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Croatia becomes 28th member of the European Union

Croatia today became the 28th member of the European Union (EU) less than 20 years after the end of its bloody war for independence.

The country’s accession to the union was celebrated in the country’s capital, Zagreb, where thousands flocked to the city’s central square to party with music and fireworks.  “Welcome to the European Union!”  European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso exclaimed, rather impressively, in Croatian and President Ivo Josipovic described it as “a great and joyful day for our homeland”.

Croatia is the first new EU member since Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 and has had to undergo a longer accession process than most other countries. It first applied for membership 10 years ago and has had to overcome a number of challenges to the move, most notably the insistence of existing EU member Slovenia that border disputes be solved before Croatia was allowed to join the EU.  Croatia signed the Treaty of Accession to become the bloc’s 28th member on 9th December 2011 and the accession was ratified on 21 June 2013.

When asked by the BBC, many Croats cited the ability for them to go to work and study in other member states without the need for visas, as well as their country’s ability to trade more freely in Europe as the major benefits of accession. Many also spoke of the increased credibility it will give Croatia on the global stage. However, not everybody is overjoyed.

The accession comes at a difficult time for Croatia as the country struggles against a prolonged recession. Unemployment levels hover around 18% and the country’s debt is officially classed as junk. It is also worth noting that although 66% of people voted in favour of joining the union last year, turnout was a disappointingly low 44%, suggesting that many Croats are suffering from EU fatigue following a decade long battle to be accepted. Many are also concerned that they are joining a sinking ship. One man interviewed by Reuters, a pensioner named Pavao Brkanovic, said “Just look what’s happening in Greece and Spain! Is this where we’re headed? You need illusions to be joyful, but the illusions have long gone.”

Mr Brkanovic is far from alone in his pessimism but the truth is that Croatia will simply have to wait and see if EU membership provides the benefits they have long hoped for. After waiting ten years to be accepted, it looks like another waiting game for one of Europe’s most beautiful countries.

For a detailed PESTLE analysis of Croatia, check out the MarketLine Country Analysis Report on Croatia

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