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WORLD NEWS | Croatia welcomes New Year as fully integrated EU member


ZAGREB, Jan. 1 (AP) — As the clock struck midnight Saturday, Croatia switched to a common European currency, the euro, and eliminated dozens of border checkpoints, joining the world’s largest passport-free travel zone. .

It marks a fresh start for the small Balkan nation of four million people. Thirty years ago, the small Balkan nation was in the international spotlight for a brutal war that left nearly a quarter of its economy in ruins.

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Joining Europe’s ID-check-free Schengen area means Croatians will now be among the nearly 420 million people who can freely roam its 27 member states without a passport for work or leisure.

Adoption of the euro would also benefit Croatia, as it has closer financial ties to the 19 other users of the currency and to the European Central Bank. It will also make traveling and doing business easier, eliminating the hassle of currency exchange for Croatians abroad and the tens of thousands of tourists who come to Croatia each year to work or enjoy its stunning Adriatic coastline.

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As revelers across Croatia took to the streets to usher in the New Year, the country’s interior minister, Davor Bozinovic, wished the last of the last to undergo passport control at the Bregana border crossing with Slovenia Good luck for travelers.

Slovenia has been part of the Schengen area since 2007 and has been tasked with securing its external borders.

That task will now be taken over by Croatia, which will continue to maintain strict border controls on its eastern border with its non-EU neighbors Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro.

“We have opened the door to a Europe without borders. It’s not just the removal of border controls, it’s the ultimate affirmation of our European identity,” Bozinovic said in a statement to Slovenian Foreign Minister Sanja Ajanovic-Hovnik. (Sanja Ajanovic-Hovnik) said after watching the Bregana crossing ramp be lifted for the last time.

Stipica Mandic, a 72-year-old professional driver, expressed the same feeling, saying that being able to move freely without long waits at border crossings was his personal dream, as he left home for a New Year’s Eve party and drove 20 km cause (12.4 miles) to Bregana to see it come true.

“I’ve been waiting at border checkpoints for years, so I’m here tonight to witness this moment, and I won’t be waiting after that moment,” he said.

Around the same time, shortly after midnight, Croatia’s finance minister and central bank governor walked to an ATM in the capital Zagreb to withdraw euro notes and symbolically obliterate Croatia’s old national currency, the kuna.

Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, but to adopt the euro, the country must meet a set of strict economic conditions, including a stable exchange rate, manageable inflation and solid public spending.

Croatian kuna and euros will be dual used for cash payments within 14 days, but as people shop post-holiday in January, they will only receive change in euros.

Many Croats described the New Year’s Eve developments as their country’s difficult journey to mainstream Europe after 31 years of independence from Serb-controlled Yugoslavia, which killed 20,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

“We dreamed of this and I’m glad we lived to see it happen,” said Zlat Kleko, a resident of Split, a port city in the south of the country. “I hope it means we’re finally Europe’s leader.” part.”

Elenmari Pletikos-Solon of Zagreb agrees: “We are already part of Europe, but dismantling the borders and moving to the euro is the final confirmation of our full integration” into the EU.

“I’m really happy. It’s going to make a lot of things in our lives easier,” she added. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)


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