Croatia votes to join EU in 2013, despite crisis

Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:51pm GMT

By Zoran Radosavljevic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia voted on Sunday to join the European Union next year, shrugging off concerns over the economic turmoil in the bloc and fears that membership will compromise its hard-won sovereignty.

Provided all 27 member states ratify its accession, the Adriatic state will enter the EU on July 1, 2013, more than two decades after breaking away from socialist Yugoslavia and fighting a 1991-95 war to secure independence.

It will become the second former Yugoslav republic to join the EU, following Slovenia in 2004.

Sixty-six percent ticked "Yes" in the referendum, the state electoral commission said with almost all votes counted.

"This is a historic moment, and could be a turning point in our history," Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told reporters.

Turnout, however, was low, at 44 percent of eligible voters, well below the resounding votes of many former communist countries that joined in 2004 and 2007.

That figure appeared to reflect widespread uncertainty among Croats over what membership will really mean.

But the result suggested the EU had not completely lost its appeal in the struggling western Balkans despite the debt crisis that is threatening the single currency.   Continued...

Croatia's President Ivo Josipovic casts his ballot during a referendum on joining the European Union in Zagreb, January 22, 2012. REUTERS/Davor Kovacevic
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