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Country profile (Croatia)

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Croatia (officially The Republic of Croatia) is a European country geographically situated at the crossroads between Central and South East Europe. It borders Slovenia and Hungary in the north, Serbia in the east, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro in the south and east. It has only a maritime border with Italy. The most important cultural influences in the Croatian history come from Central Europe and Mediterranean. The political system of the Republic of Croatia is parliamentary democracy.

Most of Croatia has a moderately warm, rainy climate with a mean monthly temperature in the coldest month above -3°C and below 18°C. Only the highest mountainous regions – >1 200 m above the sea level – have a snow forest climate with mean temperature in the coldest month below -3°C. The warmest month in inland has a mean temperature of below 22°C and in the coastal area above 22°C, and more than four months in the year have a mean monthly temperature of above 10°C. There are no particularly dry months, and the month with the least precipitation falls in the cold period of the year. An olive-tree climate predominates on the islands and in the coastal area of the central and southern Adriatic, the warm part of the year being a dry season with less than 40 mm of precipitation in the driest month, which is less than a third of that of the rainiest month of the cold part of the year. With an average 2,600 hours of sunshine in a year, the Adriatic coast is one of the sunniest in the Mediterranean, and the average sea temperature in the summer is between 25°C and 27°C [1].

The overall area of Croatia is 87,661 km2 of which 56,594 km2 is land and 31,067 km2 sea. According to the CLC 2006 Land Cover map, the majority of the total area is under forests and shrubs – 26,487.6 km2 (46.8%). Bush and grass-covered surfaces cover 4,742.1 km2 (8.4%). The total agricultural land is 22,841.1 km2, of which heterogeneous agricultural areas account for 18,452 km2 (32.6%), and plough land and permanent crops for 4,389.1; km2 (7.8%). Areas subject to human activity account for 1,774.5 km2 (3.1%). Inland waters account for just 539.3 km2 (0.95%), and marshland for 200 km2 (0.4%) [2]. Islands occupy 3,259 km2 (5.8% of the land area), forming the second largest archipelago in the Mediterranean. Croatia has a total of 1,185 islands, 47 of which are inhabited, 651 uninhabited, 389 are islets and 78 are reefs.

According to the latest 2001 Census, Croatia had approximately 4.44 million inhabitants, 56% of whom lived in urban areas. The 2005 birth rate was 9.6%, with decreasing population rate (-2.1%). According to projections of the average fertility rate including migrations, total population by 2050 should be 3.68 million, 80% of whom would live in urban areas [3]. 


Figure 1. Structure of the GDP 1989-2008

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Figure 1. Structure of the GDP 1989-2008
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In the past five years, the average real growth of gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded 4% per year (Table 1). In 2008, GDP per capita was EUR 10 681, while GDP growth compared to 2007 was 2.4%.  The slowdown in the economic growth that began in the second half of 2008 is expected to continue in 2009, giving a 2% growth projection for 2009. Croatia is currently at the level of just slightly above 50% of the average European per capita income. Although falling, unemployment remains one of the biggest problems for the Croatian economy. The Services and Industry sectors are dominant in the structure of the GDP (Figure 1).

Table 1. Main economic indicators for the 2004 – 2008 period







GDP, current prices (EUR billion)






GDP, real growth rates (%)






[1]Unemployment rate (%)






[2]Inflation (%)






                                                           Source: Central Bureau of Statistics,

[1]  According to the definition of the International Labour Organization, inhabitants above the age of 15

[2]  According to the Consumer Price Index 



The institutions providing for sustainable development and environmental protection in Croatia are the Croatian parliament, government, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction (MEPPP) and other relevant ministries and authorities, administrative departments in counties and/or cities in charge of the environmental protection, and towns and municipalities. Though, the leading administrative authority is the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction (MEPPP).

