Slovenia readies for possible referendum on Croatia

Slovenia's parliamentary speaker set a timetable on Thursday for a possible referendum on Croatia's accession to NATO that could block its neighbour from joining the alliance in April.

Slovenia readies for possible referendum on Croatia

The referendum was proposed by two non-parliamentary nationalist groups who said Croatia should not be allowed to join NATO because of a border dispute with Slovenia. One of the groups backed down this week.

Parliament speaker Pavle Gantar told reporters the Party of the Slovenian Nation (SSN) has until March 26 to collect 40,000 signatures, which would trigger a referendum.

Unless the referendum demand is dropped, Slovenia will not be able to send its formal ratification document to Washington by March 23, which is required from all member states in order to welcome Croatia and Albania at a summit in April.

The government and a large majority in parliament, which ratified the accession of Croatia and Albania last week, oppose a referendum.

All 26 NATO states have ratified Croatia's NATO accession. The endorsement by Slovenia's parliament would be annulled if the majority of Slovenes voted "no" in the referendum.

Most opinion polls say Slovenia would narrowly endorse Croatia's NATO membership if the referendum were held.

Prime Minister Borut Pahor has urged citizens not to heed the call for a referendum because it could tarnish Slovenia's image abroad.

Slovenia, a member of NATO and the European Union, vetoed Croatia's EU bid in December because of a dispute over a sliver of land and Adriatic sea border that has simmered since the two proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

One of Slovenia's main demands is to have direct access to international waters which would mean that Croatia would have to cede a part of the sea it claims as its own.

Reuters

Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2009, 12:11
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