Monday, 16 May 2022

400 Croatian Ambulance Drivers Go On Strike

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - About 400 ambulance drivers and paramedics went on strike on Monday saying they will continue striking until their demands are met and their pay is aligned with that of drivers in the medical system, with shop steward Vladimir Markuš saying that the Health Ministry pushed them into the strike.

"The consequences of the strike will be visible already today and even more tomorrow. We are going until our demands are met, but unfortunately, the Health Ministry has literally pushed us into this strike," Markuš told Hina.

The strikers are calling for a regulation that would align their earnings at the country level because now their wages vary up to HRK 1,500 in some cases, depending on which county they are in.

Ambulance drivers are striking in several counties and cities.

About 400 ambulance drivers are on strike at local health clinics, while another 300 drivers at emergency medical centers in seven counties, who are not allowed to strike, are working to rule.

Markuš added that the only response strikers received from the ministry were that Minister Vili Beroš was "away today" and he had made a statement yesterday.

"The minister is calling for care for Croatian citizens who will not be getting their rights, yet he contributed to the fact that many people have not been able to exercise their rights. Patients have been waiting for MRI tests for up to a year and a half. These people are being deprived," Markuš said.

"We will not leave patients without care. Those needing transport will get it but those who are not urgent cases won't because only about 30% of drivers are working and they cannot handle all that work," added Markuš.

Markuš appealed to the ministry to resolve their problem so that the system does not collapse.

"We are waiting for the competent authorities to do their job and adopt a regulation on indexation. As soon as it is adopted, we will cease the strike," Markuš said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

"Croatia Volunteers" Campaign Involves Young People in Tackling Present Crises

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - The "Croatia Volunteers 2022" campaign took place on 11-14 May as part of the European Year of Youth, focusing on the potential of young people in tackling the challenges of current natural and social crises, the Croatian Volunteer Development Centre (HCRV) said on Monday.

The campaign involved 200 organizers and several thousand volunteers in over 90 towns across the country who carried out over 300 activities benefiting the local community. Its aim was to promote the importance and benefits of volunteering for social development.

"This year we wanted to emphasize the potential and strength of the systematic involvement of young people in tackling the challenges of climate change, COVID-19, violence, wars, and the large influx of refugees," HCRV said.

Organizers believe that the unity and solidarity of young people speed up the process of recovery during and after crises, and hope that young people in rural areas will also join their campaign.

Volunteers carried out educational and creative workshops targeted at different societal groups, provided social services, carried out activities aimed at vulnerable groups, took care of animals, promoted environmental protection, and organized scout meetings.

The campaign was carried out in partnership with the Croatian Red Cross, the Croatian Youth Network, and the Croatian Scouts Association.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatia Reports 42 New Coronavirus Cases, 12 Deaths

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - Croatia has recorded 42 new coronavirus cases and 12 COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national COVID-19 response team reported on Monday morning.

The total number of active cases in the country currently stands at 3,429. A total of 364 infected persons are being treated in the hospital, of whom 15 are on ventilators, and 1,697 people are self-isolating.

Since 25 February 2020, when the first case was registered in the country, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been confirmed in 1,131, 492 persons and 15,942 of them have died. 

A total of 4,839,184 people have tested for the novel virus to date, including 1,033 in the last 24 hours.

By Sunday, 5,249,003 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered, and 59.51 percent of the total population, or 70.78 percent of adults, had been vaccinated.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Monday, 16 May 2022

EC Projects Croatian GDP Growth at 3.4%, Inflation at 6.1%

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - This year the Croatian economy is expected to grow by 3.4%, the employment rate should increase by 1.5% and inflation might reach 6.1% due to increases in energy and food prices, the European Commission says in its Spring 2022 Economic Forecast, released on Monday.

"After a strong rebound of the economy in 2021, with a growth rate of 10.2%, GDP growth in 2022 is expected to be more modest but still solid at 3.4% as the direct exposure of the Croatian economy to the effects of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is limited," the Commission said in its report.

The Commission revised its growth projection for Croatia from 4.8% predicted in the Winter Forecast, released on 10 February. As for the growth forecast for next year, the Commission retained its previous growth projection of 3.0%.