The Croatian Environment Agency (CEA) and Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund (EPEEF) have specific roles. CEA is nationally designated institution for collecting, consolidating and processing of environmental data, managing environmental databases and assessing and reporting on the state of environment. EPEFF's main task is funding, preparation, implementation and development of programs and projects in the field of the environment protection and sustainable development, as well as in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy recourses. Enforcement of regulations relating to sustainable development and environmental protection at the local level is ensured by the administrative departments of counties, the City of Zagreb and other cities/towns and municipalities responsible for environmental protection, legal persons vested with public authority in the area of environmental protection as well as individuals authorised for the performance of professional environmental protection activities, as regulated by the Environmental Protection Act, Official Gazette 110/07, and special regulations. The important role is played by scientific and professional institutions and a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which express their views, participate in the creation of public opinion and also influence  environmental policy. In order to achieve a coordinated economic growth related to the environmental protection and ensure conditions for sustainable development, as well as to ensure continuity in providing a professional and scientific basis for dealing with matters of environmental protection and sustainable development, as stipulated by the Environmental Protection Act (Official Gazette 110/07), the government has established the Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection Council. Since 2000, Croatia’s environmental protection policy and the development of institutions have been shaped by the process of approximation to the European Union (EU). The process of harmonizing the national legislation with the acquis communautaire  in the environmental field is almost completed.



Figure 2. Investment in environmental protection - long-term assets, 1997 – 2008

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Figure 2. Investment in environmental protection - long-term assets, 1997 – 2008
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Figure 3. Investment in environmental protection by sectors, average for 2004–2008

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Figure 3. Investment in environmental protection by sectors, average for 2004–2008
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Financial investment in environmental protection can be approached both in terms of  invested budgetary resources and investment from other sources such as resources collected into non-budgetary funds, personal resources of polluters, loans and international aid resources.

According to statistical data, investment in environmental protection consisting exclusively of infrastructure investment – long-term assets – has been growing (Figure 2), and the most significant increase was recorded in 2007 with the allocation of 399 million EUR (HRK 2, 900.80 million). In 2008 investment in environmental protection fell to 318.42 (2,316.50 million HRK).

In the period 2003-2008, the EPEEF approved 676.37 million EUR (HRK 4,917.22 million) for 2,927 projects: 2,402 environmental and 525 energy efficiency projects, including treatment of special categories of waste. Additionally, in the period 2001-2008 Croatia also used resources from the EU pre-accession funds – CARDS, Phare, ISPA and IPA – to a total value of EUR 145 million. 

From the structure of investment by the environmental protection sectors, it could be concluded that in the period 2004–2008 most money was invested in wastewater management – nearly 40% of the total environmental investment (Figure 3).


What have been the major societal developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Until 1991, Republic of Croatia was a part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - SFRJ, together with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia and Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija. Since 1980, unemployment in former SFRJ grew from 5.7% in 1980 to 8.6% in 1990, devaluations became more frequent, annual inflation rates reached 70% in 1985 and supply and consumption were subject to rationing [4]. The federal government initiated a transition from planned to market economy but the socialist self-management system already started to collapse and could not recover from economic and political crisis.

The first multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 1990 and the Republic of Croatia was declared independent in 1991. But those processes, unfortunately, were accompanied by the aggression on Croatian territory undertaken by Yugoslav National Army and paramilitary Serbian and Montenegrian forces.  The defensive Homeland War (1991-1995) ensued, in which more than 30% of the Croatian territory was occupied. In the 1991-1995 period 5,500 persons emigrated from Croatia to other European countries. The direct material damage caused by the war is estimated at USD 27 billion [5], while indirect damage includes a delayed transition, GDP reduced by approximately 35% with the consequence of missing out the first wave of foreign investment.


Figure 4. Changes in GDP since 1990 in Croatia, 1990 – 2006

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Figure 4. Changes in GDP since 1990 in Croatia, 1990 – 2006
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Figure 5. Croatian population by age and gender, estimate for 2007

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Figure 5.  Croatian population by age and gender, estimate for 2007
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Economic reforms were initiated during the war: liberalisation of foreign trade, the abolition of price control and the equalisation of the status of foreign and domestic investors. A decline in GDP in the 1992-1993 period was followed by a period of GDP growth (Figure 4). In 1992, Croatia acquired IMF membership, 1994 saw the start of a stabilisation programme and the introduction of a new currency – the Croatian kuna (HRK), and in 1996 marked the beginning of the process of privatisation of state-owned enterprises – their transformation into privately owned companies [6].

