Governor of the Croatian National Bank spoke to journalist Karen Tso (CNBC International) about Croatia's accession to the euro area.
Boris Vujčić: Well, I'd first say that the experience of entering into the EU was very positive for Croatia. Basically, the recovery that we are seeing now is primarily a consequence of Croatia's joining the EU in 2013 and the exports booming after that. Now, when you look at the eurozone perspective of Croatia, one has to have in mind that Croatia is a heavily euroised economy anyway, so about three quarters of savings in Croatian banks are in euros, and this is the legacy of the past that goes all the way back to Yugoslavia. So, once you are heavily euroised you have very little manoeuvre space to play with the exchange rate and you still have a foreign exchange risk in your interest rates. So, in our view, joining the eurozone would eliminate that risk and actually have very little costs for Croatia. On the other hand, I fully agree, in order to get into the eurozone you have to have a structurally good economy, and in order to do that you have to do structural reforms, of which we will be discussing at this conference as well.
Karen Tso: One of the reasons cited for wanting the inclusion was access to cheap loans, but of course we have been hearing from many investors who expect peripheral loans to start widen out again, when there isn't any comments from Mario Draghi effectively talking about exit from extraordinary monetary stimulus. Do you think that Croatia has missed the boat on cheap loans?
Boris Vujčić: Oh, I think Croatia at the moment has .... Now loans are cheap for everyone. Historically cheap, even for Croatia. But I think that Croatia's spread is still relatively wide. It has been coming down as we progressed with growth, with reduction of the debt. I think that we have now space, if international interest rates start to go up, to narrow the spread further and therefore not to have an effect on Croatian interest rates.
Karen Tso: When should international investors expect Croatia to obtain membership of the eurozone. What date do we pencil in?
Boris Vujčić: No, we are not talking about any dates. We are now having a public discussion this autumn about the costs and benefits, first we have to see what the position is, of the public, of the politics and then if everyone agrees that it is a worthwhile goal, then we are going to move towards that goal gradually, without any dates.
Karen Tso: How do you close the gap in public debt levels, it's still above the 60% required as a maximum by eurozone partners?
Boris Vujčić: The main reason why the debt is now falling down, and it is falling by more than 20th of the difference between 60 and 84, which is the precondition for exiting the European excessive deficit procedure is because the growth has resumed. On the other hand, the public finances have been put in order, we had a deficit of only 0.8 percent, with a significant primary surplus and with a growth of 3 percent now, we are seeing the public debt coming down, in 2019 it will be already below 80 percent coming down further.