There were no fireworks and no joyous, flag-waving crowds, although the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament did at least raise a glass to the strains of Ode to Joy. Yesterday two-thirds of Croats who took part in a referendum on whether their country should join the European Union voted “yes”, more than had been expected. The low turnout of 43%, however, meant that only a third of the electorate actually voted in favour. “It’s not great, but it’s legal,” was the accurate if underwhelming summing-up of Zoran Milanović, the new prime minister. Still, not a single one of Croatia’s 15 regions voted against. Indeed, one could fairly make the case that given the steady stream of bad news from the euro zone, Balkan Greece and Croatia’s neighbour Hungary, a two-thirds vote in favour of joining was something of an achievement.
Croatia completed its negotiations with Brussels last year and, assuming no hiccups, will become the EU’s 28th member on July 1st 2013. It will become the second ex-Yugoslav state, after Slovenia, to join.
Croatia’s EU accession was negotiated by the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which was turfed out of office in an election in December. But it was backed by Croatia’s entire political elite, from Mr Milanović’s left-leaning Social Democratic Party to the Catholic church to prominent academics and institutions.