This is a very positive development and represents a significant move forward for the Balkan nation, which in the recent past was ravaged by war. Croatia's accession will hopefully encourage other former Yugoslavian states to join the EU, and underlines the progress both the country and the region have made since the horrors of ethnic conflict in the 1990s.
|Representatives of the press gather in advance of |
President Schulz's welcoming speech
|Martin Schulz: a "common and peaceful future"|
Politically speaking, Croatia has come a long way in short time. Its recovery is quite remarkable against the backdrop of its turbulent recent history.
|Zoran Milanovic: looking to the future|
This development means a great deal to my brother, Adrian, who served in the Army in the Balkans during the 1990s and has a particular affinity to Croatia and its people. Incorporating former Yugoslav states into the EU will ensure that the area with a historic tendency to confirm its reputation as "the powder keg of Europe" can be sure of a peaceful future.
|Milanovic and Schulz|
Actually, Milanovic himself is a symbol of how far Croatia has progressed. The leader of the Social Democratic Party (which has only recently become the dominant force in Croatian politics; with the exception of three years the conservative and "patriotic" Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica - HDZ - held power between 1992 and 2011), Milanovic describes himself as "a liberal" and has championed equality, LGBT rights and women's issues. Croatian politicians simply weren't talking about these kinds of issues even ten years ago.
|Hannes Swoboda, President of the group of the |
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats,
welcomed EU enlargement
|Croatia was keen to showcase its artistic heritage, |
including traditional dress.
Martin Schulz will welcome the 12 new Croatian MEPs tomorrow. Obviously this also means that a new portfolio will be created - perhaps by splitting maritime affairs and fisheries?
It's worth noting that Croatia has signed up to neither the Euro nor the Schengen regulations (although in regards the latter will have to do so before 2015).
So, welcome Croatia to the EU. Here's to a peaceful and prosperous future.
Dobrodošli, Hrvatska. Želim vam uspješan i miran budućnost.
All photographs taken by myself on 27.6.13