Friday, 9 December 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Schengen, Bomb Scares and ATM Shortages

December the 9th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've finally had a bit of good news - Croatia has successfully filled all of the requirements to finally join Schengen and will officially do so on the 1st of January, 2023, on the very same day of Eurozone accession. That isn't all, though...

After a lot of nail biting and waiting, Croatian Schengen accession has been officially approved

After much deliberation, a lot of back and forth and eyebrow-raising from Austria apparently not being quite understood, Croatia got the green light to become a Schengen member state on the first day of 2023. Austria's initial issues with proposed Schengen expansion (which would have also included Romania and Bulgaria, but that won't be the case for now) weren't with Croatia as a country but with Schengen expansion as a whole. One Austrian minister was quoted as saying that Schengen is all well and good until there's a political issue, when it suddenly ''ceases to exist''. I dare say that for as excellent as Schengen is, he's far from alone in those opinions.

Despite all of that, and despite reports from the likes of the Financial Times (FT) that neighbouring Hungary and Viktor Orban could be the ones to throw a spanner in Croatia's Schengen plans, both Austria and Hungary (and even Slovenia, which was expected to cause many more issues than it actually did) gave the green light alongside the other deciding nations.

Croatia is now set to become a fully-fledged member of the Schengen area and in less than one month, border controls will be abolished at land, as well sea border crossings, and then on March the 26th, 2023, the same will be done at the country's airports.

Bulgaria and Romania apparently did not receive support because there was a lack of consensus on them joining. 

"Croatia received the unanimous support of the Council for Internal Affairs and Justice - on January the 1st, 2023, we will become a member of Schengen! During this, a year of delivery, we achieved the government's strategic goals, from which both people and the economy will benefit the most!" Plenkovic tweeted after the official announcement.

ATMs cause trouble as we approach Eurozone accession

Moving the Schengen celebrations and the promise of totally free movement aside for a moment, the same unfortunately can't be said for the freedom of cash withdrawals as we approach the day on which we introduce the euro as our official currency. Thousands of ATMs were put out of function this past week as we prepare to enter the Eurozone, leaving many people scratching their heads about where to get cash. Some ATMs have already had the kuna drained from them and been filled up with euros, and around 40 percent of them across the nation will eventually become unavailable as we get closer to D-Day, or should I say E-Day. 

Throughout this final month in which the kuna remains the country's official currency, around 2700 ATMs will be put out of function. Only those which have the ability to allow both kuna and euro withdrawals will continue to work, with the rest gradually being adapted to the euro.

The mass shutdown of ATMs will begin in about ten days, with a small number being shut down by December the 15th, and from that date, the Croatian Association of Banks (HUB) will publish an interactive map of all ATMs in Croatia that remain active in real-time so that people know where they can withdraw banknotes.

It's worth noting that this is also the time to get that old sock with rolled up notes in it out, lift up the mattress, and check your old coat pockets for 10 and 20 kuna notes. The traditional Croatian practice of keeping banknotes in odd items of clothing hidden somewhere in the house could come back to bite those who fail to bank their extra cash lying around so that it can be automatically converted to euros free of charge when we make the official switch over from the kuna to the euro on 2023's maiden day.

PM Andrej Plenkovic says that those who are against Ukrainian soliders being trained here will have to carry that on their conscience for a long time to come

There has been a lot of talk about the idea and then the plan to train Ukrainian soldiers here in Croatia. President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) quite openly said that he was very much against the idea and that Croatia's unwavering support for Ukraine and warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees said enough. He believed that training soldiers to fight against the Russian invaders here could end up bringing unwanted problems to Croatia's doorstep, a mere 30 years after a bloody war of its own.

Others are totally for the idea, and this includes other EU countries who have agreed to also train Ukrainian soldiers in their fight against continued Russian onslaught. 

Plenkovic claimed that he hasn't yet heard any valid, logical or reasonable argument for possibly not making a decision on Croatia's participation in the EUMAM military aid mission to Ukraine and said that the burden of political responsibility isn't on those who are in favour, but on those who aren't. He said he'd be voting for it and that he didn't understand the political logic of those who have reservations about that decision and mission.

How parliament members will vote on Croatia's participation in the EU military aid mission to Ukraine "will be a mark they'll carry with them in the long term," he added.

It's important that Croatia supports Bosnia and Herzegovina on its EU candidate path, according to its senior international representative

During a recent meeting with the State Secretary for Europe at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Andreja Metelko Zgombic, the senior international representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, assessed that it is important for that country that Zagreb fully supports its acquisition of EU candidate status.

