By Boris Pavelic
Croatians today approved their country’s future membership in the European Union, with 66 per cent supporting the bid to join the bloc.
“66.24 per cent of voters voted “yes”, while 33.16 voted “no””, said Branko Hrvatin, the president of Croatia’s Election Commission at a press conference Sunday night. Turnout was 43.58 per cent, Hrvatin added.
Voters were simply asked whether they wanted Croatia to join the European Union.
The referendum went smoothly, and no incidents were reported, he added.
The vote comes six weeks after Zagreb signed an EU accession treaty with Brussels. The treaty must now be ratified by all 27 existing member states, and Croatia hopes to become the 28th member of the bloc in July 2013.
Croatian politicians welcomed the outcome of the referendum in the parliament on Sunday evening.
“This is great day for Croatia. Croatia chose the EU, and has proved itself to be part of a community of democratic European countries which strive for prosperity together,” President Ivo Josipovic told those gathered. The concerns of those who voted against EU membership shouldn’t be forgotten, he added.
“This could be the turning moment in Croatian history,” said Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic. “For the first time in Croatian history, we decided by ourselves about ourselves. Success and failure depends on us in the future; all our decisions will be taken by ourselves,” he added.
While many Croatians spoke out in favour of membership in the European bloc on voting day, others expressed concern over the effect that the economic crisis in the EU may have on Croatia.
“I’m satisfied by the result, but at the same time worries for the future still persist,” said Ljubica Letinic, a mother of two who placed her vote in Zagreb.
“We are not surprised by the referendum vote, because there was no democratic and open discussion about the EU,” said Marjan Bosnjak from the anti-EU civic initiative “Council for Croatia – no to the EU”. He asked that referendum be repeated because less then a half of eligible voters went to the polls. According to Croatian law, no minimum turnout is required for a referendum.
More than one thousand people from political parties and civic initiatives monitored the referendum on Sunday. Their representatives said the voting process went smoothly.
4,5 million Croatians were eligible to vote in the referendum, including those who live outside the country.