Sunday, 27 November 2022

12 Croatian Companies on Deloitte's List of Growing Companies in Central Europe 2022

November 27, 2022 - Deloitte reported the results of their latest contest of the fastest-growing technology companies for the Central Europe, and 12 Croatian companies found themselves on their lists.

Companies from 9 countries found themselves on the prestigious list, assembled for the 23rd time by the consulting giant Deloitte. The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Central Europe lists 17 Polish companies, 13 from Czechia, 8 Croatian companies, 4 Slovakian, 3 Hungarian, 2 Bulgarian and one each from Lithuania, Romania and Serbia. The software companies dominate the list, with 33 companies being from that field, however, the first three positions were taken by companies from fintech and life science (FTMO, PayPo and Multiplex DX). X).

The eight Croatian companies on the list are: Aircash, placed fourth, with a growth of almost 6 percent, Devot Solutions placed 19th, Netgen 28th, Uprise 35th, CircuitMess 40th, Amplifico (Parklio) 41st, Async Labs 42nd, and Cinnamon 46th.

The additional category "Companies to Watch" includes: Firefly Studio, Identity Consortium, Brightdock, and Hivetech.

The special category "Impact stars", started last year, includes three Croatian companies: Axilis, Notch and Robotiq.ai.

Interestingly, six out of the eight Croatian companies on the Technology Fast 50 Central Europe are newcomers on the list. Async Labs were on the list last year as well, and CircuitMess was on the Companies to Watch list last year, and made their way to the main list this year.

The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Central Europe is a Programme that ranks 50 fast-growing technology companies, public or private, based on percentage revenue growth. Winners are then selected by ranking their revenue growth over the four years from 2018 to 2021. In addition to the Technology Fast 50 ranking, Deloitte Central Europe ranks companies that show great potential but are too young to meet criterion for the main Fast 50 category.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

When Will the Ston Bypass Get Opened?

November 27, 2022 - Five months after the Pelješac Bridge opening, and after we've last asked the same question, today we have some more answers regarding the Ston Bypass.

A key segment of the road which will connect Dubrovnik area with the rest of Croatia (and hopefully, the rest of the Schengen area) over the Pelješac Bridge is the so-called Ston Bypass. It has not been finished yet, although the bridge itself has been fully operational for quite a while now. The bridge itself has proven to be a success, but the opening of the bypass will make it even more popular, as currently the trucks and buses are still not allowed to go over the bridge on their way to Dubrovnik. The reason for that is that the heavy vehicles would currently need to go through Ston itself, which is a problem that gets solved once the bypass is open.

Ahmet Kalajdžić reports today for Slobodna Dalmacija that 90 per cent of the work has been completed. At the construction site where, at first glance, only a few workers can be seen, he spoke with Ivica Tutman from Hrvatske ceste. Construction works will be completed by the end of this year, but he emphasized that the equipping of the Ston bypass includes operations that are not of a constructive nature. We expect that this will also be completed by the end of February, followed by a technical inspection and the obtaining of permits and soon the bypass will be put into circulation. He points out the quality of the work performed so far. The Zaton Doli junction will be completed by mid-December, when the traffic lights will be removed and traffic on the state road D8 will follow without light regulation. The junction is already largely asphalted, but there is still some work to be done that depends on possible extreme weather conditions. On that part of the Jadranska magistrala, the complete normalization of traffic will follow by Christmas at the latest, and after the completion of the entire Ston bypass in February, technical acceptance is expected, which is a prerequisite for obtaining a use permit and putting that section into traffic.

There are currently more than 220 workers on the construction site, most of whom are inside the tunnel, and the people in charge highlight that the only factor that can slow them down currently is the weather. The design solution of the Ston bridge does not include the installation of a windbreaker, as the intensity of the wind here is not very low, but the wind probably does not have an intensity that can significantly endanger traffic. The predicted speed in the tunnels and on the bridge is limited to 80 kilometers per hour. 

