Friday, 11 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Fortenova, Foster Parents and Schengen

November the 11th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from still apparently not really knowing what's going on with Sberbank's shares in Fortenova and talk of the alleged Croatian desire to squash corruption, to more cash for foster parents, a blast from the past with COVID-19 and of course, Croatia's Schengen approval.

The Croatian Government is seeking additional financial help from the European Union following the coronavirus pandemic

With the utterly dire situation being faced by Ukraine following Russian invasion early this year and inflation causing us to have to dig deeper and deeper to make ends meet, the global coronavirus pandemic which rocked the world in 2020 almost seems like a distant memory. The government however is still working on patching up the enormous holes it left in the state budget and now wants additional financial help from the powers that be in Brussels.

Assistance in the amount of 550 million euros from the SURE instrument will be sought by the Croatian Government, and with the decision it recently made on that, it also obliged state-owned companies to pay 60 percent of last year's net profit into the state budget for the year 2022.

Taking into account the increase in public expenditures by 2.2 billion euros from February the 1st, 2020 to the end of April, 2022 due to national measures taken to address the socioeconomic consequences of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Croatia decided to request additional financial assistance from the SURE Instrument in the amount of 550 million euros, stated Finance Minister Marko Primorac, noting that the SURE Instrument (a European Union instrument for the issuing of temporary support to reduce the risk of unemployment in an emergency situation) provides extremely favourable financing conditions.

He also stated that on October the 25th, 2022, the Council of the EU adopted an amendment to the Implementing Decision of the Council, which approved Croatia's request for additional financial assistance to be paid out in the amount of 550 million euros.

European Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi says there is a will to stamp out corruption in Croatia

Laura Codruta Kovesi stated that corruption can unfortunately be found absolutely everywhere and there are no "clean" countries anywhere in Europe. She added that Croatia is showing its willingness to uncover and investigate criminal acts that harm the financial interests of the European Union.

"There's a myth that I would like to dispel today. If Croatia or Bulgaria or Romania have more cases of corruption that come to light than some other EU member state, it doesn't mean that these countries are more corrupt than others. There is no 'clean' country in Europe. Corruption is everywhere," said Europe's chief prosecutor.

"Here in Croatia, I see the will to uncover these criminal acts, to investigate them, and I think that is very important because when we talk about corruption and the fight against financial fraud, how the authorities position themselves is very important. If they sweep everything under the rug and don't uncover any cases, it doesn't mean that things are clean. I think the number of cases shows that there is political will... And that everyone is doing an excellent job," she pointed out.

She said that all cases are equally important, whether they involve ministers or ordinary people, because everyone is equal before the law and investigations into corruption are conducted in the same way. More than 1,200 cases of corruption are now under investigation by the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), but she said she couldn't talk about them publicly and couldn't comment on individual cases and cases which are currently under investigation.

It is estimated that the loss from VAT fraud, especially related to organised crime, amounts to 60 billion euros annually across the EU. In the first year of the EPPO's operations, criminal assets worth 250 million euros were confiscated. The EPPO's annual budget otherwise stands at a massive 44 million euros.

The Fortenova saga continues, and it has now come to light that the Dutch court never gave its approval for the sale of Sberbank's Fortenova shares to anyone

The competent Dutch court did not approve the sale of Sberbank's stake in Fortenova to an investor from the United Arab Emirates, claims the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that permission was neither sought or issued at any point.

The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an answer to the question of whether the Dutch authorities had given approval for the above transaction. They received an answer that permission was never requested, nor was it issued.

The MVEP states that the ministries will cooperate in order to determine all of the relevant information regarding the violation of the EU sanctions regime which has caused this scandal. It should be noted that the approval for the sale of Sberbank's 43 percent stake in Fortenova was not even given by the competent authorities right here in Croatia.

According to the EU regulation, a possible exemption can be provided for such transactions in the event that the competent authority of that EU member state grants its approval, but considering that the competent authorities here in Croatia and up the Netherlands have not done this, it is likely that the mystery surrounding the Fortenova saga will continue.

The police contact the State Attorney's Office of the Republic of Croatia in regard to the Fortenova situation

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic recently confirmed that the police have approached the State Attorney's Office of the Republic of Croatia (DORH) regarding the sale of Sberbank's shares in Fortenova. He also pointed out that at the stage when the Council for the Implementation of Sanctions is in session and they are collecting all the necessary information, nobody can give any concrete answers.

When asked if the Arab investor to whom Sberbank sold its stake in Fortenova is coming to Croatia and if there will be a meeting in the government, Bozinovic repeated that he did not know and that there were many things that needed to be investigated and clarified before he could speak on anything.

When asked if the government had received SOA's report on Fortenova, he said that SOA regularly reports to the state and institutions about this and other such matters. When asked repeatedly whether he had received information from the SOA, he answered in the affirmative, but added that he could not reveal anything at this moment in time.

The government increases allowances paid out to foster parents 

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stated at a recent government session that by increasing the basis for calculating the compensation to be paid out to foster parents and maintenance allowance for the year 2023, an additional step forward will be made for 2,504 Croatian foster parents.

