Home » Croatia takes final steps into EU with open border and euro switch

Croatia takes final steps into EU with open border and euro switch

by Mahmmod Shar

Common currency was already used for valuations and bank deposits in former Yugoslav country, which joined the EU in 2013

Shaun Walker Central and eastern Europe correspondent

Croatia has adopted the euro and joined the European Union’s borderless Schengen zone, two steps that its prime minister said represented a historic moment.

“Nothing is the same after this,” said Andrej Plenković, promising that joining the euro would better protect Croatians from financial crises, and joining the Schengen zone would make travelling easier and boost tourism.

Croatia became the 20th eurozone country on Sunday, at a time when inflation is high across Europe after rising food and fuel prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It is the season of new beginnings. And there is no place in Europe where this is more true than here in Croatia,” tweeted the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, as she arrived in Croatia to mark the occasion on Sunday.

Croatian politicians said the currency adoption and the removal of borders with neighbouring Slovenia and Hungary were symbolic steps that marked the end point of the country’s post-independence journey.

“We opened our doors to borderless Europe. This goes beyond eliminating border controls, it is the final affirmation of our European identity,” said the interior minister, Davor Bozinović, who was at the Bregana border crossing with Slovenia to celebrate the end of passport checks.

Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and fought a war to cement its existence as an independent state, in which 20,000 were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Croatia was the most recent country to join the EU, in 2013. Slovenia joined in 2004, while the other parts of the former Yugoslavia – Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo – are still in the early stages of negotiations over accession.

Join our U.S Main News community and be the first to hear the news!

While some Croatians expressed fears that the switch to euros could lead to price increases, the general mood in the country was celebratory.

“Fantastic! Phenomenal!” ran a headline in the newspaper Večernji list, quoting travellers who used the border on New Year’s Day.

Some people had travelled to the border with Slovenia in the first hours of the new year to watch a small piece of history in real time.

“I spent years of my life waiting at border checkpoints, so I came here tonight to witness this moment, the moment after which I will wait no more,” Stipica Mandić, a 72-year-old professional driver, told Associated Press at the Bergana crossing. He had left a New Year’s Eve party and driven to the crossing to be there at the moment the checks ended.

Free passage is announced on a new sign at the border in English, German, Slovenian, and Croatian.

Plenkovi bought Von der Leyen a coffee in euros on the city’s main square in Zagreb.

The economy and our citizens will both be better safeguarded against crises, he claimed.

According to experts, Croatia’s economy will be protected by the adoption of the euro at a time when global inflation is on the rise. The Croatian map and the famous inventor Nikola Tesla are among the images on the nation’s new euro coins.

With about 80% of bank deposits in the euro and merchants in popular tourist areas accepting the currency, the euro was already well-established in Croatia.

According to Marko Pavi, an employee of a tourism agency, “the euro was already a value measure — psychologically, it’s nothing new — while entry into Schengen is fantastic news for tourism.”

Analysts predict that Croatia’s adoption of the euro will improve borrowing conditions, pointing out that in recent months, inflation has tended to be higher in EU nations outside the eurozone, such as Poland and Hungary. In November, Croatia’s inflation rate was 13.5%, higher than the eurozone’s 10% average.

20% of Croatia’s GDP comes from the tourism sector, and this year, it’s anticipated that the adoption of the euro and the removal of border checks with Slovenia and Hungary will increase the number of visitors to the country’s well-known Adriatic coast.

Croatia joins the Schengen region, which consists of EU nations as well as Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, as its 27th member.

Rights organizations have criticized Croatian authorities for illegally pushing back refugees and migrants at the country’s border with Bosnia for a number of years, and police have been charged with using violence and abusive behavior.

Human Rights Watch accused European agencies of encouraging such behavior in Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria, all of which have been eager to join the Schengen area for some time, in a report published last month.

According to the report, “continuing abuses are enabled by the EU Commission’s funding of border management in these countries.”

At a meeting of EU interior ministers last month, applications from Romania and Bulgaria were rejected in exchange for accepting Croatia into the Schengen area. Due to concerns that the two nations were too lax on immigration, Austria and the Netherlands abstained from the vote.

Leave a Comment

What You Need to Know

Main News is an online news outlet that provides readers with up-to-date news stories from around the world.