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Almost half of Slovenians against Croatia's EU entry

  • Ljubljana - an additional hurdle in Croatia's EU integration process? (Photo: EUobserver)

Nearly half of Slovenians would take part in a referendum on Croatia's EU membership and most would reject their neighbour's entry into the 27-national bloc, a new survey has shown.

The poll, published in Croatian weekly Globus on Wednesday (14 January), indicates that 48.2 percent of Slovenians would vote in a referendum on Croatia's EU membership, while 31.5 percent would not.

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Some 47.5 percent of those asked would be against Croatia's EU entry, while 36.8 percent would support it.

Slovenia has repeatedly raised the threat of a referendum if the two countries do not manage to solve the border dispute they have been locked in since they each broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Particularly thorny is a patch of the Adriatic Sea close to the Slovenian city of Piran that would secure Slovenian ships direct access to international waters.

Additionally, the two countries are fighting over a speck of land in the area where their joint border meets Hungary.

Last week, Slovenian foreign minister Samuel Zbogar told Slovenian weekly Mag : "If the situation remains as it is now, it will be very complicated. A referendum is not a threat but a fact if the border issue is not solved."

The dispute also caused the Slovenians to block the progress of EU accession talks with Croatia in December.

Considering the most recent developments in the dispute, "the mood from the other [Slovenian] side of the border does not come as a surprise," Globus commented on the results of the poll.

The survey was carried by Slovenian pollster Mediana between 8 and 12 January and 712 people were asked their opinion.

Czech mediation

Meanwhile, the Czech EU presidency on Wednesday offered to mediate in the border dispute.

"I would like to make my own personal contribution towards solving problems between Slovenia and Croatia," Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told MEPs in Strasbourg, Reuters reports.

Croatia has been an EU candidate country since 2004 and started accession talks in 2005. It is expected to conclude these talks by the end of the year, and is hoping to become a full member of the EU by 2011 at the latest.

If the deadlock in the border dispute with Slovenia continues however, the process risks being delayed and a referendum on the issue would further complicate the issue.

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