Naturally, at OneEurope we are very excited about Croatia joining the Union.
And on this occasion, we have launched a Debate, and series of articles, observing the opportunities and challenges of this important new relationship.
Our author Andre P. DeBattista already took a first look at what this EU enlargement means for Croatia and for the European Union.
Of course welcoming a new member into the union will be a reason to celebrate, but we also want to be aware of the challenges of Croatia's membership. So today our author Mateusz Krupczynski takes a look at the challenges that will lie ahead for Croatia and the EU:
Tomorrow the European Union will welcome its 28th member state, the Republic of Croatia. They will be entering the Union during a time of austerity and financial crisis. And this situation within the EU as well as within Croatia is setting a range of challenges.
Croatia is a democratic parliamentary republic located along the Mediterranean Sea and on the Balkans. Its population stands at 4.4 million inhabitants. Between 1941 and 1991 Croatia was a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and from 1991 the country declared its independence. The Balkan war began when Croatia was attacked by the Yugoslavian National Army supported by the Serbian paramilitaries. It included international forces and ended in 1995 leaving the country on its own.
In 2003 the Republic of Croatia applied for EU membership and obtained candidate status in 2004. The accession negotiations were finalized in 2011 and, on December 9th, Croatia signed the Treaty of Accession.
Croatia is at a strategic trade and tourism location.
A state whose economic situation is very unpredictable, is entering a Union whose member states are also struggling with their economies. For some Croats it is a day of glory, however, at the same time the future seems uncertain. Despite being better prepared than Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia will have to face domestic challenges after joining the EU. The country still has problems with corruption, the number of Eurosceptics is rising and the unemployment is about to go above 20%, with 50% youth unemployment!
In addition, several European governments are uncertain about their new neighbor. The problem of corruption is being slowly solved; however it is far from comparable to other European countries.
Croatia’s economy is based on tourism, as 10 million tourists a year visit their coast. After accession, Turkish and Russian visitors will have to apply for visas, which could reduce the number of tourists visiting the country. Furthermore, Croatia will lose its access to the non-EU Balkan markets. Moreover, some of the factories are not prepared for the rigorous standards of the EU, which in consequence will lead to the closing down of them and the businesses which depend on them.
It is certain that Croatia is better prepared than in 2000. Important steps have been made. However, a lot of work still remains to be done to improve the Croatian situation.
Read more opinions on Croatia's accession into the EU, at our Debate: "Croatia in the EU: Challenges and Opportunities"