Friday, 9 September 2022

Ex Finance Minister Zdravko Maric Questioned by USKOK

September the 9th, 2022 - Former Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Maric has been questioned by USKOK (Croatian State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organised Crime and Corruption), but seemingly only as a witness.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, ex Finance Minister Zdravko Maric was the chairman of the supervisory board of HBOR (Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development), and a month and a half before a certain loan was granted, he had a meeting with the investor Milenko Basic from the company C.E.M.P.

Basic had otherwise asked for a loan of 130 million euros to finance an investment, and in the end he was granted a loan of 80 million euros.

USKOK has as such accused former HDZ Minister of Regional Development Gabrijela Zalac and former HDZ State Secretary Josip Rimac of abusing their positions and long-term lobbying and pressuring members of the supervisory board and the bank's management to approve the loan.

It is important to note that former Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who has managed to dodge his fair share of hot water over the years, has actually not been included in that investigation, so it can now be assumed that he gave his testimony as a witness who was involved in the approval of the aforementioned loan which is of interest to USKOK, 24sata writes.

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

Friday, 9 September 2022

Zvonimir Zarec Chosen as Director for Large Terme Bjelovar Project

September the 9th, 2022 - Zvonimir Zarec has been selected as the director for the largest investment in Bjelovar's history - Terme Bjelovar, which will take this continental Croatian town's tourism image to the next level (and beyond).

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, during the month of September, Terme Bjelovar will apply for its much talked about spa project, worth around 250 million kuna, and it will be done as a public tender as part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Croatian: NPOO).

Zvonimir Zarec was elected in a public tender to be the director of Terme Bjelovar, a company 100 percent owned by the City of Bjelovar, which will deal with the construction of the aforementioned spa worth 250 million kuna, the City of Bjelovar announced recently.

Zvonimir Zarec was appointed as the new director of the project for a term of four years, and his main tasks will be related to the field of energy, the exploitation of Bjelovar's natural resources, and the development of tourist potential and investments in the use of green energy, they added in the press release from the City of Bjelovar. The newly elected director is not a member of any political party, which is also very important to note for anyone who knows how these things unfortunately often go in Croatia.

Until the appointment of Zvonimir Zarec as the director, it is also very important to note that the company Terme Bjelovar d.o.o. had no employees.

In addition to applying for the enormous spa project, Terme, as a partner of the City of Bjelovar, was approved for two more projects. One of them was for the construction of a new well in the Veliko Korenovo settlement, the co-financing for the preparation of the documentation of such is worth around two million kuna, and the co-financing of the construction of the well itself, which is worth an additional 25 million kuna.

The projects are co-financed by the "Energy and Climate Change" Programme of the Ministry of Regional Development and European Union (EU) Funds, financed by Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland as donor countries and the programme partner, the Hrvoje Pozar Energy Institute.

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

Friday, 9 September 2022

PM Plenkovic Talks Anti-Inflation Measures: We'll Cap Price of Electricity

September the 9th, 2022 - Ongoing inflation is continuing to spiral, and with countries across Europe making various arrangements and creating measures to help citizens and companies through this extremely difficult period, Croatia's PM Plenkovic has now spoken out, confirming that the Croatian Government will cap electricity prices as energy bills are set to soar.

The Croatian Government was very quick in stepping in with a package of various measures when the global coronavirus pandemic reached the country and began disrupting life as we've never known it before. Many sectors across the economy are hoping for the same rapid response as inflation rises, taking the cost of energy with it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, PM Plenkovic stated that this recently held session was entirely dedicated to the autumn package of measures the government intends to put into place to protect households, companies and the domestic economy from continually rising prices.

''We've dedicated as many as the first twenty points of the government session solely to this," PM Plenkovic assured.

"We are going to be opting for a very strong intervention, as we've always done until now for the benefit of the Republic of Croatia and for our citizens," he said, adding that ''we are in a time of global disruption," before showing a presentation in which the graphs clearly show an extreme rise in oil, gas and electricity prices.

