Sunday, 27 November 2022

Some Croatian Exchange Offices Preparing to Close Doors Forever

November the 27th, 2022 - As we head towards the final month in which the kuna will remain the country's official currency, many Croatian exchange offices are counting their final few weeks of business operations. Many will close their doors forever as of January 2023.

As epodravina/Sonja Badalic writes, as of the first day of 2023, the kuna will be sent to the history books with so many of the other pre-euro currencies which were once legal tender in the Eurozone. Euros will then take their place in our wallets, bank acounts, and of course - in our sock drawers. The euro is currency that we've all had dealings with by now, but still to a lesser extent, purchasing them only when going abroad.

Despite the fact that the kuna is tied to the euro in many ways, the withdrawal of the kuna from circulation will bring with it numerous changes for this country. While there is constant talk about whether the introduction of the euro will bring new price increases with it, an increase in wages or perhaps less volatile, more favourable loans, it is rarely mentioned that with the disappearance of the kuna, very many Croatian exchange offices will also close their doors for the very last time. In continental Croatia, more specifically in Koprivnica, we're talking about two Croatian exchange offices whose owners and employees are now in their final month of conducting business.

Nino Juric, the owner of the Marko exchange office in Koprivnica, is closing his doors after 23 years.

''We opened on November the 29th, 1999, and now we'll be putting the key in the lock almost on the anniversary. There are currently three of us employed here. My wife, me and another guy to who we're going to need to say goodbye to. Fortunately, he's already found a new job, but the two of us still don't know what we're going to do. First, we will dismantle the branch office, and then we'll take a short break to think about things. We'll certainly start something new, although we aren't yet at clear terms when it comes to which direction we'll go in,'' says Nino.

''When we started working, there were still German marks and Austrian shillings in circulation. The euro came to be only in 2002, and with its introduction, there were rumours about a possible switch from the kuna, which would have seen us close much sooner, so it's nothing new. We heard about it and we've discussed it for years, there was constant speculation about whether or not it would happen and now, unfortunately for us, the date is known and that day is getting closer and closer. No one is forcing us to close, but it simply doesn't make sense to do business without the kuna, because everyone who comes to us has kuna or euros.

Sometimes, but very rarely, someone asks for dollars, while there's really no demand for other currencies. As a result, our business loses its meaning and we aren't going to just sit here for days on end without work. For the minute, we're calm, we've mentally prepared for the fat that an era of our business journey is coming to an end,'' says Nino, who thinks that it's not exactly the right timing for Eurozone accession due to ongoing inflation and the war in Ukraine causing continued economic issues.

People have been changing more money lately, they've been buying euros, so now there are none left, there's a shortage, we have kuna, but nobody wants that anymore. Croatian exchange offices have always done solid business, they worked non-stop, especially during Christmas, and during the summer months, when Croatian people return home from Germany,'' says Nino, adding that Croats, especially the older generation, are quite distrustful of banks, so they prefer to come to the exchange offices and buy at a higher price.

With Eurozone accession rapidly approaching, the very many Croatian exchange offices dotting the streets throughout the country will become a thing of the past.

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

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Ante Delija Wins 2022 PFL Heavyweight Champion Title, 1 Million USD

November the 26th, 2022 - Ante Delija wins not only an enviable title, but a huge sum of cash across the pond in the Big Apple.

Croatian MMA heavyweight fighter, Ante Delija, won the 2022 PFL Heavyweight Champion title after defeating Brazilian Matheus Scheffel in the first round. With this victory, he managed to go one step further than last season, when he was defeated in the final of the PFL tournament.

Delija positioned himself dominantly and confidently from the start of the fight and took a position in the middle, after which the boxing exchanges began. Delija hits first with a nice combination of crochets to the body and head. Scheffel started to try his jab, but had trouble getting in on the bigger and taller Delija. Delija's first real blow came to Scheffel after a minute and a half, when he hit a right crochet, and the Brazilian staggered for a moment.

