The European Parliament has cleared the way for the admission of Croatia to the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone, leaving the final decision in the hands of the EU’s government leaders.
With a 534-53 majority, the parliament on Thursday voted in favour of lifting the remaining border controls between the Schengen area and Croatia.
A final decision will now have to be taken by the EU Council, consisting of the EU’s 27 government leaders, which in December last year already confirmed that Croatia had met all criteria to apply for access to the Schengen Area.
“Croatia’s place is in Schengen. Criteria have been met. The European Parliament has given its green light. Now the EU Council must deliver,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in a tweet following the vote.
The Schengen Area is the world’s largest passport-free zone, allowing the unrestricted movement of people between 26 European countries.
Croatia was at war in the early 1990s during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. The country applied for EU membership in 2003 and joined the bloc in 2013. That was the last time the EU expanded.
In July, European Union finance ministers gave Croatia the final approval to adopt the euro single currency on January 1, 2023, replacing the Croatian kuna.
It is the first expansion of the currency bloc in almost eight years.
Adopting the euro offers economic benefits stemming from deeper financial ties with the currency bloc’s other members and from the European Central Bank’s monetary authority.
Euro entry also has political rewards because the shared currency is Europe’s most ambitious project to integrate nations, giving them a place in the EU core. That means a seat at the EU’s top decision-making tables.