"We are making an additional step forward for 2,504 foster parents and 5,838 beneficiaries in foster families," Plenkovic said, adding that this is a continuation of the increase in financial resources being poured into the field of foster care.

The government provides 160.5 million kuna in EU cash for the construction of a new port terminal in Osijek

The Croatian Government recently secured state co-financing in the amount of 160.5 million kuna for the construction of a bulk cargo transshipment terminal in the Port of Osijek. Government decisions have as such given consent to the Port Authority of Osijek to assume obligations at the expense of the state budget throughout 2023, 2024 and 2025 in the total amount of 160.5 million kuna.

Back in September this year, the Board of Directors of the Osijek Port Authority made a decision to enter into a contract for the construction of a new port terminal with GH Holding from neighbouring Slovenia. The value of the works was determined in the total amount of 143.5 million kuna without VAT, or 179.3 million kuna with VAT, with a deadline of 28 months.

The financial resources needed to settle the anticipated contractual obligations have been secured from the European Cohesion Fund and the State Budget of the Republic of Croatia for 2022 and projections for the years 2023 and 2024.

The new terminal for transshipment of bulk cargo in Osijek will be located on the right bank of the Drava River in the eastern part of the port area, and it will include two new connections spanning a length of 240 metres, the installation of facilities for the transshipment, loading and unloading and transport of goods, an access road which will be 300 metres long, railway tracks with a length of 610 metres, crane tracks and roads with a length of 285 metres, a substation and the construction of the necessary communal infrastructure, according to the State Secretary in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Josip Bilaver.

The construction of the brand new Osijek port terminal will reduce traffic congestion in the city centre and the negative impact on the environment and noise, and the safety of ships in the port will increase, he added.

Croatia is given the nod to join Schengen by the European Parliament

Last but by absolutely no means least, the moment we've all been waiting for has finally arrived and Croatia has been given the final nod from the powers that be to join the Schengen zone at long last. This is certainly a moment HDZ is likely to run with as a scamp of their perceived success in Croatian politics.

In his opening address at a recently held government session, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that the European Parliament had just voted for Croatia's entry into Schengen.

"We are very satisfied with the presentation of the Commissioner, that is, the Vice-President of the EC, who gave very clear and strong support. There were 534 votes in favour of Croatia's membership of the Schengen zone," said the Prime Minister, congratulating Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic and the whole team who have been leading the activities to push for Croatian Schengen accession for the past few years.

"We are moving towards the final steps of the final adoption at the level of the EU Council on December the 8th" said the Prime Minister, adding that "with this, in addition to the decisions already made regarding membership in the Eurozone, Croatia will complete its two goals of deeper integration within the EU with both Schengen and Eurozone entry as of the 1st of January, 2023.

"These are such major capital foreign policy state goals that have now finally been realised, and in the years ahead we will have the opportunity to talk about the fruits of Croatia's additional international positioning," he said.

 

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to follow our dedicated section and keep an eye out for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

AWFT22: Resilience and War – Tourism in Kharkiv, Ukraine

November 10, 2022 – On October 27 and 28, TCN had the honour of attending the A World for Travel Forum in Nimes, France. With the theme of the forum being sustainability in travel and tourism, there was a lot of talk aimed at climate change, the issues of cross-sector collaboration, involvement of local communities and industries; small businesses were sharing their visions of sustainable travel, companies like Mastercard and Google had their say, you name it – the forum covered it. There was one panel that stood out, though. One topic that made us feel it is just as important now and long-term. One that reminded us of home. A Case Study: Resilience and War, the agenda said, or how Kharkiv in Ukraine is preparing to protect their cultural heritage and monuments in times of crisis.

Sorry, what? Who thinks about tourism in times like that? It turns out it’s those who need to. Sustainability seems to be a lot more than offsetting your carbon footprint, eating locally, or even government policies supporting the development of such tourism. It is a common goal; it is about the ordinary person; it is the realisation that we must support each other. In every sense of the phrase, we must stand together, now and again, to ensure a better future for all. Even if cities fall and disappear, people remain; our culture lives on and becomes our legacy.

On a panel moderated by Peter Greenberg, the CBS News Travel Editor, his guests Yuliia Zghurska (Deputy Director, Kharkiv City Council), and Hon. Yuliya Sosyukina (Goodwill Ambassador, IHRCHQ/Mrs. Universe Monaco 2021) spoke about what the city of Kharkiv is currently facing and what measures have been taken to preserve its culture as much as possible. The most important message: keep sharing, keep spreading the word, help any way you can. Though both lovely Ukrainian ladies were fully booked for interviews on both days, we had a chance to sit down with them and share experiences, stories, frustrations, and feelings of love, respect, and support.

Our conversation started with the reasons why they came to the forum. It is important, they said, because they need to be able to plan their future. The war will be over, and they need to speak about Ukraine, about Kharkiv – now. Kharkiv is the second biggest city in Ukraine and one of its most visited places, with a million tourists annually. Even in these times, they say, tourism in Kharkiv is alive, just with a different definition. Now tourists are the diplomats, journalists, and people who care and want to see what is happening and how they can help. The city’s officials have now become its tourist promotors in an entirely new way. Their primary mission is to save and preserve their country. What a job, huh?

