Croatia is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe. The country is also a candidate for membership of the European Union and received a NATO membership invitation on April 3, 2008. NATO member nations signed accession protocols for Croatia on July 9, 2008, bringing it into the final stretch of its quest for membership. Croatia is expected to formally join the 26-nation pact in April 2009 on NATO's 60th birthday, making it the second former Yugoslav nation to join NATO following Slovenia which entered in 2004. On October 17, 2007 Croatia became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2008-2009 term. Additionally, Croatia is also a founding member of the Mediterranean Union upon its establishment on July 13, 2008.
The Croatians settled on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea and the Pannonian lands in early 7th century, forming two principalities, Dalmatia and Pannonia. The establishment of the Trpimirović dynasty ca. 850 brought strengthening to the Dalmatian Croat duchy, which became a kingdom in 925.
In 1102, Croatia entered into a personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary. This did not include the Dalmatian coast which was under the control of the Republic of Venice until the 18th century. After the 1526 Battle of Mohács, the "Reliquiae reliquiarum olim inclyti Regni Croatiae" (the remains of the Kingdom of Croatia) became a part of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1527. In 1918 Croatia became a part of the Kingdom of SHS which is later renamed in Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In 1941-1945, during World War II, an Axis puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia existed. After the victory of Tito's People's Liberation Movement and the Allies, Croatia became a constitutive federal republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In 1991, Croatia proclaimed independence by holding the first democratic elections in the country. The demographic situation, along with inflammatory nationalist rhetoric on both sides, meant that it was forced to fight a long and bloody war against local Serbs opposed to independence (under the excuse of fear of similar mistreatment they had experienced during the German occupation). This included a series of battles against the remainder of the JNA between 1991 and 1992. When it became clear that Croatia would successfully gain its independence in 1992, the bulk of this Serb population left en mass.
The President of the Republic (Predsjednik) is the head of state, directly elected to a five-year term and is limited by the Constitution to a maximum of two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief of the armed forces, the president has the procedural duty of appointing the Prime minister with the consent of the Parliament, and has some influence on foreign policy. His official residence is Predsjednički dvori. Apart from that he has summer residences on the islands of Vanga (Brijuni islands) and the island of Hvar.
The Croatian Parliament (Sabor) is a unicameral legislative body (a second chamber, the "House of Counties", which was set up by the Constitution of 1990, was abolished in 2001). The number of the Sabor's members can vary from 100 to 160; they are all elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The plenary sessions of the Sabor take place from January 15 to July 15, and from September 15 to December 15.
The Croatian Government (Vlada) is headed by the Prime minister who has two deputy prime ministers and fourteen ministers in charge of particular sectors of activity. The executive branch is responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies of the republic. Government's official residence is at Banski dvori.
Croatia is located between South-Central Europe and Middle Europe. Its shape resembles that of a crescent or a horseshoe, which flanks its neighbours Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. To the north lie Slovenia and Hungary; Italy lies across the Adriatic Sea. Its mainland territory is split in two non-contiguous parts by the short coastline of Bosnia and Herzegovina around Neum.
Its terrain is diverse, including:
Phytogeographically, Croatia belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the Central European and Illyrian provinces of the Circumboreal Region and the Adriatic province of the Mediterranean Region. According to the WWF, the territory of Croatia can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Pannonian mixed forests, Dinaric Mountains mixed forests and Illyrian deciduous forests.
The country is famous for its many national parks. Croatia has a mixture of climates. In the north and east it is continental, Mediterranean along the coast and a semi-highland and highland climate in the south-central region.
Offshore Croatia consists of over one thousand islands varying in size. The largest islands in Croatia are Cres and Krk which are located in the Adriatic Sea. The Danube, Europe's second longest river, runs through the city of Vukovar. Dinara, the eponym of the Dinaric Alps, is the highest peak of Croatia at 1,831 metres above sea level.
