Croatian concerns about the enlargement prospects after the Irish ‘No’

Croatia
Institute for International Relations
 
After the negative outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Croatian media mostly focused on its impact on the further enlargement. In this context the media quoted optimistic statements from EU officials like the one made by Luc Van den Brande, President of the EU Committee of the Regions – during his visit to Croatia – that the country had made excellent progress toward the EU membership and should not be discouraged with the results of the Irish ‘No’.[1]This was also a central message of the international conference “Croatia Summit 2008” held in Dubrovnik on the 5 July 2008, as journalist Luka Brailo summarised. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader stated at the Summit that the Irish ‘No’ should not stop the enlargement and leave this part of the continent in undefined, disordered and uncompleted shape.[2] Journalist Bruno Lopadić wrote that Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty came at the most unfortunate moment when the Union was expected to show all of its capabilities for cooperation and mutual work in facing the needed changes and the upcoming financial crisis.[3]
 
The conclusions of the European Council of December 2008 on the fate of the Lisbon Treaty welcomed with a relief in Croatia
 
The political agreement between Ireland and the French Presidency in the eve on the December 2008 European Council dealing with the second referendum and possible ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of 2009 was welcomed with relief by the Croatian public and government. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was an optimist on the issue already during his visit to the Republic of Ireland in October 2008, after meeting with the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who stated that the Irish referendum should not be a problem for Croatian accession.[4] During his official visit to Croatia on 12 November 2008, the European Commissioner for the enlargement Olli Rehn, stated that even the slowest scenario of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was expected to be faster than the fastest scenario of Croatian accession.[5]

Media analyses emphasised that the process of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and Croatian negotiations with the EU are the two parallel ongoing processes. In this context, there is a chance for the simultaneous completion of the process of Croatian accession to the EU and ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as journalist Jurica Köbler wrote in November 2008.[6]. Another journalist, Augustin Palokaj, stated that Croatia could even help in the salvation of the Lisbon Treaty.[7] Namely, there was an idea that Irish demands on ratification of all agreed guarantees regarding the Lisbon Treaty might be connected with the ratification of the future Croatian accession treaty and thus simplify the procedure. The so called ’Irish protocol’, containing guarantees given to Ireland could become a part of the treaty.

The comments in political daily “Vjesnik”[8] particularly welcomed the European Council’s endorsement of the Commission’s new Enlargement Strategy.[9] Expectations that Croatia might become EU member in 2010 or 2011 are widely spread in the Croatian public by the media. Views expressed by the EU officials during December 2008 European Council meting that an indicative and conditional timetable for conclusion of negotiations with Croatia by the end of 2009 is a useful tool and was commented in Croatian media. Vladimir Drobnjak, head of the Croatian accession negotiation team expressed his satisfaction with the Council’s conclusions related to the Enlargement Strategy.[10]
 
Concessions given to Ireland in the European Council’s conclusions considering the posting of an EU Commissioner for Ireland, guarantees of neutrality as well as family and labour law issues, were elaborated on by the Croatian press.[11] Some media reports speculated on the date of the second referendum in Ireland, with most of them expecting that it might happen at the end of 2009 (Croatian journalist, Ines Sablić)[12] or in October or November 2009 (Vesna Roller).[13] In the second half of December 2008, the Croatian media’s focus considering EU issues shifted from the European Council’s conclusions on the Lisbon Treaty to the Slovenian blockade of the Croatian accession negotiations. Professor of Political Science at Zagreb University, Damir Grubiša, commented that concessions given to Ireland should enable the Irish Government to successfully pave the way for the Lisbon Treaty ratification.[14] However, his opinion is that the Slovenian blockade of the Croatian accession negotiations, leading to a slowing down of the Croatian accession process at the same time endangers the faith of the Lisbon Treaty, because it means that the ratification of the Irish guarantees would also be postponed.
 
The upcoming European Parliament elections in June 2009 has so far attracted little attention in Croatia
 
As Croatia is a not an EU member, the upcoming EU Parliament elections are presently not focused on or given attention by political parties and the general public.
 
In hope that the accession process might be completed by mid 2009, the Croatian government has adopted a proposal for an act on elections of Croatian members of the European Parliament in the summer of 2009. However, it has become clear that Croatian citizens will not be able participate in the 2009 European Parliament elections and the government has revoked the urgent procedure for this legislative proposal on 10 July 2008. Siniša Rodin, university professor of EU Law at Zagreb Law Faculty, warned on his blog page on the possibility that an act on elections of Croatian members of the European Parliament proposed by the government might be in direct violation of the EU Law anti-discriminatory clause from Directive 93/109/EC. The reason for it is the fact that voting in Croatian diplomatic offices abroad is still reserved exclusively only for Croatian citizens which means that (other)EU citizens would not be able to use this privilege.[15]
 
Croatian media are also dealing very little with the upcoming European Parliament elections in June 2009. Croatian journalist Vesna Roller in her comment in December 2008, concluded that it has become quite clear that reaching the goal of the Lisbon Treaty ratification before the 2009 elections for the European Parliament is impossible and the new goal is the end of the 2009 or the beginning of the 2010.[16]
 
The formation of the new Commission in autumn 2009
 
During the reporting period, Croatian media were not dealing at all with the formation of the new European Commission in the autumn of 2009. The political parties were also not discussing it so far.
 
