[QODLink]
,
Croatia embraced as 28th member of EU
Zagreb signs European Union accession treaty, but membership withheld from Serbia pending further changes.
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2011 20:58
Croatia's Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor was warmly welcomed into the fold by other European leaders [REUTERS]

Europe's leaders embraced Croatia as the EU's 28th member on Friday but dashed the hopes of its former Yugoslav neighbour Serbia to clear a new hurdle in its longstanding bid to join the club.

As Zagreb signed an European Union accession treaty, Belgrade was prodded to make further progress in defusing tension on the north Kosovo border and normalising relations with Pristina, after its 2008 breakaway.

Croatia's signature follows almost a decade of long and often fraught negotiations.

"We are finally crossing the threshold of our European home," Ivo Josipovic, Croatia’s president, said. Along with Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, Josipovic signed the legal paperwork at a ceremony attended by the EU's 27 heads of state and government.

The signing ceremony was the culmination of a long-held ambition, but comes at a tough moment as Europe's debt crisis undermines the unity of the bloc and saps the enthusiasm of ordinary Croatians.

Formal entry

Before Zagreb can formally join the bloc on July 1, 2013, citizens will get to vote on the question in a referendum early next year.

The latest survey suggested that around 60 per cent of Croatians would back EU membership.

Croatia is the second of the six Balkan republics that formed the former Yugoslavia, which collapsed in a series of 1990s bloody wars, to join the bloc.

Of the six - Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia - only the latter is an EU member, since 2004.

The signing of the treaty marks a historic chapter for Croatia 20 years after it proclaimed independence, sparking a four-year war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs.

With a population of 4.2 million, its economy is based mostly on Adriatic coast tourism. It has been largely in recession since early 2009 and the official growth forecast for this year is a modest 0.5 per cent.

Unemployment is running at above 17 per cent.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.