Croatia Essay

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At the  beginning  of the  20th century,  Croatia  was part  of  the  Austro-Hungarian  Empire.  Following the empire’s demise in 1918, a kingdom of Slovenes, Croats,  and  Serbs  was established.  Croat  opposition  to the  new structure  gradually increased,  but any attempts  to  promote  democratic  change  were stifled, and Yugoslavia was established  in 1929. An independence movement, led by the Ustase Croatian Liberation  Movement,  gradually  grew.  Force  was used in an attempt to establish an independent state. However, it was not  until  the  German  invasion of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, that Ustase leader Ante Pavelic was installed as the leader of an independent state of Croatia. However, by 1943 partisan opposition forces, under Josip Broz (Tito), controlled much of Croatia. On October 20, 1944, Tito became prime minister  of Yugoslavia; Croatia  became  one  of six constituent republics of a federal, independent communist state.

The further  concentration of power  in  Belgrade produced  further  unrest  in Croatia,  culminating  in the Croatian Spring of 1971—a call for greater autonomy and  constitutional reform.  When  Tito  died in 1980, Croatia was still a long way from independence. However, 1989 saw political change sweeping across Eastern  Europe.  Following elections,  constitutional changes,  and  a referendum,  Croatia  declared  independence on June 25, 1991. Fighting broke out. Amid ethnic  rivalries thousands  were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes. In January 1992 the United Nations negotiated a cease-fire and Croatia was recognized by the European  Union (EU), and in April by the United States.

January 1993 saw further  fighting in the  Krajina region. In June 1993, the Krajinian Serbs voted to join Greater Serbia. Fighting continued,  with widespread atrocities on both sides, until the Dayton Accord, recognizing Croatia’s traditional  boundaries, was signed in Paris in December 1995, establishing the Republic of Croatia as a presidential/parliamentary democracy, with Zagreb as its capital. The last Serb-held enclave in eastern Slavonia was returned to Croatia in 1998. Croatia’s bid for membership  of the  EU received a boost  in March  2008 when the European  Commission said that it should be possible to complete accession negotiations by the end of 2009.

Croatia  is now divided into  20 counties,  and  in 2008  the  population   is  estimated   to  be  approximately 4.5 million. The president is the head of state, elected to a five-year term. The leader of the majority party  or the  leader  of the  majority  coalition  is usually appointed  prime  minister  by the  president and then  approved  by the unicameral  Assembly or Sabor. The Assembly comprises 153 seats; members are elected from party lists, by popular vote, to serve a four-year term.  In the elections of November  25, 2007, the  center-right Croatian  Democratic  Union or HDZ was the biggest party, with 66 seats; although not a majority, they were able to hold power through deals with smaller coalition partners  that gave them an 83-seat total.

Croatia’s   economy   suffered  badly  during   the 1991–95 war as output  collapsed. Since 2000, however,  economic  fortunes   have  improved  steadily. gross domestic product (GDP) growth has been between 4 and 6 percent (5.6 percent in 2007). This has largely been on the back of a rebound  in tourism and credit-driven  consumer  spending. Croatia registered  53 million tourist  nights in 2006, up 36 percent  from 2000. Total annual visitors could top 12 million by 2012. Inflation over the same period has remained low, 2.2 percent in 2007, and the currency  has  been  generally  stable.  The government has also reduced the budget deficit to 2.6 percent of GDP in 2007. On the downside, the unemployment rate  remains  high at 11.8 percent  in 2007, though economic  growth  should  bring  this  down.  There is also a growing trade deficit and uneven regional development.

Incremental  reforms  have helped  the  investment climate, as reflected in improved ratings in 2007 from Transparency  International, the World Bank, and the World  Economic  Forum  (WEF). The WEF’s Global Competitiveness  Index for 2006–07, published at the end of October  2007, ranks Croatia 57th out of 122 countries, with strong scores for education and technological readiness, along with weak scores for state administration and corruption.



  1. Central Intelligence Agency, “Croatia,” The World Factbook, (cited March 2009);
  2. Marcus Tanner, Croatia: A Nation Forged in War (Yale University Press, 1997);
  3. United States, Croatia. Foreign Labor Trends (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs and U.S. Embassy, Zagreb, 2004);
  4. Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War (Brookings Institution, 1995).

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