There are 49 pits deeper than 250 m in Croatia, 14 of them are deeper than 500 m and three deeper than 1000 m (Cave system Lukina jama-Trojama, Slovacka jama and Cave system Velebita). The deepest Croatian pits are mostly found in two regions - Mt. Velebit and Mt. Biokovo.
|Anglicized name||Native name||1||Zagreb||Zagrebačka||2||Krapina-Zagorje||Krapinsko-zagorska||3||Sisak-Moslavina||Sisačko-moslavačka||4||Karlovac||Karlovačka||5||Varaždin||Varaždinska||6||Koprivnica-Križevci||Koprivničko-križevačka||7||Bjelovar-Bilogora||Bjelovarsko-bilogorska||8||Primorje-Gorski Kotar||Primorsko-goranska||9||Lika-Senj||Ličko-senjska||10||Virovitica-Podravina||Virovitičko-podravska||11||Požega-Slavonia||Požeško-slavonska||12||Brod-Posavina||Brodsko-posavska||13||Zadar||Zadarska||14||Osijek-Baranja||Osječko-baranjska||15||Šibenik-Knin||Šibensko-kninska||16||Vukovar-Srijem||Vukovarsko-srijemska||17||Split-Dalmatia||Splitsko-dalmatinska||18||Istria||Istarska||19||Dubrovnik-Neretva||Dubrovačko-neretvanska||20||Međimurje||Međimurska||21||City of Zagreb||Grad Zagreb|
The population of Croatia has been stagnating over the last decade. During the 1991-1995 war, large sections of the population were displaced and emigration increased. In 1991 during an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by rebel-Serb forces and the JNA under control of the former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević 80,000 Croats were expelled from their homes by force. 11,834 Croats were killed and 1348 are still missing. Even moderate Serbs were killed by Serb forces. Many Croats have returned but a large portion fled to western Europe and stayed there. A large number of Croats (around 118,000) expelled from Serb-held parts of Bosnia, mostly Bosanska Posavina in 1992 continue to live in Croatia unable to return to their homes. Some 200,000 Serbs fled from Croatia at the end of the war. Hundreds of civilians were killed during Operation Storm, according to the BBC. Only a small fraction of Serbs of Croatia have returned to their homeland since 1995, according to the Human Rights Watch.
The Croatian economy has a stable functioning market economy. International Monetary Fund data shows that Croatian nominal GDP stood at $50.053 billion, or $11,271 per capita, in 2007. The IMF forecast for 2008 is $54.950 billion, or $13,553 per capita. In purchasing power parity terms, total GDP was $69.866 billion in 2007, equivalent to $15,733 per capita. For 2008, it is forecast to be $74.419 billion, or $16,758 per capita.
According to Eurostat data, Croatian PPS GDP per capita stood at 57.5 per cent of the EU average in 2007, and is forecast to reach 57.8 per cent in 2008. Real GDP growth in 2007 was 6.0 per cent. The average gross salary in 2007 was 7,047 kuna per month. In 2007, the International Labour Organization-defined unemployment rate stood at 9.1 per cent, after falling steadily from 14.7 percent in 2002. The registered unemployment rate is higher, though, standing at 14.7 percent in December 2007.
In 2007, 7.2 percent of economic output was accounted for by agriculture, 32.8 percent by industry and 60.7 percent by the service sector. According to 2004 data, 2.7 percent of the workforce were employed in agriculture, 32.8 percent by industry and 64.5 in services.
The industrial sector is dominated by shipbuilding, food processing and the chemical industry. Tourism is a notable source of income during the summer, with over 10 million foreign tourists in 2006 generating a revenue of €8 billion. Croatia is ranked as the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. In 2006 Croatia exported goods to the value of $10.4 billion (FOB) ($19.7 billion including service exports).
