Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Croatian Economic Recovery Expectations Becoming More Optimistic

December the 1st, 2021 - Croatian economic recovery expectations are looking a little brighter as we begin to slowly but surely emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, if business leaders were to be asked, Croatian economic recovery expectations in the past month have been somewhat more optimistic than the month before. In contrast, among consumers themselves, the perception seems to be more susceptible to the development of the epidemiological picture of the time, meaning that in the last study their expectations actually decreased.

These are, in short, the main findings for the Republic of Croatia and the domestic economy from the latest report of the European Commission (EC) on the economic climate in the member states of the European Union (EU).

While the economic climate index (ESI) at the EU level last month slightly (by one percentage point) deteriorated when compared to the month of October, in Croatia it rose by slightly less than two percentage points, up to 111.3 points. The most pronounced growth of expectations among the domestic business community was shown by the construction sector (with an index growth of as high as 6.3 points).

Although a solid increase in optimism was recorded among the leaders of industrial companies, and somewhat milder in the trade and service sector, it was the wave of optimism among builders that outweighed the somewhat more pessimistic expectations of consumers.

Namely, among people themselves, reduced Croatian economic expectations were reflected in a drop in the index by 2.7 points. From the business sector for the next period, signals are coming in about the intentions of increased employment, although due to the ongoing pandemic, procurement problems are still likely to remain an issue.

At the level of the entire EU, the decline in consumer sentiment prevailed in the overall Croatian economic expectations, although they also improved slightly in the month of November among the European Union's business people, and employment expectations were also positively intoned.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Croatian Winter Tourism to be Advertised on Fourteen Foreign Markets

December the 1st, 2021 - Croatian winter tourism will be tempting for many a foreign visitor who fancies a quick trip abroad over the next few months as fourteen markets get a look into what this country has to offer outside of the summer season.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB/HTZ) has launched a new winter campaign "Croatia-Winter Wonderland". By January the 10th, 2022, fourteen foreign markets will see Croatian winter tourism opportunities offered to them via social media in the form of promotion of Croatian destinations and products of enogastronomy, culture and wellness.

The CNTB will conduct this campaign across a number of European markets, more precisely the markets of: Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden and Norway, via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Pinterest, using the hashtags #CroatiaWinterWonderland and #MagicalCroatia.

"The promotional campaigns we conducted this year have positioned Croatia as a quality, safe and well-prepared destination. The fact that we were very successful in this was confirmed by the European Travel Commission (ETC), which pointed out that the CNTB, during the autumn campaigns, was the most active European tourist organisation on the Visit Europe portal and social media pages'' said CNTB Director Kristjan Stanicic.

He also explained that the Croatian tourism winter campaign will highlight the Advent offer prepared by Croatian destinations, as well as promote traditional recipes and customs and the best locations for taking stunning winter photos. From all that, as well as from other Croatian tourism campaigns, the realisation of a certain level of tourist traffic is expected by the end of this year and beyond.

If the epidemiological conditions allow for it, as part of that campaign, the plan is for foreign influencers to visit Rab, Plitvice Lakes, Zagreb, Dubrovnik and see the winter magic live, the CNTB announced.

For more on Croatian winter tourism, check out our dedicated travel section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Following Macron's Visit, French-Croatian Economic Partnership Stoked

December the 1st, 2021 - The French-Croatian economic partnership is set to be ramped up even further and cover a variety of different fields following the French President's recent visit to Zagreb in which he stated Croatia's Schengen readiness.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, last week, French President Emmanuel Macron and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries, which is a political declaration with a broader scope in which the two countries will engage in deeper French-Croatian cooperation.

The focus of the public, due to the simultaneous signing of the contract on the purchase of twelve Rafale fighter jets, was the military aspect of future cooperation with the country that is now the largest European Union military power, as well as to open French support for Croatia's entry into the Eurozone and the Schengen area.

This French-Croatian strategic document also brings preferences in bilateral relations between the two economies, part of which refers to the engagement of Croatian companies in the implementation of contracts for the procurement of combat squadrons.

The details haven't been specified, but it is stated that "France is ready to increase the development of further high-value aeronautical support activities at the industrial level in Croatia in connection with the Rafale aircraft."

From this it can be concluded that the doors are well and truly open to industrial cooperation in the aviation industry between the two nations. Cooperation between small and medium-sized and large companies and universities, as well as the participation in industrial consortia financed from the EU budget is also envisaged.

French-Croatian foreign trade relations have only been growing from year to year and the Agreement states that greater importance is needed in increasing the recognition of each country's economies and their investments. In the long run, mutual cooperation in education and scholarships will contribute to this, and in the short term, the foundations for stronger networking will be the two countries' plans which are primarily based on going green and the digital transition, as well as the EU's multiannual financial framework.