Croatia's GDP is forecast to grow by 3.4% in 2022, mostly supported by domestic demand and as the labor market is expected to stay dynamic, with employment growing by around 1.5% this year. Inflation is projected to accelerate to 6.1% in 2022, driven by rising energy and food prices, before decreasing to 2.8% in 2023.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Commission had forecast a long and strong recovery, but the war brought about new challenges at a time when the EU economy had recovered from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. That's why the Commission revised its growth forecasts for EU economies and revised up its forecasts for inflation.

The Commission says that the fiscal package adopted by the Croatian government, including direct transfers to households and SMEs and cuts in indirect taxes, should cushion the effects of rising prices on disposable incomes and corporate profits. Despite this further fiscal support to the economy, the sustainability of the key fiscal figures is expected to continue improving, with the general government deficit narrowing toward 1.8% of GDP and public debt to around 73% of GDP by 2023. In 2023 GDP is expected to grow by 3.0%.

Private consumption is forecast to grow by 2.4%, lower than previously expected, due to rising consumer prices and uncertainty, which increases precautionary savings. On the other hand, the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), and the acceleration of post-earthquake reconstruction should push investment growth to 6.5%, despite the drag induced by the rising costs of materials, supply bottlenecks, and increased uncertainty.

Government consumption should retain its positive contribution to economic growth, with a growth rate of around 2.5%.

Exports of goods are expected to be affected by weaker demand in main trading partners, but the growth rate should remain solid, at around 5%. The growth of exports of services should be mostly driven by tourist activity, which is expected to converge towards pre-crisis levels.

Imports are projected to increase in line with final demand.

"The balance of risks to the forecast is tilted to the downside, with key negative risks stemming from the rising global uncertainties and commodity price shocks, which could affect both domestic and external demand. On the upside, the envisaged euro adoption in 2023 could benefit investments and trade, while RRP-related investments and reforms, if swiftly implemented, could more rapidly increase the growth potential of the economy," the Commission said.

After peaking at 7.6% in 2021, the unemployment rate is projected to gradually decline below 6.5% by the end of 2023.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatian FM Calls for One More Attempt to Reform Bosnia Electoral Law

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - One more attempt should be made to reform the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the present one does not guarantee the equality of its constituent peoples, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said in Brussels on Monday. 

"Bosnia and Herzegovina still does not have an electoral law that guarantees the equality of its three constituent peoples and other ethnic groups, and that is not good for the country's stability. We need to make yet another attempt to carry out the electoral reform because that it the way towards EU membership candidate status," Grlić Radman told reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The main topics of the meeting will be the Western Balkans and the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the EU's response to it.

Grlić Radman said that the EU should send the Western Balkan countries a strong message regarding their accession to the Union, first of all by opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia and by making progress with regard to the liberalisation of the visa regime for Kosovo.

He said he would inform his EU counterparts of his visit to Ukraine last week together with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"We have to increase pressure on Russia to stop the aggression. Croatia supports the sixth round of sanctions against Russia and can contribute to energy security given its geostrategic position and its infrastructure," Grlić Radman said.

Two weeks ago, the European Commission proposed a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its military invasion of Ukraine, including a ban on Russian oil imports. There is still no agreement among the member states, and the main obstacle is Hungary, which seeks an exemption from the oil embargo.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said that the EU is hostage to one member state, without explicitly mentioning Hungary. "We must agree, we cannot be hostages," he said.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has expressed doubt that ministers will be able to reach an agreement on the oil embargo given that some countries have very firm views.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

DZS: 55.3% of Registered Business Entities Active in March

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - Of 311,698 registered business entities in Croatia, 172,438 or 55.3% were active in March 2022, according to data from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (DZS).

Most of the business entities were trading companies. At the end of March 2022, there were 234,561 trading companies registered, and 137,664, or 58.7%, were active.

There were 73,589 institutions, associations, and organizations, of which 33,965 or 46.2% were active, as well as 3,548 cooperatives, of which 809 were active, and 88,184 sole proprietorships and freelancers.

Out of 172,438 legal entities that were active at the end of March 2022, 66,497 or 38.6% had no employees. There were 88,205 legal entities (51.2% of the total number of active entities) with one to nine employees, 13,677 (7.9%) with 10 to 49 employees, 3,468 (2.0%) with 50 to 249 employees, while large business entities with 250 employees and more accounted for only 0.4%.

