In 2012, when I founded Vlahovic Group, the idea of a professional, transparent government relations firm was misunderstood and somewhat unwelcome in Zagreb’s business and government communities. Yet as an entrepreneur, who first learned the political and diplomatic ropes in the early 2000s in Washington D.C. and in Brussels, I had a vision and a motivation. Overcoming biases and creating a new business sector in Croatia remains a nearly daily task at Vlahovic Group, and it remains my long-term vision.
In 2013, Croatia joined the European Union and lobbying became a bit more acceptable in Zagreb. Yet some critics would still argue that government affairs is an unusual business idea for the region, even though, for most global companies, it is almost impossible to navigate the administrative labyrinth of government in Croatia and in the Western Balkans without local government relations representation.
Our methodological approach to professional government relations, insistence on only taking clients under contract, and participation in the EU Transparency Register, have allowed us to expand beyond Croatia’s borders. Today, Vlahovic Group has a global reach and an incredible network of associates. We are thriving and servicing top international corporations. I am grateful to our clients and staff for our success. I see Croatia’s Presidency of the EU Council, starting in January 2020, as our next stage of growth.
My current contributions to the government relations and business communities in Zagreb and Brussels include serving as Vice-President and Founding Member of the Croatian Lobbying Association. Since 2016, I have held the position of Untitled Governor at the American Chamber of Commerce in Croatia. My continuing role as an external member of the Croatian Parliament’s European Affairs Committee began in 2014. In 2005, I co-founded the Croatia-EU Business Council, the first Brussels-based organisation advocating and promoting Croatian business interests in the EU and I currently act as Executive Director.
In 2012, I completed a Fellowship Programme in Public Policy at Patton Boggs LLP in Washington D.C. In 2011, I participated in a two-week intensive professional lobbying workshop organised by the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute at the American University in Washington, D.C.
From 2005 to 2011, I led the Brussels office of the Croatian Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises (HOK). In that role, I was the chief advocate for HOK in EU institutions. In 1999, I took the first steps of my professional career at the Croatian Embassy in Washington D.C., where I worked on trade promotion and investment relations projects.
Participating in discourse about politics and business informs my government relations work. I frequently lecture and write editorials about public affairs, lobbying and political representation for private and public sector organisations, Universities and media in Croatia and abroad. In 2015, I co-authored the first book on professional lobbying in Croatia, A Professional Lobbyist – An Interest Advocacy Manual. I earned a B.A. in Political Science from St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, USA, (1999) an M.A. in Croatian Political System and Administration from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb (2005) and an Executive M.B.A. from the Bled School of Management in Slovenia (2006).
-Natko Vlahovic, Founder and CEO, Vlahovic Group.