On Tuesday, European Union finance ministers officially approved Croatia becoming the 20th member of the eurozone shared currency at the start of 2023, a step praised as the completion of a “amazing journey” for a once-warring Balkan republic.
Croatia’s entrance, according to European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, demonstrated that the euro remained a “attractive, resilient and successful global currency” as well as a symbol of strength and solidarity.
“This is particularly important at such a challenging time when Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues to send shock waves around the world,” Dombrovskis said during a ceremony marking Croatia’s admission, the eurozone’s first enlargement since 2015.
The European Council, a collection of 27 EU nations, approved three legislative measures necessary for Croatia, an EU member since 2013, to implement the euro on January 1.
One of those measures fixed the exchange rate for admission at one euro to 7.53450 Croatian kuna, giving Croatia a few months to prepare for the currency transfer.
Croatia, in southeastern Europe, has been an independent nation since 1991, when it broke away from then-federal Yugoslavia, unleashing years of catastrophic conflict with Serbia.
Neighbouring Slovenia, another ex-Yugoslav country that is now an EU member, accepted the euro in 2007. The eurozone now consists of nineteen nations.
Croatia was headed by nationalist strongman Franjo Tudjman until his death in 1999, and in order to qualify for EU membership, Croatia made efforts to combat corruption and strengthen administration, including the conviction of Ivo Sanader, prime minister from 2003 to 2009.
Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Maric called the EU’s decision to adopt the euro a “big historical day” for his country, which has a beautiful Adriatic coast and is a popular tourist destination.
Croatia’s impending admission into the eurozone has been hailed as a “extraordinary result.” by EU Economy Commissioner Paulo Gentiloni.
“What an amazing journey it was for Croatia. For my generation, Croatia experienced the first (European) war after the end of the World War (Two),” he said, referring to the 1990s Yugoslav conflict.
Croatia has to meet price and exchange rate stability, healthy state finances, and low long-term interest rates, all against EU benchmarks, in order to join the euro.