Slovenia's parliament ratified on Monday the NATO accession protocols of Albania and Croatia, a move previously expected in late January but delayed due to Slovenia's internal spat, Xinhua reported.
Croatia's accession to the alliance was supported by 75 deputies, while 11 MPs from the opposition People's Party and National Party were against it, the Slovenian news agency STA reported.
Before moving to Croatia's protocol, the parliament ratified Albania's protocol by 78 votes.
Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor told the parliament before the vote that Croatia's NATO accession documents were not disputable for Slovenia although the two former Yugoslav republics have been engaged in border disputes for some time.
He said that Slovenia's national interests would not be jeopardized by Croatia's joining the NATO.
In its first attempt to ratify the agreements on Jan. 29, the Slovenian parliament postponed the vote, because the biggest opposition party Slovenia Democrats (SDS) threatened to obstruct the vote in order to exert pressure upon the ruling coalition over the closing account of the 2007 budget stemming from the previous government dominated by the SDS.
The ruling coalition voted against the closing account of the 2007 budget on Jan. 29 because the Court of Audits said Slovenia concluded 2007 with a 9 million euros (some 11.7 million U.S. dollars) deficit, while the SDS claimed that 2007 was the only year in Slovenia's history that ended with a surplus.
Earlier on Monday, the Slovenian parliament passed the 2007 budget closing account, paving the way for the SDS' approval of the NATO accession protocols of Albania and Croatia.
The ratification requires the backing of two thirds of the lawmakers, so the support of the SDS is vital.
The Croatian Foreign Ministry welcomed Slovenia's decision shortly after the vote and expressed its hope that soon the remaining five NATO members which had not yet ratified the protocol would follow.
Croatia and Albania expect the process of ratification of the protocols on their accession to NATO to be completed in March in all NATO member states, so they can become full members of NATO at its summit in Strasbourg and Kehl in April. The two countries received the invitation to join the alliance at the Bucharest summit in April 2008.