Referendum campaign shows increased opposition
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Friday 20 January 2012
One week ahead of the referendum, scheduled for 22 January, in which Croatian citizens will be asked whether they want their country to join the European Union, a demonstration was held in downtown Zagreb by a few hundred Eurosceptics. According to press reports, Josip Miljak, leader of the nationalist Croatian Pure Party of Rights (HCSP), said at the event that if Croatia was to join the EU, it would only be used to save the European economy. He was also reported to have predicted the end of the EU.
The country’s newly elected government decided to launch its campaign in favour of European integration only two weeks before referendum day. This now coincides with the emergence of movements critical of Croatia becoming the 28th member of the EU. The arguments put forward include insufficient time for citizens to decide on EU integration, the fear of losing the country’s sovereignty, and the current economic state of the Union. During an opposition rally, held on 14 January in Zagreb, the Eurosceptic ‘Council for Croatia – No to EU’ published a survey they had commissioned, stating that 57.2% of Croatians are against EU membership. The survey was carried out by Business Knowledge Corporation, a Canada-based company, between 8 and 15 January.
SIMPLE MAJORITY NEEDED
According to another poll, carried out by the CRO-Domoskop Insitute, the country’s 4.2 million citizens are still expected to vote in favour of European integration, on 22 January. This survey showed that 55.1% of Croatians intend to vote ‘yes’, 33.3% ‘no’ and 11.6% are still undecided. Only a simple majority is needed for the ‘yes’ votes to win. “Anything above 50% is a positive referendum result and gives Croatia a chance,” Vesna Pusic, Croatia’s foreign affairs minister, said, adding that Sweden joined the EU with only 52% public support and now this figure is over 73%. In Croatia, support for EU integration has droped from over 70% to 50% in a few years because of the tough criteria imposed by the EU. Pusic warned citizens that if the majority voted against accession, the whole country would have to bear the economic consequences of such a decision, even if a second referendum could be organised. “Within the first week, it would probably be visible in the credit rating and the price of capital. After that, in the withdrawal of investments and layoffs. That effect would come very soon,” she told journalists in Zagreb, on 18 January.
Croatia, which opened its negotiations with the EU in 2005, signed its accession treaty on 9 December 2011. This document still has to be ratified by the national parliament and by all 27 member states before Croatia can become the EU’s 28th member state, on 1 July 2013. It will be the second of the six former Yugoslav countries to join the bloc after Slovenia in 2004.