Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Zagreb Company Bellabeat Presents Brand New Smart Bracelet - Ivy

June the 16th, 2021 - The Zagreb company Bellabeat, a Croatian startup which has gained traction and a lot of attention as time has gone on, has presented its brand new smart bracelet.

As Novac/Bernard Ivezic writes, Bellabeat initially started producing smart bracelets seven years ago, of which, according to Business Insider, Leaf Urban and Leaf Chakra were named the best pieces of smart jewellery in the entire world back in February. The company has since completed the development of a new smart bracelet named Ivy. There are more than 50,000 pre-orders for it already, and this also means that the Zagreb company Bellabeat has more than 50,000 new subscribers.

Namely, with the creation of this new smart bracelet, the Zagreb company Bellabeat is changing its business model, and now its bracelets include a monthly subscription.

Sandro Mur, the co-founder and CEO of the Zagreb company Bellabeat, explained that Ivy better monitors heart and respiratory health, enabling the company to provide its customers with better quality information not only about their physical health but also their mental health, which is often forgotten about but is just as important.

Twenty long months of development...

''We're very proud of the new Bellabeat product, which we've been designing and perfecting for more than 20 months to come to a solution that is perfectly aligned with all the needs of women today,'' says Mur.

He explains that Ivy measures calories, distances, active pulse, exercise intensity during the day and monitors meditation, and at night it monitors sleep duration, sleep quality, resting heart rate, respiration and heart coherence. Based on the above and additional data collected through the app, Mur states that they offer a range of indicators on body readiness, wellness and even menstrual cycle.

''Ivy has advanced sensors to measure steps and active time spent, as well as all other parameters it monitors, and the design, which is aimed at women, offers them the chance to monitor their body dynamics throughout the day to allow them to better understand their own body and individual needs better than any other similar product on the market,'' says Mur.

In saying that, he is primarily thinking of the loudest competitor in the segment of smart items - Apple. The Zagreb company Bellabeat, for example, claims that its smart device can estimate when the user should give up on doing their next exercise due to exhaustion and a risk of becoming unwell. This assessment is made by advanced algorithms developed by the Croatian startup itself, and are trained on what is probably the largest private health database in Croatia.

The company states that it has more than 100 billion sets of health data about its users. This is an extremely important piece of information because the more data a algorithm can be trained on, the more accurate it is. It isn't known how much Bellabeat smart jewellery has been sold to date, but the latest known data from 2017 indicates that it had then sold more than 700,000 pieces. This is a record that has not been surpassed by any other Croatian startup.

Mur, who recently announced he was raising a 10 million US dollar investment, is considering one acquisition and plans to go public within three years and sees an opportunity to open up the corporate wellness market with a new product.

''I think that we've become much more aware of our own health and the health of the people we work and are around, and that more and more employers and managers understand the importance of caring for employee health,'' says Mur.

For more, follow our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Zlata Đurđević: Corporatism Main Problem of Croatian Judiciary

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - Zlata Đurđević, a candidate for the Supreme Court president, said on Tuesday that corporatism, denoting a closed professional group with privileges without any external oversight, was the main problem of the Croatian judiciary.

"It is important to achieve a balance between judicial autonomy and judicial responsibility for the sake of avoiding corporatism. That is not talked about in Croatia, and when someone speaks up about it, it is considered a taboo and an insult even though both GRECO and the Venice Commission have pointed to the problem of corporatism," Đurđević said at a panel discussion entitled "Judiciary and public: Ensuring responsible and transparent administration of justice".

Đurđević believes that the main cause of judicial corporatism is the fact that two-thirds of the State Judicial Council (DSV) members are judges, and that in appointing judges, external excellence criteria are disregarded while what is taken into account are the test and the job interview but not one's performance as an undergraduate, which is why other institutions have no influence on whether a judge is sufficiently competent.

State responsible for judges' work

"There is no public discussion about the candidates, voting is secret but the DSV president knows how DSV members have voted," she said, stressing that judges are government employees and the state is responsible for their work, materially and before international courts, since the government represents the state before the European Court of Human Rights.

Principle of publicity one of most important

The head of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) Council for State Administration, Judiciary and Rule of Law, Jakša Barbić, stressed that the principle of publicity was one of the most important guarantees that judges and courts acted in line with their social role and functions.

