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)

Croatia Picks Up On Brussels’ Recipe to Fight Refugee/Migrant Chaos

 

Vlaho Orepic Minister of Internal Affairs, Croatia Photo: Screenshot RTL TV 9 March 2016

Vlaho Orepic
Minister of Internal Affairs, Croatia
Photo: Screenshot RTL TV 9 March 2016

Last week from March 9, Croatia closed its borders to most refugees/migrants transiting to northern Europe through Croatia in a bid to close the so-called Balkan route, which starts in Turkey via boats to Greece then up to Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany … used by hundreds of thousands of people seeking a new life in Europe.  Many genuine refugees among them but reportedly more illegal migrants. This move by Croatia to close borders means that only those seeking asylum immediately after crossing the border into Croatia are permitted through (and there are very few of those as most want to go North to more affluent countries) as well as emergency (humanitarian) cases needing medical treatment they cannot obtain in a country they’re already in (e.g. Serbia). Slovenia closed its borders at the same time as Croatia and so has Macedonia on the Greece side. Serbia has announced it will follow the lead of other countries on the route and close its borders. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has last week announced Germany would send away, deport, all those found to fail the asylum test and are confirmed to be among those seeking a better life rather than necessary protection. Certainly the “sending back” moves have already caught on like “a house on fire” – tens of thousands are already being sent back to Greece not only from Germany but also from other countries on the route, having Greece rightfully worried that its tourism industry will suffer a terrible blow because of the bottlenecks being created with refugees/migrants stuck in one place.

Nea Kavala tent camp Greece, near Macedonia border Photo: Screenshot HRT TV Croatia News 12 March 2016

Nea Kavala tent camp
Greece, near Macedonia border
Photo: Screenshot HRT TV Croatia News 12 March 2016

The moves to shut down the main route used by the vast amount of refugees/illegal migrants hoping to find asylum or better economic prospects in Northern Europe came barely a day after the EU and Turkey agreed to a proposal aimed at easing the crisis.

Idomeni camp Greece near Macedonia border 12 March 2016

Idomeni camp Greece
near Macedonia border
12 March 2016

Slovenia’s and Croatia’s officials have stated during the week that foreigners meeting the requirements to enter the country, those who want to claim asylum and migrants selected on a case-by-case basis on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with the rules of the Schengen zone would be accepted through. While Croatia is not yet a member country of the passport-free Schengen Zone it’s evident that it’s application to become one involves proving worthiness at these times of this overwhelming refugee crisis and this is done via closing the borders to contribute to this domino effect occurring within the Schengen Zone and designed to stop or seriously disrupt the flow of refugees/migrants into the EU.

 

Minister Vlaho Orepic Croatia AFP Photo

Minister Vlaho Orepic
Croatia
AFP Photo

Apparently Europe has decided to start a new phase in resolving the refugee crisis. It was concluded that on the Schengen Zone borders the Schengen rules would be applied,” Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic told RTL commercial television 9 March 2016. “The border of Europe will be on the Macedonian-Greek border and we will respect the decisions that were made,” he said, while rejecting the notion that Croatian army should be sent to the border with Serbia as well. Minister Orepic was adamant that his police force can handle the crisis at the borders at this stage.
More than 1 million people have crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece since the start of 2015, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and most aiming to reach wealthy Germany and Scandinavia, causing deep divisions among EU members about how to deal with Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. More than 650,000 have transited across Croatia since mid-September 2015 and as the weather warms up the fears rise that the influx of refugees and illegal migrants may become so overwhelmingly huge that it will seriously and fundamentally threaten the lifestyle and security of Europe’s citizens.

Pushing to get into Slavonski Brod Croatia camp - January 2016

Pushing to get into
Slavonski Brod Croatia
camp – January 2016

The bottleneck currently ballooning in Greece at the border with Macedonia, in particular, of some 40,000 stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border, is already showing serious signs of unrest and low-level violence that could easily escalate. A transit camp at the border in Greece, for instance, designed to hold 2,000 people, Indomeni tent camp, is now busting with some 14,000 lying in mud and battling for a piece of bread. Macedonia said it would only grant entry to the number of refugees that will be allowed to transit through neighboring Serbia and further into Europe, hence only a few dozens have been trickling across from Greece to Macedonia per day during the past few days.

At Macedonian border with Greece 10 March 2016 Scuffles and violence as refugees and migrants try to push across borders AFP Photo

At Macedonian border with Greece
10 March 2016
Scuffles and violence as
refugees and migrants
try to push across borders
AFP Photo

At talks in Brussels on Monday 7 March, the EU agreed in principle to a Turkish proposal to take back all illegal refugees landing on the Greek islands and the price negotiated, or payment to Turkey is running into billions of euros. Newly arrived refugees in Greece in their thousands continue to head to Macedonia despite being confronted by a closed border and rain-soaked camps where conditions are squalid, human misery and unrest get larger by the hour.

