Catherine Ashton visits Croatia ahead of its EU membership | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.05.2013
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Catherine Ashton visits Croatia ahead of its EU membership

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed hope that all Balkan countries will follow the path of Croatia, set to join on July 1. The German parliament gave its consent for Croatia to be the 28th EU member.

Ashton spoke after meeting Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, who said his country supported its neighbors' EU bids. Croatia will become only the second of the former Yugoslav republics to join the EU, nine years after Slovenia did.

"I recognize the significance not only for this nation but for this region of your becoming part of the European Union," Ashton told reporters on her visit to Zagreb, the capital. "You have completed a journey that I hope others in the region will also make. I very much hope to see them become part of the EU too."

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Croatia and the EU

Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia remain at different stages in their own bids. Croatian leaders have called EU entry a strategic goal since the country proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

"Croatia supports the enlargement and it will try to provide political and technical help to its neighbors so that they join the EU as soon as possible," Josipovic said.

German approval

The country still needed the consent of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, after the other EU member states had already given theirs. On Thursday, no one opposed Croatia's membership in the Bundestag vote, which passed with 583 members in favor and just six abstaining.

"Just a decade and a half after its war, terrible violations of human rights and displacement, we will integrate Croatia into the European peace project,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

mkg/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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