Croatia’s Foreign Foreign Affairs

 

Photo credit AFP

Looking at the political climate across the world and all its turbulent tags that come in onslaughts such as free trade, monetary unions, CNN, mainstream media control, nongovernment organisations, one can easily gather that the idea of states being independent and sovereign entities is collapsing. Focusing on Croatia in this milieu one can see that since year 2000 Croatia’s Foreign Affairs have been contributing to this process of seeming collapse of sovereignty. Pinned to its tasks was and is “solving of all open issues remaining after the break of ex-Yugoslavia” . To put it in other words, had Croatia pursued this task in earnest after the Homeland War ended in 1998 then the solving of open issues after the break of ex-Yugoslavia would have seen activities and policies that would decommunise and fully democratise the independent Croatia for which rivers of Croatian blood were spilled in defence from the Serb aggressor.

This has not happened, far from it.

End of 1999 – the first president of free Croatia dr Franjo Tudjman, dies; 2000 – enter the claws of power of former communists, Yugoslav operatives. The period that was by all laws of nature and humanity to normally follow a bloody war for independence, the period announced by Tudjman himself in his speeches during the war and during the establishment of Croatia’s Parliament (1990) that would see decommunisation or democratisation of Croatia simply did not get a fighting chance! Stjepan Mesic, Ivica Racan, Ivo Sanader, Jadranka Kosor, Ivo Josipovic…followed and held the reins. As far as Croatia’s Foreign Affairs department was concerned the “remaining issues after the break of ex-Yugoslavia” being concentrated upon blatantly were those that saw the Serb-aggressor put upon the same pedestal as the Croat victim; those that saw the values of Croatian Homeland War (independence and sovereignty) derailed and degraded; those that belittled the Croatian independence activists who were crucial in the creation of today’s free Croatia and living outside Croatia/diaspora through communist or Yugoslavia nostalgic diplomatic echelons; those that neglected the task of cementing and strengthening sovereignty but pursued ideas of new regional unions instead, which would further sink the values and status of independence and sovereignty.

Today, we hear from credible sources that at least 85% of the staff establishment in the Croatian Foreign Affairs department are either former communists, offspring of communist Yugoslavia secret police operatives or those that do not uphold the values of the Homeland War, which brought independence and freedom from the oppressive Yugoslavia. Lack of lustration, nepotism and political suitability of individual are the culprits of this sorry state within the Croatian Foreign Affairs (and within every other corridor of power), no doubt about that. Such corruption that exists is frightening. It blatantly works against sovereignty. Such a Foreign Affairs department has neither the skills nor the will to assert the rightful place and reputation independent Croatia deserves to hold internationally.

But there is hope – still. Those who proclaim the death of sovereignty have misread and are misreading history. The nation-state has a keen instinct for survival and has so far adapted to new challenges, even the challenges of entrenched communist mindset or globalisation. We only need to look at some of the former communist states that pursued lustration after the fall of the Berlin Wall or political profiles of political battles for national identity, sovereignty and protection of national rights currently raising their head above the quagmire of moves to create globalised or regional unions, whether territorial or in policy, that in essence strip the people of their traditional identity and way of living. Just look at “America First” road-posts, look at Hungary fighting like a lion for own identity within Europe that’s losing itself, look at Italy, Germany, France … conservative political movements striving to “save” their people from onslaughts of anti-sovereignty pressures. The United Kingdom, despite its rejection of the euro, was/is part of the European Union and with Brexit it wants out, into clearly defined sovereignty.

For sovereignty, Croatia must elevate the fight for decommunisation and democratisation – complete the task set decades ago with the declaration of independence from communist Yugoslavia.

All this and more tells us that sovereignty is not dead, despite the many daggers being flung at it. In fact, as many contemporary observers suggest and as one could say – sovereignty was never quite as vibrant as it is today. The conventional norms of sovereignty have always been challenged. A few states, most notably the United States, have had autonomy, control, and recognition for most of their existence, but most others have not. The polities of many weaker states have been persistently penetrated, and stronger nations have not been immune to external influence.

Even for weaker states — whose domestic structures have been influenced by outside actors, and whose leaders have very little control over transborder movements or even activities within their own country — sovereignty remains attractive. Although sovereignty might provide little more than international recognition, that recognition guarantees access to international organisations and sometimes to international finance.

Commentators nowadays are mostly concerned about the erosion of national borders as a consequence of globalisation. Governments and activists alike complain that multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, and the International Monetary Fund overstep their authority by promoting universal standards for everything from human rights and the environment to monetary policy and immigration.

