The road to the EU was long, but in 2013
Croatia finally became a member of the Union. By that
time, EU enthusiasm had largely subsided. The right-wing
nationalist party HDZ, which has dominated for 30 years,
has been in power since the beginning of 2016.
It took ten years from formal application until
Croatia became an EU member, and when that happened, it
was as if the honeymoon was already over. After only a
couple of months, Croatia ended up in direct conflict
with Brussels. The EU threatened with sanctions when it
adopted a law that violated an EU rule on extradition.
Croatia was forced to back down (see Calendar) but the
conflict showed some dissonance in its relationship with
the EU. Widespread skepticism towards Brussels exists
even after the change of government when the Croatian
Democratic Union (HDZ) regained power (see below).
Country facts and history of Croatia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
When the first round of the presidential election was
held in December 2019, it looked as if the right winners
were holding on. HDZ's candidate, President Kolinda
Grabar Kitarović, and a challenger from the right
together received 51 percent of the vote. But in the
decisive election round, Social Democratic former Prime
Minister Zoran Milanović prevailed over Grabar Kitarović
(see Calendar). Milanović took office in February 2020.
The situation was reminiscent of the previous
presidential election five years earlier: Grabar
Kitarović then won a button victory in the second round
of incumbent President Ivo Josipović, who belonged to
the then ruling Social Democratic SPD, led by Zoran
Milanović (see Calendar). Josipović was not re-elected
despite long leading the polls - just as Grabar
Kitarović did before the 2019-2020 elections. The voters
were both approved to show their dissatisfaction with
the incumbent government. The presidential post is
mainly ceremonial (see Political system).
In the fall of 2015, Croatia ended up in the midst of
the acute refugee crisis in Europe. The location along
the so-called Balkan route meant that the country had to
deal with up to 10,000 people a day who came across the
border, on their way to countries in Northern and
Western Europe. Prime Minister Zoran Milanović advocated
humane treatment of the refugees, which contributed to
growing voter support for the government. However, the
opposition accused him of weak and ineffective
management of the crisis. By the end of the year, over
half a million people had crossed Croatia.
The November 2015 parliamentary elections were very
even. The Valalliance formed by HDZ received only three
mandates more than one Left Alliance led by the SPD.
Dissatisfaction with the traditional parties also led
voters to look for new alternatives: the newly formed
central party Most got almost 14 percent of the votes
and thus a wave master role. The party's young leader
Božo Petrov became the country's most popular politician
according to the new person-election system introduced.
After several unsuccessful rounds of negotiations
between the political parties, a compromise was reached
in January 2016 where HDZ formed a government with Most
but with a party politically independent head of
government, Tihomir Oresković. By his side, he got both
Mosts Petrov and HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko as deputy
prime ministers. Many assumed that Oresković would be
given a relatively restrained role, as he was
politically inexperienced and spoke poor Croatian after
living most of his life in Canada.
The government got off to a stormy start. A minister
was forced to resign almost immediately because of
accusations of tax fraud. Protests erupted in what was
seen as an attempt by HDZ to manage the education sector
and the media in detail. Soon the cooperation in the
government coalition began to crack. Tomislav Karamarko
found it difficult to agree with both Božo Petrov, who
felt that promised reforms were going too slowly, and
with Tihomir Oresković who became increasingly popular
and turned out to want to drive his own politics.
The political crisis escalated since it was found
that Karamako's wife received over EUR 60,000 for
consultancy work for the Hungarian oil company MOL,
which Croatia was involved in a dispute with. The
disclosure led the Social Democrats to submit a
statement of confidence against Karamako in Parliament,
and Petrov said Most would support the opposition on the
The political squabble prompted lenders to raise
interest rates on loans to Croatia from three to five
percent, after which Prime Minister Oresković demanded
both Karamakos and Petrov's resignation.
This in turn led to HDZ making a statement of no
confidence in Oresković and in mid-June, the government
fell, just five months after taking office. Karamarko
left the party leadership post in HDZ and was succeeded
in July by former diplomat Andrej Plenković.
When the new elections were held in September 2016,
the center-right alliance was led by HDZ, with a
slightly larger margin than in the election the year
before. Most lost almost a third of its seats but
remained the third largest party in Parliament. Despite
the previous contradictions, HDZ and Most formed a new
government after a month, supported by eight members
representing ethnic minorities and with Plenković as
But the new government also burst after six months.
This time, the collaboration is due to disagreement over
the responsibility for a deep debt crisis in the grocery
group Agrokor, which accounts for 15 percent of
Croatia's GDP. When most members stood on the
opposition's side facing a declaration of confidence in
Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, who previously worked
for Agrokor, the party resigned from the government.
Marić passed the margin of no confidence in the
confidence vote. HDZ then, in June 2017, unexpectedly
succeeded in forming a new government with the liberal
party HNS, which until then belonged to the Social
Under the HDZ government, Croatia's relations with
neighboring countries have in many cases significantly
deteriorated (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
When the corona pandemic swept across the world in
March 2020, Croatia, like most neighboring countries,
imposed a wide range of restrictions, and most of the
business and educational system shut down. The country
managed without more extensive spread of infection and
after just over two months had reported only about 100
dead. During May, restrictions began to be lifted. The
president announced parliamentary elections until July
5, a few months earlier than otherwise expected.
Follow it on an ongoing basis in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Republika Hrvatska / Republic of Croatia
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Zoran Milanović (2020–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (2016–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
HDZ-led alliance 61, SDP-led alliance 54, Most 13,
Živi zid-led alliance 8, other 15 (2016)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
HDZ-led alliance 59, SDP-led alliance 56, Most 19,
others 17 (2015)
52% in the 2016 parliamentary elections, 55% in the
2020 presidential election
parliamentary elections 2020, presidential elections