Croatia set to enter euro, borderless Europe club

ZAGREB, Dec 31 — Croatia was counting the past hours today in advance of switching to the euro and moving into Europe’s passport-no cost zone — two milestone steps for the nation considering that signing up for the EU approximately a 10 years in the past.

At midnight (2300 GMT Saturday) the Balkan country will bid farewell to its kuna currency and turn into the 20th member of the eurozone.

It will also be the 27th nation in the passport-no cost Schengen zone, the world’s biggest, which allows far more than 400 million persons to go freely around its users.

Specialists say the adoption of the euro will assist protect Croatia’s economic climate at a time when inflation is soaring around the globe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent foods and gasoline prices by means of the roof.

But inner thoughts among Croatians are combined — while they welcome the stop of border controls, some worry about the euro swap, with proper-wing opposition team declaring it only benefits substantial countries these kinds of as Germany and France.

“We will cry for our kuna, price ranges will soar,” explained Drazen Golemac, a 63-calendar year-aged pensioner from Zagreb.

His spouse, Sandra, disagreed, expressing the “euro is far more valuable”.

“Nothing alterations on January 1, all is calculated in euros for two decades in any case,” reported clerk Neven Banic.

Officials have defended the choices to be a part of the eurozone and Schengen, with Key Minister Andrej Plenkovic indicating Wednesday that they were being “two strategic targets of a further EU integration”.

– ‘Stability and safety’ –

Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic of 3.9 million folks that fought a war of independence in the 1990s, joined the European Union in 2013.

The euro is by now mostly current in Croatia.

About 80 for every cent of lender deposits are denominated in euros and Zagreb’s main investing partners are in the eurozone.

Croatians have extensive valued their most valued belongings these kinds of as automobiles and residences in euros, exhibiting a lack of self esteem in the local currency.

“The euro absolutely provides (economic) security and protection,” Ana Sabic of the Croatian National Bank (HNB) explained to AFP.

Experts say adoption of the euro will reduce borrowing circumstances amid financial hardship.

Croatia’s inflation amount reached 13.5 for each cent in November in contrast to 10 percent in the eurozone.

Analysts say eastern EU customers with currencies outside of the eurozone, these as Poland or Hungary, have been even more vulnerable to surging inflation.

– Borders long gone –

Croatia’s entry into the Schengen borderless spot will also deliver a strengthen to the Adriatic nation’s essential tourism field, which accounts for 20 per cent of its GDP.

The extensive queues at the 73 land border crossings with fellow EU associates Slovenia and Hungary will turn out to be record.

Border checks will only end on March 26 at airports due to technical problems.

Croatia will continue to utilize rigorous border checks on its japanese border with non-EU neighbours Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The combat in opposition to illegal migration continues to be the key obstacle in guarding the EU’s longest exterior land border at 1,350 kilometres (840 miles). — AFP