Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Croat Vjekoslav Prebeg Pleads Not Guilty in Donetsk

ZAGREB, 16 August, 2022 - Croat Vjekoslav Prebeg has pleaded not guilty to charges of being a mercenary at a court of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic, while the pro-Russian separatist authorities accuse him of being a Ukrainian mercenary who took part in efforts to oust them, which is why he faces the death penalty.

The Slovenian News Agency (STA) said on Tuesday that Prebeg had stated that his activities on the battlefield had been limited to monitoring enemy positions, and he said that he had not been included in armed conflicts against Russian forces.

Russian media outlets that are allowed to cover the trial, which started on 15 August, quoted Prebeg as saying that he had used firearms last time before the start of the war in Ukraine, STA says.

Apart from Prebeg, Swede Matthias Gustafsson and Briton John Harding are also indicted on the counts of attempting to "forcibly seize power or forcibly retain power" and "participation of a mercenary in an armed conflict or hostilities," according to the Russian Izvestia newspaper.

They face the death penalty.

Another two Brits in this trial are Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy.

All of them pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to reports released by Russian media outlets.

The next court hearing in their case is scheduled for October, the Interfax news agency reported, citing a statement by the separatists’ court.

Russia's media outlets have released footage of the trial, showing the five men in a cage in the courtroom.

On 10 August, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry strongly condemned the indictment against Croatian national Prebeg, who has been detained in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk.

Croatia "rejects the indictment and does not consider it to be legally sound because it is contrary to international law and conventions on the treatment of captured civilians and prisoners of war," the ministry said in a press release.

The ministry and competent services are in constant contact with the Ukrainian authorities and other partners in order to shed light on the case and have Prebeg released, the ministry said on 10 August, adding that it has been in touch with the detainee's family.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Split Hospital to Establish Genetic Counselling Department

ZAGREB, 16 August, 2022 -  The University Hospital Centre in the biggest Croatian coastal city of Split will this year set up a genetic counselling office that will provide opportunities for testing for hereditary cancers.

The genetic counselling, which will be opened this autumn, will be within the molecular pathology laboratory of the Department of Pathology and Cytology.

Thus, the counselling will perform diagnostic testing for healthy persons who are members of the families in which some hereditary cancers appear to run.

The head of the Department of Pathology and Cytology, Nenad Kunac, explains that, for instance, a member of the family where breast cancers have already been diagnosed will be given an opportunity to undergo testing for inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

3.32 Million Passengers at Croatian Airports in in First 6 Months of 2022

ZAGREB, 16 August, 2022 - Croatia's airports registered 3.32 million passengers in the first half of this year, which was a 398% increase compared to the first half of 2021 when the COVID restrictions were in place.

The relaxation of COVID protocols resulted in more trips, and in H1 2022, flight operations jumped by 101%, according to the data provided by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (DZS).

Croatia's airports handled over 4,700 tonnes of cargo, or 19% more than in the corresponding period of 2021.

In June only, 1.28 million passengers passed through Croatia's airports, a 300% rise compared to June 2021.

This June, the airports saw a 90% increase in flight operations to 15,000.

Split Airport which served 418,000 passengers in June was the top performer, and it registered a 264.6% increase on the year.

Dubrovnik Airport ranked second in June, with a 428.2% rise to 311,000 passengers.

Franjo Tuđman Airport in the capital city catered for 291,000 passengers in June, or a 191.9% increase compared to June 2021.

According to the DZS data, in Zadar, 170,000 passengers passed through its airport in June. Pula Airport registered 60,000 passengers and  Rijeka Airport 26,000. The airport on the island of Brač had 2,000 passengers, and the airport in the biggest eastern city of Osijek reported 1,800 passengers in June.

The largest number of passengers came from Germany, the UK and France in June.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Croatian Tourist Board Director says Tourist Season is Great

ZAGREB, 16 August, 2022 - Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) Director Kristjan Staničić told the national television (HTV) on Monday evening that the tourist season was great and some indicators showed that the results were already close to those in the record-breaking 2019.

Currently, there are about 1.1 million visitors staying in Croatia, Staničić said.

He expected even higher revenues than in 2019.

