Croatia Gets Germany's Blessing to Join EU

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Germany's lower house of parliament approved Croatia's entry to the European Union on Thursday, clearing the last formal hurdle for the former Yugoslav republic to enter the bloc.

Croatia is scheduled to join the EU on July 1.

Germany, with the EU's biggest and most powerful economy, was the last member state to ratify the accession treaty as it had waited for the final European Commission report on Croatia's readiness to join. That report, issued in March, was positive.

"Croatia's entry shows that the EU's attraction continues unbroken. Europe is not just about crisis. The European perspective is what drives reforms in our neighborhood," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the German Bundestag.

Of 589 lawmakers to vote, 583 voted yes and six abstained. The treaty will now be rubber-stamped by Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

Croatia started accession talks in 2005 and completed them in mid-2011. It is only the second former Yugoslav republic, after Slovenia in 2004, to join the EU.

The most difficult tasks it had to complete to join were tackling widespread corruption, improving the efficiency of the judiciary and privatization of its ailing shipbuilding industry.

_ By Reuters