President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Thursday it was necessary to decentralise Croatia and strengthen its economic activities, adding that she had agreed with Prime Minister-designate Tihomir Oreskovic during their meeting on Wednesday on the need to improve the business and investment climate in the country.
"We joined the EU and NATO and then at one point we stopped thinking about where we saw Croatia in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years from now, which if of vital importance if we are to advance and develop," the president said in her temporary office in Vukovar where she met with representatives of the county and municipal authorities.
Grabar-Kitarovic said she was surprised by the number of development projects that had been halted in the last few years, stressing that there could be no job creation or progress without such projects.
"We must not fully rely on the EU and its funds," she said, adding that EU funds should be utilised in the best possible way, but that Croatia should activate its own resources to kick-start development.
The president proposed relocating some of the state institutions from Zagreb to ensure decentralisation of the country. She said that the Ministry of Agriculture, or at least a part thereof, could be relocated to Osijek. "I don't think this can be done overnight, but we must aspire to it because we must decentralise Croatia to ensure its balanced development."
Grabar-Kitarovic cited depopulation and emigration, especially of young people, as some of the burning issues, saying that 93,000 people had emigrated to Germany over the last year alone.
Vukovar-Srijem County head Bozo Galic warned of the difficult economic situation in eastern Croatia, saying that it was hard for the local authorities to make progress because all projects coming from this county were blocked by the central government. He expressed hope that the new government would recognise the interests and development needs of the Slavonia region.