Coronavirus in Croatia
Croatia is the EU’s newest member state, joining only in 2013. The country’s economy has been making headway in new sectors like tourism over recent years, but there is still an active metal, wood work and fishing industry. And when the crisis struck, workers employed in those sectors feared the worst.
“I was afraid of losing my job because of the pandemic. We talked about how we were going to go on,” says Antonio Vidović, a worker at MarijanaTrade, a fishing business from a small village on the Dalmatian coast.
The worry was not unfounded. Ravna, a wood business based in Croatia’s mountainous Gorski Kotar region, saw new orders plummet, while fishermen working at MarijanaTrade had all their activities halted for the first two months of the pandemic. Given the circumstances, many companies up and down the country feared that they would have to lay off staff.
“Our income dropped by 20% in the first few months of the crisis and we were not able to deliver to some of our most important markets, such as France, Norway and Great Britain,” explains Domagoj Vujnović, financial manager of Color Emajl, a metal works company based in Požega in eastern Croatia.
Color Emajl metal works © Croatian Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, 2020
EU steps up its support
To keep small and medium sized businesses afloat, the EU released emergency funding in the form of favourable loans and guarantees. It also made the rules on obtaining support from existing European funds more flexible, so that more companies could benefit faster. And to cover employee wages and pensions during the downturn in business, Croatian SMEs received almost €800 million in grants.
This meant that many companies could avoid staff layoffs or having to close their doors for good.
“We are pleased that our employer got EU support. We received regular salaries and were able to finance everything that was important to us during the coronavirus crisis,” says Renata Troha, a worker at Ravna.
Ravna wood works © Croatian Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, 2020
The road to recovery
More than 100,000 businesses in Croatia received EU financial support. This has helped preserve almost 650,000 jobs since the start of the crisis, including hundreds at Ravna wood works, Color Emajl metal works and the MarijanaTrade fishing business.
However, businesses across the country are acutely aware that the pandemic isn’t over yet. In order to recover from the crisis, they agree that job security is paramount.
“Preserving the jobs is an absolute priority. Thanks to help from the EU and Croatian government job preservation scheme, I have more confidence, and hope to move forward and get through this difficult period,” says Krunoslav Pavić from Color Emajl metal works.
EU support has helped many small businesses overcome the immediate crisis. However, the Union’s long-term recovery plan will lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. By focusing on the green and digital transition, the EU will build a stronger economy and more resilient society, able to pull through the next crisis.
MarijanaTrade fishing © Croatian Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, 2020