With Croatia's accession to the EU coming up shortly, preparations are under way to swiftly deploy ESF activities
Since 2007, Croatia has been supported by the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to prepare for accession to the EU. An important aspect of this programme has been the gradual preparation for the programming, management and implementation of the ESF and other EU Structural Funds.
At accession in July 2013, the current IPA Component IV (Human Resource Development Operational Programme) will be transformed retrospectively into ESF 2007-13. A new Operational Programme is currently being negotiated between Croatia and the European Commission and will be set up for the period until end 2013. This transition goes along with a substantial increase in budget: on top of € 94.2 million for IPA 2007-13, an additional € 60 million will become available for programming in July to December 2013. The launch of the ESF in Croatia will be marked by a high-profile "ESF-Day" on 3 June in Zagreb.
Croatia was hit hard by the economic crisis: it is confronted with steady rise in unemployment (15.9% in 2012, with youth unemployment of 43%) and a high poverty risk (32.7 % in 2011). Moreover, Croatia is lagging behind many EU countries in terms of efficiency of the social protection system and public administration capacity. The EU Structural Funds, including the ESF, will play a significant role in tackling these severe challenges.