The structure of business entities by activity shows that more than half of registered and active businesses operated in four sectors – wholesale and retail trade and repairs of motor vehicles and motorcycles (17.7% of registered businesses and 16.0% of active ones), manufacturing (7.8%; 8.9%), professional, scientific and technical activities (10.2%; 12.6%), and other services (16.2%; 13.1%).

Broken down by type of ownership, 79.1% of businesses were privately owned, 0.8% were state-owned, 0.4% were in mixed ownership, 0.5% were cooperatives, while the ownership of 19.2% of businesses was not tracked.

A total of 168,599 business entities were registered as limited liability companies (71.9%) and 100,979 of them were active (73.4%). There were also 63,031 simple limited liability companies (26.9%) and 35,164 of them were active (25.5%).

For more, check out our business section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Izetbegović: Electoral Reform to Be Discussed Only After October Election

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - No agreement on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is possible at this moment, and talks should continue only after the general election in October, the leader of the ruling Bosniak SDA party, Bakir Izetbegović, said on Sunday.

"There is no legal space to amend the electoral law because the Central Electoral Commission called the election ten days ago. And also, we are too far off from an agreement," Izetbegović said in an interview with the Bosnian Faktor news website.

He said that negotiations on the electoral reform had fallen through because the leadership of the Bosnian Croat HDZ BiH party had "too ambitious plans" about amendments that should be adopted. He added that the HDZ BiH's strategy was wrong because it was based on the blockade of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity, cooperation with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and pressure on the SDA and Bosniaks.

Commenting on the announcement that a senior EU official would come to Sarajevo this month when the question of the electoral reform could be raised again, Izetbegović said that nothing would come of it and that he was certain that there would be no pressure to reach an agreement before the 2 October election.

"We have had some preparatory meetings with their advisers which clearly showed this approach and priorities," the SDA leader said. He pointed out that talks with EU officials would focus solely on the implementation of reforms and obstacles on the path to EU membership candidate status.

Izetbegović said that the electoral reform would be discussed "as soon as a new post-election coalition is formed."

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Hotel Valkane Construction in Pula Causes Issues for Local Government

May the 16th, 2022 - The announced construction of the five-star Hotel Valkane, with the investor being a Serbian media mogul, has caused quite the reaction among locals in Pula, with the local self-government unit there now torn between giving it the green light and saying a resounding no.

As Morski writes, the construction of a 5-star, 7-storey hotel on a popular promenade by the sea has raised a real storm in Pula and shaken up the city government. Does the city need another huge hotel or not, and is the lungomare (the city's promenade) really the right location for that? The reactions are as strong as they are mixed.

Hotel Valkane's investor, otherwise a Serbian billionaire and media mogul, wants to build the aforementioned hotel which would be worth half a billion kuna. The mayor has given the idea a thumbs up, but Pula locals are allegedly less than thrilled about the idea.

''We sincerely hope that Hotel Valkane will be completed within the next three to four years. There's no talk of deforestation, causing damage to the promenade or anything of high value. On the contrary, the ''hole'' that was once used should be returned to function,'' said Zoran Kostic, the project manager of "Hotel Valkane".

Pula's city councilors are generally not opposed to the idea of the construction of Hotel Valkane, except for those from the political party Mozemo (We Can!)

''Mozemo! has already initiated the third changes to the urban development plan of the promande, which can remove the hotel or reduce its size,'' the president of the Pula City Council Dusica Radojcic told HRT.

Most of Pula's local residents are allegedly not happy at all about the construction of this massive hotel

''It's not that it shouldn't be built, but maybe not in this place, maybe we'd rather build a sports centre or something like that here, use it a little better, build a better stadium, than build another hotel here. It's just a little too big, that hotel, in my opinion the two floors above should not protrude over everything as they would do,'' are just some of the comments of Pula's residents.

Despite the apparent dissatisfaction of the local residents he represents, Pula's mayor sees no issue...

''This is an excellent development project, the first five-star hotel that will be environmentally sustainable, one that won't touch any of the trees in the forest and has all the predispositions to be a new development point in the City of Pula and preserve the space we're in,'' said Mayor Filip Zoricic.

