9 things I would change about Croatia (if it were up to me)

Women in Split, Croatia
My girls and I celebrating my Croannivesary in Split – May 2021

PUBLISHED: 10/5/2021

On May 7 each year, I mark my Croanniversary – the day I moved to Croatia. Luckily, the city of Split has its own celebrations on that day honoring the city of Split and its patron saint, Sveti Duje. The whole city comes out to play, as if they are all partying with me.

2021 marks 9 years for me in this weird, yet wonderful country. If you’ve read any of my previous streams of consciousness, you know that I hold an extremely romantic and idealized view of Croatia. I am, quite frankly, happier than a pig in shit.

Regardless of those rose-colored glasses, I do think there are things that should and need to change to make the country better – for everyone. So, instead of giving you a big dose of nostalgia and sweet stories, I am instead going to share what I think Croatia needs to do differently – one for every year of my life in Croatia.

Let’s dig in…

#1 Implement a program to repurpose, restore and rebuild old stone homes

One of the most beautiful and unique features of Croatia is its white stone architecture, most common along the coast, but also found inland.

Sadly, there are crumbling stone homes and buildings all over the country that have been completely abandoned. Some are in the countryside, some are in cities, some are on the islands. They are just sitting there while gravity and Mother Nature take over.

This is a total waste. I’d like to see Croatia set up a program to repurpose, restore and rebuild these homes and buildings.

First, each općina (municipality) can identify which properties they consider completely abandoned in their jurisdiction. Next, they can publicize the property for a defined period to see if any heirs seek a claim to the property. If nobody comes forward, then it should be auctioned off so someone else can buy the property and restore it.

Alternatively, some properties could be donated to an udruga who can use it for non-profit initiatives that serve the community.

As part of this program, there should be a specific residence permit for non-EU nationals who purchase these derelict properties. They receive year-round residence in exchange for purchasing the property and committing to rebuilding or restoring it.

This will boost tax revenue for the state, increase the amount of available housing and help rebuild Croatia at the same time. Most of the expense is on the buyer, with minimal burden on the government.

#2 Change the rule on giving up nationality for naturalization

There are 8 different paths someone can take to gain Croatian citizenship. Most people apply based on lineage or origin. Many apply based on marriage to a Croatian. Very few apply based on naturalization.

Naturalization is for people who are on their own, with no family ties to Croatia – like me. Most people that fall into this category are here based on work – either they work for a Croatian company or they operate their own company.

After 8 years of continuous residence plus approved permanent residence, this group can apply for citizenship by naturalization. However, there is a catch.

To get citizenship through this path, you are required to relinquish all other nationalities. Of the 8 paths to citizenship, this is the only one that requires you to do this. It’s pretty messed up.

For example, that means if I were to naturalize, I would have to give up being a US citizen if I wanted to be become a Croatian citizen.

To achieve 8 years of continuous residence without having family ties is challenging. There are lots of road blocks Croatia puts in place specifically to prevent people from ever reaching this point, so if you have, it is a massive achievement. Aside from that, you have to really love Croatia to be here that long.

Your reward for all that hard work and love for Croatia? Give up all of your other nationalities or else NO CITIZENSHIP FOR YOU.

Come on, Croatia. There is absolutely no reason why those of us who have made serious investments in this country in both money, time and headache should be singled out in this manner. We’ll take the test, just let us keep our other nationality.

#3 Transition government employees to the private sector

Croatia’s population is in decline. Croats are fleeing to other parts of the EU where they have more opportunity and higher salaries. It seems that the government’s solution is to incentivize people to have more babies. Well, babies don’t pay taxes. Once those babies grow up in 20 years, they’ll leave like all the others if there are no good jobs in Croatia.

The only way to stop the exodus is to offer better opportunities HERE.

Croatia can offer tax breaks to multi-national corporations in exchange for bringing their offices and facilities to Croatia. There is a ton of talent in this country, but that talent needs opportunities to keep them in Croatia. Croatia’s best in tech, science and healthcare are all moving abroad.

Not only could these companies bring good-paying jobs, but Croatia could leverage these new relationships to shed some government weight. In a country of 3.8 million people, approximately 500.000 work for the government. That’s far too much.