Coming out of the second minute, Delija tried a takedown, which he failed, but he managed to control the clinch against the fence of the arena. That didn't last long, and in the middle of the round, the fighters returned to clean boxing in the middle of the cage when they gave each other a fair number of punches. Ante hit again better, this time with a left hook and Scheffel staggered. Delija sensed it and attacked him with all his power, and then sent his opponent to the floor with a few more punches winning by technical knockout in the middle of the first round (2:50 minutes). With this, he achieved a huge victory, one of the biggest in the history of the Croatian MMA.

The PFL heavyweight title and a check for a million dollars are in the hands of a great fighter from Dubrovnik, to whom we congratulate on this magnificent victory ✌️✌️

Ante Delija pobjeda 2

 Ante Delija pobjeda 3

For more, follow our sport section.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Croatian-Chinese Economic Forum Returned After Three Years

November the 26th, 2022 - Following a three year break, most of which was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, the Croatian-Chinese economic forum made a return to Zagreb recently.

As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after being stricter than most of us here in Europe could ever even begin to imagine, China has announced new, slightly milder anti-epidemic measures, which due to the strict policy of "zero cases" have so far meant the absolute closure of the country to foreigners. Tourists still cannot enter China, but in order to mitigate the negative effects on the economy, China is opening up for representatives of multinational companies and of course - for foreign investors. At the same time, state banks will stand more strongly with local companies and China is once again starting a proactive campaign on numerous foreign markets.

As such, the Croatian-Chinese economic forum was successfully held recently here in the City of Zagreb, where about fifteen different Chinese companies conducted business B2B discussions with various Croatian companies. The last time such talks were held exactly three years ago, also here in Zagreb. Chinese companies' interest in doing business in Croatia has only grown after Croatia joined the EU back in summer 2013, and twenty Croatian companies have expressed interest in engaging in direct talks with Chinese businessmen. Mostly, on both sides, we're talking about companies from the agriculture and food industry, as well as those from the IT, energy, and tourism and real estate sector.

Some of the Chinese companies have chosen the Republic of Croatia as a location for their projects here in Europe, specifically Hainan Nanhai Blue Capacity Economic Development, a large economic system operating in various sectors from agriculture, electrical industry to high-tech manufacturing and shipbuilding. In Europe, namely, the company plans to start agricultural production in three countries - in the Czech Republic, Poland and here in Croatia, and the more specific goal is the production of animal feed, meat and meat products.

The company Xi'an TianLong Science and Technology offers cooperation in the research, the development and production of instruments and in vitro diagnostic reagents in the field of genetic testing and molecular diagnostics, and the company BGI Genomics, which operates in an impressive 100 countries, wants to directly establish cooperation in Croatia with medical and scientific institutions for the placement of their technology and research related to genomic sequencing. COFCO International, as a global platform of the Chinese food industry, wants to achieve cooperation in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Croatia.

Anshan Xingong Construction is a Chinese company engaged in the production of building materials, and it is currently examining the possibility of cooperation, and the possibility of overseas transport of heavy cargo with Croatia is being sought by representatives of the Chinese-Polish Joint Stock Shipping Company. Cooperation in the energy industry is being offered by CHINT Noark Electric, which markets its advanced solutions in 140 countries around the world. Ningbo Sanxing Smart Electric also wants to enter the Croatian market with its highly advanced solutions for electricity distribution and use systems, from smart metres, transformers and substations to chargers for electric vehicles.

The Croatia-Chinese economic forum also included representatives of the very well known Huawei Croatia, who want to strengthen their cooperation in the ICT infrastructure industry, and the company Shaanxi Zhongtuo Mine Equipment, which specialises in the development and sale of equipment in the construction of bridges, highways and tunnels, is looking for partners and representatives for the Croatian market.

The largest manufacturer of ball bearings, Xibei Bearing, also wants to explore the Croatian market. Imports from China have been growing strongly this year (amounting to a massive 889 million euros in the first eight months of 2022 alone) and greatly exceed Croatian exports (which weigh in at 62 million euros), which are dominated by raw materials and less processed products such as wood (making up almost 40% of exports) and marble and limestone, as well as construction carpentry. As for Chinese investments in Croatia, they amounted to 179.5 million euros back at the end of 2021.

