Welcome Croatia

by Toni Giugliano

Last night Croatia became the 28th Member of the European Union. Thousands celebrated the country’s accession through the streets of Zagreb as the country became the second ex-Yugoslav state to join the EU. On the same day, Lithuania took over the EU Presidency, from Ireland, for the first time since joining in 2004.

Indeed today Ireland boasted its success during its six-month Presidency under the banner ‘the Irish get things done’. It’s no secret to anyone that small nations have historically achieved more successful EU presidencies than their larger counterparts. Ireland delivered a long-awaited reformed Common Fisheries Policy, a reformed Common Agricultural Policy and a historic EU-US trade deal, chairing almost 2,500 meetings across Europe.

At the opposite end of the continent, Vilnius is now set to lead a continent of 500 million Europeans with a plan to implement an EU-wide youth employment strategy and take forward the block’s Eastern Partnership which seeks closer relations and visa-free travel and trade with Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Croatia, Ireland and Lithuania – three nations smaller than Scotland but with their own seats at the top tables of Europe and the power to influence the direction of our continent.

The questions is – why is Scotland not doing the same? With 25% of Europe’s wind resource, some of the world’s top universities, the fourth largest financial services centre in Europe, a food and drink industry worth £12 billion, world leading research, life sciences, and fisheries – not to mention the oil and gas heartland of the continent – why are we settling for observer status?

Why are we continuing to be represented by a United Kingdom Government increasingly isolated and marginalized in Europe? A United Kingdom failing to protect Scotland’s distinct national interests. A United Kingdom at odds with Holyrood’s European priorities – on agriculture, on cross-border crime, on social protection, on financial regulation, on energy.

Is it viable that when Holyrood passed the most ambitious world-leading Climate Change Bill Westminster denied our Government Minister the opportunity to negotiate in the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit? Is it viable that Scotland’s Environment Minister was denied the opportunity to represent the UK at an EU Fisheries Council - instead sending an unelected member of the House of Lords - when the Scottish fishing industry lands 70% of the total UK catch?

It is no longer viable for Scotland’s European potential to be held back by Westminster. Europe needs Scotland – not as a country relegated to the second division but one that, like Croatia, Ireland and Lithuania, can lead and make a constructive contribution to the future of our continent.

It's time for Scotland to take that empty chair and sit proudly with her friends across the world.

Dobro došla, Hrvatska!

Welcome, Croatia.




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