A public debate on science agenda of the EU parliament candidates has largely bypassed Croatia. The manifestos of the key parties had little to offer, too. The coalition that is in power, dominated by the social democrats (SDP), says they will focus their work within the EU on 12 “important topics”, one of which is “better conditions for education and scientific research” aimed at young people and their employment.
Smaller parties that polls suggested may win a seat each also have little to offer in this regard, with the left wing coalition including Croatian Labourists – Labour Party not even mentioning science and research, and ORAH, a new party headed by former environment minister, sees support for education and science as one of the ways of boosting economic growth. ORAH also wants to attract investment in green technologies and innovations in the energy and environment sector.
The main opposition party, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which was in power before the current government and had failed to push a raft of reforms of higher education and science, has the most detailed plan on research.
Its manifesto has a whole section on smart investment driven through research, innovation and higher education, which it sees as key to the growth of economy. This, it says, includes the need for centers of excellence, high quality academic education and mobility of researchers and students. It also promises to promote international academic exchanges and creating jobs for university-educated people.
Interestingly, it recognizes the importance of R&D in the industry sector, especially the SMEs. Here, it promises to improve access to financing for R&D, and sees development of new digital technologies as especially promising – saying it will support the development of such technologies, thereby enabling new jobs, and cooperation between research institutes, industry, and the SMEs. Given that it is currently leading the polls, this may be a good sign.But it is also nice wish list with little evidence of a plan on how to do it.