U.S. Department of State Background Note
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Croatia serves as a gateway to eastern Europe. It lies along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea and shares a border with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, and Slovenia. The republic swings around like a boomerang from the Pannonian Plains of Slavonia between the Sava, Drava, and Danube Rivers, across hilly, central Croatia to the Istrian Peninsula, then south through Dalmatia along the rugged Adriatic coast. Croatia is made up of 20 counties plus the city of Zagreb and controls 1,185 islands in the Adriatic Sea, 67 of which are inhabited.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
The Croats are believed to be a purely Slavic people who migrated from Ukraine and settled in present-day Croatia during the 6th century. After a period of self-rule, Croatians agreed to the Pacta Conventa in 1091, submitting themselves to Hungarian authority. By the mid-1400s, concerns over Ottoman expansion led the Croatian Assembly to invite the Habsburgs, under Archduke Ferdinand, to assume control over Croatia. Habsburg rule proved successful in thwarting the Ottomans, and by the 18th century, much of Croatia was free of Turkish control.
In 1868, Croatia gained domestic autonomy while remaining under Hungarian authority. Following World War I and the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Croatia joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes became Yugoslavia in 1929). Yugoslavia changed its name once again after World War II. The new state became the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and united Croatia and several other states together under the communistic leadership of Marshall Tito (born Josip Broz).
After the death of Tito and with the fall of communism throughout eastern Europe, the Yugoslav federation began to unravel. Croatia held its first multi-party elections since World War II in 1990. Long-time Croatian nationalist Franjo Tudjman was elected President, and one year later, Croatians declared independence from Yugoslavia. Conflict between Serbs and Croats in Croatia escalated, and one month after Croatia declared independence, civil war erupted.
The United Nations mediated a cease-fire in January 1992, but hostilities resumed the next year when Croatia fought to regain one-third of the territory lost the previous year. A second cease-fire was enacted in May 1993, followed by a joint declaration the next January between Croatia and Yugoslavia. However, in September 1993, the Croatian Army led an offensive against the Serb-held Republic of Krajina. A third cease-fire was called in March 1994, but it, too, was broken in May and August 1995 after Croatian forces regained large portions of Krajina, prompting an exodus of Serbs from this area. In November 1995, Croatia agreed to peacefully reintegrate Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Dirmium under terms of the Erdut Agreement. In December 1995, Croatia signed the Dayton peace agreement, committing itself to a permanent cease-fire and the return of all refugees.
The death of President Tudjman in December 1999, followed by the election of a coalition government and President in early 2000, brought significant changes to Croatia. The government, under the leadership of then-Prime Minister Racan, progressed in implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, regional cooperation, refugee returns, national reconciliation, and democratization.
On November 23, 2003, national elections were held for Parliament. The current government, headed by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, took office in December 2003. The Sanader government has made membership for Croatia in the European Union and in NATO its top priorities. Elections for Parliament are not expected again until November 2007. Presidential elections were held in January 2005. President Mesic was re-elected to a second term in office, defeating Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) candidate Jadranka Kosor in two rounds of balloting. President Mesic was inaugurated for a second term on February 18, 2005. Presidential elections will next be held in January 2010.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Croatian Parliament, also known as the Sabor, became a unicameral body after its upper house (Chamber of Counties) was eliminated by constitutional amendment in March 2001. The remaining body, the Chamber of Representatives, consists of 152 members who serve 4-year terms elected by direct vote. The Sabor meets twice a year--from January 15 to July 15 and from September 15 to December 15.
The powers of the legislature include enactment and amendment of the constitution, passage of laws, adoption of the state budget, declarations of war and peace, alteration of the boundaries of the republic, and carrying out elections and appointments to office. During the parliamentary elections of January 2000, six parties united to form a coalition government--Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS), Liberal Party (LS), and Croatian People's Party (HNS). The IDS left the coalition in June 2001. In July 2002, the HSLS left the coalition, after which it split into two parties, Libra and the HSLS. Libra remained in the coalition. As a result of the parliamentary elections in November 2003, the HDZ formed a government in coalition with the Pensioners Party (HSU), Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), and all ethnic minority representatives in the Sabor.
Stjepan Mesic was re-elected President in February 2005. The president is the head of state and is elected by direct popular vote for a term of 5 years. The president is limited to serving no more than two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief, the president appoints the prime minister and cabinet members with the consent of Parliament. Following the death of President Tudjman, the powers of the presidency were curtailed and greater responsibility was vested in Parliament.
