May 22, 2004

EuroPolis: Croatia, final thoughts 

posted by Paul Smith @ 3:10 AM
Croatia has a promising future, and superficially seems prosperous (cf. consumer prices relatively in line with what you'd find in the West, a booming tourist industry). But it has a structural jobs problem, with unemployment hovering around 20%. Mostly this stems from a government that has been stuck between the old economic patterns of its Yugoslav past and the demands for "reform" that are short-hand for privatization and fiscal austerity for the benefit of foreign investment. This has by now become a familiar story, but it does seem even to this liberal observer that the unions and their supporters, who are justifiably using their strength to block measures that would rob them of their power and safety nets, will need to reform themselves in order to survive. The nation cannot truly prosper on tourist dollars alone. With the European Union swallowing up its neighbors all around -- Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic -- Croatia can ill-afford to be stuck with one foot in the old ways if it wants both the growth that the country seems primed to enjoy and a smooth transition to EU membership. Participation in history's largest democratic market of nations seems unambiguously a positive development for a country with the courage to see a free and democratic future and fight off the Serbs to make it happen.

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