The Croatian government is preparing a new strategy designed to grow manufacturing

The Croatian government is preparing a new strategy designed to grow manufacturing

The Croatian Chamber of Economy (CCE) has told just-style that the country plans to utilise European Union (EU) funding to help boost its textile and clothing industry after it becomes the 28th EU member state today (1 July).

Indeed, European Commission officials stress that Croatia will have access to EUR11.7bn in EU investment funds over the next seven years if the country can propose suitable projects and programmes.

Augustin Torbarina, deputy director of industry and technology at the CCE, said that the Croatian government is currently preparing a new strategy designed to grow manufacturing as a whole, including textiles and apparel.

In implementing these policies, "EU funds could be of great help and can finance a large part of our reforms," he said.

Torbarina stressed that as a comparatively poor member of the EU, "Croatia will have access to EU structural [regional development] funds", with EU cohesion policy funding for easing wealth differences across Europe, being able to "significantly boost the investment environment in Croatia."

Torbarina said that key objectives for the Croatian textile and apparel industry over the next few years will include producing higher value products; regularly updating manufacturing processes and technologies; and developing more of its own products and brands.

He added that over time the industry wants to encourage home-grown innovation, reviving Croatia's fashion industry and connecting it with Croatian fashion designers, creating more links between the industry and the country's academic community. One target would be promoting more technology transfer from Croatian scientific research and educational institutions to the textile and clothing sector.

A greater focus on overseas sales is evident in Croatia's most recent production and export figures, despite a decline in both.

According to the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (CBS), while apparel and textile production dropped 13.3% and 8.6% respectively in 2012, the value of exports fell less sharply, with apparel and textile exports combined dropping 3.8% to EUR476m in 2012. It said that garment exports fell by 3.7% to EUR394m, and textile exports dropped 4.7% to EUR82m.

Torbarina said that following Croatia's EU accession, the country's textile and apparel sector will also benefit from being able to trade freely with other countries in the EU, which should boost exports. Although, he added: "We will also face the liberalisation of imports so that is another challenge for us."