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Does EU Take a Risk with Croatia as It Did with Bulgaria and Romania in 2007?

Published on , , Stockholm, Svenska Dagbladet
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Tomas Lundin, a journalist with the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, published an analysis [in Swedish] about the upcoming accession of Croatia in the EU on July 1st. "In less than a month, Croatia will be the new member of the EU. Does the EU risk the mistakes from 2007 to be repeated when the door was opened for the corruption-eaten Romania and Bulgaria?", the journalist asks. We are offering you herewith a translation of Tomas Lundin's article:

Many had fears when Romania and Bulgaria were accepted in the European Union. In a report after report, the EU experts pointed to the widespread (endemic) corruption, the weak judiciary and the obvious deficiencies of the fight with the organised crime. Today, five years later, Romania and Bulgaria are still under the monitoring of the European Commission, known as a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, which in a limited period of time must ensure that the future members quickly raise up to the EU standards. Croatia, too, is fighting corruption and organised crime, more specifically the traffic of people. But still, the new members of the EU are in a better position to merge into the Union. The reasons why we should not be too worried are the following:

1. EU HAS LEARNT ITS LESSON. Instead of moving on to fast reforms after accession, Croatia was forced to fulfil almost all of its commitments before that. The principle 'check is the highest form of confidence' was followed. A critical report by the EU last autumn forced the government in Zagreb to raise the tempo and now it is intensively working on responding to all the requirements before July 1st. Karin Anderman, counsellor in the embassy of Sweden in Zagreb, responsible for the EU policy, says that the judiciary is improved and the fight with corruption has been enhanced, although it is the corruption that still is a challenge.

2. A GAP IN THE WELFARE SYSTEM. BULGARIA AND ROMANIA BELONG TO THE POOREST MEMBERS. IN BULAGRIA THE INCOMES ARE 1/3 OF THE EU AVERAGE. ALMOST 1/4 OF THE HOUSEHOLDS LIVE UNDER THE OFFICIAL LINE OF POVERTY WITH AROUND 1 000 CROWNS.

The growing migration due to poverty to the big Western European cities, often organised by crime gangs, is one of the consequences. The beggars in the streets are the most visible sign, as well as the skyrocketing social spending that forced many municipalities, especially in Germany and France, to warn of a forthcoming budgetary crisis and to demand stricter border control. But Croatia belongs to the most prosperous countries in former Yugoslavia with levels of payment almost double to those in Bulgaria, although outside the touristic resorts along the coastline it is easy to find financial and social misery. Nonetheless, a warning flag should noty be waved.

3. THE BALKANS - A POWDER KEG. Since the end of 1990, Croatia has walked a long way from aggressive nationalism to reconciliation with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. During an official visit in Sarajevo three years ago, President Ivo Josipovic apologised for the Croatian war crimes during the war which the Croats call an independence war (1991-1995), mainly the war with Bosnia that cost the lives of around 100 000 people. The process of reconciliation is due to the negotiations with the EU. Now, we can hope that this will be an example for Serbia which hopes to get a green light for accession negotiations soon, says Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, a think tank.

And yet, the EU is opening for the membership of a country with serious problems. First, it is the economy which needs structural reforms and competitiveness, the youth unemployment is around 50% and there is an unhealthy dependence on tourism.

comments
Adriatic Institute
13 June 2013 23:32
While Brussels purports that Croatia will be ready to join the EU club on July 1, 2013, EU member state taxpayers ought to review the realities on the ground which include the following unresolved issues and problem areas:

1. Croatia's backlogged court cases number over 845,000 for a nation of 4 million (US State Department's Human Rights Report, 2012) - "842,750 unresolved civil and criminal cases remained before the courts as of September 30." - See more at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

Property rights cases have been stuck in the parlous judiciary for more than 20 years.

2. Rampant electoral fraud whereby over 1 million illegal voters (for a nation of 4 million) were placed on the electoral list thus influencing Croatia's 2009/2010 Presidential Election, the 2011 Parliamentary Election, the 2012 EU vote and the 2013 EU parliament vote. BBC, The Parliament magazine and SE Times along with European and US legislators have raised concerns about 'Croatia's democracy being suspect'. http://www.eurasiareview.com/17052013-croatia-works-to-erase-phantom-voters-ahead-of-sunday-elections/

3. A depressed economy whereby over 20% are unemployed in Croatia, over 52% of the youth without jobs and rampant corruption, punitive tax rates and significant red-tape blocking investments and necessary FDI.

4. Croatia's $15.2 illicit financial outflows via crime, corruption and tax evasion during 2001-2010 amounting to 25% of GDP has hemorrhaged the economy and blocked reforms including media freedom and transparency.

For more details, one could review an Open Letter to Chancellor Merkel on Croatia featured in Western media including CNN and The Western Center for Journalism (followed by 325,000 individuals)
http://www.westernjournalism.com/open-letter-to-german-chancellor-angela-merkel/

A recent briefing on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, on the Balkans' $111.6 billion in illicit financial outflows via crime and corruption has raised concerns among US legislators responsible for authorizing aid to the Balkan region.

Capitol Hill Briefing: Illicit Financial Outflows Worldwide, Foreign Aid, SE Europe - Croatia and the Balkan Route: Threats to Human Rights, The Economy and Security: VOA - http://ba.voanews.com/media/video/1675246.html

Since Croatia began negotiating with Brussels, the Adriatic Institute has clearly articulated concerns that if the EU determines it is willing to take on the financial and political risks of admitting Croatia into the EU, then it ought to require conditions including the prescribed recommendations:

1. Croatia agrees to accept foreign visiting judges and prosecutors from strong rule of law nations to be empowered with official duties. There are precedents for this in the Balkan region and in Commonwealth nations.

2. With the above assistance, the government of Croatia recovers illicit financial outflows of over €11.4 billion in crime, corruption and tax evasion (during 2001-2010) and confiscates the wealth illicitly amassed by Croatia’s politicians, government officials, and their private partners in crime and pays it back into Croatia’s treasury.

With a politically influenced judiciary, Croatia cannot effectively deal with rampant corruption. Foreign judges and prosecutors will be able to address the illicit outflows and illicit enrichment, and assist in establishing an independent judiciary with a proper foundation of the rule of law. Croatia’s corrupt politicians and their private partners in crime should be prosecuted; their assets in Europe and beyond should be frozen; and they should be barred from all EU offices and European parliamentary seats.

Adriatic Institute for Public Policy
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