Non-EU newcomers to Croatia face many obstacles to integration under Croatia’s slightly unfavourable policies. Croatia scores 39 on the MIPEX 100-point scale, while the average MIPEX country scored 50.
The Croatian approach to integration is classified by MIPEX as ‘equality on paper’ only. As in most Central and Eastern European countries, immigrants in Croatia enjoy basic rights and security, but not equal opportunities. Croatia still needs to strongly invest in policies on all the three dimensions, especially equal opportunities, as its policies remain below average for MIPEX countries.
Croatia’s approach to integration matters because its policies can influence whether or not integration works as a two-way process. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens.
Many obstacles emerge for immigrants in Croatia in several areas, especially in terms of health policies, political participation and access to nationality. Restrictive policies like Croatia’s can create a ‘vicious circle’ of exclusion that reinforces fear and separation. Policies that treat immigrants as threats lead more people to see immigrants as general threats and treat them in ways that harm integration. Under restrictive policies, the public experiences higher levels of xenophobia and islamophobia and lower levels of social trust, which leads them to fewer contacts and positive experiences with immigrants.
Croatia’s policies are more restrictive than the average EU country, and slightly below the EU13 average. Its policies are similar to other ‘equality on paper’ countries in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Albania, Lithuania and Poland. In contrast, policies are more advanced in neighbouring Slovenia.
- Labour market mobility: Halfway favourable: Non-EU citizens' opportunities on the Croatian labour market are similar to the average EU28 country and slightly more favourable than in most Central European countries. Long-term residents and family migrants have equal access to the labour market. Immigrants can access general support through public employment services since 2018. However, they still receive no targeted support to find the right job.
- Family reunification: Halfway favourable: Reuniting families enjoy a halfway favourable right to family reunification because Croatia only does the minimum to follow EU standards. However, a non-EU sponsor and nuclear family have to meet restrictive conditions for dependent relatives and economic requirements and the procedure itself can be discretionary in HR as in other Central European countries.
- Education: Slightly unfavourable: All legally residing migrant children in Croatia can enroll in compulsory education and pupils receive language support, but schools receive scarce support for the creation of an intercultural environment.
- Health: Slightly unfavourable: Croatia has one of the weakest approaches to migrant health. Immigrants receive now some information on their entitlements and rights to access to the health system, but little is done to support them within the system.
- Political participation: Unfavourable: A major area of weakness across EU13 countries, immigrant groups in Croatia have almost no opportunities to be informed, participate (as voters or members of a political party) or be active in public life. Other new countries of immigration have started to include political participation as one area in their integration strategies by removing legal obstacles, expanding voting rights and creating immigrant consultative bodies.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: The security of permanent residence is a relative strength for the integration of most non-EU immigrants in Croatia, though the high requirements may hinder rather than help immigrants who are learning the language or looking for jobs. Permanent residence grants also equal opportunities to integrate in economic and social life.
- Access to nationality: Unfavourable: Access to nationality represents a major area of weakness across EU13 countries and in particular in Croatia with its restrictive naturalisation and dual nationality requirements for adults and no citizenship entitlement for Croatian-born children.
- Anti-discrimination: Slightly favourable: The new National Plan for Combating Discrimination now addresses positive action measures. Croatia’s slightly favourable law but weak equality bodies mean that many potential victims may be too poorly informed and supported to bring forward their case.