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Croatia Votes 'Yes' On EU Entry


Croatians Vote On Joining EU
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Croatians have voted in favor of joining the European Union.

Reports say 66 percent of voters taking part in the January 22 referendum voted "Yes" to EU membership.

Turnout was about 47 percent.

Explaining the low figure, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the "people are obviously tired."

Nonetheless, Milanovic described the vote as a historic moment for Croatia, which is now expected to join the bloc in 2013.

The EU congratulated Croatians on their vote, saying it's good news for the whole Balkan region.

"I welcome the Croatian people to the European Union," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a videotaped statement to the Croatian people on day after the voting. "Welcome to the European family. You are now on track to become our 28th member state and you can be proud of this. I am sure European membership will bring many new opportunities and benefits to Croatia. It will also enable Croatia to make a strong contribution to Europe's future."

He went on to say that Croatia's accession will send "a clear signal to the rest of southeastern Europe that European Union membership is within reach and that reforms pay off. Croatia's accession is therefore good news for your country and good news for your neighbors and good news for Europe as a whole."

Ahead of the vote, supporters said joining the EU would help Croatia's struggling economy, burdened by 17 percent unemployment and a large deficit.

Opponents said Croatia has nothing to gain by entering the bloc, which is fighting off the bankruptcy of some of its members.

Zagreb launched talks with the EU six years ago.

compiled from agency reports

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