Vinkovci, July 20, 2018 – The Minister of Regional Development and European Union (EU) Funds, Gabrijela Žalac, and the World Bank Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, signed today a technical assistance agreement to support the Croatian Government in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of EU funding for Eastern Croatia with the aim of catalyzing new private sector investments, increasing employment and improving living conditions.
The region of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem hosts almost one-third of Croatia’s unemployed population. Twenty percent of the population is at the risk of poverty. The region’s population declined from 838,00 in 2005 to 777,000 in 2015.To help this less well-off region catch up and to help it unlock its growth potential, the government launched the Project Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.
The activities under this three-year technical assistance will, among others, seek to improve the quality of the Project Slavonia pipeline, provide diagnostic work on opportunities for foreign direct investments, exports and jobs and support the Government to design a strategy and an integrated program of projects and reforms for the forthcoming 2021-2027 period of EU funds.
Many EU countries are facing similar problems in lagging regions. The World Bank is supporting these efforts in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria—and now in Croatia. In several countries, lagging regions have managed to boost the economy and improve living conditions. Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem can, with strategic use of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and national funds, achieve good economic outcomes too.
"With this agreement we will contribute to the development of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem through targeted use of the state budget and EU funds with the aim of strengthening and improving the competitiveness of this region in the global value chains of key industries such as ICT, food production and processing, wood processing and tourism," said Gabrijela Žalac, Minister of Regional Development and European Union (EU) Funds of the Republic of Croatia.
“Slavonia has real economic potential, but in recent years has been losing some of its best and brightest residents. Our team will work closely with the Ministry to make maximum use of the EU funds to support productive activities in Slavonia. This requires collaboration across several national Ministries, regional counterparts, the private sector, and civil society. Around the world, we have seen that the cities and regions that succeed are those that build coalitions for growth, and use resources strategically to support the most likely opportunities” said Elisabetta Capannelli, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia.
The World Bank’s support builds on a positive legacy from earlier projects in the same region since 1998, including projects to rebuild transport and water infrastructure, projects to clear land mines, projects to support social and economic recovery, and assistance for higher education reform. Currently, the Bank is financing projects that provide funding to promising research and development oriented firms and innovative startups, and has been working with the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts to support increased competitiveness of Croatian firms in global value chains—including for firms in Slavonia.
Since joining the World Bank Group in 1993, Croatia has benefited from the World Bank’s financial and technical assistance, policy advice, and analytical services. To date, the World Bank has supported more than 50 operations amounting to around US$3.5 billion. The Bank’s engagement focuses on transport, health, innovation, business environment, land administration, and support for the preparation of the National Development Strategy.
RASs are customized advisory services offered by the World Bank to its members, mostly used in borrowing and non-borrowing middle and high-income countries. RAS are requested and paid by the client using their own or third-party resources, in this case as for most of the EU countries, European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
Like other advisory and analytic services, RAS support clients to design or implement better policies, strengthen institutions, build capacity, inform development strategies or operations, and contribute to the global development agenda. Through these services the World Bank is able to provide global best practices, cutting-edge knowledge products and bring leading global experts to address these various challenges.