The former Yugoslav republic saw its share of sidesteps and potholes along the road, including a bitter four-year war with Serbia that required supervision from the United Nations to return previously conquered land back to Croatia. Yet it applied for EU membership just 10 years ago, and the following year the European Commission recommended the nation for official candidacy, opening a lengthy negotiation process, which was by no means easy.

Croatia had a maritime border dispute with Slovenia as recently as 2008, and negotiations stalled for 10 months because of it. In the end, 66 percent of the nation’s population supported accession in a 2012 referendum. But public opinion in the country about joining swung wildly, dipping as low as 26 percent as recently as 2011, according to one poll cited by BBC at the time.

But regardless of the struggle, the nation completed the accession process and will now be a member of the European family: A family that shares many common values and freedoms, as well as a common market, the biggest in the world based on purchasing power. Croatia will surely be better off as a part of it.

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