EU, Croatia and Brexit

Croatia and Brexit


The European Union has seen numerous crises come and go and some staying stubbornly put – e.g. last year’s rejection by many member states to take in EU-stipulated quotas of refugees/migrants, but the 23 June 2016 Brexit vote in the United Kingdom has perhaps forced upon the EU the biggest crisis yet – bigger than was possible to imagine, perhaps? Brexit vote had within days of its results count heralded far-reaching consequences not only for the UK and the EU, but also for the countries seeking EU membership from the Balkans, Turkey etc.

Never before have citizens of an EU member state voted against remaining part of the Union and after more than four decades of its existence the problems of untangling many matters and connections within the EU network of member states are emerging as almost impossible to solve without causing serious damage to one or the other side and to individual people from both sides. By June 2016 UK had grown into and fused with EU flesh and the future of separating that EU flesh appears to entail serious repercussions for all involved.

Prior to Brexit vote the EU has been THE club to join particularly because of UK being its member. UK had been a draw-card for many from Eastern and Southeast Europe to vote “Yes” to EU membership at their own referendums. Arguably, many people from all countries of Eastern Europe and Southeast, such as Croatia in 2013, had held EU membership as an ideal club to aspire to precisely because UK was there, waiting in its desired modernity to embrace them as its own and lobbying for EU expansion. Now that Brexit vote assures UK’s departure from the EU these multitudes of people in these countries are bound to be asking themselves if it was worthwhile for their country to join the EU after all. The repercussions of Brexit vote will remain unclear for many weeks and months to come, as the implications are far reaching. Much will depend on decisions taken by British and EU leaders on a number of issues that will extend beyond the Brexit itself.

The EU, without the UK, is likely to see strengthened campaigns for it to become a union of sovereign states, rather than a federation of nation states that Brussels wants at this stage. Following Eastern European countries’ (e.g. Hungary, Slovakia, Poland…) stance in rejecting the housing of refugees and illegal migrants and in protecting their borders and the ever increasing height of the “national interests” (which by the way was at its highest in Wales and England, in particular, at the time of Brexit vote) suggest that the push for union of sovereign states is about to get heartier in EU.

dr Franjo Tudjman at UN on 22 May 1992

dr Franjo Tudjman at UN on 22 May 1992

A quarter century after Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, British voters have decided, albeit by a narrow margin, to leave the European Union. Throughout various media outlets in Croatia, Croats are currently pulling out of drawers president Franjo Tudjman’s words, even as far back as 1968 when as scientist and historian he wrote that “the European community in the shape of a union between European states could represent the most advantageous framework for a true revitalisation of the idea of co-existence in today’s world”.

European politics can only be purposeful if it brings about the creation of such a European community which will have the capacity of free itself from intolerable tutelage under both super powers (USA and USSR) and become an independent actor within the international life. Such a community in Europe can only be achieved as a union of states of independent European nations who would retain their own national quintessence, the right independent socio-political development within their own borders and to sovereignty in international life. The fundamental European politics that aim towards European community joining its European people’s material and intellectual powers into the idea of active co-existence and unity of diversity are the only politics that have real prospects of success,” wrote Franjo Tudjman way back in 1969 and retained these opinions as to the dynamics and make up of the European community/union well into the 1990’s when he championed Croatia’s independence from communist Yugoslavia.

The largest political party, Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, is currently preparing for its own leadership elections since Tomislav Karamarko resigned as leader last month; and, in the aftermath of the recent fall of government, snap general elections are due mid-September. Croatian political analysts and journalists are already asking the question: which leader of which party is likely to support an EU Federation of Nation States centrally governed from Brussels and which leader is likely to support an EU as Union of Sovereign States.

