Slovenia backs Croatia's EU entry after bank dispute set aside

LJUBLJANA Tue Apr 2, 2013 9:04am EDT

1 of 4. Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek (R) shakes hands with her Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanovic before the Slovenian parliament is expected to ratify Croatia's EU accession, in Ljubljana April 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Srdjan Zivulovic

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LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia ratified Croatia's European Union accession bid on Tuesday after the two ex-Yugoslav republics agreed last month to set aside a 20-year old dispute over a shuttered bank that had blocked Zagreb's entry path.

Croatia concluded EU accession talks in 2011 but needs all 27 EU members to ratify its entry before it can join the bloc on July 1. With neighboring Slovenia's parliament voting unanimously in favor, 23 member states have done that so far.

Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands are expected to follow suit, after the European Commission said last month that Croatia had met all requirements and was ready to join.

Slovenia had until now kept Croatia on hold because of a dispute over Slovenian lender Ljubljanska Banka (LB). LB closed down without reimbursing its Croatian depositors when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence in 1991.

Croatia agreed in March to suspend a lawsuit before its courts, in which it is seeking reimbursement from Ljubljana. Further talks on LB will be held under the auspices of the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlement.

Croatia will be only the second former Yugoslav republic to join the EU. Montenegro started the accession talks last year while Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo have yet to do so.

(Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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