"Trials must be public. It is not enough to administer justice, it is also important that everyone is aware and knows that it is administered, which is why all rulings should be made public and easily searchable," he said.

He noted that the actual state of court efficiency was determined, among other things, based on the number of accepted court rulings and that one should not base their opinion about the judiciary on cases that cause public disapproval.

Speakers at the panel and participants in the subsequent discussion were agreed that there is a tendency on the part of the judiciary to close itself off from the public and treat negatively any public criticism of the judiciary. It was also stressed that judicial officials brand criticism as populism, dismissing even well-intentioned warnings about rulings that are legally and socially deeply unacceptable.

This results, it was said, in antagonism between the judiciary and the public and a very low level of public trust in and respect for the judiciary.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

President Zoran Milanović: Reference to Dayton Was Opposed by Germany, Italy And Other States

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that the reference to the Dayton agreement in NATO's communique adopted on Monday had been opposed by Germany, Italy and some other Western countries, and added that possible changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina must not happen without Croatia and Serbia.

Milanović made the statement in Slovakia, where he participated in the GLOBSEC 2021 Forum and met with Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

He discussed with them the NATO summit held in Brussels on Monday, at which Croatia, Milanović said, managed to have a reference to the Dayton peace agreement (General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina) incorporated in the summit's closing declaration only after insisting on it for six days.

"That should not have happened, that should have been resolved a week ago. Somebody is against it, has a problem with the Dayton agreement and wants to dismantle it," Milanović said, adding that at the same time those countries were criticising the Serb BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik for violating the Dayton agreement.

"Something is not right about that way of thinking," he said.

Milanović noted that a number of countries - Germany, Italy and some other Western countries - had been opposed to mentioning the Dayton peace agreement in the communique.

"Western Europe - and I'm not talking about the leaders, definitely not about Angela Merkel, is acting foolishly, undermining one of the foundations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, regardless of how imperfect it may be, protects it against destabilisation," he said.

Criticism of German diplomacy

Milanović went on to say that talks on the communique had not been conducted by the German chancellor but by the German foreign ministry which, he said, was headed by a political camp different from Merkel's and one he felt close to, "namely by people who in their fantasy are prone to making silly experiments."

The current German foreign minister is Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats who are part of the coalition government with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Some Western European countries advocate a so-called civic model for Bosnia and Herzegovina to replace the concept of three constituent peoples envisaged by the Dayton peace agreement. Commenting on that on Monday, Milanović said that "it sounds very noble but is actually a hoax."

"They should do it back at home. Bosnia and Herzegovina is as it is, we share a long border and we will soon have to guard it for the Schengen area," he said.

Milanović stressed that plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina could not be made "under the radar" and that any changes in the neighbouring country had to involve Croatia and Serbia, co-signatories to the Dayton agreement, adding that he had explained this to his Slovakian and Polish counterparts.

"That is how things are done in diplomacy, as far as I can remember. I used to be a diplomat and I never caused a scandal. Then I entered politics and in politics you have to cause scandals to be heard," he said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Croatian PM Andrej Plenković Satisfied With World Bank Support in Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the World Bank's support to Croatia's efforts to reconstruct the areas hit by the 2020 quakes, and with cooperation in projects aimed at facilitating the recovery of the private sector's exporters affected by the corona crisis. 

A press release issued by the government notes that the premier held a meeting with World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, Anna Bjerde, and a few other WB officials in Government House.

On that occasion, Plenković expressed satisfaction with the cooperation with the World Bank and the support that institution had provided to Croatia in the reconstruction since the earthquakes had struck Zagreb and Sisak-Moslavina County in March and December 2020.

He was quoted as saying that he was satisfied with the permanent cooperation in projects aimed at helping exporters in the private sector to recover from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister in particular thanked the World Bank for its support until now in preparing Croatia's 2021-2026 National Recovery and Resilience Plan. He underscored the importance of fostering further cooperation and the implementation of projects for Zagreb's reconstruction and revitalisation of the Banovina area in Sisak County, the press release said.

In June last year the World Bank approved two $500 million projects to provide urgent support to the government in an attempt to relieve the impact of the tremors that hit Croatia and of the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Bank also provided technical support in preparing a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA 2020), which was an important document to mobilise €683.7 million from the EU Solidarity Fund. The World Bank also provided technical assistance in the RDNA for the earthquake-struck areas in Sisak-Moslavina County.

