Croatia, 5 years celebration as full member of the European Union

Edition 20 August 2018, by Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro

On this occasion Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro interviews the Ambassador of the Croatia, H.E. Mrs. Andrea Gustovic-Ercegovac

Former posts: Ambassador to Romania and Moldova; Ambassador to Slovakia; different posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; ENT Clinic of Medical Faculty in Zagreb; research assistant Department of Psychology, University of Rijeka.

On November 18th, 2015 you presented your credentials as Ambassador to the Netherlands. What is your experience of the Netherlands and the people?
The Netherlands immediately won me with its architecture, organization and general atmosphere. I like your old towns and anchored ships that remind of the past centuries, but also inventive cycling trails, playfulness of modern Rotterdam architecture, love for flowers and plants. I experience Dutch as open, curious, brave and adaptable people. These characteristics are probably in basis of long-term and successful development of the country. Also, kind of simplicity in approaching problems is interesting, which results in easiness of its resolution. Of course that I noticed the tendency to negotiate, discuss, consider things from different angles without much emotion, which creates the conditions for creative solutions.

On July 1, 2018 Croatia celebrated its five years as full member of the European Union. What did this membership do to your country so far over these 5 years?
Five years of Croatia’s membership in the European Union had a positive impact on the many spheres of life. There are the economic effects of this: macroeconomic stabilization, increased exports, opening up business opportunities for our companies on the European market. Another advantage is freedom of movement within a single market that enables mobility to our people: studying, employment, and living abroad. Croatia has positioned itself well in a short time and has become a respected member of the Union. Now we are more organized, more predictable, more recognizable than we were before and we will continue to pursue these policies. In the year 2020 Croatia will even preside over EU, and we are prepare ourselves for that very hard.

Croatia was the first country to negotiate EU membership under the stricter enlargement policy. Which requirements did your country have to meet to achieve the EU membership?
Distinctiveness of Croatia´s accession negotiation to EU was in two dimensions – one was political dimension and the other was technical dimension. Politically, negotiation was done in changed internal political atmosphere of EU after the enlargements of 2004 and 2007. This resulted in new, more precise and stricter rules, new procedures in 35 fields. Methodology has become increasingly rigorous, more comprehensive and demanding. For over a decade Croatia modernized itself, made huge reforms, completely adapted itself to a modern European state. It was achieved through immense and exceptional work, political courage and well organized administrative bodies.

How would you describe the bilateral relationship between Croatia and the Netherlands?
Bilateral relations are considered excellent by both sides. Political relations are on the level of partners with a tendency of even greater intensification. Croatia strives to position itself within the inner circle of the European countries, which brings her even closer to the Netherlands. Economic relations are intensifying, trade and investments are expanding. The number of Dutch tourists coming to the Croatian coast is growing exponentially.

Which are the main import and export products between the two countries?
Economic cooperation between Croatia and the Netherlands is very good and continues to expand in various sectors. Bilateral trade exchange has been increasing constantly and surmounted a billion of €. Croatia mostly exports medical and pharmaceutical products, machinery, plastics and imports electronic equipment, pharmaceutical products and meat.

Are there any Dutch companies investing in your country?
The Netherlands is the largest foreign investor in Croatia with total investments worth of € 6.65 billion. Most investments are focused on maritime sector, water management, agriculture and consultancy services. The Netherlands has also been one of the leading destinations for Croatian capital, with investments worth € 2.6 billion.

Are there many Croatians living in the Netherlands and is there a collaboration between the universities in Croatia and the Netherlands?
There are about 10 000 Croats and their descendants in the Netherlands. Croats are well integrated in the Dutch society and well respected in their communities. Large number immigrated during and after Croatian War of Independence. Many Croats also came from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1990s. Ones who immigrated in the 1970s came mostly due to economy reasons, therefore a large number of Croats inhabit industrial cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Today, being part of the EU, cooperation on all levels of government and society is on the increase. University cooperation exists between many Croatian and Dutch universities and business schools bilaterally, although the most popular and most intensive is through the EU Erasmus programme.