Croatia could work directly with these global corporations to create a training and transition program for redundant government employees. Government employees would be incentivized to leave the public sector for higher-paying jobs and the bureaucracy becomes a little less bloated.

At a bare minimum, the pandemic has proven that Croatia cannot continue to be a tourism one-trick pony. The country needs to diversify its industries if it wants to achieve stability and prosperity.

#4 Cut PDV

PDV is Croatia’s VAT (value-added tax) that is added to most purchases. The standard tax rate at the moment is 25%, which is the second highest in Europe.

This exorbitant tax rate has resulted in businesses and individuals operating under the table to avoid paying it. And if businesses and individuals don’t report transactions, the government misses out on both the VAT and the associated income tax.

If the government were to cut PDV to something more reasonable and less mafia-like, lots of good things could happen like:

  • People buy more things!
  • Fewer people commit tax evasion!
  • People are happier and they vote for you!
  • More people open businesses!
  • Those businesses hire people!
  • So, more people are employed!

#5 Make it cheaper for locals to enjoy Croatia

Croatia is no longer a cheap destination for tourists coming from abroad. Tours, dining, tollroads and national parks are all expensive, rivaling western European cities. These prices proved to be a deterrent to tourists in 2019, as many chose to holiday in Greece or Turkey instead.

Locals, on the other hand, have been completely shut out from enjoying their own country during high season due to the steep costs. Ticket, tour and dining prices are starkly out of proportion with incomes.

Due to the pandemic, many people around the world are choosing to travel within their home country, rather than traveling abroad. This presents an opportunity for Croatia.

Given that it will take time for Croatia’s tourism industry to recover, it is worth offering incentives to Croatia’s residents to travel and spend within the country.

Offer a discount to any person with a resident card at national parks, on tollroads and ferry boats during high season. When Plitvice National Park offered a deep discount for tickets last summer when the borders were locked down, my friends and I hightailed over there.

#6 Let foreign retirees settle here

Croatia does not have a residence program specifically for foreign retirees. Because of this, non-EU pensioners have to use another method to get residence like prepaying their rent or buying a home.

However, those options force you to leave for 90 days at the end of each permit term and you have to wait a full 6 months before you can apply for a permit again. That makes it impossible for anyone in this situation to ever achieve permanent residence or completely settle down.

Retirees are a potential golden goose for Croatia. The vast majority of them want to buy property. They won’t be taking anyone’s job. They are unlikely to cause any trouble. Pensioners are already required to pay more in health insurance premiums than other foreigners. They are more prone to volunteer. All they will be doing is enjoying their time in Croatia and spending money. There is no downside.

Create a retirement residence permit for third-country nationals as long as they can prove they are collecting retirement and you’ll see them flood into Croatia to spend their nest eggs.

#7 Develop a winter conference season

For those that are dependent on tourism for their livelihood, many experience a similar cycle. In spring and early summer, you earn money to support yourself. In summer, you earn money to support yourself during winter. In winter, you try to budget so you don’t run out of money before the next season. In February, the money runs out at the same time the bad weather starts, so you’re angry. Then it all repeats.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Croatia could have a year-round season, if it wanted to. Winter is the perfect time for conferences and company-sponsored events. Given the temperate climate on Croatia’s coast during winter, it’s a great place for EU companies to bring their employees for some quality team-building away from harsh winters.

If Croatia could fill its winter with conferences and corporate events, lots of good things could happen like:

  • More people visit Croatia!
  • Restaurants could stay open!
  • Tours could operate!
  • Transfer companies would have work!
  • More tax revenue is generated!
  • Fewer people would need unemployment support!
  • Families dependent on tourism would earn more money!
  • So, they would be happier and vote for you!

#8 Finalize a double taxation treaty with the US

Croatia is the only EU nation without a double taxation treaty in place with the United States. It’s absurd and it is past time this was resolved.

Ultimately, the United States has to push this one forward just as much as Croatia. Speaking as a US citizen, please just GET IT DONE.

This is not solely an issue for Americans living in Croatia. There are over 400.000 people of Croatian descent in the United States, whom the government desperately wants to move to Croatia. That’s why they are handing out passports to diaspora like lollipops.

