Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

National Heroes vs. EU Benefits: Croatia and the EU Conditionality

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

National Heroes vs. EU Benefits: Croatia and the EU Conditionality

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The European Union (EU) has played a major role in Western Balkan societies in the past twenty years. Not only was the EU one of the main international actors in bringing to an end the armed conflicts in the Balkans during the 1990s, it was also the most important foreign actor in the reconstruction and reconciliation processes after the wars and has been one of the biggest aid donors in the region. Relations between the Western Balkans and the EU are complex and they influence all aspects of the integration process. The Western Balkan countries embarked on the European integration process at the beginning of this century, they are adopting EU rules and conditions more or less successfully, the EU is carefully monitoring the accession process and is using different mechanisms and tools to implement its basic principles. The functioning of these EU tools has been in the centre of research of EU studies. With the EU integration of the Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) in the 1990s the theoretical frameworks of the EU conditionality were based on the social action of this region. However, in past years authors have also researched EU conditionality in the Western Balkans, hence this article contributes to the analysis of the EU integration in the Western Balkans.

The case of Croatian general Ante Gotovina is closely connected to the start of Croatia's official negotiations with the EU back in 2005. In this article we will look at how the condition of full cooperation with the ICTY influenced the political discourses and public opinion of Croatia by challenging national identity, which was partially built on the patriotic war and national heroes from the 1990s, as well as why domestic political elites still complied with this condition. Is the attraction of EU membership so powerful to outweigh a national hero? The case study of Croatia was selected on the basis of two important facts: first, Croatia was the first of the Western Balkan countries to start with EU negotiations and has been considerably ahead in the EU integration process; second, the start of EU negotiations with Croatia was postponed due to allegedly poor cooperation with ICTY and this represented a precedens: for the first time the EU made the ICTY officially a precondition sine qua non for EU accession process. According to EU policies, this precondition is crucial for the reconciliation process in the region, however it aroused different reactions amongst the public, especially when the indicted were brought to court.

The analysis of political discourses in Croatia is based on newspaper articles, analysing the biggest left-leaning and right-leaning newspapers in a period beginning December 2004, when Croatia got positive signals at the EU Council for the start of negotiations, until the end of March 2005 when the EU negotiations were definitely postponed. A qualitative approach was used when analysing the newspaper articles, more specifically the statements of the high-ranking Croatian politicians were gathered and analysed.

The article is composed of two sections: the theoretical overview of EU conditionality and the case-study analysis. Firstly, we will look at what has been written about EU conditionality so far, especially in the area of the Western Balkans, and what EU conditionality is. Secondly, we will examine a specific EU condition for the Western Balkans, the so-called 'ICTY condition' that the EU applied for the Western Balkan countries that were at war during the 1990s. Thirdly, we will analyse political discourses in Croatia and finally, Croatian public opinion, when we will also try to answer the questions set above.

The main argument here is that although the so-called 'ICTY condition' undermined national identity and was unpopular with the public, domestic political elites still complied with it because they were already too deeply involved in the accession process and turning away from it would be too costly. …

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