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Nov 19, 2007 15:23 EEST
November 19 (SeeNews) - Following are key facts about European Union candidate Croatia that will hold general elections on Sunday, November 25.
FACTS ABOUT CROATIA:
POPULATION: 4.437 million (April 2001 census), out of whom 3.98 million are Croats and 201,600 Serbs. The country's ethnic minorities include Bosnians, Italians, Slovenians, Hungarians, Slovaks.
TERRITORY: 56,542 square kilometres and 31,067 sq km territorial waters. The length of the Croatian Adriatic coastline, including islands, is 5,853 km. Croatia has 1,185 islands, islets and reefs, including 47 inhabited.
CAPITAL: Zagreb, population 779,145 (2001 census)
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Croatian, written in Latin alphabet. Its grammar is very similar to the languages in neighboring Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, but the vocabulary differs.
RELIGION: Catholics make up 87.8% of the population, followed by 4.4% Orthodox Christians and 1.3% Muslims.
NEIGHBOURS: Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to the south. Croatia also shares a maritime border with Italy in the Adriatic Sea.
ADMINISTRATIVE UNITS: Croatia has 21 counties, including the Zagreb city. It has 122 other cities, 424 municipalities and 6,767 settlements.
POLITICAL SYSTEM: Parliamentary republic.
PRESIDENT: Stjepan Mesic (since 2000).
PRIME MINISTER: Ivo Sanader of conservative HDZ party.
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER: Vladimir Seks.
RECENT HISTORY: Croatia won its independence from Socialst Yugoslavia after the collapse of socialism in eastern Europe in a 1991-1995 war against ethnic Serb rebels and the Yugoslav army.
Thousands of ethnic Serb refugees fled, mostly to Serbia, during the war. A significant part of Croatia’s infrastructure suffered heavy damage during the war with industrial plants, residential buildings, cultural heritage and historic monuments destroyed.
Croatia’s first president Franjo Tudjman, a strongman who led the country to its independence -- but also to international isolation during the war -- died in 1999, and a reformist government came to power in 2000.
Although Croatia has been performing better in economic terms than Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, its EU accession has been delayed by political criteria like not turning in fugitive indictees wanted by the Hague tribunal for war crimes in former Yugoslavia.
Having met these political criteria, Croatia started EU accession talks in October 2005. Since then the former Yugoslav republic has opened 14 of the 35 policy chapters of the EU body of law with two of them temporarily closed. The Adriatic country hopes to join the EU by the end of the decade.
The European Commission has urged Croatia to step fight against corruption, improve its judiciary and public administration and its record on minority rights and enhance the return of war refugees. It also asks Croatia to reduce government aid to some troubled companies like shipyards and steelworks in line with competition rules of the Union.
In 2000, Croatia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace programme designed to nurture closer ties between former Cold War foes. The country hopes to get an invitation to enter the Alliance next year.
Croatia is member of the World Trade Organisation and Central European Free-Trade Agreement (CEFTA).
ECONOMIC GROWTH: Real 4.8% in 2006, up from 4.3% in 2005. Croatian central bank expects a real 5.9% growth this year and 5.1% in 2008.
Croatia’s economy has been rising by some 5.0% annually in each of the past six years thanks to robust government investments, credit-fueled personal consumption and thriving tourism industry. Many foreign and local experts believe that this growth structure is no longer sustainable, as it has prompted the country’s huge external vulnerabilities with a current account deficit equivalent to some 8.0% of gross domestic product (GDP); trade gap of around 26% of GDP; and foreign debt-to-GDP ratio higher than 85%.
Among the main economic sectors in Croatia are tourism, financial services, shipbuilding, food manufacturing, chemicals and oil processing, engineering, metal, energy, wood processing and textiles.
GDP PER CAPITA: 7,706 euro in 2006, up from 7,038 euro in 2005.
INFLATION: 3.2% for 2006 and 3.3% in 2005. The Croatian central bank expects average annual inflation to accelerate to 4.5% next year from 2.8% projected for 2007.
CURRENT ACCOUNT BALANCE: The current account deficit was equivalent to 7.7% of the gross domestic product in 2006, up from 6.4% in 2005. The Croatian central bank expects this year’s current account deficit to rise to 8.6% of GDP, before falling to 8.2% of GDP next year.
TRADE BALANCE: Croatia's trade deficit rose to $11.1 billion last year from $9.8 billion in 2005. The EU is Croatia’s main trading partner.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 14.1% in September, down from 16.2% a year earlier.
CURRENCY: The kuna, introduced in May 1994 to replace the Yugoslav dinar.
CURRENT EXCHANGE RATE: One euro equals 7.3510 kuna. One U.S. dollar trades at 5.0215 kuna.
AVERAGE NET MONTHLY SALARY: 4,869 kuna ($970/662 euro) in August 2007.
LONG-TERM CREDIT RATINGS: FitchRatings: “BBB-“, Standard&Poor's: “BBB”, Moody's: “Baa3”.
KEY FACTS ON ELECTIONS
ELECTORAL REGIONS: Croatia is divided into 10 electoral regions, plus one for the diaspora and another one for ethnic minorities.
VOTING HOURS: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (0600-1800 GMT).
NUMBER OF VOTERS: some 3.97 million in Croatia plus 400,000 in the diaspora, mainly in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
PREVIOUS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: The previous vote for members of parliament was held in November 2003. Conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 66 of the 152 seats in parliament, ousting from power the centre-left alliance led by the Social Democrats Party (SDP). HDZ leader Ivo Sanader formed a coalition government.
ELECTORAL SYSTEM: Proportional, with a five percent threshold for each electoral region. Croatia has a unicameral parliament with the number of seats varying from 100 to 160. Members of parliament are elected for a four-year term of office.
NUMBER OF CANDIDATES: A total of 3,585 candidates run for members of parliament. More than 70% of them are male. The youngest candidate was born in 1989, the oldest in 1918. In the previous general elections the number of candidates was 5,119.
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