When we mentioned the Homeland war in Croatia, they pointed out that it is now important for other countries who have been through similar events to share their experience, teach Ukraine how to cope, look into the future, and above all, show their support. They do think that Croatia’s Vukovar has set a good example. Memorial tourism, they say, is something we need to accept but must not allow to become the whole identity of a place. And even though it might seem like that in Vukovar, especially in November, the energy of the city and its young minds, we are sure, will drive tourism forward. Just ask any of our friends from the Vukovar 365 series.

Kharkiv4.png

A World for Travel

As for Kharkiv, its representatives do believe in its bright future. They carry hope and walk bravely into every new day. Their inspiration, as they say, are Kharkiv’s 30 sister cities all over Europe and the world, some of which have joined the list recently, like Turku in Finland. The financial and humanitarian support from these and many other places make the difference.

And what made the difference for us was meeting these lovely ladies, thinking about resilience and war with them, and witnessing some genuine, warm human moments. The single most memorable one had to be a young Russian stepping up to the Ukrainian ladies to express their full support and heartbreak over the situation. As they pointed out, war has already ruined many lives on both sides of the border, and the longer it goes on, the more it takes away from the everyday human. No one wants war; no one deserves it. We stand with all its victims, equally inspired by Kharkiv’s panel and the words shared between its guests.

If you would like to help, we will share a few links where you can do that. Keep in mind that there are many ways to do so, but do stay wary of scams. If you are looking for other ways, we recommend checking out the lists of verified sources like CNBC or Forbes.

Help Kharkiv:

https://www.helpkharkiv.org/

https://www.kharkivfoundation.org/home

Help Ukraine:

https://donate.redcrossredcrescent.org/ua/donate/~my-donation?_cv=1

https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ukraine-crisis-relief-fund/

https://vostok-sos.org/en/ukraine-under-fire-support-vostok-sos-aid-operation/

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

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Canary Black Filming to Disrupt Zagreb Trams for Several Days

November the 10th, 2022 - Canary Black, a film which stars Kate Beckinsale, is still being filmed in different locations across the City of Zagreb. Owing to that continued filming, Zagreb trams won't be running through the very centre of the city during the evening hours for several days.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, ZET reported on Thursday that due to the filming of Canary Black in the city, Zagreb trams will not run along Frankopanska ulica (street), Ilica, through Ban Jelacic Square, Franjo Racki street or through Zrinjevac during the night from Saturday, November the 12th into Sunday, November the 13th, and this will last until Thursday, the November 17th.

To be more specific, on Saturday, November the 12th, from 21:15 until Sunday, November the 13th, at 18:00, tram traffic will be suspended entirely along Frankopanska and llica (from Republic of Austria street to Ban Jelacic Square). This will encompass Ban Jelacic Square, Jurisiceva, Franjo Racki street and Zrinjevac due to ongoing filming.

In addition to the above, Zagreb trams in the same locations will not run from Sunday, November the 13th, to Thursday, November the 17th, from 19:15 to 05:30.

At the same time, tram lines 1, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17 will operate along modified routes in both directions, and bus substitutions of night lines 31, 32 and 34 will drive through the Central Station instead of going through Ban Jelacic Square.

For the same reason, from Monday, November the 14th, to Thursday, November the 17th, from 19:00 to 22:15, bus line 150 will not operate either, ZET announced.

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

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Rijeka Startup Gamio Seeking Experts After Attracting Investment

November the 10th, 2022 - The innovative Rijeka startup Gamio, which was born out of a love of video games, has attracted an impressive five million kuna, and now it is on the hunt for experts to add to its team.

As Josipa Ban/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, young entrepreneur Marko Matijevic decided to turn his passion for video games and gaming into a proper business. Last year, he launched the Hall of Game (HoG), the largest gaming arena in all of the Republic of Croatia, while simultaneously working on the development of the unique and innovative platform Gamio.GG, which is based on web3 technology.

Thanks to that platform, gamers should soon (as early as next year) start making money while playing. This play2earn concept is in complete contrast to the traditional gaming concept where players have to pay to play. Investors were quick to recognise Marko's unique idea, and the Rijeka startup Gamio recently received an investment of five million kuna. How the Gamio.GG platform will function, what the money will be invested in, and when we can expect it on the market, was explained by founder Marko Matijevic.

How did the idea and then the work on the development of the Gamio.GG platform come about?

The idea was actually "born" through the Hall of Game (HoG) in a conversation with various brands we work with. Before the very opening of HoG, there was an idea of the ​​parallel development of an eSports platform, but after the initial few events and tournaments that we did for brands, we realised that, as much as we love eSports, a lot of platforms are already trying to break into that segment, and the number of players who participating in esports competitions is limited.

For this reason, we turned our attention to everyday players, who actually make up the vast majority of HoG visitors, and to a slightly more "casual" approach. We tested the initial ideas with the players themselves, pivoted them and finally found the perfect investor and partner - Hellens Rock.

