Croatia: The 28th state

Less than two decades following the bloody ethnic conflict that broke up Yugoslavia, Croatia celebrated its entry into the European Union July 1 as the 28th member state. Accession into Europe’s top club marks a significant step away from Croatia’s troubled past but comes at a time of continuing economic turmoil for both the Balkans and the Continent at large.

Though the eurozone is beginning to show small signs of improvement, the road to recovery after a series of crises remains long.  With almost the entire bloc still reeling from a double-dip recession, Europe’s governments and citizens are acutely aware of the risks of a single currency and poorly regulated expansionism.

Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the former Yugoslav region, Croatia’s economy has been mired in stagnation and depression since 2008. The country’s failure to capitalize on pre-accession opportunities to introduce tough structural and fiscal reforms means it has entered the EU with debt and budget deficits that already breach EU limits and an unemployment rate that has nearly tripled in the past four years, remaining stubbornly high at around 20 percent.

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(Photo, of the Croatian flag among other EU flags: EC Audiovisual Service)