Croatians vote on EU entry in key referendum

Croatians vote on EU entry in key referendum

Croatians went to the polls on Sunday in a nationwide referendum on European Union (EU) membership, a vote that political leaders here see as key for the future of the Balkan country 20 years after independence.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic casts his ballot in Zagreb on Sunday. AP

Surveys show that some 60 per cent of Croatians back entry into the EU, paving the way for the former Yugoslav republic to formally join the bloc in 2013.

Croatia’s leaders say that entering the bloc has been a strategic goal since Zagreb won its hard-fought independence following the 1991-95 war with rebel Serbs and will confirm a break from the volatile Balkans region.

The importance of EU membership is one of the few issues on which all major Croatian political parties agree.

Of the six former Yugoslav republics Slovenia is the only EU member, although Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia all have aspirations.

“I will vote for the EU since I believe it is good for Croatia, it offers an opportunity ... for the Croatian people to prove themselves,” Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told national television on the eve of the vote.

The referendum needs a simple majority regardless of the turnout.