On Sunday, 30 May, Croatia celebrates its National Day. This year again, unfortunately, it will not be possible to celebrate that day with a traditional reception.
Our national day celebrates 30 May 1990, when the first democratically elected multi-party Parliament was constituted in Croatia, and when the Croatian society started its democratic changes. It was the start of a journey resulting with Constitutional Decision on Sovereignty and Independence of the Republic of Croatia adopted by Hrvatski Sabor (Parliament) in June 1991 and Croatia’s international recognition in 1992.
The journey of the democratic transition was completed by Croatia’s accession to NATO in 2009 and eventually by joining the European Union in 2013. This transitional path is something that Croatia and Romania have in common. The transition brings along adjustments to democratic standards and to the market economy, the main pillars of the European Union. The transition period is a period of mental and social adaptation to market economy and democratic standards. It was not always easy, as that period carried out challenges and many societal changes. One of the particular challenges was finding a balance between national priorities and interests on one hand and EU multilateralism on the other.
On institutional and political level, the last decade of the European Union has shown the advantages and weaknesses of the 28 and later 27 Member States’ cohabitation. One of the greatest challenges is finding a balance between different historical backgrounds, the degree of economic and social progress and particular interest of the member states. We believe that each country should have its own place in accordance with the contribution they can give in certain areas, based on their own specific knowledge, experience and understanding of the situation in the field.
Relations between Croatia and Romania are very good and have significantly intensified during the last couple of years, more precisely when Croatia joined the European Union. The bilateral trade exchange has grown over the last couple of years. Trade exchange amounted to half a billion euros last year. According to the latest data, the volume in trade shows increasing trend compared to 2020.
It is good that the balance between exports and imports increased on both ends in the last couple of years. Romanian market offers many advantages, skilled and highly educated work force, good digital infrastructure, and advantageous level of taxation. We look forward to expanding the cooperation in economic sector.
A strong bond between our countries are our respective minorities. A historical Croatian minority in Romania, most of whom live in Caraş-Severin County, municipalities of Lupak, Karaševo, village of Klokotič and surrounding small villages. Both communities’ rights are guaranteed in the Constitutions of respective countries. We are very glad that Istro-Romanian, spoken in Eastern Istria, is being taught in one school in the multicultural Croatian peninsula. It is a highly valued part of our cultural and linguistic heritage.
Being part of the same EU Presidency Trio, our cooperation and coordination on various levels of the European agenda has strengthened. For Croatia, this was the presidency of firsts. Croatia took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in January 2020. Apart from being the first presidency ever, it was the first presidency ever held in new circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been a great test for European coordination, efficiency and solidarity. The first couple of months, the main activities of our Presidency were targeted at a collective response to COVID-19, primarily at a health and economic response, adoption of two legislative packages to limit social and economic consequences and maintain jobs and companies. Last but not least, we focused on repatriations of EU citizens.
We have to honestly admit that in terms of solidarity, more could have been done at the beginning of the pandemic. On the other hand, the European Commission organized purchase of vaccines for all member states and this was of a big help for member states. Being aware that cooperation between member states is key to a more successful struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, nowadays we are investing, together with other countries, joint efforts to ramp up the vaccination of our citizens. This is the safest and fastest way to return to the life we had before the pandemic and to fully resume social activities essential for preserving the mental health of the individual and the society.
The EU member states agreed on a very generous reconstruction programme to deal with economic damage caused by the pandemic. Now all the partners must show that they can use this money effectively, quickly and in targeted way. The Croatian document focuses on a green and digital economy, public administration and judiciary, education, science and research, labour market and welfare, healthcare and post-earthquake reconstruction.
Our countries share a particular attention and sensibility for our neighbourhoods because we know from the first-hand experience that the Euro-Atlantic and EU perspective has beneficial effects on social changes as well as intensity and speed of the reforms.
We are particularly glad that the Western Balkans summit took place during our Presidency of the EU. Enlarging EU to the entire Western Balkans region is in our political, security and economic interest. For us it is a matter of a geopolitical necessity and a precondition for the sustainable future of Europe. Western Balkans is both Croatian and Romanian immediate neighbourhood. Croatia has donated vaccine doses to its neighbours that are non-EU member states as a sign of solidarity because the pandemic can be halted only if the sufficient rate of immunization of the population in Europe and the world is achieved.
Speaking about solidarity, let me conclude this article by saying that we are deeply grateful to Romanian state and people for providing humanitarian help immediately after the devastating earthquake that hit the area of Petrinja, Glina and Sisak at the end of the last year.