Huge news for Croatia, which became the 28th member of the European Union. The New York Times notes that the development comes almost exactly 22 years after the country declared its independence in the Balkan wars.
Since the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, the European Union’s "ability to press for concessions from countries that want to join the club...has been a powerful foreign policy tool and an alternative to American military might," the article reports. The incentive of joining the bloc encouraged Croatia to "revamp a statist post-Communist economy."
Meanwhile, Serbia and Kosovo, which also saw military conflicts and governmental upheavals in recent decades, also took measures to become part of the Union. Both countries recently signed a power-sharing agreement aimed at overcoming ethnic enmities. On Friday, Serbia got clearance to start entry negotiations in January; while Kosovo gained closer trade, economic and political ties.
As the whole region reinvents itself in the wake of the Cold War and the Balkan Wars, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo (which once formed Yugoslavia) are all reportedly hoping to join the bloc. Slovenia joined in 2004, and the last addition was in 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria joined. In 2004, 10 members entered, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.