For more, check out our news section.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Austria Won't Block Croatian Schengen Path, But Germany Might

November the 26th, 2022 - Despite claims to the opposite, Austria has recently cleared up the fact that it will not be standing in the way of the planned Croatian Schengen entry at the beginning of 2023, citing complaints with Schengen expansion in general, and not merely about Croatian accession. Germany, however, might throw a spanner in the works yet.

As Ines Sabalic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Austria will not prevent Croatian Schengen membership from going ahead, and neither will Sweden, which had also threatened to do so in the past. But Germany could.

There is a high chance that Croatian Schengen entry will go ahead without much fuss, but a last-minute issue is also possible. At the moment, in all the Schengen capitals that are being asked about Schengen, Zagreb, the responses are positive to Croatian entry. However, it's not over yet, because there can be unpleasant surprises where you least expect it, and some last minute problems, so we've heard, do indeed exist.

Schengen is much more than free border crossings and data exchanges, which, along with Eurozone entry in January 2023, is a question of confirming political identity for Croatia. For large member states and countries close to the center of the EU, identity is self-evident. For the Scandinavians, the EU is a rational choice. The British refused it for a multitude of reasons. It is crucial for Croatia and this confirmation would have a beneficial effect.

Over in Germany, a key part of the ruling coalition is the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grunen), and their reaction to Croatian Schengen plans is unpredictable. If they decide to make a fuss at the last minute, Scholz's government and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser will not be able to support Croatia's entry. It's more than likely that everything will be fine, but it ain't over until the fat lady sings, as they say in Britain.

Previous negative indications from some countries to Croatian Schengen entry were motivated by internal political demands and disagreements. An example of that can be found in Sweden, where two completely different parties, the Swedish Democrats, and the Social Democrats, demanded all three countries (Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania) be stopped form enteting. The far-right Sweden Democrats are against it, and the Social Democrats ask "What benefit does Sweden have from the entry of Croatia into Schengen?". At the same time, Ylva Johansson, Commissioner of the European Commission (EC) for Internal Affairs, whose responsibility includes Schengen, is a Swedish socialist herself.

As things stand now, the problem with the Swedes has been solved, that is, Sweden confirmed once again in Brussels that it will give passage to Croatian Schengen entry without causing any issues along the way.

The same is true in nearby Austria, despite recent issues the media has cited. There, the party in power, the OVP, is nervous because the public's trust in the party's good handling of the migrant issue has long-since dried up, and nostalgia has grown (according to polls reported by Der Standard) for Sebastian Kurtz, who advocated a hard-line migration policy for Austria. The threats against Croatian Schengen entry were aimed at increasing and consolidating support among VP voters, but the main issue is, as stated, Schengen itself, and not merely Croatia entering it.

The main reason for the increased number of migrants in Austria is that people simply come, pass through Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Croatia, and are directed to the northwest, towards "real" Europe. Many member states, such as Austria in this case, probably imagine Croatia as a kind of European Union military frontier, a border area that was once defined by Maria Theresa as a defense zone against the expansion of Turkey, and which later grew into a Habsburg war province.

Quite simply, the Austrians want fewer migrants or at least effective control of who enters and when. Their issue is with Schengen simply ''not working'', to quote one Austrian minister. At the same time, in these same member states, coalition or opposition parties on the left demand respect for the human rights of migrants.

The parties of the left, and especially the Greens, also understand the border areas in a better way, and what they demand is an individualised approach to migrants, so that one of the fundamental values ​​on which civilisation rests, namely respect for human rights, is not compromised. Recently, the Greens in the European Parliament also voted in favour of admitting Croatia to Schengen, because the argument of the right to enter, and for equal rights for all, prevailed in the end.

At the same time, many MEPs, and especially the German Greens, continue to show great dissatisfaction with the violation of human rights at the borders. There, the petition "Europe, stop paying for pushback" was recently launched, in which, along with Croatia, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Spain and Slovenia are all criticised for being verbally and physically violent towards potential asylum seekers, and resorting to violent measures of rejection (pushbacks).

The Greens are a complex party, and the only one among the major parties in all of the European Union that has a deeply idealistic vision, which is largely channeled into mainstream politics, and a smaller but highly visible part into activist actions. 