The EU is inconsistent with conventional sovereignty rules. Its member states have created supranational institutions (the European Court of Justice, the European Commission, and the Council of Ministers) that can make decisions opposed by some member states. The rulings of the court have direct effect and supremacy within national judicial systems, even though these doctrines were never explicitly endorsed in any treaty. In one sense, the European Union is a product of state sovereignty because it has been created through voluntary agreements among its member states. But, in another sense, it fundamentally contradicts conventional understandings of sovereignty because these same agreements have undermined the juridical autonomy of its individual members.

The EU is a new and unique institutional structure, but it will coexist with, not displace, the sovereign-state model.

Ever since the year 2000 when former communists took the reins of power in Croatia that successfully seceded from Yugoslavia, Croatia’s Foreign Policy has not fostered a clear-eyed and candid discussion on this subject of sovereignty (independence from Yugoslavia). Unfortunately, this also did not happen nor did it happen in any other government or presidential structures.

All they did was harden and freeze their positions on the so-called antifascism of former Yugoslavia rather than open them up. Communist crimes against Croatian people remain un-prosecuted and un-condemned! These so-called antifascists will delay rather than hasten the development of new Croatian policies in Croatia for which the foundations are found way back in May 1990- when Franjo Tudjman gave his speech at the Inaugural assembly of the new Croatian Parliament. Among many prescriptive things for the development of democracy, for decommunisation, he said:

“…At the end of this inaugural address, allow me to endeavour and put forward, in the briefest of points, some of the most urgent and immediate tasks that stand before the new democratic government of Croatia … Moral renewal and work ethics. The unnatural real-Socialist system leaves us the inheritance of fatal consequences especially because it had, through its perversion, demolished and belittled all traditional values and moral norms. This equally relates to family and school education, to professional, work and business ethics. Distortions in the value system paved the way for the escape or apathy of the wise and the capable, and for the advancement of the incapable and inconsiderate careerists. It’s going to be a hard and long-lasting job making changes to such a distorted value system, but we must commence with that job immediately, in all spheres and pores of life.”

Had Tudjman’s political creed survived after his death then Croatia wouldn’t be faced today with the minimisation of the importance of studying domestic politics and culture to understanding foreign policy. The powers that be would not have abandoned such “structural realism”; the view that the beliefs, values, and interests of various domestic actors shape their perception of the national interest and that the interaction between these domestic forces and international conditions holds the key to understanding and promoting policy. To say the least, the values inherent to Croatia’s Homeland War would have fully survived on the national level and would have been built upon on a national level. Josip Broz Tito and all the symbols of communist Yugoslavia would have disappeared from the streets a long time ago – banned!

With the Yugoslav antifascist, former communists and communist regimes’ habits still being promoted and practiced in visible and invisible ways, Croatia has little, if any, chance of becoming a fully functional democratic state in our lifetime. Nevertheless, a spark of hope or the only way for that to happen, for Croatia to become a fully functional democratic state, does exist and its existence must be emboldened. Croatian people need to embark on a new start or on restarting the 1990 Croatian national spirit for democracy and freedom from communist Yugoslavia and the Croatian diaspora is, once again, an important component for that spirit to reignite and survive.Ina Vukic

Croatia: To Schengen Or Not To Schengen

 

Map of Schengen Area 2013 (Click image to enlarge) Photo credit: ec.europa.eu

Map of Schengen Area 2013
(Click image to enlarge)
Photo credit: ec.europa.eu

When at the end of the 16th century Shakespeare, in Hamlet, inserted his soliloquy “to be or not to be” little did he know that its popularity would endure centuries and be called upon in almost every aspect of human existence, leaving the character of his moody Prince irrelevant to the plight. The 21st century will largely be marked by the globalisation trend in all aspects of human existence. All nations/countries are experiencing dealing with people and struggles to keep a niche in the crowded, competitive world and many are crumbling. In many of its aspects the Schengen Area can be viewed as a mini-globe, pursuing globalisation within itself.
Upon his current visit to Estonia Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has Monday 26 January announced that he aims for Croatia to lodge its request for membership in the Schengen Area of EU, which is a 26-nation zone that does not require a passport for travel between the countries, by 1 July 2015, reports Croatian media.
We are going to apply for the full membership of the Schengen regime at the earliest convenient and legal day that is July 1st, 2015, two years after accession to EU and then assessment period will ensue. We have expectations, it matters to us, we are a tourist economy. Relying heavily on profitable tourist industry and the freedom of movement and safety of visitors, of whom majority are Europeans is of paramount importance to us,” said Milanovic in Estonia.
The main features of Schengen Area are the creation of a single external border, and a single set of rules for policing the border. Among the other measures/aspects are:
• EU citizens traveling, working and living in any EU country without special formalities
• Common rules on asylum
• Pursuit of criminals – police have the right to chase suspected criminals across borders
• Separation in airports of people traveling within the Schengen area from other passengers
• Common list of countries whose nationals require visas
• Creation of the Schengen Information System (SIS) which allows police stations and consulates to access a shared database of wanted or undesirable people and stolen goods
• Joint efforts to fight drug-related crime
According to the ec.europa.eu website: “joining the Schengen Area is not merely a political decision. Countries must also fulfill a list of pre-conditions, such as be prepared and have the capacity to:
• take responsibility for controlling the external borders on behalf of the other Schengen States and for issuing uniform Schengen visas
• efficiently cooperate with law enforcement agencies in other Schengen States in order to maintain a high level of security once border controls between Schengen countries are abolished
• apply the common set of Schengen rules (the so-called “Schengen acquis”), such as controls of land, sea and air borders (airports), issuing of visas, police cooperation and protection of personal data
• connect to and use the SIS.
Applicant countries undergo a ‘Schengen evaluation’ before joining the Schengen Area and periodically thereafter to ensure the correct application of the legislation”.

