With the Croatian accession to the EU, Croatian exports to EU countries grew strongly, but imports increased as well
In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, together with our embassies and consulates, besides the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, was focused on helping companies and business associations to cope with new circumstances says Zdenko Lucić, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. The main goal in the coming period is to achieve a better trade balance. When we talk about tourism the Croatian Government has already begun preparations for the next tourist season by giving further financial support in order to save companies and jobs says Lucić.
At the time of the pandemic and lockdown, it seems that it has never been more difficult to establish cooperation between countries, especially in the field of economy. How much has the COVID 19 pandemic affected your work and can we somehow summarize 2020?
— The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed all the aspects of our working environment. For almost a year, we have been dealing not only with a public health emergency, but as well with an economic, social and humanitarian crisis. Suspension or reduction of economic activities and closing borders in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have caused a number of difficulties for all of us. However, this crisis has shown that solidarity and cooperation among countries in all areas are crucial in this fight against the pandemic.In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, together with our embassies and consulates, was focused on helping companies and business associations to cope with new circumstances. We were dealing with the repatriation of workers and the facilitation of the flow of goods, together with providing information on procedures and restrictions on access to certain markets in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, we initiated Border Crossing Facilitation Agreements aimed at helping certain categories of workers or border residents. In the first wave of the pandemic, we also helped (through contacts with companies and institutions of other countries) ensuring the supply of Croatian medical institutions and the population with disinfectants, protective masks and other protective medical equipment.At the same time, we continued performing all our regular activities including the support to Croatian companies internationally.
Croatia is a tourist country, and this follows other branches of the economy (transport, trade, catering…). How much room is there for progress and development and in which direction will you work specifically?
— Despite some unfavourable predictions for the 2020 tourist season, we have achieved very good results considering the circumstances. Croatia was recognized as a safe tourist destination. We have managed to balance between our citizens’ health and tourist season opening in order to preserve jobs and protect the tour-ism industry and our economy.The Croatian Government has already begun preparations for the next tourist season by giving further financial support in order to save companies and jobs. The 19“Council for Recovery and Development of Tourism” was established, bringing together all relevant stakeholders in the tourism sector. Next to strategic planning, its main task is to prepare the tourist season 2021 in the circumstances of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, making it capable of providing all necessary services and promote Croatian tourism abroad. Our line ministries are in constant communication and consider further joint steps. In addition, the Government is in the process of development of “National Development Strategy 2030” to specify development are-as and goals for next 10 years.It is worth noting that many tourists who come to Croatia constitute a type of a new and large export market for domestic food producers. Through tourism, it is possible to place various lo-cal products directly, for example fresh from the field, which is be-coming more and more popular nowadays and in which Croatia is becoming increasingly competitive. In this direction, the Government is preparing and implementing a series of measures funded through EU and national funds to encourage domestic food production and develop the distribution network. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, through its network of diplomatic and consular missions, supports the activities of the Ministry of Tourism Sport and the Croatian Tourist Board, continuously working on the promotion of the Republic of Croatia and is always at the service of Croatian tourism professionals in all their activities abroad.
When it comes to foreign trade, Croatia is primarily directed to European countries and countries in the region. Where is there the most room for improvement in which areas, in what way?
— Croatia’s foreign trade is in-deed taking place for the most part with EU countries and the region of Southeast Europe. The pandemic and the economic closure in the first half of the year, caused a decline in business activities among the most of our trading partners. Despite the current wave of the pandemic in Europe, the recovery of some economies is noticeable. In the circumstances of the pandemic, the IT sector turned out to be one of the most resilient. In this sector, Croatia has prov-en track record and we see further opportunities to grow.Companies that have lost their traditional markets due to new circumstances and reduced demand will need help finding new ones to survive. Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs will support through its system of economic diplomacy all the initiatives of line ministries and business associations aimed at helping companies find business partners.Where do you see the most problems and obstacles for a larger volume and increase in foreign trade in favor of Croatia?— The biggest challenge now is to maintain and develop business activities during the pandemic. It is crucial that companies continue to operate, including with the support of the state.With the Croatian accession to the EU, Croatian exports to EU countries grew strongly (as expected), but imports increased as well. The main goal in the coming period is to achieve a better trade balance. Therefore, focus of the Government is to assist companies to develop and grow, both through better regulations and better public services but with the extensive funding as well. Croatia, through EU funds will have 24,2 billion Euros at the disposal in next 7 years. This will be a good incentive for the development of the economy.During the pandemic, promotional activities moved to digital fast. In this context, we welcome the activities of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, which re-acted quickly and created the Go Global – Go Virtual platform to connect its members with potential partners in markets of interest to Croatian companies. Croatian embassies and consulates actively participate in these activities.
The announcement of the abolition of double taxation between Croatia and the United States would certainly affect the development of economic relations, primarily in favour of Croatia. Where is there room for improvement and what more needs to be done to make that happen?
— I am convinced that strong efforts will be made to try to complete the negotiations as soon as possible, so that Croatian companies can operate on the US market under the same conditions as their competitors from other European Union countries.The signing of this Convention will certainly contribute to fostering trade and investments between Croatia and US, ensuring much greater transparency in doing business between our two countries. This is a crucial issue for our exporters and particularly for companies in the IT sector.What will be your priority as a Secretary of State in your work and focus in 2021, from which we expect a lot after this 2020?— The overall priority for all of us is overcoming the crisis caused by the coronavirus. The pandemic imposed a completely new dynamic in both our everyday personal lives as well as our working environment. Good medical solution is the precondition for creating and fully implementing many business goals. However, we adapted to the “new normal” and in that “new normal”, we plan our activities for the upcoming period. Our attention will be on promotion of Croatian economic interests worldwide. Activities will focus on providing support to Croatian companies in expanding their businesses abroad and increasing exports. Also, we will continue with the promotion of Croatia as an attractive business and investment destination, in order to attract new foreign direct investments.