European Union is currently shaking from the rubbing of two tectonic plates against each other: the Euro-federalist one and the Euro-sovereignty one. Germany’s Angela Merkel and Brussels’ corridors of power are championing the former while the latter is strongly the agenda of Eastern Europe’s countries particularly the Visegrad Group (Czech, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) to which Croatia has been aspiring for a while, at least since Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s presidency took power in January 2015. Traces of leanings to a union of sovereign states in EU, or leaving the EU if membership means stripping of national sovereignty of state, can also be seen in Austria’s and Greece’s recent speculations as to a possible exit from the EU; Italy’s, Netherland’s and France’s conservatives increasing anti-EU sentiments and so forth…


The likely candidate for Croatia’s HDZ leadership elections in July, EUP Andrej Plenkovic, appears to support the EU Federation option and hence, the Visegrad Group lobby for a union of sovereign states would pose a problem for Croatia and lingering divisions and dissent. One cannot sit on both stools at the same time, as it were. It’s hard to imagine that majority Croats would want the European super state of federation where government is centralised in Brussels and sovereignty of each state erased as seems to be what Plenkovic as HDZ leader might support. It’s been said that such may be the case because EU protects its smaller member states but not all agree with such a view. While attaching oneself to a bigger and wealthier body might provide certain securities it certainly risks losing ones identity or much of it.


The remaining EU 27 members have been seeking a quick resolution, asking the UK to trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty that would manage the process of leaving the EU. However, the British government has been reluctant to trigger this ‘clean’ way out. Indeed with Prime Minister David Cameron resigning, with leaders of the Brexit campaign – Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage – leaving the Brexit train, not only does there seem to be no exit plan but also Brexit supporters are left holding the baby, looking down a “what now” abyss.


This puts the union in a state of uncertainty and Germany seemingly stepping up into the lobby for enlargement role UK played before – as exemplified by Angela Merkel’s swift statement on 4 July 2016 that Serbia may open its EU membership negotiation on Chapters 23 and 24 and that Croatia had agreed to this. Croatia had been stalling Serbia’s progress in opening Chapter 23 for EU membership negotiations with view to several important legal and judicial issues and missing persons matters outstanding from the 1990’s war against Croatia. The fact that these were issues to clear before Serbia is given a green light for Chapter 23 negotiations, and that green light to Serbia has now been given without adequate explanations in public as to what happened with Croatia’s issues, leaves one asking many distressing questions, particularly regarding justice for victims of Serb crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A logical and obvious explanation here is that the EU is working very hard to show the world that Brexit will not stop EU enlargement! However, the cost of such moves as opposed to the cost of nurturing the existing EU member states and leaving enlargement for a later time, could well prove to be too high for EU’s ambitions for the creation of a superstate of itself; member states may retaliate against such centralist decision-making as are those demonstrated this week regarding Serbia’s negotiations for EU membership. I mean, every “Tom, Dick and Harry” stood in Croatia’s way to negotiate its membership over many years and now, only three years after it achieved membership, the EU seems to have parked its criteria at an open town-market where EU membership desirous states can barter their way into membership whichever way and with whatever they want. So much for reasonable and needed criteria that guarantees at least some grassroots homogeneity in EU!

Whether Croats will fall into a position from which they’ll be happy to blindly and mutely listen to everything that comes out Brussels is the most burning question now. This week’s events that gave Serbia green light to open negotiations in Chapters 23 and 24 for EU membership have completely omitted to explain to the Croatian public why that is so and what happened with the issues of protests or requirements Croatia had put before the EU in this regard. I do not believe the Croatian public will wear this lightly and will want explanations. The wounds of the 1990’s War of Independence are still very raw, sacrifices made for freedom and sovereignty and self-determination – still felt heavily and deeply. No politician in Croatia is likely to survive for very long if he/she forgets this fact. EU or no EU. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. I like this sentence by Franjo Tudjman: “The idea of active co-existence and unity of diversity are the only politics that have real prospects of success.”

  2. Interesting. Thanks for educating as always x

  3. There is a treaty ability for any of the 28 to veto any new member. If it got that far, Greece would object to Turkey.