Bjerde was accompanied at the meeting by World Bank's Country Director for the European Union Gallina Andronova Vincelette, the World Bank's new country manager in Croatia Jehan Arulpragasam, and Special Assistant at World Bank Group Fanny Weiner.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Zagreb Stock Exchange Indices Rebound

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) Crobex and specialised Crobex10 indices on Tuesday rebounded by 0.41% to 1,973 points and 1,213 points respectively.

Today's regular turnover was HRK 6.4 million, or HRK 800,000 more than on Monday.

The Maistra hotel company was the only one to cross the one million kuna mark in turnover. It generated HRK 1.25 million and its share price stagnated at HRK 302.

A total of 39 stocks traded today, with 18 of them registering share price increases, 14 recording share price decreases and seven remaining stable in price.

(€1 = HRK 7.489862)

For more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević: We Didn't Break Our Promise on Advertised Vacancies For City Execs

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - The appointment of new members of the management and supervisory boards of the Zagreb Holding without a public call for the selection of applicants did not constitute a breach of the pre-election promise, the new Mayor of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomašević, said on Tuesday.

The multi-utility conglomerate Zagreb Holding's assembly on Monday relieved the supervisory and management boards of their duties, appointing Suzana Brenko Supervisory Board chair and Ratko Bajakić and Damir Topić its members. The provisional Zagreb Holding (ZGH) Management Board was appointed as well, with two new members, Nikola Vuković as Management Board chair and Ante Samodol as a member.

Tomašević said that the situation inherited from the previous local government forced them to react quickly and the direct appointment was the most responsible solution.

Commenting on ZGH's loss of HRK 305 million, Tomašević said that the current city administration had two options: to keep the incumbent management that obviously failed to put the situation under control or to dismiss them and leave the Holding without management several months for the duration of the public tender. 

Tomašević said that this was why he resorted to the direct appointment although in the run-up to the elections he and his party (We Can) promised the appointment of executives and management members of the city-owned companies only through public calls.

At a meeting held with Mayor Tomašević last Friday, the former ZGH management reported on the conglomerate's financial situation and losses incurred in 2020. An audited and consolidated report for 2020 shows that ZGH has for the first time in the last seven years incurred a loss of HRK 305 million, the mayor's office said on Monday.

Today, the mayor elaborated that the minimum number of members of the management and supervisory boards of ZGH were directly appointed and promised the advertisement of public calls for the remaining three members in the management board and the remaining members of the supervisory board.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.



Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Pimp My Pump: Bringing Art to Zagreb's Public Drinking Water

June 15, 2021 - Zagreb continues its efforts to promote sustainability through art, this time highlighting the publicly available drinking water. Meet Pimp My Pump. 

A few months ago, I read an article about a journalist in his 50s who decided to try and live for a week without the Internet and return to the communications era of his youth. He spent an illuminating but very frustrating week in London trying to get through the basics of his day without resorting to going online. 

One of the observations which stayed with me from his article was his experience of walking the streets of London. Every other pedestrian, he noted, was looking down into their phones as they walked, while the journalist was looking up at the street signs to check he was going the right way. And not just the street signs. Walking around the city without the distraction of the smartphone in hand, he was able to view the city as he had not done in years, and admire all its beauty. 

Zagreb due to the pandemic is a little like that these days. Take yourself out of your phone and look around the city as you walk. The Zagreb Tourist Board has placed a strong emphasis on oudoor activities and the city's parks, lakes and open spaces. The Around Zagreb initiative with the Zagreb County Tourist Board has been an unqualified success, opening up the city's tourism offer to a diverse range of additional options.

Watch out as you wander the streets of the city, and see if you can spot some of the quirky art projects around the Croatian capital. As previously reported early this year, Street Triptych and Little Zagreb were new additions to the Zagreb scene (check out the videos above and below), and since May 31, there is a new addition to look out for, focusing o sustainability and an important source of life itself. Drinking water.

Is the water safe to drink? 

One of the most common questions asked on holiday in a strange country. The answer in Croatia, of course, is an emphatic yes. The drinking water in Croatia has always been excellent, and many tourists do not realise that you can drink the water from the fountains and city pumps. Rather than buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle, a little education can encourage a little more sustainability, replenishing an empty plastic water bottle, rather than tossing it aside and buying another. 

