World News

Croatia ready to join EU in 2013 - official

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Croatia cleared a hurdle on its path to European Union membership Friday, with the EU executive recommending its accession talks be finalised and an entry date set for mid-2013.

“The European Commission has just proposed ... to close the last four chapters in the accession negotiations with Croatia,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

“This paves the way for Croatia to join the EU as the 28th member state as of July 1, 2013,” he said.

The former Yugoslav state of 4.4 million people still has to convince all of the EU’s 27 governments that it is ready to join, particularly that its efforts to combat corruption have gone far enough.

But many capitals have said they would agree to wrap up the talks if the European Commission judged Zagreb has done its job.

Once admitted, Croatia would become the second state in the western Balkans to join the EU, after Slovenia, which became a member in 2004.

Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Rex Merrifield