The Republic of Croatia shares 1,009.1 km of border with Bosnia–Herzegovina, 317.6 km with Serbia, 667.8 km with Slovenia, 355.5 km with Hungary and 22.6 km with Montenegro. An extensive Adriatic coastline includes almost 1,200 islands and islets.
The Croatian population is approximately 4.2 million. Economically, it was hard hit by the global financial crisis and has almost recovered to pre-financial crisis levels with prolonged but slow growth. Croatia is eligible to become a member of the Eurozone after officially exiting the Excessive Deficit Procedure. Services account for about two-thirds of Croatian GDP with the tourism industry being most important and accounts for 15% of GDP.
Croatia welcomes 10 million foreign visitors a year. Major industries include construction, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, and food processing. Nearly two-thirds of Croatia’s trade of which imports is double that of exports is with EU partners, mostly Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Austria.
The educational system in Croatia begins with preschools-kindergartens. Children start their compulsory eight years of primary education at the age of 6. Public primary and secondary schools are tuition-free as are institutions of higher education. Social security includes health and pension insurance, unemployment insurance and family benefits, social benefits and child benefits.
Compulsory primary health insurance is administered by the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance and covers workplace injury and profession-related illness, and compensation for loss of pay during sick leave, maternity or paternity leave, and any associated transport costs.
Croatia has more than one thousand idyllic islands, the Dalmatian Coast, pristine beaches, lakes, historic and cultural places of interest and ancient ruins. They also have underwater wineries, Michelin-starred restaurants, pedestrian-friendly streets, museums, galleries and outdoor cafes. Croatia has 8 cultural UNESCO Heritage sites.
The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč, the Historic City of Trogir, the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, the Old City of Dubrovnik, Stari Grad Plain, the Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards, the Cathedral of St James in Šibenik, Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries: Stato da Terra – Western Stato da Mar. Natural Heritage sites are the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Croatia is one of four European Union countries, along with Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania, that are still not Schengen countries. The Schengen zone includes 26 European states that are part of a passport-free zone which means they are free of border controls between them.
The European Commission proposed the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to be implemented in 2021. The reason behind ETIAS is the securing of borders against risks associated with increased terrorist activity and uncontrolled immigration. It will affect Australians and nationals from the other 61 countries now benefiting from visa-free entry into the EU and Schengen countries. While Croatia is not a Schengen country, it is a member of the EU, and therefore subject to the travel regulations imposed by ETIAS.
The visa waiver application will cost a small fee for applicants 18 years and over. Online application for visits up to 90 days will take only a few minutes to complete and should be submitted 96 hours before any intended departure to the Schengen zone or EU country. The authorisation is attached electronically to the passport and will be valid until the passport expires or three years, whichever is first. ETIAS approval endures for any Schengen country for a visit of 90 days or less.
Australia recognised Croatia after its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and diplomatic relations were established on the eve of Valentine’s Day 1992. Bilateral agreements between the two countries include a bilateral social security agreement to give improved social security protection to people who have lived and/or worked in both countries and an Air Services Agreement together with a Memorandum of Understanding between the aeronautical authorities entitling airlines to operate daily services between the two countries. Australia has also amended and simplified their extradition legislation as regards Croatia.
Goods and services trade between Australia and Croatia dropped from 2015, but the five-year trend remains positive. Trade in services was double that of merchandise trade. Major imports from Croatia include food products, electric machinery and parts, and non-electric engines and motors. Australian exports to Croatia increased drastically by 340.5%, consistent with the five-year growth trend and include coal, fruits, nuts, and non-electric engines and motors. Foreign direct investment figures are limited but suggest a negligible trend between the two countries.
Australia has 43,688 Croatia-born residents and 133,264 claiming Croatian ancestry. Many Croats still identify as Yugoslavs which may skew these figures and affiliations somewhat. The Croatian diaspora is eligible to vote in Croatian presidential and parliamentary elections.
Australians visiting Croatia can do so with only a valid passport at the moment. When ETIAS is implemented in 2021, Australians will have to get pre-authorisation online through the system before embarking on travel to Croatia, whether by land, air or sea. The ETIAS process will be much the same as Australia’s Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) in time and cost-effectiveness.