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Croatia's EU Membership

In the view of the young generation and public opinion. By Daniel L. Manassi, Visiting Researcher at C·A·P.

08.07.2013 · Forschungsgruppe Jugend und Europa

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Croatia applied for EU membership in February 2003, and was granted candidate status in June 2004. Negotiations for accession started in October 2005 and successfully terminated in June 2011, with future entry approved in December. The country joined the EU on July 1, 2013. For the moment, Croatia is neither Euro single currency nor Schengen free movement area member. The latter may be joined in 2015.

According to a GfK study at the beginning of the years 2000, public support in Croatia for the joining of the EU was an overwhelming 80% against a tiny 10% opposition. However, since 2003 there has been a significant decrease of support mirrored by a remarkable increase of opposition, and the two values have remained variably close to each other up to the present day. Support has however always managed to keep the upper hand, even though there were two phases, one in the second half of 2005 and the other in the second part of 2008, in which opposition prevailed. At the accession referendum, held in January 2012, to which 45% of eligible voters took part, 66% expressed themselves in favour and 33% against. At the current moment of the entrance into the EU, some 53% of the people is reportedly in favour while 38% is against. Conceivably, support for the EU tends to be higher among younger, more educated people. An April 2013 government-conducted survey shows that 75% of Croatians aged between 15 and 19 are in favour of EU membership (25% against). 57% of those aged between 20 and 24 are also in favour, with 38% against and 5% undecided. The respective data for people between 25 and 29 are 60%, 37% and 3%. More generally, pro-EU stances are more likely to be found in the western, sea-facing provinces (Istria 71%, Dalmatia 65%) as well as within and around Zagreb (city and outskirts: 61%, Slavonia: 64%).

According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in July 2006 , 56% of EU citizens are in favour of Croatia joining the EU (30% against). Within the old 15-member “core” the result was 53%. Even though not in all these 27 states support gains an absolute majority (although in most it does), support prevails in all countries, with the only exception of Luxembourg (47% against VS 44% in favour). The three countries with the highest support rate are Slovakia (83%), Hungary (81%) and the Czech Republic (80%). Poland’s attitude is also remarkably positive (70%) and Slovenia’s 66% appears quite interesting in the light of the past bilateral tensions. In some other selected countries, data are as follows: Netherlands 68%; France and Austria 55%; Germany, Italy and Spain 51%; United Kingdom 47%; Portugal 41%. In Croatia, which was also additionally involved, a positive answer was given in 71% of the cases and a negative one in 22%. Interestingly, Croatia was the only country for which perspective membership support gained an absolute majority within EU-25 overall population. No one of the other countries concerning which the same question was asked, like the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Albania, scored above 49%.

By having led their country to join the EU, Croatian political leadership have taken a very significant and potentially challenging step in front of their public opinion. While many in Croatia are confident that EU membership will help their country tackling endemic, notorious problems such as a largely inefficient judicial system and widespread corruption, others are concerned by the possible inability of their country’s economy to remain competitive in the wider European market and avoid the of soaring consumer goods prices and unemployment. Also, howevermuch their perspectively increased freedom of movement may be positively seen particularly by the younger generations, limited economic growth and high budget deficit remain a serious issue back at home. For the Croats, it is essentially the interaction between these elements, namely, the materialization of their hopes or the concretization of their fears, and the consequent balance between their newly acquired opportunities and their future upcoming challenges, that will determine their long-term degree of satisfaction (or not) with their freshly gained EU membership status.

Author: Daniel L. Manassi, Visiting Researcher at C·A·P, concluded his master’s degrees in Middle East & Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London and in Political-cum-Diplomatic Science at Trieste University; he obtained his bachelor’s in Political Science (International Studies) at Florence University.

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