Also, the Croatian National Bank (HNB) forecasts that the revenues from the tourist industry could reach € 11.3 billion, or 7% (€800 million) more than in 2019.

Staničić expressed satisfaction with also a higher number of fiscalised receipts and revenues from the tourist trade.

He, however, would rather wait for the end of the season to see the final results.

The HTZ director also commented on some complaints about too high prices of the services along the Croatian coast and said that every price rise must be followed by the upgrade of services and products.

Staničić said that the HTZ is preparing a new strategy for sustainable tourism, and this document should soon be finished.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Croatia's Mihaljević European Champion in Men's Shot Put in Munich

ZAGREB, 15 August, 2022 - Croatia's shot put record holder, Filip Mihaljević, won the European title in the men's shot put event in Munich on Monday evening, with the winning distance of 21.88 metres which he had in his last throw.

Serbia's shot-putter Armin Sinančević won the silver with 21.39 metres in his fifth throw, and Czech Tomaš Stanek grabbed the bronze (21.26 metres).

The 28-year-old Mihaljević already had medals from the world and European indoor championships.

On Monday morning Croatia's long-distance runner Matea Parlov Koštro won the silver medal in the women's marathon at the 2022 European Championships taking place in Munich.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Vjekoslav Prebeg, Indicted Croat in Donetsk, Faces Death Penalty

ZAGREB, 16 August, 2022 - Croatian Vjekoslav Prebeg, who is together with Briton John Harding, and Swede Mathias Gustafsson, accused by the Russian separatist authorities of being a mercenary, is facing the death penalty, Reuters quoted Russian media outlets as reporting on Monday.  

"A Russian-backed separatist court in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk charged five foreign nationals captured fighting with Ukrainian forces with being mercenaries on Monday, saying three could face the death penalty, Russian media reported," according to the Reuters news agency.

Prebeg, Harding and Gustafsson were captured in and around the port city of Mariupol, and they face a possible death sentence under the laws of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.

On 10 August, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry strongly condemned the indictment against Croatian national Prebeg, who has been detained in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk.

Croatia "rejects the indictment and does not consider it to be legally sound because it is contrary to international law and conventions on the treatment of captured civilians and prisoners of war," the ministry said in a press release a few days ago.

The ministry and competent services are in constant contact with the Ukrainian authorities and other partners in order to shed light on the case and have Prebeg released, the ministry said on 10 August, adding that it has been in touch with the detainee's family.

According to Reuters, two more Britons, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, were also charged but do not face execution. All five of the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, TASS reported.

It cited the judge as saying that the trial would resume in early October.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

New Structure for Pula Tourism as Younger Visitors Dominate Scene

August the 16th, 2022 - The Pula tourism structure has changed somewhat, with the scene currently being dominated by much younger tourists than back during previous years.

As Morski writes, on the gorgeous Istria peninsula, the number of tourists this weekend exceeded a very impressive 300,000. Although the Istrian peninsula is mainly oriented towards family tourism, the number of younger guests, aged 18 to 30, is now increasing. Pula tourism is based precisely on the "city break" category, that is, it has become a destination for more frequent and shorter stays.

''In Italy, accommodation is way too expensive, here we found a house at a good price. We just arrived, we saw some beautiful beaches, the city is beautiful,'' said visitor Mateo.

''If we compare what we've currently got with 2019, which was the last pre-pandemic year, we see that we have a few percent more young people making up the Pula tourism picture, which if we look at July and August - when the numbers of people in the city are higher - it isn't a negligible percentage,'' pointed out Sanja Cinkopan Korotaj, the director of the Pula Tourist Board.

Manifestations and events that have never been seen before are not negligible either. Music week, wine city, and now a burger fest with a series of concerts in the Arena and on city squares are drawing more and more visitors to this Istrian city, and the bars, restaurants and cafes are full.

There are 25 thousand guests currently staying in the City of Pula. Private accommodation units are now sold out, and young people have started to fill the city's numerous hotels as well.

''We decided to stop in Pula on our visit to Croatia because we had heard only the very best things about the city. We visited many places there, and the beaches are beautiful,'' said Camilla.

This new structure of guests making up Pula tourism's picture, with a significantly higher proportion of young people, also increases costs for hoteliers, they say.

