On 1 July, Croatia has become EU’s 28 member countries. The country applied for membership in 2003, and in 2005, the negotiation process started between Croatia and the EU. In January 2012, voted 66 percent of the population yes to EU membership.
– I’m impressed that Croatia has succeeded in implementing a very comprehensive program of political and social reform in a time of economic crisis. This shows both the will and political courage, said Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide as he congratulated Croatia for EU membership.
Norway concerned with the stabilization of the Balkans Norway has supported Croatia’s membership application both to NATO, the country became a member in 2009, and the EU.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was in Croatia just before membership negotiations with the EU was completed in 2011.
– Minister spoke very positively about the process and noted that Norway has supported the membership, which was very well received by the Croats, said Norwegian Ambassador to Croatia, Henrik Ofstad.
Currently negotiations on Croatia’s association with the EEA continue. In 2012, the value of Norwegian exports to Croatia was 244 million NOK, while the Croatian exports to Norway had a value of 357 million NOK. Ofstad believes, however, that it is primarily economic and commercial aspects of the relationship between Norway and Croatia which characterizes the relationship between the two countries.
– The relationship between Norway and Croatia are primarily affected by the development of Balkans, and we see Croatia’s EU membership will have an important role in the stabilization problem in the region, says Ofstad.
Seeking safety in EU cooperation
Ofstad thinks the main reason why Croatia wants to be a member of the EU is a quest for security.
– Croats feel they are better protected now than they were before they joined in the Union. Being a member of NATO and the EU in this region means a lot. One thing is dollars and cents, but it’s also about a sense of belonging, and being a member of a partnership that will support them in any situation, says Ofstad.
Yet he believes the Croats should not expect a change overnight because of membership in the EU. The EU funds can contribute to the growth-promoting measures that can yield returns in the long term.
– I think the Croats have the idea that money will now flow into, and it is perhaps a bit too optimistic. It is true that the EU will contribute funds, but only if Croatia has good projects.
Ofstad also thinks Croatia’s EU membership will have a positive impact primarily on relations with Serbia, and active work to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in the country’s tortuous path towards a future EU membership. He reminded the first state visit after Croatia has become EU member was to Sarajevo and saw this move as a message to Bosnians to continue on the path towards European integration.