Refugees and migrants near Macedonia border in Greece 12 March 2016 Photo: Getty Images

Refugees and migrants
near Macedonia border in Greece
12 March 2016
Photo: Getty Images

The actions being taken by Brussels (EU) suggest that it’s only, or mainly, concerned with the interests of its military circles particularly the Schengen Zone, not people, in desperate bids to save itself within the demographic and freedom of movement parameters it set itself decades ago and Croatia is most desirous of being counted in. Because of this, and Brussels’ inability to reach consensus between EU member countries with regards to sharing the burden of refugees from the Middle East etc., many have in recent months/year predicted the collapse of European Union as inevitable. Some say that it’s only a matter of time when the collapse will happen

 

Cui bono? To whose advantage?

 

 

Nicholas Bonnal of the French Boulevard Voltaire publication says that “the Austrian newspaper Info-Direkt shows that, according to a source of Viennese intelligence, smugglers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to settle in Europe could be paid by the Americans…” Suggestions are afoot in this article that creating and organising chaos, such as the one occurring with the unsustainable influx of migrants and refugees into Europe, is a perfect example of political terrain for ruling by chaos. Only a handful of politicians would then rise above and rule and they are the ones with the knowhow in applying the principles of Neo-Machiavellianism.

 

Refugees and migrants wanting to pursue northern Europe destinations via the Balkan route stuck in Greece in squalor and misery AFP Photo

Refugees and migrants wanting
to pursue northern Europe destinations
via the Balkan route
stuck in Greece in squalor and misery
AFP Photo

Whatever the realistically based theories and/or political conspiracy theories regarding the European refugee/migrant crisis exist one thing remains blatantly obvious: people are suffering. And it’s not just one side that’s suffering. People are suffering on both sides: those fleeing into Europe (the refugees/migrants) and the European people who largely fret that their standard of living will violently be reduced to unwanted levels as hundreds of thousands of people needing sustenance and care from the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan…approach.

European Union is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place – the natural instinct is to assist and help the needy and the political responsibility of those in power is to protect the lifestyle of those who elected them into power! The two cannot be reconciled without a major shift in attempts to address and solve this seemingly chaos feeding impasse.

 

Closed Balkan Route March 2016 Photo: DW

Closed Balkan Route March 2016
Photo: DW

Brussels has the capacity to address the crisis to an end that would not mean the collapse of the EU and certainly the latest move to close borders (reportedly criticised by Germany’s Angela Merkel who has otherwise been unsuccessful in the past months to convince EU states to share the refugee load) and negotiate with Turkey to take back the illegal migrants and to keep refugees there as much as possible for a rather hefty payment of billions of euros seems to suggest that the EU is beginning to exert some strong directional force with view to “saving” the EU from crumbling under the pressure. The challenge posed by the refugees and migrants to the EU could, therefore, serve as a positive impetus for Europe to catch up on some long-neglected internal homework like bolstering controls on its external borders, deepening political integration between its member states/kicking off with a greater political unity of sorts, and taking serious moves toward common foreign and security policies. If voters (the people of EU) see these moves as successfully handled then those steps could breathe new life into the European Union idea, strengthen it to the point of prolonging its stable existence as a true union and even spur growth; and true, refugees capable of working could positively contribute particularly in a widened entrepreneurial sense. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia Negatively Affected By Climate Change

World leaders at Paris Climate Change Summit 30 November - 11 December 2015 Photo: AFP

World leaders at Paris Climate Change Summit
30 November – 11 December 2015
Photo: AFP

 

Chiefs of the World – government leaders of 195 countries – have converged into Paris, France, this week with one main goal in mind to achieve from this major UN Summit on Climate Change: to attempt to agree (secure) a new universal deal to tackle climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In total up to 40,000 people will take part in this 2-week summit.
The UN wants to secure a truly universal global deal/agreement on tackling climate change for the first time, as part of efforts to prevent the temperature rising by more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels this century.
Scientists agree that above that level the world is likely to see the most severe effects of climate change, including heatwaves, droughts and flooding.
Although there were previous summits on climate change, the Copenhagen summit in 2009 was the last time that world leaders met with the intention of agreeing on a binding global deal, which they hoped would cover emissions cuts from 2012. However, that summit ended in acrimony.
Although Croatia’s footprint on the total global CO2 emissions is a minute 0.06% one, the negative effects of climate change are felt in Croatia in the same way as they are felt across the rest of the world,” says in the Press release dated 30 November, Ministry for the Protection Of Environment and Nature, Croatia.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic at Paris UN summit on climate change Photo: HINA

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic
at Paris UN summit on
climate change
Photo: HINA

Indeed, Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, reiterated the words of the above Press release at the Paris summit where he led a Croatian delegation. Croatia, of course, will not be making any strides or new policy directions or statements that would make a difference to the goals set out for the summit, however Croatia is set to follow EU’s direction and directives in the climate change arena. Nevertheless Croatia’s Prime Minister did briefly address the summit in Paris on Monday 30 November.

“…the responsibilities and obligations should be allocated to parties not only on the basis of their greenhouse gas emissions but also considering their capacities of their GDP. Countries that largely contribute to emissions and have the economic strength to take measures must take on more responsibilities…,” said Milanovic.

