AT first sight Scotland would appear to have little in common with a country that is in the Balkans and has only been a fully-fledged nation state in its own right since 1991.
The words ‘at first sight’ give a clue because like Scotland, Croatia has natural beauty in abundance and it is regularly ranked in the top 20 places in the world to visit.
There are many other similarities, but not our recent history. The 1990s birth of this nation was painful and bloody as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated following the collapse of Soviet-style Communism.
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It took a full war to have Croatia’s borders confirmed, their Serbian opponents fighting on until 1995.
It is no wonder then, that Croatia took its time to join the European Union, doing so in July 2013, a full 10 years after it applied to join.
The 28th member state of the EU will now sit in judgement on Brexit, knowing just how long and comprehensive the joining process was.
Like most of the 27 other states, Croatians are generally baffled as to the UK’s vote. Their government must soon make a decision on whether to object to old foe Serbia joining the EU, and relations between the two countries are not good at the moment. It should not be seen as an insult that Croatian politicians and the media rarely mention Nicola Sturgeon and a second independence referendum for Scotland – they really do have pressing problems of their own to solve.
So the main question today is: “would an independent Scotland outside the EU have to wait 10 years to get in?”
Judging by the Croatian example, the answer to that would have to be a resounding no. When Croatia was adopted as a candidate country it was found wanting in a whole host of the EU matters known as ‘acquis’ – free movement of goods, workers and capital, competition policy and financial services controls, the judiciary and justice, freedom and security were just some of the fail marks.
The environment was seen as particularly disastrous, but the Croatian Government set to with a will, backed by the people, and now Croatia meets all the 35 acquis chapters.
Scotland would sail through all the European acquis tests because EU law, and things like procurement policy, are already enshrined in Scots Law.
The record time from being named as a candidate to joining the EU is held by Slovakia which took 30 months — Scotland would surely beat that if we are indeed dragged out of the EU against our will.
Will we be able to pull off Croatia’s greatest trick? The thorny question which currency an independent Scotland would use needs to be resolved, and any applicant for the EU must undertake to join the Eurozone when that country’s economy meets the criteria for membership.
Croatia negotiated a way round that stricture, largely because its economy tanked after the War of Independence and the financial crash of 2008. Now out of recession, it is supposed to join the euro at some point, but then that is the case for any new entrant and Scotland can claim Croatia as an example if we want to postpone the decision.
There is one similarity which Scotland and Croatia share which neither wants to – population migration, ours historical and theirs more recent. Since the country joined the EU and even before, the young people of Croatia have voted with their feet for a better life elsewhere.
Some 12,000 Croatians have taken up residence in the Republic of Ireland and it was there that Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic made a State Visit earlier this week. She told the Dublin community of Croatians of her pride in their success but added: “A country is warmed by its people, without them you cannot build the future. I do not hide my sadness due to the modern exodus.”