Slovenian voters have lifted a major obstacle to Croatia’s hopes of European Union membership.
They have voted to approve an international arbitration deal to settle a 19-year territorial dispute between Slovenia and Croatia.
With 98 percent of ballots counted, the ‘yes’ vote to back the deal had scraped home with 51.6 percent.
Slovenia’s prime minister, Borut Pahor, had campaigned for the ‘yes’, while the opposition conservatives had encouraged voters to reject it.
The dispute centres on a few kilometres of coastline and nautical miles in the Adriatic Sea that Slovenia and Croatia have been arguing over since they emerged from the former Yugoslavia.
The eventual decision taken by the international mediators would be binding for both countries.
Slovenia has been an EU member since 2004 and has been blocking Croatia’s application because of the dispute.
With this hurdle cleared, Croatia might be an EU country by the end of 2012.