 

In other words, according to the Croatian Prime Minister: those that have more should pay more!

 

Droughts, floods like the catastrophic recent ones of Eastern Slavonia or extreme temperatures have been seen as threats to the environment, to health and security of citizens and to the Croatian national economy. Croatian government’s plans to fall into the world efforts to battle climate change include strategies of low-carbon developments.
The Framework for the Low-emission Development Strategy of Croatia, prepared in cooperation with UNDP (UN Development Program), has been used as the basis for the development of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy (click here for PDF version), with defined sectoral aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Croatia had committed to develop the Low-emission Development Strategy as part of duty towards the European Union and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which fosters countries to prepare low-carbon development strategies and indicates that climate change requires developing long-term strategies in accordance with sustainable development. The development strategy aims at separating economic development from the exploitation of limited natural resources. While the emphasis is on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, the more far-reaching goal is to make development plans that take into consideration mutual dependency between humans and nature.

Extract from presentation by Energy Institute Hrvoje Pozar - Croatia Photo: Screenshot

Extract from presentation by
Energy Institute Hrvoje Pozar – Croatia
Photo: Screenshot

Low-carbon development was/is also a part of the solution for the most important economic problem in Croatia: unemployment. UNDP’s research pointed out that a balanced focus on the energy efficiency and renewable energy sources could lead to the creation of 80 000 new “green” jobs and help Croatia fulfill the obligations connected to climate change. A lack of funds is not an excuse as Croatia spends 5-6 per cent of its GDP on the import of fossil fuels at the moment. These funds could be relocated to foster the development of renewables – stated UNDP on its website.
Zoran Milanovic’s government has been very slack, slow and ineffective in truly making positive and significant inroads in the creation of enough new “green” jobs to make a visible positive difference in unemployment figures; any green job created seems to get eaten up by another job lost or another company gone bankrupt. Perhaps the 2015 Paris summit on climate change may provide stepping-stones for Croatia to advance in the low-carbon development process.

 

Extract from presentation by Energy Institute Hrvoje Pozar - Croatia Photo: Screenshot

Extract from presentation by
Energy Institute Hrvoje Pozar – Croatia
Photo: Screenshot

Generally, the message coming out loudly so far from the Paris summit on climate change is that the leading countries of the world recognise for the first time in history the opportunities that come with taking action and that if they don’t take action their prosperity will suffer! Furthermore, it would seem that the consensus in Paris is, so far, that actions to be taken to combat climate change are not once-off actions or single actions as the Kyoto protocol might have suggested and promoted but that effective actions are in effect a process, even a long-term one.

If a universal deal or agreement is reached in Paris it, alone, most likely will not be enough to stop dangerous climate change. The process of actions will need to be heavily studded with determination, creativity, funds to invest in renewable energy sources etc. According to the UN, various national pledges to cut emissions made ahead of the 2015 Paris summit are likely to leave the world on course for warming of at least 2.7C. That will make a significant “dent” in the warming that might otherwise be seen, but not enough to prevent dangerous warming.

The aim of the Paris Summit is to also agree on a framework that will make countries improve their formerly expressed pledges of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as setting a long-term goal that will help limit warming to 2C.

paris climate change conference 2015
All countries will need to curb their emissions if dangerous effects of climate change are to be stopped in their tracks. One senses, though, that the developing countries do not want to miss out on the economic growth that developed nations have enjoyed on the back of fossil fuels and will seek greater leeway over actions they are to take in battling climate change. They will also want financial help to do all this and if one reads between the lines of Croatian Prime Minister’s words money is central to the success whichever way one looks at it. Money indeed seems to present as a major stumbling block and barrier to “ideal” speed of progress in battling dangerous effects of climate change and Croatian like several other EU countries, will depend on the size of the EU purse unless it lifts its governance game and injects more local knowledge, effort and resources into the low-carbon development plan realisation in order to pursue a truly greener path. Perhaps in days that come Croatia will soon have a new government that may turn a greener leaf in Croatia’s renewable energy source development and industry growth.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi while acknowledging the reality that conventional energy sources such as coal would continue to be used at present said that funds were necessary to clean up coal-based generation. This could be done using the Green Climate Fund, which needs scaling up, he said.

Show me the money!” (if you want action) is likely THE mantra to come out of the Paris summit on climate change, sadly making the summit into a spectacular fizz.  But 11 December 2015 – when summit ends – is still a fair way away and chances of an easier deal, a not-so-slippery one as the one dependent on cold-hard-cash tends to be, may yet crop up. One reality remains though – all policies that limit the use of fossil or conventional fuels seem to make everyone poorer and the poor nations suffer the most unless money is guaranteed and in supply to prop-up clean energy sources.  Some poorer nations of the world, grossly and negatively affected by climate change, are lobbying and urging the Paris summit for a 1.5C target instead of the 2C warming above pre-industrial era levels. This latest target is indeed ambitious vis-à-vis the will and the might we have seen “the world” display so far and it could well prove to be an another lever raising the “Show me the money!” dependency any notable success of widespread curbing of greenhouse gas emissions has. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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