In Croatia 12 projects are currently under way. Here are some initial results.
Project objectives in Croatia
Modernising the vocational education and training system
In Croatia, the average youth unemployment rate is high at 20% and is on the rise in skilled trades, as vocational schools and training in this sector are outdated.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.
By contributing to the Croatian 'Eurostars' programme, Switzerland supports Croatian SMEs in the planning and development of projects and fosters international research and development cooperation between Croatian SMEs and European partners. Successful applicants can use the funding to develop innovative products, processes and services and launch them on the market. Two years before the end of the programme, five 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 lies well below the EU-28 average. The number of scientific publications by Croatian researchers is lower than in the rest of the EU. Switzerland supports the Croatian research system by promoting international research partnerships via joint projects by teams from Croatia and Switzerland. In 2018, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Croatian partner agency selected 11 research projects that promise significant findings in the natural and social sciences.
A pilot programme was also launched to promote a new career model for university lecturers. 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. A committee of experts selected three promising research projects, which are now under way in Croatia.
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. The construction work is undertaken in stages 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 1.8km² of the Kotar-Stari Gaj woods. The Swiss-Croatian project also supports 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 environmental education projects to be run by CSOs. A wide variety of activities are helping to improve the skills and knowledge of children and young people in sustainable development. Schools are also raising awareness among teachers and parents. A call for project proposals was launched in 2018. From 84 project proposals, the most effective projects were selected to receive Swiss support. The coordinating government agency holds periodic meetings to encourage networking and the sharing of experiences between the various projects.
Partnerships between Swiss and Croatian institutions
Switzerland is providing support for nine partnerships between Swiss and Croatian NGOs. Experience shows that such projects bring new experiences and insights to both sides. A call for project proposals was launched in 2018. After a thorough examination of the quality of 24 project proposals, nine projects were chosen for implementation and the Croatian-Swiss partnerships got off to a successful start.