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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-22

Croatia looked a step closer to becoming the 28th member of the European Union on Sunday, with early poll results from its national referendum on joining the bloc showing more than 67 percent of voters in favour.

REUTERS - Croatia voted on Sunday in favour of joining the European Union in 2013, shrugging off concerns over the economic turmoil in the bloc, according to preliminary official results of a referendum.

With 38 percent of votes counted, 67 percent had ticked ‘Yes’ to becoming the bloc’s 28th member, the state electoral commission said, more than two decades after Croatia broke away from socialist Yugoslavia.

Turnout looked unlikely to breach 50 percent of eligible voters, but there is no binding minimum for the referendum to be deemed valid.

“This is a big day for Croatia and 2013 will be a turning point in our history. I look forward to the whole of Europe becoming my home,” President Ivo Josipovic said after voting.

The EU has said Croatia can become its 28th member on July 1, 2013, after completing seven years of tough entry talks in June last year. It would become the second former Yugoslav republic to join, following Slovenia in 2004.

Opponents said the timing is all wrong because the EU is not what it once was, given the debt crisis threatening the single currency. Others complained they were unsure what membership will mean for the country of 4.3 million people.

Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia in a 1991-95 war and missed the bloc’s eastward expansion in 2004 and 2007.

It saw strong growth in the past decade on the back of foreign lending and waves of tourists to its Adriatic coast, but its economy has been hit hard by the global economic crisis.

Analysts and government officials say a rejection of EU accession on Sunday would bring down the country’s credit rating, deter investors and further dampen any prospect of a quick economic recovery.

Date created : 2012-01-22


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