Croatia has today become the 28th member state of the European Union, just 20 years after winning independence from the former Yugoslavia.
Over two-thirds of Croatians voted in favour of accession last year, although economic problems which have blighted the country in recent times are set to put a slight dampener on celebrations. Around one in five Croatians are currently unemployed while the country’s economy is officially classed as ‘junk’.
However, in spite of the country’s financial problems, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, has called Croatia’s accession ‘a historic day.’
“EU membership will offer no magic solution to the crisis,” he said in a statement. “But it will help to lift many people out of poverty and modernise the economy.”
Croatia’s accession to the EU means that customs posts have been removed from the country’s borders with EU neighbours Slovenia and Hungary, and that Croatian citizens will now be afforded the same freedom of movement criteria as those from all other EU countries. This means Croatians can now seek employment in some of the more prosperous EU countries. By the same token, EU citizens from other member states may choose to make a new life for themselves in Croatia.
For the time being, Croatia will not join the single currency, so will retain the Kuna. The country’s Foreign Minister, Vesna Pusic, has gone on record to state that Croatia will not become a member of the eurozone – the 17-country group that uses the EU’s common currency – until all the financial conditions are met.