"Croatian support for Bosnia and Herzegovina's candidate status for EU membership is very important," wrote Schmidt on his Twitter profile. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also expressed his expectation that the Council of Europe would be able to approve the candidate status of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of the year. Earlier on, the European Commission had indeed recommended that the Council make such a decision.

The German politician at the head of the international administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina assessed having EU candidate status as important for the entire country. "Obtaining EU candidate status would be a much-needed boost for the country and an important sign for people that the enlargement process is working for Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said.

During that same day, State Secretary Metelko Zgombic headed the delegation that held working consultations with colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josip Brkic, also stated on his Twitter that the interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the "extremely good bilateral relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina".

"Croatia remains the most important supporter and friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to both the EU and to NATO," said Brkic.

President Zoran Milanovic visited Chile, the home of a huge number of Croats and their descendents

President Zoran Milanovic went to Chile for the first time recently, on his first trip to South America since taking office in February 2020. It is a vast continent of many opportunities where around 600,000 Croats and their descendents live today. Approximately 160 years ago, the very first wave of Croatian migrants, forced into making difficult decisions by poverty along the coast, set out for Chile. Two more emigrant waves to South American countries followed later, motivated by both economic and political reasons. I won't go into the political ones here.

Historian Ljuba Boric, who works at the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Santiago de Chile, says that the first Croats arrived there from all over the Dalmatian coast between 1860 and 1870 because of a disease of the grapevines and olive trees which sank their (typically) only means of making a living. They often took up mining careers in Chile.

Milanovic will spend a week in Chile and among other things he;ll meet with Chilean President Gabriel Boric who has been in power since March. Ljuba Boric, who is also related to Gabriel Boric, says that the president's great-grandfather Ivo Boric and his brother Sime came from the island of Ugljan (close to Zadar) to Punta Arenas in about 1885.

Institutions from Croatia, a country with 3.8 million inhabitants according to the 2021 census, have been trying to determine the number of Croats in all of South America for some time now, claiming that approximately 600,000 ''members of the Croatian nation and their descendants live in various countries in South America.''

Milanovic says that the recent reports about bombs being in various large shopping centres have nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine

If you've been following the news over the last few months, every now and then there are very strange reports about shopping centres (usually in Zagreb) being evacuated because there have been reports of a bomb being planted there. Odd indeed. They have all been false alarms and for some extremely bizarre reason, it has become somewhat of a trend to claim bombs are being hidden in shopping centres. Odd indeed, yet again. One of the people who made such a claim was a security guard who simply didn't want to come to work. He has since been dealt with by the authorities, and probably regrets not just calling in sick. Hopefully anyway.

This week, the bomb scare/shopping centre stories got a bit more of a spring in their step and more such scares were announced in multiple shopping centres in multiple areas. In sixteen counties, to be exact! Milanovic has been quick to squash the rumours that it has anything at all to do with the Russia-Ukraine war. On Tuesday he said that he thinks that these weird false reports about bombs have nothing to do with the horrific ongoing situation in Ukraine and said that those making these false claims should be located and arrested because creating panic among people like this for no reason is an act punishable by law.

"Find and aprehend these individuals - these are obviously people who don't have these means (bombs) at their disposal, nor do they have anything to do with them, but they have the capacity to sow fear and panic among people, and that's a punishable offence,'' Milanovic told reporters in Dubrovnik. He added that he believes that it has absolutely nothing to do with the war between Russia and Ukraine, as some have been quick to try to claim. He also said that no normal person would show any sort of support to Russia.

Dubrovnik honoured its defenders and marked the 31st anniversary of the darkest day in its history - the siege

The 6th of December 1991 will remain etched deeply into the memories of all those who were there when the JNA attacked the city, and will forever be an unhealed wound for the Pearl of the Adriatic. 

On the aforementioned date back in 1991, the City of Dubrovnik was viciously attacked by the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army), it was the culmination of a siege which sought to raze the globally adored UNESCO World Heritage Site to the ground. A similar and unfortunately successful action was seen much more recently in Palmyra at the hands of ISIS. The horrific bombardment of Dubrovnik resulted in international condemnation of the JNA and rightly became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to and furthering their diplomatic and economic isolation and winning them powerful enemies across Europe and the rest of the world. It was a shot in the foot from which the still-estranged Serbia has hardly ever recovered in the eyes of the international community, and rightly so.

You can read much more about that day, the lives that were lost and the tremendous damage that was done by clicking here.

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

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Decision on Schengen Expansion Passed, Croatia Gets the Green Light

December 8, 2022 - The key participants in today's EU Council meeting, where a decision was made on the expansion of the Schengen zone without borders, confirmed upon entering the meeting that they were sure that the decision on Croatia's entry would be adopted, regardless of the fact that the diplomatic battles over the second decision, regarding the expansion of Schengen to Bulgaria and Romania. 

