Croatia-EU: Sunday referendum on membership,'yes' vote ahead

Final days of campaign; nationalists/extreme left for 'no'

17 January, 14:44

(ANSAmed) - ZAGREB, JANUARY 17 - In preparation for Sunday's referendum on Croatia's EU membership treaty, most political and social forces within the country are in favour of the country's becoming part of the EU, scheduled for July 1 2013. ''Croatia's membership will ensure a solid base to fully use the creative potential of our young country,'' said the country's president Ivo Josipovic, urging citizens to vote in favour of it and noting that exactly twenty years ago on January 15 1992, it had been the European Community of the time to first recognise Zagreb's independence from Belgrade. Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic has repeatedly pressed for the 'yes' vote, saying that a rejection of membership would drive Croatia into isolation and aggravate the economic crisis. In the parliament elected in December, out of 151 deputies representing 11 political parties, only one party (with nationalist leanings) had opposed membership. Almost all cultural and academic institutions, civil society and the Catholic Church were also in favour of it. Those against Croatia's entrance into Europe say that the Croatian economy is not yet ready and that many small and medium-sized enterprises would be suffocated by European competition. Euro-sceptics in Croatia belong mostly to the nationalist or ultraconservative right, which does not approve of the loss of some prerogatives of national sovereignty nor the ''European liberal ideology'', which they feel would prove harmful to Croatian traditional values and national identity.

The radical left, very weak in Croatia, is instead critical of European integration since it sees it as a ''system of oppression set up by neoliberal and imperialist forces''. Most polls show that between 55 and 58% of Croatians will vote in favour of membership, compared with 28-30% against. So far only one poll, presented by a coalition of nationalist organisations against membership, showed a slight majority (52%) of citizens planning to vote against it. After eight years of talks, on December 9, Zagreb signed Croatia's Membership Teary as 28th member state, beginning on July 1 2013. After Slovenia, it will be the second former Yugoslav country to become part of the Union. Croatia is the only Catholic-majority European state which is not yet part of the EU. If the 'yes' vote wins in the referendum, which to be valid does not require a specific quorum but only a majority of votes cast, members countries will have to ratify the treaty in their respective national parliaments. (ANSAmed).

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