Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Living as a Croatian in South Africa: Part One - Introducing Ova Klapa

June 28, 2022 - In a new TCN series, intern Adriana Tasovac talks about living as a Croatian in South Africa. 

My earliest memories of my childhood are with mixed feelings. Although my childhood within my family and Croatian community was very joyful and content, it was difficult for me initially to blend in with my South African peers at school, as they were all English speaking and I had only spoken Croatian until the age of two. Children can be brutal and unfiltered and most unaccepting of someone that does not blend in with their norm, which is what I was, with my unpronounceable name and lack of common language. Today as an adult I can laugh off the awkward childhood as my upbringing within my Croatian community as a Luška (Female from Vela Luka) is what stirred up my strong feelings and absolute love of my roots and rich heritage and culture. Living as a Croatian in South Africa has been a very positive experience, which has taught me the importance of embracing other heritages, cultures, and countries, and the significance of loving who you are.

Velo Lučani (Croatians from Vela Luka), are bound by a common love for singing and acapella choirs. Gathering with our friends and family, was always a frequent occurrence. Every opportunity was taken at any given time, to get together where much eating, drinking, and singing took place. Upholding the traditions from home seemed to fill the void of living in a foreign country. It was these joyous get-togethers that prompted a group of close-knit Lučani friends, including my father to start their singing journey.

klapa_Ova_klapa.jpg

Soon after, they gave their group a name, and "Ova Klapa” (This Acapella) was born. Ova Klapa ignited my interest in music, particularly our traditional folk music. The klapa (acapella group) would sing traditional folk songs after dinners during our many gatherings, which in turn prompted them to record a compilation of their favourite and most revered songs in an album.

One very fond memory has always remained with me, Ova Klapa’s introduction of themselves and their complete cover album ‘’Jo, Da Mi Je” (Oh, How I Wish), as well as some teaser songs from their then-upcoming, second cover album, to the South African- Croatian community at the Saint Jerome Croatian Catholic Church in Johannesburg.

(Part 1)

A memorable concert was organised and performed on the evening of the 28th of February 2004, which told the story of their love for Vela Luka and their longing to return someday.

(Part 2) 

This nostalgic and emotional event showcased a variety of songs from their cover album as well as their appreciation of South Africa, by including a native South African choir to perform some of their own traditional dances and recitals. There were many laughs and tears throughout the journey of the tale that they told, and the concert concluded with their rendition of ‘’Sjećanje na Velu Luku’’ (Remembering Vela Luka).

 

I recall waiting patiently all night for my big moment to arrive. All the children of the members of Ova Klapa, were dressed in traditional outfits and given the task of presenting all the ladies and benefactors with a bouquet of flowers. I proudly executed my duty and then spent the finale in my father’s arms gazing into the audience.  “Vela Luku, mala, ne zaboravi!” (Little Vela Luka, I won’t forget you!).

adriana_traditional_dress.jpeg

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Croatian Interior Minister Meets US Defence, Justice, Homeland Security Officials

ZAGREB, 28 June 2022 - Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović met in Washington on Monday with high officials of the US departments of defense and justice ahead of a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday.

Božinović began his United States tour by meeting with Assistant Defense Secretary Celeste Wallander at the Pentagon.

They confirmed the two sides' readiness to cooperate further and continue with all the necessary allied measures against the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

They expressed the wish to continue the transatlantic cooperation and the need for strong engagement in the stabilization of Western Balkan countries, notably Bosnia and Herzegovina, including ensuring the continuation of the peace operation there.

"Maintaining US-EU unity and partnership is of key importance, which is also the clear position of the US administration, notably in light of the aggression on Ukraine. We are all aware that this crisis will not be short and that there will be challenges we must solve together in order to maintain the democratic order and the shared way of life," Božinović said.

"I'm sure that in the coming period the US and the EU, with Croatia's active role as a member of Euro-Atlantic institutions, will pay special attention to Southeast Europe, stability, and democratic development," he added.

