June 24, 2016 / 10:26 AM / 3 years ago

Brexit could slow EU enlargement, Croatia warns

Croatia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Miro Kovac is seen in parliament before the government was approved in Zagreb, Croatia, January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Britain’s vote to leave the European Union could slow down the bloc’s enlargement process that Balkan states see as their route to prosperity, the foreign minister of Croatia, the EU’s newest member, said on Friday.

The Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which went though war and economic turmoil in the 1990s, are all at different stages of joining the now 28-nation EU.

But Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac said the British Brexit vote could slow the pace at which candidate nations join the EU. “We also want stability in southeastern Europe and we will work so that Brexit does not have too much effect on the enlargement process,” Kovac told regional broadcaster N1 TV.

“However, we must be realistic. I’m afraid that there will be an effect on that process and that it may slow down a bit.”

Croatia was the second former Yugoslav republic to join the bloc, in 2013, after Slovenia in 2004.

Britain’s EU referendum on Thursday, won by the “Out” campaign by a 52 to 48 percent margin, forced the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealt the biggest blow to the European project of greater unity since World War Two.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; writing by Ivana Sekularac; editing by Giles Elgood/Mark Heinrich

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