Croatia Joins European Union
Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union on Monday, a seminal moment for the small, predominantly Catholic country some 20 years after it won independence in the bloody wars of the Balkans.
With Europe roiled by financial crisis, Croatia’s accession offers a rare moment of satisfaction for the union, underlining how a country’s desire to join the world’s biggest trading bloc can push it to make difficult economic and political changes.
Since the end of the cold war, the European Union’s soft power — its ability to press for concessions from countries that want to join the club — has been a powerful foreign policy tool and an alternative to American military might. In the case of Croatia, the incentive of joining the bloc pushed it to revamp a statist post-Communist economy and to arrest more than a dozen Croatian and Bosnian Croat war criminals.
Elsewhere in the region, Serbia and Kosovo recently signed a power-sharing agreement aimed at overcoming ethnic enmities and proving to Brussels that they have the European credentials to join the bloc. On Friday, they were rewarded for their efforts, with Serbia gaining the go-ahead to start entry negotiations in January and Kosovo gaining closer trade, economic and political ties.