Croatia has become the 28th member of the European Union (EU), with the occasion marked by celebrations in the capital of Zagreb. The event, described by the president, Ivo Josipovic, as historic took place almost two decades after the country’s war of independence.
Croatia’s split from Yugoslavia triggered a war to secure its independence that raged from 1991 to 1995. The country is the first new EU member since Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 and its accession comes 10 years since it applied.
“This the day when we open a new chapter in the thick book of our history,” said Josipovic. Earlier, at a meeting of EU and regional leaders, he commented: “The accession of Croatia to the European Union is confirmation that each one of us belongs to the European democratic and cultural set of values.”
However, reports suggest that say enthusiasm for the EU among the populace has been dampened by the eurozone crisis, and Croatia’s own economic problems. In a country with a population of 4.4 million, one in five Croatians is unemployed and the country’s national debt officially classed as junk, raising concerns joining an economic bloc with its own serious troubles will do little to improve Croatia’s prospects. Despite these worries, two in three voted in favour of accession to the EU last year.
Some EU leaders harbour reservations about corruption and organised crime in the country, and Croatia will not yet join the single currency or the free-movement Schengen zone, where most EU citizens are not subject to passport checks.
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