"The first part of the package we're going to introduce will be to mitigate the rise in energy prices, and we've primarily concentrated on electricity costs. When it comes to households, we're going to be capping electricity prices. This measure will be fixed for the period from October the 1st to March the 1st, and as such it will cover the autumn-winter period," he said.

"Whoever spends less will of course pay a lower price. Those who use more will be put into a higher price class," Plenkovic said.

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

Friday, 9 September 2022

Croatian-Slovenian Foodtech Startup Attracts Large Investment

September the 9th, 2022 - One Croatian-Slovenian foodtech startup has attracted an impressive investment and is likely to have its image boosted beyond what the creators ever though possible.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, a winning combination of incredible youthful energy, a tried-and-tested product that quickly conquers the health food market with "know-how" and a financial injection from a venture capital fund - that's the story of Juicefast, a new investment of the Feelsgood fund worth half a million euros.

The Juicefast brand, which will be launched at the beginning of October, is a newly founded Croatian-Slovenian foodtech startup that will unite the current Detox.hr brand and the Healthy Meals pilot project of young entrepreneurs David and Marko Dravinec.

This Croatian-Slovenian foodtech startup and its accompanying entrepreneurial story started back in 2018 from the confines of the small neighbourhood fruit shop Mali vrt (Little garden) where the idea of ​​freshly squeezed 100 percent natural apple juice for detoxification and fasting was first born, 22-year-old David explained.

On the wings of conquering the lucrative (and very rapidly growing) healthy food market, which was also affected by the coronavirus pandemic, given that the spread of the virus emphasised the importance of a good diet and general healthcare, their income growth was rapid: in 2020 it amounted to 1.5 million kuna, then it grew to 2.8 million kuna, and the last figure they reported reached a massive 6.5 million kuna. Juicefast is a neat play on words which alludes to the speed and simplicity of the process.

"We were amazed at how much people liked simple juice. Now we understand that there's a reason in this simplicity. Each of our juices is made with 1.5 kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables. We all know we should eat it, we know it's good for us, we know we'll feel better, but...sometimes we just don't feel like it," he says with a giggle.

"And then, if you can be bothered, you've got to prepare your juices.... Buy the groceries, prepare them, then you've got to clean the juicer after using it, all of which takes time. It's easier to jump down to the bakery and buy it all already done for you. The hectic pace of modern life imposes some other priorities on us, and we often put our health on the back burner. These are problems that we've manage to solve, and we've provided both simplicity and practicality,'' he added.

The range of detox juices offered by this Croatian-Slovenian foodtech startup is made exclusively from fruits and vegetables from domestic family farms, except for exotic species for which Croatia is simply not a natural climate.

The juicing is carried out in a 500-square-metre hall in Laduc using slow-juicing devices that retain nutritional the fruit's values, especially vitamins. Detoxification has become extremely popular in the last few years with a combination of intermittent fasting that gives the body a "break" from constant food intake. The entrepreneurial duo has as such successfully found their niche with a range of juices that are not pasteurised, have no preservatives or additives, but are processed with high hydrostatic pressure.

Feelsgood, the only Croatian venture capital fund that requires a positive social impact from its investments in both Croatia and Slovenia, has invested 500,000 euros in the project, recognising the synergistic effect of the production of juices and healthy meals, sustainable agriculture and cooperation with local producers.

The investment injection, on top of the 250,000 euros from other investors, will be used for the growth and development of the company here in Croatia, as well as to provide the spring in the startup's step for their move to the markets of Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Italy and Hungary. The glittering USA is also on their radar.

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Season 2022, Mission Year-Round Tourism: Vukovar Well on the Way

September 8, 2022 – While the Adriatic coast is still almost exclusively a summer destination, other parts of Croatia strive to fill the gap. Among them, Vukovar is indeed full of life, 365 days a year. The local tourist board shared some of their insight for season 2022 so far. Year-round tourism in Vukovar is the mission, and it seems that it’s been going well.

