Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The Croatian Series: a new episode

Dessislava Dimitrova, February 2, 2011

I guess you remember the start of the series: “Let’s stop the corruption in Croatia,” which started with the arrest of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader just a few days before Christmas. To sum up: the plot in the first episode was the following: the good guys (those are the Croatian authorities) decide to bring the bad guy Sanader to justice with charges of corruption, but to do this they need to strip him of immunity from prosecution. He, however, decides to go for walk to Austria and sends a message that he will be back in a couple of days. Suddenly, the scenario is changed when the bad guy is arrested in Austria.

In the next episode he is already in custody in Salzburg, expecting a lonely Christmas without his family. Meanwhile, the good guys continue their investigation and manage to find a secret room in his house, while three MEPs urge the EU to probe whether illegal money was used to lobby in Brussels for a speedy EU accession of the country.

The Croatian series is already in competition with the Turkish ones in terms of popularity across the region, but these are not the only similarities, if we accept that the aim of the Turkish ones is to present their country as having apprehended the European values and ready to join the big European family. The Croatian scriptwriters have a similar task: to show Brussels that they are ready to tackle corruption, which is seen as the last hindrance on their EU path.

Thus here comes the new episode, which is hardly a surprise for the regular spectators: the leader of the Croatian Social Democrats party (in his own words - the Croatian Julian Assange) announced on Friday that he would hand over to the prosecution the ruling HDZ party.

Ivica Pancic, as is the actual name of the local Assange, intends to press charges against the HDZ as a legal entity for the existence of a secret cash-box, for the the purchase of a luxury BMW and for fictitiously employing a HDZ member in a state-owned company, while he was coming to work at the HDZ headquarters instead. All Pancic's accusations are based on media publications, but according the law, if the court confirms them, the HDZ could pay around one million euro and will have to return the acquired assets.

Did you manage finding the differences? Well, they might not be exactly ten, but they can be seen and we should reiterate them: arrested former Prime Minster who, according to the latest court decision would stay in custody until at least March 18, a sentenced former defence minister, an existing specialised body charged with the fight against corruption and organised crime, a law on the prevention of conflicts of interest that had been submitted to parliament and an anticipation the country to end the EU membership talks by the end of June.

Well, in this country there have been no wiretapping scandals, no arguments whether the recorded conversation was longer than the actual one, whether handicapped people can play football. There are no USB flash drives and verbatim records (besides those from the regular cabinet meetings, which usually contain a sound file too). Which, in no case means that there are no problems in the country and that everyone is happy and satisfied. But would it not be really nice that the next EU member state will be to some extend better prepared for its membership, instead of making all the rest wondering how it was ever granted an accession.

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