France recognized Croatia on 15 January 1992 at the same time as the other European Community countries and established diplomatic relations with Zagreb in April 1992. Our bilateral relations developed from the democratic transition that followed the death of President Tudjman in December 1999.
In particular, France has provided Croatia with constant support throughout the process of accession to the European Union, until it ended in July 2013. Croatia’s EU Accession Treaty was unanimously ratified by both houses of the French Parliament on 17 January 2013.
Recent highlights of bilateral relations were the meeting between the President of the French Republic and the Croatian Prime Minister (Tallinn, 27 September 2017), the inauguration of Zagreb’s new airport terminal, in March 2017 (built by Bouygues with a concession granted to Aéroports de Paris), cross-cultural seasons based around Croatia’s accession to the EU “Rendez-vous de la France en Croatie” (2015) and “Croatie, la voici” (2012).
Interparliamentary exchanges are active, through the France-Croatia Interparliamentary Friendship Groups of the French National Assembly (Ms Liliane Tanguy) and the French Senate (Mr Yves Daudigny).
The Minister of State for European Affairs, Harlem Désir, visited Croatia on 21 March 2017 for the inauguration of Zagreb’s new airport terminal. On that occasion, he met with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Mr Andrej Plenković, as well as his counterpart.
The French Minister for European Affairs travelled to Croatia on 5-6 April 2018. There, she met with the Prime Minister, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić. With Ms Pejčinović Burić, she signed a new 2018-2021 action plan from the France-Croatia strategic partnership, which was signed in 2010. She also carried out citizens’ consultations on Europe with her counterpart, Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, at the University of Zagreb on 6 April.
In 2016, France exported €403 million worth of goods to Croatia. In 2017, French exports increased by 10.6% and its market share reached 2.4%. France’s structural trade surplus with Croatia reached €207 million over the same period. About 500,000 French tourists (from a total of 13.8 million tourists) visit Croatia each year.
The main French investors in Croatia are Bouygues (Bina-Istra/motorway concessions in Istria, airport concession in Zagreb), ADP (Zagreb Airport concession), Lactalis (Dukat - agro-business), Axereal (agro-business), Decathlon (retail), Lesaffre (Kvasac - agro-business), Atos (IT), St Jean Industries (industry) and Cristal Union (sugar). At the end of 2016, Société Générale announced the sale of its Croatian subsidiary Splitska Banka (7% market share) to the Hungarian bank OTP.
In total, there are 60 subsidiaries of French companies employing almost 6,500 people in the country, brought together under the French-Croatian chamber of commerce and industry, an organization under local law which since 2017 has been a corresponding member of the Business France office in Milan, Italy.
Cultural, scientific, technical and decentralized cooperation
Long-standing cultural exchanges exist between France and Croatia. The French Institute in Zagreb, created in 1921, was one of the very first in the French cultural network in Europe. The “Rendez-vous” French cultural season, with over 200 events in 44 Croatian towns from May to October 2015, created a new momentum for the various strands of French-Croatian cooperation.
Institutional and non-governmental cooperation is taking place as part of preparations for Croatia’s first Presidency of the EU in 2020. It includes work to continue adapting the Croatian public service to the European context, supporting local governance on Mediterranean issues, promoting European values and supporting civil society actors. French institutional cooperation in Croatia also aims to support local governance on Mediterranean issues. There is particular focus on supporting the city of Rijeka, which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2020.
There is increasing cooperation between French and Croatian universities, meaning that there is a constant growth in student mobility. In 2015-2016, 356 Croatian students went to study in France, representing a 25% increase over the past five years. Actions to promote French higher education are taken by the Campus France space in Croatia with the support of the network of Alliances françaises (Dubrovnik, Osijek, Split, Rijeka and Zagreb) and language teaching assistants in the Croatian school and university system. The main instrument for scientific cooperation between France and Croatia is the Hubert Curien Partnership “Cogito”. The HCP has supported 90 projects since it was launched in 2002.
French, which is almost always taught as a second foreign language, is in fourth place in the order of foreign languages learnt, after English, German and Italian. Croatia, which has been an observer at the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) since 2006, has provided French-language training for over 2,000 Croatian civil servants since 2002, in partnership with the IOF. The French School in Zagreb (EFZ), together with the German International School in Zagreb, is one of five Eurocampuses in the world.
With regard to decentralized cooperation, partnerships have been created between Marseille/Split, Bourges/Šibenik, Le Havre/Rijeka, Auxerre/Varaždin, and Villefranche-de-Rouergue/Pula.