Webinar on Evolution of Regional Development Agencies as Strategic Coordinators: the case of Croatia

Our final webinar of the winter-spring semester took place on 05 June (11h-12h UK) over Zoom with Dr Jakša Puljiz who discussed “Evolution of Regional Development Agencies as Strategic Coordinators: the case of Croatia”.

 

More than two decades have passed since the establishment of the first regional development agencies in Croatia. They were founded by county governments as organizations to support the preparation and implementation of projects co-financed from EU funds, a role which they fulfilled rather successfully. Gradually they have become more involved into topics such as strategic planning and strengthening of the entrepreneurship eco-system that require coordination of large number of actors and in some cases, they succeeded in driving the transformation of the local economic structure becoming an agent of (structural) change. This paper examines the evolution of RDA’s in Croatia from organisations in charge solely for attracting EU funds to desired role of strategic coordinators able to organise strategic planning process and ensure the coordination of large number of actors towards achieving medium and long-term development objectives. It identifies the main drivers of this institutional evolution as well as the main challenges faced by RDAs. Besides the administrative data reflecting their administrative capacity, the analysis relies on the results of the online survey conducted in 2024 that involved 21 regional coordinators, one for each Croatian county. Survey highlighted the strengths and limitations of RDAs in performing their role of strategic coordinator for the county. Notably, while the constraints related to the lack of human and financial resources have diminished compared to the past, the primary challenge remains the quality of cooperation with relevant stakeholders.

 

Jakša Puljiz is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Development and International Relations in Zagreb and Head of the Department for European policies. He completed his MA postgraduate study Operational Research at the Faculty of Zagreb in 2005, while he received his PhD in 2009 from the Faculty of Economics in Split with theses “Factors of regional development and regional inequalities in Republic of Croatia”. Mr Puljiz has over 20 years of experience in local and regional development, EU funds management, strategic planning and evaluation. His academic work has been mainly focused on topics of EU Cohesion policy, regional development and competitiveness. He currently leads research project funded by the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education on the impact of Cohesion policy on Croatia’s regional development. He is also a lecturer at the postgraduate study of the University of Zagreb, course EU Cohesion policy. Besides academic work, he has been engaged in numerous technical assistance projects funded by World Bank, European Commission, GIZ and other international organisations as a project coordinator and expert.

In period 2012-2016 he worked in the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds where he has been responsible for the preparation of Cohesion policy programming documents for period 2014-2020 including Partnership Agreement and Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion. He has also been main coordinator of “Integrated territorial investments” approach in Croatia enabling investments into seven major urban areas in Croatia.

 

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