A common road block for many is the lack of a double taxation treaty. If you’re paying income tax in the United States, paying income tax in Croatia and paying 25% PDV on purchases in Croatia, you’ll have absolutely nothing left.

#9 Make it cheaper to run a business

There is so much opportunity in Croatia. There are tons of gaps in the market just waiting to be filled. I honestly wish there were 10 of me so I could pursue all of my business ideas.

Even with all the potential in Croatia, owning a business can be a money pit. In most cases, you’ve got to work extraordinarily hard just to keep the business in the black. Being prosperous is much harder to achieve.

In the end, the cost and risk deter people from ever opening a business. Fewer entrepreneurs means fewer jobs and more people relying on the government to make ends meet.

There are 3 changes that could certainly help make it easier and cheaper to own a business in Croatia.

  • Make it cheaper to open one. Croatia currently allows citizens to open companies inexpensively using the START program, which is a good step in the right direction. Everyone else has to go to a notary and shell out 3.000 kuna or more.
  • Change the requirement on foreign ownership. If you are a non-EU national and wish to open a company and gain residence in Croatia, you must hire 3 full-time Croatians. Not all businesses need 3 full-time workers. Some only need 1, some none at all. I understanding the desire to create jobs for Croatians, but this steep requirement serves as a deterrent from foreign investment.
  • Reduce doprinosi. When your company pays a freelancer or an employee, you must pay doprinosi (contributions) on top of the net salary, which includes pension, taxes and health insurance. This can add an additional 40% on top of the salaried amount. As a result, companies hire fewer people and some will pay their people in cash under the table. Lower doprinosi, specifically the taxes portion, would make it more affordable for companies to hire help, and therefore grow their businesses.

What’s next for Croatia

Croatia is magnificent in a lot of ways, but there are a lot of holes in the boat. I’m concerned about the Euro. I’m concerned about Croatia continuing to only care about tourism and babies. I’m concerned that the trend of focusing on short-term greed versus long-term prosperity will continue. I’m concerned that the natural resources will be trampled and destroyed by over-tourism.

A lot needs to be done.

What do you think should be changed in Croatia?

 

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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30 thoughts on “9 things I would change about Croatia (if it were up to me)

  1. Pauline
    May 10, 2021 @ 8:16 pm

    Fab article, Sara and I agree with you on all points. My partner is currently jumping through the millions of Croatian bureaucracy hoops and hurdles thrown in his path since he is now a third country national (Brexit, need I say more?!) He actually wants to invest and bring money into the country but somehow that doesn’t chime with Croatia’s set of rules. Sad really, as this country is amazing but clearly it needs to open up to new opportunities and adopt a more flexible approach to people wanting / deciding to live here. It’s not all tourists and babies!!

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 11:04 am

      Hi Pauline,

      Thank you for reading!

      For some reason that I do not understand, Croatia only wants people who will be here a short period of time. They don’t appear to have any interest in people who want to invest in this country long term UNLESS they are Croatian diaspora. The sad reality is that many of the diaspora that they are handing out citizenship to have no intention of moving here. How can you convince a family making dollars (US, Canadian, Australian) to move to Croatia where the average salary is 700euros per month? Giving them a passport is not enough.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  2. Noah Fierro
    May 11, 2021 @ 11:44 pm

    Thank you for putting this together. There is a lot to unpack here!

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 11:00 am

      Hi Noah,

      Thank you for reading! Definitely a lot to unpack, and so many more things that could be addressed.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  3. Julie Bozicevic
    May 12, 2021 @ 12:18 am

    Very interesting article and educational. I didn” t know that croatia had 25% on PDV, that’s ridiculous. I hope you send your recommendations to the politicians.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 10:59 am

      Hi Julie,

      Yes, 25%! They reduced it to 23% for a brief period some years back, then raised it back up to 25% again. It’s absolutely absurd.