As Večernji wrote during the meeting, their correspondent from Brussels, Tomislav Krasnec, reported with the latest information, saying that the meeting is still ongoing, and discussions were also being held in the corridors. The cases of Bulgaria and Romania were apparently the source debate when it looked like some complications have arisen. It seems that some countries tried to treat this issue as a package of three countries, and not as two separate decisions, and advocated that it be put to a vote as a package today. That would not have been a favourable situation for Croatia, which would have ended up a victim of such a political approach.

Not long after, 24Sata reported that today, at the meeting of the interior ministers of the EU member states, Croatia received unanimous support for entering the Schengen area, while there was no consensus for Bulgaria and Romania, according to diplomatic sources.

Croatia thus becomes the 27th member of the Schengen area and in less than a month, from January 1, 2023, border controls will be abolished at land and sea border crossings, and in the spring, on March 26, 2023, at airports.

Bulgaria and Romania apparently did not receive support because there was a lack of consensus.

Plenković: Citizens and the economy will benefit the most

"Croatia received the unanimous support of the Council for Internal Affairs and Justice - on January 1, 2023, we will become a member of Schengen! In the year of delivery, we achieved the Government's strategic goals, from which citizens and the economy will benefit the most!" - Plenković wrote on Twitter after the official announcement that Croatia is becoming a Schengen member.

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

Thursday, 8 December 2022

What is Happening with the Croatian Real Estate Market?

December 8, 2022 - The Croatian real estate market is behaving in interesting ways. The difference between the requested and realised real estate prices is increasing, and is currently reaching around 15 percent, which means that the owners' demands are not always realistic, especially when it comes to used real estate, it was pointed out on Wednesday at the 34th Real Estate Business Forum.

As Index writes, the forum was organised by the Real Estate Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK). As the president of that association, Dubravko Ranilović, said, it is not yet possible to say with certainty what the next year will look like, but he believes there will be a change in trends.

"There will be a certain slowdown in the real estate market; prices cannot rise indefinitely in this way," said Ranilović.

The economy of the EU, including Germany, is slowing down due to the crisis and heading towards recession, interest rates are rising due to inflation, and given that more than a third of real estate buyers in Croatia are foreigners, this will be reflected in the Croatian market in the next year, he assessed.

Ranilović stressed the importance of differentiating the Croatian market, with the coast largely dependent on foreigners, and the rest mainly on Croatian customers.

Regarding foreign buyers, the data of the Tax Administration show that, since last year, there have been a total of 31,361 sales of houses or apartments, 9,491 of which were sold to foreign buyers.

From July 2021 to June 2022, foreigners bought 12,518 residential properties in Croatia, or 36 percent of the total. With 3,501 purchased properties, Germans are in the lead, followed by Slovenians with 3,090. The number of real estate sales to foreigners is constantly growing, and Ranilović pointed out that in some cities in the coastal counties, it exceeds 90 percent.

The phenomenon of "neighbour's optimism"

When it comes to the overall state, Ranilović pointed out that the requested prices of real estate are growing at significantly higher rates than realised prices, which means that the prices and demands of owners are not realistic everywhere, which especially applies to used real estate. Moreover, the difference between the requested and realised prices is increasing, and according to some estimates, it already reaches close to 15 percent on average while at the beginning of the year, it was only ten percent, pointed out Ranilović. Some call this phenomenon "neighbour's optimism," in the sense that it is difficult for someone to give up an amount that they heard someone else achieved, he added.

When it comes to apartments, for example, data from the real estate market for 2021 show that the requested price per square meter for apartments in Croatia was 2,197 euros, and the achieved price was 1,731 euros. At the same time, the average realised price per square meter for apartments in Zagreb was 1,847 euros last year, an 2,047 euros on the coast.

New build leads in prices, where quality properties in good locations are sold quickly, but what is being built is not enough to satisfy needs. On the other hand, used real estate is not up to standard; therefore the existing housing stock, which is generally poor, that is, insufficiently maintained, should be significantly improved, Ranilović said.

"The aim of the profession is for the market to move within as realistic a framework as possible"

He explained that the asking price is the subjective opinion of the owner about the value of the property, so if the market "goes down", only those who have to sell will first sell at lower prices, while it takes six months to a year for others to correct their prices. "People will have a hard time accepting reality. That's just the way it is," asserted Ranilović.

He told the large number of people gathered from the real estate sector at the Westin Hotel, more than 700 of them, that they should be a "real stabiliser of the real estate price market," and not "flatter the owners" to further encourage price growth and "inflate the bubble." "The more that bubble inflates, the more difficult it will be for us later," said Ranilović.

