Where is Croatia? Geographically, politically, economically? Where does it rank globally on transparency, press freedom, competitiveness, LGBT rights & more.

Where is Croatia? An introduction

Where is Croatia? It was the second most-searched destination in the world in 2018, according to Google Insights. Not only that, it was the most-searched country in the world.

The incredible soccer World Cup success, coupled with the passionate support of the travelling fans wearing THAT iconic shirt had millions wondering the same thing: just exactly where IS Croatia?

Rather than just giving an explanation of where the country is geographically, I thought it was a good opportunity to answer the question with a look at where Croatian society fits in on various global factors.

But let’s start at the beginning. Although Croatia has a rich and proud history and heritage, the modern state is just thirty years old.

Previously, it had been a federal republic of former Yugoslavia. A war of independence from 1991-1995 devastated much of the country, but it brought hard-won freedom.

Even though Croatia is perceived as being in Eastern Europe, its capital Zagreb is further west than Vienna.

With more than 1,000 islands and almost 2,000 km of coastline, Croatian tourism is understandably focused on the Adriatic Sea. But it has several land neighbours too (and territorial disputes with all but one – see this TCN overview).

The neighbours include Slovenia to the west, Hungary to the north, Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Montenegro to the east. The President of Liberland would also consider his country a peaceful eastern neighbour too, but Croatia does not recognise the tiny self-proclaimed republic.

EU, Euro, NATO, and Schengen

More confusing than the question ‘where is Croatia’ is the country’s status in various institusions.

It IS a member of the EU, becoming its 28th member on July 1, 2013. It IS a member of NATO, joining with Albania in 2009. But it is NOT a part of the Schengen zone yet, although entry was expected to happen in 2020. It will probably join in the next several years. It is also NOT a part of the eurozone currently, although again this is a stated goal, one which can’t happen before 2023.

Where are Croatians? Homeland population and diaspora

It is a sad reality that almost half of all Croatians live outside of the country. The country has a history of emigration over the centuries, mostly for economic and political reasons.

The currently population inside population is diminishing at a rapid rate and recently fell below 4 million.

There are more than 3 million Croats living in the diaspora. The latest official information I have come across with a breakdown of how many Croats are where is in this official information from a few years ago. The top 6 countries by population are:

  • United States 1 200 000
  • Germany 350 000
  • Argentina 250 000
  • Australia 250 000
  • Canada 250 000
  • Chile 200 000

It should be noted that these numbers do not take into account the latest crushing wave of emigration. One of the most popular new diaspora destinations is Ireland, which was for a long time the only English-speaking country to allow Croats entry without any work restrictions upon EU entry. Ireland’s economic benefit is very much the Adriatic region’s loss.

UN Human Development Index

And so let’s take a look at where Croatia stands compared to the rest of the world. There are a number of global indicators covering different aspects of a country. But I have never seen them grouped together for this country. So let’s try!

The UN Human Development Index is an overview of various indices, from homicide rates (low here) to life expectancy (high – thank you, olive oil). Check out where Croatia stands on a range of indices.

Index of Economic Freedom

It came in 79th in the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom (compared to 86th in the 2019). Here is what they said about Croatia:

“Croatia’s economic freedom score is 63.6, making its economy the 79th freest in the 2021 Index. Its overall score has increased by 1.4 points, primarily because of an improvement in the tax burden score. Croatia is ranked 38th among 45 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is below the regional average but above the world average.

Again in 2021, Croatia’s economy moved a little higher in the moderately free category and set a new record high for its economic freedom. For further progress, the government needs to accelerate implementation of its long-delayed structural reform package so that it can sell off burdensome state companies and reduce government spending. Further improvements are also needed in the judicial system and labour laws.

IMPACT OF COVID-19: As of December 1, 2020, 1,861 deaths had been attributed to the pandemic in Croatia, and the economy was forecast to contract by 9.0 percent for the year.”

Check out the full report.

Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International)

I would be lying if I said that corruption was not an issue in this country. But don’t take my word for it, there are websites which track this kind of thing.

The annual Transparency International Perception of Corruption Index has Croatia in 63rd place in 2020, with the score exactly the same as Cuba, Belarus and a bit better than Montenegro.

