Original publication: May 2016
Author: Diána Haase, Research Administrator
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2NaPnHM
The Republic of Croatia: Key Facts and Figures
The Republic of Croatia (Republika Hrvatska) is located in South-eastern Europe, it is part of the Danube valley and to the east it is bordering the Adriatic Sea. Neighbouring countries are Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
The land area of Croatia is 56 594 km2, and the sea and interior sea waters are 31 479 km2. The coast line is 6 278 km long (mainland 1 880 km and islands 4 398 km). Croatia has more than a thousand islands, islets, rocks and reef, a fact that is of importance for the “geographical identity” of the country. Although the land area of Croatia is not very big (19th in size among Member States of the European Union), it has an extremely varied relief, with the three main types being: lowland Pannonian, mountainous Dinaric and coastal Adriatic. The highest point is Dinara peak – 1 831 m. About 62 % of the territory covered by the river network belongs to the Black Sea catchment basin, 38 % of the territory to the Adriatic catchment basin. Croatia is considered to be one of the classic karst countries in Europe, and it has large reserves of underground drinking water: in terms of the size of its per capita water reserves, Croatia is the third in Europe (behind Iceland and Norway). In addition, 47 % of its land and 39 % of its sea is designated as specially protected areas and areas of conservation: 19 National and Nature Parks, with some- designated as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites.
According to the 2011 Census (Croatian Bureau of Statistics), the population of Croatia is 4 284 889 people, of which 48.2 % are men and 51.8 % are women. The majority of the population are Croats (90.42 %). The biggest minority with 4.36 % of the population are the Serbs, but a wide range of other ethnicities are also present in the country, including Bosnians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Italians, Czechs, and Romas (each ethnicity being less than 1 % of the total population).
Eurostat data for 2015 reports the population (the number of persons having their usual residence in a country on 1 January of the respective year) to be 4 225 316 persons. The official language is Croatian, and the currency in use is kuna.
Political and governmental/administrative structures
Croatia became independent from the former Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991; it joined the UN on 22 May 1992 and NATO on 1 April 2009. Croatia became candidate country for EU membership in June 2004 and accession negotiations were opened on 3 October 2005. The European Union (EU) Accession Treaty was signed on 9 December 2011; and at the referendum at the beginning of 2012, 66.27 % of Croatian voters supported accession to the EU. The parliament unanimously ratified the Accession Treaty and Croatia became the 28th EU Member State as of 1 July 2013.
Croatia is a unitary state, with a unicameral parliamentary system (the parliament is called Sabor), and it has three levels of governance:
- central (national) level,
- “regional” level with the 20 Counties (županija) plus the City of Zagreb (The capital city of Zagreb has a special status, as it is both a Town and a County),
- local level with the 428 Municipalities and 128 Towns.
Croatia underwent a decentralisation process that started in 2001 when certain functions and responsibilities were transferred from the national to the local level. A Commission for Decentralisation was created by the government in 2004 and overall, the reform of local self-government has long been present on the political agenda, strongly supported by international organisations and donors (e.g. EU CARDS and IPA, USAID). The category of large Towns (more than 35 000 citizens) was introduced in 2005, and these have broader self-government competences. The division of responsibilities, the territorial organization and budgetary issues of local units are regulated by several pieces of legislation; the financing system of local and regional units is mainly based on sharing of tax revenues (in particular the personal income tax) between the central government and the local and regional units (LRUs). As regards their competences, cities and municipalities carry out locally important operations that directly affect the needs of the citizens (tasks not assigned by constitution or law to state bodies). Obligatory tasks include among others housing and arrangement of settlements, zoning and town planning, pre-elementary and elementary schooling, protection and improvement of natural environment, etc. Counties on the other hand are in charge of operations of regional importance, in domains such as education; zoning and town planning; economic development; transports and transportation infrastructure.
The European Commission (EC), in its Croatia Country Report 2016, concludes that there is high level of territorial fragmentation of public administration that translates into a multiplication of functions and public bodies and weighs on efficiency. The decentralisation of functions to sub-national levels of government went beyond their fiscal capacity, resulting in strong reliance on central government transfers. Moreover, weaknesses in administrative capacities and procedures hamper (partially due to fragmentation of sub-national governance) management and absorption of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF/ESI Funds). Despite these weaknesses, reform of governance at local level is still not in sight.
Finally, Croatia is divided into two (earlier three) statistical (NUTS 2 level) regions: Jadranska Hrvatska and Kontinentalna Hrvatska. The City of Zagreb and Karlovac County are in Kontinentalna Hrvatska, and Karlovac County is situated in Jadranska Hrvatska.
The government in power is a coalition that involves representatives of the Hrvatska demokratska zajednica (HDZ), MOST nezavisnih lista as well as independent ministers (without affiliation to a political party).
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