Some fear that Croatia is effectively ceding its sovereignty less than a quarter of a century after declaring independence from the former Yugoslavia. A young student captured that feeling well in an interview with USA Today: “If we spent hundreds of years fighting for independence with Turks and Serbs, I don’t understand how we can sell it once again, 20 years after winning sovereignty, to a bigger and more powerful union where we are going to be marginalized.”
Others seem to have trouble overcoming painful memories. The disintegration of Yugoslavia led to a series of wars, including Croatia’s own war of independence from 1991-1995, during which Dubrovnik was shelled.
Some go even further back, talking about the glory days of the Republic of Ragusa, which would become Dubrovnik and in its heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries was regarded as a rival of Venice.
Today, by contrast, much of Dubrovnik is in disrepair. Nearly two decades after Croatia’s war of independence, many of the city’s hotels lie in ruins, and those who worked there are out of a job for the most part, reflecting a lack of labor mobility.
And yet, despite their understandable disenchantment, the locals don’t seem agitated to do much. Then again, a few months before the Arab Spring, I remember thinking that the Egyptians I was meeting and talking with didn’t seem agitated to do much despite being frustrated with the status quo under Hosni Mubarak.
Only time will tell if Croatia chooses to live in the past or make the most of its newfound access and opportunities.