In that process, I was lucky and met the core development team, without which such rapid progress wouldn't have been possible. We've come up with many solutions together and I'm extremely glad that we've been participating in the development of the company together from the very beginning.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced in developing the platform?

Quality personnel is the greatest issue I've come across yet. I'm not just talking about product development, but also operationally speaking. Gaming is interesting to everyone, but not everyone understands the business side of "playing games". So, we're also looking for experts from other industries who primarily have an interest in this type of product and understand the gaming culture.

How will the platform actually work? Which video games will all gamers be able to play and earn GG cryptocurrency?

Players simply select the tasks they want to complete while playing their game. This can be in the form of "Get the highest score in one single game" or "Assist 10 times in one hour". The so-called "Ticket" currency is collected, which is used to enter exclusive tasks that then carry our GG cryptocurrency. In addition to all that, there are many options that players can use to increase their chances of winning bigger prizes or simply take a bigger risk for a bigger reward.

What kind of interest do you expect, especially considering that the crypto market isn't doing well at the moment?

Our primary market is gamers, and only then crypto users. For investment reasons, we postponed the release of the cryptocurrency and devoted ourselves to product development. The interest of early testers was even greater than expected. We plan to launch GG during the next year, depending on the growth of the number of users and the state of the crypto market going forward. During this time, users can decide whether they want to exchange their GG tokens for rewards within our "Shop" system, wait until they can cash out on their cryptocurrency exchanges, or simply reinvest them within the platform itself.

You recently received a pre-seed investment for its development, i.e. initial investment in the development, in the amount of 660 thousand euros, i.e. five million kuna. What will that money be invested in?

It takes considerable time to develop a custom-made blockchain-based platform. Headlines about investments in web3 companies always look bombastic, but most of the investment goes to development itself and later to marketing. The investment is being used primarily for employment and product development, but also for the first permanent users. We also equipped some modern offices in Rijeka and a smaller regional office in Zagreb, which is soon expected to move to a more attractive location.

You received the investment from the Hellen's Rock investment fund, which was founded by entrepreneur Sacha Dragic. How easy or difficult was it to secure the investment? How did you attract the investor?

Sacha is an extremely capable entrepreneur surrounded by experts like Stjepko and Andrea Cordas, who have immense experience in managing tech companies. Since we're friends from a similar industry, it wasn't difficult to have a similar view on the future of the company's business. The whole process didn't really last long because we all knew what numbers were important and what realistic goals to set in the coming period. As I already mentioned, an acquaintance from the same technology sector actually made it possible for us to speak a "similar language" and also made it possible for us to achieve cooperation much faster than it would have been through some more classic VC paths.

When should the platform be finished and be made available on the market?

The MVP is already ready and has been tested several times. We're now dealing with all of the final preparations in order to start the closed phase of market entry and the beginning of marketing. In the beginning, we're going to be targeting a few hundred gamers and will gradually increase the number of players on the platform. Finally, with the issuance of GG tokens to the cryptocurrency market, the platform will become available to everyone.

Which markets are you targeting, and which gamers from which countries?

We're starting with Croatia's more immediate region because through the Hall of Game, we've gained a very good insight into local trends, cooperation with various organisations, and we also want to give our players the opportunity to try the product first. After a short phase with Croatia and the region's market, our goal is certainly America, but until that moment comes, we're going to focus on markets such as Latin America and Turkey. The USA is a logical choice, but it's also the most financially demanding, and we'll start with it after we prove our profitability here on these other markets. Of course, then there's the rest of "Tier1" in European countries like the UK, Germany, France...

Last year, you launched the Hall of Game, a gaming centre in Zagreb's Z shopping centre, in which one million euros was invested. Are you satisfied with the level of attendance and your work there?

The first year was phenomenal. We've done a lot of events, both our own and partner's. We put ourselves on the "gaming map" not only of this particular region but also of Europe with the recent Call of Duty tournaments.

Of course, collaborations with big brands only improved the perception of HOG. We also had problems and learned some things the hard way, but that's why we are extremely confident in what we do. I think it can always be better and I hope this is just a fraction of what we want to achieve.

For more on Croatian companies, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

How Many Fines Have Been Issued for Incorrect Zagreb Waste Disposal?

November the 10th, 2022 - The rather unpopular (initially, anyway) new rules surrounding Zagreb waste disposal came into force on October the 1st. Just how many fines and warnings have been dished out to people failing to respect the new rules here in the capital?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, as of December the 1st this year, there will be no more ''blue and yellow bag'' weeks, and plastic (yellow) removal will increase to once a week, announced the head of Cistoca, Davor Vic. By the end of next year, the new Zagreb waste disposal system should be fully operational across the entire capital city, he said for Vecernji TV.

He expressed his satisfaction with the speed with which the residents of Zagreb accepted the model that came into effect on the first day of October. In the first month of the new rules surrounding Zagreb waste disposal, the capital's residents produced 27 percent less mixed municipal waste, increased the separation of bio-waste by 30 percent, while plastic is 40 percent heavier in terms of weight and even more by volume.

