The 1st of July marks another milestone in EU history; Croatia will become the EU's 28th member.
Many Europeans will know Croatia for its beautiful coastal lines, islands and historic towns (and I can vouch for this from first-hand experience having visited Dalmatia last summer). All eyes are on the country now, as it is to enter the EU this week. The European Commissioner for Croatia already joined the team last April, when also the first Croatian representatives for the European Parliament were elected.
We checked in with our Lilly Country Manager for Croatia, Zeljko Milicevic, and asked him what he thinks about Croatia joining the EU. Here's what he told us:
LillyPadEU: We're just weeks away from Croatia's accession to the European Union. How do you think the people of Croatia are feeling as they approach this milestone?
Zeljko: As we are close to the accession date there are high expectations from EU membership. For instance, the people are looking forward to reap the benefit from the opportunities of the extended markets for the business, education and employement. The hope is that once EU directives and regulations are fully implemented, there will be further improvement in the efficiency and transparency of public spending and fight against corruption. Like other EU countries, Croatia is enduring its 5th year of recession with record high unemployment rates. We are hopeful that EU accession brings greater employment opportunities in a single European market.
LillyPadEU: What do you think are the top benefits that EU membership will bring to Croatia?
- Extending the area of political stability in a strategic European region that was torn by conflict not so long ago;
- Expanding the EU's internal market, creating new opportunities for EU business and customers;
- Strengthening of the legal framework which will lead to decreased corruption and increased transparency;
- Access to EU funding mechanisms in order to undertake necessary reforms and strengthen various sectors in Croatia ( healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure etc).
LillyPadEU: How do you think EU membership will impact the work you do at Lilly, day to day?
Zeljko: At Lilly Croatia, we already work together very closely with our colleagues in the South East European region, and in the rest of Europe, so in our day to day work we do not expect any major changes. However, we believe it will have significant positive changes for our patients. The procedure for centralised approval for medicines in the EU and expected improvement in rules regarding reimbursement will likely contribute to speeding up access to innovative medicines for our patients in Croatia.
LillyPadEU: What are Croatia's top health priorities? How do you hope EU membership will push some of these issues forward?
Zeljko: The Croatian national strategy for health contains the following elements:
- Digitilisation of health care and patient medical records to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and improve quality in health care;
- Investment in education of health care professionals, since there is a shortage of doctors in Croatia;
- A "master plan" for Croatian hospitals;
- Preventive healthcare actions to increase average life expectancy and to curb the alarming increase in diabetes;
- Improvement of communication with patients;
- Centralised procurement.
Our hopes are that Croatia will benefit from sharing EU experiences and knowledge in the field of health care.
LillyPadEU: What message do you have for the Croatian officials as they take a seat in Brussels' decision-making institutions?
Zeljko: To quote Voltaire: "With great power comes great responsibility". It is a great opportunity for the Croatian representatives in Brussels, as public servants, to strongly contribute with their work and actions for the good of the people both in Croatia and the EU.
Follow the developments around Croatia's EU accession via #CroatiaEU