Croatians pessimistic about future – survey

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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. 

In an April 2007 reportParliament urged Croatia to make progress on EU accession criteria, but warned that full membership would not be considered before the EU reforms its own institutions. MEPs hailed the country's adoption of key legislation in crucial areas, including public administration, the administration of the courts, and anti-corruption policy. 

However, the report called on Croatia to co-operate more with the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague, and said that further progress was required in judicial reform and the transition to a market economy. Parliament also urged Croatia to implement EU environmental legislation and ratify the Kyoto Protocol.   

Commission President José Manuel Barroso has repeatedly given his backing to Croatia's bid to join the Union, providing that it fulfils all the criteria for membership. His position has remained unchanged since he declared on 25 September 2006 that he "would like Croatia to join as quickly as possible, if it fulfils all the criteria". 

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has endorsed Croatia's accession efforts and wants the country to join as soon as possible, though he has hinted that he would like the EU's institutional question to be resolved beforehand. He outlined his continuing standpoint on 5 October 2006: "While we prepare internally for a new institutional settlement, the gradual and carefully-managed accession process moves on with Croatia and other Western Balkan countries."

"We stick to our existing commitments to these countries," he added. 

 

Croatia formally applied to join the EU in early 2003, and talks were officially opened in October 2005 after having been postponed by the Commission over the failure to co-operate sufficiently with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 

Negotiations have already been completed in the area of science and research, with the Commission deciding that further progress is still required on chapters as diverse as reform of the economy, judiciary and public administration, and the fight against corruption. 

  • Oct. 2005: EU opens accession negotiations with Croatia. 
  • 8 Nov. 2006: Commission presents progress report on Croatia along with a general strategy report on enlargement. It calls for further reforms. 
  • 29 March 2007: Negotiation chapter on intellectual property law opened. 
  • 26 June 2007: Six new chapters are opened - Freedom to provide services; Company law; Financial services; Information society and media; Statistics, and; Financial control. This brings the total number of chapters opened so far to twelve. 
  • 2009: Croatia hopes to join the EU. 

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