The lens through which these two opposing political formations see the incidents at the European Union's external borders with migrants is different. The only thing in common is that both are dissatisfied with the European Commission. Some, like the OVP, and we've seen this from the remarks made by the Austrian Minister of the Interior Karner, criticise the too lenient approach of the Commission regarding the asylum policy and Schengen, while the German Greens criticize Frontex, the European agency that is at the external borders and helps the national border police in their work.

These members are dissatisfied, they want something from Greece, which they constantly criticise, and also from Croatia, which would like to enter Schengen, but what do they want exactly? What kind of border area should Croatia be? Should there be a military landscape at all? Nobody seems to have much of an idea. However, it will be necessary to have a long, hard think about what the Croatian borders, the EU's external ones, will look like following Schengen entry in 2023.

For more, make sure to keep up with our news and politics sections.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Rijeka Designer Marko Perozic Stands Out to John Malkovich

November the 26th, 2022 - Rijeka designer Marko Perozic has managed to make himself and the company he works for stand out to no less than John Malkovich, and his new play which recently premiered in Lisbon is putting creative, talented Croatian poster design on display.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the leading voice in this brand new play, which is actually an adaptation of the book "Nazi Literature in America", is played by the famous actor John Malkovich himself, and the plot is set in Chile, which was therefore the inspiration for this creative solution which the Rijeka designer Marko Perozic dealt with excellently.

''First of all, we had to do a little research on the play, the theme. We came to the point that it would be good to translate the Chilean flag and motif into direct communication on the poster itself,'' said Marko Perozic, the co-owner and creative director of a design and marketing agency from Rijeka.

The creation of the poster was ordered by an agency with which the company from Rijeka cooperates, which organises concerts, plays and represents famous people in marketing. One of them is John Malkovich who, out of three offered design solutions by the Rijeka company, chose this one.

''It was quite fun. It's nice when someone like him approves some kind of visual,'' Rijeka designer Marko Perozic pointed out for HRT.

It is otherwise one in a series of successful jobs done by this particular design agency from Rijeka, whose team consists of eleven creative people. They are engaged in marketing, the creation of design solutions and the branding of various products and services.

For more, make sure to keep up with our news section. For more on Croatian design, products, companies and entrepreneurs, make sure to check out our dedicated Made in Croatia section.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Zlatko Dalić and Ivan Perišić ahead of Canada: "We Need to Show the Real Croatia"

November 26, 2022 - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić and Ivan Perišić addressed the press before Croatia's 2022 World Cup match against Canada on Sunday. 

After drawing 0-0 against Morocco, expectations are high for Croatia to get a good result against Canada in their second match. The two teams meet at Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar on Sunday, November 27, at 19:00 local time. Canada lost their 2022 World Cup opener against Belgium 0-1. 

After Canada's first match, coach John Herdman stirred the pot by saying, 'eff Croatia.'

"I told them they belong here, and we're going to go and eff Croatia. That's as simple as it gets," Herdman said. 

Dalić replied: 

"It's not really nice to say something like that, but it's his right. We need to show on the pitch that we are better."

Will there be any lineup changes compared to Morocco?

"We changed our training to the evening. This is a crucial game. We need to be aggressive. Canada played great against Belgium. Vlašić didn't train with us last night, so we will see the status at training tonight. We need to have a lot more energy than we had in the first game," said Dalić.

"For every national team, this is something new. We need to show a lot more in the next two games. We were not good offensively. We need to maintain what we did defensively and fix our offense. We have another training tonight. We need to show the real Croatia.  That last game wasn't us. We need to return to how we were in the Nations League," said Perišić. 

Will this be Perišić's last World Cup?

"The focus is on the next game. After that, what will be for the next 2-3 years, I don't know," said Perišić. 

On how the team was different four years ago in Russia

"Four years ago was different. Our starting lineup was together for ten years, playing for the biggest European clubs. It's not the same now. The teams are different and can't be compared. 6-7 players came from that generation. We have created a new team, but I want a result," said Dalić. 

Who will be the #9 for Croatia?

