ZAGREB, Croatia — Fireworks are ready and foreign leaders are arriving as Croatia celebrated on Sunday its entry into the European Union some 20 years after winning independence in a bloody civil war that shook the continent.
Croatia will become the 28th EU member on Monday, the bloc's first addition since Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007. Croatia's membership marks a historic turning point for the small country, which went through carnage after declaring independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
A decade back, when Croatia started negotiating the entry, the once war-torn country was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming a member of the European elite. But with the EU in deep financial turmoil and Croatia's own economy in recession for five consecutive years, the excitement has dimmed.
Thousands of people are expected to join in the celebrations across the country, including in the main square of the capital, Zagreb, where artists will perform for dozens of EU and regional leaders until midnight when big fireworks and the singing of Beethoven's Ode to Joy — EU's anthem — will mark the official entry into the bloc.