Despite some scepticism by the locals in Ston, caused by worries of a significant increase in summer traffic, the tourist season has successfully ended. The Ston municipality head, Vedran Antunica, says that they estimate that 70 per cent of the approximately one million vehicles that crossed the Pelješac Bridge passed through the centre of our municipality. This is a lot for our Ston, but I can say that everything went smoothly and without any delays. We are completely satisfied with the work done by the Traffic Police. We know that the huge crowds that we had through Ston will no appear next year, with the completion of the construction of the Ston bypass and that in the future only those who want to visit the cultural and historical sights of Ston will come to us. We can already see the positive effects because the opening of two larger restaurants is already being prepared, but we still lack quality accommodation. However, there is a strong interest in the construction of these capacities in Prapratno and the Marčuleti bay, and along with the removal of the soil piled under the Ston Bridge, the road to Kobaš will finally be improved, Antunica announces.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Pandemic Who? Advent in Zagreb Returns to 2019 Glory

November 27, 2022 - And so we go back in time to a pre-pandemic world, as the award-winning Advent in Zagreb returns to its former glory with last night's opening.

It is a very cosy feeling walking out of your apartment on a crisp November evening to find Christmas lights all the way down the street - a reminder somehow of a world we used to know just a few years ago. 

Walk through the imperious Tunnel Gric, whose 500m under the old town of Zagreb is steeped in history, only to find it transformed. 

Emerging from the tunnel was like entering a time warp - we had gone back in time at least three years, a world where was no pandemic, and where Advent in Zagreb was internationally accepted as one of the best Christmas markets in the world. As if to confirm this time warp, The Guardian used a photo of Zagreb for its lead picture in this week's Santa shops here: 10 of Europe’s coolest Christmas markets

It felt like we were walking into the peak season of Split or Dubrovnik. Zagreb was packed! So nice to see so many people on the streets having fun and in obvious anticipation of seeing an Advent in Zagreb as it once was. Remember that the Croatian capital was voted Best Christmas Market in Europe three years in a row from 2014-2016.

And, as the opening ceremony began, so the city came even more to life... and light.

4:30 pm Manduševac Fountain, Lighting of the first advent candle.

5:30 pm Gradec Plateau, opening ceremony.

6:30 pm Ice Park, ceremonial opening.

7:30 pm Zrinjevac, Lighting of the Christmas lights.

Advent in Zagreb has steadily grown from humble beginnings since its first branding as Advent in Zagreb in 2010 to European champion just four years later (you can learn more about the story so far in this TCN feature story, From Zero to European Champion: a History of Advent in Zagreb), until the pandemic stopped the event in its prime in 2020. Last night showed that things had returned to normal, and the huge presence on the streets showed that locals and tourists were ready to enjoy the next few weeks on the streets, parks and squares of the capital. The opening of the iconic ice rink on King Tomislav Square was perhaps the biggest symbol of a return to normality. 

And far from trying to merely emulate the Advent of old, this year's event has a very ambitious programme, and is taking Advent in Zagreb into new parts of the city for the first time. For a full guide to this year's Advent in Zagreb, including maps where things are taking place, check out the comprehensive TCN guide to the next few weeks - Advent in Zagreb 2022, Winter Fun is Back: Your Full Guide

You can also check out the official website for more details.

If you have never been to Advent in Zagreb, or if you came in the last two pandemic-restricted years and left disappointed, this is the year to try again. The atmosphere in town is magical. 

****

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Sunday, 27 November 2022

Some Croatian Exchange Offices Preparing to Close Doors Forever

November the 27th, 2022 - As we head towards the final month in which the kuna will remain the country's official currency, many Croatian exchange offices are counting their final few weeks of business operations. Many will close their doors forever as of January 2023.

