It is a moment of Croatia’s great happiness and pride, and it is a genuine privilege and pleasure to be able to share it here in Israel with our Israeli friends.

On July 1, the Republic of Croatia accedes to the European Union, becoming its 28th member state. A dream coming true, a labor coming to fruition, it is a concluding as well as an opening chapter in Croatian history, a moment of celebration and reflection.

Having developed its modern statehood upon the foundations of liberty, independence and democracy, intertwined with a profound sense of sharing the highest values of a Europe which is whole, free and at peace, Croatia has succeeded in achieving its strategic objective of joining the community of European and North American democracies, having become first a member of NATO, and now joining the European Union, sharing responsibilities and benefits of these memberships.

From the very beginning, following the liberation from the Communist oppression and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, the European integration, with all it entailed, has been the focal long-term national aim, setting the defining features of the Croatian state and society, driving forward Croatia’s quest for independence and international recognition, its longing for a better future which required also Croatia’s ultimate sacrifices in the defense of the country.

As a symbolic embodiment of these profound ties, the very date of the Croatian National Day – the Statehood Day – June 25, celebrating the 1991 Croatian Parliament’s decision on Croatia’s sovereignty and independence, very closely coincides with the July 1 date of Croatia’s actual EU accession.

So closely and symbolically coinciding, yet again, with the aforementioned dates, weaving the interlacing threads of life of a nation through times and events, forging the identity of today’s Croatia, is the date of June 22: celebrating Croatia’s Anti-Fascist Struggle Day, marking a day in 1941 when the first organized resistance unit was formed in Croatia, which was also the first such a unit in then-occupied Europe.

Croatia’s guiding political and moral parameters have been set by the legacy of one of the strongest resistance movements in occupied Europe during World War II, fighting against the Nazi and Fascist invaders and their domestic collaborators, against the collaborationist Ustashi regime, responsible for terrible suffering, affecting so tragically the Jewish community.

Present-day European integration is deeply rooted in the centuries of Croatia’s fusion with the life of Europe, encompassing politics, society, economy, culture, arts and science. In all these spheres of life, Croatian Jews have been contributing remarkably and they continue to contribute to Croatia’s achievements. Their lives and their lasting legacy extend a special bond between the Croats and the Jews, between Croatia and Israel.

Hence a very special meaning to the celebration of Croatia’s major success, its entry into the EU, here in Israel.

On the background of its identity and shared European values, in order to ultimately accede to the EU Croatia had to complete the full range of highly demanding, all-encompassing reforms – needed anyway, for Croatia’s own sake – meant to make its legislation, public service, economy and society, undergoing a post-Communist and post-war transition, compatible with the advanced standards of the EU.

Croatia’s accession to the EU confirms a constant value and appeal of the EU membership. It sends an encouraging message to our friends in the region of South- East Europe who are following the same track and whom we wholeheartedly support. No particular problem faced by the EU today – economic or other, which surely needs to be addressed efficiently – can really overshadow a totality of its fundamental achievements as well as its enduring, proven and irreplaceable potential for bringing peace, reconciliation, mutual understanding, stability, welfare, prosperity and influence to Europe.

The whole of Europe is greater than the sum of its parts. Croatia has joined the Union out of its firm belief in the EU’s remarkable relevance in enabling all our citizens to live better, our societies to be more just, democratic, equitable and tolerant, better equipped to deter any extremism, our economies to be more efficient and competitive, our states to be more secure and cooperative, our collective external action to have more leverage and to be more beneficial.

The European Union has acquired its foreign and security policy identity as a natural extension of the union of its members in so many other fields. It has a crucial role to play in the international arena, addressing a full range of the most topical issues, which stand to gain from its stabilizing involvement.

In the Middle East, it possesses a unique potential to support efforts to find and keep genuine peace and reconciliation, prosperity and stability. It has the strength of its own example at its disposal. Its extensive political, economic, academic, scientific and cultural links with Israel, coupled with a whole network of rich relationships between its individual member states and Israel, supply ingredients for a mutually beneficial partnership.

Croatia is particularly looking forward to being able to enhance its engagement in the region and to enrich its friendship and interaction with Israel with its new, European dimension.

The writer is the Croatian ambassador to Israel.

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