Project objectives in Croatia
Modernising the vocational education and training system
In Croatia, the average youth unemployment rate is high at 30% and is on the rise in skilled trades, as vocational schools and training in this sector are outdated. Switzerland is therefore supporting the modernisation of the vocational education and training system. In 2018, a review of curricula in the areas of chimney cleaning, glass construction technology and cosmetics was carried out. The ministry responsible also consulted the various stakeholders to hear their concerns regarding the requirements of the skilled trades.
Croatia lags behind other EU member states in terms of innovation. By contributing to the Croatian 'Eurostars' programme, Switzerland supports international research and development undertaken by Croatian SMEs in cooperation with European partners. Successful applicants can use the funding to develop innovative products, processes and services and launch them on the market. So far, with three years to go before the programme comes to an end, four Croatian projects focusing on biotechnology, energy and ICT have received Eurostars funding. One of them (IT Application Safebox by SEDAM IT) has been completed.
Strengthening Croatia's position as a research centre
Gross domestic expenditure on research and development in Croatia has been in decline since 2009 and lies well below the EU-28 average. The share of scientific publications by Croatian researchers is three times below the EU average. Switzerland contributes to strengthening Croatian research by promoting a new career model for future professors. In order to counteract the brain drain of qualified researchers, young researchers receive financial support to implement their projects in Croatian research institutions. This model of career promotion, which corresponds to that of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and is already applied across Europe, is thus now also being implemented in Croatia. In 2018, a committee of experts selected four promising research projects for future funding.
Switzerland is also promoting greater international cooperation. This is achieved through scientific cooperation in the form of joint research projects involving teams from Switzerland and Croatia. In 2018, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Croatian partner agency selected 11 research projects that promise significant findings from the natural and social sciences.
Developing drinking-water and wastewater systems
Many regions in Croatia have a dilapidated drinking-water supply with a high rate of water loss. In addition, there is a substantial backlog for the construction of functioning systems for the treatment of domestic wastewater. Currently many residents collect their wastewater in septic tanks. The tanks, which are dug straight in the ground with or without concrete walls, are then regularly emptied. In the Gorski Kotar region of north-western Croatia, Switzerland supports the three municipalities of Delnice, Fužine and Brod Moravice in the construction and rehabilitation of wastewater and water infrastructure. In 2016, feasibility studies and environmental impact reports were prepared for this purpose. By the end of 2018, the Croatian authorities had carried out tendering procedures for a large number of projects in all three municipalities. Construction work will be staggered and began in November 2018.
Demining activities and reintegrating landmine victims
Mines and other explosive remnants of war are a dangerous legacy from Croatia's 1991–96 war. In September 2018, 294 local deminers defused 3,585 explosive remnants of the Croatian war covering 1.8 km² of the Kotar-Stari Gaj woods. The Swiss-Croatian project also includes the provision of support to victims and their families. An analysis of the needs of mine victims is currently being compiled in a national database. Measures for the economic and social integration of those affected are also being developed.
Supporting civil society initiatives
Civil society organisations (CSOs) play an important role in Croatian society and are key in raising awareness about sustainable development and environmental protection. Croatian CSOs often lack human and financial resources. Switzerland is therefore making funding available for around 40 projects to be run by CSOs in the field of environmental education. A wide variety of activities aim to help improve the skills and knowledge of children and young people in sustainable development. Schools will also raise awareness among teachers and parents. A call for project proposals was launched in 2018. From 84 project submissions the most effective projects will be selected and supported.
Partnerships between Swiss and Croatian institutions
Switzerland is providing support for about 20 partnership projects between Swiss and Croatian organisations. Experience shows that such projects bring new experiences and insights to both sides. A call for project proposals was launched in 2018. Currently, 24 projects are being reviewed for quality of partnership and project plans.