I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Come in! The kettle’s on the boil!


Ain’t it always just the same? They want to know why they’re not in the European Union, why it’s taking so long, why they have to complete so many bloody dossiers. And then, when they’re in, it’s “Ooh, I don’t like it.”

As all Europe welcomed Croatia into the fold today Le Monde reported from Ocekovo, a village strung out along a country road an hour from Zagreb. Thirty-five-year-old Stipe tells of the decline of the village since the days before the war of Croatian independence: “There used to be 1,000 cattle here; now there aren’t more than 50. Horses – from 500 down to 30.” He makes nothing from his farm, so he works in a paint factory 20 kilometres away, getting up at five in the morning and doing the farm work when he returns. No wonder he’s exhausted.

“In fifteen years, Ocekovo will have disappeared,” says his father, Jozo (78). But what about EU grants? Might they not help? To get them, says Jozo, your papers would need to be in order. Jozo’s aren’t since he built an illegal extension to his house. Regularising his situation would cost too much. It’s just not worth it.

Not everyone is gloomy. Ivica Florijanovic, a small-scale wine producer who produces skrelet, a much sought after white typical of his region, is looking forward to having more outlets and not having to pay tariffs to export. And he might get some of those grants too? Don’t even think about it. “No one around here has got a grant. You need full and complete documentation, and none of us has that. That’s our problem in Croatia: we never do anything according to the rules, and the business people even less than anyone else.”

I reckon those Lutherans up in Denmark and Sweden and Finland are not going to like this at all, but, hey, we Irish don’t do that superior thing. Yiz are welcome in lads, and roll on the Serbs!