Visiting Croatia on Wednesday, I was in Karlovac, where I had a joint political forum on the European Citizens’ Initiative for a Wage Union with Frano Čirko, the president of the Croatian party GO! - the Generation of Renewal.
After our speeches, the participants asked several questions on Hungary-Croatia relations. I expressed my criticism of the Hungarian government’s unbalanced neighbourhood policy in terms of Serbia and Croatia, pointing out that our common problems, our Central European co-dependence and our common state of 800 years bind our countries to conduct a much closer cooperation.
Answering another specific question, I explained that Jobbik considered the veto of Croatia’s OECD membership as too strong a step and said that Hungary’s government, by taking this measure, actually placed its own political interests over the interests of the nation. The reason I said that was because Viktor Orbán’s decision was to protect his oligarch friend and MOL’s CEO Zsolt Hernádi since Croatia had requested Mr Hernádi’s extradition while the other defendant in the case, Croatia’s ex-PM Ivo Sanader had already been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.
Talking about the wage union, I asserted that it reinforced rather than weakened Western Europe since the existing wage gap undermined the stability of the entire continent so it was a joint European interest to eliminate it. Europe’s nations must be shaken up together so that Europe could survive! However, the political foundations of a European unity rest upon the national states.
Frano Čirko welcomed my proposal to intensify the Hungarian-Croatian cooperation. In the context of our wage union initiative, Mr Čirko pointed out that 300 thousand Croatians, mostly young people, had left the country since their EU accession in 2013. The key driver of the emigration wave is the fact that you can get higher pay for the same work in the west, and the phenomenon has a devastating effect on Croatia’s economy and population as well. As he put it, this problem stretched from Estonia all the way to Bulgaria, so his party felt it was their duty to use all possible means within the EU to prevent this new exodus.
According to the Croatian party president, the primary reason why people supported the country’s EU accession was that they expected higher living standards. Since there is no sign of the promised economic integration, many people feel they have been misled. Underlining the importance of registering the wage union initiative, Mr Čirko said the EU finally had a chance to prove whether it seriously wanted to integrate Eastern Europe.