France and Croatia


Political relations

Croatia’s purchase of 12 used Rafale fighter aircraft in 2021 strengthened the whole bilateral relationship.

At political level, bilateral relations are excellent and enshrined in a new strategic partnership that was signed during President Macron’s visit to Zagreb on 25 November 2021, superseding the partnership concluded in 2010 and following Croatia’s purchase of 12 used Rafale aircraft. It aims to be more ambitious, comprehensive and operational than the previous partnership, and has six dimensions: strengthening bilateral and European political dialogue, stability and prosperity in South-East Europe, defence cooperation in relation to the purchase of Rafale aircraft, closer economic ties, enhanced educational cooperation and cultural, scientific and academic exchanges, and administrative cooperation. It will be supplemented by three-year action plans.

President Macron’s visit on 24 and 25 November 2021, in the first official bilateral visit by a French President to Croatia, followed a meeting at the Élysée Palace between France’s President and the Croatian Prime Minister on 7 January 2020. The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, visited Croatia on 14 January 2021 to express France’s solidarity following the earthquakes in Zagreb in March 2020 and the Petrinja area (50km south-east of Zagreb) on 29 December 2020. France responded immediately to the Croatian request for help following these two earthquakes by sending 240 tents and 6 containers/emergency shelters. Minister of State Clément Beaune visited Zagreb on 23 July 2021.

France recognized Croatia on 15 January 1992 at the same time as the other European Community countries, and established diplomatic relations in April 1992. Our bilateral relations swiftly developed from the democratic transition that followed the death of President Tudjman in December 1999.

France provided Croatia with constant support throughout the process of accession to the European Union, until its completion in July 2013. Croatia’s EU Accession Treaty was unanimously ratified by both houses of the French Parliament on 17 January 2013.

Economic relations

When it comes to trade, our bilateral relations are strong. The year 2021 saw records for French exports to Croatia (up 19.4%) and our trade surplus (up 39%). French exports totalled €643 million, and our imports stood at €312.8 million.

Today, key French investors in Croatia are: Bouygues (Bina-Istra/motorway concession in Istria and Zagreb Airport), Lactalis (Dukat - Agro-industry), ADP (Zagreb Airport), Axereal (Agro-industry), Decathlon (Retail), Akuo (renewable energies), Atos, St Jean Industries. In total, there are around 60 subsidiaries of French companies which employ more than 5,000 people, most of which are part of the French-Croatian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the Business France correspondent for the country.

Croatia is France’s fifth-largest customer (€588 million) in South-East Europe, behind Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Serbia, while France is its tenth-largest supplier and eighth-largest customer.

Despite a limited market share in Croatia (2.5% in 2021), France’s position has improved since the country joined the EU in 2013 and its visibility has been boosted by emblematic projects like Zagreb International Airport and the Rafale contract. The combination of this momentum, Croatian public policies supporting demand, and the country’s Eurozone membership in 2023, means good prospects for the future of our bilateral economic relations.

Cultural, scientific, technical and decentralized cooperation

Long-standing cultural exchanges exist between France and Croatia. The Institut Français in Croatia (IFC), which celebrated its centenary in 2021, was one of the very first in the French cultural network in Europe. Following the “Rendez-vous” French cultural season, which was held in 2015 and created a new momentum for the various strands of French-Croatian cooperation, the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Rijeka being named a European Capital of Culture in 2020 were extremely fruitful for our bilateral trade.

Institutional cooperation provides support to civil society actors, focusing on the three following priorities: gender equality, environment and climate, and tolerance and reconciliation.

In the academic field, new partnerships – some bilateral (Split/Aix-Marseille, Rijeka/Sciences Po Bordeaux) and others in the framework of the “European Universities” initiative (Split/Brest, Zadar/La Rochelle), – have recently been added to older cooperation programmes, such as the double-degree Master’s in Biotechnologies, organized between Zagreb and Orléans, and which saw its tenth graduating class in 2019.

Croatian student mobility to France, which had steadily risen by 25% between 2010 and 2016, has declined by 15% in five years: 208 students enrolled in 2020-2021, against an unfavourable demographic backdrop.
The Hubert Curien Partnership, “Cogito”, the main instrument for scientific cooperation, has supported 116 projects since its launch in 2002.

French is the fourth most-taught language behind English, German and Italian. Promotion of the French language is done by the network of Alliances Françaises (Dubrovnik, Osijek, Split, Rijeka and Zagreb) and the seven language teaching assistants working in schools and universities. Some 10% of learners sit the DELF for schools test; the Croatian ministry’s commitment to this organization was made official in March 2019, with the signature of a bilateral agreement. Croatia, which has been an observer at the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) since 2004, has provided French-language training for over 2,000 Croatian civil servants since 2002, in partnership with the IOF. The French International School in Zagreb (EFIZ), together with the German International School in Zagreb, is the most integrated of five Eurocampuses in the world.

With regard to decentralized cooperation, partnerships have been created between Rueil-Malmaison and Dubrovnik, the Saône-et-Loire department and the county of Varaždin, the Communauté d’Agglomération du St-Quentinois (CASQ) and Dugo Selo, Villefranche-de-Rouergue and Pula, and Nice and Opatija. This fosters exchanges of experience concerning heritage conservation, culture, gastronomy, the environment and digital technology.

Updated: February 2024