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The idyllic European destination of Croatia rang in the New Year by switching its official currency over to the shared European currency, the euro, which replaces its historic kuna.
Euro banknotes and coins are now in circulation, and roughly 70 percent of ATMs are distributing euros, the European Commission said. The traditional kuna currency can still be used through January 15, although folks who pay in kuna will now receive their change in euros. The kuna-to-1 euro exchange rate has also been fixed at 7.53 to one.
The old kuna currency can be changed into euros at any Croatian post office through June 30 and any Croatian bank through the end of the year, with bank exchanges offered free of charge through July 1, CNN reported.
At the same time, it joined Europe's Schengen area, the world's largest passport-free zone, and eliminated checkpoints at its shared borders with other member countries. That means European citizens can now travel to Croatia, and around the rest of the bloc, without the need for visas or passports. It also means that Croatia can begin issuing Schengen visas to visiting non-nationals.
In doing so, it becomes the 23rd of the European Union's (E.U.) now-27 member nations to incorporate itself into the Schengen border-free zone. The Baltic country's internal land and sea borders had their checks removed on January 1, while internal airspace borders will be eliminated on March 26.
"I welcome Croatia to the euro family and to the ECB Governing Council table in Frankfurt" Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, said in a statement. "Croatia worked hard to become the 20th member of the euro area, and it succeeded. I congratulate the Croatian people."
In a tweet, Croatia's prime minister, Andrej Plenkovic, called January 1 a "historic day for Croatia." "We are the first country to enter Schengen and Eurozone on the same day," he said. "With the introduction of the euro, our citizens and the economy will be better protected from crises."
While Croatia joined the E.U. back in 2013, this latest development marks the latest success in Croatia's efforts to join the European mainstream. The country now stands to benefit from deeper financial ties with the European Central Bank and 19 other nations that use the shared currency.
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Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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