Polls open in Croatia's first EU vote

Croatians began voting on Sunday for their first members of the European Parliament, with expected low turnout reflecting only tepid enthusiasm for membership in a European Union that Croatia is set to join on July 1.

Some 3.7 million people who are eligible to vote will select the 12 lawmakers in a vote for which the former Yugoslav republic's officials insisted is "historic" and a milestone following years of difficult reforms.

However, ordinary citizens seem to be more concerned by the sluggish tourism-dependent economy which has not grown since 2009.

While opinion polls show that slightly more than half of the population want Croatia to become the European Union's 28th member, analysts are predicting the turnout for Sunday's poll will be low.

At a referendum on EU entry, held in January last year, the turnout was 44 percent, with 66 percent of Croatians casting a 'Yes' vote.

Analysts say that enthusiasm for EU membership is fading due to a difficult domestic economy but also due to problems within the bloc.

Lukewarm interest in Sunday's vote may also result from the apparent failure of politicians to campaign hard on EU-related issues amid rare media debates.

"I back EU entry ... but our incapable politicians are not worth my effort of going to a polling station," Dubravka Simac told AFP.

"They didn't even try to explain to people what exactly they will do there (in the parliament)?" the 30-year-old saleswoman from Zagreb added.

Interest may also be low because the deputies' mandate will be for one year only, until Europe-wide elections in 2014 will choose a new European Parliament for the following five years.

Polling stations that opened at 0500 GMT will close 12 hours later. First partial official results were expected around 2000 GMT.