Croatia joins EU as 28th member

Joyful crowds celebrated European Union accession at main square Sunday.

Joyful crowds celebrated European Union accession at main square Sunday.

ZAGREB - Thousands of proud Croats joined in a mass celebration on Sunday at capital Zagreb's central Ban Jelacic Square to mark their country's accession to the European Union as the club's 28th member as of June 1.

Turkey's EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis represented Turkey at the celebrations alongside 170 senior government officials including 15 presidents, 13 prime ministers and 3 parliament speakers.

President of Croatia Ivo Josipovic defined Croatia's membership as a "new page in the history of the country" and added, "Today, we have laid the foundations of a safer, more democratic and a European future for our generations to come. We were European and will remain European. Europe has a key role in our national identity. Not only because of our geographical location but also due to our common values, we belong in Europe."

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic also delivered a speech emphasizing their strong bonds with other states in the region.

"Croatia is moving along its usual destination but now with a new responsibility. Our responsibility is to assist other states in the region to comply with the EU criteria," Milanovic said.

Joining in the celebrations, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barosso as well as President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Irish Parliament Deputy Speaker Eamon Gilmore and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitce congratulated Croatia for its success.

While the crowd continued celebrating, Croatian Minister of Finance Slavko Linic entered EU borders from Slovenia via the Bregana border crossing at midnight.

President Josipovic Prime Minister Milanovic also hosted a dinner in the honor of guests as leaders expressed their gratitude to their neighbors in Balkans for their support during Croatia's EU accession process at the dinner.

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