What can you tell us about the Croatian language?
Croatian language dates back to 7th Century. Oldest preserved texts are from the 11th century, while the language has been standardised at the beginning of 17th century. Croatian belongs to the South Slavic group of languages which of course share some similarities. In respect to the Croatian language, allow me to mention Glagolica! The Glagolitic alphabet or Glagolitsa (Croatian: glagoljica) is the oldest known Slavic script which was introduced in mid-9th century and was used in the Slavic world until the 16th century, when it was eventually replaced by the Latin script. It is interesting to note that in Croatia, Glagolitsa was used up until the 19th century, which means it was the official script in Croatia for 1000 years! Also, the Croats using the Glagolitic alphabet were the only nation in Europe who were given a special permission by Pope Innocent IV (in 1248) to use their own language and this script in liturgy. This is was a special honour and privilege, as the Latin had been the privileged language in religious ceremonies in the Catholic Church until the 2nd Vatican Synod held in 20th century (1962-1965), when it was decided to allow vernacular national languages to be used in the Catholic liturgy instead of Latin.

Your Embassy is sponsoring a translation contest, in the framework of the symposium “Autumn 1918: Europe on the shovel” held in November 2018. The translation will be on some fragments of the well-known writer/journalist Marija Juric Zagorka. Can you please elaborate about this?
Translation contest is organised by the University of Amsterdam as part of their symposium “Najaar 1918: Europa op de schop”. For the translation from Croatian into Dutch, texts from the memoirs of famous Croatian writer Marija Juric Zagorka (1873-1957) were chosen. I am particularly proud as she was the first woman journalist, and one of the most read Croatian book authors (even in modern times!). Juric – Zagorka was a modern woman, for many ahead of her time, being the most prominent advocate of human rights and feminists in the Croatian History. I invite the readers to participate. More info on UvA pages: (http://slavischetalenenculturen. nl/KroatischVT.html)

Do you envisage any other cultural events to have in The Netherlands?
We like to organise smaller evenings in the embassy focusing on Croatian culture. In that respect we have organised book club evenings, poetry readings or introduction to Croatian cinema. This year, we will again support the wider scale events such as the Eastern Neighbours Film Festival that will feature fresh films from Croatia (beginning of November in the Filmhuis) and we also plan to organise a musical evening around the Christmas time.

It is told that “cravat” comes from Croatia, what can you tell me about this?
The term “cravat” came from neck cloth tied around the neck of Croatian soldiers who joined the French army in the 17th century. Traditional Croat military kit intrigued French fashion stylists of that time who introduced it to the court of King Luis 13th. Wearing a cravat soon became fashion throughout Europe and a symbol of culture and elegance. The word “cravat” is derived from the French “cravate”, an adapted French pronunciation of “Croate”.

Are there many tourists coming to your country?
And what about the Dutch people? Last year we had around 18 million tourists visiting Croatia. Mostly around the coast and islands, but also in the continental parts. Numbers of Dutch tourists are growing very fast. Nowadays we have around 450.000 visitors from the Netherlands. They experience Croatia as a hospitable country with rich culture, beautiful landscapes, excellent gastronomy and wines.

Which highlights can you recommend to our readers to visit in Croatia?
Croatia is recognized as a tourist destination with a well-preserved environment. There are 19 national and natural parks, 8 UNESCO world heritage sites and more than 1000 islands. What is also interesting is that Croatia is used as a location for shooting movies (“Game of Thrones”, “Star Wars”, “Mamma Mia”, Winnetou” …).

Recently, at the World Championship in Russia, the football team of Croatia has played the finals. What has this great achievement done to the people of your country?
Croatia is specific because it achieves significant sports results given the population. We are equally successful both in individual sports (tennis, skiing, athletics…) and in team sports (football, handball, water polo, rowing). The German journal Bild proclaimed Croatia officially best sport nation in the world. Recently, the Croatian football team has achieved the greatest success, by being world vice-champion in World Football Championship in Russia. It is a huge success for a small country like ours. Croatia is a small country with a big heart.