As epodravina/Sonja Badalic writes, as of the first day of 2023, the kuna will be sent to the history books with so many of the other pre-euro currencies which were once legal tender in the Eurozone. Euros will then take their place in our wallets, bank acounts, and of course - in our sock drawers. The euro is currency that we've all had dealings with by now, but still to a lesser extent, purchasing them only when going abroad.

Despite the fact that the kuna is tied to the euro in many ways, the withdrawal of the kuna from circulation will bring with it numerous changes for this country. While there is constant talk about whether the introduction of the euro will bring new price increases with it, an increase in wages or perhaps less volatile, more favourable loans, it is rarely mentioned that with the disappearance of the kuna, very many Croatian exchange offices will also close their doors for the very last time. In continental Croatia, more specifically in Koprivnica, we're talking about two Croatian exchange offices whose owners and employees are now in their final month of conducting business.

Nino Juric, the owner of the Marko exchange office in Koprivnica, is closing his doors after 23 years.

''We opened on November the 29th, 1999, and now we'll be putting the key in the lock almost on the anniversary. There are currently three of us employed here. My wife, me and another guy to who we're going to need to say goodbye to. Fortunately, he's already found a new job, but the two of us still don't know what we're going to do. First, we will dismantle the branch office, and then we'll take a short break to think about things. We'll certainly start something new, although we aren't yet at clear terms when it comes to which direction we'll go in,'' says Nino.

''When we started working, there were still German marks and Austrian shillings in circulation. The euro came to be only in 2002, and with its introduction, there were rumours about a possible switch from the kuna, which would have seen us close much sooner, so it's nothing new. We heard about it and we've discussed it for years, there was constant speculation about whether or not it would happen and now, unfortunately for us, the date is known and that day is getting closer and closer. No one is forcing us to close, but it simply doesn't make sense to do business without the kuna, because everyone who comes to us has kuna or euros.

Sometimes, but very rarely, someone asks for dollars, while there's really no demand for other currencies. As a result, our business loses its meaning and we aren't going to just sit here for days on end without work. For the minute, we're calm, we've mentally prepared for the fat that an era of our business journey is coming to an end,'' says Nino, who thinks that it's not exactly the right timing for Eurozone accession due to ongoing inflation and the war in Ukraine causing continued economic issues.

People have been changing more money lately, they've been buying euros, so now there are none left, there's a shortage, we have kuna, but nobody wants that anymore. Croatian exchange offices have always done solid business, they worked non-stop, especially during Christmas, and during the summer months, when Croatian people return home from Germany,'' says Nino, adding that Croats, especially the older generation, are quite distrustful of banks, so they prefer to come to the exchange offices and buy at a higher price.

With Eurozone accession rapidly approaching, the very many Croatian exchange offices dotting the streets throughout the country will become a thing of the past.

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

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Ante Delija Wins 2022 PFL Heavyweight Champion Title, 1 Million USD

November the 26th, 2022 - Ante Delija wins not only an enviable title, but a huge sum of cash across the pond in the Big Apple.

Croatian MMA heavyweight fighter, Ante Delija, won the 2022 PFL Heavyweight Champion title after defeating Brazilian Matheus Scheffel in the first round. With this victory, he managed to go one step further than last season, when he was defeated in the final of the PFL tournament.

Delija positioned himself dominantly and confidently from the start of the fight and took a position in the middle, after which the boxing exchanges began. Delija hits first with a nice combination of crochets to the body and head. Scheffel started to try his jab, but had trouble getting in on the bigger and taller Delija. Delija's first real blow came to Scheffel after a minute and a half, when he hit a right crochet, and the Brazilian staggered for a moment.

Coming out of the second minute, Delija tried a takedown, which he failed, but he managed to control the clinch against the fence of the arena. That didn't last long, and in the middle of the round, the fighters returned to clean boxing in the middle of the cage when they gave each other a fair number of punches. Ante hit again better, this time with a left hook and Scheffel staggered. Delija sensed it and attacked him with all his power, and then sent his opponent to the floor with a few more punches winning by technical knockout in the middle of the first round (2:50 minutes). With this, he achieved a huge victory, one of the biggest in the history of the Croatian MMA.