    I now hope Britain will leave as soon as possible. The Conservative party, while having pretended to campaign for Remain, seem committed to acting against the interests of the UK by Leaving; but have delayed invoking Article 50 until at least October. Perhaps they will delay it again- which might gain them electoral advantage. It is a mad world.

    • If UK lingers on in EU perhaps it will do so to try and convince Brussels away from the Federation model where individual nations forfeit their own sovereignty within the federation??? But otherwise I agree, Clare, UK should make a swift and clear cut away from EU

  4. Fantastic post. Hopefully your words will cause people to pause and think.

    • I too hope that, Storysmitten – there’s much more behind Brexit that the shouted immigration scare and that much more is the key for EU to unlock for there lie the real reasons for disappointment with the EU, I think

  5. What a mess we’re all in. 🙁

    • Yup, Christoph – on whichever side one sits at the moment, one is doomed to suffer blows from some side but I think when EU starts looking deep into the “why” of Brexit (at the immigration one only) the better for all – real and desirable changes in EU politics may well occur for betterment of EU

    • A giant mess, Christoph, indeed – but it could also be a blessing for EU – only, though, if it takes a hard look at all the reasons for Brexit and corrects its own politics to suit

  6. The domino effect continues, over here as well albeit very subtly with the stock market vacillating and pundits pointing to Brexit’s ramifications depending on the party line they are espousing. What you wrote, the last paragraph “happy to blindly and mutely listen” speaks volumes to a major source to most problems, the lack of informed critical thinking. Another excellent post my friend.

  7. The “Leave” vote has shown just how much the leading politicians wishes have departed from the peoples wishes.

    Despite the appearance of being largely about immigration, many people began to see the EU as an union of business interests rather than a benefit to its citizens. Part of those business interests being the old idea of a mobile work force, placing people where business wants them whilst breaking up both communities and unionisation. Other elements being increasing privatisation of publicly owned assets and policies that favour the large conglomerates.

    If the EU had a foundation other than that of a Common Market profit enterprise, it might have been different. As it stands, I believe it is better reconfigured, regardless of the difficulties, before we all owe our souls to the company store.

    The consequences of Brexit will depend largely upon how well it is handled. It is going to require integrity and competence from all concerned. Certainly in Britain we need new leaders with experience, ability, honesty and a more positive attitude. We are still looking for them. 🙂

    Thanks for the article and an opportunity to voice an opinion. 🙂

    • The repulsive effects of the “business union” are seen in all EU countries and the small/medium business is suffocating or has died already…political power in business is felt everywhere and so in Croatia too – I do agree with you Graham that the immigration bit was not the main reason for Brexit’s success – EU politicians are quite blind to distinctions every nation has and this will not go down well if it persists…EU has much to learn from Brexit indeed

  8. Moreno P says:

    Citing Dr Tudjman is most appropriate Ina since his preconception of the potentially dictatorial new megastate had to be preceded with preconditions and disclaimers. Sadly the 23% of the pro EU entry voters didn’t get a legally binding ‘get out card’ on behalf of the rest of the economically devastated population whose only hope left is to call for a referendum on lustration before they go to the poles on recycled policies and loosely reassembled political deck chairs.

  9. Jones B says:

    While I can appreciate that there may be conflicting opinions about the way the EU should look in the future, and that there would be proponents of a looser union and on the other end of the spectrum, those favoring a centralised federation. What i don’t get is that there are no thinktanks in Croatia, presenting a financial case for either option. In fact, it all seems very contradictory. Wouldn’t we be better off going along with traditional ally Germany, with whom we actually trade much more than the Visegrad group? Actually, Serbia’s (and Bosnia’s) quicker entry into the EU suits us as we have already developed as a springboard to the Balkan markets with a Western work ethic (well, more than them anyways). Truth is, we do not have any qualified information on one option or the other, which makes any formed opinion rather premature. Albeit, it is understandable that as a fledgling, we are rather sensitive about our identity being lost in the cafuffle..

