Croatia has gone from communism to war, and is now part of the European Union. But is a recession-hit country ready for EU membership? And can the EU cope itself?

It is already known that the EU - and in particular the eurozone - has been under extraordinary economic pressure for years now; and the general argument has been that the Union's lesser nations have played a big role in dragging down the rest.

However, Croatia has joined the EU after more than a decade of trying to satisfy Europe's powers-that-be. It was a milestone greeted with celebrations though dampened to some extent by the EU's current financial turmoil.

Nevertheless, it marks a historic turning point for Croatia, a nation which endured four years of war after declaring independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Given where it has come from and what it has been through, Croatia is probably getting the better deal here.

It stands to get around $15bn of EU financing, plus access to some lucrative EU markets and the prospect of foreign direct investment.
But some critics are concerned that those EU markets will be too competitive for Croatia, and with the EU not being in great financial shape itself, foreign investment could be limited. Of course there are opponents within the EU who are concerned with Croatia's economic weakness, as well as corruption and organised crime.

But none of those arguments could kill off the optimism that Croatia has become the European Union's 28th member state.

"We look to Europe as a new opportunity to achieve new democratic, political, cultural and any other progress. I am raising this glass for Europe of the future, Europe of peace and Europe of prosperity. Cheers!," President Ivo Josipovic declared.

We speak to Croatia's Finance Minister Slavo Linic about the challenges facing Croatia as the newest member of the EU.

Canada's energy ambitions 

Also this week on Counting the Cost: An in-depth look at Canada's energy ambitions.

US President Barack Obama is expected to make a decision soon about a controversial oil pipeline from Canada.

It would run from the tar sands of northern Alberta to refineries in the US, but Obama has said building the pipeline will only serve US interests if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.

To those in favour of increasing use of the vast petroleum reserves, what has being mined are oil sands, the key to Canada’s economic future. But detractors prefer the term tar sands and warn that digging them out of the ground will speed up climate change and cost far more than the revenues generated.

The price of sports 

Finally, we look at the true cost of hosting a big sports event, and whether it is really worth it. 

You have got the drama and sporting spectacle, the global television audience of billions. But there is also the cost  staging such events as the Olympics and World Cup, and the eternal question over whether that cost was really worth it.

Brazil right now is dealing with people's anger over the cost of next year's football World Cup versus the level of investment in public services.

"Brazil is prepared on the field, with Neymar, Davi Luis, Paulinho … but Brazil is not prepared when it comes to public health, Brazil is not prepared in education, Brazil is not prepared in affordable housing, a lot of people don’t have a home, Brazil does not have agrarian reform. So Brazil is not prepared for the World Cup for the inclusion of fundamental rights for people who live here," lawmaker Marcelo Freixo, told Al Jazeera. 

The country of football has millions now saying they love the game, but they are also calling for something more substantial off the field.

So are major sporting events a benefit or a burden? And are countries like Qatar ready for a World Cup?

Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Click here for more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali@abidoliverali

Source: Al Jazeera