Croatia has signed a EU accession treaty, paving the way for the former Yugoslav republic to join the 27-country bloc in mid-2013, after almost a decade of long and often fraught negotiations.
Before it formally joins the EU on July 1, 2013, citizens have voted on the question in a referendum. Two-thirds of Croatians voted in favour of joining the European Union.
Croatia is the second of the six republics that formed the old Yugoslavia to join. Of the six - Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia - only the latter is an EU member, since 2004.
With a population of only 4.2 million, its economy is based mostly on Adriatic coast tourism. It has been largely in recession since early 2009 so sees health tourism as a way of extending its tourism trade and expanding the economy.
Croatian food giant Agrokor
has pledged a 100 million Euro investment into a new wellness centre that will form part of medical rehabilitation facilities in Daruvar spa (eastern Croatia). The spa is well known for its rehabilitation facilities, but the new investment would strengthen its role in continental tourism with the expansion of sport and recreational offers. The new tourist complex will cover a vast area.
Another new investment of 16 million euros is spread over 12,000 square metres. The Analiza Hospital in Dugopolje on the outskirts of the Adriatic port of Split will boost health tourism in southern Croatia. Once completed it will be Europe's third biggest private hospital.
Marin Bosotina of Analiza Hospital explains, "We are developing a modern project that will have an impact not only in Croatia, but also in surrounding countries. At the moment, we have 14 departments, two operating theatres, a biochemistry lab, microbiology, cistology, genetics, complete radiology, CT, mammography, densitometry, and ultrasound. We expect to complete the next phase in 2012. That will include 4 operating theatres, a large rehabilitation department, intensive care, and accommodation with 120 rooms for 220 patients together with restaurants, a shopping centre, congress centre and a pharmacy. This project goes beyond Croatia. It is a European project. We are unique in Croatia not only for the size of the hospital, but also for our organisation, equipment and staff. We have hired people who worked abroad, in the USA, Germany, France, and Italy." The hospital admits that it does still need a good investor from outside the country but says that it expects to attract foreign patients as it can offer cheaper prices and EU standards of quality.