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Wednesday, 15 February 2012 07:37

No Romani, Poles, Romanians or Bulgarians allowed

A few days ago I finally finished reading The Native Realm. A great book by Czesław Miłosz that is highly-recommended for anyone who claims to be European. "The native Europe" (which seems to be a more accurate translation) is a fascinating memoir and an intellectual walk along the meandering European paths of the 20th century. But this is not going to be a glorifying review of a brilliant book - although I do encourage you to read it. I'm referring to Miłosz for a rather less optimistic reason.

Last week European public opinion was once again bewildered by Geert Wilders (we all know this flamboyant platinum blond "statesman"). This time his Party for Freedom (PVV) launched a website where Dutch people can file complaints against immigrants from "Middle and Eastern European countries." The complaints are going to be presented to the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment.

Once you've entered the site and recovered your eyesight after being dazzled by Wilders's shining mane, you'll see giant headlines from Dutch newspapers: "Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians – increasingly criminal," "Eastern European gangs in villages" or "Problems with Poles" and a story about some supermarket with  misspelled Polish names (of course). The text underneath is even better. "The massive labour migration leads to many problems, nuisances, pollution [sic!], displacements and housing problems (…) Have you ever lost a job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other Eastern European? Do you have problems with Eastern Europeans? We'd like to hear."

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
Sunday, 12 February 2012 06:50

Croatia’s EU accession: Curbed enthusiasm

On Sunday, January 23rd 2012, the Croatian referendum backed accession to the European Union. In 2013 it will join as Member State Number 28. But what is being described as a "historic decision" by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic attracted less than 44% of Croatians to use their democratic voting right. Simultaneously, the Eurozone Crisis still dominates media coverage nearly every weekday and the narrative favoured by the media makes European enlargement appear unreasonable. Indeed, welcoming Zagreb into the EU doesn't just provide opportunities. There is work to do, in particular to prepare the Croatian economy for the EU market. 

Of the 43.67% of Croatian people who cast their vote, about 66% were in favour of EU membership. Politicians and analysts have tried to find several explanations for this low voting outcome, arguing for a low participation of the Croatian diaspora, the current Eurozone crisis and an election surfeit after recent parliament elections. The reality is probably a combination of all three.

Even former General Ante Gotovina, now imprisoned for crimes in the Croatian War for Independence, voted in favour of EU accession. He explained his decision in a manner reminiscent of what Austrian journalist Adelheid Wölfl called a "return to normality." According to her research, many Croatians feel historically connected to Europe. For them, EU membership seems to be a logical step to overcome the terrible time of the Balkan conflicts and to seize their deserved role within the heart of Europe.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
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