Croatia is in a crucial moment. The country is at the starting point for participating in the EU and in development through EU structural funds.
The European Union is at the same time finalizing the programming period for next seven years in accordance to EU strategy Horizon 2020. The programming in short terms stands for defining the priorities of EU investments and successively the prioritised development in which the Republic of Croatia is going to invest.
Now it is time to decide on development goals for EU structural funds projects and to clarify the objectives to achieve in this field.
In the prior period, until the date of entering the EU membership on 1 July 2013, Croatia was in pre-access period and used the funding from the pre-access period. The goal of the pre-access phase was to strengthen the public sector and government institutions capacity for the purpose of successful integration into EU.
While Croatia was in EU membership candidacy, from 2004 until 2013, The EU enlargement its territory in two steps.
In 2004 Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia became EU member states and in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined.
The funding schemes available for Croatia in the pre-access period were the programme for recovering after the Homeland war that took place in Republic of Croatia from the year 1991. until 1995. in Croatia and repairing serious material damaged. After this period a program named Cards was running from the year 2001 until 2004. Both programs of recovering and Cards were of 260 million Euros.
In mid 2004 Croatia gained the status of candidate for EU membership and then the next generation of project funding was opened for Croatia: Phare, Ispa and Sapard, all of them combined worth 252 million Euros for the period 2005 to 2006. In 2007 the Phare, Ispa and Sapard were unified into a program named Ipa.
The Cards programme was aimed for development of juridical capacity together with harmonizing with legal EU frame and encouragement of trade market and structural reforms.
The Phare program was intended for government authority, ministries, regional development and local authorities for executing the reforms for entering EU membership and to prepare capacities for structural funds.
The programme Ispa was intended for infrastructure investments in the field of transportation and protection of nature. The investments were allocated to roads and railway infrastructure, waste water management, waste management, water supply. The users of the funding were firms in public ownership.
Sapard was used for enhancing the agriculture sector and investments into processing of agricultural products. The users of Sapard were farmers, private and family based as well the public sector for rural infrastructure.
The Ipa program started in 2007 and was formed from five components. The Ipa program runs until end of 2013 and is worth 150 million Euros per year.
According statistics available for the pre-access period, until the mid of 2012 Croatia used only 23% of available funding from all above listed programs. It still remains to calculate the results for the period from the mid 2012 until the access date on 1 July 2013.
The pre-access funding has substantially helped in structuring the community and prepare Croatia for EU entry. The major positive step forward was gained in development of the society, democratic principles in all domains from public through business, civil and professional. Although only partly used, the pre-access funding resulted in social effect towards the equalizing with the standard of living in other countries that are EU members.