ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — A population census conducted last year in Croatia has shown that almost 10% less people live in the European Union country compared to a decade ago, according to preliminary results released on Friday.
The census has listed 3.8 million citizens compared to 4.2 million in the previous population count in 2011, said Lidija Brkovic from the national statistics office.
“In the last 10 years, the number of residents decreased by 396,000 (people),” said Brkovic.
The decrease reflects the depopulation problem in Croatia — and elsewhere in the Balkan region — that is a combination of low birth rate and emigration toward more prosperous countries in the West.
Croatia's government has singled out the problem as a major challenge for the authorities and the country's future.
State broadcaster HRT on Friday said that “unfortunately bad prognosis has materialized.” The report added that the drop amounts to losing the total population of the Adriatic Sea towns of Split and Rijeka.
Despite joining the EU in 2013, Croatia has been struggling to revive the economy that was devastated during the war in 1992-95 that followed the country's independence from the former Yugoslavia.