CNTB has been working to stregthen continental tourism, and Vukovar is a step ahead. As they put it in the local tourist board, this city is not a seasonal destination anyway, though its highlights are a higher number of tourist arrivals in spring and autumn. Statistically speaking, the number of overnight stays is an indicator of the success of a season, but in Vukovar, even one-day visitors should make the count, it's just that it is difficult to count them accurately.

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Significant sports events as well as manifestations and festivals generate an increased number of arrivals and overnight stays (Vukovar Film Festival, Svi zaJedno Hrvatsko NAJ).

In the period from 1st January until 31st August, 19.605 arrivals and 33.005 overnight stays were recorded in Vukovar. Out of the total number of overnight stays, 24.641 were domestic guests and 8.364 foreigners. The number of overnight stays compared to the same period last year is 113.93% higher in total. The number of overnight stays of foreign tourists increased by 63.26%, and of domestic tourists by 139.12%. Such a large overnight index of domestic tourists is the result of the return of students' visits for a two-day tour of Vukovar, while in 2021 they would only come for one-day visits, without overnight stays.

As for arrivals, the total amounts to 19.605, of which 2.744 were foreign guests, and 16.861 were domestic. Last year, there were 13.756 fewer arrivals, because in 2021 there were no student excursions that included overnight stays, so they are not recorded here. Looking at arrivals and overnight stays in 2022 without students, the total number of arrivals was 9.188, of which 2.725 were foreign guests and 6.463 domestic. This means that this year 10.398 students visited Vukovar. Comparing the indexes of arrivals and overnight stays, it is apparent that in the total amount, arrivals exceeded last years' by 57.9%, and overnight stays by 36.60%. The number of foreign tourist arrivals increased by 97.89% and domestic by 44.52%. In terms of overnight stays, the increase of foreign guests has been 61.59 %, and domestic guests 24.18 %.

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The people of Vukovar have always lived on and by their river, and they still spend a lot of time on its waves and banks. It is increasingly attractive to guests from other parts of Croatia, and numerous guests from all over the world on river cruises sail down the Danube.

In 2021, 125 river cruise ships docked in Vukovar with 11.349 passengers. For 2022, 339 cruisers were announced, at the level of 2019, when 351 cruisers docked.

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The Film Festival of the Danube countries - the Vukovar Film Festival, which is in many respects unique - has returned to the banks of the Danube in its full glory. It is the only film festival that literally takes place on the Danube and thus offers a unique experience. It was designed to promote and expand the creative rise of filmmakers from the Danube countries. The 16th edition of the Festival was held from June 29 to July 3, and it brought over 50 of the latest acclaimed and award-winning films from prestigious international film festivals.

Vukovar was an important destination for film festivals this summer. Another film festival premiered on July 29 and 30 - Klein Film Festival. Klein is a film and music festival, which is conceived as an international festival of short feature, documentary, and animated films up to 20 minutes long. The festival is a tribute to Hugo Klein, a theater professor, theoretician, and psychiatrist born in Vukovar.

Summer in Vukovar is unthinkable without swimming in the Danube on Vukovar Ada, a sandy island opposite the city that is ranked among the ten most beautiful and interesting beaches in Croatia on rivers and lakes. This year too, free transportation was provided for all those looking for refreshment and an escape from the heat and scorching city asphalt. The Vukovar Ada is a great place for camping and beach volleyball, and good fun in a pleasant company is guaranteed.

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An interesting program called Danube Garden Summer Nights has been designed for this year, with good music, delicious food, and refreshing drinks under the Danube stars. A total of four concerts during July and August were held on the summer stage by the Danube, which in its magical ambiance was a hit place this year for pleasant socialising, fun, and enjoying the beauty of Vukovar nights. There was also a cinema under the stars, a motorcycle party, and numerous other cultural and similar events. It is no small thing to live in a city through which the second largest European river flows! It should be emphasised, celebrated, and simply lived with the Danube, as the people of Vukovar show by example.

