President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Wednesday said in the eastern Slavonian town of Batina that the greatest problem in the eastern most province of Croatia - Baranja - was emigration, particularly of young people, adding however, there were other problems that the state could resolve with decentralisation.
After touring the town and meeting with local government officials the President said that about 100 children had been taken out of the local school in Beli Manastir which has around 800 pupils. In the Bilje municipality which has recorded a growth in population, the number of children in school and kindergarten is also falling meaning that it is young people who are emigrating.
"That shows that they don't see any prospects in this area. What is needed above all is to set preconditions for economic development but also living conditions that will promote optimism and confidence in one's own future and the future of Baranja," the President said.
She assessed that a series of problems existed that the central government could resolve through functional and fiscal decentralisation and to transfer as much power to local government. She warned that amendments to the Law on Areas of Special State Concern have left deep consequences in Baranja and expressed fear that they will not be able to be compensated with European Union funds.
She underscored that the state has to make an effort to solve the problems, such as the question of ownership of land where, she believes, when it comes to investments problems are created by the State Property Management Office (DUUDI). The status of farmland too has to be resolved as does the status of small farmers and family-run farms which should be put on par to the Belje concern so that they too can be given an opportunity to earn more and expand their business and open new jobs.
I am glad to see that tourism is developing in Baranja however the economy has to primarily rest on production, particularly agricultural production as well as stimulating small and medium-sized enterprises, trades and establishing conditions for young people to remain in this region, the President said.