Croatia is the most recent addition to the European Union. It would have been even better if all former Yugoslav states joined the EU at the same time, says DW's Bernd Riegert.
Due to its geographic situation and history, Croatia naturally is a part of Europe, and it also belongs to the European Union, that community of European democracy. Like all the other Balkans nations, Croatia must be a part of the EU, if only to stabilize the region and render impossible in the future fratricidal wars such as the enmities that followed the demise of Yugoslavia. The Croatian people need a European perspective - pledged and agreed by contract time and again by the European Union. Now, the time has come, but the question remains: Is July 2013 really the right time for EU entry?
The hard facts say, no. Despite tough measures, Croatia's justice and police apparatus has not yet reached European levels. Problems concerning the persecution of organized crime and corruption might increase to levels higher than they were and are in Romania and Bulgaria.
From an economic point of view, Croatia is a country in crisis: the economy has shrunk, the budget deficit is twice as high as the European stability pact officially permits and youth unemployment is at 40 percent. People could argue that Croatia can better deal with these problems as an EU member. That may very well be the case, in particular because the aid funds Croatia stands to receive from Brussels will, of course, increase upon accession. It is difficult to explain to EU citizens, however, why a union burdened by Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland is taking on yet another crisis-ridden member.
The question of whether the EU is even capable at present of enlarging has never been seriously discussed. Croatia's entry heightens the danger of old conflicts with former war adversaries as well as ethnic tensions in the Balkans being imported to the EU. At the moment, everything is peaceful, but in the future, Croatia, as an EU member, could hold accession candidate Serbia at arm's length from the union.
Allowing entry to all former Yugoslav states at the same time would have been a better solution: conflicts such as in Bosnia-Herzegovina or between Serbs and Kosovo would have had to be solved before accession. Croatia will become the 28th member of the EU, but it is not clear whether the EU will profit from that accession in the long run.