Regional Consequences of Croatian EU Accession – Report from Day 01

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International Conference “Regional impacts of Croatia joining the EU” (17-18 May), organized by CisBalk and Centre for applied European studies (CPES) at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, started with a movie “Twilight of Heroes – Croatia, Europe and International tribunal” (part of the documentary series “Return to Europe”). Kristof Bender, who conducted researches for the movie, came to the conference to present it and to discuss about it with other participants. He explained that the idea was to show both the problems Croatia faced in its way to EU and the changes which were and still are happening in Croatia, since the breakup of Yugoslavia to the accession to EU.

In the discussion after the movie participated Kristof Bender (European Stability Initiative), Professor Dejan Jović (Faculty of Political Sciences, Zagreb) and two CisBalk members and students of Interdisciplinary Joint MA’s Program in SEE studies, Ivona Hrelja and Mateja Stanković. They briefly presented impressions on the movie, which was the introduction for the discussion that engaged the audience too.

Prof. Dejan Jović emphasized the importance of war in Croatia, which makes her different from the countries that joined EU in 2004, and more similar to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Therefore, Croatian experience should be very useful for these countries. In addition to the importance of wartime experience, Jović explained that Croatia sees itself both as a victim and as a winner. That combination helps the creation of national myths, but more importantly – it does not allow the war to be forgotten.

Ivona Hrelja tried to explain the Euroscepticism of Croatian youth, to which the movie did not pay enough attention. Mateja Stanković’s main impression was about the important role of Tudjman in the creation of Croatian state, which the movie also did not tackle too much.

After these first impressions, the interactive and vibrant discussion started. The movie invoked many interesting comments and impressions from the audience, and raised some provocative questions, too. The discussion was mainly about the ICTY verdicts, the Euroscepticism (which, according to Jovic, goes together with “Croatosceptism”), the benefit of Croatia’s experience for Serbia. The fact that only 20 years after leaving Yugoslavia, Croatia is so willing to enter another kind of supranational community was also discussed. Some time was also dedicated to the exchange of opinions about whether the changes in Croatia were imposed by political elites and not completely accepted by the people.

In the closure of discussion, Kristof Bender explained that the movie was made for the audience that is not too familiar with the situation in Croatia in last two decades, and that they had to make compromises and simplify many things in order to make this movie.

After this movie pre-event, Professor Jovan Teokarević (Faculty of Political Sciences, Belgrade; director of CisBalk) and Srdjan Djurović (director of CPES) officially welcomed participants and opened the conference.

Consequences of Croatia joining the EU for the EU enlargement were presented and discussed in the next part of the conference.

Professor Teokarević was speaking about the future of the enlargement, but also about the future of the European Union. He emphasized the importance of Croatia’s accession in two meanings – as a hope, but also as a warning that the membership is not easily achieved. The economic crisis caused changes inside the EU and for the first time in its five decades long history this is the first time that the future of EU is questioned. However, the most probable outcome of the events he sees in the creation of the “multi-speed” Europe. In the whole context of the enlargement, the most important part will be the economic crisis and the fatigue of the enlargement – on both sides, among members and candidates.

Lately Croatia has been building its international politics on two pillars – membership in the EU and supporting neighboring countries to achieve the same, explained Senada Šelo Šabić, from Croatian Institute for Development and International Relations.

Professor Vladimir Gligorov from the Viena Insitute of International Economic Studies gave us the overview of the regionalism in the Balkans and economic consequences of Croatia becoming new EU member, which is the introduction and logical precursor for the second day of the conference.

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