Foreign policy and defense
Croatia is a nation in Southern Europe. Its capital city is Zagreb. Croatia has improved its relations with the outside world since the turn of the millennium, through increased willingness to cooperate and strengthen democracy. However, there is some grumbling in relation to several neighboring countries. The country joined NATO in 2009 and the EU in 2013.
At the end of the 1990s, Croatia was isolated from foreign policy because of the involvement in the Yugoslav war, and especially the animosity with Serbia. The UN and the EU have criticized Croatia for its policies against, for example, Bosnia and Herzegovina, lack of cooperation with the UN Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and unwillingness to accept the relocation of Serbian refugees.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Croatia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Foreign policy was changed by the Social Democrat-led government that came to power in 2000, following the death of President Franjo Tuđman. The new government clearly set the goal: membership of the EU and NATO. When the Right regained power, the government remained on that line.
However, the road to EU membership became long and paved with complex and conflict-filled negotiations. A first step was taken in 2001, when a so-called Stabilization and Association Agreement was concluded with the EU. In February 2003, Croatia applied for membership and in June 2004 formally became a candidate country. Membership negotiations started in October 2005. But they went slow, and it was mainly two EU countries that slowed the pace: the Netherlands, which considered Croatia did not cooperate fully with the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague (see Democracy and Rights), and Slovenia, which used the EU negotiations in the game of disputed borders between the two neighboring countries (see below).
Extensive corruption, deficiencies in the justice system and problems with organized crime also contributed to the delays in negotiations. In June 2011, however, they were completed. Croatia was then considered to have fulfilled all conditions, including adapting its legislation to EU requirements. The Accession Treaty was signed in December 2011 and at the end of the year 2013 Croatia became the EU’s 28th Member State.
Swanky neighbor relationships
Relations with neighboring countries are significantly better than during the conflict years, but Croatia has minor border disputes with all former Yugoslav sub-republics with which it shares borders: Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro. Relations have deteriorated in several cases after the EU accession in 2013, and not least since the right-wing party HDZ regained power in 2015.
Particularly infected, a conflict with Slovenia has become. Between 1991, there has been a border dispute between 1991 that includes fishing rights in the Piran Bay in the Adriatic. Slovenia has persuaded the EU to stop Croatia’s plans for a marine reserve with a fishing ban in the Adriatic, and long wanted to prevent a Croatian EU membership because of the dispute. Slovenia, which has only a very short coastal distance, is also keen to access international water. In 2009, the countries agreed to hand over the matter to international arbitration. However, in the summer of 2015, Croatia withdrew its support for the arbitral tribunal after it was found that a Slovenian judge had contact with a representative of the Slovenian government. When the court issued its opinion in 2017, the judges went mainly on Slovenia’s line, but Croatia did not approve the outcome.Calendar).
Disputes over the jointly owned nuclear power plant Krško have also occurred (see Natural Resources, Energy and Environment), as well as disagreements over the right to the name teran for a particular wine variety. In addition, the large migration wave in 2015 caused friction between Croatia and Slovenia.
Relations with Serbia improved over a number of years from the mid-00s but have since deteriorated again. The President of Serbia in 2007 apologized to the Croatian victims in the war between the rest of Yugoslavia and Croatia in 1991–1995. Relations were strengthened in 2010 through presidential visits in both directions. The same year, Croatia and Serbia signed an agreement on defense cooperation, which was considered to pave the way for a better relationship between the countries. But the UN tribunal’s acquittal of two previously convicted Croatian generals at the end of 2012 aroused strong feelings and sharp criticism in Serbia (see Modern history).
Nationalist trends in both countries have continued to contribute to a tense situation. As a new EU state, Croatia has on several occasions slowed down Serbia’s membership negotiations with the EU, which began in 2014. Several minor crises and diplomatic incidents have occurred. In a low-water mark in the spring of 2018, the Serbian nationalist leader and MP Vojislav Šešelj exposed a Croatian parliamentary delegation to Belgrade for such insults that the delegation canceled his visit and went home. Shortly thereafter, the Serbian Minister of Defense was denied entry into Croatia, after which Serbia portrayed the Croatian Minister of Defense.
Apologies to Bosnia
In 2010, Croatia apologized to Bosnia-Herzegovina for its role in the war in Croatia. The close ties with the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which were maintained during the Tuđman regime in the 1990s, had then loosened up. But growing nationalist tendencies in both countries have turned the trend. The previously extensive military support from Zagreb to Bosnia Croats has, despite it, been replaced by modest contributions in the cultural and humanitarian fields.
With Montenegro, Croatia has a dispute over the border crossing of the Prevlaka Peninsula, in an area where there may be oil and gas. The countries turned to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008 for help in resolving the issue.
Among the EU countries, Croatia has always had special ties to Germany and Austria. Germany enforced recognition of Croatia’s independence in 1991. Hungary, however, blocked Croatia’s entry into the OECD, citing Zagreb’s failure to comply with an international arbitration on the Hungarian energy giant MOL’s ownership stake in the Croatian INA (see also Current Policy).
Croatia had weakly armed forces in the outbreak of the war in 1991, but quickly armed itself, largely with weapons smuggled into battle with the UN arms embargo for former Yugoslavia. Today, Croatia has a strong armed force, although it has been cut down and restructured to adapt to peacetime. The military duty was abolished in 2008.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 11 250 men (2017)
The air Force: 1 250 men (2017)
The fleet: 1,300 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.4 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 3.1 percent (2017)
Two media figures are killed
Editor Ivo Pukanić and another representative of the independent magazine Nacional are killed by a car bomb, also in Zagreb. Nacional has written about corruption charges directed at politicians. Six people are later sentenced to between 15 and 40 years in prison for the murder of Pukanić.
Ministers kicked for murder
Sanader dismisses the interior minister, the justice minister and the national police chief, after the daughter of a prominent lawyer was murdered in Zagreb in an assault that brought the thoughts of organized crime.
Ex-generals are sentenced in Zagreb
The trial of two generals of the 1990s war ends in Zagreb. Rahim Ademi is released, while Mirko Norac is sentenced to seven years in prison for assault on Croatian civilians. The sentence is later merged with a previous sentence to a total of 15 years. The case is the first transferred from the UN tribunal in The Hague to a Croatian court.
Invitation to EU negotiations
Croatia receives a formal invitation to start negotiating membership in the EU.
Minority government is formed
Prime Minister Ivo Sanader succeeds in forming a new coalition government after the November 2007 election. His conservative party HDZ forms a minority government with HSS and HSLS, and the support of the Serbian minority party SDSS.