Croatian national minority in 12 European countries

There are native communities of the Croatian national minority in 12 European countries: the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Bulgaria, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Kosovo, Hungary, Romania, the Republic of North Macedonia, the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Serbia. Under the influence of various historical, political and economic factors, Croats have started emigrating from their ancestral territories from the 15 century onwards to other European regions, which are now in the aforementioned 12 countries, and some of them migrated into these regions at the same time as into the territory of the contemporary Republic of Croatia.

The status and position of members of the Croatian minority is regulated differently in the countries mentioned above, in accordance with the respective country’s legislation and its international or bilateral commitments. The substance and scope of these rights are very different because there are no firm, binding international legal documents for the protection of national minorities yet. In general, the level of protection of minorities is an indicator of the level of democracy in the country of domicile. In addition, the protection of the Croatian minority depends on numerous historical and political circumstances, which differ in the 12 European countries mentioned above.

Today, Croats are mostly awarded the status of a national minority. Unfortunately, this is not the case in all countries. To summarize, Croats have a defined status and enjoy minority rights—i.e. they are recognised as a national minority pursuant to the legislation of the particular country of domicile —in Hungary, Romania, Montenegro, the Republic of Austria,the  Republic of Serbia, Slovak Republic, the Republic of Kosovo, the Czech Republic and the  Italian Republic. Croats do not have the status of a national minority in the Republic of North Macedonia; however, the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of North Macedonia have concluded a bilateral agreement on the mutual protection of national minorities. In the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Bulgaria Croats are not recognized as a national minority and have no any special rights whatsoever.

The Republic of Croatia has concluded bilateral agreements on the mutual protection of national minorities with four countries: Hungary (1996), Republic of Serbia (2004), Republic of North Macedonia (2007) and Montenegro (2011). For the purpose of monitoring the implementation of these agreements, intergovernmental joint committees have been formed (MMO in Croatian). The Central State Office for Croats Abroad (hereinafter: the Central State Office) acts as the co-ordinating body and is responsible for preparing and holding sessions of the IJCs. Moreover, the Treaty between the Republic of Croatia and the Italian Republic on Protection of Minority Rights was concluded (1996), that does not specify the formation of MMO.

Members of the Croatian national minority from all 12 countries have representatives in the Committee on Croats outside the Republic of Croatia—an advisory body of the Government of the Republic of Croatia that provides assistance to the Government of the Republic of Croatia in creation and implementation of policies, activities and programmes related to Croats abroad.

For centuries Croats have been living in the 12 European countries mentioned  and despite various difficulties and challenges they have faced and are still facing, they managed to preserve their language, cultural and national identity. The Central State Office performs many activities so as to help Croatian national minorities to develop and maintain their Croatian identity and to raise awareness, both in homeland and in their country of domicile, that they are a constituent   part of Croatian nation and Croatian culture. Of all existing programs the Program for associations and communities of Croatian national minority   in 12 European countries should be singled out. The aim of this Program is to strengthen Croatian community in the country of domicile so that Croats can exercise their minority rights and preserve and develop their ethnic, religious, cultural and language self- awareness.