In order to highlight this, Zagreb has unveiled the Pimp My Pump initiative, merging its world-famous street art with a very sustainable message, while highlighting the availability of public drinking water all over the city. 


In cooperation with the Pimp My Pump Association, some 20 public water pumps (known locally as Iron Franceks (Željezni Franceki in Croatian) have been given a colourful makeover and a lot more visibility. Each pump is themed, some with local personalities, some with more of a global appeal, and each with their own individual story which you can learn via a QR code.

Looking to entertain the kids while delivering a message of sustainability? There are 20 pumps in all, dotted all around the centre, a rather unique way to entertain the little ones while you stroll around the Zagreb Great Outdoors. 


The pumps are located close to several of Zagreb's major tourist attractions, and if you wanted to enjoy the magic and tranquillity of Bundek Park, for example, there are five pumps to be found there alone. A great way for the kids to run around and burn all that energy, only to be looking for water to quench their ensuing thirst. And where better to do that that with fresh drinking water dispersed by the likes of Homer Simpson into a reusable plastic bottle?

You can get more information about the project, as well as download a PDF of the map above from the official tourism board website.

For the latest news about Zagreb, click here.

How Dubrovnik Successfully Wooed the US Market During the Pandemic

Jun3 15, 2021 - Many tourism businesses rode out the pandemic hoping for better times. Dubrovnik has been quietly working away, successfully wooing the important US market, and now stands ready to reap the dividends of a quietly effective strategy. 

I don't think I have been more wrong about a destination in Croatia than I have been about Dubrovnik. Pre-pandemic, with the VERY notable exception fo the Feast of St Blaise (simply the best time to visit the city in normal years in my opinion - read why here), it was a city I avoided due to the stereotyypes of overtourism, overcruising, and expensive Dubrovnik. All three labels were not without foundation, but I took little time to explore them to find out the reality. 

Then came the pandemic, and a Dubrovnik transformed. Overtourism became undertourism, the cruise ships and day trip buses vanished, and one was left with a magnificent city to enjoy without the crowds. As painful as it was for the local economy and its tourism businesses which account for up to 90% of the local economy, could the devastation of COVID-19 be a longer term blessing in disguise?

July, 2020 in Dubrovnik was a joy. Having the entire city almost to myself at the height of summer, it made me wonder if it was possible to reset a destination's tourism strategy entirely. The Pearl of the Adriatic had certainly gone a little too far with its cruise ship love, and it was accepted before coronavirus that something had to be done. The empty old town might have been devastating to the local economy in the short term, but could it allow the city to breathe and think about a fresh approach?

When I met Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic for the first time last July to pitch the idea of digital nomad tourism and Dubrovnik as the remote work lifestyle capital of Europe, I was impressed not only at his readiness to embrace new ideas, but also to repivot his city on a path of sustatinable and higher-quality tourism than had been in evidence in the last few years. We got to work on the digital nomad project the next day, and my involvement and interest in the city has been a lot more involved over the last 12 months as a result. It gave me an opportunity to observe the city and its strategies to prepare for tourism in the post-overtourism age. And there was one market where Dubrovnik has been putting some serious effort.

The United States. 

It is no secret that American tourists are the highest spenders, the highest tippers, and generally very appreciative of all they experience. Dubrovnik has been a magnet for them for many years, althouth the crowds have been an issue in recent times. What if, rather than chasing every tourist to boast numbers, numbers, numbers, a strategy of attracting high quality guests might yield a much better result for the city and its tourism providers?

The pandemic was kind to Dubrovnik's desire to engage with the US market, but there was also plenty going on behind the scenes. When ABC News contacted our Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community about featuring a Mediterranean destination welcoming American tourists, Dubrovnik opened every door it could, and more to the ABC crew. The result? Six prime time reports on how Dubrovnik was welcoming American tourists as the rest of the EU closed its borders, including one on Good Morning America which was watched by 12.5 million people. 


(Photo credit Dubrovnik Tourist Board)

ABC was certainly not the only positive media in the important US market. Only last week, Richard Quest embraced Dubrovnik culture ahead of a big feature on Dubrovnik Tourism for CNN's Quest Means Business show. The relationship with CNN and Mayor Frankovic dates back a few years, and it has been carefully cultivated, leading to the latest broadcast. 

