A brief by Stéphane Ridou, EU project manager at CAAC
On the 1st of July 2013, Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union. It has been now 12 months of efforts from the Croatian leaders to find the balance between EU requirements and local expectations. While the former Yugoslav Republic is facing a severe recession that has been lasting for years, an agreement was signed with the World Bank to boost economic recovery.
For the European elections in May, won by the Croatian Democratic Union, the turnout reached 25%. With the third highest rate of unemployment (17%) after Greece and Spain, Croatians count on an enlargement of their rights to Schengen area and on the impact of a flourishing touristic sector that attracts millions of Europeans every year. This may be behind of the low result, as the population would have been expecting immediate improvement of the economic situation.
According to a multiannual financial framework for the period 2014-2020, total funds earmarked for Croatia amount to EU €13.7 billion divided between EU’s Cohesion and Structural Funds, compared with the €1 billion allocated from 2007 to mid-2013 from EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Fund. This increase in EU financing will particularly benefit the City of Zagreb, which is expected to be a large recipient of these funds. The country has already created a separate Department, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, to organise the distribution of EU funds. In addition, the renovation of the rail network will also be made possible and, within a five-year period, those means will also contribute to the funding of new wastewater treatment centres. Croatians also wish that the EU funds a bridge over the Adriatic Sea to connect the region of Dubrovnik to the rest of the country.
These projects of infrastructure attest the policy of modernization that began a year ago and will allow Croatia to enter a new phase of development.
Thanks to its participation to the CECICN, CAAC has reinforced its collaboration with the Forum of Adriatic and Ionian Cities and MedCities in order to strengthen the links with Croatian cities that are part of these networks. In this sense, CAAC submitted an “Europe for Citizens” project in 2013 together with Dubrovnik, analysing the “creative” dimension of EU citizenship, which was refused and it is therefore currently undergoing a reshape to be presented to future opportunities.