On 8 to 9 April, the House of Europe in Zagreb Hosted the College of Europe (Natolin Campus), where a series of academic panels were followed by dynamic seminar-like discussions between students and the panel speakers.
Starting on 8 April 2019, Ms. Senada Šelo Šabić, from the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), moderated the panels. The title of the first panel discussion was Five years in the EU: Croatia’s Achievements and Agenda for the Upcoming Presidency. The speakers were, Višnja Samardžija (IRMO), Željko Trkanjec (Chief Editor Euractiv.hr) and Daniel Mondekar (former MP and Chairman of the EU Affairs Committee in the Croatian Parliament, currently an independent EU expert).
Višnja Samardžija opened the panel discussion, addressing the current and future EU ventures of Croatia. She pointed out that Croatia had a high deficit when entering the EU and marking on the improved situation of today:
One of the good things is that youth unemployment is decreasing, but on the other hand the main reason is disappointing. It is decreasing because the young people are leaving the country. As far as global competitiveness is concerned, Croatia is somewhere in the centre of 144 countries. On the other hand, in the case of innovation, we are far behind the northern Europeans, and looking at the image, Croatia is a Eurosceptic country…One of the most interesting facts is that Croatian citizens trust more to the EU institutions than Croatian institutions.
Željko Trkanjec highlighted “problems concerning extradition of those accused of war crimes at the ICTY in The Hague and the blockades from Slovenia” to be among the reasons why Croatia did not enter the EU in 2004. Taking a different point of analysis, Daniel Mondekar explained that in the 1990s Croatia went through the process of getting away from the East and getting closer to the West in the 2000s. All the speakers agreed that the lack of a Croatian foreign policy and independent identity in the EU, as well as lack of information, only feedsa to the Euroscepticism and growth of populism in the country. Followed by a set of questions from the students to the panellists, this opened a dynamic dialogue on the subject.
The title of the second panel discussion was Croatia in the Berlin Process: the EU integration of the Western Balkans. The speakers were Matija Očuršćak (Head of the Southeastern Europe and EU Enlargement Section, Ministry of Foreign and Eueopran Affairs of Croatia) and Ivana Dragičević (journalist, N1 television channel). Matija Očuršćak opened the discourse by explaining the Berlin Process as “a diplomatic initiative linked to the future enlargement of the European Union…started with the 2014 Conference of Western Balkan States, Berlin, followed by the 2015 Vienna Summit, 2016 Paris Summit and the 2017 Trieste Summit. The last conference was held in July 2018 in London. The Berlin Process was initiated in order to consolidate and keep the dynamics in EU integration process in the light of increased Euroscepticism and 5-year stoppage of expansion announced by Commission President Jean Claude Juncker”. In addition, Ivana Dragičević identified the biggest problem of the Western Balkans is corruption and noted that problems will not be always solved by great powers inside the Union. Questions from the student audience followed this session. The audience’s international backgrounds were acknowledged and their different perspectives were welcome in an interactive discussion with all the members of the panel.