"I won't tell you the lineup or who will be the striker. We have four strikers; each plays in their way. For tomorrow we will choose the best we have. Four years ago, it was different. We have different player profiles now. We will choose the best we have for tomorrow," added Dalić. 

"Canada played aggressively against Belgium. They have a lot of energy and might. We need to be careful. Many of these 'smaller' national teams are surprising everyone. We cannot look at the past. This is all new. We are playing in the middle of the club season. We had no real break. This means anything can happen," he continued. 

"We watched Canada against Belgium. We need to be able to keep up with their speed and aggressiveness. They played well and did well against Belgium," said Perišić. 

How did the Croatia team respond to the Canada coach's comments?

"Croatia gives respect to everyone, no matter what, no matter who we play."

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 25 November 2022

Former Minister Žalac Paid for Her Birthday Party with EU Funds

November 25, 2022 - The former minister of regional development and funds of the European Union, Gabrijela Žalac (HDZ), celebrated her 40th birthday at the beginning of 2019 at the Šarm restaurant in Zagreb.

The bill was huge, a total of HRK 23,750. The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds approved that account for payment on March 4, 2019, at the expense of the Operational Program Competitiveness and Cohesion, i.e. from EU funds. Telegram.hr reports today that the disputed account is in the case file of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, on the basis of whose order minister Žalac was arrested at the end of last year on suspicion of illegalities in the process of public procurement of an IT system, known as the "software affair" discovered by Telegram.

The European investigator's office is in possession of invoices proving that the Ministry headed by Gabrijela Žalac spent more than two million kuna in just one year for catering, various meetings, conferences and working groups, or hotel and restaurant services. There is a well-founded suspicion that these expenses were often a cover for issuing fictitious invoices. Telegram's source reveals that, for example, on January 31, 2019, food was ordered for 50 people of the Interdepartmental Working Group for the preparation of the National Development Strategy until 2030, but the food was allegedly not delivered at that meeting, for which the ministry was later billed in the amount from HRK 14,000. The participants of the meeting said that on that occasion they were not served oxtail soup, duck pâté, or beef loin bruschetta. On February 13, 2019, the ministry headed by minister Žalac paid that bill to the company Gero. d.o.o. which owns the restaurant Atlanta Bocca Marai, and it was at the expense of the Sector for expert management and coordination of investments from EU instruments.

The invoices combed by the Office of the European Investigator were often issued after midnight, and there was no cost specification on them, but only the total amount, which most often ranged from HRK 10 to 20 thousand. None of the invoices included the names of the persons who attended the lunches or dinners, although this is an obligation imposed by fiscal responsibility. Telegram unofficially learned that at the celebration of the minister's 40th birthday in the Šarm restaurant in February 2019, among others, there was Mladen Šimunac, owner of the company Micro Projekt, whom the Office of the European Investigator suspects because of the contract concluded with the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds regarding with the installation of the SPUR software, as well as Tomislav Petric, at that time the director of SAFU, arrested on November 10 last year, when Gabrijela Žalac was also arrested. According to Telegram's source, the guests at that party were Ivana Jakir Bajo, then the chief state treasurer, now the vice-governor of the Croatian National Bank, and the then Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Prime Minister, Tomislav Tolušić. 

Interestingly, the costs of the consumption of spirits and wine, drunk during dinners and lunches were paid by the state budget, since the rules of EU funds do not recognize the costs of alcohol consumed at conferences. Those bills, Telegram's source claims, were mostly signed by the then minister Žalac, state secretaries or others from the minister's cabinet.

 

Friday, 25 November 2022

Sinteza Clinic Changes Ownership, Announces Growth Post-Acquisition

November 25, 2022 - The company Futura Partners announced their acquisition of the Bagatin Medical Group from Ognjen Bagatin yesterday.

With this, the company Futura Partners, which took over the luxury interior design company Sinago this summer, entered the health sector. The Futura Partners company was founded by local Croatian entrepreneurs and businessmen with the aim of investing in small and medium-sized Croatian companies with great growth potential. The partners are the IT professionals Luka Abrus Fijačko and Ivan Gabrić, economists Berislav Horvat and Filip Jelić, lawyers Josip Konjevod and Zlatko Knezović and entrepreneurs Saša Cvetojević and Ognjen Bagatin. Bagatin Medical Group, which they acquired yesterday, includes Sinteza Clinic, Fides Clinic and the online dermo-cosmetics store Bagatin Beauty.

