Timeline: Croatia's road to EU membership

ZAGREB Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:46pm EDT

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ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia becomes the 28th member of the European Union on July 1, just over two decades after declaring independence from socialist Yugoslavia and being engulfed in war.

Following are the main events on its path to EU membership:

1991 - Croatia declares independence from socialist Yugoslavia but minority Serb rebels, backed by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, seize control of one third of the country and a four-year war ensues.

1995 - Croatian troops sweep through the rebel territory, putting to flight thousands of minority Serbs. A peace treaty is signed in November, ending the wars in Croatia and neighboring Bosnia.

2000 - A reformist coalition takes power in elections after the death of wartime leader Franjo Tudjman, the first president of independent Croatia. An EU-Balkan summit in Zagreb affirms that all Balkan nations have a future in the EU.

2001 - Zagreb and Brussels sign an associate membership accord, which calls for war crimes to be punished, refugees to return and for cooperation between the former foes of the ex-Yugoslavia.

2002 - Croatia refuses to hand over former army chief General Janko Bobetko to the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

2003 - Britain and the Netherlands refuse to ratify the associate EU membership accord, citing insufficient cooperation with the tribunal. Croatia formally applies for EU membership.

2005 - The U.N. tribunal's chief prosecutor tells the EU that Croatia is fully cooperating in the search for indicted former Croatian general Ante Gotovina, removing the last hurdle for the EU to open entry talks with Zagreb. Gotovina is arrested in Spain in December and handed to the tribunal.

2005-08 - Talks progress slowly. By the end of 2008, Croatia had closed only seven of the 33 negotiating chapters of EU legislation, while EU neighbor Slovenia vetoes further progress because of an unresolved border issue.

June 2011 - The European Commission says Croatia has met all criteria for the completion of EU entry talks, including the toughest chapters on judiciary and competition policy.

January 22, 2012 - Sixty-six percent of Croatians vote "Yes" to joining the EU.

November 2012 - The Hague tribunal acquits Gotovina and another Croatian general, Mladen Markac, in an appeal procedure after finding them not guilty of war crimes against Serbs.

March 11, 2013 - Croatia signs an agreement to drop a legal case over a 20-year old bank dispute with Slovenia, which allows Slovenia's parliament to ratify Croatia's accession.

July 1, 2013 - Croatia due to join the EU.

(Additional writing and editing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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