Can the Migrants be Integrated Centrally? Paradoxes of the Croatian Local Government System Revealed after 2015 Migration Crisis

Prof. Ivan Koprić
Ms. Irena Habeš Koprić
Prof. Mirko Klarić

Similarly to other South East and Middle European countries, Croatia experienced mass migrations of people from the Middle East and Asia, within the broader European migration crisis of 2015. There was so-called South East European Route which flooded Croatia with huge migrant waves. Although Croatia is mainly a transit country, a small number of migrants stay in Croatia for various reasons. That opens the issues of local capacities for integration of migrants, readiness to integrate them, and willingness for mutual adjustment of people. Since Croatia is a heavily centralized country, it is hardly surprising that local institutional capacities for dealing with migrations and integration have been but scarcely analysed. During the migration crisis, the focus of public attention was on central institutions, such as the customs and the police, but certain large non-governmental bodies and organizations were made responsible for the situation. Local governments were in the shadows of public attention, for political and other reasons. Some of the main reasons for such dominance of central institutions were the centralisation of the country, the lack of local competencies, and modest local capacities to deal with the influx of people. It seems that the situation has gradually changed with regard to integration, since integration by its nature needs to be managed by local institutions. Even in that regard, Croatia shows certain specificities, as many local offices are officially only branch offices of the ministries and other national institutions, and are not managed by local governments. We will map, systematise, and analyse the situation of local integration institutions, capacities, and practices in the Croatian local government system. We rely on various data, partly gained through semi-structured interviews with responsible local officials in 17 Croatian cities and large towns, and through a questionnaire sent to other local governments with more than 10,000 inhabitants. Several policy proposals will be offered on that basis.