Mayor Frankovic managed to get his messages of Americans welcome, sustainable tourism, and no return to the days of overtourism across well. 

In March, 2021, a 3-month campaign across 73 US airports showcased a 30-second promotional video of Dubrovnik, reaching an estimated 35 million people. And, at a time when many airlines were downsizing their schedules, Dubrovnik managed to do post-pandemic which it struggled to do since the Homeland War - direct flights from the United States. 

The good news just kept on coming. Firstly, United announced that it would be flying directly from Newark to Dubrovnik, starting in July. So strong were early bookings that more rotations have been added, even before the first plane has landed. Soon after, Delta Air Lines announced that they too would put on four flights a week from New York JFK directly into Dubrovnik, from next month. 

There is also the possibility of a third carrier to bring addtional American passengers, with Pragusa.One announcing direct Dubrovnik from both JFK and Los Angeles. My latest infromation is that slots in all three airports have been secured, and final approval from the American Department of Transport is pending. 

Ana Hrnic, who took up the position of Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director in February 2020, just as the pandemic was about to hit, is clearly pleased with the results of the Dubrovnik strategy:

"Throughout the pandemic, we have made great efforts to promote the city, to maintain the visibility of the destination, with special emphasis on the U.S. market. Our efforts have paid off, 8 direct flights a week with the US are a huge success for Dubrovnik tourism. The American market is the second most represented market in Dubrovnik, right after the UK. This year we expect excellent results from this extremely important market for us, and we hope to see continuous growth in the years ahead."

There were similarly impressive steps taken locally as well as efforts to bring flights. Last week Dubrovnik hosted ASTA Destination Expo 2021, a conference of U.S. tourism experts over 4 days. This was an excellent opportunity for the Pearl of the Adriatic to showcase its considerable offer to those whose job it is to sell to American tourists. 

And spare a thought for that digital nomad concept last July, which is where my reevaluation of Dubrovnik began after my meeting with the mayor. Mayor Frankovic quickly grasped the opportunity, Interest in the Croatian digital nomad permit has been global, with the story being featured on CNN, Forbes, the Washington Post and many others. the strongest interest so far has been from the United States. Dubrovnik was the quickest to react to the opportunity, hosting the first digital nomad conference in Croatia back in October, followed by the world's first-ever Digtial Nomads-in-Residence program from April 23 to May 23 this year


The program, which included four American nomads-in-residence, co-created a new strategy for the city's approach to the digital nomad opportunity, which TCN (a co-organiser of the event) will be exploring in more detail over the summer. If implemented correctly, will bring a new wave of American tourists. Ones who will find that four weeks in the city is just not enough, as our resident nomads concluded when they discovered Dubrovnik Beyond the Walls

Croatian tourism is often described as tourism which just happens, or accidental tourism. When those planes with the first tourists from New York touch down at Dubrovnik Airport, the process that brought them here was anything but accidental. 

For the latest news from Dubrovnik, follow the dedicated TCN section

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Dijana Zadravec Presents Her Evidence of Corruption in a Zagreb Hospital

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - The National Anti-Corruption Council on Tuesday interviewed the dismissed head of the radiology ward of Zagreb's Sisters of Charity Hospital, Dijana Zadravec, who presented her evidence of criminal activities used to siphon money from the hospital.

Zadravec, who has been on sick leave since May, told members of that parliamentary body that she learned yesterday from the media that acting hospital director Zoran Vatavuk had given her a warning before dismissal for harming the hospital's reputation, noting that the hospital's reputation was harmed by corruption and those who committed and covered it up.

Zadravec said that her fight against corruption started in 2016, when her persecution and harassment started as well.

She said that as the deputy hospital head she reported in 2016 the charging of fictitious overtime work which the then director Mario Zovak had covered up, adding that she had reported this to the prosecutorial authorities and the Health Ministry.

Zadravec said that in late 2020 she discovered a criminal network at the hospital, with public money being siphoned by doctors, which was why she reported them for abuse of office.

The doctor, who claims to have extensive documentation proving her allegations, says that offers to suppliers with whom the hospital did business without public tenders, since the last public tender was conducted in 2019, were signed by doctors Vladimir Kalousek and Branimir Čule, and that the offers exceeded HRK 30 million.

She also cited cases when less material was used for operations than the quantity ordered from suppliers.