The PFL heavyweight title and a check for a million dollars are in the hands of a great fighter from Dubrovnik, to whom we congratulate on this magnificent victory ✌️✌️

Ante Delija pobjeda 2

 Ante Delija pobjeda 3

For more, follow our sport section.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Croatian-Chinese Economic Forum Returned After Three Years

November the 26th, 2022 - Following a three year break, most of which was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, the Croatian-Chinese economic forum made a return to Zagreb recently.

As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after being stricter than most of us here in Europe could ever even begin to imagine, China has announced new, slightly milder anti-epidemic measures, which due to the strict policy of "zero cases" have so far meant the absolute closure of the country to foreigners. Tourists still cannot enter China, but in order to mitigate the negative effects on the economy, China is opening up for representatives of multinational companies and of course - for foreign investors. At the same time, state banks will stand more strongly with local companies and China is once again starting a proactive campaign on numerous foreign markets.

As such, the Croatian-Chinese economic forum was successfully held recently here in the City of Zagreb, where about fifteen different Chinese companies conducted business B2B discussions with various Croatian companies. The last time such talks were held exactly three years ago, also here in Zagreb. Chinese companies' interest in doing business in Croatia has only grown after Croatia joined the EU back in summer 2013, and twenty Croatian companies have expressed interest in engaging in direct talks with Chinese businessmen. Mostly, on both sides, we're talking about companies from the agriculture and food industry, as well as those from the IT, energy, and tourism and real estate sector.

Some of the Chinese companies have chosen the Republic of Croatia as a location for their projects here in Europe, specifically Hainan Nanhai Blue Capacity Economic Development, a large economic system operating in various sectors from agriculture, electrical industry to high-tech manufacturing and shipbuilding. In Europe, namely, the company plans to start agricultural production in three countries - in the Czech Republic, Poland and here in Croatia, and the more specific goal is the production of animal feed, meat and meat products.

The company Xi'an TianLong Science and Technology offers cooperation in the research, the development and production of instruments and in vitro diagnostic reagents in the field of genetic testing and molecular diagnostics, and the company BGI Genomics, which operates in an impressive 100 countries, wants to directly establish cooperation in Croatia with medical and scientific institutions for the placement of their technology and research related to genomic sequencing. COFCO International, as a global platform of the Chinese food industry, wants to achieve cooperation in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Croatia.

Anshan Xingong Construction is a Chinese company engaged in the production of building materials, and it is currently examining the possibility of cooperation, and the possibility of overseas transport of heavy cargo with Croatia is being sought by representatives of the Chinese-Polish Joint Stock Shipping Company. Cooperation in the energy industry is being offered by CHINT Noark Electric, which markets its advanced solutions in 140 countries around the world. Ningbo Sanxing Smart Electric also wants to enter the Croatian market with its highly advanced solutions for electricity distribution and use systems, from smart metres, transformers and substations to chargers for electric vehicles.

The Croatia-Chinese economic forum also included representatives of the very well known Huawei Croatia, who want to strengthen their cooperation in the ICT infrastructure industry, and the company Shaanxi Zhongtuo Mine Equipment, which specialises in the development and sale of equipment in the construction of bridges, highways and tunnels, is looking for partners and representatives for the Croatian market.

The largest manufacturer of ball bearings, Xibei Bearing, also wants to explore the Croatian market. Imports from China have been growing strongly this year (amounting to a massive 889 million euros in the first eight months of 2022 alone) and greatly exceed Croatian exports (which weigh in at 62 million euros), which are dominated by raw materials and less processed products such as wood (making up almost 40% of exports) and marble and limestone, as well as construction carpentry. As for Chinese investments in Croatia, they amounted to 179.5 million euros back at the end of 2021.

