EU Divided Over Croatia’s Membership Bid

From the March-April 2004 Trumpet Print Edition

Croatia has its sights set on full membership of the EU. This would complete its transformation from the ethnically riven, economically damaged, war-torn state of the 1990s to a stable, modernizing partner to its EU neighbors. But Croatia’s EU path is not without obstacles.

Ratification of Croatia’s Stability and Association Agreement (which requires unanimous agreement among current EU states), a preliminary step, has been stymied by the refusal of Britain and the Netherlands to support it. These two countries insist Croatia completely cooperate with the International War Crimes Tribunal in the wanted arrest and extradition of former Croatian General Ante Gotovina—wanted for his alleged role in the killing of Serb civilians in 1995.

Still, Croatia appears well on its way to EU membership, with the strong support of powerhouse Germany (with whom Croatia has strong economic ties) as well as its Catholic brothers in the Vatican. Britain and the Netherlands appear to be going very much against the flow with their refusal to overlook the Gotovina case.

The Balkans have always been vital to the stability of Europe—instability there ignited World War i. Germany and the Vatican’s recognition of Croatia as an independent state in 1991 helped break up the former Yugoslavia and gave the EU an unprecedented foothold in this vital region. Catholic Croatia’s bid for EU membership will only further EU plans to control what has historically been a volatile area and a vital crossroads for European trade.