Croatia rang in 2023 marking its accession to the Schengen Area by removing the sign at the Bregana border crossing and raising the barrier allowing for free passage at the former border checkpoint. Membership in the Schengen area allows for passport-free travel among members. Croatia is not the 27th member state in the Schengen area. As reported by The Balkan, the Austrian government had blocked Romania and Bulgaria from also joining in December.
International human rights associations had previously condemned the EU’s decision to allow Croatia to enter the Schengen area accusing Zagreb of mistreating migrants, claiming that the authorities routinely violate EU and international law. Most Croatians, however, welcome the move as it will allow for freer circulation within Europe.
Croatia also replaced its own currency, the Kuna, with the Euro on January 1, as part of the Balkan nation’s further integration into the European Union, which began in 2013 when the country officially joined. Croatia becomes the 20th member of the Eurozone. In so doing, Croatia cedes its economic sovereignty to the EU. Critics of the move point out that it will make the Balkan state ever more dependent on France and especially Germany which is actively trying to assert its control over the region and will likely lead to ever-increasing prices for ordinary Croatians.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic defended the moves, declaring that by joining the Eurozone and Schengen Area, Zagreb has accomplished, “two strategic goals for a deeper EU integration.”