Croatia on Sunday became the 28th member of the European Union. Fireworks were set off at midnight, when the membership became effective, as President Ivo Josipovic called the event historic.
But despite the festivities, not all Croatians are excited to be joining the EU. While the country has come far since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, some citizens thing that being part of another union is a step back, instead of forward.
Doris Vucic, a student in Zagreb, Croatia, explained, “It we spent hundreds of years fighting for independence with Turks and Serbs, I don’t understand how we can sell it once again, 20 years after winning sovereignty, to a bigger and more powerful union where we are all going to be marginalized.”
Croatia spent years rebuilding and reforming following the devastating war that broke up Yugoslavia and gave the world the term “ethnic cleansing” when 120,000 people were killed. But despite the reconstruction, Croatia is still suffering from unresolved issues that were made worse by the euro crisis.
Those issues include inflation, high taxes, a contracting economy, pervasive corruption, and others. The country is also still in shock over the conviction of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on charges of bribery and kickbacks. The November 2012 conviction laid to rest the biggest political corruption trial in the country’s history.
When the possibility of joining the European Union was brought up, many in Croatia looked at it as a way to a better future. But then the euro crisis hit five years ago. The crisis has caused some Croatians to believe that the bloc’s focus is more on solving its own problems than helping others with theirs.
Beyond celebrations in Zagreb, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, stated, “This will change the life of this nation for good. I welcome you wholeheartedly.” Croatia went through seven years of reform, which was often unpopular, in order to join the European Union.