Politics

Croatian PM Expresses Sorrow for Having Not Ordered More Vaccines

By 15 March 2021

March the 15th, 2021 - The Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic has expressed his sorrow for having not ordered more doses of the coronavirus vaccine and his frustration at how things are playing out.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, in an interview with the influential European news portal Politico, the Croatian PM said that looking at things from today's perspective, he is sorry that he did not order larger quantities of coronavirus vaccine for Croatia, but also explained how difficult it was to guess which pharmaceutical company would be the fastest to register and the most successful in mass production.

"In times of crisis, there´s always pressure to resolve something. But then comes the moment after the crisis and someone asks you: we have 4 million inhabitants, and you ordered vaccines for 14 million people; why?¨ the Croatian PM said in a frank and open conversation in Brussels on Friday. Plenkovic said that the idea of the ​​joint procurement of vaccines at the EU level, instead of individual procurement at the national level, was "very, very good", despite how badly it is going.

In that interview, the Croatian PM also spoke about the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, a document that all EU member state governments should send to the European Commission (EC) by the end of April so that they can start using the money from the new coronavirus recovery fund. When asked when Croatia could spend its first euro from this new fund, which is responsible for doubling the money that Croatia has had at its disposal through all other EU funds, Plenkovic answered that it will unfortunately not be this year.

"I have a feeling it will be early next year. The process is complicated. Unless it’s helicopter money, it’s very difficult and complex. You need a plan, a project, verification, a tender, implementation, documentation. We´ll gladly spend it if things go quicker, too, but if I´m being realistic… ", Politico writes, quoting the words of the Croatian PM. The Commission predicts that the first advance from the recovery fund could be paid out to EU member states in July, but that the situation as Plenkovic predicted will likely be the one which takes place. He gained that view after meetings with the leading individuals of the EC.

The Prime Minister also talked about whether the pandemic can slow down Croatia's path to the Eurozone, given that both the deficit and public debt are affected.

"The only thing I´m sorry about is the fiscal policy," said the Croatian PM, adding that we have "moved away from consolidation and sound public finances" in order to reduce the economic damage caused by the pandemic. Croatia therefore plans to use twice the amount of EU funds to boost its economic recovery, but also to return to the 2017-2019 framework, when my government had a budget surplus, the prime minister told Politico.

"To enter the Eurozone, we must meet the rules set out in the basic agreement. It´s very difficult to get an exemption from the contract ", said Plenkovic, referring to the situation that Vecernji list also wrote about in a recent interview with EC Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis. This is a situation in which all EU member states enjoy the benefits of temporarily suspended deficit and public debt rules, but the fact that these rules are currently suspended through the Stability and Growth Pact does not formally and legally suspend them as the Maastricht criteria spells out in that contract, which should be satisfied by any nation which wants to join the Eurozone.

Politico added that the Croatian PM, immediately after noting that it is difficult to get an exemption from the basic EU treaty, joked: "It´s probably possible, with a smart lawyer“ "

The Prime Minister concluded that his government still aims to bring Croatia into both the Eurozone and into Schengen by the end of its term, ie by the second half of 2024. That deadline is "difficult, but reasonable", assured the Prime Minister.

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