Zagreb urged to do more to attract investments

ZAGREB – Most European Union investors in Croatia think progress on removing obstacles to doing business is very slow, a survey presented yesterday showed. The survey, conducted by the Austrian Foreign Trade Office (AFTO) in cooperation with the European Commission, included 315 companies from the EU that run business in Croatia. «What does not sound very optimistic is that 56 percent of them say the main obstacles for business mostly remain in place, while 11 percent say they even deteriorate. Only 31 percent believe they are decreasing,» the AFTO’s Peter Hasslacher told a news conference. «Red tape, unclear laws and regulations, corruption, slow judiciary and lack of transparency in public procurement tenders were cited as the biggest difficulties the companies from the EU face,» he said. The EU countries are the biggest investors in Croatia, which opened EU accession talks last October. Their investments amounted to almost 90 percent of the overall foreign direct investments in 2005 worth 1.3 billion euros. Hasslacher said the Croatian authorities showed little interest in discussion about the results of the survey. When asked what they saw as the main advantages of doing business in Croatia, the polled companies said it was geographical position, Croatia’s EU candidate status and economic growth dynamics. «Many investors see Croatia as a potential gateway for the (Balkan) region,» Hasslacher said. Austria, Hungary and Italy were the biggest single investors in Croatia in 2005 with investments totaling almost 60 percent of the overall amount. Despite difficulties, around 70 percent of the EU companies expect to achieve better business results this year than in 2005, the poll showed.