"Even on the ground, it can be seen that there is less mixed waste in general, so the prerequisites have been created for us to shift our capacities to recyclable waste," Vic said.

For this reason, for 90,000 service users living in family homes, the removal of mixed waste will be gradually abolished from twice to just once a week. This was introduced for about 60,000 houses by Monday, and it will cover the rest as well before end of the month.

"In family houses, their charged volume is sufficient for removal once a week. But in multi-apartment buildings, where the tanks are outside, we'll reduce the removal of such waste gradually,'' he explained.

Paper, glass and especially plastic will be picked up more often after December the 1st this year. "We have about 100 critical locations from which we collect waste every night because the yellow containers are spilling things out there. In cooperation with communal wardens, we also started issuing fines, which turned out to have an effect,'' said Vic.

This can best be seen in the very centre of the city, where, despite the initial skepticism, the new model for Zagreb waste disposal worked very quickly because people recognised the advantage of not having bins lift out on the pavements. In the first month of its implementation, not many fines were issued or collected, he revealed.

"Over the past few weeks, Cistoca employees stuck warnings or thank you notes on the bins and as such let it be known that we're actually monitoring what bin users are doing. Most of the fines were written for non-compliance with communal rules, which is nothing new. It has always been stipulated that waste can't just be dumped anywhere. We immediately punish people for doing that, and after that we'll start checking what is being thrown in the rubbish containers. The punishments aren't symbolic or excessive, but they're definitely sufficient for people to correct themselves and to understand that we're doing all this for the common good," Vic said.

The focus is on the centre of Zagreb, he added, because it is quite a specific case. As in any city, the highest volume of people stay and pass through there and it is the most touristic.

A big problem, Vic added, is being caused directly by unscrupulous owners of catering and hospitality establishments who use other people's rubbish containers for their own waste.

"We're dealing with that with the municipal police, because they have to deal with their packaging in their own arrangement with Cistoca or with another company. We're in charge of taking away their municipal waste," he said. He also commented on the complaints of residents from Novi Zagreb about the unbearable stench and bad readings at the Zagreb 3 air quality measuring station.

"We haven't yet come across any parameter according to which this could be related to what we're doing at the Jakusevac landfill, because nothing has changed in our business except that we have less mixed waste. It is "business as usual" with us,'' Vic said. As a possible source of the stench, many are pointing the finger at the Zrinjevac compost plant, where biowaste from households is currently processed.

"We have impurities in bio-waste, but we separate it all first and take it to the landfill in the form of mixed waste. There's more biowaste than there was before, but it is still within the planned capacity of Zrinjevac. We constantly have inspections due to reports, but the more they come, the more they determine that we're working according to the permits and rules of the profession," emphasised Vic.

Project documentation for the biogas plant and composting plant in Novska is now also being prepared, sources of financing are being sought, and proper solutions are expected soon. Applications for landfills are still ongoing, two have been built so far, and three are in the process of being constructed.

For more, make sure to keep up with our dedicated news section.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Americans Investing in Brand New Zabok Medical Centre

November the 10th, 2022 - Americans are investing a huge sum of money in a brand new Zabok medical centre, but just how much of a role with the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO) play in it all?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, although many details about the establishment of the new Zabok medical centre, which will be a centre for the treatment of malignant diseases, have yet to be defined, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre's (UPMC) investment of about 15 million euros in Hrvatsko Zagorje is the first investment of this magnitude by foreign investors in Croatian healthcare.

The announcement about the investment that will be realised in cooperation with the General Hospital Zabok and the St. Catherine Special Hospital (Sv. Katarina), owned by Dragan Primorac, comes at a time when the state seems to have decided to strengthen cooperation between public and private healthcare.

This is further evidenced by the public support that the founders of the future Zabok medical centre received when signing the cooperation agreement from the government representatives, and support for such projects will also be given by the new legal regulations that will direct patients to private institutions in the country instead of urging them to seek treatment abroad, regardless of whether they have contracts with HZZO or not.

However, we have yet to see how many services from the new Zabok medical centre will actually be made available to Croatia's residents who are HZZO insured individuals. Namely, as confirmed by them, HZZO wasn't officially contacted regarding the possibility of contracting services with the future Centre for Oncology.

For the American investors, however, this is certainly an investment in health tourism, considering that they will be able to gain the market of Croatia's entire wider region, as well as the whole of Europe. It is also the largest American healthcare institution that employs 92,000 employees and 5,000 doctors, with a massive annual budget of 23 billion dollars.

There are a total of 40 hospitals within the UPMC chain, and in addition to over the USA, they are currently present in Italy, Ireland, China and Kazakhstan. As they claim from St. Catherine, this large investment will provide Croatian patients with diagnostic and therapeutic services completely equivalent to those in the USA, in accordance with the existing prices set by HZZO.

The new Zabok medical centre will be located on the premises of the Zabok General Hospital, which the hospital has been renting out to the St. Catherine Special Hospital since back in 2008. It spans 2,200 square metres. In addition, two linear accelerators will be built for radiation purposes, the location has already been defined, and permits need to be obtained for this. The plan is to complete the brand new medical centre in a period of about one year.

