Croats feel more Europtimists a year after entering the EU

by Lucia Sobeková

The conference held at the European House in Zagreb gave us an impression that pro-European feelings among young population are growing. The conference focused on the European elections and brought interesting insights of participants why voting in the European elections 2014 is crucial for the future of their country.

The European elections will take place on 25 May in Croatia. A year ago, when Croatia entered into the European Union, 12 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) were elected to represent the country till the next elections of the Union. Participants expressed that so far, they see the entrance of their country to the European Union in positive light. “I must admit that at the beginning I was skeptical about the entrance of our country to the EU,” said Sylvia. “Especially the admission requirements brought this perspective to Croatia before last year. However, now I see that the EU will enable Croatia to grow economically in long term perspective. Moreover, I believe that also the national policies will strive more for equal society and better living conditions for citizens.”

Asking participants about identity feelings dominating in their country, they see there are two strong identities yet persisting among Croats. “As a member of AEGEE, I feel more European. I had many opportunities to travel around Europe and I see Europe as the future of our country, where the borders don´t exist, “ continued Sylvia. On the other hand, there are many people who are more attached to the Balkan peninsula and consider themselves as Balkans because of our common past. For them, Europe is a bureaucracy mechanism, having no direct influence on their lives.

Furthermore, the representative of the State electoral commission for the elections provided us with the technical information about the elections. She mentioned the opening hours of voting pools, the number of candidates that will be elected as well as the three manners of voting. Croats will choose 11 MEPs which will represent them at the European Parliament. Voters can choose political party, political party and preferred candidates, or give their preference to specific candidates only.

However, the budget of political parties for the European elections campaign is significantly lower as for the elections in national or local level. “Honestly, to encourage our citizens to vote, the political parties must take the first step and raise the awareness about their importance. About 70% of the legislation is now being decided on the European level and citizens must be informed about how they can contribute to the decisions of the EU decisions-makers having impact on their daily lives. Instead, many political parties perceive the European elections as a tool to gain more visibility before the national elections taking place by the end of the year,” said the electoral commission representative.

Will Croats vote in the European elections? The ballot turnout in 2013 was alarmingly low. Only 20,8% of Croats were deciding about their temporary representatives in the European Parliament. A year after the provisional elections, the experts are expected that this number will slightly raise. To encourage bigger part of Croatian population to vote, adequate information on the European elections must be spread. Moreover, Croats must be informed which kind of impact their vote has on their future.