Despite the prospect of EU accession in 2009, the vast majority of Croatians are pessimistic about the future of their country, according to a nationwide survey.
Economic and social problems mean that despite being next in line to join the EU, possibly as early as 2009, life in the country – which was part of Yugoslavia before declaring independence in 1991 – continues to be difficult.
The survey – entitled ‘Quality of life in Croatia: Key findings from national research’ – finds that citizens of the EU candidate country are dissatisfied with low income levels, regional differences in economic development, high rates of long-term unemployment and the quality of public services, with only a quarter optimistic that the situation will improve soon.
Conversely, the majority of Croatians describe themselves as being happy with their family life, personal relationships, health, the environment and national security, although the need to boost living standards remains a major concern.
These economic and social problems pose a challenge for policymakers. The report claims that the most pressing issue is the standard of living, as average household incomes only average €300 per month. Raising the GDP level – currently less than half the EU-25 average – and widening access to education – 40% of the population having never progressed beyond primary school – should also be seen as priorities.
Meanwhile, the Eurofound report also reveals that levels of trust and social cohesion are low, with a third of Croatians believing that caution is necessary in dealing with others, 35% claiming that there are tensions between ethnic groups, and 62% expressing concern over tensions between rich and poor.
The report calls for concrete policies to improve quality of life to be introduced, such as expanding the provision of affordable housing, providing incentives for young people to stay longer at school, and provide affordable childcare to encourage more women to work.
Together with the renewed efforts to join the EU as soon as possible, such reforms should provide the basis for quality of life in Croatia to improve further.