 

 

No doubt about it, Schengen has brought new freedoms to the citizens of member countries – particularly freedom of movement, freedom to choose a country of abode, freedom to obtain education from any institution within the borders, freedom to seek and obtain employment in any member country, free trade…
But Schengen has also given rise to much scepticism.
While many of its features have been beneficial, problems are emerging for certain economies and countries, especially the smaller and the economically weaker ones. So while free trade and the free movement of labour are generally seen as positive and a thing to latch onto they can mean a serious downside for smaller and/or economically struggling countries, and Croatia is one of those.
Free trade forces all countries to compete using an even playing field, which puts the smaller and less developed countries behind their bigger more developed counterparts. And, when one looks at how the Croatian industry, manufacture and production base has been depleted through often-suspicious privatisations and corruption Croatia is indeed on a weak, shaky leg to compete.
Another downside of Schengen is the phenomenon known as ‘labour drain.’ Since Schengen allows workers to easily move from one country to another, countries with limited job opportunities often find it difficult to encourage skilled workers to stay in their countries. Croatia has seen a relatively enormous “labour drain” particularly of young and highly skilled people who find it an existential necessity to leave the country and seek jobs elsewhere. Little, if anything, is being done in Croatia to beef-up job opportunities, if anything more jobs have been lost than gained in the critical economic climate of the past decade.
There are few issues that define national sovereignty as much as border control does and as much as the EU and Schengen argue that membership does not take away the national sovereignty of a member state it is an open and shut case that in a borderless area the member countries will find it harder and harder to exercise supreme authority over themselves. Border control also means immigration control. The seeming lack of a clear common law regarding immigration into Schengen Area makes way for possibilities for an immigrant to legalise their situation in one member country and to reside in another. Similarly, illegal immigration can just cross one external border to access any member country.

 

Many analysts say that the expansion of the Schengen Area has not only brought new freedoms but also given rise to scepticism and fears about a lack of control and an increase in crime.

 

To qualify as member of Schengen Area Croatia has a great deal to fix in its border control, Eastern borders would become a part of the critically important external border Schengen countries depend upon, but the EU funds are available to assist significantly in this. What I’m picking up from various media contents from Croatia is that the Croatian government is focusing on border control as its major issue for joining Schengen. I find little if anything addressing the more important issues of citizens’ daily lives and existence, the success of which will largely depend on entrepreneurial and business competition/enterprising skills at all levels, from the small farmer to the large company. Certainly Milanovic’s Social Democrat government and the mandates of the two last Presidents – Stjepan Mesic and Ivo Josipovic (in whose mandates EU negotiations and accession ensued) – have seen no attempts of note that would set in motion an adequate improvement to the blanket culture of business competition and entrepreneurship.

 

Becoming a member country of Schengen will also mean that Croatian domestic firms and businesses may no longer be protected from various tariffs that can be quite high. In a climate of increased competition one also realises that increased competition implies the survival of low cost firms and lower prices and raised encouragement of product innovation. The reality is that Croatian firms and businesses (perhaps excluding the tourism industry) will need miracles to find a niche in order to survive within such competitive environment. They are the ones who , if Croatian is accepted into Schengen Area, will not be asking themselves “to Schengen or not to Schengen” but rather the survival or existential question: “to be or not to be” – unless of course, substantial energy and resources are invested into education and development of skills of competition all the way along to the smallest farmer. They certainly inherited nothing of that sort from communist Yugoslavia and its socialist regulated economy. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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