Croatia - out of the Yugoslav frying pan into the EU fire
The crowds danced and sang in jubilation. Fireworks illuminated the night sky and Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' rang out in the streets of Zagreb. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso ascended the stage, raised his arms, and greeted Croatia as the 28th member state: "Welcome to the European Union!" he exclaimed to thousands of Croatians, mesmerised by the promise of hope and the assurance of change.
"As midnight struck, your country crossed an important threshold," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told them. "It will change the life of this nation for good."
"In the history of a nation, there are a few events such as this one," Croatia's President Ivo Josipovic said. "The accession of Croatia to the European Union is confirmation that each one of us belongs to the European democratic and cultural set of values."
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, described Croatia's accession as a historic day: "EU membership will offer no magic solution to the crisis," he said in a statement. "But it will help to lift many people out of poverty and modernise the economy."
Just 20 years after fighting a bloody war of independence to free itself from the artificial construct formerly known as Yugoslavia, Croatia has now ceded sovereignty to the artificial construct known as the European Union. Significantly, the leaders of the ex-Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo were all present at the celebrations in a show of European unity. Beethoven is better the bombs; fireworks preferable to ethnic cleansing. Their own nations are still years away from EU accession.
Interestingly, Chancellor Merkel was not present with other EU leaders, which is a little strange when one considers that this accession represents something of a triumph for German foreign policy: it was they who unilaterally recognised Croatia in 1991, swiftly followed by the Vatican. Some 88 percent of the country's 4.4 million people are Roman Catholic. Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic said that the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Croatia two years ago ‘shows a clear support for the Holy See to Coatia's EU entry’. Even as they were burning EU flags and parading banners reading ‘I love Croatia, not the EU’, and ‘Go away EU’, Pope Benedict was urging this ‘Staunchly Catholic’ country to join the supranational entity out of solidarity with other European nations.
Others called it bribery.
According to Professor Anton Tamarut of the Zagreb Catholic Faculty of Theology, ‘Some Catholics fear that by entering a big family of European people a part of our spiritual legacy, of everything that formed us throughout history ... will be lost’. For Drina Cavar, who heads the Catholic association Kristol Stol (Christ's Table), Croatia’s EU membership will sacrifice parts of its ‘independence and authenticity’.
Parts of its independence and authenticity?
No, the whole of them, for there can be no independence when sovereign political power is ceded to unaccountable bureaucrats and superior courts of justice and human rights. There can be no authenticity when the artificial construct is superimposed upon centuries of culture, custom and tradition.
The past role of Christianity in giving some identity to Europe is not open to dispute. Although European culture has grown from many roots, the Christian faith helped to give it shape and content. The Christian heritage is still evident in many aspects of European life. It does not, however, provide a self-evident basis for a new European identity.
Croatia needs Europe.
But not this one.