Croatia has escaped one doomed federal structure – only to shackle itself to another, reports Boris Johnson.
Rab, on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast
By Boris Johnson
6:47AM BST 03 Sep 2012
There comes a tragic moment at the end of every binge meal in the Mediterranean when the waiter produces the bill, and as you reach for your wallet you can be permitted an occasional pang of distress. Yes, it is forgivable to emit a low moan, inaudible to everyone else; and so I moaned the other day, in the course of a lightning family holiday. I let out an elegiac groan at the sight of those beautiful, innocent banknotes, still furled tightly in my wallet.
And why did I sigh? There was nothing outrageous about the bill – far from it. Our two-hour feast was incredible value, considering we had just consumed several platters of sea creatures in delicate sauces, and loads of complex side dishes, all washed down with cool bottles of white Postup – possibly the most delicious white wine you have ever drunk. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the holiday. We had flown by Easyjet from Gatwick, and been attended by every comfort that Easyjet can provide. The landscape was peachy: the sea was turquoise; the air was scented with myrtles and thyme; and a series of amazing islands lay stretched before us like a school of green-backed whales.
The people were friendly, and somehow combined all the virtues of Slavic and Mediterranean culture and physique. You could see why Roman emperors had chosen to build their palaces on the coast of Dalmatia, and you could see why they had come here for their summer debauch. The whole place was and is utterly fantabulous. And yet I groaned as I looked at those kuna banknotes – a valedictory groan, such as you might offer a lamb being led to the slaughter.
On July 1 next year, Croatia becomes the 28th member of the European Union, and under the terms of the Treaty of Maastricht this new, proud sovereign state – not yet two decades old – must accept the entire corpus of EU law; and she must place her neck in the noose of the single currency. Unlike Britain or Denmark, the Croats have no opt-out. They are now legally obliged to give up the kuna for the euro, and I say, don’t do it, folks. It is not only a mistake. To submit to the euro would be a stunning refusal to learn the grim lessons of recent Balkan history.
Everywhere you go in former Yugoslavia, there are reminders of the wars that broke up the country. You can see the scars on the churches in Dubrovnik, shelled by the Serbs. You can see similar scars at Mostar, where the ancient bridge was blown up by the Croats. By the side of the roads in Croatia you can see posters of General Ante Gotovina – jailed by the Hague tribunal for crimes against humanity, but revered in his country as a hero.
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