For more, check out our news section.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Austria Won't Block Croatian Schengen Path, But Germany Might

November the 26th, 2022 - Despite claims to the opposite, Austria has recently cleared up the fact that it will not be standing in the way of the planned Croatian Schengen entry at the beginning of 2023, citing complaints with Schengen expansion in general, and not merely about Croatian accession. Germany, however, might throw a spanner in the works yet.

As Ines Sabalic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Austria will not prevent Croatian Schengen membership from going ahead, and neither will Sweden, which had also threatened to do so in the past. But Germany could.

There is a high chance that Croatian Schengen entry will go ahead without much fuss, but a last-minute issue is also possible. At the moment, in all the Schengen capitals that are being asked about Schengen, Zagreb, the responses are positive to Croatian entry. However, it's not over yet, because there can be unpleasant surprises where you least expect it, and some last minute problems, so we've heard, do indeed exist.

Schengen is much more than free border crossings and data exchanges, which, along with Eurozone entry in January 2023, is a question of confirming political identity for Croatia. For large member states and countries close to the center of the EU, identity is self-evident. For the Scandinavians, the EU is a rational choice. The British refused it for a multitude of reasons. It is crucial for Croatia and this confirmation would have a beneficial effect.

Over in Germany, a key part of the ruling coalition is the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grunen), and their reaction to Croatian Schengen plans is unpredictable. If they decide to make a fuss at the last minute, Scholz's government and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser will not be able to support Croatia's entry. It's more than likely that everything will be fine, but it ain't over until the fat lady sings, as they say in Britain.

Previous negative indications from some countries to Croatian Schengen entry were motivated by internal political demands and disagreements. An example of that can be found in Sweden, where two completely different parties, the Swedish Democrats, and the Social Democrats, demanded all three countries (Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania) be stopped form enteting. The far-right Sweden Democrats are against it, and the Social Democrats ask "What benefit does Sweden have from the entry of Croatia into Schengen?". At the same time, Ylva Johansson, Commissioner of the European Commission (EC) for Internal Affairs, whose responsibility includes Schengen, is a Swedish socialist herself.

As things stand now, the problem with the Swedes has been solved, that is, Sweden confirmed once again in Brussels that it will give passage to Croatian Schengen entry without causing any issues along the way.

The same is true in nearby Austria, despite recent issues the media has cited. There, the party in power, the OVP, is nervous because the public's trust in the party's good handling of the migrant issue has long-since dried up, and nostalgia has grown (according to polls reported by Der Standard) for Sebastian Kurtz, who advocated a hard-line migration policy for Austria. The threats against Croatian Schengen entry were aimed at increasing and consolidating support among VP voters, but the main issue is, as stated, Schengen itself, and not merely Croatia entering it.

The main reason for the increased number of migrants in Austria is that people simply come, pass through Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Croatia, and are directed to the northwest, towards "real" Europe. Many member states, such as Austria in this case, probably imagine Croatia as a kind of European Union military frontier, a border area that was once defined by Maria Theresa as a defense zone against the expansion of Turkey, and which later grew into a Habsburg war province.

Quite simply, the Austrians want fewer migrants or at least effective control of who enters and when. Their issue is with Schengen simply ''not working'', to quote one Austrian minister. At the same time, in these same member states, coalition or opposition parties on the left demand respect for the human rights of migrants.

The parties of the left, and especially the Greens, also understand the border areas in a better way, and what they demand is an individualised approach to migrants, so that one of the fundamental values ​​on which civilisation rests, namely respect for human rights, is not compromised. Recently, the Greens in the European Parliament also voted in favour of admitting Croatia to Schengen, because the argument of the right to enter, and for equal rights for all, prevailed in the end.

At the same time, many MEPs, and especially the German Greens, continue to show great dissatisfaction with the violation of human rights at the borders. There, the petition "Europe, stop paying for pushback" was recently launched, in which, along with Croatia, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Spain and Slovenia are all criticised for being verbally and physically violent towards potential asylum seekers, and resorting to violent measures of rejection (pushbacks).

