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EU Integrations, International and Regional Cooperation

Signing the Stabilisation- and Association Agreement in October 2001 the demanding way of the Republic of Croatia to become an EU-Member State has begun. The process got intensive in October 2005 when the Accession Negotiations, resp. the alignment process of Croatian legislation with the acquis communautaire, have been launched between the EU and the Republic of Croatia. 

Republic of Croatia finished the negations for 35 chapters on 30 June 2011 and signed the Accession Treaty on 9 December 2011. After the positive results of the referendum hold on 22 January 2012 and the ratification of the Treaty by all member states, Republic of Croatia is set to join the EU as the 28. member state on 01 July 2013.

In order to successfully integrate Republic of Croatian in the European Union, the Ministry for European Integration, presently the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, was established. It was responsible for the coordination of Technical assistance from the European Union, for informing the public about the process of EU accession, education and training of civil officers in the field of European integration and translation of legal documents required for EU harmonization of the legal system. To bring the integration process closer to various stakeholders and local population in year 2000 the County Councils for European integration have been established, including the Council for European Integration of the Vukovar-Srijem County (VSC). Since then the Council continuously conducts informing and education activities about the EU through various lectures, tribunes, especially during the EU week. The Council also implements institutional capacity building activities and strengthening human resources for the preparation of project proposals according to EU standards. In 2005 present Department for International Cooperation and Regional Development (ICRD) was established which among others acts as the secretariat and logistical support to the Council for European Integration VSC.

Through the ICRD the Vukovar-Srijem County actively participates in several significant international organizations and accomplishes international and regional cooperation with European countries and regions.

Due to the cooperation in organizations such as the Euroregion Danube-Drava-Sava, Working Community of Danube Regions, Institute of the Regions of Europe or the Assembly of European Regions new experiences and ideas have been acquired and shared and new partners for joint projects found that can be applied to tenders of the European Union. Two-thirds of EU legislation is implemented at regional and local level; the European Union allocates significant funds to the needs of the Cohesion policy intended to reduce regional disparities. This policy is also anchored in the new European policy on macro-regional cooperation, which is manifested in the EU Strategy for the Danube region adopted by the Council of the EU on 13 April 2011. The Strategy’s goal is to promote territorial cooperation and interaction between Danube regions, which are at different stages of economic development. Directly participating in the preparation and implementation of the Strategy, VSC seeks to derive tangible benefits from inter-regional and cross-border linkages, since they appear to be ideal places for project presentation and implementation. The Danube strategy, or more accurately its Action Plan, is designed as a "living" document whose implementation will continuously be monitored and verified and, if necessary, amended by participating countries.

It follows from the foregoing that the cooperation with other regions is a very important activity of the VSC. The rich cultural heritage of national minorities is also a good basis for strengthening cooperation with countries of their origin. In this sense, VSC has contributed to strengthening cross-border cooperation of local self-governments, NGOs and various stakeholders which certainly helps to reduce the negative impact of borders on the development of this border region. Over the past years, VSC has realised a very good regional cooperation through bilateral contacts and signed a number of bilateral agreements on cooperation in all fields, from the economy, health and culture to tourism and sports.

In 2007 the VSC has established the Development Agency "Hrast" Ltd. whose main activities include strategic planning and regional development, project preparation and implementation, improvement of investment climate and business environment, support for SMEs, human resource development and the development of rural areas. According to the Law on Regional Development of the Republic of Croatia the Agency is accredited as a regional coordinator for the Vukovar- Srijem County by the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds. The role of the Agency in this regard includes all activities related to the coordination and promotion of development at the county and statistical NUTS II level (www.ar-hrast.hr).

In light of the upcoming Croatia’s accession to the EU when generous EU Structural funds will be available, the importance of the presence in Brussels is becoming inevitable. Therefore, in October 2012 the VSC has signed an Agreement on cooperation with the Representation of the Regional Development Agency of Slavonia and Baranja in Brussels, which allows us the access to organizations that are of key importance for regional development (www.slavonija-baranja.eu)

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