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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



Update No: 161 - (26/10/10)

Whither the EU?
Croatia is currently negotiating to enter the European Union (EU), possibly in 2012.

On 5 October, Croatia marked five years since it started EU membership negotiations, in a process that has taken longer than any other country admitted in the last cycle of enlargement. Bulgaria and Romania have been admitted ahead of it - but why?

The delay could be partially blamed for the lack of initiative on the part of local authorities, but there are also several factors over which the country has no power. Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003, and the European Commission recommended making it an official candidate in early 2004. Entering its sixth year of negotiations, Croatia closed 22 chapters, while 11 remain open. At the beginning of November, the country could close another five or six chapters, and three to four more in December, leaving three of the most difficult chapters – Judiciary, Competition and Environmental Policy – for January.
Croatia has also intensified its fight against corruption in recent months, one of the main conditions for joining the EU. A deputy prime minister, one minister, the head of the customs service, and several high-ranking public sector officials, are on trial for corruption, in cases that have been applauded by EU officials. If Croatia sticks to the schedule, it will be able to close the technical part of negotiations by the time the EU summit rolls around in March and sign the accession agreement during Hungary’s presidential mandate. In the best case scenario, accession talks could finish around the middle of 2011.

Papal benediction
A not unimportant preamble in this regard was a visit by the Pope, who after all lives in Rome, which gave its name to the original treaty in 1957.

The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI has discussed Croatia's Christian roots and its negotiations to enter the EU during a meeting with the Balkan country's president. Benedict met with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic on October 9 and had what the Vatican described as a "fruitful exchange of opinions" on regional issues.

Croatia is predominantly Roman Catholic and a Vatican statement said the two leaders talked about "the importance of it maintaining its specific Christian identity." The statement said they also discussed the status of Catholic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the largest part of the population is Muslim.

Croatia versus Slovenia
But the most important relations abroad are of a secular nature, one might suppose.

The vital relationship between Croatia and its EU neighbour, Slovenia, has been satisfactory since last year's agreement on a mechanism to resolve a maritime border dispute. The two countries even joined forces to initiate the so-called Brdo process to help the region progress towards EU integration through stepped-up cooperation and exchange. From being a notorious "bad example", Croatia and Slovenia turned into a model much praised by the EU on how to resolve bilateral disputes. Croatian and EU flags were on a recent bilateral occasion aplenty - Zagreb has been negotiating to enter the bloc for five years.

But not all problems between the two neighbours are over yet, and they are still affecting Croatia's EU accession talks. After negotiating with the European Union for more than five years already, Croatia has entered the final stage of the process, hoping to conclude it in six months time.

All negotiating "chapters" have been opened and there are just ten remaining to be closed. According to EU sources, three could be concluded in an intergovernmental conference between both sides which are scheduled to take place at the beginning of November. Before the end of the year more could follow and Croatia should go into 2011 with just two or three chapters still open, including the most difficult ones concerning the judiciary and competition.

But Slovenia, according to sources from other member states, is preventing the chapter on freedom of movement of capitals from being closed, although Croatia has fulfilled all the necessary criteria. The reason is Zagreb's refusal to allow the Slovenian Bank NLB (Nova Ljubljanska Banka) access to the Croatian market.

Croatia's Central Bank argues that NLB, as a successor of the old Ljubljanksa Banka, owes hundreds of millions of euros to Croatian citizens who had savings in this bank during the times of Yugoslavia, the federal state to which both Croatia and Slovenia belonged.

Slovenia, for its part, considers Croatia's position as a breach of the free movement of capital rule. Other EU Member states believe this to be a purely bilateral issue that should not affect EU accession talks.

A second chapter that Slovenia might put on hold is fisheries. Ljubljana wants to ensure that a protected fishery zone declared by Croatia several years ago will not be implemented after the conclusion of Croatia's EU accession talks.

But this time, both sides seem more relaxed about their disagreements and deny they will grow into a serious burden for bilateral relations.

"The political agreement, reached between the two prime ministers (Jadranka Kosor from Croatia and Borut Pahor of Slovenia) is in place, there is good will by both sides, and we expect the remaining issues to be resolved on an expert level," a Croatian government source said.

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