The Greens are a complex party, and the only one among the major parties in all of the European Union that has a deeply idealistic vision, which is largely channeled into mainstream politics, and a smaller but highly visible part into activist actions. 

The lens through which these two opposing political formations see the incidents at the European Union's external borders with migrants is different. The only thing in common is that both are dissatisfied with the European Commission. Some, like the OVP, and we've seen this from the remarks made by the Austrian Minister of the Interior Karner, criticise the too lenient approach of the Commission regarding the asylum policy and Schengen, while the German Greens criticize Frontex, the European agency that is at the external borders and helps the national border police in their work.

These members are dissatisfied, they want something from Greece, which they constantly criticise, and also from Croatia, which would like to enter Schengen, but what do they want exactly? What kind of border area should Croatia be? Should there be a military landscape at all? Nobody seems to have much of an idea. However, it will be necessary to have a long, hard think about what the Croatian borders, the EU's external ones, will look like following Schengen entry in 2023.

For more, make sure to keep up with our news and politics sections.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Rijeka Designer Marko Perozic Stands Out to John Malkovich

November the 26th, 2022 - Rijeka designer Marko Perozic has managed to make himself and the company he works for stand out to no less than John Malkovich, and his new play which recently premiered in Lisbon is putting creative, talented Croatian poster design on display.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the leading voice in this brand new play, which is actually an adaptation of the book "Nazi Literature in America", is played by the famous actor John Malkovich himself, and the plot is set in Chile, which was therefore the inspiration for this creative solution which the Rijeka designer Marko Perozic dealt with excellently.

''First of all, we had to do a little research on the play, the theme. We came to the point that it would be good to translate the Chilean flag and motif into direct communication on the poster itself,'' said Marko Perozic, the co-owner and creative director of a design and marketing agency from Rijeka.

The creation of the poster was ordered by an agency with which the company from Rijeka cooperates, which organises concerts, plays and represents famous people in marketing. One of them is John Malkovich who, out of three offered design solutions by the Rijeka company, chose this one.

''It was quite fun. It's nice when someone like him approves some kind of visual,'' Rijeka designer Marko Perozic pointed out for HRT.

It is otherwise one in a series of successful jobs done by this particular design agency from Rijeka, whose team consists of eleven creative people. They are engaged in marketing, the creation of design solutions and the branding of various products and services.

For more, make sure to keep up with our news section. For more on Croatian design, products, companies and entrepreneurs, make sure to check out our dedicated Made in Croatia section.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Zlatko Dalić and Ivan Perišić ahead of Canada: "We Need to Show the Real Croatia"

November 26, 2022 - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić and Ivan Perišić addressed the press before Croatia's 2022 World Cup match against Canada on Sunday. 

After drawing 0-0 against Morocco, expectations are high for Croatia to get a good result against Canada in their second match. The two teams meet at Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar on Sunday, November 27, at 19:00 local time. Canada lost their 2022 World Cup opener against Belgium 0-1. 

After Canada's first match, coach John Herdman stirred the pot by saying, 'eff Croatia.'

"I told them they belong here, and we're going to go and eff Croatia. That's as simple as it gets," Herdman said. 

Dalić replied: 

"It's not really nice to say something like that, but it's his right. We need to show on the pitch that we are better."

Will there be any lineup changes compared to Morocco?

"We changed our training to the evening. This is a crucial game. We need to be aggressive. Canada played great against Belgium. Vlašić didn't train with us last night, so we will see the status at training tonight. We need to have a lot more energy than we had in the first game," said Dalić.

"For every national team, this is something new. We need to show a lot more in the next two games. We were not good offensively. We need to maintain what we did defensively and fix our offense. We have another training tonight. We need to show the real Croatia.  That last game wasn't us. We need to return to how we were in the Nations League," said Perišić. 

Will this be Perišić's last World Cup?

