By Boris Vujčić, Governor of the Central Bank of Croatia
Success, it is said, has many fathers, and rarely has the old proverb been more appropriate than in the case of Croatia’s accession to the European Union. Becoming the 28th member of the Union on 1 July would not have been possible without huge combined efforts. The EBRD has been an important contributor and can take great pride in the role it has played in making our country fit for EU membership. I salute and thank the Bank for the work it has done in Croatia!
First and foremost, the EBRD has supported our economy through its investments. More than €2.7 billion of EBRD funds have been committed to projects in all sectors of the economy since the Bank’s operations began in 1994, generating a total project value of almost €7.5 billion. Divided by our current population of 4.3 million this equals €1752.30 per person, roughly 2.5 average monthly salaries.
This in itself is pretty impressive and has been crucial in raising standards in our industry, modernising our infrastructure and establishing a sound and secure financial sector. People in Croatia have profited from new jobs, more products and better roads. But the EBRD’s role has been considerably bigger: Croatia has not forgotten that the EBRD was one of the first international institutions to come to the country in 1994, when our independence was still young and needed bolstering.
Reconstruction in the most basic sense of the word was the order of the day in our country at that time and the EBRD never shied away from making a valuable and lasting contribution. From early on the bank had perceptively identified two long-term goals which it pursued with remarkable rigour and determination: moving Croatia towards the European Union; and mending the economic links of our country with neighbouring economies.
This is was not always easy, not only economically. But the view that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” has prevailed not least thanks to the EBRD and certainly to the benefit of our country.
Over the years I have had many interactions with the EBRD and we worked together very closely. I have always been impressed by the level of professionalism and expertise the bank can offer to businesses and governments. But what I perhaps appreciate most is the fact that the EBRD has always spoken with us as an honest friend – someone who is not afraid to tell us when we are making mistakes and work with us on remedies, someone who is genuinely happy when we are successful and someone who is committed to stand by our side for many years to come.
With our entry into the EU on 1 July 2013, it boosts our confidence to know that the EBRD will remain our partner as we enter a new phase in our history. This marks the end of a process and at the same time is the beginning of a long journey. As Laozi put it: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” On this road it is good to have a companion like the EBRD on our side.