Božinović then met with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco at the Department of Defense.

They concluded that the bilateral cooperation in security is strong and that Croatia and the United States have the same goal, to strengthen the security environment and the rule of law.

"Strengthening transatlantic ties is of exceptional significance, first and foremost the cooperation in the fight against terrorism, organized crime, in cyber security and electronic evidence exchange," said Božinović.

Croatia has committed to cyber security cooperation by joining the US Counter Ransomware Initiative.

"The common goal is further cooperation in insuring electronic evidence, which will be regulated by adopting the Umbrella Agreement between the US and the EU," Božinović said.

On Tuesday, before meeting with Mayorkas, he will meet with Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus and Assistant Secretary of State Julieta Valls Noyes.

The Croatian minister will wrap up his Washington visit by talking with Coast Guard Vice Commandant Steven D. Poulin.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Marin Čilić Withdraws from Wimbledon after Testing Positive for Covid-19

June 28, 2022 - Marin Čilić has tested positive for Covid-19, meaning he too will miss this year's Wimbledon after Borna Ćorić pulled out from the tournament a few days ago. 

Croatia's best tennis player Marin Čilić canceled his performance at this year's Wimbledon, which started on Monday, due to coronavirus. Čilić posted on Instagram with the bad news and expressed great sadness that he had to end the season on grass in this way. 

"Hey guys, I am sad to share that I tested positive for COVID. I have been self-isolating and was hopeful I would be ready but unfortunately I am still feeling unwell & unable to compete at my best. I am heartbroken to be missing @Wimbledon & to see my grass season end this way. Looking forward to competing again next year!"

Marin Čilić was the only Croatian representative in the men's senior singles competition. He was the 14th-seed and in the 1st round, he was meant to play against American Mackenzie McDonald. McDonald will move on without a fight.

Čilić was one of the favorites to go far at Wimbledon this year. The Croat has already played in the Wimbledon final, and at the recent Roland Garros, he reached the semifinals and was said to be in his best form. 

Recall, Borna Ćorić will also miss this year's Wimbledon, where the draw in the first round awarded him the 15th tennis player in the world, Argentine Diego Schwartzman. Ćorić cited a shoulder injury as the reason for this decision. Ćorić will be replaced by the "lucky loser" from the qualifications in the main draw.

The Croatia national team player took a break for a year due to a shoulder injury that needed surgery. However, as points for the ATP rankings cannot be won at this year's Wimbledon, it is not worth the risk for Ćorić to expose his still not fully recovered shoulder to the efforts of playing three sets because his main mission now is to improve his ranking.

Ćorić currently ranks 203rd in the singles ATP rankings, and he pointed out a spot among the 100 best in the world as his goal, which would guarantee him direct entry into the main draw at the biggest tournaments in the world. 

The organizers of the Umag Blue Lagoon Croatia Open gave Ćorić an invitation so that he would not have to spend the quota of the remaining tournaments in which he could play with a protected ranking, and he could have his next performance in Umag. The Umag ATP tournament is scheduled for July 25-31.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated sports section

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Croatia Flight Cancelations in July from Eurowings, Austrian, Lufthansa, and easyJet

June 28, 2022 - The latest flight news as Croatia flight cancelations in July from Eurowings, Austrian, Lufthansa, and easyJet have been announced. 

Eurowings, Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines have canceled a total of 55 return flights to Croatian airports announced in July this year, all to ensure regular operations due to a lack of staff within the airlines and at the airports to which they operate, reports Croatian Aviation

The three mentioned Lufthansa Group carriers canceled 55 return flights to Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik.

Lufthansa has reduced the number of flights on only one route to Croatia, between Zagreb and Munich, so in July, it will operate 6 instead of 7 times a week on this route, for a total of 28 return flights.