      I’ll start emailing politicians once I gain my citizenship, and not a moment before. 🙂

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  4. annette max Dobroslavic
    May 12, 2021 @ 12:24 am

    Sara,

    Stunning insight so really well written, informative and concise. A great deal of useful information to absorb. Many thanks Sara.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 10:58 am

      Hi Annette,

      Oh, thank you so much! I’m happy you enjoyed my brain dump. Thank you for continuing to support our project. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  5. Michael Schleiss
    May 12, 2021 @ 5:53 pm

    Dear Sara,
    I am an EU Citizen (Austria) and own a property near Trogir. My experience with Croatia is very similar to yours.
    I love some aspects a lot, but some are really annoying:
    Prices often do not fit to the performance, quality and/or service
    Officials often behave like in old Yugoslavia, there is nothing like a “friendly and efficient service”
    One thing I especially hate: Why do many Croatians throw their rubbish just beside the road, the coast, into the sea or in the forest or wherever…It often looks dirty like in a 3rd world country ! What a shame !

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 14, 2021 @ 10:29 am

      Hi Michael,

      The littering is absolutely abhorrent. I do not get it at all. Likely caused by a lack of education about why littering and trashing the environment is bad. It is a shame!! I hope that it will change over time as there is more education, but I don’t know, all the kids in my neighborhood litter like everyday is their last day on earth. I think all we can do is do our part to pick up what we can, especially when we’re at the sea, and also focus on what we love about the country.

      Thank you for reading!

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  6. George Sivich
    May 13, 2021 @ 3:41 am

    In regards to “Implement a program to repurpose, restore and rebuild old stone homes”
    I think a lot of these abandoned houses have been left by Croatians that have emigrated.
    From my families experience after they are left for a while they miraculously seem to get more people on the title. If you don’t have Croatian citizenship ( My family emigrated to the US, Australia and Mexico about 100 years ago.) Relatives have been back to try and find out how they reclaim them and renovate them but are met with road blocks at the first hurdle. Of course this near nearsightedness has many repercussions. The buildings are still derelict and the island (Vis) has missed out on money coming into for the repairs and the 100’s of tourists from our family, that would have visited. I am a Croatian citizen by pure luck but because I don’t speak Croatian I have never gone down this path. The bureaucrats would never listen to me. They think people like me are imposters although I have been to Croatia a number of times on holidays and have a great affection for Croatia Good Luck with this project and thank you for your blog.
    Now I am too old to start.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 14, 2021 @ 10:22 am

      Hi George,

      Yes, you are right! I think a lot of them are the result of emigration. It is sad to hear about the roadblocks you experienced, especially since clearly nothing is being done with them. The government needs to figure this out, because all of these homes could be put to better use.

      Thanks so much for reading!

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  7. Isabel
    May 14, 2021 @ 7:51 am

    All excellent points and suggestions! I think things are changing but too slowly…

    Happy Anniversary!

    {reply}

  8. Quis Liddell
    May 16, 2021 @ 4:04 am

    Happy Anniversary, Sara!!!

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Such great points and suggestions made. Cheers to the next year ahead. – Quis

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 10:56 am

      Hey Quis!!!!!

      Thank you so much!! I hope to see you here sometime soon. 🙂

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  9. peter powell
    May 17, 2021 @ 1:12 pm

    Hi Sara, this is another excellent piece…I am saddened that the issues you have identified really are crucial economic policy issues. I suppose it would have been nice if you had talked about “nice to haves” instead…I am considering the move to Dalmatia with my family (residency won’t be an issue, thankfully), but it will be important for us to gauge where Croatia is heading…the success of the international school is key….we are hoping momentum is in the right direction for all aspects of the country…

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 10:55 am

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      It’s hard to determine where Croatia is heading. In 2023, they enter the Euro system and it is possible that all hell will break loose. The cost of living is already substantially out of proportion to salaries. That certainly won’t get better with the introduction of the euro, which will inevitably make everything more expensive.

