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Slovenia ratifies Croatia's EU accession treaty

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Slovenia's parliament ratified Croatia's European Union accession treaty on Tuesday, easing the way for it to join the bloc after years of hold-ups over long-standing bilateral disputes.

A total 82 lawmakers voted to ratify the treaty with none opposing it in the 90-seat parliament, setting Croatia on the path to becoming the EU's 28th member on July 1.

Slovenia was long one of the main obstacles to its southern neighbour's membership, blocking the process over border and banking issues.

On Tuesday, Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek told parliament: "Croatia's successful accession to the European family shows all states that want to become members that they have to believe in the demanding path of reforms and adoption of EU standards."

"This day is for both Slovenia and Croatia a special and important day. There have been many obstacles on this way but through dialogue we have managed to remove them," she added after the vote.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic attended the parliamentary session along with the foreign ministers of both countries.

"I see no closer partner than Slovenia in the years to come," Milanovic told journalists, adding that the two former Yugoslav states will collaborate to try and bring their economies our of crisis.

Tuesday's ratification comes after the two countries last month reached an agreement on their last pending bilateral dispute, concerning bank savings held by Croatians in Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka before the former Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991.

In 2009, the two states also agreed to create an arbitration tribunal that will rule on their common border once Croatia joins the EU.

Zagreb still needs four EU member states -- Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Holland -- to ratify its accession agreement before it can officially join the bloc.

It would be the second of the six former Yugoslav republics to join the 27-nation European Union, nine years after Slovenia.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130402/slovenia-ratifies-croatias-eu-accession-treaty-0