Saturday Dec 10, 201103:03 AM GMT
Croatia signs EU accession treaty
Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:5AM
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Croatian President Ivo Josipovic (left) and Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor sign the Signature of the Accession Treaty of Croatia in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011.
Croatia has signed an accession treaty to become the 28th member of the European Union in July 2013, in the culmination of over seven years of negotiations between the Balkan country and the EU.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor signed the treaty at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Euronews reported.

“Croatia is the first new member of the EU which during its transition towards membership had to overcome the difficult legacy of war,” Josipovic said.

“This makes Croatia's success even greater. For this very reason, in this time of a profound crisis in Europe, the European Union can also proudly congratulate itself,” he added.

Meanwhile, EU leaders have delayed Serbia's bid to become a formal candidate for membership until March 2012, at the earliest.

The decision was made due to Serbia's fraught relations with Kosovo. The Serbs reject Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Belgrade and regard the region as a part of greater Serbia.

Croatia's acceptance, following years of pro-EU reforms, coincides with the eurozone's worst economic crisis, which is threatening to break up the single currency bloc.

Despite the signing of the EU accession treaty, Croatians are uncertain about what lies ahead economically as unemployment is around 7 percent and the state budget deficit is likely to be above 5 percent of gross domestic product this year.

And EU membership, which will provide Croatia with hundreds of millions of euros in EU regional development subsidies, needs to be approved by a popular referendum and ratification by all EU countries. A single veto could derail membership.

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