City on a Tight Europe

2 commentsEurope

When will Croatia fold?

On a recent trip to Zagreb, I asked a half-Croatian what she thought of her homeland’s imminent entry into the European Union. She had just returned from a peaceful (and failed) protest against the opening of an H&M megastore on the site of a recently torn down historic building. In a combination of accented Lebanese Arabic and fluent English, she replied: “It will not happen bukra.”

The Arabic word bukra means tomorrow, but it takes a local Lebanese to know that it could also mean “soon.” My half Baalbeki, half Zagrebi, all Continental friend refused to believe that the country in which she was born, and which she witnessed emerge from the ashes of the former Yugoslavia will soon enter the third chapter of its incubation as a European nation, but only on the Union’s terms.

This is a country that while enjoying a whopping 98.1% literacy rate (according to the Croatian Airlines in-flight magazine) also suffers, my young friend says, from political and economic corruption, an almost total dependence on foreign imports, severe unemployment, and a rigorous higher-education system from which only 7% of all Croatians benefit.

Europe is sure to bring Croatians a grudging acceptance of Bosnian War’s final score (and salt into the open wounds of a nation that still demands that war criminals be brought to justice), a Starbucksization of Zagreb’s Bohemian cafe landscape (the capital has, count them, zero foreign franchises enjoying wide-spread hegemony) and a total dissolution of its already fragile borders between modernity and history. The country now walks a tightrope through modern history, with the safety net slowly being pulled away.

Ćao Zagreb. It was good knowing you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

SOOLY July 4, 2011 at 11:04 am

I love the photo + frame


Marwa November 21, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Have been following this a bit, and find a mere 28 % of the eltaotrcee voting for membership astonishing. A Danish referendum would be invalid with those numbers.Was in the EU Parliament back in 2005, watching the parliamentarians as hungry wolves putting pressure on the Croatian Government to get Gotovina, disregarding all other points towards EU membership. The parliamentarians made it clear that it was an obligation of the Government to change the opinion of the citizens to no longer admiring him for winning the war and bringing lasting peace to Croatia. The foreign minister explained that they had undertaken extensive efforts to influence public opinion, but still drew the line at going into private homes to take down pictures of the national hero.They got Gotovina later, he now sits in Hague accused of “Not preventing the death” of 150 people during Operation Storm. To my knowledge still not convicted, he is widely considered a “War criminal” in the press, who reports it as a fact, not as a charge.Looks to me like a choice between national pride already heavily damaged and dysmal economy. I understand that most Croatians chose not to vote at all.


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