JUNE 28 2013 14:11h

Foreign media mostly sceptic about Croatia's EU admission




Foreign media carried reports on Croatia's entry into the crisis-stricken European Union with a discreet praise of Croatia's heritage, loud scepticism over Croatia's weak economy and cautious assessments of the benefits for both sides, however the number of those sceptic about the EU admission in Croatia is significant.

"Little joy in Croatia as it enters the crisis-stricken European Union," said The Washington Post which, just as many other foreign media, said a decade ago when Croatia started negotiating EU entry, the European Union was an elite club while today it is in deep financial turmoil.

"With an unemployment rate hovering around 20 percent, plunging living standards, endemic corruption among its political elite and a declining international credit rating currently reduced to junk, many Croats are not in the mood to celebrate," said WP.

Croatia struggles with corruption and dissatisfied workers, said the paper citing a worker of DTR - or Domestic Factory for Undergarments, once among the biggest textile producer in the Balkans and now in the legal process of declaring bankruptcy after a botched privatization last year - as saying that "it can only get worse, especially for the textile industry,” which has already been hit hard by cheap Chinese products and now faces further competition from Europe.

"Much of the EU seems unsure whether to celebrate 4.5 million-strong Croatia’s entry or treat it with suspicion," said the Financial Times.

"There is little of the jubilation that surrounded the EU’s absorption in 2004 of eight former communist states, including Croatia’s former Yugoslav neighbour, Slovenia," FT said.

"More importantly, many EU governments and citizens are wary of admitting another weak southern European economy whose biggest industry is tourism. Croatia has had four consecutive years of recession, surpassed in the EU only by Greece. Joblessness is at 20 per cent – and among young people is closer to 50 per cent. Germany’s Bild newspaper last month dubbed Croatia a country of “debt, corruption and unemployment”, set to be the EU’s 'next billion-euro grave',".

Tim Judah of Bloomberg wrote that in the Balkans, one joke doing the rounds is that the British are saying to Croatia: “Here, have our chair. We're just leaving.”

"I asked President Ivo Josipovic, while he was in London last week, why on earth his country would want to become the EU's 28th member now. Iceland's new government, after all, last week decided to freeze its EU membership talks and the U.K. is thinking seriously about leaving," Judah wrote.

The most important reason, Josipovic said, is that, unlike some others, Croats haven't forgotten that the EU was created as a peace project and they still need it.

"It is peace, stability, a big market and the European cultural space," said Josipovic, in an interview with Judah.

Josipovic said that another reason was competitiveness because a tiny Croatia with the population of 4.3 million wants to be part of a large political and trade bloc.

Judging, however by numerous media which carried reports on Croatia in recent days, many doubt Croatia's competitiveness. Dark economic indicators, great expectations that turned into disappointment because of the lengthy negotiations and painful cuts order by Brussels made Croats indifferent and eurosceptic, most of the media said.

Once in the EU, Croatia will join the club of its poorest members, said Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF), public broadcasting organisation of the French Community of Belgium.

Five years of recession, high unemployment, debts and deficit have created a climate of indifference and a feeling of helplessness among Croats prior to one of the most important days since the country gained independence 22 years ago, said the Italian news agency ANSA.

The unemployment rate among Croatia's youth is the third highest rate in Europe, said ANSA adding that 70% of Croatia's young people hope to find jobs in the EU and 52% believing that celebrations on the occasion of the country's EU entry was a waste of money.

"What should we celebrate? The fact that we will become slaves because we are too small to have any influence in the big club," the French news agency cited a passer-by as saying.

Media also underscored that Croatia was struggling with its shipyard industry and that the country's tourism would also be affected by EU membership as Croatia, as an EU member had to introduce a visa regime for Russia.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua pointed out the challenges Croatia would have to face in the competitive EU.

The Austrian news agency APA does not share the scepticism of others and has carried reports on on Croatia's EU admission with a positive tone, underlining Austria's support to Croatia.

Writing about Croatia's EU admission, German daily Der Spiegel carried an article headlined "Uninvited Guest."

The website www.romandie.com carried a report released by the Swiss Embassy in Zagreb saying that Swiss companies were were confident Croatia's EU entry would make the competition for large EU-funded projects easier for them.