Croatia votes yes to EU membership

Croatia is a nation born in blood. 20 years ago, as former Yugoslavia broke up it was the site of the first modern Balkan war. Later it was a key player in the second Balkan war, the one in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Croatia had for years made no secret of wanting to join the EU but the union's recent troubles, particularly in the euro zone core, was expected to make yesterday's referendum a close-run thing.

It wasn't.

Current projections show that 2/3rds of voters ticked the yes box on their ballot papers, although turn out was low. Guardian report is here.

That the referendum passed easily should not be surprising.  Post communist Croatia has always faced west. The West, in the form of Germany, has always sought to embrace it.  Exactly 20 years ago this month, Germany recognized Croatia as an independent nation.  Many thought this hastened the violent break-up of Yugoslavia and increased the suffering of Bosnia … I am one of them.  I covered the diplomatic failures that led to the Bosnian War.

The German Foreign Minister at the time, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, is a particular villain of the piece.  Genscher gave an interview to Deutsche Welle, last year which is worth reading as an expression of personal historical revisionism.  Also of interest is this report from 20 years ago in the New York Times which accurately reflects the way in which the German government went its own way – despite pleas from its allies.

The close ties between Germany and Croatia bore fruit immediately.  When I made my first reporting trip to Zagreb, the Croatian capital, around two years after Germany recognized the country, German firms had piled into the country creating an economic boom. Siemens had modernized the telecommunications infrastructure, new Mercedes and BMW's were everywhere. It was impossible to believe that not 50 miles away the worst war on European soil in 45 years was underway – complete with concentration camps and torture chambers – except when the occasional rocket landed in Zagreb.

The close economic ties have only deepened over the years.  It was inevitable that regardless of the euro zone debt crisis the Croats would choose to join the club.

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