Economic Indicators (Trading Economics)

A healthy economy can cure almost all ills, but how is Croatia doing? Trading Economics monitors a number of factors, from GDP growth and unemployment, to Croatia’s balance of trade and current account. A look at some of the current economic indicators in Croatia.

World Press Index (Reports Without Borders)

Reporters Without Borders produce an annual report on press freedoms, with a ranking and brief overview for each country. Croatia came in at 59 in 2020, a year in which the largest problem was the situation at the public TV broadcaster.

Global Peace Index (Institute for Economics and Peace)

Vision of Humanity publishes an annual Global Peace Index. Iceland is consistently leading the list, and Croatia is ranked 26 in 2020. Find out more about the details and methodology.

Croatia within EU (Eurostat)

Croatia has been in the EU since 2013, but how is it doing? The 2020 Eurostat Statistical Book of Key Figures on Europe makes for fascinating reading.

Eurostat regional yearbook 2020

Eurostat produces a regional yearbook. Find out how Croatia is performing on a number of key issues.

Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable development is one of the buzz concepts these days. Croatia is ranked 19th in the world in 2020.

World Talent Ranking

The IMD World Talent Ranking is based on countries’ performance in three main categories — investment and development, appeal and readiness. The three categories assess how countries perform in a wide range of areas. These include education, apprenticeships, workplace training, language skills, cost of living, quality of life, remuneration and tax rates. In the 2020 rankings, Croatia has maintained the 53rd position.

World Competitiveness Ranking

How competitive is Croatia in the global economy? The IMD World Competitiveness Ranking table is out, and the news is not so good for Croatia. It came in 60th out of 63 countries, which is the similar position Croatia has had for years.

World Digital Competitiveness Ranking

The world is an increasingly digital place, but how is Croatia coping with the transition? Not that well, coming in 52nd out of 63 countries in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, losing several spots in the last couple of years.

Accepting Migrants

The migrant crisis has been a huge European issue over the last few years. With its geographic location, Croatia has been at the forefront of the crisis at various stages. A Gallup poll in 2018 of migrant acceptance in the EU featured Croatia, but how did Croatia score?

There was considerable regional variety, with Albania by far the most accepting regionally, with Macedonia at the bottom of the table, with Croatia towards the bottom of the accepting league table. Interestingly, one of the Croatian emigration hot spots in recent years, Ireland, came in second.

Confidence in Courts

The Croatian judicial system has come under scrutiny recently, with some rather unusual verdicts. But how did confidence in Croatian courts compare to other countries in 2018?

Given some of the dubious verdicts in Croatian courts during my time here, I was a little surprised that Croatia came as high as it did.

EU Membership

Where does Croatia stand with satisfaction compared to its regional neighbours?

NATO

Croatia joined NATO in 2009. A Gallup poll from 2016 tells us how Croatians feel about that.

Perhaps understandably, Kosovo tops the list at 90%, with Serbia – equally understandably at the bottom on 6% – with feelings in Croatia pretty favourable.

Religion

Croatia is a very conservative country, and religion is an important part of the social fabric. There are 15 recognised churches in the country, although the country is overwhelmingly Catholic (about 86%). Learn more about religion in Croatia.

LGBT

The LGBT scene is growing slowly in Croatia, but how are feelings towards it in Croatia, compared to elsewhere?

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights performed a large study throughout Europe in 2020 to see what the status of those rights are in each member country. You can find the country data for Croatia on this link (opens a .pdf document).

The survey’s subtitle for Croatia says that there’s a long way to go before equality. Some steps have been made in recent years, including the introduction of the “life partners” legislation. That law gives same-sex couples rights which are similar to married heterosexuals, but still denies them certain rights such as adopting children.

The tiny country which dared to dream – sport

For many, however, Croatia is the land of sporting dreams. This tiny country has a consistent record of punching above its weight in a number of sports. None will forget the magic of Croatia’s magical run all the way to the World Cup Final in Moscow in 2018.

The bright sports history started in 1992, with the first Croatian Olympic medals (including the glorious finale in the basketball tournament against the original USA Dream Team). There were many successes in the following years, numerous medals and titles.

Learn more about the incredible sporting pedigree of Croatia in the Total Croatia introduction to Croatian sports.