Croatia votes on EU membership

 

Croatians are voting in a nationwide referendum on whether to join the debt-stricken European Union.

Today’s vote is a test of how much the 27-nation union has lost its lustre with its troubled economies and bickering leaders.

A pre-vote survey suggests that between 56 per cent and 60 per cent of those who take part will answer "Yes" to the question: "Do you support the membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union?"

Those who support the EU say the Balkan country’s troubled economy could only profit from entering the union’s wider markets.

Opponents say Croatia has nothing to gain by entering and will only lose its sovereignty and national identity.

Opinion polls suggest the vote will pass, with the last one, released yesterday, putting support at 61 per cent.

Supporters say a "No" vote would leave Croatia stuck with struggling fellow ex-Yugoslav republics in the western Balkans, which was ravaged by war in the 1990s and is the only part of southeastern Europe still outside the EU.

But some Croats fear a loss of sovereignty if the country joins now, after just two decades as an independent state.

"Croatia will not lose its sovereignty or natural resources, nor will it be ruled by the EU," president Ivo Josipovic said in a written statement to the nation on Saturday."Europe will not solve all our problems, but it's a great opportunity.

"The European Union has said Croatia can become its 28th member on July 1st, 2013 after completing seven years of tough entry talks in June last year. It would become the second former Yugoslav republic to join, following Slovenia in 2004.

The "No" camp is playing on fears of a wave of foreigners buying up Croatian companies and property. Some say the timing is all wrong and that the EU is not what it once was given the debt crisis that is threatening the single currency.Many complain they are unsure what membership will mean for the country of 4.3 million people.

Reuters/AP