Low-cost airline Eurowings reduces traffic on 10 international routes to six Croatian airports:

Cologne - Rijeka, instead of 13, announced 9 flights (canceled 4),

Cologne - Zadar, instead of 13, announced 9 flights (canceled 4),

Cologne - Zagreb, instead of 26, 14 flights announced (12 canceled),

Cologne - Dubrovnik, suspended line, last flight performed on June 12,

Dusseldorf - Rijeka, instead of 14, 11 flights announced (3 canceled),

Dusseldorf - Zagreb, instead of 13, 9 flights announced (4 canceled),

Stuttgart - Pula, instead of 7, 6 flights announced (1 canceled),

Stuttgart - Rijeka, instead of 9, 6 flights announced (3 canceled),

Stuttgart - Split, instead of 41, 38 flights announced (3 canceled),

Stuttgart - Zagreb, instead of 23, announced 14 flights (canceled 9),

In July, Austrian Airlines continues to operate daily to Adriatic airports, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik, but significantly reduces the number of flights to Zagreb airport. 

Instead of 53 scheduled return flights in July, Austrian has canceled 9 and now plans 44 flights on this route for July.

The Lufthansa Group is no exception among carriers. Companies and airports were not ready for high demand this summer, resulting in a shortage of workforce in all segments of air transport, from a lack of flight and cabin staff to the crew at airports (check-in, loading, and unloading of luggage, general reception and departure of passengers and aircraft). There are also standard problems with the workforce in air traffic control, which is why aircraft in the summer months rarely take off (and land) according to the planned flight schedule.

Given that the number of monthly flights by the Lufthansa Group to Croatian airports is relatively large, 55 canceled flights to Croatia in July is not a huge number, especially if this will relieve the pressure on the previously mentioned stakeholders and enable some normalization of air traffic in the peak season. 

Furthermore, Croatian Aviation reports that British low-cost airline easyJet canceled 15 return flights previously announced to three Croatian airports - Pula, Rijeka, and Split. The airline also cites major operational problems at airports in London (Gatwick) and Paris (Charles de Gaulle).

On the route from London (Gatwick) to Pula, easyJet offered 27 return flights in July until Sunday, but three flights were canceled, and 24 are now available for booking.

There were supposed to be 13 return flights between Paris and Pula in July, but easyJet canceled four return flights, and only nine are now available.

easyJet has the largest number of summer flights to Split Airport, to which only six flights are currently canceled. Namely, between Gatwick and Split, 95 return flights are planned in July (previously 99), while between Paris and Split, 38 return flights are now available (previously 40).

easyJet continuously cancels flights on the new route between Rijeka and London, originally announced twice a week. The airline also cut the weekly operations in July and canceled announced flights on Tuesdays, leaving only flights on Saturdays on sale. For now, only flights on July 5 and 12 have been canceled, but the carrier has not yet revised the flight schedule for the second half of July, so further reductions may happen. 

For more on flights to Croatia and other travel announcements, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Croatian Flight Controllers: More Air Traffic Now Than 2019

June the 28th, 2022 - Croatian flight controllers have stated that there has been more air traffic in the country's air space than back in the pre-pandemic, record year of 2019.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Mladen Miletic writes, representatives of the Croatian Trade Union of Air Traffic Controllers (HSSKL) presented their forecasts of some truly excellent and encouraging business results from within the aviation sector so far in 2022, in spite of problems the industry is still faced with.

The above was presented at a recently held meeting of the Functional Airspace Block of Central Europe (FAB CE) in the Hungarian capital city of Budapest.

Representatives of seven European countries (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia) all gathered within the FAB CE initiative jointly estimate that in the coming months, the crowds at airports will be greater than before due to an ongoing lack of workers, but also the fact that despite negative economic trends and other problems, particularly the ongoing and brutal war in Ukraine following Russian invasion, there has been no decline in interest in flights.

"With the full activation of international air traffic, we expect even higher traffic than the record year of 2019, to which traffic during the summer months will contribute the most. Regardless of the negative economic trends affected by the global coronavirus pandemic and the unstable situation in Eastern Europe as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, business forecasts in the field of aviation are very optimistic," say Croatian flight controllers.