In addition to connecting to specific projects, France is also offering its support for the development of technology parks and the ecosystem of start-ups in Croatia, and will share its best experiences in supporting startups and growing companies. With experience in infrastructure projects and the automotive industry, a special space is being opened up in waste management, water management, green energy and digitalisation.

The two countries intend to improve their cooperation in the field of tourism, primarily in the search for models on how to escape from the bings of problematic mass tourism. France is the world's number one tourist destination at the moment, it is visited by the most tourists annually, while Croatia is the European country that receives the most tourists per capita. Therefore, the issue of sustainable tourism is becoming more and more significant, and judging by the Partnership Agreement, the way out will be cultural tourism and joint archaeological research programmes..

There is also talk of cooperation through ITER (International Experimental Thermonuclear Reactor), the construction of an experimental nuclear reactor, the largest investment in science in which all countries of the world participate, and its "host" is France. Getting electricity from fusion energy in France is seen as a priority goal to ensure non-carbon energy sources and sustainable development. This agreement does not, therefore, bring individual projects with specific participants into the ''game'', but instead proposes a proper framework for future French-Croatian partnerships, from which three-year action plans will be adopted at a later stage.

This isn't the first strategic partnership between Croatia and France, as they signed a similar agreement back in 2010, but with the acquisition of the Rafale planes, and also with its 2013 status of an EU member state, Croatia is now receiving more attention.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Garden Brewery Building New Premises, Planning Asian Expansion

December the 1st, 2021 - The much loved Garden Brewery is ready to construct a brand new, larger facility and plan their expansion to the distant Asian market.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, with an Advent programme they organised for the month of December, the Croatian craft brewery Garden Brewery is saying goodbye to the facility where they've brewed beer and hosted many events in the first five years of their business.

They're also building a new, significantly larger brewery in Zagreb's Zitnjak area, which will enable them to triple their production and become the largest craft brewery in the region and one of the leading ones in all of Europe, as well as strengthen their exports with the expansion to the Asian market.

The completion and relocation of their production facilities and the Zagreb Brewery to a brand new location is expected by the end of the first quarter of 2022, with installed capacities of 35,000 hectolitres and significantly increased capacity of the retail location.

Zagreb Brewery Director Tom O’Hara explained that with constant growth, the craft brewery has simply outgrown its current location. “In the last two years, our production team has done a really great job because we've had to exceed our capacities, but even that wasn't enough. This year, due to insufficient capacity, we had to give up work, missing out on an additional 30 percent of traffic. There were times when I had to tell the sales team not to actively sell anything. It was an unsustainable situation that needed to be addressed. We've considered several options for continuing to expand at our current location, but we've come to the conclusion that we need to start from scratch,'' explained O’Hara.

Although the continuation of monetary expansion and consequent inflationary pressures, along with the bursting of supply chains, marked the third quarter of this year, in 2021, Garden Brewery continued to record record growth in both revenue and operating profit.

The report for the first 9 months of 2021 states that The Garden Brewery Group, consisting of The Bird (brewery), Yellow Submarine (burgers) and Lula (festival business), generated total revenue of 89 million kuna (twice as much as in 2020) with an operating profit of 16.2 million kuna.

The growth of the craft beer segment stood at an impressive 51.24 percent, and thanks to the completion of the digitisation process, they had 27.8 million kuna in revenue from online sales. According to the Group's report, the aforementioned investment will enable a further step into foreign markets and the possibility of negotiating significantly larger contracts. Garden Brewery's expansion will be financed by a combination of their own funds and favourable credit indebtedness. They don't want to reveal the amount of the investment yet.

“We're building a facility that will, we hope, stand the test of time for the next ten years. We're also investing a lot in our production and sales space, primarily to create a craft brewery that will stand out as one of the best in Europe. Our sales space will provide a user experience that will be completely unique for this region and it will also be a great advertisement for Zagreb,'' O’Hara revealed.

In terms of size, Garden Brewery is still a mid-range craft brewery, but after expansion they want to be the largest craft brewery in the region of Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, and in the upper rank of craft breweries in Europe, where they have already established themselves as one of the important players in this blossoming business.

Capacity expansion also creates new opportunities for exports, and Garden Brewery currently exports to over 30 different markets. In Asia, they currently sell to China, Malaysia and the Emirates. The Croatian domestic market accounts for close to 30 percent of their revenue, which they plan to maintain next year, which means additional growth.

“Our strategy for Asia for next year is to grow these markets with the opening of additional ones such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea and India. Depending on the pandemic, we hope to move in that direction. Although these are remote markets and sometimes they present a logistical challenge for sales, we believe we've only scratched the surface of what we're capable of there,'' concluded O’Hara.

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Only 11% of Labour Force Works Remotely, Yet This Percentage Can Rise to 34%

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - About 11% of the workforce works remotely yet 34% could be teleworking in Croatia, it was said at a roundtable discussion as part of DEVOTE, in Osijek on Tuesday.

