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Croatia's new, leftist president inaugurated

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatia’s new, leftist president on Tuesday formally took office at an inauguration ceremony, urging more tolerance and equality for all in the country, which is the European Union's newest member state.

Zoran Milanovic took an oath of office at a small event attended by top officials and guests at the presidential headquarters in the capital, Zagreb. “This is a house for us, for all of us,” he said in a speech. “Our republic needs each person, so every person in Croatia must get a chance and opportunity to find their way and their place, and live in dignity from their work.”

Milanovic became Croatia’s new head of state after beating former conservative President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic in a tight runoff vote held in early January. Milanovic’s victory dealt a blow to Croatia's conservative government, but also marked an important boost for the liberal political options in predominantly conservative and populist Central and Eastern Europe.

Croatia, which currently holds the presidency of the EU, joined the bloc in 2013, after going through a war in the 1990s that followed the breakup of the Yugoslav federation. While the country has recovered from the war, it remains among the EU's weakest economies, while divisions stemming from the 1990s conflict and World War II remain deep, pitting the nationalists against liberals.

Milanovic said he will seek to play a constructive role while in office. “I will do my best ... so this presidential mandate will be of benefit to Croatia and all its citizens,” he said.

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