Croatia’s Ambassador to Australia, Dr Damir Kušen, visited Macquarie University to talk Croatia, the European Union, and of course, Australia. He connected the dots between the three and brought a new perspective on their relationships I had not yet considered. He explained how Croatia joining the EU is not just relevant to the Croatian diaspora in Australia, but to the whole of the country itself on many various levels, illustrating there was something relevant to everyone who attended the event.
Having Ambassador Kušen visit was not only beneficial to me in regards to my GLP, but on a personal level too. It connected me a little more with my Croatian heritage, and it was exciting to see Croatia being represented in the Consular Series.
With Croatia having just joined the EU last year, Ambassador Kušen was able to give us relevant, current examples of the implications of accession as they are unfolding. Significant benefits have been, and will continue to be seen in Croatia. One way is through increased trade as the market opens to more of Europe, as well as the outside world. Another way will be exponential growth to their already substantial tourism industry as access to the country becomes easier, especially from within Europe, and currency will cease to be an inconvenience with the eventual change from the Croatian Kuna to the Euro.
The benefits are not just for Croatia, with the EU making valuable gains too. The Ambassador touched on economic growth, with a wider market for the EU gained through Croatia, as well as a wider spread of EU policies. Croatia also has an extremely diverse and interesting culture – giving the EU greater diversity. In also being a member of both NATO and the UN, and having vast experience gained through the many conflicts and obstacles it has had to face before becoming an independent state, Croatia can benefit the EU by assisting other EU accession countries in the same region to enter the EU with its advice based on significant knowledge of crisis and conflict management, resolution, and rebuilding.
But where does Australia come into all of this? Australia has a huge population of Croatians and Croatian descendants, many of whom feel a strong connection with their homeland. This connection is important in my own life and so I feel that anything that benefits Croatia itself, somehow benefits me, whether that be entirely rational or not. But how can Croatia’s move to the EU be relevant to the wider Australian population with no ties to the country? Ambassador Kušen spoke of it in a way that did make it relevant to Australia as a whole. Again tourism and economic reasons were touched on, he pointed out that joining the EU can help make Croatia more appealing to foreigners as it appears more secure, as well as being easier to access if traveling around other areas of Europe. Trade becomes more international, and this may benefit Australia by making imports and exports to Croatia more appealing as the market becomes more competitive.
One of the main things I took away from this event is how much influence the EU can have on the countries in it, those looking to join it, and on countries, such as Australia, which can seem far removed from it. I learned that international partnerships and connections across the globe are important for so many reasons, and can really benefit countries in many big and small ways. This Consular Series event made me realise that Australia, despite being so far from so many other countries, is connected in ways I had never considered, and that its connection to Croatia goes far beyond the large Croatian diaspora living here.
By Louise Watsford
*Louise is a 3rd year Bachelor of Arts in Croatian Studies with a Bachelor of Science in Development. Louise would like to study a master in International Relations in Europe after graduating
* The GLP Foreign Affairs Series (formerly the GLP Consular Series) runs twice a session and will be advertised to students via email and Facebook.