Changes in share of the main sectors in economy – agriculture, industry, construction and services -  since the beginning of transition in 1990 point to slow structural changes. Changes at the start of the transition were primarily a consequence of an appreciable fall in industrial output due to wartime events. In sectoral terms, 2008 tourism is the biggest source of income, amounting to nearly 20% of GDP [7].

Half of Croatia̕s population lives on 26.8% of the land area. The biggest population increase occurred in the suburbs of regional centres. Approximately 25% of the population is concentrated in the City of Zagreb and in the County of Zagreb, which together occupy 6.6% of the national territory [10]. The age structure of the population has changed from a progressive one in 1953, through stagnation in 1991, to a markedly regressive in 2001 [3]. The estimated structure of the Croatian population by age and gender in the year 2007 is shown in Figure 5.

Croatia became a member of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1992 and of the Council of Europe in 1996, joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000, and in 2008 became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.  Since April, 2009, the Republic of Croatia has been a full member of NATO.

The main steps towards EU integration have been the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (2001), submission of the application for membership (2003), acquiring the status of a candidate (2004) and the start of negotiations (2005). The current negotiation process indicates 22 negotiation chapters as provisionally closed, 11 as opened (closing benchmarks set), and 2 chapters with special status (Institutions and Other Issues – to be dealt with at the end of negotiating process).


What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011


Figure 6. Population density by county according to the 2001 Census

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Figure 6. Population density by county according to the 2001 Census
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Figure 7. Structure of land use and allocation in Croatia

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Figure 7. Structure of land use and allocation in Croatia
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Social pressures are most prominent in the cities (Figure 6), due to the evident and continuous trend of urban population growth and in the coastal area especially during the summer season. The total urbanised area of towns and settlements continues to grow due to contemporary lifestyle, independently of the trend in population figures and economic development. A process of launching Physical Plans for the counties and the City of Zagreb started upon coming into force of the two basic documents: 1997 Physical Planning Strategy for the Republic of Croatia and the 1999 Physical Planning Programme. Additionally, the planning of areas with special features comprising eight national parks, ten nature parks and the Croatian Adriatic area, aiming primarily at defining the conditions and methods of comprehensive protection and sustainable exploitation of these areas, were also initiated with those documents.  In the 2001-2003 period physical plans were approved at the county level for all 20 counties and the City of Zagreb in coordination with the Physical Planning Strategy and Programme. Growing pressures in towns are also related to traffic, primarily due to continuous growth in number of vehicles for both public and individual transport  and limited capacities for traffic infrastructure adaptation. Energy consumption in households and the service sector is responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission [12]. Wastewater treatment coverage is 28% of the population [13]. Unsolved problems in the sector of waste management are now being systematically addressed by introducing  and developing relevant waste management infrastructure. Activities related to waste management, water resources protection, improvement of water supply and integrated waste-water management are defined as country’s strategic priorities for the period until 2013 [14].


Economic pressures on the environment come from all the sectors of the economy, the key sectors being: energy, transport, industry, agriculture and tourism [15].


Energy-related environmental pressures include emissions, emission allowance transfers, waste and the use of fossil fuels. In 2008 the Energy sector was responsible for 72.6% of the total national GHG emission (expressed as CO2 eq.) [16].


Industry-related environmental pressures are primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, wastewater and industrial waste in general.  About 30% of industrial wastewater is discharged directly with some or non pre-treatment, while the remaining quantities are treated in independent industrial wastewater treatment plants to a level adequate for discharge. The main sources of pollutant emissions into air are combustion processes, mainly from large stationary sources – five thermal power plants and three refineries and from transport sector as well [14].

Industrial processes are responsible for approximately 13% of total GHG emissions, depending on the year [16]. There has been a slight reduction in GHG emission of 1.6% in 2008 compared to 1990 [16].