HDZ President Ivo Sanader assumed the office of Prime Minister in December 2003. The prime minister, who is nominated by the president, assumes office following a parliamentary vote of confidence in the new government. The prime minister and government are responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies of the republic.
After the resignation of Miomir Zuzul, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic became Foreign Minister on February 17, 2005. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and European Integration were merged under her leadership. In addition, Damir Polancec was named Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, and Neven Ljubicic replaced Andrija Hebrang as Minister of Health. In February 2006, Ana Lovrin was named Minister of Justice.
Croatia has a three-tiered judicial system, consisting of the Supreme Court, county courts, and municipal courts. Croatia's Supreme Court is the highest court in the republic. The Supreme Court assures the uniform application of laws. Members of the high court are appointed by the National Judicial Council, a body of 11 members, and justices on the Supreme Court are appointed for life. The court's hearings are generally open to the public.
The Constitutional Court is a body of 13 judges appointed by Parliament for an 8-year term. The Constitutional Court works to assure the conformity of all laws to the constitution.
Principal Government Officials
Croatia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2343 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20008-2853, tel. (202) 588-5899, fax: (202) 588-8936. Consulates General of the Republic of Croatia are located in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Honorary consulates are located in St. Paul, New Orleans, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City.
Following World War II, rapid industrialization and diversification occurred within Croatia. Decentralization came in 1965, allowing growth of certain sectors, particularly the tourist industry. Profits from Croatian industry were used to develop poorer regions in the former Yugoslavia. This, coupled with austerity programs and hyperinflation in the 1980s, contributed to discontent in Croatia.
Privatization and the drive toward a market economy had barely begun under the new Croatian Government when war broke out in 1991. As a result of the war, the economic infrastructure sustained massive damage, particularly the revenue-rich tourism industry. From 1989 to 1993, GDP fell 40.5%. With the end of the war in 1995, tourism and Croatia's economy recovered moderately. However, corruption, cronyism, and a general lack of transparency stymied meaningful economic reform, as well as much-needed foreign investment.
Croatia's economy turned the corner in 2000 as tourism rebounded. The economy expanded by 5.6% in 2002, stimulated by a credit boom led by newly privatized and foreign-capitalized banks, some capital investment (most importantly road construction), further growth in tourism, and gains by small and medium-sized private enterprises. These trends have continued, with credit growth fueling strong demand in construction and services, resulting in 4.8% GDP growth in 2006. Unemployment, although still high, began a steady decline over this period that has continued to the present day. Croatia has also benefited from macroeconomic stability over the past several years with a stable exchange rate, low inflation, and shrinking government deficits. The start of European Union accession talks in 2005 and the prospect of NATO membership have also helped to attract higher levels of foreign investment.
Despite these gains, however, substantial challenges remain, particularly in reforming the judicial system and reducing corruption. The privatization process, begun in the 1990s, has been unsteady, largely as a result of public mistrust engendered when many state-owned companies were sold to the politically well-connected at below-market prices. The government sold three large metals plants in early 2007, but the Croatian state still controls a significant part of the economy, with government spending accounting for as much as 40% of GDP. Some large, state-owned industries, such as the country's shipyards, continue to rely on government subsidies, crowding out investment in education and technology needed to ensure the economy's long-term competitiveness.
U.S. engagement in Croatia is aimed at fostering a democratic, secure, and market-oriented society that will be a strong partner in Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States opened its Embassy in Zagreb in 1992, and has continued to work with Croatia to overcome the legacies of communism, war, ethnic division, and authoritarian government.
In an effort to promote regional stability through refugee returns, the United States has given more than $13.4 million since 1998 in humanitarian demining assistance. Croatia hopes to remove an estimated one million remaining mines by 2010. The United States also has provided additional financial assistance to Croatia through the Southeastern European Economic Development Program (SEED) to facilitate democratization and restructuring of Croatia's financial sector. Croatia is scheduled to graduate from the SEED program in 2008.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
The U.S. Embassy in Croatia is located in Zagreb at Ul. Thomasa Jeffersona 2, 10010 Zagreb; telephone:  (1) 661-2200.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Further Electronic Information
Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.
Revised: May. 2007