By Ambassador Vesela Mrđen Korać.
On 1 July Croatia will celebrate its first anniversary of EU membership and on this occasion I would like thank to the Kingdom of the Netherlands for its support and cooperation. After extraordinary political, judicial, democratic and social reforms, economy, employment and growth is in our focus today.
Following a long period of steady rise until 2009, our GDP has been in decline and for the year of 2014 we expect positive results again. Croatia as many EU countries is facing a serious unemployment challenge, especially among the youngsters, which is of our prime concern. Fortunately the valuable tourism sector has been growing permanently and our industry is starting to show first signs of recovery restoring confidence and optimism in our business sector.
The Croatian Government is undertaking very ambitious measures to enhance investment, trade and growth with very strong will of improving the quality of its industry. The Croatian system of incentives for investment is one of the most profitable in Europe, offering the most employment incentives per employee (up to € 9,000), reduced income tax rates (0, 10, 20), and the incentives for innovation and development. In that respect, current strategic goal of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is to promote economic potential and profile of Croatia as an attractive and solid international business partner.
Being an integral part of EU market largely facilitates trade and overall business relations, already highly developed between Croatia and the Netherlands with amount of 650 million EUR and almost 400 thousand Dutch tourist visiting Croatia last year. The Netherlands has been second largest investment country in Croatia for years, but there is certainly huge potential still to be used form the both sides. Trade exchange is growing with dominant Croatian export products being: boats, ships, pharmaceutical products, mineral fuels and oils, footwear, electrical machinery and equipment. At the same time Croatia imports from the Netherlands: tobacco, meat, live animals, fertilisers, as well as plants, bulbs, flowers.
Croatia and the Netherlands have a lot in common, being maritime European nation creates specific lifestyle and strong dedications in overcoming the challenges. Main business sectors in Croatia such as food industry; ICT; pharmaceutics; chemistry, shipbuilding, automotive industry, tourism; and strong orientation towards innovations and research do nicely complement the Dutch top sectors. While in some areas as in ICT we can learn from each other through creating successful joint ventures locally or in the third markets. In some areas such as agricultural water management we invite Dutch know how and investors to join us in our endeavour of brining Croatian sectors to the most competitive European level.
In general, Croatia offers secure business environment, stimulating investment climate, highly educated and relatively low cost labour, modern transportation infrastructure, an easy access to the neighbouring markets of South Eastern Europe, Mediterranean and other regional markets with a high quality of life. In addition, new explorations of gas and oil potentials in the Adriatic and continental Croatia are enhancing strategic position of our country as very attractive energy hub of our region and Europe as well.
At the end, I would like to invite Dutch businesses interested to learn more about Croatia and its business opportunities to contact the Croatian Embassy in The Hague as we would be happy to provide initial business information and facilitate B2B contact. I can personally promise that each business proposal would be carefully handled and assisted by trade diplomacy experts at the Embassy in The Hague and in our Ministry of Foreign and European Affaires in Zagreb.