Thursday, 20 January 2022

Plenković: Omicron Seems to Be Less Dangerous Variant of Coronavirus

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been present in Croatia for several weeks now, but it "seems slightly less dangerous than was previously the case," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in his opening remarks at a regular cabinet meeting on Thursday.

"The number of new infections is not proportionately reflected in the number of hospitalizations and those placed on ventilators," Plenković said, adding that this was why the Omicron variant seemed less dangerous.

He, however, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was continuing to spread and that Omicron was spreading faster and was more infectious.

"I call on the people who have not been vaccinated yet to get vaccinated, and those who have to take a booster dose. Over 700,000 people have so far received a booster dose," the prime minister said.

Stressing the importance of trust in science and medicine, he said that the only way to protect oneself from getting infected with the novel coronavirus was a combination of vaccination and compliance with epidemiological measures.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Contactless Terminals at INA Petrol Pumps Never Made Operational in 18 Months of Testing

January 20th, 2022 - INA plans to implement contactless pay at their petrol pumps, but the terminals installed in the pilot phase haven’t had a trial run in over a year

Croatia’s leading oil company INA has been testing contactless payment at petrol pumps for a year and a half, reports Jutarnji list/Dora Koretić.

Petrol pumps at INA’s petrol station in Resnik were fitted with contactless payment terminals in 2020, aiming to limit close contact during the pandemic by allowing customers to pay for fuel without having to enter the store.

The terminals were recently removed because the company decided to test ‘other technical solutions available on the market’. This wouldn’t be an issue in itself, but as it turns out, the contactless payment terminals at the Resnik station were never made operational, making it unclear what exactly INA has been testing over the last 18 months.

The company stated this was a pilot project aiming to gather user feedback on contactless payment at petrol pumps using bank cards or fleet cards.

‘Customer satisfaction is our no.1 priority, which is why the company continuously works on developing new solutions to enable customers to purchase products and services at our stations in the simplest way possible. [The project] is still in the pilot phase, and for the sake of establishing the best technical solution the terminals have been removed temporarily. Installation of new ones is underway so that we could carry out an analysis of other technical solutions that are available on the market’, stated INA.

Despite how long it’s been since the pilot project was launched and the fact that the terminals were never put into use, INA state they consider digitalization a critical factor of business, especially in a time where preventative measures, such as maintaining physical distance and limiting the number of customers in stores, are of great importance.

The company has so far introduced contactless payment at the pump through the INA PAY mobile app, which is currently only available for corporate users holding an INA card. Coffee machines at INA  petrol stations are also equipped with contactless terminals. However, it still hasn’t been determined when mobile payment or other forms of contactless pay at the pump will become an option for private customers.

In contrast, many petrol stations in Slovenia offer customers the option to pay contactless at the pump. This mode of payment gained in popularity after the Slovenian government made Covid certificates a prerequisite for in-store payment at service stations, but not for contactless payment at petrol pumps.

 

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Opposition Strongly Criticises Social Welfare Reform Bills

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - The parliamentary opposition on Thursday strongly criticized a reformed set of social welfare bills, saying that the opinions of professionals have not been taken into account, that the system is being unnecessarily centralized, and that there might be long-term negative consequences.

Despite some improvements, the reform is going in the wrong direction and might have far-reaching negative consequences, and it is also contrary to everything professionals have said, Davorko Vidović of the Social Democrats' parliamentary club said in a debate on seven social welfare reform bills.

Anka Mrak Taritaš of GLAS said the aim of the bills should be making life easier for beneficiaries but that these bills were about form, not content.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc said two World Bank loans were taken out since 2003 for decentralizing services and reforming the social welfare system and that tens of millions of euros were absorbed from the EU for the same purpose.

What have been the effects of that and why is the course being drastically changed, she asked.

The ruling majority commended the reform, saying that it will result in a more efficient and more transparent system in the service of its beneficiaries.

The centralization refers only to administrative and legal affairs, Nada Murganić of the HDZ said, adding that the reform is timely as it envisages raising almost all allowances.

The guaranteed minimum allowance and the disability allowance are being raised while means' tests and other tests for persons with disabilities are being rescinded, said her colleague Vesna Bedaković.

Presenting the bills, Social Welfare Minister Josip Aladrović said the goal was to enhance the system's organization and coordination, strengthen social welfare centers, increase the availability of services, standardize action, and increase allowances.

"This set of bills is just the first step in improving the system in the long term," he added.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Croatia's Average Take-Home Pay for November €977

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - The average take-home wage earned in Croatia in November totaled HRK 7,333 (€977.7), rising 6.8% in nominal terms and 1.9% in real terms in comparison to the average salary in November 2020, the national statistical office (DZS) reported on Thursday.

The average wage rose 2.7% in nominal terms and two percent in real terms from October 2021.

The median net pay in November was HRK 6,149, which means that half of the people employed earned wages below that amount, and half earned wages above that amount.

