Postcard from…Croatia

Almost 20 years after former Yugoslavia started falling apart, my job is more regional than ever before. Yesterday I was in Sarajevo, today at home in Zagreb and tomorrow I will be in our Ljubljana office, where I actually spend most of my working time.

Usually I travel on a weekly basis between Zagreb and Ljubljana, which is only a 105 minute drive. With the completion of the highway on the Slovenian side and the continuous harmonisation of laws with the EU in Croatia, I might soon forget I am actually commuting between two countries.

Despite the frequent travelling, Croatia is what I call my home. I am lucky enough to be living in one of the most idyllic locations in Europe. Croatia is a beautiful country, especially its seaside with more than 1000 islands and the countryside in the north west with its small hills, castles and vineyards. It takes just 20 minutes by car to reach the green areas that surround the city of Zagreb. Mount Sljeme, which is well known for its annual ski world cup race in January, is just a stone throw away.

During the weekends we work on our farm, or take the opportunity to go biking in the beautiful hills or swimming in the Adriatic Sea. I can’t imagine having all of this at just almost one place back in Germany.

The contrast with our office premises in Zagreb could hardly be bigger. Despite the advantage of its central location, it is a typical modern office building located between other new buildings without prospect. Modern office buildings is truly an area in which Croatia should not try to follow the European trend. But the country is not only a “construction side” in the most literal sense. The legal framework is still rapidly developing, and it is interesting to see how the Croatian legislator is adopting Croatian law to the EU standards, whereby it is always looking to its historical neighbours Austria and Germany to serve as an example.

However, since the legal system is not yet as far developed as in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, working on an international deal often means developing the law by working out parallels, which is as adventurous as it gets in the legal profession.

After some years of rapid development and economic growth, the development of the country has halted and the average Croatian has a hard time to survive. The unemployment rate is constantly increasing and many people are out of a job. Besides that, the newspapers constantly report on local business men and politicians charged with fraud or corruption –  there is a joke circulating that the Zagreb jail in is the favorite crash pad and most popular conference venue for the country’s excecutives.Soon, Croatia will be part of the EU, and undoubtedly this means that it will start to look more like other member states.

Matthias Wahl is a partner in the Zagreb office of Schoenherr