Croats greeted the start of accession talks with the European Union on Tuesday with a sigh of relief and much gratitude toward neighbor and traditional ally Austria.
Austria championed Croatia's case during crisis talks between the EU and Turkey, putting up a ramp against the start of entry negotiations with the populous Muslim country unless they were also reopened with Croatia.
Talks were eventually opened with both countries almost simultaneously late Monday.
"Danke Oesterreich," was the title splashed over the daily 24 sata, while others went with "Austrian key to EU," and "Austria backing crucial for Croatia."
"Austria stubbornly insisted that the EU could not maintain double standards," said political analyst Stojan De Prato. "You cannot sweep mass human rights violations in Turkey under the carpet and then put Croatia on ice because of one fugitive."
Croatia was given the green light for membership talks more than a year ago, but the official start of negotiations was suspended in March, after the Balkan country's cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal began showing signs of stagnation, reports The AP. I.L.