The head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Branko Baricevic, said on Wednesday that the European Commission would be working on strengthening consumer protection in Croatia after a survey has revealed that Croatians regard themselves among the least protected consumers and as not being informed enough of their rights.
The rules of the game have changed and our citizens will not be treated as they were before accession to the European Union,” Baricevic told a press conference in Zagreb.
When asked whether the Commission would financially support the consumer protection campaign and with how much money, Baricevic could not confirm whether it would be 450,000 euros, but said that Consumer Protection Commissioner Neven Mimica would talk about it in Zagreb soon.
“In all the new EU member states the level of consumer protection is lower than in the old ones. Entry into the Union means raising the level of consumer protection and everyone should be aware that the rules of the game have changed,” the EC representative said.
The EC on Tuesday published an index measuring consumers’ satisfaction with their position on the market, which placed Croatia at the bottom of the ranking with 50 points, with only Cyprus and Greece below it with 49 and 47 points respectively. The top scorers were Finland and the United Kingdom (73 points each) where consumers felt to be the best protected.
The Croatian diplomat, with seven years of work experience in Brussels, spoke of the role and goals of the EC Representation, which was opened on July 1, the day Croatia joined the EU.
The Representation will be the place where citizens of Croatia will be able to familiarise themselves with the work of the EU’s executive and propose their ideas of what the Union should look like in the future, Baricevic said, stressing that he considers dialogue with members of the public as the most important task of this institution.
The Representation will also try to bring the Union closer to citizens through ten regional centres or info points evenly distributed across the country and through meetings between members of the public and EU commissioners. One such meeting is to be held in Trieste on September 16 when Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding will address 80 Croatian citizens along with people from Italy, Slovenia and southern Austria, while the first such meeting in Croatia is planned for February or March next year.
“The idea of such meetings is: ‘we are here to listen to you and not to talk to you.’ We want active co-responsibility for Europe and the prerequisite for it is that citizens are well informed,” Baricevic said.
Among the important initiatives of the European Commission which the Representation will be promoting is the Europe 2020 agenda which is aimed at encouraging growth and employment, especially among young people, and a trans-Atlantic trade partnership with the United States.