"All statistical indicators and analyses indicate that by the end of 2022, we will witness an upward business trajectory. We're already recording better results than we previously predicted, and now a total and utter recovery of air traffic from the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight,'' said Kresimir Rakoci, President of the Air Traffic Controllers Union after the FAB CE meeting.

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

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Rudjer Boskovic Institute Coordinates AI Programme for Healthcare

June the 28th, 2022 - The Rudjer Boskovic Institute is no stranger to European and international praise and rounds of applause, and with its latest project, there could be a real turnaround on the cards in terms of healthcare provision.

Croatia has been given the opportunity to be a European driver of digital change in healthcare, and the project of the public-private consortium AI4Health "Artificial Intelligence for Smart Health and Medicine" was excellently evaluated by the European Commission (EC) within the Digital Europe programme.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, this means that the project, whose holder and coordinator is the Rudjer Boskovic Institute, along with the help of fifteen other partners, should become the Croatian EDIH (European Digital Innovation Hub).

The signing of the contract with the EC is expected in the third quarter, and it will provide the consortium with a sum of three million euros over the next three years. During that period, says Anja Baresic, the coordinator for partners from the Rudjer Boskovic Institute, Croatia has the opportunity to position itself among the leaders in the transformation of European health systems with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

"Our goal is for at least part of the innovation based on artificial intelligence to come to life within the scope of Croatian healthcare, from which patients, healthcare professionals and innovators will benefit the most," Baresic pointed out.

Four types of service

As she explained, although this country does have a decent number of innovators and startups in the field of healthcare, their AI solutions find it difficult to find their way to the healthcare system itself and really enter into practical application for several reasons. A common challenge is that they have nowhere to test these innovations in the development phase, and there is a real vagueness in terms of legislation regarding the entry of AI solutions into the market, especially in the healthcare sector where the risks are high. That should finally change thanks to this Rudjer Boskovic Institute project.

“In the hub for the application of artificial intelligence in healthcare that we're going to establish, we'll provide four types of services; pre-investment testing, assistance in accessing funding sources, improving skills and knowledge and networking ecosystems,'' explained Baresic. All this will be possible because the consortium consists of actors from all sectors necessary for AI to come to life in practice - science, medicine, industry and the public sector.

According to Nina Sesto, the assistant director of the Magdalena Clinic and the project coordinator for health, this will be the key to the digitalisation of the Croatian healthcare system.

"The biggest shifts occur when different worlds grow closer, that is, when everyone comes and sits at the same table, jointly defines obstacles and also tries to find solutions," she said.

The assistant director of the Clinic, which has had a telecardiology centre for more than twenty years now and monitors patients remotely, says there are some huge obstacles to significant digitalisation and application of AI not only here in Croatia, but all over the world.

“New technologies and tools need to gain the trust of the clinicians who need to use these new digital tools in treating their patients. Maximum transparency and a clear legal framework are needed,'' she stated, adding that Magdalena is also working on developing their own innovation.

In the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, they launched an impressive virtual clinic, and by the end of the year, the digital assistant Megi, intended for chronic cardiovascular patients, should come to life. In the initial development of Megi, the startup Mindsmiths, the founder of which is Mislav Malenica, who is also the president of CroAI, an association that has been part of the AI4Health consortium from the beginning and which gave Andrija to the Croatian healthcare system in the middle of the pandemic, also participated.

Malenica predicts a bright future for this Rudjer Boskovic Institute project on the basis of which Croatia could become part of the digital revolution. He noted the healthcare sector was not randomly selected.

“When AI started to develop we thought it would contribute to greater equality across all segments of life and in our society, but it ended up making some even bigger differences. We gathered together a team of experts from various fields and realised that healthcare is a sector that lacks digital innovations and that we can be the first to implement something in this area,'' Malenica recalled.

