Croatia has become the 28th country to join the EU. The official ceremony took place in Zagreb on 30 June and celebrations carried on late into the night.
Just 20 years ago, Croatia was fighting for independence from the then Yugoslavia. A decade ago, the country applied for EU membership. Today, it joins 27 other countries in a political and economic union first created in 1958.
The road to EU membership
Before joining the EU, Croatia had to align many of its rules and administrative procedures to those of the EU. For example, it has completely reformed its justice system and changed its constitution to guarantee public prosecutors’ independence. The government also set up a body to fight corruption.
Other reforms included setting limits for greenhouse gas emissions and adapting standards on food safety.
What’s in it for Croatians?
Croatians now enjoy all the benefits of EU citizenship. If they get ill in another EU country, they are entitled to the same healthcare as locals. If they have problems with an online shopping order, they will enjoy EU standards of consumer protection. And roaming charges for Croatians calling home from another EU country are now much lower.
As for businesses, they can move capital between Croatia and other EU countries, and take advantage of rules facilitating cross-border payments. Croatian firms will now be able to join their EU counterparts in bidding for public contracts across the EU. And small businesses in the country can now access funding from the European Investment Bank.
Croatia itself can now also access EU regional development funding. The EU's structural and cohesion funds will help the country invest in research and innovation, small businesses, sustainable jobs and initiatives to tackle skills shortages and unemployment.
The funding is managed by the European Commission. If a Croatian citizen or business makes a complaint against the Commission – or any of the other EU institutions and bodies – it will be investigated by the European Ombudsman.
Croatia is a small country, with a population of almost 4.5m, bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. It has over 1 200 islands and islets, of which only 48 are permanently inhabited. The currency is currently the kuna, but Croatia will adopt the euro once it fulfils criteria in areas such as price stability, public finances and exchange rate stability.