France and Croatia


Political relations

Political relations

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 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.

Politically speaking, French-Croatian relations are good, and they take shape under a strategic partnership signed in 2010, implemented in triennial action plans. The 2018-2021 action plan, signed in Zagreb on 6 April 2018, places Europe at the centre of cooperation and confirms France’s support to Croatia’s efforts to join the eurozone, the Schengen Area and the OECD. However, Zagreb regularly highlights the lack of high-level visits (there has been no French presidential visit to the country since it gained independence). On the economic level, the plan aims to develop our cooperation in the tourism sector, the implementation of European funds and the mutual understanding of markets and investment possibilities.

On 7 January 2020, the Croatian Prime Minister met with the French President at the Élysée Palace. The Minister travelled to Croatia on 14 January 2021, following the earthquake of magnitude 6.4 which, after an earthquake in Zagreb in March 2020, hit the city of Petrinja (50 km south-east of Zagreb) and its surrounding area on 29 December 2020, killing seven people and causing significant material damage. France responded to the Croatian request for help with these two earthquakes by sending 240 tents and 6 containers/emergency dwellings. On that occasion, the Minister met all of the Croatian authorities. Minister of State Clément Beaune visited Zagreb on 23 July 2022. Croatia’s decision on 28 May 2022 to purchase 12 used Rafale fighter aircraft will help considerably boost our strategic partnership.

Economic relations

According to the French Customs, during 2019 French exports rose to €588 million (up 11%) and French imports at €298 million (up 12%), a surplus of €290 million. Croatia is our fifth-largest customer (€588 million) in the region of south-east Europe, behind Romania (€4.2 billion), Slovenia (€1.4 billion), Bulgaria (€938 million) and Serbia (€603 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 approximately 6,000 people, most of which are part of the French-Croatian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the Business France correspondent for the country.

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 was extremely fruitful for our bilateral trade.
Institutional cooperation provides support to civil society actors through a call for projects (the first was held in 2019) 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 10th graduating class in 2019.

Croatian student mobility to France, which had steadily risen by 25% between 2010 and 2016, is levelling off with 340 students enrolled in 2017-2018, 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 region 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 (under development). These partnerships help strengthen local governance in Croatia and build up shared experiences between French and Croatians, on the topics of heritage conservation, culture, gastronomy, the environment and digital technology.

Updated in August 2022