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Flag of Croatia: Zastava na Srđu by Bracodbk licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED. Hue modified.

Raos, Višeslav. “Croatia: A Stable Western Ally and a Playground of External Contestation.” n.d. Prague Security Studies Institute. 


Croatia is a committed member of the EU and NATO and a stable ally of the United States in the region. Yet, it has been experiencing illiberal tendencies since becoming an EU member, marked by widespread corruption and a weakening of independent institutions which should control the executive. This stems from the dominant position of the HDZ party and not from external influence. However, non-Western external actors can use these illiberal tendencies to expand their influence. Russia has used the gas and oil sectors to target parts of the political elite and lend support to populist, far-right, and anti-Western actors. It has used corruption as its most trusted tool for sowing discord and creating instability. China is mainly focused on gaining a foothold in critical infrastructure, primarily seaports, while its soft power is very weak. Türkiye has had the most comprehensive approach, combining investment with cultural influence in Croatia’s Muslim community and toward society at large. The Turkish government has found ideologically like-minded groups among conservative politicians and NGOs in Croatia. Finally, the presence of Gulf countries is relatively low in Croatia, except for Qatar, which is crucial because of the off-shore LNG terminal on the island of Krk, which provides an alternative to Russian energy sources.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.