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As autumn approaches, preparations begin for the 15th Vukovar ethno fair, which will be held from September 23 to 25 at Republic Square. Craftsmen from all over Croatia will join the fair again this year at the 6th Flavours of Croatia fair, organised by the Vukovar Artisans Association, where they will prepare and present their autochthonous dishes. Brewers and representatives of the German and Austrian minority communities as part of the 5th Vukovar OktoBierFest will also showcase their products. There is no better place to promote beer and brewers than Vukovar and its fair - after all, the first beer was produced in Vučedol.

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During the fair, the Association of Tourist Guides of the City of Vukovar is organising a free guided tour of the city for the local population and visitors for the fifth year in a row, on the occasion of World Tourism Day, which is September 27. This year, costumed guides will take us back to the old times in the city.

All photos by Vukovar Tourist Board.

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

New CNTB Campaign Seeks to Strengthen Continental Tourism

September the 8th, 2022 - The new CNTB campaign is focused primarily on boosting continental Croatian tourism, with so many sights and experiences to be enjoyed far away from the coastline.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) and the Ministry of Tourism and Sport have launched the second part of this year's CNTB campaign which focuses on the rural parts of the country with the aim of generating stronger tourist traffic during the post-season. This new CNTB campaign is primarily promoting Lika and Senj, Posavina and Pozega, Podunavlje and Konavle in the extreme south of the country, the CNTB reported.

"Th new CNTB  campaign puts Croatian rural destinations in the foreground, as well as Croatian guests, with whom we're discovering the charm and beauty of continental regions through creative materials. Croatia offers much more than sunshine and the sea, and our task is to bring that wealth closer to both domestic and foreign tourists," said CNTB director Kristjan Stanicic.

He also emphasised his satisfaction with the results of the CNTB campaign so far, which, according to him, has been confirmed by the increase in tourist traffic in the continental counties of the country where - excluding the City of Zagreb - around 1.7 million overnight stays have been achieved so far this year, equal to an impressive 40 percent more than last year.

The Minister of Tourism and Sport, Nikolina Brnjac, noted that the goal of sustainable tourism development across Croatia is the stronger use of the continental part of the country's rich potential and year-round tourism.

"The rural areas of Croatia offer tourists all year round a lot of content, a handful of which we show in this new campaign, from activities in nature, enjoying an authentic gastronomic offer to exploring historical attractions and getting better acquainted with the culture and lives of the local population. Such content is increasingly attracting modern tourists, as evidenced by the fact that in the current part of the year, the tourist traffic in continental Croatian counties has reached 95 percent of the numbers realised back during the same period in 2019,'' said Minister Brnjac.

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Croatian General Government Debt Now at 344 Billion Kuna

September the 8th, 2022 - The Croatian general government debt amounted to 344 billion kuna back at the end of May this year, which is 5.9 billion of 1.7 percent higher than just one year earlier.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the above information on the Croatian general government debt is according to the latest data from the Croatian National Bank (HNB), and Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA) analysts. The annual increase in Croatian general government debt has been caused by an increase in both domestic and foreign debt, according to the latest CNB data.

As such, the internal debt is higher by 4.5 billion kuna or 2 percent when compared to the end of May 2021, to almost 223 billion kuna, which is largely the result of the growth of the central government's debt on long-term securities and long-term loans. At the same time, Croatia's foreign debt increased by 1.4 billion kuna, or 1.2 percent, to 121 billion kuna in total. When compared to the end of April, however, the general government debt was reduced by 12.1 billion kuna.

The reduction of the Croatian general government debt on a monthly basis is the result of the settlement of the Eurobond due on May the 30th, 2022, for the refinancing of which funds were collected by the April issue of the Eurobond in the total nominal amount of 1.25 billion euros, they pointed out from the RBA.

At the level of the whole year, RBA analysts expect the continuation of the growth of the Croatian general government debt in absolute terms due to growing financing needs, because of union demands for wage growth in an environment of pronounced inflationary pressures, but also as a result of a series of fiscal measures to mitigate the unfavourable impact of price increases on both consumers and enterprises.

"Although fiscal risks are increasing, we expect the Croatian general government deficit to remain at the level of 3 percent of GDP," the RBA concludes.