As some good news, he cited the growth in the number of construction land transactions, which last year was 19.6 thousand, considering that this also assumes future business activity.

The adviser to the president of HGK, Josip Zaher, said that the goal of the profession is for the market to move within as realistic a framework as possible, in order to mitigate the consequences of a possible slowdown and to avoid a repeat of the 2008 crisis. He pointed out that as a result of the present inflation, the prices of construction materials and labor have also increased, so the prices of real estate have also increased significantly.

He reported that in 2021, around 135,000 transactions, worth more than HRK 60 billion, were realised on the real estate market.

State Secretary in the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development Nataša Mikuš Žigman pointed out that last year's value of real estate transactions accounted for 14 percent of GDP, which testifies to how "vibrant and alive" the real estate market is.

Housing affordability is a growing problem

Member of the council of the Real Estate Business Association HGK and owner of the Zagreb West agency Lana Mihaljinac Knežević stated that, in case of continuation of the current macroeconomic trends, in the next year "price stabilisation can definitely be expected".

Concerning new builds, considering that the offer is not sufficient, there should not be any major changes, while for old buildings, especially in Zagreb and on the coast, owners are expected to change their expectations and lower the asking prices, Mihaljinac Knežević pointed out.

She said that the affordability of housing in Croatia is becoming an increasing problem, and therefore a systematic strategy is needed, and there have been announcements of such projects in Zagreb.

Agricultural land is the most traded real estate product, and further growth of such transactions is expected because the moratorium on the purchase of agricultural land by EU citizens ends next year, said Mihaljinac Knežević.

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

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Croatia to Become Home to Europe's Largest Solar Power Plant

December 8, 2022 - In the Split hinterland, 370 hectares of land are planned for energy projects, most of them focusing on the technology of solar power plants.

As Poslovni writes, in about ten days, the Croatian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development will open bids for energy capacities in the area of the Proložac Municipality in the Split-Dalmatia County. The area in question is a total of 3.7 million square meters, or 370 hectares (ha) of land suitable for installing solar power plants.

The open bidding for energy capacities could result in making this area one of the largest solar power plants in the world. In comparison, what is possibly the world's largest solar power plant, Enel Group Villanueva in Coahuila, Mexico, which has a capacity of 2,000 GWh per year, consists of two and a half million solar panels and covers an area of 2,400 hectares. The largest European solar energy power plant is Ceclavin in Extramadura in Spain, which has a capacity of 328 MW and covers 220 hectares of land with its 850,000 modules. That investment was 250 million euros, and the power plant provides enough electricity for almost 200,000 households.

Although it is unofficially speculated that there are several European players already in the game for this land in Croatia, it is known that a study has already been conducted for the solar power plant Proložac by the investor VSB Obnovljiva Energija Hrvatska, which plans to build a solar power plant project with a capacity of 11.25 MW and a connection capacity of 10 MW in this area. The project will cover 25 ha, of which the panels themselves account for 14.3 ha. If this project is compared with the total land, it is clear that the area has the capacity for about 15 such solar power plants and the total installed capacity of at least 150 MW. 

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

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Dalić and Modrić ahead of World Cup Quarter-final against Brazil: "We Want More"

December 8, 2022 - Croatia and Brazil will meet in the 2022 World Cup quarter-final on Friday at Education City Stadium. Kick-off is at 6 pm local tie or 4 pm Croatia time.

The Croatia national football team will face the biggest test at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Friday - the quarter-final match against Brazil.

Brazil is the favorite to win the World Cup, which would be their sixth title in history and first in the last 20 years. They played brilliantly in their last-16 tie against South Korea, winning 4-1, while Croatia struggled against Japan, advancing only after penalties. 

At the last press conference before the match, coach Zlatko Dalić and captain Luka Modrić expressed their thoughts.

"I think we did a very big thing by reaching the quarter-final, but regardless, I want more. We know that perhaps the biggest game of the tournament awaits us against one of the biggest favorites. They are always the favorites, but at this World Cup they are rightfully so. We have to be real, give our best, and play our best game and then we have a chance. If we just settle for being there, then it will be difficult, but we believe in our strength, and that is how we will position ourselves on the pitch tomorrow," said Modrić.

Are all the players ready, and will there be any changes?

"There was not much time for preparation, and today we will train and prepare. Sosa trained, we won't make many changes. Placing among the eight with an almost new national team is a great success. But we will play fair, try to fight for something better," said Dalić.

Can Luka's knowledge of Casemiro and Vinicius help Croatia?

