Maja Bratko, What gives you hope after the Croatian elections?

Maja Bratko, What gives you hope after the Croatian elections?

In April, Croatia held parliamentary elections. We asked our expert Maja Bratko from the Croatian NGO DOOR, which importance the election results have for climate policy.

What is your general perception of the election results?

Maja Bratko: The election results in Croatia are consistent with the trend of whole Europe shifting more to the right winged political parties. The ones that got most of the votes are from right-centre and far right options, and the composition of our government remains quite similar to the previous one with more shifting to right. The far-right option was given three ministries – for economy, for demography and agriculture. In the opposition there are the left winged and far left winged parties which are more climate and environmentally conscious.

What is the significance of the election result in terms of climate policy? What is expected from the new president?

MB: Following the elections and forming of new government, previous one ministry that comprised of economy, energy, climate and environment protection was split to two ministries – one covering economy and energy and other covering climate and environment protection. It is my opinion that this splitting will have a bad effect on development of climate and energy related policies. The communication between those sectors was not good even when they were within the same ministry. Now, being separated between two ministries, it can only get worse. Also, the climate topic was being marginally mentioned even before the elections (energy a bit more due to the Ukraine war crisis, supply uncertainties and rise of energy prices), and now it was made clear that it will not be one of the priorities in the new government. I feel they will do the least they have to do to satisfy EU demands and not be penalised.

Croatia ranks 35th in the CCPI 2024. What short-term measures should the new president implement to improve the country’s ranking? What are three key demands?

MB: Put more funds to tackling climate crisis especially for towns and municipalities to implement climate change adaptation projects. Improve the management of the forests to avoid over exploitation without reforesting the affected areas. Linked to that, put more emphasis to agriculture, which is being severely affected by climate change each year (droughts, storms, floods). Finally, adjust and improve legislation linked to renewables deployment, especially energy communities and energy sharing. There are a lot of interested investors for renewables in Croatia, but legal and administrative burden is very big up to the point they have to wait several years to get permits. Energy sharing is still technically not possible between members of energy communities, and the establishment of energy communities is a difficult process with many barriers.

What are the biggest climate policy challenges for your country until 2030?

MB: Relying back to the gas and LNG infrastructure. There has been a talk to refurbish one old petrol powerplant to become gas powerplant. Also, the expansion of the LNG terminal on the island of Krk is a measure within revised National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) although the EU sets the direction to move away from fossil fuels. Also, better forest management is essential because a lot of citizens heat themselves with wood and the wood they buy is questionable in its sustainability

Where is Croatia a role model for other countries?

MB: We have a lot of nature protected areas which should be left intact, and this is one of the benefits that have to be treasured.

Which developments in your country makes you hopeful?

MB: There is a growing interest of local communities and local authorities in energy and climate topics. They are trying to initialize projects and initiatives with assistance of NGOs and energy agencies, which is a good push from local level towards the national one. Croatia is very centralised when governance is observed, so these initiatives give signal to national decision makers that they need to adjust the laws and bylaws, develop better strategies and plans and involve local and regional authorities as well as citizens in planning and implementation of energy and climate planning documents.

→ Find more interviews with our CCPI experts here.