President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is on an official visit to Brussels, where she held a lecture at the European Policy centre on the topic of Croatia’s five-year membership of the European Union.
“Croatian people have long dreamed of being a part of Europe, the greatest area in the world of freedom, prosperity, and equal opportunity for all, and this is what we have planned to do since the beginning of 1990s. Even during the war and the reconciliation we have worked on fulfilling the criteria for EU membership although we were not formally included in the process until the very moment of signing the membership and cooperation agreement. I was a part of this project for a long time as a diplomat and (Foreign) Minister, for the first few years I was in charge of the process,” the president said.
It was a huge task, and we knew that our transition would be much more complex than the other countries joining the EU, she added.
She said that she preferred to call the region Southeast Europe instead of Western Balkans.
“It is not that I do not want the word Balkan in my neighbourhood, I would say, but I do not want it in my house,” she said.
“We should have been more secure in decision-making in the last five years. We were so focused on meeting the criteria during the negotiations, that we forgot about what comes after,” she said.
She added she was unhappy with the country’s utilising the available European funds during its membership of the Union, but that the situation had changed in that regard in the last year.
“If you’re not part of the European Union, and it sneezes, you catch a cold, too,” the president said.
Grabar-Kitarovic said the biggest drawback of Croatia's EU membership was freedom of movement.
"Mobility is good, as long as people come back. But Croatia is now recording strong negative demographic trends," she said.