DEVOTE (Development of Teleworking Future) was organised by the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP), oil industry unions and the Norwegian employers' association NHO.

Even in the pandemic 2020 year, when remote working became more typical, there was 3% who constantly worked remotely and 8% occasionally, which is a total of 11% of Croatia's workforce, it was said.

Calculations were presented which indicate how many potential jobs or employees could work remotely. In Europe, that percentage is 37% whereas in Croatia it could be 34%.

"We have 11% who worked remotely and 34% who could, in theory, do so," chief economist at HUP and DEVOTE project leader, Iva Tomić said.

She added that during the coronavirus crisis and lockdown, one of the significant ways to preserve jobs was remote work in fact.

Tomić claimed that the legislative framework is fairly rigid and unclear and HUP proposes a special mechanism for teleworking, which could be permanent for companies who opt for this type of work or temporary if that is a better option.

"One way to attract workers, now when there is a shortage on the labour market in Croatia, is remote work. Employers need to be enabled the simplest and most flexible legislative solutions so that this form of work can be provided to mutual satisfaction for employers and workers but also to bring us closer to European practise," underscored Tomić.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

€520,000 Project to Ensure All Residents of Lekenik have Access to Books

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - A HRK 3.9 million EU project aimed at promoting reading and reading competences was presented on Tuesday in the municipality of Lekenik, where book vans will be introduced to provide access to books for roughly 6,000 people in 18 communities within the municipality.

The project will be implemented by the Lekenik Public Library in partnership with the local authorities, the Pet Plus association and the Agency of Local Democracy, based in Sisak.

The library's director, Marija Hlupić, said during the presentation that apart from the funding secured from the European Social Fund, the Croatian Culture Ministry has allocated HRK 580,000 (€77,300) for this two-year project.

In addition to the book vans that will bring books o the scattered communities, other activities such as workshops and cultural events will also take place in Lekenik under this project, and admission to them will be free for users.

The book vans will operate every working day and will visit all communities.

Mayor Ivica Perović welcomed the project as interesting.

The municipality is located about 35 kilometres southeast of Zagreb and covers an area of 220 square kilometres.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Medved: Serbia Not Cooperating in Search for Missing from Homeland War

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved on Tuesday warned about the issue of persons unaccounted-for since the Homeland War and criticised Serbia for failing to provide information on the missing.

"We informed the parliamentary committee of all our activities, achievements, challenges and difficulties we are faced with. The fundamental condition for efficiency is the Law on Missing Persons from the Homeland War which was adopted in 2019 and locating the latest mass grave site near Bobta has shown results," Medved told reporters after a meeting of the parliamentary War Veterans Committee.

He added that since 2016 to date, the remains of 144 war victims have been located and exhumed while and 197 victims whose corpses have been exhumed have been identified.

He recalled that a few days ago a large mass grave was found in Bobota near Vukovar with the remains of at least 11 people. We will continue to inform the committee of any further developments, he said.

 At least 11 victims in Bobota mass graves, maybe more, DNA analysis to be made

In reference to the mass grave unearthed in Bobota, Medved said that he could say with certainty that the remains of at least 11 people were found, adding that there could be more.

We need to wait for DNA analyses and I believe that we will be able to identify those people very quickly and call their families to take over the remains of their loved ones, he added.

He could not confirm whether the remains found were civilians and repeated that it was necessary to wait for the DNA results.

In addition to the activities by the Veterans' Affairs Ministry on the mass grave in Bobota, the Interior Ministry and State Attorney's Office (DORH) are implementing procedures in this regard, which is obviously a war crime, he underscored.

Medved said that there were two more locations in Vukovar-Srijem County being prepared for test excavations. He added that to date, 99 locations had been investigated in that eastern county.

"I once again appeal to anyone who in public or personally have come to certain information, to share it with the relevant bodies. They are obliged by law to submit any information they have," said Medved, and he ensured the confidentiality of the source's identity who provided information on the missing from the Homeland War.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Conflict of Interest Commission Euthanised, says Opposition

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised a bill on the Conflict of Interest Commission, claiming it will euthanise the body, while the ruling HDZ party rejected the claims, with Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica saying the commission will remain independent.

The Commission will remain an independent and anti-corruption body with new mechanisms and extended scope of activities, Minister Ivan Malenica said in the Sabor.

The Opposition, however, thinks differently, with MP Nikola Grmoja (Bridge) saying that the bill was full of "legislative diluter", its sole purpose being to get rid of the commission . That is no surprise considering that the majority of independent institutions are under the control of Andrej Plenković, said Grmoja.

