Croatia inaugurates new president Thursday

ZAGREB: European Union aspirant Croatia will inaugurate its new president, leftwing intellectual Ivo Josipovic, in a ceremony in Zagreb on Thursday.

Josipovic won the Balkan republic's January presidential elections on an anti-corruption platform and has promised to lead the country into the EU bloc during his 5-year mandate.

The swearing in ceremony is to start at noon (1100 GMT) at Saint Marc's square in the old part of Zagreb, where the government and the parliament buildings are located.

Josipovic will take the oath and make a speech in front of 1,000 invited guests. The ceremony will be attended by presidents of 10 central and southeastern European countries, as well as EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele.

Later on Thursday Josipovic is to make his first address to the nation that will be broadcast on national television.

Josipovic, a 52-year-old law expert and classical music composer, takes over from popular centrist Stipe Mesic who held the post since 2000.

The nationalist and autocratic rule of Mesic's predecessor Franjo Tudjman, who led the nation throughout its 1991-1995 independence war until his death in December 1999, pushed the country into international isolation.

Mesic, 75, managed to turn the country into an outward facing parliamentary democracy.

Zagreb, which joined NATO last year, hopes the entry into the European bloc will signal a definitive move away from the legacy of the 1990s wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

The fight against corruption, especially at the highest levels, is one of the key criteria for Croatia to become an EU member by 2012.