50 years of peace in Europe - more or less
At first sight these events do not have anything in common. If you are analysing the two distant events, however, you will certainly find important common features. Firstly, we have Westerwelle’s statement about 50 years of peace in Europe. Unfortunately this long-lasting peace only applies to the present member states of the European Union, while the western Balkans experienced spiralling destruction in the nineties, leaving a long term scar on the face of the EU and the UN. The Balkans conflict demonstrated to the EU the urgent necessity of a common foreign and security policy ; to the international community, it was evident that a solution of the crisis could not be achieved without an increased involvement of the UN. Germany, alongside Austria, belonged to the countries that pleaded for the recognition of the former Yugoslavian regions as independent states. In addition, and due to German pressure, on the 15th January 1992, the EU approved Croatia and Slovenia as independent states.
Urgent necessity : The Lisbon-treaty
- Ivo Sanadar of the Croatian Democratic Union is Croatia’s Prime Minister since 2003.
The second common feature of the two events is the special situation that exists between Croatia and the EU. Croatian accession comes at a time, when the EU faces a large crossroads in its institutional structure. The EU urgently needs changes on its 50th anniversary, as the previous existing framework that worked with 12 Member States must now permit the common action of 27 member states. Furthermore, according to the Treaty of Nice the valid organisation of the EU is permissible for only 27 countries. In other words, accession of Croatia to the EU does not fit-in with the provisions of the Treaty of Nice and in this perspective the Lisbon-Treaty is a necessity. Thus, all three areas – institutional reform, Europe and Croatian membership – are all inevitably linked.
Reform policy in favour of an EU accession
The third common feature of the two statements is the role of the EU as a power for peace. The accession of the Western Balkans will not come cheap for the EU. Bosnia-Herzegovina and an independent Kosovo are going to need decades before accession talks can be started with those countries. In spite of everything the EU must keep its words and keep the promise of becoming part of the EU in the future.
As in Spain and Greece, Croatian membership to the EU is the crucial driving force for a national modernization, a conscious and trustworthy foreign policy and quick economic reform. After the death of Franjo Tudman in 1999 and the defeat of his party “the Croatian Democratic Union” in the following year, the Social Democratic and Liberal parties initiated the necessary reforms.
Ready or not, here I come
Croatia is on the right track to becoming a member of the European Union in 2009. The progress of Croatia in the accession negotiations with the EU cannot be denied. Further reforms within fields such as the return of refugees, the fight against corruption and the treatment of the recent past are all of urgent need (e.g. the border dispute with Slovenia, the reconciliation with Bosnia and Serbia, the total support for the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).
- Soldiers of the multinational EU force in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a conversation with Bosnian soldiers
Within the last years the EU has developed peace-keeping powers and the EU represents a factor of democratization abroad.
It is beyond doubt that Croatia will overcome these obstacles because the perspective of membership has already resulted in democratization and in a reorientation of their foreign-policy. In that case, should reforms of the judicial system still be worth mentioning ?
There are hardly any doubts that Croatia will be ready for a membership within the EU in 2009. But it is questionable if the EU is ready to accept one more member in an already overcrowded club.