      I’ve seen lots of positive benefits from their EU membership, predominantly infrastructure. But there are so many changes that need to be made at the core of Croatia’s government, and that will be little harder. This past week’s elections though show that a change may be coming…

      If you need any help with your transition to Croatia, please let me know. 🙂

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  10. Dayna
    May 19, 2021 @ 9:38 pm

    A wise, educated, sensible list, Sara. Agreed. Less mafia, more good things 🙂
    As an accidental expat, my first time calling myself that in over a year semi-stranded here, because corona then noncorona medical emergency….suitable sane housing (with an old dog) had been impossible for over a year. So yes also to less short-term greed! And yes #8 with American income, nothing left and then borrowed more…
    #1 is brilliant — here’s to a land spotted with nonprofits in old stone houses, and nice people who restore and stay….and yet there is constant construction in Croatia, all during lockdown as well…
    Ah, so I would change the whole landlord situation, also rents are high, not just proportionate to income here either! Quality extremely questionable on rentals too…but back to your list, if no greed. I think a lot of this is a matter of respect, starting with self-respect. Cheers to a world of respect !

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      May 28, 2021 @ 10:50 am

      Hi Dayna,

      Thank you for reading! Less mafia is always a good thing. 🙂

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  11. Ellen
    May 30, 2021 @ 6:27 am

    I am sorry to read Croatia will be going to the euro. I experienced the transition in France and ALL prices went up dramatically. I think it will be bad overall for Croatians, and for the tourism industry as well. We’ll see. I see no downside to staying on the kuna. I am glad that Croatia is in the EU, and also glad they are not in Schengen.

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      June 25, 2021 @ 3:36 pm

      Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us (:

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  12. Zadarman
    June 2, 2021 @ 7:42 pm

    Hi Sara,

    Your are spot on with 9 changes! I am US citizen who speaks domestic language in a different dialect. I own the house around Zadar. Love going there. LOVE IT! To me that region is “shelter from Western BS”. Cheap and GOOD Food, peka, jagnjetina, fresh frutti di mare, super cheap RE taxes, beautiful Adriatic Sea, ease of getting to places (you are 3 hours by car from anywhere you want to be). HOWEVER, Croatian government bureaucracy is most chauvinist behavior you can imagine. I have been trying to get my temporary visa for 12 months so I can renew every year, it does not work! Nomad visa is not for me since you only can get it for 12 months and no renewal is offered. I wonder why would they allow me to buy property and not let me live there. I have over $5K monthly income from US , have my own health insurance. I only need yearly visa so I can stay there without being exposed to scrutiny of their Police check points. It is sad how uninformed Croatian government is as what is going on around the world.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      July 30, 2021 @ 12:36 pm

      Hi Zadarman,

      You can live in Croatia based on owning a property. If you ever need help sorting out your situation, let us know.

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

  13. Ursula O'Brien
    June 4, 2021 @ 8:07 pm

    Hi. I move to a senior residence in Crikvenice in September. I am German and I hope my integration will go without problems. I am sure many things are very different from Germany but still I am looking forward to it. Any advice on how to deal with the burocratie?
    Take care,
    Ursula Brien

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      June 25, 2021 @ 4:42 pm

      Hi Ursula,

      Have a nice time in Croatia, I am sure that you will enjoy living here. We have a bunch of articles from the field of bureaucracy on our site. Check the immigration, citizenship, and healthcare categories at the top of our site.

      To be honest, my only advice is to be patient. Try not to stress if something goes wrong. Croatian bureaucracy is very complicated. Inform yourself before you need to go to any Croatian institution to save your time and prevent possible issues.

      You can find a bunch of tips in our articles. However, I’m sure everything will be fine! Good luck (:

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  14. Ursula O'Brien
    July 28, 2021 @ 12:49 am

    Hi.
    I need advice on burial cost,cremation. Where can I find them? No german or croatien website has any.
    Thank you for any help.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      July 30, 2021 @ 1:11 pm

      Hi Ursula,

      This can vary from city to city. Can you let us know for which city you have in mind?

      Regards,

      Sara

      {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      August 20, 2021 @ 1:03 pm

      Hi Ursula,

      Here are some details, I hope that it is not too late. In Zagreb, costs vary depending on the cemetery. Cremation costs are approximately 4.200 kuna. Burial costs can vary from 12.000 kuna to 30.000 kuna, depending on the service.

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

  15. Martin Holifield
    September 13, 2021 @ 7:01 pm

    Cuba has a special attraction for me and when I arrived in Dubrovnik and saw a Delta Airlines aircraft alongside I realised what one of those attractions was.

    {reply}

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