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:
Interesting. Who are Croatia’s main trading partners, in terms of imports plus exports?
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:
Spain (Catholic, but distant, with a Socialist government)
Lithuania (Catholic, but distant, with a leftish technocrat government)
Belgium (distant, but Catholic w/rightish gov’t)
Ireland (distant, but Catholic)
Netherlands (distant and Protestant, Srebrenica thing, but rightish government and some investments)
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.