EU environment standards extended to Croatia
On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union. As a result, it has implemented almost the whole corpus of European legislation since that date. In areas where it has been given extra time to comply, it will have to respect legally binding timetables.
EU membership is bringing multiple dividends for the citizens of Croatia – access to the single market with more products of better quality at lower cost, EU funds to help diversify the agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors, a reform of the judiciary to guarantee its independence, and much more besides.
Before negotiations could begin, Croatia had to demonstrate its ability to put European legislation into place and ensure it is complied with. The environmental acquis was no exception: although the country already had a high level of expertise in certain areas, notably water and nature, the government committed itself to raising its administrative capacity and financial resources to the necessary levels.
Throughout the process, the EU has been keen to stress the benefits of environmental legislation – underling the importance of a strong green economy for a sustainable future, and economic advantages of a strong recycling sector, for example.
Not all the acquis is immediately applicable. Transition periods can be negotiated for legislation that requires heavy investment, providing these are backed by sound technical and financial arguments. This was the case for urban water treatment, where the implementation deadline was set for 2023. Waste is another area where major efforts are required. The country, which is establishing regional waste management centres and a pipeline of projects, has until end 2018 to ensure that everything is in place. The same date has been given for improving drinking water quality.
Croatia is currently preparing a ‘partnership agreement’ with the European Commission on how it proposes to use its EU funds for investments in key areas like research and innovation, support for small and medium sized businesses which can create long term, sustainable jobs and support for the low carbon economy
EU funds will help with that transition. Croatia is currently preparing a ‘partnership agreement’ with the European Commission on how it proposes to use its EU funds for investments in key areas like research and innovation, support for small and medium sized businesses which can create long term, sustainable jobs and support for the low carbon economy.
The structural funds will provide access to finance for businesses and support them to be more competitive through new technologies, green production, and high quality training. The first LIFE projects in Croatia started in 1995 under the LIFE Third Countries component. Some 14 projects were financed before accession, representing a total investment of EUR 9 million. As a fully-fledged Member State, Croatia may now apply for LIFE funds under the programme's three main components: Nature and Biodiversity, Environment Policy and Governance, and Information and Communication.
Over one-third of Croatia's territory is set to be included in the Natura 2000 Network, reflecting not only Croatia’s strong commitment to nature conservation but also to its remarkable biodiversity. Natura 2000 will play a large role in future sustainable tourism – Croatia’s remarkable landscape includes over 9 000 caves that host unique biodiversity, much of which is new to science, large populations of bears, lynx and wolves, and some 8 000 marine species in the Adriatic.