He added that the problems in different healthcare systes around the world are a reality and that there is an obvious need for solutions. Hospital systems are becoming increasingly congested, and this is putting pressure on both staff and hospital costs, not to mention patient waiting times which may well be critical.

The solutions provided by AI, according to Deloitte research, can save about 400,000 lives a year, save about two million man-hours and about 200 billion euros a year.

For more, make sure to check out Made in Croatia.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

German Portal BR24 Warns German Tourists of High Croatian Prices

June the 28th, 2022 - The German portal BR24 has warned would-be German tourists of the currently ''high Croatian prices'' as ongoing inflation continues to pinch pockets and tighten belts.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the German portal Bayerische Rundfunk 24 has stated: ''Whether it's a city trip to Dubrovnik or a beach holiday on Krk - tourists must be prepared for higher Croatian prices.''

Back in 2019 - before the global coronavirus crisis - 2.88 million inhabitants of Germany spent their summers here in the Republic of Croatia, and travel agencies in Germany are announcing that this year, the number of visiting Germans could exceed 2019's figures, reports BR24.

However, the aforementioned German portal also warned its fellow citizens about high Croatian prices as a result of inflation, which amounts to almost ten percent, and they say that the price of everyday basic items in stores is now even higher, RTL reports.

“It seems that in some cases, the prices have remained the same, but the packaging has become smaller. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages in May 2022 increased by 15.2 percent compared to the same month last year,'' stateed BR24 when explaining high Croatian prices.

They also say that the huge increase in prices is noticeable in the hospitality industry. Thus, they state that before the coronavirus pandemic, a beer in a pub in the City of Zagreb cost twelve kuna, or about 1.60 euros, and that German visitors will now have to pay 19 kuna for it.

"In places and islands popular with tourists, such as Split, Dubrovnik or Rovinj, the prices are much higher. Lunch for a family of four can cost 700 kuna and more, which is the equivalent of about 93 euros. According to the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, hotel prices have also risen. They were more expensive by more than twelve percent this May compared to May 2021,'' writes BR24.

In the end, BR24 warned the Germans to be careful when exchanging money, more precisely switching euros to the Croatian kuna.

“You can try to save at least some money. Because, depending on where you exchange euros for kuna, the exchange rate varies. As a rule, exchange rates in exchange offices are much cheaper than when you withdraw money from ATMs,'' they say.

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

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Croatian Electric Car Purchase Incentives Prove an Absolute Hit

June the 28th, 2022 - Croatian electric car purchase incentives which were only introduced yesterday have proven an absolute hit among all those choosing to opt for electric vehicles.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, the tender for the award of Croatian electric car purchase incentives from the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency was opened yesterday at 08:00, and by 08:30, literally thirty minutes later, 99 percent of the provisions of a total of 103.3 million kuna were filled. As of 08:50 that same morning, applications for Croatian electric car purchase incentives was no longer possible.

"The method of application for both people and companies was the same as it was last year. At the end of May, we published a public call/invitation for expressions of interest towards car distributors, and at the end of June, a public call for co-financing the purchase of electric cars for people and companies came to be. The amount of Croatian electric car purchase incentives per vehicle wasn't set to change this year and amounted to between 20 and 70 thousand kuna, depending on the category of vehicle and type of drive,'' they said from the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency.

This means that this year, too, the implementation of grants for the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles was carried out according to the procedure introduced last year, which has proven to be more efficient than the previous practice(s).

To be more specific, last year, a new, changed procedural method was introduced, according to which the famous "first come first served'' method was avoided, ie the model according to which incentives were given to those who managed to apply first. Apart from the fact that such a system was criticised by both individuals and legal entities, it was also unsuccessful because in the end, only 50 percent of people to whom the incentive was granted, actually bothered to use the incentive. Under this new system, individuals and legal entities no longer apply to the public call directly, but through authorised motor vehicle dealers based here in the Republic of Croatia.