Mozemo is currently insisting on a referendum on building Hotel Valkane. They've warned that the entire part of the Pula coast has been privatised in a murky way and are as such calling on state institutions to do their jobs and investigate this matter more deeply.

With Pula's residents and Mozemo apparently vehemently against the hotel's construction, but with the mayor and the city government willing to give it a green light, will a referendum be held in which Pula's citizens might say no to the hotel, or will the investor get a location and construction permit and start building it? Time will tell for Hotel Valkane's fate.

For more, check out our business section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatian Labour Force 15,000 Employees Short for 2022 Season

May the 16th, 2022 - The height of 2022's summer tourist season is rapidly approaching, and the Croatian labour force is still missing around 15,000 employees. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the director of the Directorate for Development, Investments and Competitiveness of the Tourism Economy at the Ministry of Tourism, Robert Pende, said recently on the radio that the Croatian labour force, when it comes to the all important tourism sector, currently lacks as many as 15,000 workers, although he expects the deficit to decrease as time goes on.

"Currently, according to the information we've received from the sector itself, there are about 10,000 people who should come or be employed for this tourist year," said Pende, referring to the lack of workers in the tourism sector, which is ironically Croatia's most important economic branch.

However, he pointed out that many permits for foreign workers (meaning those from non EU-EEA countries such as neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, who require special permission in order to work here) are still in the process of being requested, so he expects those numbers to be somewhat lower eventually.

MUP is notoriously slow in processing employer requests for work permits for third country nationals such as the citizens of the aforementioned non EU countries, with cases of those would-be employees throwing in the towel and going elsewhere or only being approved for their work permit when the tourist season is already well and truly underway.

"In any case, we will have a deficit, I would say, throughout the main tourist season," Pende told HRT.

The president of the Dubrovnik County Chamber, Nikolina Trojic, said that the need at the Croatian national level is certainly between 15 and 20 thousand workers that must be introduced from somewhere.

"At the level of Dubrovnik-Neretva County alone, there are certainly at least two or three thousand people who are needed to come and work this season, so it's that many would-be employees who are missing. It's very difficult to fill that number from the Croatian labour force, and we will undoubtedly have to continue to import labour from abroad,'' added Trojic.

Dubrovnik already has a significant number of employees each summer season from nearby Trebinje, which is just over the border in the Republika Srpska governed part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that alone often causes rifts among locals who remember people from Trebinje attacking Dubrovnik thirty years ago. The issue with filling the Croatian labour force isn't only an issue economically, but on a much more personal level, with many feeling that the Dalmatian coast's many restaurants should be filled with Croatian, preferably local staff, and not those from Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia.

For more, check out our business section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

American Interest in Croatian Customs and Tourism Increasing Each Year

May the 16th, 2022 - It appears that the interest of American citizens for Croatian customs and tourism is growing year on year, with the number of people lining up outside the Massachusetts Avenue Croatian Embassy increasing.

As Morski writes, after a two year break caused by the unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic, which saw international travel, at least for tourism and leisure purposes, almost grind to a halt, embassies in Washington are now open to the public on Saturdays in an attempt to arouse US citizen interest in visiting various different countries across the globe.

This popular event is called "Passport DC'' and sees the many countries that have diplomatic missions located in the capital of the United States present themselves to people there in order to attract and interest them further when it comes to travel and tourism throughout 2022.

There are more than 175 foreign embassies and consulates in Washington alone, and European Union (EU) countries opened their doors to American visitors this Saturday.

Judging by the long line in front of the Croatian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, the interest of Americans in Croatia and as such Croatian customs and paying a visit to this country is growing every year, as reported by HRT.

In the first part of Saturday alone, the Croatian diplomatic mission was visited by more than a thousand US citizens who wanted to learn more about Croatian customs, cities, food, history and the country's very rich tourist offer.

For many people, a visit to the Croatian Embassy in Washington as part of the ''Passport DC" event is a prelude to going to the Republic of Croatia on holiday, so for a lot of those visiting, a decision has likely already been made to cross the ''pond'' and arrive in Croatia in the coming weeks and months.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

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