From the start of the year until the end of November 2021, the average take-home pay in legal entities amounted to HRK 7,115 which was an increase of 5.5% nominally and 3.1% in real terms, on the year.

(€1 = HRK 7.519819)

Make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Volume of Construction Work Up 18th Month in a Row

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - The volume of construction work in November 2021 was 4.5% up from the same month of 2020, while compared to October 2021 it was down 1%, preliminary data from the State Bureau of Statistics (DZS) indicate.

November 2021 was the 18th consecutive month to see a year-on-year increase in the volume of construction work.

The volume of construction work on buildings was up 6.9% compared to November 2020 while the volume of work on other structures was up 1.2%.

Compared to October 2021, the volume of work on buildings was 0.4% greater while the volume of work on other structures was down 3.3%.

A total of 60.8% of hours worked in November 2021 referred to work on new structures while 39.2% referred to repair works and maintenance.

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Average Age of Vehicles in Croatia Worrying 14.34 Years

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Vehicles in Croatia are on average 14.34 years old and last year 19.74% did not pass a technical inspection at first go, the Center for Vehicles of Croatia said on Thursday.

In 2020, the average age of vehicles was 14.18 years.

Of 2,271,201 vehicles inspected last year, 448,386 were faulty, with an average of 5.14 faults detected per faulty vehicle.

Most of the faults were detected in lighting and light-signaling devices (560,000) and braking devices (537,000).

As in past years, more than 65,000 vehicles did not pass an eco test and more than 45,000 errors were found in control and signaling devices.

Last year saw an increase in hybrid and electric vehicles, with 15,918 hybrids, up from 8,080 in 2020, and 3,054 electric vehicles, up from 1,343 in 2020.

Last year the average distance traveled by vehicles in Croatia was 10,016 km, down from 12,542 km in 2019.

Make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Croatia's Coronavirus Daily Caseload Hits New Record at 17,489

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - In Croatia, 11,343 persons have tested positive in PCR tests and an additional 6,146 have been positive in rapid antigen tests in the last 24 hours, the national COVID-19 crisis management team reported on Thursday.

Thus, 17,489 cases set a new record after there were 16,017 new COVID-19 cases in the country on Wednesday.

Currently, there are 59,193 active cases, including 1,792 hospitalized COVID patients, of whom 195 are placed on ventilators.

Since the first registered case of infection with the novel virus on 25 February 2020, there have been 848,150 cases of infection so far. Of them, 775,657 patients have recovered, including 8,315 in the last 24 hours.

The death toll has climbed by another 43 fatalities in the last 24 hours to 13,300.

To date, 64.43% of adults have fully been vaccinated.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Opposition Criticises Report on European Council Meetings in 2021

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Opposition MPs on Wednesday criticized a report on European Council meetings in 2021, warning about population problems, the poor status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, higher energy prices, and inflation, while the majority said Croatia's interests were defended well at those meetings.

The report was presented by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Nino Raspudić (Bridge) said the Council of the EU rejected Croatia's amendments on legitimate political representation and the equality of three constituent peoples in BiH through an electoral reform ahead of a vote due in October.

He said that instead of Croatia blocking those conclusions in line with its national interest, the Plenković cabinet "coldly betrayed Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Croatian interest overall."

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said the Council of the EU conclusions were the incumbent government's biggest success. "If anyone has done something for Croats in BiH, then it's Plenković and all of us who were there with him."

Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said that last year the European Council called on the member states and the Commission to help the most vulnerable citizens and companies, to design medium and long-term measures to cut energy prices, and to cut taxes.

"Croatia has done none of that. The only measure was that freezing of fuel prices," he said, adding that Croatia could do a lot to help citizens and businesses.

Grbin said that at the European Council Croatia joined France and some other member states in pushing for nuclear energy, asking why Croatia was not joining countries that pushed for alternative sources. In the long term, he said, Croatia must deal with energy sources and achieving the biggest autonomy possible on that front.

Grbin said the SDP was for Croatia's entering Schengen and for using money from the EU Solidarity Fund for post-earthquake reconstruction.

He called on the government to give an estimate, based on the current inflation, of what awaits Croatia with the introduction of the euro and of how to alleviate the inflation blow to citizens.

Bojan Glavašević (Green-Left Bloc) said Croatia received a lot of money from the EU because it was undeveloped and poor, not because of the prime minister's efforts.

He said the results of Croatia's efforts regarding EU enlargement were such that North Macedonia continued to have a shameful blockade of its accession negotiations, Serbia was adopting laws that were the opposite of the EU acquis and values, and Montenegro was going backward.

The EU has no understanding for BiH and the Croats there nor a big interest in the Croatian government's positions in that regard, Glavašević added.

Marko Pavić of the ruling HDZ said that while Bridge wanted to isolate Croatia in the EU and the Sovereignists were against the euro, even though a majority of citizens were for, the HDZ was pushing for modern sovereignism and not isolating Croatia in the European Council.

