The Republic of Croatia is bordered by Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its extensive Adriatic coastline on the south-west includes nearly 1,200 islands and islets. The Croatian population is approximately 4.2million. Croatia joined the European Union on 1 July 2013.
The Republic of Croatia is a parliamentary democracy. The President of the Republic is the Head of State, directly elected for a five year term. As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the President also participates in foreign and national security policy decision-making and in the appointment of the heads of the intelligence services. The current President Ms Kolinda Grabar Kitarović – the first female President of Croatia, was inaugurated on 19 February 2015. The candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ms Grabar Kitarović won the second round of the presidential elections with 50.74 per cent of the vote.
The Prime Minister, currently Mr Zoran Milanovic, is the Head of Government. The centre-left "Kukuriku" coalition Government came to power in December 2011. It comprises the SDP (Social Democratic Party), HNS (Croatian People's Party), IDS (Istrian Democratic Assembly) and HSU (Croatian Party of Pensioners). It won in eight of the twelve electoral districts, gaining 80 seats (up from 63) and an outright majority
The legislative branch of government is a unicameral assembly (the Hrvatski Sabor). It has 151 seats with three deputies elected by districts for Croatian citizens living abroad (the so-called "Diaspora" district) and eight deputies elected as representatives of national minorities. . On 5 October 2015, President Grabar Kitarović announced that parliamentary elections would be held on Sunday 8 November 2015.
Croatia elects eleven Members of the European Parliament. At Croatia’s second elections for the European Parliament in May 2014, the right-wing coalition led by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won six seats, the Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) won four seats, while the recently established Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) won one seat.
Croatia joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in April 2009 and currently has around 100 personnel deployed to NATO Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan. As of 30 September 2015, Croatia had a total of 18 police, UN Military Exports on Mission, and troops deployed to UN peacekeeping operations.
The Croatian economy was seriously affected by the global financial crisis. GDP dropped 7.4 per cent in 2009. After six years of recession, Croatia’s economy is showing initial positive signs. GDP is expected to grow 0.8 per cent in 2015 and one per cent in 2016 (according to IMF estimates), as lower energy prices, stronger euro area growth and recovering domestic demand (expected to grow 0.4 per cent in 2016) help the Croatian economy. However, high corporate debt, unfinished structural reforms and fiscal vulnerabilities present downward risks going forward. Croatia entered the EU’s excessive deficit procedure in January 2014.
The average unemployment rate has climbed steadily in recent years, reaching 17.1 per cent in 2014. But it is expected to decline to 16.6 per cent in 2015 and 16.1 per cent in 2016.
Australia recognised Croatia on 16 January 1992, following its declaration of independence on 25 June 1991. Diplomatic relations were established on 13 February 1992 and the first Australian Ambassador to Croatia (resident in Vienna) presented credentials the following month. On 21 September 1992, an Australian Consulate was opened in Zagreb. Australia opened an Embassy in Zagreb in October 1999.
At the heart of the bilateral relationship are the significant people-to-people links built by Australians of Croatian descent. The 2011 census recorded 48,828 Croatia-born persons in Australia, and 126,267 persons claiming Croatian ancestry.
The Croatian diaspora is eligible to vote in Croatian presidential and parliamentary elections. At the 2011 elections, all three seats for this district went to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
On 13 May 2003, the Australian and Croatian Governments signed a bilateral social security agreement to give improved social security protection to people who have lived and/or worked in both Australia and Croatia. The Agreement came into effect on 1 July 2004.
Among other things, the Agreement provides that Australian employers do not have a double liability for certain social security payments for Australian employees in Croatia. Specifically, Australian employers will be exempted from the need to make superannuation (or equivalent) contributions under Croatian law where an employee has been temporarily seconded to Croatia, provided the employee remains covered in Australia by compulsory superannuation arrangements. Further information, including on how to obtain a certificate of coverage is available from the Australian Taxation Office website.
On 8 December 2004, the Australian Government amended Australia's extradition legislation in relation to Croatia. The Extradition (Croatia) Regulations 2004 simplify the requirements for Croatia when making an extradition request to Australia.
In 2013, Australia and Croatia signed an Air Services Agreement. The Agreement, together with a Memorandum of Understanding between the aeronautical authorities, entitles airlines of both countries to operate daily services between Australia and Croatia and may help to expand tourism and commercial links. ’
(Note: Positions indicated in the list below were held at the time of the visits)
- 2014: Mr Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment.
- 2012: Mr Richard Marles, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
- 2008: nine-member Australian Parliamentary delegation led by Senator the Hon John Hogg, President of the Senate.
- 2014: Mr Zoran Milanovic, Prime Minister, and Mr Ante Kotromanovic, Defence Minister. This was the first visit to Australia by a Croatian Head of Government.
- 2005: Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
- 2004: Ms Vesna Pusic, Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament.
- 2003: Croatian Parliamentary delegation led by Mr Zlatko Tomcic, Speaker of the Croatian Parliament.
- 2002: Mr Tonino Picula, Foreign Minister.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Bilateral trade between Australia and Croatia is modest. In 2014, two-way merchandise trade was $26.54m, overwhelmingly in Croatia’s favour. Australian goods exports to Croatia were worth around $2.8m in 2014.. Fruit and nuts were Australia’s principal export to Croatia. Imports from Croatia totalled $23.6m and consisted largely of edible products and preparations, and electric power machinery and parts. There are opportunities for Australian companies in Croatia’s energy (infrastructure, resources, oil and gas), tourism (services and education), marine (including ferries) and education sectors.
Bilateral trade in services was worth $152m in 2014.