Acknowledging the fact of the continuous growth of chemicals use, the relevant National Strategy of Chemical Safety (Official Gazette 56/08), adopted in 2008, focuses on establishing conditions for resolving the issues of safe chemicals management


According to the CLC 2006, agricultural land accounts for 40.4%, and forest land for 46.8% of the total land surface of Croatia (Figure 7) [10]. It has been calculated that, in 2007, this sector was responsible for approximately 10.5% of the total national GHG emissions. GHG emissions from the Agricultural sector also show a falling trend. In 2008, the emissions were 22.76% lower than in 1990 [16]. Agriculture is the main source of ammonia (NH3) emissions – 89% in 2005 [17]. Taking this into account, all emission reduction measures regarding NH3 are targeting this sector [18].


Transport is a source of considerable environmental pressure through the emission of harmful substances into the air. In 2008, the share of road transport in particulate (TSP) emissions was 6.99%, and in GHG emissions 19.8% [8, 16]. The adverse impact of transport is manifested through increased noise, adverse impact on natural habitats and an increased number of traffic accidents with harmful consequences for the environment. The building of road infrastructure was intensified in the past decade, improving the accessibility and connectedness of a large number of settlements and parts of settlements with bigger economic centres. This has contributed to the development of the transport system, and in particular passenger transport. Implementation of plans for the sustainable development of ports, wherever possible, have been undertaken resulting in relocation of ports away from town centres (example: Gaženica Port, near the City of Zadar) [2].


Tourism, indicating a continuous growth,  is additional source of environmental pressures. An increasing trend of area occupied by marinas recorded until 2006 has been stopped. The main tourism pressure occurs at the coastal region and islands during a relatively short summer season (June through September). On the other hand tourists become increasingly sensitive to environment protection and preservation; the local population and authorities  start to recognise and appreciate the values of preserved environment, constantly undertaking and upgrading adequate measures primarily in waste management and wastewater treatment. Nautical tourism causes increasing pressure on the marine environment as well. However, the latest document of that kind - Nautical Tourism Development Strategy for the period 2009-2019 was introduced and adopted in 2008, stressing development based on carrying capacity of the area, a moderate annual growth rate of new accommodation capacity and the principle of sustainable regional development, coordinated with the development of independent and other supporting infrastructure. This sets the main principle for sustainable development of nautical tourism that assumes a compromise between the need to preserve the natural setting and the need for economic development [2].


Generally speaking, the Croatian coast has kept the status of one of the best-preserved parts of the Mediterranean since its marine environment loads are still not alarming [10].


Waste management, is one of the main concerns or priorities among environmental issues. Despite all the problems accumulated in the past, such as numerous inadequate disposal sites, inadequate capacities of waste treatment facilities, there have been a significant positive development indicated lately. Almost all operating inadequate landfills are undergoing remediation or closure and construction of modern county waste management centres is in preparation. Likewise, in the past few years, facilities have been built and developed for the management/recycling of special categories of waste such as tyres, end-of-life vehicles, and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).


The Mine Suspected Areas (MSA), as consequence of operations during the Homeland War, currently cover 950 km2. MSAs exist in 12 counties, that is, 111 cities and municipalities are affected by up to 110,000 mines and a large amount of unexploded ammunition, particularly in the area of military operations during the war. Pursuant to the provisions of the Humanitarian Mine Clearance Act (Official Gazette 153/05), MSAs are divided into mine clearance areas and search areas – 25% of MSAs are foreseen for clearance, and 75% for searching [20].


What are the foreseen developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 22 Dec 2010

Basic conditions for accomplishing global as well as specific national goals regarding environment protection and sustainable development have been set by adopting strategic* and operational documents** and accomplishing harmonisation with EU environmental legislation. The Efficiency and dynamics of meeting the goals set by those documents and processes are mostly dependent on efficient use of all available resources, at both national and European/Global level. Therefore, an overall effort towards meeting these goals is to be expected in the coming period - for the reason of better understanding and managing of anticipated environmental problems


* National Environmental Strategy defines the following key objectives:

1. Protection and improvement of the quality of water, sea, air and soil;

2. Preservation of the current level of biodiversity;

3. Preservation of natural resources, and in particular of the integrity and features of special natural resources (sea, coast and islands, mountainous regions, etc.).


