Cobblestones were thrown at peaceful people, at Europeans, in the streets of Split during the violent demonstration of 10,000 homophobes against 400 participants to the first Gay Pride Parade organised in Croatia’s second-largest city. Let us not rejoice too soon over the end of membership negotiations [to the EU].
The events in Split indicate that there is even more reason to believe that Europeanization is not an imminent need of our society, but rather a process imposed by the European powers that be. And even from a purely formal point of view, nothing is settled yet. The two years that separate us from EU membership seem like an eternity.
We are quick to forget the previous obstacles the country has stumbled over in the long road to Europe. In December 1995, because of the crimes committed during Operation Storm [against the Serbs in the Krajina region of Croatia], we were the first country to be refused entry into the Council of Europe. At the time [current Prime Minister] Jadranka Kosor was Vice-President of the Parliament and Ivo Sanader [her predecessor, currently imprisoned in Graz, Austria for corruption] was Foreign Affairs Minister. Ten years later, membership talks were postponed due to the failed arrest of General Ante Gotovina [commander of the Croatian troops during Operation Storm] while Sanader was Prime Minister and Kosor was his closest advisor.
With this duo in power, we have become the country with whom the talks have lasted the longest – six interminable years. In 2000, we were promised EU entry in 2006. And Sanader had hoisted the blue flag with gold stars in the centre of Zagreb, like a marathon runner who begins celebrating his victory at the 30 kilometre mark.
Let us not rejoice too soon
The last lap of the marathon may prove to be the most difficult because in those last kilometres it’s our own weakness that must be overcome. In addition, a referendum on membership has to be organised. The government’s refusal to hear the fears expressed about a possible failure of this plebiscite is astonishing. Either the government fears the result of the referendum but doesn’t know how to change direction or it’s persuaded that the “yes” vote will prevail and it must think that there is nothing more to do.
Paradoxically, Croatia was more European at the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s during the transition period between the fall of socialism and the beginning of the “democraship” [of nationalist leader Franjo Tudjman]. At that time, Europeanization pushed from the bottom up while today it is imposed from the top. In the meantime, society has embraced the anti-European attitude inherited from Tudjman and on which the HDZ [the ruling Croatian Democratic Union] has built the state.
Looking at the shame brought upon us by the homophobic crowd in Split, who can believe that our society is not isolationist, closed, xenophobic and insular? Let us not, therefore, rejoice too soon. Pressure will have to be put on the government so that it doesn’t become short of breath in the last metres of the race. Is there much to be jubilant about because we are entering the EU six years after Bulgaria and Romania?