FEBRUARY 1 2012 22:15h

EU legitimacy on fragile legs




Croatia will join the EU and now we can breathe normally for a while.  Congratulations to those who supported our EU membership.  Congratulations even to those who voted against. Congratulations to all who went to station polls and voted in order to point this country in a direction they consider the best. They all showed some reasonability and care towards their country and their people. However, people who didnÂ’t vote the referendum, showed incredible unconcern towards the decision that points Croatia a way to its own future. Those people were, among other things,  led by malice towards politicians who were telling them what they were supposed to do, but according to their opinion, the politicians havenÂ’t give them many strong arguments. Euro-skeptics who are gathered in the association ‘’I love CroatiaÂ’Â’ were losers, but the citizens who supported Croatia joining the EU also love Croatia, not less than euro-skeptics.

So we have opened the gates of the European Union, but only thanks to pragmatic change of the Constitution which released a harsh regulation demanding for more than half majority of all registered voters that can decide about Croatia joining the EU. Since less than two millions voters voted on the referendum, in other words 47 percent, it is obvious that without that constitutional correction the door would still have remained closed. Not because the majority of the total number of voters maybe wouldnÂ’t vote for accessing the EU, but because it would be hard to force the voters to do such a small physical effort and vote in the required number.

Is the decision about EU membership going to be less legitimate due to the small voters turnout, unlike there were, for example, 70 or 90 percent of the people who voted? Is the decision less historically important then? For the loudest euro-skeptic Zeljko Sacic there is no dilemma. The decision was illegitimate and shameful, says Sacic. This was not a victory; this was the defeat of Croatian freedom and independence, as he concluded. Some weird guy whose name is Drazen Keleminec, who was thrown out from the coalition with HSP due to a doubt he had abused his wife, yells this is not the end and invites the citizens to get out on the street and start a revolution against the decision brought by such a small amount of votes. But, they can yell as much as they want, the decision was already made. Legality and legitimacy canÂ’t take away that decision. This is all according to the Constitution and legislation, although we can conclude that the constitutional changes regarding the referendum were also a previous manipulation in order, if necessary, to make minority to decide instead of majority. But on the other hand, no one stopped votersÂ’ turnout of the majority that decided to stay home on the referendum day. Besides, it is really a big question what the majority and what the minority in Croatia is, or how many adult individuals are necessary for majority considering the country has 4.2 millions of inhabitants according to the last listing, and according to the votersÂ’ list it has 4.5 million of people!

However, it is sad that such a large number of the citizens didnÂ’t consider an importance of the moment and the decision that is about to be declared. They havenÂ’t been motivated by the politicians. They havenÂ’t been stumbled over by the Church. Even a call of the war general Gotovina from Haag didnÂ’t break them down. They probably didnÂ’t even register the academicsÂ’ call. And for the first time in history Croatians had a chance to decide on their own whether they want to live in a community or not. Every citizen had a chance and a right to participate this decision with his own vote. No matter if he decides to vote for or against the EU membership. Every stand is legitimate. Through history it was always imposed to Croatia in which community Croatian citizens will live. Croatians werenÂ’t asked whether they want to be a part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. They didnÂ’t vote over referendum if they want to join the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes or later on Yugoslavia first and Yugoslavia second. Now they were asked, but they didnÂ’t reply the call. And it would have been truly nice if they realized the importance of the referendum day and if they realized that referendum is like the ceremony of democracy. Because referendum is one, indeed. The ceremony of democracy is when people are asked if they agree on some proposition of their politicians or not. But, thatÂ’s the way things are. Croatia has chosen a European direction despite the low votersÂ’ turnout. Croatia showed that it wanted to be the part of the system which guarantees peace, stability, security and solidarity.

Euro-skeptics can warn the supporters of joining the EU how they are about to see the worst scenario when their heads collide with all the evils brought by European neoliberal capitalism. However, itÂ’s hard to imagine anything worse than Croatia has already experienced by living outside the EU frame.  ItÂ’s hard to imagine, for example, that corruption and thievery can be bigger when Croatia joins the EU than those things were by now. Nothing that EU membership brings to Croatia can be so destructive like, for example, the predatory privatization was. Life can hardly become more expensive since it has already been expensive. The unemployment rate can hardly become bigger since this number has been huge already. The lack of liquidity can hardly become worse since it has been dramatic already...

The political legitimacy of the decision brought over the referendum would surely have been firmer if there was higher votersÂ’ turnout. The low voters turnout is the greatest message to the parties that worked to access the EU, to the ruling SDP and to opponent HDZ equally. TheyÂ’ve done their job with European officials very good but they completely forgot the proper communication with their own people. And this has returned like a boomerang through indifference which was shown by even 53 percent of the voters on the day of decision-making. Their low turnout at the referendum wasnÂ’t a slap in a face of the EU. It is a slap in a face of Ivo Josipovic, Zoran Milanovic, Vesna Pusic, Jadranka Kosor and everybody else who created a dogma out of the EU membership that shouldnÂ’t be re-questioned. All in all, with them or despite them Croatia eventually chose the EU. Although we canÂ’t expect a fairy tale, it is about the strategic decision like the one from 1990 when Croatia chose to separate from Yugoslavia and asked for state independency. There were some hard times during the past 20 years, but probably no one would have changed his mind if we had returned to 1990. No one would have wanted to vote for Yugoslavia. The strategic decisions donÂ’t bring fortune by themselves, since it depends on the people, state and society if the state develops furthermore. But they are good decisions. As the decision about Croatian independency was good, thatÂ’s how good the historical decision about joining the EU is today.


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