"Private healthcare is one of the areas that is experiencing great growth at the regional and global level. People in Croatia are increasingly looking for a faster and better service than the one currently offered by public healthcare. Additionally, in Europe, our country is becoming an increasingly desirable destination when it comes to health tourism. Although Croatia is well connected with the rest of the continent by airlines, our private healthcare primarily offers its services to people who live within a radius of 600 kilometers, i.e. in an area with 76 million people. In addition to the potential that private healthcare has, it is attractive to investors because of its resilience. Despite the challenges brought by the new economic crisis, clients' need for health services remains constant," said Filip Jelić, a partner in the company Futura Partners.

In this transaction, Ognjen Bagatin sold the company Bagatin Medical Group in its entirety, and now as a partner and director in Futura Partners he continues to run the Sinteza clinic and Fides clinic, and the Bagatin Beauty online store. "I am glad that I will be able to continue to lead this great team of doctors and other health personnel and employees in the supporting departments. The acquisition is a kind of confirmation of quality and an incentive to use the potential at our disposal. It will enable us to further develop, especially the improvement of technology, the education of employees and a new increase in the quality of services for our patients and clients. Sinteza Clinic has gained a huge amount of experience in the 15 years it's been around. In addition to the branches of medicine in which we are already well known, we are now additionally developing gynaecology, dermatology and cosmetology. Fides in Split is one of the few neurorobotic polyclinics in the region. It gives us the best insight into the future of medicine. The quality of treatment and rehabilitation will be influenced by the synergy of the expertise of doctors and highly sophisticated technology", Ognjen Bagatin pointed out.

As stated in today's announcement, Futura Partners is currently dedicated to managing the acquired companies, i.e. increasing their revenues. At the same time, they continue to monitor small and medium-sized companies in Croatia, especially those in manufacturing, as well as those in private healthcare that need the transfer of ownership and management. This transfer is necessary for companies that were founded in the 90s, but also for younger ones whose owners are aware that they cannot raise the company's operations to a higher level on their own, Futura Partners conclude.

Friday, 25 November 2022

Croat Ante Delija Fights for PFL Heavyweight Title, 1 Million USD

November the 25th, 2022 - Croat Ante Delija is set to meet Matheus Scheffel soon...

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is the first and only MMA league with a true sports-season format where elite fighters from around the world compete in a Regular Season, Playoffs and Championship. The four competitors in each division who earn the most points in the Regular Season advance to the win-or-go-home Playoffs, followed by the biggest night in MMA – the PFL World Championship – with each winner going home with the $1 million prize. The 2022 PFL World Championship, which is taking place at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden, New York City today, November 25. The main card will include six championship bouts that will crown winners $1 million each. The main card will stream on ESPN+ PPV for $49.99 at 8:00pm, EST Time.

Croatian heavyweight MMA fighter Ante Delija will meet Brazil’s Matheus Scheffel for the heavyweight title in the featured bout. Originally from Dubrovnik, Delija has been training with Mirko Cro Cop Filipović and his team in Zagreb. At the pre-fight press conference on Wednesday, he reflected on last year's championship and the fact that he lost in the final - "I think last year I was at 50-60 percent of my capabilities. I consider the second place a failure, but this year I am ready to win, and I believe in it.'' He was also a special live guest at the Croatian Radio New York, which is organizing Ante Delija Watch & Meet Party at the Tracks Raw Bar and Grill across Madison Square Garden. “I am at 100% of my capabilities this season and I will win!” – said Ante for the Croatian Radio NY. After the press conference, the faceoffs followed. Delija and Scheffel handled the faceoff calmly, without any tensions. “Ante writes the new pages of the Croatian sports history. His achievements are amazing and inspiring. He is a favorite and the New York Croats expect his victory!” - said Srecko Mavrek, the Croatian Radio NY host.

You can watch the faceoff between Delia and Scheffel (starts at 48:00 min) in the YouTube video HERE.

