Stress test

Croatia before the EP elections

The coming EP elections will serve as a stress test for the role that Croatia plays as the latest EU member state. After joining the European Union in 2013, only a quarter of Croatia’s eligible voters participated in the 2014 European elections. Nonetheless, domestic and European considerations do overlap when it comes to issues such as immigration and labour.

Croatia: The shift from social democracy to the Right

The results of the 2014 European elections in Croatia were a bit of a surprise: candidates from the rightwing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 41.42% of the votes and six seats (five in the EPP; one in the ECR). The center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 29.93% and four seats (two in S&D; two in ALDE). And finally, the green liberal ORaH took one seat with 9.42% (in the Greens/EFA group).

These results were surprising insofar as the SDP was, up until that moment, the strongest party in Croatia’s parliament, where it led the ruling national coalition from 2011 to 2015. However, having fallen behind the HDZ in the European elections, the SDP lost again to the HDZ in national elections in 2015 and in a re-run in 2016, despite the HDZ becoming embroiled in corruption allegations against the then deputy prime minister. The current crop of Croatian MEPs therefore faithfully reflects the domestic political situation.

On the need to reach out

Before assessing the level of interest in the European elections in Croatia, it should first be stressed that Croatia does not have an MEP in any of the European Parliament’s most important committees, such as the Committee on Budgets or those responsible for sectors that are central to the country’s economy, such as tourism. This may well explain the poor turnout in Croatia in 2014, at just 25.24 per cent of registered voters (950,980 citizens) – considerably lower than in recent Croatian national elections (61.77% in 2011, 61.5% in 2015, and 52.59% in 2016). It is safe to conclude that Croatian citizens’ lack of awareness of the role played by the European Parliament is conditioned by Croatia’s marginalized position in it.

The 2019 European elections are being held with national elections approaching before the end of 2020. Many important issues overlap at European and national levels, such as immigration and labour. It will be interesting to see whether growing domestic political discontent is mirrored in the results of the European elections, which would provide a taste of things to come. Or, alternatively, whether popular support consolidates around some new ‘third option’ that establishes itself ahead of national elections.

First published on 29 April 2019 at Eurozine.

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Mood of the Union

Die Serie Mood of the Union sammelt Artikel zur Wahl zum Europäischen Parlament aus allen 28 EU-Mitgliedstaaten. Die Serie wird von der ERSTE Foundation und dem National Endowment for Democracy unterstützt.

In der Serie The Mood of the Union berichten Redakteure des Magazins Eurozine über die Lage in der gesamten Europäischen Union und diskutieren mit Journalisten und Analysten die Einstellungen zu den EU-Wahlen und über das, was auf nationaler Ebene auf dem Spiel steht. Ziel der Serie ist es, über die Berichterstattung nationaler Medien hinaus, einen detaillierteren Einblick in die Stimmung vor Ort zu liefern. Die Serie wird von Agnieszka Rosner kuratiert und vom mitwirkenden Redakteur Ben Tendler editiert.

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