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

More and More Foreign Workers in Croatia, Where are They From?

September the 8th, 2022 - There are more and more foreign workers in Croatia, but where do they come from and what sort of work do they typically take up?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, given the fact that Croats have been leaving the country for years to try to find better opportunities, more stability and the chance to comfortably make ends meet, the laboyr market in Croatia has been (as expected) seriously disrupted and burdened by a severe lack of labour for some time now. According to the statistics of the Croatian Employment Service (CES), among the most sought-after professions for which a positive opinion was issued in the period from January to August 2022, are precisely those related to construction.

The most work permits for foreign workers have been issued for the following trades: construction workers (6,476), followed by masons (5,194), civil engineering workers (3,359), carpenters (3,299), locksmiths (2,265), welders (2,231), facade workers (2,161), electricians ( 1,727) and installers of building elements (1,645). The Ministry of the Interior (MUP) confirmed for the Baustela.hr portal that an increase in the number of residence and work permits has been observed in recent years. Back in 2019, 72,523 such permits were issued, in 2020, 66,655, and in the last year, this number increased to 81,995 permits for foreign workers.

This year, and only until July the 31st, 77,205 permits for foreign workers were issued. Of these, 48,167 were for new employment, 14,294 were permit extensions, and 14,744 were for seasonal employment. This means that in the last three months alone, 25,689 foreign workers requested such permits.

In addition, according to the data currently available to the Ministry of Interior, and regarding the citizenships of foreigners who were issued residence and work permits, the largest number this year was issued to citizens of: Bosnia and Herzegovina (23,799), Serbia (13,764), Macedonia (7,468), Nepal (7,141) and Kosovo (5,407). Regarding the activities in which foreign nationals are mostly employed in in Croatia, construction is the leader (29,702), followed by catering, hospitality and tourism (26,211), industry (9,467), transport and communications (3,765), and agriculture and fishing (1,678).

From the data they received from the Ministry of the Interior, regarding the extended permits, there is a huge numerical difference between the activities. A massive 8,517 were extended in construction, while 1,138 were extended in catering, hospitality and tourism, and only 355 were extended in trade.

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Dubrovnik Hosts Digitalisation in Healthcare, Health Tourism Conference

September the 8th, 2022 - The City of Dubrovnik hosted a recent conference on digitalisation in healthcare, and the potential of health tourism.

As Morski writes, the global health and wellness tourism market is worth more than 900 billion US dollars and is the fastest growing segment of tourism with annual growth of 15 to 20 percent. Croatia can do more in this than it does currently, and this was among the main messages from this week's conference "Digitalisation in healthcare and the potential of health tourism 365'', held in Dubrovnik.

The conference was organised by the Dubrovnik County Chamber of Commerce, bringing together experts from the fields of digitisation, innovation, healthcare and tourism.

The global data on the value of that market presented at the conference are actually estimates by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), according to which the largest part of the total estimated value of the global market, or about 800 billion dollars, refers to wellness, while the value of health tourism is estimated to stand at about 125 billion dollars.

With regard to the growing market value, which also stimulates the increase in demand for healthcare and wellness tourism services, as well as the growing life expectancy of the world's population, it was pointed out at the conference that these are opportunities for further development of that market, including right here in Croatia.

The global report on the health and medical tourism market confirms that there are opportunities for growth and predicts that revenues in this market will grow by 30 percent annually from 2021 to 2026, and everything was additionally accelerated by the global coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in a significantly increased interest in healthcare and wellness tourism. Croatia also has a great opportunity due to its natural benefits, professional staff and excellent offer.

What it lacks, and what is happening more and more in the world, is that this growing demand is accompanied by increased investments in healthcare infrastructure, which in recent years also includes significant investments in the areas of digital transformation and innovation, robotics and artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, the European Centre for Digitisation and Innovation in Healthcare was established right here in the Republic of Croatia, which provides strong support to the business sector in the segment of project application support, research, testing, and the marketing of new products and services, and therefore this centre is designated as a possible reference point for the development of that sector.

