‘New chapters’ as Croatia joins euro and free movement area – POLITICO

Bomb racks at Croatian border crossings went up at midnight on Sunday as the country joined Europe’s free movement zone, with the country also adopting the euro as its currency.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed “two huge achievements”, speaking alongside Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar at a border crossing in the town of Bregana.

“There is no place in Europe where it is more true today that this is a season of new beginnings and new chapters than here on the border between Croatia and Slovenia,” von said. der Leyen.

“Nothing is the same after this,” Plenković said, noting the convenience that free movement and monetary union will bring to Croats.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the former Yugoslav Republic’s accession to the EU. Von der Leyen praised the hard work of the Croatian people and singled out Plenković for pushing through the reforms needed to make the rapid rise in the EU currency club.

She said the euro “brings macroeconomic stability and credibility” at home and abroad.

“Our citizens and the economy will be better protected against crises,” Plenković said.

But more than that, von der Leyen said, the printed pine marten euro coin – which gave its name to Croatia’s ancient currency, the kuna – is “a symbol of the successful union between your national identity and your European destiny”.

The adoption of the euro follows a long campaign to demonstrate that Croatia can adhere to the requirements of the monetary zone in terms of economic management. Croatian Finance Minister Marko Primorac told POLITICO last week that he expects the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio to fall sharply in the coming years as the post-pandemic recovery continues. .

Shortly after midnight, Primorac withdrew the first euros from a Croatian ATM.

Entry into the Schengen area means the abolition of land and sea border controls with Croatia’s European neighbours. Checks at the airport of the other 26 countries participating in the program will end in March.

The fall of these traffic barriers is “the definitive affirmation of our European identity, for which generations of Croatians have fought and fought,” said Interior Minister Davor Božinović, who opened the barrier in Bregana at midnight on New Year’s Day alongside his Slovenian counterpart, Sanja Ajanovic Hovnik.

Parties were organized by citizens at the border. Von der Leyen said those living near Slovenia and Hungary would see “tangible results” as they could freely cross the border to work and shop. “Communities will come together,” she said.

The Commission President also noted the responsibility that Schengen membership confers on Croatia, at a time when migratory pressures are a subject of growing political tension between members of the bloc.

“We will have to work very closely together to protect Schengen and preserve its benefits,” von der Leyen said. “In Schengen, we rely on each other and we know that we can trust you and that we can rely on Croatia.”

In a statement, Slovenian Hovnik congratulated Croatia on a “historic” step, which her country had taken a year earlier, and tried to calm Slovenians’ concerns about security along the newly opened border.

“It is an event that we have been preparing for for a long time on both sides of the border,” she said.


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