After an intense pro-European Union tax-funded lobbying campaign warning of disaster, Croatians voted by an almost two-to-one margin to join the troubled EU despite a debt crisis that threatens to sink the region’s single currency and an increasingly authoritarian tone emanating from Brussels.
The nation’s political class furiously prodded voters into backing membership in the supranational regime, threatening economic doom if voters rejected the bid. Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, for example, said voting against the EU “would be like shooting yourself in the foot.”
Politicians and officials even told citizens that pensions for seniors and veterans would be in danger if they voted “no.” And official threats of economic chaos for failing to support the EU were rampant.
The largely state-controlled and government-owned media threatened voters, too. Among the most outrageous threats: if voters refused to join the EU, Croatia might be forced into a sort of “Balkan union” with its arch-enemy Serbia.
The EU, meanwhile, had already sent and promised more than half-a-billion tax dollars in “pre-accession assistance” — cynics called it a “bribe” — before the referendum. Billions more from EU taxpayers were pledged for “infrastructure,” “development,” and other programs — assuming Croatia joined.
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Photo: Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic after casting his ballot at EU membership referendum in Zagreb,Croatia, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012: AP Images