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Croatia Joins European Union Amid Cheers, Skepticism, Apathy

After nine years of waiting, Croatia has joined the European Union as its 28th member state.

But response to the Balkan state's entry on July 1, 2013 appeared to be lukewarm, with the majority of positive online commentary coming from the country's media and politicians. Few Croats celebrated on social media, with many more meeting the date with little to no mention, a change from the weeks leading up to Croatia joining the EU when lively online conversations treated the EU prospect with sarcasm and skepticism.

Croatia enters the EU with one of the lowest ranked GDP's of the bloc, with the country's GDP per capita amounting to 61 percent of the average GDP per capita in the other 27 member states, just above Romania with 49 percent and Bulgaria with 47 percent, according to data from Eurostat. The country as joins the union with the third highest unemployment rate of any member state, which was 18.1 percent in April 2013 compared with the EU average of 11 percent.

On Facebook, the sentiment among Croats was seen by following the hashtags #Hrvatska [hr] and #CroatiaEU. Facebook pages such as Occupy Croatia and Anonymous Croatia shared a photo from Zagreb in which a crowd of people push each other to receive gift packages of food from European food retailer Lidl, as part of the celebration of Croatia's accession into the union.

There was no euphoria to be felt among users on Twitter. Official statements about the celebration and protocol could be seen, as well as debates as to whether or not this would bring positive change to Croatia's economy and social matters. But there were very few affirmative comments or images.

The vast majority of tweets under hashtags #Hrvatska and #CroatiaEU were from news outlets and messages from other European citizens welcoming Croatia to the union. After celebrating last night and counting down the minutes to their official entry into the EU, Croats seem to be a little quieter on social networks today.

In the days prior to Croatia's entry, many Twitter users seemed apprehensive of the event and upcoming celebrations. Twitter user Jack Burton Jr (@JackBurtonJrwrote:

@JackBurtonJr: Hrvatska je ostvarila svoje višestoljetne ciljeve, priključila se EU i NATO-u, utvrdila svoju poziciju bedema Zapada i kud sad?

@JackBurtonJr: Croatia has achieved its centuries-long goals, it has joined the EU and NATO, confirmed its position to the pillars of the West and where to now?

Another user on Facebook, Ivan Radman, had this to say, as he shared a photo of a scruffy man searching through trash cans for food next to a poster of a menu listing several popular dishes and bearing the header “European Menu”:

Hrvatska je bogata onoliko koliko je bogat njezin najsiromašniji stanovnik. Nikakvi drugi indeksi ne zaslužuju biti mjerilo blagostanja. Nojevi smo i magarci. Izgubili osjećaj zajedništva i dopustili ovo. Mene je sram.

Croatia is as wealthy as its poorest citizen. No other indexes deserve to be the measure of good life. We are ostriches and donkeys. We have lost a sense of unity and have allowed this. I am ashamed.

Some on social media even feared that Croatia will relive the Greek scenario of the past twenty years in the European Union of becoming, or in this case remaining, one of the economically weakest countries in the Union.

The one thing to cast a shadow on the monumental date was the last minute cancellation of an official trip to the capital city of Zagreb by German Chancelor Angela Merkel. Merkel's decision brought some negative feedback from Croatian citizens and some wondered if they were being shunned instead of being welcomed into the union.

Bobo Weber, a Croatian political analyst, when asked if and how the German leader's decision to not attend Croatia's state celebrations on the eve of its entry into the EU, stated in an interview with Al Jazeera Balkans that he doubted her decision had much to do with the her view of Croatia as part of the European family and that Croatia's fresh EU membership would develop as planned:

The current Croatian opposition, however, sees other reasons for Merkel cancelling her trip [hr], citing the Croatian government's recent legislative amendments that aim to put a time limit on European arrest warrants, in which case Germany would not be able to extradite former Yugoslavia State Security Administration agent Josip Perković, who is wanted for murder and lives in Croatia.

Croatian news portal Vijesti.hr [hr], with live updates of more than 300 news sources from Croatia, tweeted a Deutche Welle article that speculates on this recent legislature, the Perković case and its possible ties to Angela Merkel cancelling her visit to Croatia on this important date:

Ovo nije njemačka pljuska Hrvatskoj, nego hrvatska pljuska demokraciji! – article -

This is not a German slap to Croatia, it's a Croatian slap to democracy! – članak -

Regardless, the country's politicians celebrated the entry into the EU online. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Neven Mimica (@MimicaEUsaid this on his brand new Twitter account:

@MimicaEU: Hrvatska je u Europskoj uniji. Ponosan sam biti Hrvatom i Europljaninom NM #CroatiaEU

@MimicaEU: Croatia is in the European Union. I am proud to be a Croat and a European NM #CroatiaEU

Marija Lugarić (@marija_lugaric), a representative in Croatian Parliament, also tweeted in the morning Croatia joined the union:

@marija_lugaric: I tak… Eto nas u EU :)

@marija_lugaric: And so… Here we are in the EU :)

Austrian portal Die Presse Politik (DiePresse_Pol) was among the first to welcome Croatia to the European family on Twitter, in Croatian:

@DiePresse_Pol: Dobro došla Hrvatska http://bit.ly/17ls2sQ

@DiePresse_Pol: Welcome Croatia http://bit.ly/17ls2sQ

Twitter user Darko Horvatić (@komarac_) sarcastically wrote:

@komarac_: došla teta EU ko se nije skrijo, magarac je bijo…

@komarac_: Auntie EU is here, last one to hide is a rotten egg…

So far, a group of netizens from Poland were some of the most cheerful and original in wishing Croatian citizens a warm welcome on a special webpage set up just for this occasion that says “Hrvatska welcome to .EU”. Some Croatian citizens, however, didn't seem so thrilled, like Twitter user Asteroid B612 (@marina_b612):

@marina_b612: Stanovnike EU razlikujem od ostalih po tome sto ove ostale razumijem sta pricaju…

@marina_b612: I differentiate citizens of the EU from the others by the fact that I understand what the others are saying…

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