Grmoja noted that the bill was being discussed amid a scandal involving the State Attorney's Office (DORH), "which proves the government is connected by an umbilical cord with DORH which has turned a blind eye to protect Plenković's friend Gabi," a reference to former regional development minister Gabrijela Žalac.

SDP: Commission will be reduced to ordinary bureaucratic body 

The Conflict of Interest Commission was one of the most successful independent bodies and the HDZ now wants to euthanise it and reduce it to the level of an ordinary bureaucratic body that will deal with declarations of assets, said Peđa Grbin (SDP).

Sandra Benčić (Green-Left Bloc) underscored that the bill eliminates the possibility of preventing conflict of interest and leaves unresolved the issue of political corruption, citing in that context the recent ruling against the HDZ.

Kruno Katičić (HDZ) described the Opposition's remarks as across-the-board, incorrect criticism.

"I consider claims that this is an attempt to euthanise the Commission and prevent it to apply the provision on the breach of general principles (of conduct for office-holders) as incorrect, Katičić said, adding that the bill would make it possible to "apply the principles in line with the legal force of the legal principle contained in any legal act," said Katičić.

Minister Malenica underscored that the bill aligns rules on conflict of interest with international standards and recommendations by GRECO and the European Commission and that it significantly expands the circle of office-holders obliged to submit declarations of assets and that the 'cooling-off' period is being extended from 12 to 18 months after leaving office.

Declarations will also have to be submitted once a year by 30 January for the current year and will contain detailed activities conducted two years prior to taking up office.

Procedures should be faster and the Commission will be able to penalise officials who do not submit the requested information, he said.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Ministry says has No Information on Investigation in Zalac Software Case

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak said on Tuesday, in a comment on a corruption scandal involving former Regional Development and EU Funds Minister, Gabrijela Žalac, that she has no information on the course of the investigation in the case.

Asked at what moment she had contacted the USKOK anti-corruption office, Tramišak said that at the handover of duties by her predecessor Marko Pavić, she had been told that the State Attorney's Office and USKOK were conducting certain preliminary investigations.

"This was followed by certain notifications to the Ministry, which cooperated with the state institutions and made certain documents available at their request," she said, adding that she did not know the content of the documents in question nor did she research them.

Asked if prosecutorial authorities had contacted her with any feedback, Tramišak said that her ministry did not have any such information and should also not have it.

Asked if she believed that State Attorney Zlata Hrvoj Šipek should stay in office, Tramišak said that she was not the person that question should be put to.

The minister said that her ministry continued to do its primary job of EU funds absorption competently and professionally, pointing to an increase in the rate of utilisation of EU funds.

Former Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac was arrested in an operation initiated by the European Public Prosecutor's Office on the suspicion that she awarded to her friend an overpaid job of procuring software for her ministry, which was paid for mostly with EU money.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Netherlands Refusing to Confirm Croatia's Admission to Schengen: Vecernji List

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - The Netherlands does not want to consent to Croatia's accession to the Schengen area of passport-free movement because it has a caretaker government, the Večernji List daily says in its Tuesday issue.

The Slovenian EU Presidency has put conclusions on Croatia's readiness to join the Schengen area on the tentative agenda of the next meeting of EU ministers of the interior but the daily has learned from unofficial sources that the Netherlands is signalling that it may not be ready to support a decision to that effect.

The conclusions in question do not constitute a final decision on Croatia's admission to Schengen but are the penultimate step. With the conclusions in question, the Council of the EU confirms in writing what the European Commission has already stated, namely that Croatia has met all the technical requirements for entry to the passport-free travel area.

The final political decision is yet to be made. It will be a special decision of the Council, adopted after the Council consults with the European Parliament. That political decision, however, cannot be made if the conclusions have not been adopted. The Slovenian government plans to have this done before the end of its presidency on 31 December, when EU presidency is taken over by France.

However, according to unofficial sources, at a meeting of the COREPER (Permanent Representatives Committee), the Netherlands expressed reservations on the matter even before a more detailed debate has been launched.

Its representatives justified this with the fact that the Netherlands currently has a caretaker government, which is why it would prefer not having to make a decision on such a sensitive matter.

The Dutch went to the polls in March this year and negotiations on a new ruling coalition are still underway. This is a record long period of talks on government formation in the history of Dutch democracy.

A Dutch source confirmed that the country's position on the expansion of the Schengen area had always been one of the more critical and cautious, notably regarding respect for fundamental rights at the borders that should become the new external borders of the Schengen area.

Asked about the country's current position on the specific issue of conclusions that would be adopted in December and confirm Croatia's readiness to join the Schengen area, the source said that there is no final position and that it is still being worked on, the daily said.

Another source, familiar with closed-door talks in the Council of the EU, has said that the Dutch are showing good will and sincerely want to help and cooperate with the Slovenian Presidency to reach a consensus on the adoption of the conclusions, the daily says. 

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