Coming from a war-torn region to becoming a success story in the Balkans, Croatia in international relations, as well as football, is on the up and up.
Learn how Margret Thatcher helped Croatia during the early stages of its statehood and what German industry has in common with both nations.
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British-Croatia relations first began after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991. A bloody and deep battle for independence against Serb forces was in fact supported by the UK. The then British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher was a major proponent of an independent and prosperous Croatia during the then Croatian War of Independence in the late 80s early 90s.
Support during the War
Croatia’s battle for independence like many other independence struggles post Yugoslavia was one of monumental destruction and pain for those involved. A culmination of genocides in the region by Serb forces held remanence of the destruction and human rights abuses comparable to Nazi Germany. It was during this period that that the UK government under the leadership of Margret Thatcher threw its support behind Croatia. In an interview for HRT, a Croatian public broadcasting company, in 1991 she said:
“At first people had been given to understand, wrongly, that it was just a question, serious as though that is, of civil war between two different groups. They needed to be informed that it was between Communist Serbia which has taken control both of the army and of the country, and Democratic Croatia and Slovenia, both of whom had exercised their right to become independent”.
Post War Relations
Relations post the war of independence have gone from strength to strength. With the support of the UK Croatia first joined NATO in 2009 then the European Union in 2013. Croatia has developed a very outward looking strategy in terms of European foreign alliance and has consistently worked toward imbedding itself and contributing to the European fabric.
In terms of specific British – Croatian relations in context to the European Union it is important to note that when Croatia joined the EU in 2013, the UK and other member states were able to restrict the access that Croatian citizens had to their labour markets for a maximum of 7 years. The UK is one of a few EU countries (Austria, Slovenia and the Netherlands) which applies such measures. The restrictions have meant that, unless an exemption applied, Croatians needed permission from the Home Office to work in the UK. These restrictions on Croatian workers however have expired in June, thus giving more opportunities for Croats to work and prosper within the UK. However, since the BREXIT referendum statistics have shown that the estimated number of EU nationals immigrating to the UK fell from 284,000 the year before the vote to 220,000 in the latest figures. Meanwhile the number of EU citizens emigrating has increased from an estimated 95,000 in the year before the referendum to 130,000 now.
Trade and development
Trade relations between these two nations remain negligible. The UKs total trade exports in 2016 equated to a total of $374bn. The UKs top export destinations include the USA at 14% with an export value of $52bn, next is Germany when the UK exports 9.5% of its commodities equating to an export value of $33.5bn and in joint 3rd is France and the Netherlands at 6% or $22.5bn. In comparison Croatia captures only 0.063% of trade or $237m of UK trade exports.
On the other hand, Croatia’s total exports in 2016 equated to $13.5bn. Its top three export destinations include; in joint first place Slovenia and Italy at 12% or $1.6bn worth of trade, like the UK Germany comes in second with 11% of the export pie equating to $1.55bn and in third place is Bosnia & Herzegovina at 7.4% or $1bn. The UK comes in 14th place capturing only 1.4% of trade which equates to $185m.
Top Croatian exports to the UK include; (2016)
· Packaged Medicaments – 12%- Trade Value: $21.6m
· Steam Boilers – 11% – Trade Value: $20.1m
· Insulated Wire – 5/1% – Trade Value: $9.47m
Top British exports to Croatia include; (2016)
· Telephones – 5%- Trade Value: $11.7m
· Cars-4.4%- Trade Value: $10.4m
· Computers – 2.2% – Trade Value: $5.26m