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Factfile on Croatia

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Facts on Croatia, which on Sunday elects its first deputies in the European Parliament, ahead of July 1 entry into the European Union:

GEOGRAPHY: Located in southeastern Europe, Croatia borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Hercegovina and has a maritime border with Italy.

AREA: 56,542 square kilometres (21,831 square miles) of land. It has a long coastline on the Adriatic with 1,185 islands, mountains in the interior and flat plains in the northeast.

POPULATION: 4.2 million (2011 census).

CAPITAL: Zagreb.

RELIGION: Almost 90 percent of the population are Roman Catholics (2011 census).

HISTORY: Since the 16th century, Croatia's territory was part of the Habsburg Monarchy, with the Adriatic coast being mostly ruled by Venice until the late 18th century. At the end of World War I, along with Serbia and Slovenia, it formed a kingdom later called Yugoslavia that broke apart at the start of Nazi occupation in 1941. During World War II the country's Nazi-allied Ustasha regime proclaimed the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH) that collapsed in 1945. Croatia then became one of the six republics forming Yugoslavia. Zagreb's proclamation of independence in June 1991 sparked a four-year war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs.

For a decade after independence Croatia was ruled by nationalist Franjo Tudjman, whose autocratic policies isolated the country. Tudjman died in December 1999 and his death marked the start of democratisation of the country that was put on track to join the European Union.

A four-party centre-left coalition led by the Social Democratic Party won elections in 2011, ousting the conservative HDZ tainted by a string of corruption scandals. Zagreb is set to join the EU on July 1.

ARMED FORCES: Croatia joined NATO in 2009. Its armed forces number 17,000.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Parliamentary democracy.

ECONOMY: One of the main activities is tourism, which in 2012 accounted for 15 percent of GDP.

CURRENCY: kuna (HRK).

GDP: 43.9 billion euros, per capita 10,295 euros, according to the National bank data for 2012.

AVERAGE NET MONTHLY SALARY: 5,529 kunas (726 euros).

UNEMPLOYMENT: 21.9 percent.

GROWTH: 2.0 percent contraction in 2012.

INFLATION: 3.4 percent.

EXTERNAL DEBT: 44.9 billion euros or 102 percent of GDP (2012).

WEB SITES: www.vlada.hr (government), www.hnb.hr (national bank)

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130410/factfile-croatia