He said the government and Plenković knew how to defend Croatia's interests, as evidenced in their ensuring €25 billion from European funds for the country's development over the next ten years.

Croatia came out of the recent crisis in just 18 months, and not in ten years as it took after the 2008 crisis, Pavić said, adding that despite the recent crisis, Croatia's credit rating was upgraded and it had a successful tourist season.

He wondered why Grbin was afraid of nuclear energy and why Croatia, as a co-owner of the Krško nuclear plant, should not be part of the initiative to have nuclear energy recognized as green energy.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

President Should Declassify His Own Requests, Defense Minister Says

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Wednesday he was satisfied with a report by the chief defense inspector "given the circumstances in which the inspection was conducted" and invited President Zoran Milanović to declassify his own requests.

Speaking to Jutarnji List daily, Banožić recalled: "a statement of 4 November 2021, at the start of the inspection, when President Milanović exerted gross pressure on the chief defense inspector by saying that 'they are saying in (power utility) HEP that the chief defense inspector's wife has been appointed director temporarily'."

Thereby, Banožić said, Milanović "showed what the chief inspector and his family will go through if the findings are not favorable to Milanović's interests."

Banožić was commenting on a letter Milanović sent Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in which he said that Banožić was hiding from the public the conclusions in which the Defence Inspectorate found that the military chief of staff did not break the law in implementing Banožić's decision on the holding of a swearing-in ceremony for conscripts and in providing support to the president's office in 2021.

The inspectorate's conclusions confirm that Banožić falsely accused the military leadership of breaking the law, thereby causing harm to the Armed Forces and Croatia, the president said, asking the prime minister to declassify the inspectorate's "restricted" findings.

Banožić said "the inspectorate's findings are classified" and asked the president to declassify "25 requests for transport by helicopter, 125 requests for various protocol matters, requests for using the Učka motor yacht, requests for the services of smaller military units, requests for using Armed Forces vehicles and drivers and for other forms of support which have been classified so that the public can have insight into the whole situation."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Western Balkans Important to Macron in Security Context

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday the EU should give a clear European perspective to the Western Balkans although he is not an advocate of enlargement without reforming the EU, while several Croatian MEPs feel that part of Europe is important to him for security reasons.

We must not distance ourselves from the Western Balkans anymore. They should get from us a clear perspective of EU accession within a reasonable time, Macron said at a plenary in Strasbourg, but added that enlargement is not possible without reforming the EU.

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula (S&D/SDP) told Hina "Macron is looking for his place in that security architecture of the world, notably Europe. Macron is interested in all that is in some way dubious from the aspect of Europe's security."

Macron is "aware that if Europe doesn't fill some gaps, someone else will," the president of the EP Working Group on the Western Balkans added.

Croatian MEP Željana Zovko (EPP/HDZ) told Hina the issue of enlargement to the Western Balkans "is first and foremost a security challenge if that region is left to third countries looking for their own strategic position and interest."

Enlargement "won't happen at any cost" and without all the requirements being met, the co-rapporteur on the pre-accession assistance to Southeast Europe instrument added.

Zovko said Macron's statement should be viewed in the context of the French presidential election due in April given that a majority of the French are not in favor of enlargement occurring soon. "The fact that he underlined that Europe needs to reform for enlargement to continue (indicates that) that process won't take place any time soon."

Picula, too, said Macron's address "was first and foremost a pre-election address because he was speaking in Strasbourg and to French citizens."

Croatian MEP Tomislav Sokol (HDZ/EPP) told Hina "pro-European groups should be given an incentive to continue to fight for the European path so that those countries reach the European standards of human rights protection, rule of law." He added, however, that some Western Balkan countries are still far from that.

"There is practically no opposition in Serbia, where all media or all-important media are controlled by the authorities. The story about a Serbian world, which is an attempt to spread Serb influence in neighboring states... Montenegro's ruling coalition consists of political groups that range from pro-European to fiercely anti-European. In Bosnia and Herzegovina we have one people looking to the West, instead of Turkey and Russia, without a hidden agenda, the Croats," he said.

Last November, Macron supported Croatia's accession to Schengen, and reforming the area is one of the priorities of the current French Council of the EU presidency. Croatian MEPs don't believe that will change if France gets a new president.

Sokol said he was confident that if Valerie Pecresse, the center-right presidential candidate, won the election, the support to Croatia's Schengen entry would be even stronger.

During the plenary debate, independent Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakušić told Macron, "Given the rescinding of numerous rights and freedoms in France during the pandemic, I ask you just one thing, while you preside over the Union, do the exact opposite of what you did in France."

"On the other hand, today you said you were proud that there is no death penalty in Europe. Tens of thousands of citizens have died as a consequence of vaccination. Mandatory vaccination represents the death penalty," he said, adding that vaccination against COVID "must remain" a personal choice.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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