In 2020 there was a significant decline in economic cooperation due to the pandemic. In 2021, after the aggression on Ukraine, the challenges in the supply chains became even more pronounced, along with the energy crisis. The times have been anything but simple, for our citizens and for our businesses, but if the past few years have taught us anything, it is that mutual cooperation and strong alliances have no alternative.

Speaking of being strong and being in good company, by entering Schengen and the eurozone in 2023, Croatia will achieve two of the most important foreign policy goals we set when we joined the European Union. The numbers speak for themselves. Our trade with the Schengen countries amounted to 34.5 billion euros in 2021, i.e. almost 74 percent of our entire international goods trade. We expect that our most northern regions will become more attractive to investors from countries close to Croatia- 

The greatest benefit is expected in our strongest economic sector, tourism. As a tourist country and in terms what guests consider when choosing a destination, the existence and length of border checks is a crucial factor. Another great benefit of Schengen is for our transport sector – road, railway and air from March. Air transport has especially been affected by the current economic predicaments and we are very pleased by the fact that the number of passengers increased by 10 percent on average in the first few years for other countries that have entered Schengen. 

Then there is of course the transport of goods – resulting in shorter transport time, less working hours for our drivers and less fuel consumption, which has an important ecological implication as well. To paint a more accurate picture, the average waiting time was around two to three hours, generating thereby a loss of around 100 euros per crossing for our transporters. In the Croatian Chamber of Economy, we estimate that our five thousand international road transporters will benefit from Schengen up to 110 million euros annually. 

When it comes to entering to eurozone, the greatest boost will be for our exporters. By entering the eurozone the currency risk is greatly diminished and the funding conditions will be more transparent. Croatia has integrated the euro in several ways already, more than any other country and member of the EU outside the eurozone, from household savings to paying rent and tourism, which means an easier transition for the society as a whole. 

Finally, Croatia has officially started negotiations on joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This will help us to better support the reforms we are planning, especially those supporting innovation, better fiscal policy and improving our education and health systems, as well as our labour market. 

We are all well aware that all eyes are on 2023, wondering what (else) lies ahead. Being in good company, part of associations with strong foundations, is a crucial for our sense of optimism and security in the upcoming times.