As such, this year as well, the aforementioned Fund first announced a public call to which dealers were able to apply, who then reported points of sale and available vehicle models through the Fund's application. At their points of sale, individuals and legal entities received an offer for a vehicle and dealers applied for the Croatian electric car purchase incentives on their behalf.

Therefore, those who wanted to get their hands on Croatian electric car purchase incentives this time around still had to be fast, meaning they needed to fully prepare before the announcement of the public call, which meant studying the offer of the vehicles for which they could apply for subsidies, and which were being offered on the Croatian market, and there were more and more every day. According to information from the Fund, the utilisation of the funds from last year's public call has been much better than it was in previous years, but they don't yet have an accurate analysis. The reason is that the deadline for the purchase of these vehicles, ie the use of the reserved funds, had been prolonged due to the extended deadlines placed on the delivery of cars on a global level. The procedure after a successful incentive booking is, therefore, exactly like it was last year.

The buyer has been required to pay a minimum advance of 7 percent of the Fund's requested funds, for example if an incentive of 70,000 kuna was requested, the dealer would have to be paid out a sum of 4,900 kuna. The deadline for delivery and use of incentives will be nine months from the approval of co-financing. By far the most sought-after vehicles for co-financing last year were electric cars, for which 70,000 kuna was made available this year as well.

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

Monday, 27 June 2022

Contracts Awarded for Co-Financing School Meals for Children at Risk of Poverty

ZAGREB, 27 June 2022 - Minister of Labour and Social Policy Marin Piletić awarded 17 contracts on Monday to county and city authorities, worth more than HRK 14.6 million, which will provide a daily school meal for children at risk of poverty in more than 200 primary schools next school year.

"This is the ministry's annual regular activity since 2015, and we have allocated HRK 30 million for the next 2022/2023 school year for this very purpose," said Piletić.

Contracts were signed with 17 beneficiaries today which will provide school meals for 14,500 children at risk of poverty, and more contracts will be signed with other elementary school founders. The minister believes that the allocated HRK 30 million will all be spent during the next school year.

The funds allocated so far through the European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD) will be allocated next year through the European Social Fund Plus. An allocation of just over €35 million is planned to continue funding this activity until 2027.

Piletić underscored that local government units will also additionally finance these activities, which will include about 30,000 children at risk of poverty in the next school year.

Speaking about children at risk of poverty, Piletić pointed out that only data from 2020 is currently available and the percentage of these children dropped to 16.8%, which is slightly lower than the European average of 21%.

"The poverty rate is highest in Slavonian counties for well-known reasons, but because there are children at risk of poverty in the whole of Croatia, including developed areas, our goal is for school founders in all of Croatia to be potential beneficiaries in the next programme period," Piletić said.

The contracts today were signed by seven counties: Krapina-Zagorje, Sisak-Moslavina, Varaždin, Bjelovar-Bilogora, Međimurje, Koprivnica-Križevci, Brod-Posavina; and 10 cities: Slavonski Brod, Vukovar, Bjelovar, Križevci, Zadar, Čakovec, Vinkovci, Šibenik, Makarska, and Virovitica.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Prime Minister Receives Representatives of Five National Sports Federations

ZAGREB, 27 June 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković received representatives of five national sports federations in Government House on Monday, and among other things they discussed the importance of investing in the development of sports and sports facilities, the government said in a press release.

Attending the meeting along with Plenković were Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac.

"Prime Minister Plenković underscored the numerous top results of Croatian athletes, who have for years been one of the most important promoters of Croatia in the world, and their successes also contribute to strengthening national identity and pride," the press release said.

The sports representatives expressed their satisfaction with all that has been done so far in the field of sports and commended the government's initiative to draft a new Sports Act, which was last amended in 2006.

Plenković said that the government would continue to provide financial support to sports. He underscored that the popularisation of sports is important for Croatian society, especially among children and young people, because it has a positive effect on the adoption of values of a healthy lifestyle and encourages discipline and socialization.

For more, check out our politics section.

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