''Because they stay in one destination for a shorter period of, they want to see as much as possible in the shortest possible time, so in a way we're reduced to a type of station tourism. Because we have to change everything every day, bedding and everything, this creates additional costs for us,'' emphasised Deniz Zembo, a hotel owner from Pula.

Recently, hostels have also started to spring up, now there are about 20 of them in the city and they are getting better every year.

''We are talking about a lot of young guests who came of age during the coronavirus pandemic, they couldn't travel, and we are also talking about guests who are starting families and who will come to Pula with their families,'' added Boris Zgomba, the president of the Association of Travel Agencies within the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK).

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

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Pula Aquarium Gets New Resident Which Changes Own Gender

August the 16th, 2022 - The Pula Aquarium, known for its efforts in conservation and the rescue and rehabilitation of all sorts of Adriatic marine lifeforms, has a new and very interesting resident which can change its own gender every eight years.

As Morski writes, over more recent days, the much loved Pula Aquarium presented to the public the third largest fish of its future tropical lineup, a Humphead wrass named Napoleon (Cheilinus undulatus), the largest bony fish which naturally lives on coral reefs.

The Humphead wrasse is an unusual looking fish which stands out for both its colour and its size, and it got its name from the large hump on its head that resembles Napoleon Bonaparte's hat - hence the name.

What is rather remarkable about this fish, is the fact that after the eighth year of its life, it changes its gender from female to male, and during this sex change, the colour of the body also changes - from orange-red to dark blue-green. This species is extremely important for the health of coral reefs because it feeds on an animal known as the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), which eats coral and given the chance, destroys these gorgeous reefs.

Humphead wrasse are a very widespread Indo-Pacific species, they reach an impressive body size of up to 2.2 meters and a weight of 191 kilograms with a lifespan of up to 32 years. It is quite a rare fish, but despite that, it is still unfortunately hunted for its tasty meat, and according to the IUCN, it is now considered an endangered species as a result of that. Due to overfishing, their population has decreased by a worrying 50 percent in the last 30 years alone, Aquarium Pula explained when discussing their new resident, Napoleon.

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

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Numerous Croatian Laws Adapted as Eurozone Accession Draws Closer

August the 16th, 2022 - Numerous adaptations of Croatian laws are coming into force as Eurozone accession draws closer and closer, set to take place on the 1st of January, 2023.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, due to the imminent introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency, numerous Croatian laws are being adjusted, the changes of which require to be put through at an urgent procedure due to quickly approaching deadlines.

Over the coming days, the draft proposal for changes to the Law on Value Added Tax will be publicly discussed, and in addition to the provisions that are being changed due to the switch to the euro, the already announced extension of the application of a reduced VAT rate, which should alleviate inflationary pressures and the negative impact on growth, is included in the same package. The latter should have a positive influence on the price of energy and the standards of people and of the overall economy.

At a rate of 5 percent, the supply of heating from thermal stations with accompanying fees, as well as the supply of firewood, pellets, briquettes and wood chips will be taxed in the period from the entry into force of the amendments to the Act until March the 31st next year.

When it comes to changes in the Croatian laws directly related to the imminent introduction of the euro in January, adjustments related to, for example, the threshold for the acquisition of goods within the European Union (EU), the threshold for registration in the register of VAT payers, the value of deliveries up to which a taxpayer can be a quarterly VAT payer and similar items are implied.

As part of the assessment of the effects of the legal changes, which the Ministry of Finance forwarded to the e-consultation, it has been stated that "it isn't possible to predict the timing of the full achievement of the outcome, but certain effects in the form of easing price increases are expected after the entry into force of the proposed provisions.''

By extending the application of the reduced VAT rate, enterprises who supply the aforementioned energy products will be taxed at a flat 5 percent rate, with the fact that they will need to independently decide how to direct the difference caused by the reduced rate.

"Since companies are free to set their own market prices, there's a possibility to maintain the same price levels we've got now," the explanation stated.