The appointment of the High Representative not in focus in Croatia

Croatian media so far has paid little specific attention to the appointment of the future High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. However, some of them speculated on possible candidates for the position of the future President of the European Council under the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. For instance, in an article by journalist Martina Hrupić Danish Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen was mentioned as a potential favourite, but Bertie Ahern, Jean-Claude Juncker, Tony Blair and Angela Merkel, were also among others mentioned.[17]
 
Long-term implications of Irish rejection concerns analysts in Croatia
 
Croatian political scientist Anđelko Milardović commented in his newspaper column that Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, as well as previously the destiny of the Constitutional Treaty, had clearly shown that the concept of a Europe as a superpower seems to be in nobody’s best interest. He elaborates on possible scenarios for the development of the European integration process among which one might be a total weakening of integration (first scenario), closed core Europe and lose of the consensus between member states (second scenario) and possibility of further enlargement and successful institutional reforms (optimistic scenario)[18]. Luka Brkić, professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science stated in his interview that current global developments reflect the relationship between the obsolete political and economic powers. He said that the EU must impose itself as a strong global player, become a leader and impose its model in coping with a current crisis. The fate of the EU is in integration, but the Union has reached the level where it faces the following problems: one side of the problem is the fact that the EU is not (neither will it become) a nation state, there is a multi-level governance of EU bodies and national governments; while on the other side there is a need of achieving deeper political integration. The question is how to solve effectively these problems without bringing into question future integration progress.[19]

 

 


 
[1] Marijan Lipovac: “Croatia will enter in the EU since this is what Union wants”, statement of the president of the EU’s Committee of the Regions, Luc Van den Brande, quoted in Vjesnik, 9 July 2008, p. 3.


[2] Luka Brailo: “Croatia and countries in the region encouraged in they way toward EU”, Novi list, 6 July 2008, p. 6.


[3] Bruno Lopadić: “Concessions to Ireland for the Lisbon Treaty”, Vjesnik, 8 December 2008, p. 11.


[4] Statement of the Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on 9 October 2008 during his visit to Ireland, available at: http://www.javno.com/hr-hrvatska/irski-referndum-ne-bi-trebao-biti-probl... (last access: 10 March 2009).


[5] Statement of Olli Rehn during his official visit to Croatia in November 2008, website of the Delegation of the European Commission to Croatia, available at: http://www.delhrv.ec.europa.eu/hr/content/news/id/1403 (last access: 15 January 2009).


[6] Jurica Köbler: “We are entering in to the Union in the year 2010 or 2011”, Vjesnik, 8/9 November 2008, p. 25.


[7] Augustin Palokaj: “Croatia can help in the salvation of the Lisbon Treaty”, Jutarnji list, 11 December, p. 8.


[8] “Negotiations entering in the decisive stage”, Vjesnik, 9 December 2008, p. 3.


[9] European Commission: “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2008-2009”, 5 November 2008. COM(2008) 674 final.


[10] Bruno Lopadić: “Drobnjak satisfied with Conclusions of the European Council”, Vjesnik, 11 December, p. 27.


[11] Bruno Lopadić: “Concessions to Ireland”, Vjesnik, 11 December 2008, p. 10.


[12] Ines Sablić: “Lisbon Treaty-preparations for the EU Summit”, Slobodna Dalmacija, 11 December 2008.


[13] Vesna Roller: “EU agrees to Irish demands”, Novi list, 12 December 2008, p. 6.


[14] Damir Grubiša: “European horoscope for 2009”, Europa, 6 January 2009, p. 1.


[15] Siniša Rodin: Izbori za Europski parlament u Hrvatskoj, available at: http://pravo-eu.blogspot.com/2008/06/izbori-za-europski-parlament-u.html (last access: 15 January 2009).


[16] Vesna Roller: “European Council meting begins”, Novi list, 11 December 2009, p. 28.


[17] Martina Hrupić, Jutarnji list, EU & Hrvatska supplement, 19 August 2008, p. 35.


[18] Anđelko Milardović: “The EU Conceptual Issues and possible scenarios”, Vjesnik, July 4, 2008. Available at: http://www.vjesnik.hr/Html/2008/07/04/Clanak.asp?r=sta&c=1 (last access: 16 March, 2009).


[19] Neven Šantić: Interview with Luka Brkić, “EU should impose its leadership”, Europa, supplement of Novi list, 2 December 2008, p. 5.