Year of EU entry: 2013
Capital city: Zagreb
Total area: 56 594 km²
Population: 4 398 150
Schengen area: Croatia is expected to join the Schengen area by 2015
Croatia borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. It has been an independent country since 1991. For over 70 years before that, it was part of the former Yugoslavia.
The duchy of Croatia first appeared in the 8th century, becoming a kingdom 200 years later. It was heavily influenced by neighbouring Austria and Hungary in the following decades, while the 15th to 17th centuries saw frequent clashes with the Ottoman Empire.
The three colours of the Croatian flag represent Croatia’s three constituent states: the Kingdom of Croatia (red and white), the Kingdom of Slavonia (white and blue) and the Kingdom of Dalmatia (red and blue).
Croatia is a parliamentary democracy. Power is divided between: the elected parliament (legislative), the government and elected president (executive) and autonomous courts (judicial).
Much of Croatia is lowland. Its mountains and in particular its beaches attract many visitors. Croatia also has 1 246 islands and islets, of which just 48 are permanently inhabited.
Croatia and the EU
Croatia became the 28th EU country on 1 July 2013, having applied in 2003 and begun negotiations in 2005. The target is now further integration – Croatia is expected to join the Schengen area by 2015, and will also change the kuna for the euro as soon as its economy meets the criteria – on inflation, public finances, exchange-rate stability and interest rates.
Like other EU countries, Croatia must implement laws agreed at EU level, such as laws on food safety, recognition of other countries' professional qualifications or limits on how much mobile phone users can be charged for calls from abroad.
For some laws, transition periods have been agreed for Croatia. For example, Croatia will keep lower excise rates for cigarettes until the end of 2017, and fishermen can continue using nets outlawed in the rest of the EU until June 2014.