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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)

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Update No: 120 - (30/05/07)

Death of a statesman
Ivica Racan, who has died at the ago of 64, was the true creator of modern Croatia and was much respected as its greatest public figure. He headed the opposition until April, when he resigned as party chieftain of the social democrats. It is a time for Croatians to pay their respects and to take stock about their fate. 

He was the only Communist Party leader in Europe to return to power following the fall of communism in the late 1980s. He returned to office ten years after losing the first multi-party election in Croatia since the Second World War in 1990. 

He had never been a hard-line communist. Moreover, his resolute resistance to the bullying tactics of Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia in January 1990, when he walked out of the 14th congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, was a gesture that Croats appreciated. Together with the Slovene communists he had made it clear he would not side with Milosevic's aspirations to create a Greater Serbia. 

Immediately after, Racan called the first multi-party general election in Croatia since the 1940s. Although he lost the poll to the right-wing Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, headed by Franjo Tudjman, Racan continued the work of patiently reforming his party in opposition, re-branding it as a modern, pro-European, social democratic party.

Returning to power in the January 2000 election - three weeks after former president Tudjman's death - he pulled Croatia out of the international isolation into which Tudjman's confrontational policies had left it. Many believe this was his biggest success during his second term of office. 

Ines Saskor, a former TV Zagreb news editor and prominent journalist, knew Racan well. "As opposition leader during the Tudjman's reign, he was constructive but some would say excessively subdued and soft," she recalled. 

"But his moral authority and significant informal power prevented the regime from descending into a vicious circle of violence of 'no return' both in the economic and political spheres and preserved the thin thread linking Croatia to Europe. 

"At the same time, Croatia could have done better, given its democratic potential. The country is indebted to Racan for having preserved Croatia's ties to Europe but he should have done more."

As prime minister from 2000 to 2003, Racan presided over the landmark submission of Croatia's application for membership of the European Union. The country has since made significant progress on that road and stands a realistic prospect of becoming an EU member within a few years. Both his political supporters and opponents give him credit for that. 

"Racan made his mark in recent Croatian history," said the Croatian president, Stipe Mesic, on hearing of his death. "In addition to his many duties as a politician and statesman, he will be remembered as a man who made democratic changes in Croatia possible as well as the prime minister who led the way for Croatia towards its European future." 

The incumbent prime minister, Ivo Sanader, a political opponent of Racan's, also praised his role in laying the foundations for the country's integration into the European Union. "Despite our rivalry and political struggles we knew how to seek an understanding and overcome party differences when national interests were at stake," he said. "Thus, we jointly created an alliance for Euro because we knew the future of Croatia lay in the European Union and in… integration." 

Racan was one of the few politicians in Croatia whose image was not marred by scandals. He lived modestly and, after rejoining the opposition ranks in 2003 after his election defeat by Sanader, away from the public eye. 

Typical of the man were his last instructions.

Respecting his last will, his funeral took place only in the presence of family and close friends. Hence, the place and time of his burial has not been made public.

Little likelihood of civil war among opposition ranks
Few believe the departure of their much-loved leader will lead to civil war within ranks of Croatia's Social Democrats. The death of Ivica Racan, the Croatian opposition leader, will not cause turmoil within his party, the Social Democrats, SDP, nor will his departure have repercussions on expected autumn parliamentary elections.

Racan died in the Zagreb Clinical Centre in the night between Saturday and Sunday April 29. He had been receiving treatment for kidney cancer after doctors diagnosed a tumour in his shoulder in February, which had grown into a metastasis despite intervention. 

Racan's fatal illness and the stoic dignity with which he bore it appeared to have bolstered the ratings of his left-of-centre party. 

Recent opinion polls suggest the Social Democrats have caught up with or even overtaken the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, led by Ivo Sanader. 

Since resigning as SDP leader on April 11, the public domain has been rife with speculation concerning a possible split in the party, however. Such rumours were fuelled by the decision of three of Racan's associates to immediately announce their candidacy as the new Social Democrat leader. These were the former foreign minister in Racan's government, Tonino Picula, the economic expert Ljubo Jurcic, whom Racan had been promoting as a potential prime minister if the SDP were to win the next election, and Zoran Milinovic, a representative of the SDP younger wing. 

Zagreb's powerful mayor, Milan Bandic, has not yet put up his candidacy but the fact that he has won twice in elections in the capital is an important reference point, which this ambitious politician will surely exploit. 

Political analyst Davor Gjenero said stories about friction and infighting in the party over successors were the typical folklore accompanying such situations. "Racan created a party that will certainly muster enough strength to find a suitable replacement, so I'm not among those who think a crisis will set in after his departure," said Gjenero. 

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AVIATION

Croatia Airlines and SAS introduce joint flights


Scandinavian air carrier SAS and Croatia Airlines have entered into a code share partnership on SAS's routes from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen to Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam and Zurich, and connecting flights on Croatia Airlines' routes to Zagreb and Split. Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen thus become new destinations in the destination network of Croatia Airlines and passengers from Scandinavia can arrive in Croatia with only one transfer flight, New Europe reported. 
The joint flights, under the insignia of both companies, have been issued in all global reservation systems, Croatia Airlines said in a statement. Both companies are cooperating in the transport of passengers, Croatia Post reported. This cooperation enables Croatia Airlines passengers to use services from SAS's destinations network and SAS travellers can use services from Croatia Airlines destinations network, the statement said.
Croatia Airlines is a regional Star Alliance member with its home base in Zagreb. The company flies to a large number of destinations in Europe, although not presently to Scandinavia. Croatia is a tourist destination that has experienced very high growth among Scandinavian travellers in recent years. In addition, homebound traffic is relatively extensive since many Croats live in Scandinavia. 

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TOURISM

The tourist industry seeks other avenues of income

The South African Mail & Guardian stated that visitors to Croatia are taking full advantage of high-quality dental facilities for a fraction of the price of similar services found in the UK and other countries. This indicates that Croatia's tourism industry is now becoming diverse as the country seeks new avenues of income, including medical tourism, Croatia Post reported. 
The newspaper reported that health tourism is a sector that the Croatian government is keen to expand. Anita Franin, head of the Vodice tourist board, commented: "It's an important breakthrough in our offer to tourists previously focusing on the sea and sun." Goran Nedoklan, a local dental technician, said it is worth visiting Croatia even for simple procedures like fitting a crown, as tourists can choose stay at a coastal resort and enjoy themselves. 

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