by interview by Dino MIKULANDRA
He is now an assistant professor at the Stirling University in Scotland, and he teaches his students intriguing subjects such as "stability and break-up of states", and "authoritarianism and its aftermath". After Denis Latin's show, in which both of us participated as guests and exchanged opposing views in a democratic debate - and the topic was the political right in Croatia - I conducted this interview with Dr. Jovic, who is probably still remembered by many of our readers as one of the most prominent journalists of at one time cult youth magazine "Polet" [Úlan].
SLOBODNA DALMACIJA: Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about merits of the European Union in Croatia, and the opposing camps have totally differing views. While the authorities claim that the Stabilization and Association Agreement will take us to the European Union, the opposition claims that this agreement is only an entry point to the joint economic zone of the so-called Western Balkans.
JOVIC: Both camps could be correct, because it is still unclear what attitude the European Union will take with respect to Croatia. For now we are in the so-called second, B group, together with Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia and Yugoslavia, but it is generally known that Croatia is in the best position out of those countries and that it is the only candidate country that could switch to the second A or even the first group.
That group includes ten countries that have the status of candidates and that are expected (at least some of them, if not all) to join the EU in 2004 or 2005. These countries are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.
Out of these ten countries the entry of Poland in the EU will present most problems. Poland is the only relatively large country among them. The second A group includes Bulgaria and Romania. Out of the two of them, Bulgaria is making more progress than Romania and both are expected to join the EU in 2006 or 2007. The second B group includes the countries of the so-called Western Balkans, and the second C group former Soviet Union republics, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The difference between the first and the second group is that the countries from the first group have the status of EU candidates, while the countries from the second A and B group are only potential candidates. Therefore the EU has not promised that those countries will ever become EU members.
In that case, is it at all possible to claim that we are supposedly drawing closer to the European integration on an accelerated schedule? Are any schedules realistic?
There will be more problems than is generally thought. The first issue is whether the Western European countries actually support the expansion of the EU. Ireland recently, in a referendum, rejected the Nice agreement, and other countries supported that move. Secondly, it is questionable whether the former Eastern European countries have so much patience to wait, or whether the indifference and resistance to joining the EU will increase with time. For example in Estonia and Slovenia the anti-EU mood is on the increase, so that it could happen that at the time the EU finally accepts to admit these countries they say - no, thanks. Many of them feel that the EU has actually failed them. None of the countries, regardless of whether they went through a war or not, regardless of whether they followed the advice from the West of not, have been admitted in the EU, and it's been 13 years since 1989.
Secondly, to be an EU member in the past meant the confirmation that Socialism was left behind, and that the countries that apply to join the EU were a part of the European cultural tradition. However, that is not questionable for anyone anymore. Consider, for example Slovenia. Slovenia wanted to join the EU to prove that it is not a Balkan country and to feel protected. However, today, after the changes in Yugoslavia, Slovenia does not face danger to its identity or for its security. Therefore, Slovenia needs Europe less and less.
The Croatian path to Brussels includes many conditions. It is based on a regional package, readiness of the country to establish corresponding institutional links with the former Yugoslav republics, which is interpreted by many as an introduction to the establishment of a new Balkan union in this region.
The entry into the EU includes many conditions, one of which is good relations with neighbors. Croatia is not the only country facing such conditions. For example, Slovenia also must resolve its problems with Croatia before joining the EU.
I support regional approach, exactly because I am convinced that it is not in the interest of Croatia that some countries in the region join the EU before others. Namely, the border between the countries that join the EU and those that do not will be harder than the current borders between the EU and its neighbors.
Some of the borders will include entry visas, not because the two bordering states would want that, but because of the demands of other countries in the Schengen group. If, for example, Slovenia enters the EU before Croatia, then the Slovenes will set much stricter conditions for entry of Croatia in the EU than those set for Slovenia now by the Italians.
Or, if Croatia joins the EU, and Bosnia-Hercegovina does not, then we'll see the reestablishment of some sort of military frontier everywhere in Croatia, which cannot be in Croatian interest, from economic, military, or political point of view. Therefore, the best solution would be for everyone to join the EU at the same time. For example, that would help Croatian tourism a lot. The Croatian tourism can again flourish only when Dubrovnik becomes accessible to Serbs, Macedonians, Bosnians and Macedonians. Obviously, Dubrovnik cannot be a tourist Mecca if it is transformed into a border outpost of the EU.
However, would that not lead to the gradual, but irreversible, establishment of a new Yugo-Balkan union?
I do not think that it is possible to resuscitate Yugoslavia, because none of the former Yugoslav countries are showing any interest in such a project, including Serbia. Besides, it is extremely difficult to put countries together, once they fall apart. As a democrat, I respect the majority will, although I disagree with the prevailing view that Yugoslavia was some sort of a prison for nations.
I do not understand why people are so afraid of better relations with Serbia or Bosnia-Hercegovina, given that we share the same language with Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, and have similar political and economic interests. Without friendship with those states, we cannot resolve our security problems.
That is not the prevailing view in Croatia...
