July 1, 2013
Croatia becomes the 28th member state of the European Union today, 1 July 2013. A date that marks the completion of a long journey that sees Croatia re-join the European mainstream after 22, often painful, years.
Not everything will change overnight, and Croatia still has many challenges to overcome. But Croatia’s accession to the EU is important for the country, the region and the EU as a whole.
For Croatia, it’s a landmark of the distance the country has covered and the reforms it made to be here today. The economic and political rewards are many. Joining the biggest market in the world, taking a seat at the table where global trade agreements are made, its citizens free to enjoy the many rights and privileges other EU citizens enjoy. The EU is that stable framework that Croatia needs to nurture and strengthen its institutions, constitution and political process.
For the region, it is a clear sign that swapping conflict for compromise, competition for co-operation, separation for integration leads to the core of the European project.
For the EU, which is caught up in the global economic crisis and is in the middle of the institutional re-engineering of the Eurozone, it is a signal that the project remains attractive for nations around Europe. It is also a reminder that the principle of reconciliation that led European nations to invite Germany back in their midst after World War II and reconcile it with its neighbours remains the guiding principle in the process of rebuilding the Western Balkans.
As Croatia joins Slovenia within the EU, other former Yugoslav republics, not least Serbia, are embarking in their journey, which will eventually bring them together again, around the EU table, to debate and decide the common interests and aspirations of the European continent as a whole.
Last but not least, Croatia’s accession is a reminder that enlargement is one of the EU’s most successful projects. For decades it has been the process that has helped southern Europe to break free of military juntas and dictatorships, inspired central and eastern European nations to escape Soviet occupation and is now driving Western Balkan countries away from conflict and violence.
EU membership has been a beacon of democracy and the promise of EU enlargement has driven the building of institutions, the setting up of free markets, the pursuit of peace, democracy, liberty, solidarity and the establishment of the rule of law and respect for basic human rights across Europe.
This is why it is imperative that the EU remains committed to continue the process of enlargement.
But for now, let’s celebrate Croatia’s accession to the EU. They have earned it and they deserve it.
Chairman, European Movement UK
Author : European Movement UK