"The focus is on the next game. After that, what will be for the next 2-3 years, I don't know," said Perišić. 

On how the team was different four years ago in Russia

"Four years ago was different. Our starting lineup was together for ten years, playing for the biggest European clubs. It's not the same now. The teams are different and can't be compared. 6-7 players came from that generation. We have created a new team, but I want a result," said Dalić. 

Who will be the #9 for Croatia?

"I won't tell you the lineup or who will be the striker. We have four strikers; each plays in their way. For tomorrow we will choose the best we have. Four years ago, it was different. We have different player profiles now. We will choose the best we have for tomorrow," added Dalić. 

"Canada played aggressively against Belgium. They have a lot of energy and might. We need to be careful. Many of these 'smaller' national teams are surprising everyone. We cannot look at the past. This is all new. We are playing in the middle of the club season. We had no real break. This means anything can happen," he continued. 

"We watched Canada against Belgium. We need to be able to keep up with their speed and aggressiveness. They played well and did well against Belgium," said Perišić. 

How did the Croatia team respond to the Canada coach's comments?

"Croatia gives respect to everyone, no matter what, no matter who we play."

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 25 November 2022

Former Minister Žalac Paid for Her Birthday Party with EU Funds

November 25, 2022 - The former minister of regional development and funds of the European Union, Gabrijela Žalac (HDZ), celebrated her 40th birthday at the beginning of 2019 at the Šarm restaurant in Zagreb.

The bill was huge, a total of HRK 23,750. The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds approved that account for payment on March 4, 2019, at the expense of the Operational Program Competitiveness and Cohesion, i.e. from EU funds. Telegram.hr reports today that the disputed account is in the case file of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, on the basis of whose order minister Žalac was arrested at the end of last year on suspicion of illegalities in the process of public procurement of an IT system, known as the "software affair" discovered by Telegram.

The European investigator's office is in possession of invoices proving that the Ministry headed by Gabrijela Žalac spent more than two million kuna in just one year for catering, various meetings, conferences and working groups, or hotel and restaurant services. There is a well-founded suspicion that these expenses were often a cover for issuing fictitious invoices. Telegram's source reveals that, for example, on January 31, 2019, food was ordered for 50 people of the Interdepartmental Working Group for the preparation of the National Development Strategy until 2030, but the food was allegedly not delivered at that meeting, for which the ministry was later billed in the amount from HRK 14,000. The participants of the meeting said that on that occasion they were not served oxtail soup, duck pâté, or beef loin bruschetta. On February 13, 2019, the ministry headed by minister Žalac paid that bill to the company Gero. d.o.o. which owns the restaurant Atlanta Bocca Marai, and it was at the expense of the Sector for expert management and coordination of investments from EU instruments.

The invoices combed by the Office of the European Investigator were often issued after midnight, and there was no cost specification on them, but only the total amount, which most often ranged from HRK 10 to 20 thousand. None of the invoices included the names of the persons who attended the lunches or dinners, although this is an obligation imposed by fiscal responsibility. Telegram unofficially learned that at the celebration of the minister's 40th birthday in the Šarm restaurant in February 2019, among others, there was Mladen Šimunac, owner of the company Micro Projekt, whom the Office of the European Investigator suspects because of the contract concluded with the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds regarding with the installation of the SPUR software, as well as Tomislav Petric, at that time the director of SAFU, arrested on November 10 last year, when Gabrijela Žalac was also arrested. According to Telegram's source, the guests at that party were Ivana Jakir Bajo, then the chief state treasurer, now the vice-governor of the Croatian National Bank, and the then Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Prime Minister, Tomislav Tolušić. 

Interestingly, the costs of the consumption of spirits and wine, drunk during dinners and lunches were paid by the state budget, since the rules of EU funds do not recognize the costs of alcohol consumed at conferences. Those bills, Telegram's source claims, were mostly signed by the then minister Žalac, state secretaries or others from the minister's cabinet.

 

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