Many Croats Disappointed with Germany

By 14 July 2017

Those who until recently claimed that Germany was the most important ally of Croatia are starting to change their opinion.

The message from Germany that Croatia should respect the arbitration decision in the border dispute with Slovenia has made many Croats angry. In part of the Croatian society, Germany has moved from being a caring sister to being an evil step-mother, says Deutsche Welle in its analysis, reports Večernji List on 14 July 2017.

Until recently, Germany was seen in Croatia as an extremely friendly country that not only helped Croatia in its quest for independence but was also the primary partner during negotiations for accession to the European Union. “As the richest and smartest member of the EU, Germany will help Croatia as the newest member to adapt quickly,” said one Croatian daily in mid-2011. However, the adjustment does not seem to be proceeding smoothly.

German tourists have been described for decades as the most loyal visitors on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, and their numbers have grown to as many as 2.5 million. There was also a song at the beginning of the 1990s called Danke Deutschland, which Croats used, in an embarrassing way, to demonstrate their gratitude to Germany for the efforts made for the international recognition of this former Yugoslav republic.

More naive citizens almost believe that Merkel every morning first asks about the situation in Croatia and that Germany can order all other members and institutions of the European Union what position towards Croatia they should take. However, the first signs of dissatisfaction with German politics should perhaps be sought in the events two years ago. Chancellor Angela Merkel was at the time accused in the rightwing media for her handling of the refugee crisis on the Balkan route. She was criticized for allegedly inviting migrants to come to Croatia. Although almost none of these migrants stayed in Croatia, which itself has a huge number of economic migrants who have moved to Germany. Even President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said at the time that Merkel “has created chaos on the route.”

Serbia is the new favourite of Germany – this statement can be heard from analysts who think Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is now the “teacher's favourite,” and the teacher is, of course, Merkel. The impression about Croatia’s unfavourable position has only been reinforced by the fact that the German government issued its statement just as Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was saying that Croatia would not respect the arbitration decision on the border dispute with Slovenia.

What exactly is a friendly country and why is this friendship, at least when it comes to the public, so fragile? “People believe that friendly countries are those that understand the goals of Croatian politics and which support Croatia in achieving its ambitions. The first ambition was to enter the European Union, and the next one is the entry into the Schengen Area. The latest events regarding the arbitration with Slovenia are seen by the Croatian public in a very simplistic way,” says former Croatian diplomat Božo Kovačević and adds that the public rightly thinks that Slovenia had blackmailed Croatia on its path towards the EU. “In order to overcome this problem, the European Union has, through the decisive influence of Germany, drafted an arbitration proposal and had given the task to the tribunal to make a decision in favour of Slovenia. The public understands this, but at the same time it neglects the fact that Croatia has achieved its fundamental national interest with the signing of the arbitration agreement and that Croatia is now in the European Union.”

“Germany continues to insist on the implementation of the 2009 political agreement. The negative perception that some Croatian citizens have towards Germany should change in the future,” says Kovačević.

Croatian-German friendship is facing challenging times in which, according to Croatian expectations, Slovenia will try to block Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area, as part of the blackmail due to Croatia’s decision to leave the arbitration. According to Kovačević, Germany should influence other EU member states not to allow such blackmail.

Despite the sentiments and political attitudes about the German government, it seems that Germany will continue to be a promised land for Croatian emigrants. According to the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden, only last year about 56,000 Croats moved to Germany, and their total number has grown to almost 333,000.