-of-center, liberal, right-of-center, right spectrum. Partly because of external pressure over the years civil liberties and other democratic rights are fairly strong.

    Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia are an order of magnitude poorer and are politically a mess. In Bosnia you still basically have the national factions as political entities. In Serbia the ultra-right is very strong as is the support for Milosevic.

    Regarding Croatia and Turkey, I don’t see really what there is to discuss. Croatia is geographically, politically, economically, culturally and demographically European by any definition. Turkey is partially geographically in Europe. Culturally, politically, economically and demographically it differs significantly from European countries. Sure, they helped form Europe over the centuries (mostly by invasion), but then again so did the Americans, and we’re not saying that they’re European, do we? Not that I’m particularly opposed to Turkey joining in two decades or so (after some serious reforms).

  19. Slovenia is already part of the EU and i didn’t name it.
    Bosnia & Kosovo are non voting member if you look at how they are ruled and get their money.
    So that leaves only Serbia which is the country with the Donau and the roads to Greece and Turkey and as such is much more important that Croatia.

    Europe has never been one. If you look at the history of Europe you see that it the EU consist of five zones who never before have all been united. The Baltic/North sea, Atlantic coast, Central Europe, Western Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey is obviously part of the Eastern Mediterranean. They do have a different religion than what you find in the other zones but it is not more strange than Greece and its Orthodox church.
    Demographically a poor country (Spain, Portugal, Ireland) joins the union around the time it has below replacement number of births. Guess in what fase Turkey is at the moment?
    Politally it is a former somewhat racist and corrupt state that can’t admit its crimes against humanity so it is unlike Germany and .. (can you name another EU state because i can’t)
    Economically poor states join as all the rich states have already been asked to join
    Geographically, It is not like Cyprus (or Iceland) which have no part in Europe. Greater Istanbul is 25% of the population and on the boarder and if you claim that Kurdistan is in reality more a colony than a mayority lives in what is culturally seen as belongiong to the European continent. Besides nobody used this argument when half of France was in Africa(Algeria)

    The US will not be part of the Union because it is to big. But i doubt that anybody would say no to Canada.