The participants of the Dubrovnik conference agreed that Croatia has the potential for developing digital processes, including the digital transformation of the healthcare system, but with the assumption that speeding up all administrative processes is paramount. Croatia is a very attractive destination, it is especially strong in the fields of dental, aesthetic surgery and ophthalmology. In addition, work can be done to attract significant investments in this segment of the tourist offer and the clear marketing communication of Croatia as a destination for year-round health tourism, which would begin to solve the problems of seasonality.

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

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Croatia Among Three EU Countries With Fastest Company Loan Growth

September the 7th, 2022 - Croatia is among three EU member states (the other two being the Republic of Ireland and Romania) with the fastest growth of loans being granted to companies.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, this year, specifically from February onwards, a strong growth in lending has been noticeable, and after a long period of stagnation (or in some cases decline), Croatia has once again entered a period in which loans being granted to companies outnumber those being given to households, the Croatian Association of Banks pointed out in its HUB Pregledi publication.

They noted that the annual loan growth back during the month of May this year actually exceeded the double-digit threshold for the first time and has since continued its upward trajectory.

"According to the latest data for the month of July, when the amount of net loans exceeded 100 billion kuna for the first time in eight entire years, growth stood at 16.1 percent. Along with Ireland and Romania, Croatia is among the three EU member states with the fastest growth in loans provided to companies in July," they stated from the Association of Banks.

Some assessments consider it unfounded that behind the generous lending of companies there is only the motivation to finance old loans while there is still a period of historically low money prices ahead of the announced tightening of monetary policy.

"It's well known that the European Central Bank started increasing interest rates back in July 2022, which will continue with the aim of suppressing inflation, but bearing in mind the expected increase in interest rates in the next year, it's only logical that some companies are trying to contract more favourable financing conditions in the long term. However, it is a question of net credit growth, i.e. an increase in credit activity on top of usual refinancing,'' they pointed out, adding that more active loan support is correlated with economic growth, which stood at an encouraging seven percent in the first quarter and accelerated to 7.7 percent in the second.

During this year, companies operating in Croatia primarily wanted to get their hands on business loans. In July, their growth reached as much as 21.5 percent on an annual basis. Loans for investments also grew at a double-digit rate, 12 percent, while other loans to companies increased by 6.1 percent.

From the Croatian National Bank (CNB), as was written back at the beginning of this summer, they see part of the reason for the unprecedented corporate demand in the increased needs of companies operating in the energy sector due to the huge explosion of costs. In July, loan demand was led by large companies in Croatia with 20.4 percent growth. They were followed by micro companies with 15.3 percent, medium-sized companies with 8.8 percent and small enterprises with 7.4 percent. Regarding loans for investments, the order is similar; the fastest growth was recorded in the large ones by 27.1 percent, and in the smallest ones by 15.2 percent.

"As such, Croatia has once again entered a period in which loans to companies grow faster than loans to households do. Such a relationship for a period of more than four months was last recorded back in 2016," HUB notec.

In addition to the economy, household lending also grew, albeit more slowly, by 5.2 percent during the month of July. The Association of Banks added that lending to the economy exceeds inflation, but the same is not true for people and household loans. The rate of increase in household loans in Croatia still remains below inflation, as does the growth of nominal wages (7.5 percent in July), resulting in the continuation of the decline in (real) indebtedness of that segment. At the same time, housing loans are growing at a rate of 9.4 percent, and cash loans are growing at a rate of 2.8 percent.

"This means that the contribution of loans to the financing of current consumption is minimal. Moreover, credit card loans are on the decline, and overdrafts on current accounts and other loans to households, although they recorded growth during this year, are at lower levels than the average for the period from 2018 to 2020," HUB stated. They also added that the different rate of growth of deposits and loans should be weighed up since deposits have been strongly accelerating since 2020 with expectations of a continuation of the trend after the tourist season and ahead of the conversion to the euro on the first day of 2023.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics and business sections.

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