January 22, 2012

Croatians vote in referendum on EU membership

The people of Croatia are voting in a referendum on whether to join the European Union in 2013.
Opinion polls suggest around 60% of Croatians back entry into the EU, and all the major political parties are in favour of the move.
Opponents of the "yes" vote fear a loss of sovereignty, just two decades after Croatia became an independent state.
But supporters say membership of the EU is the best option for the country in the long term.
The country is currently suffering from high unemployment and other economic problems.
"Croatia will not lose its sovereignty or natural resources, nor will it be ruled by the EU," President Ivo Josipovic said in a written statement to Croatians on Sunday.
"Europe will not solve all our problems, but it's a great opportunity."
National hero
Enthusiasm in Croatia for EU membership has waned from a high point several years ago, the BBC's Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says.
However, all the main parliamentary parties support the move, as do most of the Serb minority, he adds.
And in a surprise move, Croatia's wartime military commander Ante Gotovina - currently serving a long sentence abroad for war crimes against Serbs - sent a message to his compatriots urging them to vote "yes" in the referendum.
Gotovina's flight from a war crimes indictment by The Hague - and Zagreb's perceived half-heartedness in tracking him and other war crimes suspects down - delayed Croatia's EU bid.
His conviction in 2011 sparked a surge of anti-European sentiment in Croatia, where he is viewed by many as a national hero.
Croatia signed an EU accession treaty in December, and if Croatians approve it in the referendum, then the last remaining hurdle to membership is ratification by all 27 current member countries of the EU

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