ZAGREB, October 3, 2018 – Croatia has profited from its membership of the European Union, a discussion entitled “Five Years of Croatia’s EU Membership” was told on Tuesday evening.
“Croatia today is a success story. It has profited from its EU membership, and now it is up to it to translate this profit into an economic benefit,” Miro Kovač, former foreign minister and current chairman of the Croatian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told about 80 participants in this event at the Europahaus in Vienna.
He cited a number of positive effects on the economic sector, including stable growth, declining unemployment, increasing GDP and exports, and the recovery of small businesses. As a problem, he mentioned young people leaving the country in search of a better livelihood.
Kovač also singled out the Pelješac Bridge construction project, saying that there was a possibility of other infrastructure projects being financed from EU funds as well, such as railways.
Responding to questions about Croatia’s border dispute with Slovenia, which could be against Croatia’s entering the Schengen zone, Kovač said that Croatia was ready for negotiations, and mentioned a solution reached by Germany and the Netherlands regarding the use of a bay in the North Sea.
Kovač also spoke of the EU’s attitude towards Southeast Europe, saying that the EU should “get more actively and effectively involved in its own backyard.” He noted that “it is unacceptable that uncoordinated decisions with far-reaching consequences for the EU have been made, as was the case with the migration crisis.”
Former science minister Pavo Barišić also spoke of the positive effects of Croatia’s EU membership. He said that it had opened up possibilities of participation in many EU science and education programmes and structural funds. “It is a fact that the positive effects have been felt by users of EU funds, especially businesses, and that our students are much more mobile. There is also greater mobility of labour. … On the other hand, increased emigration of young people means a considerable loss of potential for the future development of Croatia,” Barišić said.
He also said that Croatia had a significant role towards its southeastern neighbours and that it paid particular attention to protecting the rights of minorities.
The discussion’s host Joerg Wojahn, who represents the European Commission in Austria, said that Croatia was a very active member state which would for the first time assume the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2020.
The event was organised by the Vienna-based Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe and the Austrian-Croatian Society in cooperation with the European Commission Representation, the European Parliament Office in Austria, and Erste Bank.