East of Eden: a poststructuralist analysis of Croatia’s identity in the context of EU accession
Since the early 1990s Croatia has defined membership of the European Union as one of its primary goals. However, the immediate post-war period and the difficult transition to democracy left Croatia in relative isolation from Western European states and its aim of joining the European Union seemed unattainable and distant. Croatia’s involvement in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and President Tuđman’s politics proved to be great obstacles to its further democratisation and development. The parliamentary and presidential elections in the year 2000 and the defeat of Tuđman’s party offered a unique opportunity to change the direction of Croatian politics and to move closer to achieving the goal of EU membership. This thesis addresses changes in Croatia’s identity and it does so through the analysis of discourses surrounding Croatia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and its changing attitudes towards the protection of minority rights during the year 2000. Both cases fall under the Copenhagen Criteria of Accession whose implementation was crucial for Croatia’s moving closer towards EU membership. They are also closely linked to Croatia’s identity and are rooted in the civilisational discourse that juxtaposes ‘the West’/ EU and ‘the East’/ the Balkans as both geographical and civilisational spaces. The two case studies are both concerned with questions of sovereignty, justice, victims of the Homeland War and the role of Serbia in Croatia’s recent past and in its future. Serbia features as Croatia’s radical other and is discursively constructed as an embodiment of the Balkans civilisation. The study of cooperation with the ICTY and of discourses surrounding minority protection analyses the links between different civilisational spaces that Croatia navigates and their implications to the reconstruction of discourses central to Croatian identity. Despite different subject material both case studies reveal the centrality of the Serbian other for the Croatian identity and the need to redefine that relationship without undermining Croatia’s identity as a Western country and attempts to differentiate itself from the Balkans.