Strategy for Sustainable Development of the Republic of Croatia (2009), identifies eight key areas where current processes must be redirected towards sustainable development practices:

1. Encouraging population growth in Croatia;

2. Environment and natural resources;

3. Promoting sustainable production and consumption;

4. Ensuring social and territorial cohesion and justice;

5. Ensuring energy independence and increasing in energy efficiency;

6. Strengthening public health care;

7. Interconnecting of Croatia;

8. Protection of the Adriatic Sea, coastal area and islands [3].


**The Environmental Operational Programme 2007–2009

The programme was prepared with the aim of preparing Croatian institutions for EU accession. Following the principle of concentration, it set  the following priorities:

-      to develop a waste management infrastructure leading to the establishment of an integrated waste management system in Croatia, and

-      to protect Croatian water resources by enhancing the water supply system and integrated wastewater management.  

It should also be emphasised that the programme relies on existing EU and national policies and strategies. Croatia has a well-developed hierarchy of environmental protection strategies within the Strategic Development Framework 2006-2013, especially the National Environmental Strategy, the National ISPA Strategy, various related sectoral strategies – energy, transport, planning, etc. – and strategies for environmental subsectors including the Waste Management Strategy and the Water Management Strategy.





[1] Zaninović, K., Gajić-Čapka, M., Perčec-Tadić,M., et al.:Climatological Atlas of Croatia, 1971-2000. Meteorological and Hydrological Service, Zagreb, 2008

[2] Draft Report on the State of the Environment in the Republic of Croatia, Croatian Environment Agency

[3] Strategy for Sustainable Development of the Republic of Croatia (Official Gazette 30/09)

[4] Petak, Z.,: Economic Background of the Breakup of Socialist Yugoslavia. Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, Zagreb, 2005

[5] European Commission. 1997 Regional Approach to the Countries of South Eastern Europe. Compliance with the Conditions in the Council Conclusions of 29 April 1997

[6] Boromisa A., 2008: Economic developments, in: Croatia - integration perspectives and synergic effects of European Transformation (P. Bilek, ed.). CEU, Budapest; available from

[7] Commission of the European Communities, Croatia 2009 Progress Report,  Brussels, 14.10.2009, SEC(2009) 1333

[8] 2008 Report on Pollutant Air Emission for the Republic of Croatia; available from

[9] Njegać, D.,  Toksić, A., 1999: Rural diversification and socio-economic transformation in Croatia, GeoJuornal 46: 239-269

[10] Report on the State of the Environment in the Republic of Croatia; Croatian Environment Agency, Zagreb, 2007. available from]

[11] European Commission. Status of negotiations, 2 October 2009; available from:

[12] National Strategy for Implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in the Republic of Croatia, with an Action Plan, Draft, 2007; available from:]

[13] Water Management Strategy (Official Gazette 91/08)

[14] Government of the Republic of Croatia, 2007. The Environmental Operational Programme 2007-2009, Zagreb

[15] Tišma, S., Maleković, S.: Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Experiences and Perspectives, Institute for International Relations, Zagreb, 2009

[16] National Inventory Report 2009, Zagreb, May 2009, available from:

[17] Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction. Programme Proposal for Reducing Emissions of Certain Pollutants which Cause Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground Level Ozone in the Republic of Croatia for the Period to End of 2010 with Emission Projections for the 2010 – 2020 Period, Zagreb, October 2009

[18] Government of the Republic of Croatia, 2008: Plan for Protection and Improvement of Air Quality in the Republic of Croatia for the 2008 – 2011 Period (Official Gazette 61/08)

[19] Government of the Republic of Croatia. Strategy Coordination Framework 2007– 2013

[20]Croatian Mine Action Centre. Mine Situation, 2009.; available from:]

[21] National Environmental Strategy (Official Gazette 46/02)

[22] The Environmental Operational Programme  2007– 2009, Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, 2000HR16IPO003, Zagreb, September 2007



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