Croatia gears up for key vote on EU entry | Pakistan Today

Croatia gears up for key vote on EU entry

Croatia geared up Saturday for a referendum on entry into the European Union, a vote that political leaders here say will shape the future of the Balkan country 20 years after independence.
Surveys in the last few months have consistently showed that around 60 percent of Croatians will say ‘yes’ in Sunday’s vote, allowing the former Yugoslav republic to join the bloc in July 2013. An anti-EU protest in the capital Zagreb, which managed to attract only some 200 mostly elderly people, ended in scuffles with police Saturday as protesters tried to remove an EU flag from the main square.
Five people were detained, including the organisers. Political leaders across the board have lobbied hard for a positive outcome of the referendum and on Saturday Croatia’s leading dailies emphasized the benefits of membership in the bloc, seen as a break with the volatile Balkans region. “Croatia’s (2009) entry into NATO and the EU definitely separates us from latent political insecurity of the rest of the western Balkans,” commented the influential Jutarnji List daily.
In a column entitled “Decision on EU: Chaos or Stability” the paper said that “for Croatia EU entry is an issue of lasting peace and stability”. On Friday President Ivo Josipovic gave a televised address to the nation when he urged voters to “Say ‘yes’ to Croatia, say ‘yes’ to Europe.”
He said the outcome of the vote was “one of the most important decisions in Croatia’s history”. In the 1990s, when other post-communist countries in central and eastern Europe were strengthening their democracies and paving their way towards EU integration, Croatia’s EU aspirations were halted by the 1991-95 war with rebel Serbs and its legacy.
It was not until 2000 that the election of pro-European rulers enabled Croatia’s transformation into a genuine parliamentary democracy eligible for EU candidate status.
However long and often thorny accession talks that opened in 2005 dampened enthusiasm for the EU, and the current economic crisis within the bloc has eroded it further, so for many Croatians Sunday’s vote will be a pragmatic one.

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