Croatia will join the euro zone on January 1 as the legacy of the Balkan war fades

Croatia will adopt the euro as its currency on January 1, when the former Yugoslav republic also becomes a full member of the European Union-run Schengen area.

The EU Commission said the moves are an important milestone in the history of Croatia, the euro and Schengen areas and the EU as a whole.

The euro zone will now encompass 20 countries and become the currency for almost 350 million people.

The move means Croatia and neighboring Slovenia will share a currency for the first time since the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia three decades ago.

Slovenia, which largely avoided the wars that devastated the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, joined the eurozone in 2007.

Three decades ago, however, Croatia found itself in the midst of conflict, facing the Serbian-dominated part of the former Yugoslavia in a war of independence that ended in 1995 and left an estimated 20,000 dead and much of the economy in shambles.

The euro will replace the Croatian kuna, introduced in 1994.

Croatia’s post-war economy was rebuilt around its tourism sector, with dozens of historic towns and modern resorts dotting the mainland and islands of its Dalmatian coast, including the so-called Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik.

For the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, membership of the euro and Schengen crowns long-standing efforts to integrate the country into the European economic and social mainstream.

Unlike historically Russia-oriented Serbia, both Croatia and Slovenia had long-standing pre-communist ties to the West as former Habsburg territories with Catholicism rather than orthodox Christianity as the main traditional religion, and both moved relatively quickly to align and join the EU.

“We constantly had to catch up with our neighbors, who joined the EU almost a decade earlier than us,” said Plenkovic. “We’re still trying to achieve the same economic and social standards, the same investment and business climate.”

Croatia still faces problems with corruption, bureaucracy and the exodus of its young workers to richer EU members.

Its position on Balkan routes used by drug, goods and people smugglers into the EU, and its geography, which encompasses mountainous inland regions and extensive coastline, is likely to put it at the forefront of the EU’s often-controversial effort alongside Greece and Italy to control borders. Croatia will join the euro zone on January 1 as the legacy of the Balkan war fades

Fry Electronics Team

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