Croatian PM Says EU Solidarity a ‘Transformative Power’
WASHINGTON — Appearing remotely, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković joined the D.C.-based Atlantic Council to celebrate Croatia’s incorporation into the Eurozone and Schengen Area and explain how his nation’s journey toward European integration could inspire Ukraine and Western Balkan countries with EU candidate status.
“EU membership is the only real source of transformative power … in the European Union,” according to Plenković, Croatia’s longest-serving PM in its independent history.
Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia with its victory in the Croatian War of Independence, fought from 1991 to 1995. The country applied for EU membership in 2003, and became the European Union’s 28th member state on July 1, 2013.
“When you are a newly independent country, and enjoying the prerogatives of an independent state … sometimes [you can be] wary of other actors in deciding what [you] need to do,” he said. “But by joining Schengen [and Eurozone], we have only become stronger.”
He insisted that Croatia is realizing its national strategic objectives in a far more efficient and financially “easier” manner than could have happened without the integration.
Due to an exceptionally fast-growing economy and far-reaching governance reforms, Croatia was able to jump ahead of other countries that sought EU adoption, including Turkey, which has an application that predates its own.
On Jan. 1, 2023, Croatia replaced its local kuna currency with the adoption of the euro, becoming the 20th member of the eurozone. On the same day, it also became the 27th country to join the Schengen area, meaning that border controls were removed for people traveling between Croatia and the other 26 countries.
Along with these two steps, Croatia has taken on a leadership role in the region. Plenković said it hopes to serve as an example for nations like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Ukraine, which have all sought EU candidacy.
In fact, he claimed that “Croatia is the strongest partner with Bosnia and Herzegovina in Europe that they will ever have,” advocating for its EU integration for years and facilitating its application for EU membership, despite some current complications to their relationship.
As for Ukraine, despite the Croatian parliament’s recent narrow vote declining to join EU military missions there, Plenković said Croatia joins in the “unprecedented unity of Europe” toward Ukraine with humanitarian support and political focus.
“I can’t think of an even remotely similar scenario … of unified European countries to Ukraine,” he said.
“This [Croatian] government was swift in terms of clarity … in extending solidarity to Ukraine … and extending substantial military assistance over the past 12 months,” Plenković offered. “And we will continue to do so into the future.”
“This showcase of solidarity that we haven’t witnessed before will continue,” he said. “The key word is sustainability … of Ukraine to resist, of Western assistance to Ukraine, and of Western governments to live up to the crises we are faced with.”
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