Inside Look at PFL 2022 Championship Fighters

The PFL’s YouTube channel has released a Vlog Series for the 2022 PFL World Championship, which you can view HERE.

Friday, 25 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Politician Pay Rises, Schengen and Ukraine

November the 25th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from wage increases for politicians and state officials and saying an emphatic ''YES'' to training Ukrainian soldiers, to Austria changing its tune regarding Croatian Schengen accession and Milanovic claiming that it's actually America fighting with Russia through Ukraine.

The monthly wage earned by Plenkovic, his ministers and parliamentarians is set to go up

Much to the delight of every average Joe living and working in Croatia and struggling to make ends meet, Plenkovic and co are set to get a wage increase. 

You'll probably remember that last month, the government and the trade unions finally came to an agreement on a basic salary increase, meaning that the monthly salary will also increase for Plenkovic, Milanovic, Jandrokovic, government ministers and members of parliament, that is, for all officials. However, with the passing of this particular law, the President of the Constitutional Court will be taking home the highest official salary, and not President Zoran Milanovic.

With the amendments to the law that the government sent to the parliament recently, for which it is requesting adoption under an urgent procedure, the base rate for officials will be the same as that applied to civil servants, so all future increases, including this one now, will automatically apply to politicians as well.

One Ukrainian minister thanks Croatia for allowing Ukrainian soldiers to come and be trained to fight the Russians in Croatia

''Thanks, Plenkovic!'' tweets the minister...

You might recall the likes of President Zoran Milanovic among others being staunchly against the idea of training Ukrainian soldiers to fight against their invaders here in Croatia. Milanovic believed that Croatia's showcasing of unwavering support for Ukraine and providing help and safety for refugees was enough, and that anything else would be provocation of Putin and inviting the war to this country's doorstep. Many agreed with him. Many more found themselves surprised at agreeing with him.

Still, it seems that his case for disapproval fell on deaf ears as the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksij Reznikov, thanked Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi and Defense Minister Marij Banozic on Twitter after the government sent the decision on Croatia's participation in the military aid mission to Ukraine for approval by the parliament yesterday.

"The government of the Republic of Croatia approved the decision to train the Ukrainian army in Croatia. A modern, well-trained army with powerful partners will definitely defeat a pack of Russian murderers, robbers and rapists. Thank you Andrej Plenkovic and Mario Banozic for their support!" Reznikov tweeted.

Croatia's participation in the military aid mission to Ukraine includes the training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, which isn't something many people are all too thrilled about. Banozic, however, seems to have allowed all logical opposition to this fly right over his head. ''What are they against? Are they against saving lives?'' he asked.

Zoran Milanovic claims that America is fighting a war against Russia... through Ukraine

If you're a follower of Croatian politics in any deeper capacity, you'll know that President Milanovic often comes out with some rather unusual things. He also never misses an opportunity to spit on HDZ, which for many makes him a popular character in at least one aspect. For others, his distasteful remarks cross the line a bit too often, and for others, well, they can't quite make head nor tail of him. He has recently come out with something quite strange.

The Day of the City of Zadar took place recently, which is celebrated at a formal session of the City Council, and Milanovic was there. As expected, he referred to the government's decision to train Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia which I mentioned above, and which he was firmly against. "This is personal terror and harassment by Plenkovic, it's just his desire to push some of his ideas," said Milanovic, as RTL reported at the time.

President Milanovic also said that he knows what is written in the Croatian Constitution because ''he wrote it''. He was referring to the statement of the government at that session that the training of Ukrainian soldiers is based on the Constitution and on the laws and international agreements according to which Ukraine is an allied country.

''Therefore,'' Milanovic added: "Ukraine, to its credit, is not an ally." "The Croatian Parliament is not responsible for making any decisions on the training of foreign soldiers in Croatia," he said. He called things as they were set up by the government a "Udbas sabotage", which, if you know who the ''Udbasi'' (the Yugoslav secret service) were and what they got up to, you'll realise is quite the statement.

"Now it will be seen who's Russia and who's for Ukraine. I'm not for anyone. I'm for Croatia,'' Milanovic said.