I do realize that in that sense I am in a mini-minority (let me use the term that was first humorously suggested by Vane Ivanovic), but as far as I am concerned, the break-up of Yugoslavia was a product of violent nationalism. It was under no circumstances a natural event. That, however, does not imply that the reestablishment of Yugoslavia would be a good solution at this point.
In that sense I agree with Vladimir Putin, who said that those who worked for the break-up of the USSR were heartless, and those who would like to reestablish the USSR, are mindless. However, those who demand that we be in perpetual state of war with our neighbors who are close to us in every way and who at this moment are not showing any signs of enmity with respect to Croatia, are also mindless.
While the media abroad generally claim that national sovereignty has lost all meaning as a consequence of globalization, in practice every country is having a hard time with giving up its power. For example, Great Britain still prefers its own currency to Euro, although it is the third largest country in the EU?
True; although it is very likely that Great Britain will eventually give in and accept Euro as well. Britain is always late, but in the end accepts things coming from Europe. It has the illusion that it can remain an island between Europe and the US and play the role of some sort of a middleman. However, every once in a while it ends up isolated, as some sort of an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and then it tries to approach one or the other side. However, policies that are permissible for Great Britain are not permissible for the new EU members. For example, Croatia will not be allowed to keep its currency, Kuna. We cannot do that because we are a small country. And we wanted to be a small country, perhaps not being convinced that small countries do not enjoy the kind of sovereignty envisaged by their "fathers of the nation".
For example, you cannot be an EU member country and have a Croat rifle on a Croat shoulder, and a Croat wallet in a Croat pocket [slogans from the independence campaign]. The rifle will belong to EU or NATO, and the wallet may end up being Croatian but there will be no Croat currency in it. In modern Europe, even Great Britain is a small country, although it has 14 times more inhabitants than Croatia.
Blair is often criticized for following the policies of Margaret Thatcher, although it is rather hypocritical that such criticism is coming from the party that used to be led by Margaret Thatcher. Thus, in Croatia, it is rather hypocritical to criticize Racan's government for laying off workers, while between 1989 and 1996, therefore during HDZ's rule, the unemployment in Croatia increased by almost 450,000 persons. The number of jobs fell from 1,775,000 to 1,334,000.
Nevertheless, you are correct when you say that Racan's program has nothing to do with Socialism, perhaps not even with Social Democracy. Personally, I've never heard Racan say the word Socialism after 1990. He rarely uses the terms anti-fascism and Serbs, even though many of his supporters are indeed anti-fascists and Serbs. He can afford to do that only until there is a possibility that the extreme right may endanger his government. He is pretty skillfully exploiting the danger from the radical right - real or exaggerated - to motivate his supporters.
However, if he keeps ignoring his supporters, they will either stop voting or seek another party, further to the left from the SDP.
Besides, many SDP supporters have switched to other, more radical parties, or totally pulled out of politics, starting with 1990, when the SDP sent to the [HDZ led] government Martin Spegelj and Zdravko Tomac. In that sense, the SDP, in addition to the HDZ, shares responsibility for everything that happened after 1990.
Recently, you published in the French magazine Balkanologie an article in which you claim that the fear of becoming a minority motivated many to start wars in the former Yugoslavia. What can we learn from the European Union about treatment of minorities?
Very little, unfortunately. The idea of the European Union is based on the idea of liberal democracy, which is individualistic in its approach. Unfortunately, liberal democracy cannot offer to minorities what Socialism offered in the former Yugoslavia, because Socialism was based on collective rights. Regarding human rights, liberal democracy can offer more, but as far as the rights of nations and especially minorities were concerned, Socialism offered more.
Xenophobia can be found everywhere, not only here. However, I must admit that the Western world is in that sense more open and tolerant than we are. For example, I am a citizen Croatia, but I was hired by a British university, even though I had to compete with another 68 applicants for the same position. I am sure that at least 60 out of those 68 were either British citizens or from the European Union.
Therefore, it is not impossible to find a job and to settle, even if you come from a country that is not popular, which, furthermore, has the image of a country in war.
Besides, hundreds of thousands of our "guest workers" know that. They worked in Germany when Yugoslavia was a socialist country.
I wonder what would happen if an Algerian national (let alone a Serb or an Albanian) were to apply for a teaching position at the Zagreb University, and face at least one Croat applicant? Would we give him a job, even if he had a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics? I don't think I would get a job, let alone them. Actually, I know for sure that I would not get a job.
Consider that even here, when the West tried to introduce western standards for minorities, the minorities rejected them, because here even the word "minority" is considered to be an insult. I now live in Scotland, where a local parliament was established in 1998, and that is supposed to be a huge achievement. However, Kosovo had a parliament much earlier. It had limited jurisdiction, but was symbolically very important. And of course, there was the Croat Sabor [parliament].
Therefore, we can learn very little from them. We can learn much more from ourselves and our past. Besides, they realized that when, for example, in Bosnia they started introducing principles that are very similar to what Tito did there. From the West we must learn human rights and individual freedom, but regarding collective rights (if we do want them, and that is another topic for discussion) we must turn towards Socialism.