Commenting on Zadravec's allegations, the State Secretary and chair of the Sisters of Charity Hospital Steering Board, Tomislav Dulibić, said that hospital documentation was being checked by inspectors from the health and finance ministries and the HZZO health insurance agency.

"According to preliminary information, no significant departures have been found, except for some minor irregularities. Eleven inspectors are working on this, invite them to testify," Dulibić told the Anti-Corruption Council.

He said that the decision to carry out the inspection at the hospital was made a couple of weeks ago, noting that the relevant proceedings were underway.

The chair of the Anti-Corruption Council, Nikola Grmoja, asked if anyone had responded to Zadravec's claims, to which Zadravec said that after she reported the false charging of overtime work, Health Ministry inspectors were called in and concluded that the matter should be investigated by the hospital director.

Allegations should be investigated as soon as possible 

After conducting the interviews today, the Anti-Corruption Council adopted a conclusion asking the ministries of health, finances and economy as well as the prosecutorial authorities and the USKOK anti-corruption office to determine facts related to the case as soon as possible.

Zadravec was told to submit copies of the reports she had sent to the competent authorities as well as the text message in which, she claims, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković lobbied for Zovak's reappointment as the hospital head.

The Anti-Corruption Council will send the audio recording of today's hearing to the prosecutorial authorities, and it will ask the Health Ministry to submit all documents on inspections conducted at the hospital since 2016 or explain why no inspections were conducted.

The Council will also ask the government to secure additional conditions for the employment of financial investigators at courts in four big cities.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

US Department of Homeland Security Officials in Croatia: Week-Long Visit Regarding Visa-Free Travel

June 15, 2021 -  The US Department of Homeland Security officials in Croatia will continue to work in strengthening diplomatic relations with Croatia and ensuring visa-free travel between the two countries situated on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Officials from the US Department of Homeland Security are currently in Croatia on a weeklong visit. As reported by US Embassy on social media, the visit is in regard to Croatia's progress towards Visa Waiver Programme Membership.

If Croatia joins the programme, Croatian citizens will not need a visa to travel to the USA for tourism, transit, or even for work as long as they don't extend the 90 day limit placed on their stay in the country.

As TCN reported earlier this year, The American Embassy in Croatia formally confirmed back in February that Croatian citizens will be able to finally enjoy the right to travel to the USA without the need for a visa later this year, by the 30th of September 2021 at the very latest, as was reported by Večernji list.

The final prerequisite for the removal of visa requirements was the issuing of 2000 further visas before the end of November 2020. Back then, sources inside the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed this criterion had been met, and thus the annual level of rejected applications will be less than 3%. That final bar was set by the USA to Croatia.

''Our two governments are continuing their close cooperation on meeting the requirements for the Visa Waiver Programme participation. US Department of Homeland Security officials are currently here, working with their Croatian Government partners on further advancing our shared goals, as well as addressing any remaining technical and policy requirements. People-to-people ties between the United States of America and the Republic of Croatia are robust,'' says the press release by the US Embassy in Zagreb.

They added that the US Embassy is continuing to focus on strengthening ties between the two countries and that Croatia is a trusted partner, and these new travel arrangements will also contribute to deepening bilateral relations.

This bit of news comes as a refreshment when taking into account some other recent events. Croatia and the USA enjoy a close connection thanks to their NATO membership, and recently, Croatian president Zoran Milanovic stated that he would not accept a NATO closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples.

That statement was criticised even by Željko Komšić, the Croatian member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, saying that ''the concept of constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obsolete.''

Additionally, a bit of challenge can be seen with the fact that while the US Embassy has a diplomatic mission in Croatia, there is no appointed Ambassador to Croatia at the moment. But nevertheless, cooperation and friendly relations between the two nations remain tight.

As TCN reported back in May, Croatia participated in a military exercise of transporting American military supplies, before that, in March, the US donated the GeneXpert Machine to Zagreb's Infectious Diseases Hospital and also invested $480,000 in the Upgrade of Rijeka's Offshore Emergency Response Centre.

In addition to their cooperation in terms of safety and health issues, the US additionally cooperated with the science-technology park - Step-Ri to bring entrepreneurship expertise to the Croats. With this diplomatic friendship evident and constantly being nourished, visa-free travel between the two countries is both fully deserved and now needed.

Learn more about visas in Croatia on our TC page.

For more about diplomacy in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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