"This is primarily about a huge step forward in the transfer of the latest knowledge and technologies from the USA, the kind of which we can only dream of. When we talk to Croatian oncologists, they believe that in a few years, with the support of UPMC, Croatia could be at the very top of the EU in terms of oncology services," Jadranka Primorac, a member of the administrative council of the St. Catherine Special Hospital stated.

She added that this type of therapy and treatment, as well as state-of-the-art diagnostics in cooperation with UPMC, must be available to every Croatian resident. "It is the beginning and the end of everything. If you look at EC strategies, one of the key steps forward is to make this kind of therapy available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Among other things, this is why we have HZZO,'' she explained.

Zabok is apparently now preparing negotiations with the state insurer, HZZO, which so far has not quite fulfilled all the efforts of private institutions to offer their services to the Institute's policyholders in greater numbers. One of the key obstacles was often the too low price of the services covered by HZZO, and since these are new services that didn't even exist within the Croatian healthcare system, those prices have yet to be established.

Negotiations with HZZO will certainly be one of the most important steps for future partners. Director of the Zabok General Hospital, Tihomir Vancina, pointed out that there are still a number of operational and technical matters to be resolved, from space to personnel engagement.

"We agreed in principle that we want to build the Zabok medical centre, and now we need to see how to implement it all," stated Vancina, who believes that everything can be done in the space of one year, especially considering that the investment has been under consideration for four years since the UPMC team was in Zabok for the first time. "This will be a huge step in improving the quality of the treatment on offer.

In the Zabok General Hospital, we have departments where our oncology patients can have part of the procedure, but for the rest they have to go to Zagreb, which will not be necessary in the future. The cancer survival rate in the USA is significantly higher than it is here in Croatia, precisely because of the available therapy that we're now bringing to the country. For the state, this is an ideal model, because it doesn't have to invest in space, equipment and personnel, it only has to pay for the services," concluded Vancina.

For more, make sure to keep up with our dedicated news section.

 

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Report of Sexual Assault as US Navy Carrier Departs Split

November 9, 2022 - As the USS George H.W. Bush carrier departs Split, the news of a sexual assault on Croatian soil emerges.

Last weekend, while the carrier was staying in the port of Split, it is reported that a group of officers rented a house with a swimming pool and sauna in the Marina area near Trogir. As Slobodna Dalmacija writes, the young sailors were having fun, and upon returning to the carrier, one of the female 20-year-old sailors reported to her superior officer that she had been raped at that party.

Slobodna Dalmacija learned that, according to the victim's story, the sexual assault took place in the sauna. She was there at the time with one other female and one male sailor, and one of them pushed his fingers into the victim's genitals without her consent. 

The US navy investigators immediately launched an investigation, and they requested assistance from the Split police on Sunday, November 6. They asked for their help with conducting an investigation at the scene, taking any potential video surveillance footage, and talking to the owner of the house. A day later, the carrier set sail from Split in an unknown direction, and on it were both the victim and the possible perpetrator. American soldiers and sailors are "untouchable" in Croatia as far as their criminal responsibility is concerned since 2008, when the Croatian Parliament made an exception for the US armed forces in Croatia.

One of the examples of similar instance dates back to 2006, when a 20-year-old drunk pilot from the aircraft carrier "USS Enterprise" broke into the house of a 85-year-old woman from Split in Bačvice, grabbed her while she was sleeping, threw her to the ground and abused her until two of her neighbors came to the rescue. The American navy police arrived at the scene of the incident and arrested the pilot, taking him to the ship for detention. He was allegedly later given a dishonourable discharge, but he was not held accountable in Croatia, where he reportedly committed the crime.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Olive Harvest 2022 Underway on Korčula Island

November 9, 2022 - Following the old adage "All Saints - ladder on the olive tree", the olive harvest 2022 has started on the island of Korčula. 

Dora Lozica writes for Slobodna Dalmacija about what the olive oil producers of the island have to say about this year's results of their efforts. The dry year brought a somewhat weaker crop, however, the amount of oil in the olives is slightly larger than usual as well.

The early stages of the year were promising this year, the flowering was excellent, but the extremely warm and dry weather of the summer and early fall had an impact on the crop. Ranko Surjan, president of the Vela Luka Association of Olive Growers said that the olives withstood the drought, but the fruit is somewhat dry, which results in a high ratio of oil within each olive, usually over 20 percent. However, the harvest will not be as good as last year's, the oil will lack the fruitiness and other characteristics we are used to since the olive did not have enough water in the ripening stage to develop all the flavors. This, of course, does not mean that the oil will not be good, it will be excellent, these are nuances that only experienced olive growers recognize.

Thanks to the Association of Olive Growers of Vela Luka, which will soon celebrate its 20th anniversary, the people of Korčula can boast the label of origin of Korčula olive oil. They started the project of obtaining the brand back in 2006, and although they were assured that it would be difficult to get it, the members of the association were persistent, so today they are the proud owners of the first, protected, Dalmatian island, olive oil. The growers from the association want as many producers from the whole island as possible to join the brand, because it guarantees the promotion of the island, but also quality, proper cultivation and harvesting.

