Croatia became the 28th member of the EU at midnight last night, a milestone capping the Adriatic republic’s recovery from war but tinged with anxiety over its economy and the state of the bloc it joins.
EU flags fluttered from a stage in Zagreb’s central square ahead of the evening’s festivities.
Croatia joins the EU just over two decades after declaring independence from federal Yugoslavia, the trigger for four years of war in which some 20,000 people died.
Facing a fifth year of recession and record unemployment of 21%, few Croatians are in the mood to party.
“Just look what’s happening in Greece and Spain. Is this where we’re headed?” asked pensioner Pavao Brkanovic. “You need illusions to be joyful, but the illusions have long gone.”
President Ivo Josipovic told Croatian TV journalists from EU countries had repeatedly asked why Zagreb wanted to join.
“My counter question was: ‘You come from the EU. Is your country preparing to leave the bloc?’ They would invariably reply: ‘Of course not.’ Well, there you go, that’s why we are joining, because we also believe the EU has a future,” he said.
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