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

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Savings Could be Made With More Generic Drugs on Croatian Market

August the 16th, 2022 - Replacements of certain medicines are set to arrive on the Croatian market as making savings becomes extremely necessary in the enfeebled Croatian healthcare system.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, counting the pennies within the wider Croatian healthcare system, especially in the consumption of medicines, is now more needed than ever. We've been witnessing accumulated debts for medicines for decades now, which, after numerous rehabilitation attempts by the Ministry of Finance, are still far from reduced. In fact, they only grew enough to reach slightly more than six billion kuna at the end of April this year.

HUP - the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers have been warning about some of these debts for some time, noting that they definitely can be reduced. The Croatian healthcare system's annual savings could rise from the current 300 million to as much as one billion kuna if consumption were to increase and the procedure for including generic drugs on HZZO's list of drugs for the Croatian market was finally accelerated.

There are some substitute drugs that come to the Croatian market when the patent rights to the original drug eventually expire. As their placing on the Croatian market means more competition, the price of the medicine also drops at the same time. The situation here, at least according to data from back in 2019, is that 61 percent of the volume in the consumption of prescription drugs across the Republic of Croatia is made up of generic drugs, and they only account for 5% of the total healthcare sector's budget.

"Although this percentage has been increasing over the years, it's still somewhat lower than the EU average, which stands at 67 percent. This shows us that there is still a great potential for the use of generic drugs in this country,'' they emphasised from HUP- the Association of Medicines Manufacturers, whose members, in the period from 2010 to 2020, invested a total of 5.4 billion kuna. As far as biosimilar medicines are concerned, the situation is much worse, and back in 2019 they occupied a modest 13 percent of the Croatian market.

A complicated procedure...

One of the reasons for the lower consumption of generic and biosimilar drugs, which causes higher expenditures for such medicines, is the procedure that manufacturers must go through in order to get on HZZO's drugs list.

Jerko Jaksic, president of the PharmaS Management Board and president of the HUP Association of Drug Manufacturers, explained that the process of placing a generic drug on the Croatian market takes approximately one to two years.

"The first stage is the registration of the drug with HALMED or, for biosimilar drugs, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). After approval from HALMED or EMA, it takes up to six months for the HZZO to place the drugs on their list. Although the situation is somewhat better than it was around ten years ago, that part of HZZO could and should be accelerated. What I mean by that is that following HALMED and EMA approval, these medicines should automatically be included in the lists of medicines, without any additional administrative steps because there's no need for them. Unfortunately, here too we have an example of resistance to changes and adaptation of the system, as well as the classic slowness of the administration,'' pointed out Jaksic, adding that automatic inclusion would speed up processes and the arrival of medicines on the Croatian market, as would cheaper drug therapies for patients in three to six months.

"It would also bring savings of several tens of millions of kuna on an annual level for the entire Croatian market," said the president of the PharmaS Management Board. HUP noted that the role of generic and biosimilar drugs is extremely important for both the healthcare system and the patients themselves.

"In fact, these drugs make many key therapies available to more patients, and for the same or at a lower cost than before their introduction. For example, two to three boxes of prescription drugs issued in Croatia come from the generic industry, and the share of generic drugs in the cost of all drugs is only 27 percent. If we look at the pharmacy system, the share of generic drugs is 65 percent, and this accounts for less than 40% of the drugs budget," they explained.

Great potential

In addition to all of the aforementioned, there is no fear for the patient because prescription drugs and generic drugs are the most organised part of the healthcare system. Jerko Jaksic noted that their importance has long been recognised by GPs. However, hospital doctors are not yet following suit.

"Hospital doctors have a lower level of knowledge of generic and especially biosimilar therapies, they also lack a developed awareness of the financial savings they can enable. There's a great untapped potential there, above all in the sense of using cheaper generic and biosimilar therapies in order to reduce costs for hospitals,'' said Jaksic.

There are, therefore, several mechanisms that we must change in order to accelerate the introduction of generic and biosimilar drugs on the Croatian market, and thereby contribute to significant savings.

"It's necessary to systematically implement the existing regulations for the determination of the price of drugs, to include generic drugs on HZZO's drugs list faster, and to enable the faster penetration of generic and biosimilar drugs into the wider hospital system,'' the HUP Association of Drug Manufacturers believes.

With these measures, along with measurements of treatment outcomes, they say, savings in the healthcare system can reach up to 1 billion kuna per year. So, the ruling party has a solution. But is the will there?

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

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