Divine Intervention? Pope Keen on Croatia in EU

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/06/2011 12:06:00 AM
Here's some interesting "RPE" for you--religious political economy. Or mayhaps some international papal economy. While regional integration is usually concerned with mammon (money) instead of more sacred matters, here we have an interesting meeting of culture, religion, and integration. Looking back now, something George W. Bush and I actually agreed on is that Turkey should be an EU member. Not that Dubya's statements were particularly well-received in 2004 when Jacques Chirac told Bush to mind his own business. With similar sorts of reactions emanating from the other EU powerhouse, Germany--one with a large presence of Turkish immigrants--someone's suggested everyone's a little bit racist.

Now we have a more authoritative voice calling for the EU membership--one that many would deem rather more authoritative. When it comes to foremost commentators on processes of EU integration, German Pope Benedict XVI may not come to mind. However, on his current trip to Croatia, he has added to the standard gospel of the sanctity of family, respect for life, and religious observance, er...EU accession. Although he doesn't go into the subtleties of replacing the Croatian kuna with the euro upon joining the EMU farther down the line, the Pope is still quite aware of the tactical aspects of integration. You see, Croatia is 90% Catholic--a God-fearing people alike the Polish unlike increasingly secular and bastardized Western Europe.

Notably, Benedict has voiced his controversial opinion that Turkey is not Christian, hence it has no place in Europe which he believes has such a heritage. (I obviously disagree--it's not a matter of which faith people believe in but how it is lived and observed.) So, what better way to continue ensured Roman Catholic voices in the EU to combat secular drift but to let Croatia in despite its relatively small population of 4.5 million? It's a call to the faithful, then: do not let your faith waver in the Man Above--or the EU on earth for that matter [!]. From Auntie:
Pope Benedict XVI has given his strong backing to Croatia's bid to join the EU, on his first visit to the nation. He said he understood fears of a loss of cultural identity from joining the bloc but said Europe needs to be reminded of its Christian roots...

Pope Benedict said it was "logical, just and necessary" that Croatia join the European Union, given its history. "From its earliest days, your nation has formed part of Europe, and has contributed in its unique way to the spiritual and moral values that for centuries have shaped the daily lives and the personal and national identity of Europe's sons and daughters," he said after arriving at Zagreb's airport.

Support for EU membership may have flagged among Croats somewhat recently, say analysts, amid anger at the conviction in April by The Hague war crimes tribunal of Gen Ante Gotovina. He commanded Croatian forces during the war for independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The Pope acknowledged, in comments to reporters onboard his papal plane, that many in Croatia feared its national identity could be lost within such a large bloc. He said he understood "a fear of an overly strong centralised bureaucracy", but urged Croatians to make it their "mission" to fight against this.
BBC Balkans correspondent Mark Lowen suggests it's very much a you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours deal with a Croatian leadership seeking Benedict's help in pushing through with EU accession despite fears of being swamped by big, bad, Brussels:
This visit coincides with Croatia's national day of the family, but the broader timing is far more significant: Croatia will mark 20 years of independence this month and it now stands on the brink of European Union membership, hoping to join the bloc in 2013. The Vatican has long supported Croatia's EU entry; it's keen to welcome in another Catholic nation. Croatia's government, struggling with wavering support for the EU among its voters, will hope this visit persuades the doubters.
What can I say? Aside from being His emissary on earth, the Pope is also a head of state (the Vatican) who must do politicking if matters call for it. BTW, there is a quite informative Croatian government site on its process of EU accession that should key you in to the complexity and enormity of the process. Chapters upon chapters of the acquis communautaire, f'rinstance. Be that as it may, help from above could just be what it takes to get Croatia over the finish line in 2013.