ZAGREB, Croatia, July 16 (UPI) -- Croatian President Stjepan Mesic says he expects his country will be ready to formally join the European Union as early as next year.
Speaking to the French daily newspaper Le Figaro this week, Mesic said the EU's internal debates brought on by Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty wouldn't derail Croatia's admission.
"I understand European countries, including France, which intend to solve the EU's institutional problems before proceeding to any new accessions," Mesic said. "We will speed up the rhythm of our reforms and be ready in 2009 to join the EU as its 28th member."
The EU Observer said Mesic expressed confidence that the Lisbon Treaty issue would be ironed out by the union to the satisfaction of those nations that might initially reject the pact.
Croatia began preparing for EU ascension in 2005 and expects to join by 2011, the Observer said.