Croatia will join the European Union on July 1, 2013 under a treaty it signed in Brussels on Friday with the 27 current EU members, a RIA Novosticorrespondent said.

“It is a day of joy for Croatia, and for the EU as a whole,” Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said at the signing ceremony on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels.

Croatia was a leading candidate among the Balkan countries for European integration.

"Croatia is a pioneer, demonstrating in a tangible way that the future of the Western Balkans as a whole lies in the European Union,” he added.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and President Ivo Josipovic signed the document together with senior EU officials from the 27 member countries.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, praised Croatian people for their progress in meeting up EU standards but added that the EU would strictly monitor how Zagreb fulfils its commitments up to the accession date.

The treaty will now have to be ratified by all the 27 member countries and then subject to a referendum in Croatia.

It took six years to negotiate the treaty. Talks stalled for a time over a number of issues, including a land-ownership dispute with Italy and a border disagreement with Slovenia.

RIA Novosti