Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
The European Commission told Croatia this week that its negotiations to join the European Union have reached their “final” stage. Sounds promising, considering how reluctant many EU governments are to admit any new members at a time when the bloc is coping with financial difficulties.
But there was another, more subtle message in the text of the Commission’s annual progress report on EU hopefuls. And it read quite differently.
In fact, the EU executive told Croatia it will have to be more convincing than the most recent countries allowed in — Romania and Bulgaria — that its democratic reforms are working.
Admitting Romania and Bulgaria, two poor Balkan states, to the EU in 2007 is seen by many EU diplomats as a mistake. Both had to conduct deep-reaching judicial reforms to prove their ability to deal with pervasive corruption to qualify for entry. Because the last-minute reforms had shown little effect by the time the countries were admitted, Brussels introduced a “monitoring” mechanism to check up on judicial progress.
When the late Joerg Haider, the hard-right populist governor of the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, sold most of his government's stake in Hypo Group Alpe Adria in 2007, he said, beaming: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Carinthia is rich."
BayernLB, which like many other German landesbanken appears to have never met a toxic asset it didn't like, had just paid 1.65 billion euros for a 50 percent stake in Hypo. Around half of that went into Haider's government's coffers.