By Kayleigh Lewis - 15th April 2013
This low turnout has not done any favours for Croatia's credibility in Europe. I hope that next year when all Europeans go to the ballot boxes, we can improve this result together
Together, we will work for a stronger Europe for the people, for social justice and fairness for all people
Croatia's accession is a major step towards the full reunification of Europe
EPP group leader Joseph Daul has expressed concern that the low turnout for Croatia's first ever European elections could harm the country's "credibility in Europe".
According to the state electoral commission of Croatia, turnout for the European elections was just 20.84 per cent.
Daul said, "This low turnout has not done any favours for Croatia's credibility in Europe. I hope that next year when all Europeans go to the ballot boxes, we can improve this result together."
Of the 12 newly elected deputies, six were from the EPP-affiliated Hrvatska demokratska zajednica (HDZ) coalition, who received 33 per cent of the vote.
Croatia's Kukuriku coalition also won five seats with 32 per cent of the vote, with the Labour party securing one seat, with six per cent of the ballot.
Daul said, "Those that lead have a great responsibility to make the case to their people why it is important to participate in the elections for members of a house that will help decide nearly 80 per cent of their laws.
S&D group president Hannes Swoboda also commented on the turnout, saying, "The low turnout of 20.74 per cent is regrettable but I hope that the impending accession of Croatia to the EU and the work of the country's newly elected representatives will increase voters' participation in next year's elections, when all 28 member states will elect a new European parliament."
The low turnout is likely to be due to a lack of campaigning from the political parties and with full European parliament elections due to take place in May next year it is easy to see why the political establishment, and in turn the electorate, were lacking motivation.
Turnout for European parliament elections in eastern Europe has generally been regarded as low, and Sunday's was not the lowest recorded.
Although the initial signs are not great, commentators suggest that it is probably worth waiting for next year's elections to fully judge the Croatian people's enthusiasm for the European Union.
Despite the disappointing voting figures, both EPP and S&D group presidents welcomed the results, congratulating their respective parties.
Daul called HDZ's election showing "a great result", continuing, "As I said three days ago in Dubrovnik, Croatia has come a long way since its independence. It is hard to believe that not so long ago the country was still ravaged by war."
The French MEP added, "Now it is about to enter the greatest club of democracies. It is only fitting that the party that has led Croatia to independence is now symbolically leading it to the EU."
Swoboda also welcomed the results, calling it a "strong result for the Croatian Social Democratic party" and saying that he looked forward to "working closely" with his new colleagues form July 1 onwards.
"Together, we will work for a stronger Europe for the people, for social justice and fairness for all people," he added.
Meanwhile, European parliament president Martin Schulz welcomed Croatia's accession to the EU, saying, "It is happy news when a family grows, especially our family of values, committed to democracy, justice and the rule of law.
"Croatia's accession is a major step towards the full reunification of Europe. It will enrich the European Union and open new opportunities for Croatia," added the German deputy.
Parliament's standing rapporteur on Croatia, Libor Roucek, said, "Once it accedes to the EU, Croatia will become responsible and accountable for EU-level decisions.
He continued, "Realising its full potential as a member state will also require a strong mandate for its members of the European parliament - the only directly elected EU institution - and a vibrant public debate on EU policies."