"You should harvest your olives at the optimal moment, when the fruit is physiologically healthy, usually harvesting begins in mid-October. The fruit should be kept in open crates for as short a time as possible before processing, a maximum of 48 hours. Shakers significantly speed up the harvest, if we harvest everything by hand, and the harvest will drag on until the end of December, then the oil will not be good either. There are several processing plants on the island." Ranko explains.

One of the reasons for the good yields throughout the island are local traditional varieties, which produce a lot of oil. On the western part of the island, Lastovka and Drobnica predominate, less Orgula, which is characteristic of the central and eastern part of the island. Orgula is also the most widespread variety in Dalmatia, it has its advantages, Ranko points out, but it is not native like Lastovka.

For a long time, the story has been that the price of olive oil is supposed to increase. But nobody really expected that the olive harvest 2022 would produce oil sold for as much as 200 kn per litre in some local groups. The economic and energy crisis is the cause of the increase in food prices in general, but is this price of olive oil realistic? "The price of processing is increasing because the price of energy sources is increasing, especially electricity for the economic sector, as well as the price of packaging. Last year, across the island, the price of processing was 1,20 - 1,30 kuna per kilogram of olives, this year it is 1,50. I think 120 to 130 kuna per liter for olive oil from the olive harvest 2022 is an average and realistic price," Ranko explains.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Discover the Croatian Danube: House of Magnificent Milutin Milankovic

November 9, 2022 – As part of our Croatian Danube series, TCN has visited Dalj, and we can say that we have been to what must be the most important house in the village. One that many people had no idea stood there for over 150 years now. Even though NASA named Milutin Milankovic one of the 15 greatest scientists of all time, he might be one of the most underrepresented and underrated in Croatia.

Milutin Milankovic, the astronomer, geophysicist, climatologist, mathematician, inventor, engineer, Doctor of Technology, university professor, and writer, was born in Dalj in 1879, in what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He studied in Osijek and acquired his diploma and Ph.D. in Vienna, where he worked as an engineer until 1909. He then became a university professor in Belgrade, where he worked until 1955. He was a member of the Serbian and Croatian Academies of Sciences and Arts. He spent WWI in internment in Budapest. He died in Belgrade in 1958. His remains were, per his wish, taken back to Dalj in 1966, where he was buried in his family tomb, along with his twin sister, brothers, parents, and many of his ancestors.

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His contribution to science was vast and significant. Without pretending that we can understand his scientific work, just the list of his works and publications would impress any reader. His primary focus was on cosmic questions and life on Earth, the sun, ice ages, and how they influenced life on Earth. Some of his most famous work revolves around the Earth's orbital cycles, a theory confirmed by NASA, in which he provided mathematical explanations of the reasons, causes, frequency, and duration of ice ages on Earth, as well as other aspects of the Earth’s climate. Milutin Milankovic is also the author of the most precise calendar to date, with a difference of only 2 seconds between Milutin’s calendar year and the currently in use tropical (solar) year.

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Along with scientific writing, Milankovic was versed in lyrical prose and wrote three volumes of memoirs on his life, his birth house, the village of Dalj, and the Danube, which was an endless source of inspiration. In his memoirs, he left detailed descriptions of his house and backyard, including all the flowers and plants, the pine that stood under his window, and the view of the mighty river. The house was declared a cultural monument in 1979 but had suffered the consequences of the passage of time and the war. Even though Milutin's nationality did spark debates between Croatians and Serbians, just like a certain other scientist, the municipality of Dalj invested in the recounstruction of Milutin Milankovic's birth house, where they created a cultural and scientific educational centre. The centre is equipped with models, presentations, and projections, including Milutin's space room. The backyard is a comfortable, inviting, fresh green space, with a gazebo just beside Milutin's beloved pine, which stands strong and tall. The observatory is the perfect venue for stargazing nights and special events. 

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And even though the people of Dalj know, love, and are happy to visit Milutin's house, the vast majority of Croatian people do not, or do not know, that they can visit it too. Not only can you visit the original house and see this magnificent exhibition firsthand, but you can also schedule an educational visit to learn about Milutin's life and legacy, explore the interactive presentations, and even try to find new stars using the telescope. The best part - the visit is completely free. Come on, where else do you get that? To schedule a visit, send an e-mail or call the contacts here.

 

How good is your knowledge of eastern Croatia? Take the CROMADS test above - how many places do you recognise?

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

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

How to Croatia - Getting an OIB and Opening a Bank Account

November the 9th, 2022 - In our latest edition to our How to Croatia series, we look into how to get a personal identification number (OIB) and open a Croatian bank account as a resident.

It appears that wherever we may roam on this tiny blue dot taking trips around the sun, we end up ‘roaming’ into a taxman. Croatian taxes are the bane of society for a multitude of reasons, but I won’t get into that now. Once you’ve got your residence permit, you’ll need what’s known as an OIB to be able to work, open a bank account, and do just about anything. You can obtain an OIB without residence, too, or before you embark on the residence process.

What is an OIB?

