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CROATIA





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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 28,322 22,421 20,300 61
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 5,350 4,640 4,550 70
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Croatia

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
56,542

Population
4,496,869

Capital 
Zagreb

Currency 
Kuna

President 
Stipe Mesic

Private sector
% of GDP 
55%


Update No: 099- (26/07/05)

Croatia in the dock
Croatia's relatively good level of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), hitherto, had accelerated the country's accession to candidate status until recently. 
However, the new government, headed by Ivo Sanader, elected in November 2003, is under enormous pressure at the moment from Carla Del Ponte of the ICTY regarding the case of indicted war criminal, General Ante Gotovina, accused of the deportation of more than 200,000 Serbians. These pressures have pushed back membership negotiations of the European Union (EU), scheduled to open on March 17th 2005. Due to Croatia's unwillingness to collaborate with the ICTY, negotiations over membership have - for the first time - been postponed. 
The case of Croatia and the "Gotovina affair" illustrates the undetermined nature of the relations of the EU with non-member states. Particularly where the Balkan block is concerned.
Gotovina, who is still on the run, will certainly have to answer for his crimes in court. But many Croats interpret this European stubbornness about the arrest of one man, however guilty he may be, with disfavour, especially when the fundamental laws in other candidate countries are questionable. The Luxemburg presidency has demanded more information on the case before taking decisions on initiating discussions with a view to eventual membership in 2007. Furthermore, the Croatian government's responsibility in the non-arrest of General Gotovina remains to be proved. However, the EU does recognise the democratic, political and economic efforts that Croatia has made to come in-line with the Community standards, an essential condition of the negotiations.
The problem is that Gotovina is a war hero to many Croats. Generally, they see themselves only as victims of the events of 1992-95, victims of course of the likes of Milosevic and the Serbs, which is true but not the whole of the truth. They too perpetrated outrages against Serb civilians. 

Most Croats oppose EU entry: poll
It would be a mistake to suppose that the Croatians are as eager as other Central and Southern Europeans for EU membership, with the Gotovina factor highly relevant here. A majority of Croats are opposed to their country becoming a member of the EU, according to a poll published by the daily Vecernji list recently. 
The poll found that 44% of Croats would vote against EU entry in a referendum, while 42% would endorse joining the bloc. Some 13% were not sure which way they would vote. Vecernji polled 900 people. 
This is the first time that a poll has shown a majority of Croatians opposed to joining the EU. Analysts attributed the drop in support precisely to the "Gotovina affair." 

The ghosts of the war
Following the chaos that the war in Yugoslavia caused, the Balkans are still a long way from finding a peaceful and lasting stability. The EU is aware of this and has initiated a process of stabilisation and association in this region. Relations between Croatia and Slovenia, which has been a member of the EU since May 2004, are perhaps the most strained as the two countries are still arguing over their maritime borders. While President Msic insists on creating an exclusive economic zone for Croatia in the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia, supported by Italy, is understandably not in agreement. However, as an existing member of the EU, the Slovenian government is not in a good position to play on its 'superiority' over Croatia, its historical brother.
'Full cooperation' with the ICTY remains the determining factor before Croatia's membership discussions can be initiated. The decisions will be all the more significant as they will be made in a very uncertain context. NATO forces will progressively withdraw their remaining troops from the Balkans, leaving behind them a situation that is far from being resolved. Speaking about the Slovenian border, Croatian writer Predrag Matvejevic wondered if "a wall, a gate or even a bridge or a bastion would be erected facing the neighbours with whom we share so much history". Perhaps the EU will encounter difficulties in carrying its integration policy through to a successful conclusion with the Balkan countries?

Hungary backs Croatia to EU
One country that is keen to get the Croats to join up is Hungary, a neighbour with an ancient and less sensitive relationship with Croatia than Slovenia. Hungarian President Ferenc Madl, on a one-day official visit to Croatia recently, said in Zagreb that Hungary would support Croatia's progress towards the EU, Croatian News Agency, HINA, has reported.
Madl, who met in Zagreb with his Croatian counterpart, Stjepan Mesic, said Hungary would do its best to help Croatia become a full EU member as soon as possible. President Mesic said such Hungarian support would be very important for Croatia, which already has good cooperation with Hungary in the fields of economics, culture and education. The two presidents also discussed possibilities of further improvement of cooperation especially in the banking sector and oil industry.
But for all the good offices of Budapest, Zagreb has first got to persuade its own people of the advantages of EU membership.

"Exemplary candidate"
Other European leaders also have made sure they have sent some encouraging signs to Croatia, besides the "Gotivina affair." During an official visit to Zagreb, Chris Patten, the then European Commissioner for External Relations, described Croatia as an "exemplary candidate", capable of influencing its Balkan neighbours on the road to integration. 
It is true that Croatia has returned to a state of remarkable health, mainly thanks to tourism, after the dramatic episode of the war in the 1990s. It has a higher GDP than Romania and Bulgaria, who are both supposed to join the EU in 2007, but its GDP is also higher than that of some new member states such as Lithuania and Latvia. 
But, obviously, it is not just economic criteria that counts for membership to the EU, and Europe prides itself on enforcing democratic and elementary Human Rights values.

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FINANCIAL NEWS

Croatia and IMF meet

Top Croatian financial officials led by Finance Minister, Ivan Suker, visited Washington in June to present a package of fiscal proposals that should shore up this year's budget and save the stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), ministry officials said recently, New Europe reported.
"They presented measures to boost revenues and reduce spending," the official said. A visiting IMF mission urged the former Yugoslav republic earlier in June to take urgent measures to bring this year's fiscal gap as close as possible to the targeted 3.7% of gross domestic product (GDP). Croatia ended 2004 with a budget deficit of 4.9% of GDP, compared with the 4.5% target agreed in the US$140m 20-month stand by arrangements with the IMF. Without changes to the current budget, analysts believe the deficit would end at above 4.5%, which would render the IMF deal off-track. Croatia needs the deal to assure foreign investors of its commitment to further financial reforms.

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TRANSPORT

Croatia opens rebuilt bridge

Croatia on June 17th officially opened the rebuilt Maslenica bridge which was destroyed during the 1990s Croatian-Serbian war. The 315 metre long bridge over the Maslenica Gulf, considered to be one of the most important bridges in Croatia, is near the Adriatic city of Zadar, as well as nearby central Adriativ islands such as Pag, Pasman and Dugi Otok.

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