Croatia Marks Four Years as EU Member State

Total Croatia News

Most people would agree that EU membership is positive on the whole, but that many opportunities have not been used.

On 1 July 2013, Croatia officially became the 28th member state of the European Union. Four years have passed, but high expectations have not been fulfilled. Opinions are mixed, but the majority position is that Croatia has not taken advantage of all the possibilities which EU membership brings, reports on 1 July 2017.

On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of Croatia’s membership in the European Union, talked with some of those who were most involved in Croatia’s accession negotiations and who are today directly involved in relations with the European Union.

Former President Ivo Josipović, who was president at the time when Croatia entered the European Union, notes that by joining the EU, Croatia has gotten a major, but also a poorly used opportunity to improve in all areas, from science and education to economy. It has also failed to continue positive trends from the time of accession negotiations.

“Despite economic stagnation, in the final phase of the negotiations, until the formal entry into the European Union, Croatia was becoming a better society. We had more and more respect for human rights, especially minority rights, we were strengthening the fight against corruption, and we improved our relations with our neighbours.

After that, Croatia started regressing. The values ​​which we used to consider certain now seem almost utopian. Today we have a kind of semi-theocratic system. Major social values ​​are fading away thanks to the activities of the government, the Parliament, the President, the judiciary, the Constitutional Court and the Church. Long-term recession with just mild signs of recovery, high debt, unfavourable demographic trends and the social regression create an image of an unsuccessful society.

Croatia seems to have forgotten that the need for reforms does not stop with entry into the EU. People believe that they can again do whatever they want: rude, clientelism, corruption, the absence of a plan for societal development. There are few people who realise that social regression is bringing our homeland to the club of global losers,” says Josipović.

Former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor signed the Accession Treaty with the European Union in 2011. She says that Croatia’s entry into the European Union was the realisation of one of the last major strategic goals.

“By joining the EU, Croatia is now finally on an equal footing with other European states and peoples. The Croatian language has become the 24th official language of the EU. For Croatia, which after the disintegration of Yugoslavia became a victim of terrible aggression, it was in a figurative sense a departure from the painful past as well as the acknowledgement of our achievements. Croatia had the toughest and longest accession negotiations which were largely the consequence of the imposed war.

We became equal in the shared market of 500 million people. Easier mobility, new opportunities for educating young people, and the possibility of using the so-called European funds are new opportunities which have become available. An example of these new possibilities is EU’s grant for the Pelješac Bridge which will finally link two parts of Croatia.

In many other infrastructure projects, Croatia has also begun to use the benefits of membership. Particularly important, which should not be forgotten, is the fact that the economic growth recorded in these last years is due in large part to the EU membership. Membership also forces us to consolidate our finances, and also to continue constant efforts to build Croatia as a state of law.

The European Union is founded on the idea of ​​preserving the lasting peace and stability in Europe. Peace and stability ensure progress and quality of life for citizens, but also the values ​​such as sustainable development, healthy environment, respect for human rights and the social market economy. That is why we have long ago decided to join the European community of states. Now, we have the opportunity to firmly position ourselves as leaders in this part of Europe, by providing support to our neighbours in their European path,” says Kosor.

Member of European Parliament Tonino Picula (SDP) says that EU membership is certainly a historically significant event for Croatia, after extremely traumatic experiences since the independence. However, after four years, it appears that the challenges of EU membership need serious consolidation. But it is only up to us whether we will remain on the right side of history, Picula says.

“By joining the EU, Croatia has opened up a direct opportunity to participate in EU policies and decision-making processes that directly affect the everyday life of Croatian citizens. Particularly important are the possibility of travelling without passports and the possibility of employment in the EU without special working permits. Opening up the market to Croatian entrepreneurs has expanded their business opportunities.

EU membership has enabled us to protect consumers’ rights better, strengthen product quality control, especially when it comes to food quality and safety, and it has increased access to information on goods and services in the market.

When it comes to development, in mid-2013 Croatia was at 61 percent of the European average, and today it is three percentage points lower. Likewise, Croatia is subject to high competition pressure in the field of agriculture, and the low purchasing power of the domestic population turns customers towards lower price categories. On the other hand, one positive sector is tourism which is growing by all indicators.

It is a sad fact that there is an exodus of young people who cannot find adequate employment in Croatia. Demographers estimate that between 50,000 and 60,000 people leave Croatia annually. In comparison, 67,473 people left Croatia in the period from 2000 to 2007,” says Picula.

Member of European Parliament Ruža Tomašić (Croatian Conservative Party) points out that Croatia has been given the opportunity to make use of a single market of 500 million people, but that unfortunately the opportunity has not yet been fully utilized.

“Structural reforms that are essential for the competitiveness of our businesspeople are not happening, and we are currently not equal players in such a large market. I see another great opportunity in spreading to other major global markets with which the EU has or will have trade agreements. As a small country, it would be difficult for us to get the same conditions which we have as a member of the Union. That is why I supported the CETA.

Croatia, as an EU member, is a global player, primarily in economic terms, and we have to use that. The sooner we start looking beyond our borders – not where to emigrate, but where to export our products and services – the sooner will we prosper. It is our responsibility to create the preconditions for people in Croatia to work and be able to live a decent life.

As a member, Croatia has not lost anything significant for the moment, but we must keep in mind the direction in which the Union is developing and demand that this joint institutional framework goes in favour of small states like ours. That is why I oppose further political integration and the concentration of political power in Brussels because in this case the bigger and the stronger countries will push their interests even more. My work on the fisheries issues shows that, despite strong lobbies that are not favourable to us, we can fight for ourselves when we raise our voice,” says Tomašić.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment