But we need to see the bigger picture. Croatia´s EU entry will mark another milestone in completing the construction of the EU project. It provides a fresh evidence of the transformative power of the enlargement policy. It reaffirms that the perspective of European integration remains open to all aspirant countries which show the necessary will to implement political and economic reforms and prove their respect for European values such as the rule of law, democratic principles and human rights. Accession of Croatia to the EU strengthens stability in a volatile region at EU’s doorstep and also brings new opportunities for the businesses and customers on both sides.
Enlargement is not the cause of our current problems. On the contrary, it is part of the solution. It extends the internal market, it opens trade, investments and financial flows, thus giving opportunities to companies in the EU and in the acceding countries. For example: Trade between the old and new Member States grew almost threefold in less than 10 years preceding the 2004 and 2007 enlargements. Even more illustrative is the fivefold increase in trade among the new Members themselves.
Enlargement is part of Europe´s DNA: the European Union of today is the result of successive waves of enlargement. This common democratic project started as a means of bringing peace and stability to Europe. For the aspiring countries, the prospect of enlargement is a powerful stimulus for reforms in such crucial areas as the rule of law, good governance, fundamental rights and freedoms. Croatia’s accession is fresh evidence of the transformative power of the enlargement policy. Torn by conflict only two decades ago, the country is now a stable democracy, capable of taking on the obligations of European Union membership and of adhering to our standards. There is no doubt that the country went through the most rigorous accession process ever, to ensure that it would be prepared by the time it entered the European Union.
We took the lessons learnt from previous enlargements and focused not on only ticking the boxes of adopted legislation but also on its implementation and track record. We have put special emphasis on the core values of the EU such as fundamental rights and rule of law. And even after the negotiations were concluded a thorough monitoring was put in place to ensure that all the obligations were met by Croatia’s entry into the EU. The enlargement policy is credible and can deliver real change. Croatia is now ready to take up its place among European Union countries, creating a united and stronger Europe. A dynamic Union that we all want to succeed. So welcome Croatia!