Why are Croats not delighted by their entry into the EU? What was the point of dreaming about it for more than 20 years, at a time when the old world was disappearing into the new? And why should we bother with it now when it is clear that this accession will come at a cost to the people?

Only 7 per cent of Croats want to attend a fireworks display on July 1, which is testament to the indifference inspired by the country’s accession to the EU. Obviously, a question as complex as this one merits a complex response, but the fact that Europe is experiencing an unprecedented crisis has a lot to do with it.

For all those countries, which like Croatia, were long governed by irresponsible elites, Europe represented a certain institutional and political framework which offered a prospect of well-being and a guarantee of the rule of law.

However, the crisis has clearly demonstrated that all of this was simply an illusion. The European Union no longer ensures the well-being of countries. Today’s Europe is governed by austerity policies, and it matters little that respected economists have pointed out that the debts these policies are designed to address are not the cause of the crisis but rather one of its consequences.

Policy does not work

But let’s set aside this observation for a moment and take a look at the impact of these policies. We can see that they have pushed several "minor" countries towards economic and social disaster — something that was unthinkable just a few years ago. Not only does Europe’s anti-crisis policy not work — something that has been admitted by the IMF — but to top it all, the people are alone in carrying the weight of recessionary measures that are devised to satisfy the needs of financial oligarchies and banks.

The result of this has been the creation of a “lost generation”. In Spain, almost 55 per cent of young people are unemployed. In Greece the figure is even higher at 58 per cent. And throughout the rest of Europe, which is not faring much better, one young person in four is without a job.

This is not solely a matter of politics but of humanity. The European Commission has been unrelenting in the imposition of measures that punish all levels of the society. How can it be that today Angela Merkel is opposed to any reduction in Greek debt, when in 1953 Europe wrote off 60 per cent of Germany’s debt? How can it be that Germany is refusing to allow Greece a dispensation that it has already been granted itself?

Even in Slovenia, there have been several unprecedented declarations to the effect that an exit from the Eurozone and the EU is only way to avoid a disastrous situation in the country. Who would have thought that we would hear this from such a pro-European country as Slovenia?

Weaknesses laid bare

The crisis has laid bare all the weaknesses of the EU. Ten years ago, we dreamed of a union of peoples and not a union of financial markets. Today the markets are destroying the lives of millions of Europeans, while solidarity has vanished with the crisis.

Today’s Europeans, and in particular those in peripheral countries, are afraid of tomorrow. Those in southern Europe, like the population of Croatia, are also afraid. They feel they have been cheated and betrayed. This is what Croatians, who no longer see the EU as a safe harbour or even lifeline, must be feeling. People here are very much aware of what is going on around them.

Having said that, we do not have a choice. The only alternative to Europe would be to retrace our steps to return to a situation that prompted us to join Europe in the first place. We also very much aware that this is something we do not want.