An OIB, or personal identification number (or tax number) is a little bit like a national insurance number (you’ll know what I mean if you’re British), but you’ll end up using it so much in Croatia that you’ll likely end up remembering it. Does anyone else never look at their UK NI? Christ only knows what mine is. The funny thing is that I’ve used my OIB so often that I know it back to front. Bit sad, really. Anyway, back to the point! An OIB is very easy to get, you can simply visit your local tax office (porezna uprava) and ask for one. You’ll just need your passport or other form of government-issued ID.

You can also make the request for an OIB online by visiting porezna-uprava.hr and selecting ‘Dodjeljivanje OIBa’ (Assigning an OIB), then selecting English language as your language of choice (EN).

Getting an OIB assigned to you is so easy that if you’ve gone through the residence process first, you might think you’ve done something incredibly wrong. You haven’t. This is one of those situations in Croatia that seems too simple to be true. Cherish them, they happen at random and are kind of few and far between.

Once you have an OIB, you can open a Croatian bank account as a resident.

Opening a Croatian bank account

There are numerous banks available in Croatia, with the Croatian National Bank (Hrvatska narodna banka or HNB/CNB for short) serving as the independent regulator of commercial banks operating in the country. 

The CNB was established as part of the Croatian Constitution which was passed by Parliament on the 21st of December, 1990. It issues banknotes, holds the national monetary reserves, aims to maintain stability and ensures the financial liquidity and soundness of the country’s financial system. The CNB joined the European System of Central Banks and started performing its role under the Statute of the ESCB and the ECB, following Croatia’s entry into the European Union back in July 2013.

Some of the most popular banks in Croatia are Privredna banka Zagreb (PBZ), Zagrebačka banka, Erste & Steiermärkische bank, Raiffeisenbank Austria Zagreb (RBA), and Hrvatska poštanska banka (HPB). There are of course others, such as Addiko bank and OTP, but there’s no need to list them all. Many banks are foreign owned, and those such as Erste are very popular with expats thanks to their ease of use, very good mobile app, and good customer service. There are English language options on banking apps and on their websites.

To facilitate your transactions (paying rent, paying the bills) to receive your Croatian salary and have a local bank card, and to do literally anything financially, you’ll need a Croatian bank account.

What do I need to open an account?

To open a bank account in Croatia, you’ll need an OIB. Generally speaking, you’ll need a valid passport, your residence permit (either your ID card or your registration certificate, if your card isn’t yet finished) and the bank’s application form that you can find online or get directly at the bank to open a bank account as a foreign national. Most of the staff working in banks speak a decent level of English, so you shouldn’t have any communication difficulties. The process is fairly quick.

Types of Croatian bank accounts, apps and online banking

The most typical account types are giro, current and savings account. Some banks offer automatic overdrafts once you open an account, while in others you have to apply for an overdraft once the account has been set up.

As stated, most banks offer online and mobile banking services, which comes in handy when paying the bills, for example, because you can simply scan the QR code that can be found on every payment slip and the payment information is filled in automatically, so you simply have to authorise the payment, click send and the job’s done.

Bank loans for foreigners

Applying for a bank loan is a modern reality in a society which lives increasingly on credit. Inflation and spiralling prices are likely to force more and more people to live this way. Croatia is no exception in putting things on the plastic, even though so many people still love to carry cash, and of course, some cafe bars, pubs and even restaurants like to pretend their POS machines are broken until the tourist season arrives. You can probably guess why... Despite that, many Croatian households of all classes have loans from the bank for a variety of different reasons.

I’ll be blunt, the procedure for getting a bank loan in Croatia is not simple. There are many hoops to jump through, requirements to satisfy, papers to obtain and time to kill, at least in the bank’s eyes. Unless you are armed with an extra dose or ten of patience (or you’ve been sedated), you have a particular masochistic passion for providing people with documents, copies of said documents and filling out forms with half-chewed pens stuck to tables by strings, frustration will be your main companion and your eyes will probably see more of the back of your skill than much else, you know, what with all the rolling they’ll be doing.

Many doe-eyed, would-be foreign buyers of Croatian property seek to borrow funds from the bank to help with their purchases. Despite lots of promises and stringing along, there is still no mortgage product on offer in Croatia for foreign buyers, so please, please, bear this in mind.

Opening times

Opening times for banks will be clearly displayed on their doors, their websites and their apps. Be aware that Croatia is the land of religious holidays, bank holidays, and random days where things just aren’t open. Those days can of course affect the operating hours of banks. Luckily, many things can now be resolved online and through mobile banking, thanks to virtual assistance and even instant chats.

ATMs

Just like across the vast majority of the rest of this modern, fast-paced world, ATMs can be found all over in Croatia, they have even been ‘evicted’ from the hearts of ancient towns like Dubrovnik. You’ll have no problem finding one, and the vast majority (if not all of them) have different language options you can select before withdrawing cash or checking your balance. Do keep in mind that different banks have different limits on how much cash you can withdraw in any given 24 hour period, so make sure to check what yours is.

 

For more on How to Croatia, from adopting pets to getting health insurance, make sure to keep up with our lifestyle section.

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