Friday, 16 September 2016

Croatia and the World - 01 Croatia, her diaspora and the European Union

Croatia and the World - 01

Croatia, her diaspora and the European Union

Some years ago, before Croatia entered the European Uniom, we prayed Croatia not to forget her diaspora while doing that long-awaited and feared entry. Now with Croatia in the European Union, we understand that our fears as diaspora were not entirely justified. Croatia is not forgetting her people outside her borders.

Croatia has developed firstly the Strategy for Relations of the Republic of Croatia with Croatians outside the Republic of Croatia in May, 2011.

Subsequently the Parliament approved the respective Act, in October the same year. In turn, according to the provisions of the Act, the State Office for Croats outside of Croatia was created.

In 2012 according to law, it was established the Advisory Council of the Government of Croatia for Croats outside the Republic of Croatia.

This Council consists of 55 members from the countries of the world where Croats live. In the Council, Argentine Croatians has two representatives, the same number as Chile Croatians. In total, the Croatians of Latin America have six members on the Council.

According to the Act, the Croatians outside the Republic of Croatia are grouped into four regions or groups as follows:

a) Croatians of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
b) Minority Croatians in countries near Croatia (these are 12 European countries, namely Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia (Vojvodina) and Montenegro)
c) Croatians in Europe
d) Croatians overseas. At the same time, Croatians overseas are grouped into:
d1) Croatians in North America
b2) Croatians in Latin America
b3) Croatians in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Several of the countries where Croatians live before entering Croatia, belong already to the European Union.

Croatians of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia (mostly in Vojvodina) live particularly difficult situations.

We believe that with Croatia in the European Union, a better protection for Croatians living in Europe can be expected.

It is known that European countries generally care much about the relations with their countrymen who live in various parts of the world. European countries also tend to have laws protecting national minorities.

Croatia in turn has a treatment and protection of national minorities living in her territory that is more generous than other European countries offer to the Croatian national minorities living outside Croatia. We hope that in the framework of the European Union and through bilateral reciprocity agreements, the Croatian minorities will have better protection.

Croatia currently lives an economic crisis. The entry of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union has not yet been accompanied by an improvement in the economic situation. It is true that Europe itself has its own economic depression, from which is slowly re-emerging.

Three factors are generally seen as making it more difficult the economic recovery in Croatia and especially capital inflows from abroad. The three negatives elements are: corruption, bureaucracy and legal uncertainty.

Corruption is a problem that affects all countries. It affects Croatia as well. It is also true that the country is moving significantly in the fight against this scourge. Proof of this is that there are currently a former prime minister and former director of the Economic Chamber of Croatia imprisoned for corruption. And still uncovering corruption. This is encouraging and a sign that progress is being made.

The bureaucracy is also a disease that afflicts many countries. Thus, investors who want to start projects in Croatia encounter more obstacles than incentives. Croatia (where it is called "papirology") is aware that it must improve in this regard, and in fact is taking steps to simplify the procedures that hinder economic activity and encourage corruption.

The third difficulty that discourages investment, especially foreign investment, and therefore growth, has to do with cases of legal uncertainty. We refer here to two cases related to the Croatian diaspora and particularly with the European Union.

The first issue is the return of property taken during the Yugoslav communist regime.

During the years subsequent to the end of the Second World War, the ruling regime took away many real estate properties both in Croatia and other countries of the then Yugoslavia. The Republic of Croatia, once becoming independent, tried to resolve the issue of properties taken and did so -or tried to-, by means of two Acts, one of 1996 and the other of 2002.

But unfortunately that remedy was biased against Croatians living outside Croatia. This is not the place to explain the legal details, but suffice to say that the solutions implemented ware very poor and are certainly an obstacle to investments of Croatian Diaspora in their motherland. It is time to seriously review the issue of the expropriated-nationalised properties.

Joza Vrljičak

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