"There's a war going on there between America and Russia. Between Russia and Ukraine, I'm on the side of Ukraine, of course. But it's a war between America and Russia," he said. "We have to state that the Americans are waging a war against Russia through Ukrainian youths, we have to say that. When it comes to decisions that have a security and defense character, you have to consult with the president, and I say to the members of parliament: ''Don't be intimidated,'' he said.

New measures against inflation could come to be, and all hands are on deck for post-earthquake reconstruction (for the earthquake that occurred two years ago)

Plenkovic recently pointed out that the proposed state budget for next year will provide funds for the growth of both wages and pensions, increased funds for veterans and the army, and he also announced possible new measures to mitigate the impact of inflation, with the message that "there's power and space for that".

"We have the space and strength to do that, if there's a need, and considering the circumstances, our measures will be precise and comprehensive, and as we've done so far, we'll solve it and you'll be satisfied with what we do,'' said Plenkovic in response to Branko Grcic (SDP ) when asked what will happen at the end of March next year, when all previous measures are due to expire.

''We'll also reduce excise duties on heating oil and thereby provide additional assistance to people,'' announced the Prime Minister during the parliamentary debate on the 2023 budget, adding that ''the number of people at risk of poverty is continuously falling in Croatia and that figure is smaller than when we assumed responsibility.''

In his answers to the deputies, Plenković pointed out that the fight against corruption continues, that it is strong and brings results.

Regarding the post-earthquake reconstruction for the earthquakes which struck Zagreb in March 2020 and the Banovina area in December of that same year, which he was also asked about, Plenkovic said that the government is providing a lot of aid and that the reconstruction of houses is intensifying, that all departments are working on reconstruction and are in charge of spending the available funds.

Austria is now all for Croatia joining Schengen, or is it?

You may have read (or heard) about Austria taking a stance against Croatia joining the Schengen zone in January 2023, with talk of the country potentially going as far as to block entry. Now it seems that the tide has turned, or has it? Memories are short when it comes to Croatian politics.

Plenkovic recently received the Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, Karl Nehammer, at Banski dvori. This is Nehammer's first official visit to Croatia as chancellor.

"In the last thirty years or so, relations with Austria have been among the most extensive of the numerous countries with which Croatia cooperates since it was internationally recognised. Since the 1990s, Austria has been the second biggest investor in Croatia. This year, Croatia was visited by one and a half million Austrian tourists,'' said Plenkovic at the beginning of the press conference.

"Today we also discussed the most important topic ahead of this visit, which is the final two weeks before the decision on Croatian membership of the Schengen area. This was an opportunity to once again explain to the chancellor what Croatia has done from 2016 until today," Plenkovic said.

"We're currently discussing the expansion of Schengen, and we can see that Austria in particular has insufficient protection of its external borders. At the same time, we have a reduction in border protection within the EU itself, in our opinion it can't continue like that, so some measures will have to be taken,'' he said.

"When we talk about Schengen's expansion, and at the same time we criticise the plan that the European Commission should present with regard to these problems that we've presented, it is important to say that this doesn't apply to Croatia. Special votes will be cast for Croatia, as they will for both Bulgaria and Romania. We'll support Croatia's accession to the Schengen area, but we're going to be critical of the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania," added the Austrian chancellor.

The Austrian chancellor also said that it is necessary to change the system and strengthen the EU's external borders in order to make free movement within Schengen possible.

It's worth noting that Austrian Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, caused great concern reently after he said that he was against the expansion of the Schengen area to include Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. Over the past few days, he has repeatedly said that he is against any Schengen expansion, which he said is something that simply isn't working, which can be seen from the increased number of asylum seekers arriving in Austria. That country registered the entry of around 100,000 migrants this year alone, of which 75,000 were not previously registered in any EU country at all.

Nehammer warned that his minister wanted to signal that "Schengen is clearly not working and that new measures are needed." The Council for Justice and Internal Affairs meets on December the 8th and 9th, when it will make the final decision on Croatia's entry into the Schengen area. Croatia's accession was previously supported by the European Commission and the European Parliament, so all fingers (and likely toes) are crossed.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to follow our dedicated section and keep your eyes peeled for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

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