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COMMENTS 

Defining a new political contract for the EU

The EU is faced with the challenges of fashioning practices and institutions that reconcile the conflicting demands on political representatives from their international partners and their domestic constituents. This has been particularly manifest in the eurozone recently, but it reflects a deeper challenge which also concerns non euro-area members such as the UK.
Prof Albert Weale (UCL SPP)
19 March 2015 More...

Starts: Mar 19, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Don’t let the Paris murderers win

Professor Laborde warns against the reactivist response to the Paris murders: they misunderstand the role played by free speech and by laïcité. Further, they allow criminals to set the term of the debate on how to better facilitate Muslim integration if France.
Professor Cécile Laborde
26 February 2015 More...

Starts: Feb 26, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Britain and EU reform

Piet Eeckhout revisits the question of EU reform, including different options for and legal as well as political constraints of such reform.
Professor Piet Eeckhout
20 January 2015 More...

Starts: Jan 20, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Croatia’s long overdue EU accession

Publication date: Jul 03, 2013 09:33 AM

Start: Jul 03, 2013 12:00 AM

B Aleksov

Dr Bojan Aleksov
July 2013

If there is one significant thing worth contemplating with regard to Croatia’s accession to the European Union on the first of July this year, then it must be that it was long overdue. Compared with other former Socialist states in the Warsaw Pact, Yugoslavia, of which Croatia was a part, was much better suited to join the Union once politically and economically transformed.

Some changes indeed began taking place by the late 1980s, even though not necessarily induced by the then European Community or indeed by Yugoslavia’s desire to become a member.  But then, instead of reforms, the leaderships of Yugoslavia’s constitutive republics – best personified by the former Communist apparatchik, Slobodan Milošević – chose a struggle: to keep their privileges, for power and for domination within the country. The inherited control of media and security services, a huge unreformed army and fiery nationalist cultural elites all helped turn these largely personal struggles into a mass inter-ethnic conflict. Eventually, Yugoslavia’s political and economic transition gave way to a series of bloody wars from which only Slovenia came out lightly scathed.  Other newly formed nation states were doomed by unresolved territorial disputes, minority and refugee issues, an unreformed political and economic apparatus, and decades of isolation on the European periphery.

The European Union notoriously failed to prevent the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the wars that ensued. It was also unable to bring these wars to an end; all final peace deals were led by or at least included a US intervention. Only after the end of hostilities could the EU begin to exercise its influence and initiate its expansion into what it then (politically correct) termed the Western Balkans. Paradoxically, it only granted Slovenia early negotiations and accession, entirely disregarding its role in the Yugoslav conflict; Slovenia joined the EU with the other Central European countries in 2004.  Years of wars and non-democratic rule set back Croatia for almost a decade. It only began the accession process in 2000 after the death of its authoritarian nationalist ruler Franjo Tudjman. Even so, it was for held back further still due to the country´s refusal to hand generals accused of war crimes over to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. In recent years, other former Yugoslav republics have also slowly begun negotiations but it might take another decade before they are “in”. The EU decision-making process – involving so many countries and burdened by bureaucracy – leaves it with limited leverage over the accession process. A case in point is another former Yugoslav republic, Macedonia, which has been blocked in its negotiations by Greece for almost a decade because of the historical dispute over its name. Serbia was dragged back for years over the unresolved issue of Kosovo, which the EU is also split about. Only a few days ago did the EU finally give Serbia a date to start negotiations, a major breakthrough to rival Croatia’s accession.

Given the current European economic outlook, the most tangible benefits for Croatia joining the EU remain peace and security. But Croatia will be really safe only when the regional instability in the Balkans has been resolved by incorporating the rest of the troubled ex-Yugoslav countries in the European block. And this will take years, if not decades. No wonder then that there is so little enthusiasm for celebrating the country’s long overdue accession.

Bojan Aleksov
Lecturer in Southeast European History
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies