BRUSSELS - Croatia is poised to become the European Union's 28th member in July 2013 after the ex-Yugoslav state signed an accession treaty on Friday.
EU politicians hope Croatia's membership, a reward for deep democratic and economic reforms, will persuade other countries in the Balkans that reforms pay off and accelerate democratic transition in a region torn by ethnic wars in the 1990s.
Later, European leaders are expected to delay a decision on granting Serbia the status of EU membership candidate, because of concerns over Belgrade's failure to mend relations with its former province Kosovo.
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