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BRUSSELS, June 22 (Reuters) - After years of ambivalence about new members, European Union policymakers are hoping Croatia's accession to the 27-nation bloc will persuade other aspirants that democratic reforms reap dividends.
The ambition is that Croatia's progress will show the western Balkans that the EU is still willing to grow and quell concerns that "enlargement fatigue" -- rife since the global economic crisis made Europeans wary about the cost of expansion -- means reform efforts are futile.
But Zagreb may now be days away from completing its entry talks and EU leaders are set to give a go-ahead to its accession at a summit on Thursday and Friday.
EU officials say the leap was made possible by an intense reform push that proved the country of 4.4 million people was serious about fighting widespread corruption.