Of particular concern is the backlogged judiciary system, combined with inefficient public administration, especially issues of land ownership and corruption. Another main problem includes the large and growing national debt which has reached over 34 billion euro or 89.1 per cent of the nations gross domestic product
The country has been preparing for membership in the European Union, its most important trading partner. In February 2005, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU officially came into force.
Croatia has seven universities, the University of Zagreb, University of Split, University of Rijeka, University of Osijek, University of Zadar, University of Dubrovnik and the University of Pula. The University of Zadar was founded in 1396 - first university in Croatia. The University of Zagreb was founded in 1669 and is therefore the oldest in Southeastern Europe. There are also polytechnic higher education institutions.
The highlight of Croatia's recent infrastructure developments is its rapidly-growing highway network, of which plans were drawn and work commenced in the 1970s, but was realised only after independence due to the (then) Yugoslav Government plans of road projects of 'national' importance.
Croatia has now over 1,200 km of highways connecting Zagreb to most other regions. The best known highways are A1, connecting Zagreb to Split and A3, passing east-west through northwest Croatia and Slavonia. Most highways are tolled, except the Zagreb bypass. There is also a smaller and more obscure network of expressways connecting to the highways. One of the most used is the B28 expressway, connecting A4 near Zagreb to Bjelovar. The Croatian highways network its considered one of very good overall quality and excellent security , winning several EUROTAP awards
Croatia has an extensive rail network, although due to historical circumstances, some regions (notably Istria and even more Dubrovnik) are not accessible by train without passing through neighbouring countries. Serious investment is needed in the rail network over the coming decades to bring it up to European standards in both speed and operational efficiency. All rail services are operated by Croatian Railways (Hrvatske željeznice). The bus network (operated by private operators) is extensively developed, with higher levels of coverage and timetables than the railways.
Croatia has three major international airports, located in Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik. Other important airports include Zadar, Rijeka (on the island of Krk), Osijek, Bol, Lošinj and Pula. Croatia Airlines is the national airline and flag carrier.
An extensive system of ferries, operated by Jadrolinija, serves Croatia's many islands and links coastal cities. Ferry services are also available to Italy.
Croatian culture is the result of a fourteen century-long history which has seen the development of many cities and monuments. The country includes seven World Heritage sites and eight national parks. Croatia is also the birthplace of a number of historical figures. Included among the notable people are three Nobel prize winners and numerous inventors.
Some of the world's first fountain pens came from Croatia. Croatia also has a place in the history of clothing as the origin of the necktie (kravata). The country has a long artistic, literary and musical tradition. Also of interest is the diverse nature of Croatian cuisine.
The Croatian national handball team were world champions in 2003 and two time Olympic winners in 1996 and 2004. Ivano Balić is considered to be the best handball player in the world. RK Zagreb was a two time European champion and RK Bjelovar won the same championship once.
The national basketball team finished third at the 1994 FIBA World Championship, second at the 1992 Summer Olympics and third at EuroBasket 1993 and 1995. Croatian basketball clubs were European champions 5 times , KK Split three times and KK Cibona twice. The third most famous basketball club is KK Zadar.
The Croatian national water polo team are the current world champions. Mladost was a seven time European champion and was awarded the title Best Club of the 20th Century by LEN. Jug and Jadran were both three time European champions. Croatian Davis Cup team won the tournament in 2005.
The tennis player Goran Ivanišević is one of the country's most recognisable sportsmen who won the 2001 Men's Singles title at Wimbledon. Janica Kostelić and Ivica Kostelić in skiing, Blanka Vlašić in athletics, Duje Draganja, Sanja Jovanović and Đurđica Bjedov in swimming, Dražen Petrović, Krešimir Ćosić, Toni Kukoč and Dino Rađa in basketball, Matija Ljubek in canoeing, Željko Mavrović and Mate Parlov in boxing, Branko Cikatić and Mirko Filipović, known as "Cro Cop", in kickboxing and mixed martial arts, Tamara Boroš in table tennis are among the most famous athletes.