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BBC World Service

Croatia could be newest European Union member

Jeremy Hobson Jan 20, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Now to Europe, specifically a little country that is currently not part of the European Union — but wants to be. I’m talking about Croatia, which will hold a referendum this weekend on whether to join.

The BBC’s Eastern Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe joins us now to discuss. Good morning.

Nick Thorpe: Good morning.

Hobson: Well first of all, Croatia, in order to become a member of the European Union, also has to become a member of the euro currency, right?

Thorpe: It has to express the willingness to become a member of it in due course. For example, Hungary, which joined the E.U. eight years ago — it still hasn’t joined the euro. On the other hand, Slovenia, which also joined at the same time as Hungary, it joined the euro I think two or three years ago. So it’s not automatic; there are other criteria.

Hobson: So why on earth would a country, at a time like this with all the crisis in the euro and questions about its future, want to join the thing?

Thorpe: It’s more about joining Europe; being a full member of the European community. That’s what countries like Hungary, what countries like Croatia have wanted for a long time.

Look at Croatia: it was only twenty years ago it was involved in a very tough war, as Yugoslavia. Now it’s broken away from its old federation, and it feels in the modern world, you have to belong somewhere. And there’s basically no other show in town — and that’s the European Union.

Hobson: Give us a sense of what the Croatian people feel about this.

Thorpe: People in the shipyards, for example — on the Adriatic coast — worried that they might lose their jobs as a result of very tough competition and regulations. On the other hand, tourism — they get a huge amount of west European visitors already. They feel that as part of the European Union, their tourism trade can only grow. So on the whole, they would be in favor of it.

Hobson: The BBC’s Eastern European correspondent Nick Thorpe. Nick, thanks a lot.

Thorpe: Thank you.

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