    • So good thoughts there re a think tank Jones B. it a must otherwise when important things occur people ask where has this come from to be imposed upon us (?) however with a federation powered from Brussels away goes “Croatia first” idea for which so many have lost their lives only 25 years ago and that I believe will not go down well or peacefully..

  10. This is an interesting event yet to see it unfold down the road. Good write up!

    • Thank you, YellowCable – life will never be dull it seems although I do prefer the action than pleases rather than the one that doesn’t

  11. In the long term, being in the EU could potentially be the worst thing to ever happen to Croatia. Having said that, a sad fact is that it cost Croatia a hell of a lot to get in, getting out will cost a hell of a lot more in the short to mid term. Remember, the EU is providing the large majority of funding for the Peljeski Most. Be under no illusion as to how vitally important an infrastructure that project is to Croatia’s future. Croatia is fighting for and looking like its going to get mass funding for a mass modern irrigation scheme in Slavonija. Again vitally important not only to Slavonija’s future, but to Croatia’s future sustainable food production, as much in a physical as in an economic sense. I can’t agree with the notion of the ‘quicker the eastern neighbours get in, the better it is for Croatia’. In fact I disagree whole-heartedly. Because of the economic situation in Croatia, over 300,000 people have left Croatia in the last 5 years. Immigration flow figures in Croatia are not very accurate and questionable, but strong indications are that over 100,000 have left in the first half of this year already. I’m not a big believer in statistical predictions, but for argument sake, lets say the same trend continues over the next 5 years. That could potentially mean upwards of 30% of Croatia’s current population could disappear in 10 years. When the eastern neighbours finally get in, you think they’re not going to again start taking up positions? Then what, another war in 40, 50, 60 years?

    • As long as staying in EU does keep people in Croatia, Nik, it’s a good thing, if being in EU will mean depletion of economy and jobs and therefore, more people leaving – not a good idea to stay in! Agree with Peljeski most etc – very important and so is the irrigation plan in Slavonija…

  12. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  13. The UK referendum was a huge political misjudgement. The EU stubbornly refused concessions but our Prime Minister declared it a negotiating success and went blindly ahead.
    The no vote as I see it is confusing and the result of a combination of factors but no one clear vote on a single issue. Voting in was a single issue but if you analyse the no vote some voted out on economics, some on politics, some on democracy and some on anti-immigration issues.
    There is no Brexit plan. Who is to blame? It has to be our Government, they called the referendum put had no plans in the event of a no vote. Little wonder the PM resigned so swiftly!

    • And Johnson pulled out of leadership ambition and Farage resigned also – so it’ll be interesting what comes. I agree that there was no single issue that brought the no votes but an assortment as you say…I tend to think that as EU member UK may not have supported the federation push, or if reps did then the people would have certainly been bitterly divided on it??? Hence, the referendum…reminds of the “throw caution to the wind and let’s see what falls down and then we’ll deal with what falls down” phenomenon

      • I think a lot of people, me included, wanted to remind politicians that they are elected to represent us and to do as they are told not what they like!

      • Let’s hope they heed the messages, Andrew. Although I think the reminders will need to get louder or bigger as pollies tend to have a terribly short memory and severe blindness

  14. Hello Ina !
    🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thanks for your visit and comment my blog ! 🙂
    A weekend to please your reign ! 🙂
    With esteem and respect,

  15. Veronika says:

    Thanks Ina. On another note:

    “IN THE EYE OF THE STORM: the Political, Diplomatic and Military Struggle for Croatian Independence”, the 2015 bestseller published by the leading Croatian daily, Večernji List, editor Žarko Ivković, has now appeared in English translation.

    • Thank you Veronika, needed to shorten your comment as am actually preparing a post on the subject of this great book for tomorrow and will use parts of Press Release – the release deserves a central spot as opposed to being part of comment. Cheers 😀 <3

  16. Earlier this week, I came across this online article about how the Netherlands would benefit from leaving the EU:

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