The people of Croatia have voted “Yes” to becoming the European Union’s newest member in 2013 in a referendum held on Sunday.
The chiefs of the union, European Council President Van Rompuy and European Commission President Barroso quickly issued a statement of congratulations paving the way for Croatia to become the 28th member state of the troubled block on July 1, 2013.
“We welcome the positive outcome of the referendum on Croatia’s accession to the European Union. … We congratulate Croatia and its people on their choice: EU membership will open up new opportunities for them and help secure the stability and prosperity of their nation,” read the joint statement.
According to local paper Novilist, the vote was a clear victory for the yes side with 66 percent in favor, and 33 percent against with over 98 percent of votes counted. The voter turn out, however, at about 47.5 percent, was considered disappointingly low. That included a small percent of the 4.5 million overseas voters who were eligible.
Davor Orlovic, a member of the country’s State Election Commission, said there was no violence or irregularities noted in the voting process in the context of the “electoral culture’s standards,” according to Novilist.
The country’s leader, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, whose centrist government was elected in December, had campaigned that it was important for the former Yugoslavian state to join the EU since it has always been part of Europe, geographically, historically, and culturally.
Casting his ballot on Sunday morning, President Ivo Josipovic said he was “glad that the whole of Europe will become my home,” saying that Croatia would likely become part of the EU as his office believed the country would vote in favor of the referendum.
A 1,000-person strong rally was held in the capital of Zagreb’s central square last Saturday. There are concerns that dairy products, eggs, and meat would have to meet strict EU food safety standards, according to the Observer. If Croatia were to become a member, it may raise tensions with Slovenia due to a territory dispute.
Proponents of the referendum say that the small, former Yugoslavian state would economically benefit by joining the EU, as the job market would open up for Croatians. The country has been dealing with a recession and a 17 percent unemployment rate.