Croatia’s pro-Western president has won a second term in an election run-off. Stjepan Mesic scored an easy victory in the second and final round of voting with 66 per cent of ballots. He pledged to step up efforts to lead the former Yugoslav republic to European Union membership. Negotiations with Brussels are due to start in March, and the country’s entry is slated for 2009. “I’m proud of the maturity of Croatia’s democracy”, said the president. Mesic said the country had come a long way, and that was why it was now standing on the EU’s doorstep. “It’s plain for the whole world to see”, he said
. A second round was held after Mesic, a liberal, failed to win more than 50 per cent of the vote two weeks ago. He was up against Jadranka Kosor, the deputy prime minister from the ruling conservative party
After the results were announced she thanked her party for having the strength and courage to chose a female candidate. Western diplomats see Mesic as a useful counter-weight to the ruling party. And they praise him for denouncing war crimes committed by Croats during conflicts that tore socialist Yugoslavia apart. One of the conditions attached to talks is full cooperation with the UN’s war crimes tribunal. Mesic has vowed to make sure the government does all it can to ensure Croatia’s entry into the European bloc.