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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: 137 - (27/10/08)

The Croats are not the luckiest of nations in Europe. They must be ruling the days of communism, imposed on them by the Serbs, albeit under the half Croat, half Slovene Tito - but also the nearly ten wasted years of Franjo Tudjman, president of the country from independence in 1991 until his timely death in December 1999. 

But at least they have seen progress since then. They are as apprehensive as the rest of us about what next, in their case with their application to join the EU? They are widely regarded as the next in line for when the EU resumes accepting nations into membership. They probably feel that the world’s economic shocks have not helped that cause.

We are not going to know until next year, if then. In the interim let us take stock and see how far Croatia has come.

Croatian credentials 
The Croats are a people with a very long history. Actually so have every people - but in their case with exceptionally interesting antecedents. 

Modern Croatia was geographically the core of Illyrium in Roman times, the very heart of the Roman Empire on the fault-line between the eastern and western halves of the Empire. It gave it several of its most outstanding emperors, notably the two responsible for the resurgence and transformation of the empire at the turn of the third and fourth centuries, Diocletian, who famously divided it in two and persecuted the Christians, and Constantine, who switched the capital from Rome to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and converted the empire to Christianity, creating Christendom, than which it is difficult to think of a more decisive event in history.

That division of the Roman empire also saw a massive Roman government-inspired movement into the Balkans from northern Europe of a numerous group of slavic tribes, whom the Romans hoped would act as a buffer against wilder barbarians, still pressing on the frontiers of empire. But although ethnically Balkans slavs are much the same, those in Serbia were under the rule of the eastern empire, thus Greek Orthodox Constantinople, and those in Croatia, the western empire, thus Roman Catholics. The religious divide has acted as an emblematic division, even though the languages are the same. 

Serbia also, with much of the Balkans was occupied for centuries by the Ottomans; Croatia was not, being a frontier province of the Austro-Hungarian empire and a bastion against the Ottoman turks. 

The next Croatian of world historical significance is Tito. The parallel with Constantine is rather apt, once it is accepted that the Yugoslav was operating in a far smaller sphere than the Roman Emperor. If Constantine was a practical man attracted to an otherworldly religion, to which he converted his worldly polity, Tito was a revolutionary visionary converted to Marxism, a secular recrudescence of Christianity, to which he converted his fractured Balkan nation. 

This was a highly contradictory thing to do. But then even Tito had a contradictory ancestry, half Croat, half Slovene. Yugoslavia itself was a bundle of contradictions, which is why it fell apart a while after he died. 

It was not a rigidly communist state at all, but the only one of them to allow its people to travel freely, to indulge in market activities and to prosper. Tito was genuinely popular, a hero from WWII against fascism and the only communist leader who was definitely not a fanatic - a Western-leaning pragmatist, aided to power by Winston Churchill no less.

His legacy has been mixed, benign and yet malign, from whatever perspective you take on it. 

He gave Yugoslavia freedom from fractious wars for decades, yet never resolved the ancient animosities between its constituent peoples - as who possibly could?

He opened up his country to the wider world, as no other communist leader dared to do. 

Let history judge him.

But Croatians now in an extraordinarily uncertain world would dearly like such certainties that go along with membership of the European Union, which their successive governments have worked towards, since the departure of Tudjman. 

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