"Vini is a great guy, we have a great relationship, he is in incredible shape, and since he came to Real, he has improved greatly. Tomorrow we have a difficult task to stop him. I will surely help my teammates with details on how to neutralize him more easily. Everyone is fighting for himself and their country." 

Which of Croatia's past matches will the game against Brazil be most similar to?

"This will be the most demanding match for us. Maybe we would compare it to the final in Moscow against France if we were to compare. Out of 11 games at two World Cups, we did well in ten and only lost to France. Croatia is the only smaller country that, after success at one World Cup, repeated it at another, maybe the only one in history that immediately after the final made it to the top eight at the next World Cup," says Dalić.

"I agree with the coach, the final against France is similar to tomorrow's match, that's the ranking," Modrić continued.

What does Dalić think about Brazil's dancing after scoring?

"That makes them happy; they have their nature and character, and they have the right to that. It is their nation, and it looks beautiful."

Does Dalić think that this is a stronger Croatia team than from 2018?

"This is a new national team with 18 new players who did not play then, and it cannot be compared. That generation played together for ten years; those players played in the world's biggest clubs. This team is different, we need time, but they are lucky to have the remaining six from Russia with whom they can grow. These guys still have many games to prove themselves, but they have potential and quality."

What is the key to tomorrow?

"We played against Brazil several times and haven't beaten them yet, but I hope this tradition will change. Brazil has phenomenal players in all positions, so we will have to be very aggressive, run at the right level, not let them play; that will be very important," says Modrić.

Did Modrić watch Brazil's loss to Cameroon?

"I didn't have the chance to watch the match between Brazil and Cameroon, but Brazil did not play with the strongest team in that match. Of course, this is not a benchmark, but it certainly indicates that they can be defeated."

Does Croatia expect another extra time finish on Friday?

"If it comes to that, that last match with Japan gave us great confidence. Each match is for itself, we will see what will happen, but we are ready for anything."

How would Dalić compare Croatia's game against Argentina in 2018 and against Brazil tomorrow?

"Maybe they are similar games, but then we had Argentina in the group stage, and this is the knockout round. Of course, we will apply a similar recipe to narrow down the space for Neymar, but I think he has better support from his teammates than Messi did four years ago."

Do they consider Brazil a big favorite in tomorrow's game?

"They always favor big teams, but we have shown many times that the favorites don't always win. We appreciate every national team and their qualities, but we also appreciate ourselves," Modrić replied.

Did Croatia learn from Serbia's defeat to Brazil?

"We watched that match. Serbia played great for an hour, but they got nervous when some situations started. Until Brazil scored, the game was almost even. Brazil played after the goal, and Serbia could not follow that rhythm and fell. We must not do that; we must be disciplined and return to our formation. Serbia played well until they conceded a goal, said Dalić.

Will Modrić continue playing for Croatia?

"I can repeat that I don't think about the future. We'll see how long I'll be around. I am concentrating on this World Cup; there will be time to consider the future. I don't have a tactic for rejuvenation like there was for growth. If you have it, let me know," Luka jokingly replied to the journalist.

What can we expect from Croatia tomorrow?

"We play the way we play; sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not so good. But we always do our best. We will see what Croatia will be like tomorrow. We are ready, we will give our best, and I believe we can do a great thing," says Modrić.

Journalists also asked Luka to comment on the strength of Brazil and Argentina.

"These are giants of world football, two world teams with many great players. I enjoy watching them; playing against such teams is a pleasure. Playing against them is a holiday for football and something everyone wants, especially in big competitions like the World Cup."

Brazil is dangerous from all sides.

"Brazil is the best team at this World Cup, faster, more energetic, and more diverse than others, and they can come from all sides. They use all the templates; you don't know where the danger comes from. We have no chance if we give them too much space and time. We want to try to get the ball. We must position ourselves well, not fall out of the system and block, and constantly play as a team. It is important not to give them space because it is difficult when they receive the ball."

Why did Dalić replace Modrić so early in the match against Japan?

"It wasn't early; it was the 100th minute. We talked, me and Luka always agreed; I didn't decide on my own. We ran a lot, I had to refresh the team, and I had to make substitutions. We passed, and it turned out well. Luka will always play as long as he can. That's why Luka will be more rested tomorrow than if he had played 120 minutes," Dalić believes.

Tomorrow Modrić is playing against many Real Madrid teammates.

"I am looking forward to playing against former and current teammates. Of course, we will be friends before and after the game, but everyone is fighting for their country and for themselves on the field."

How will coach Dalić motivate the players?

"You don't need a bigger motive than the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil. I'm sure these guys dreamed of such matches. We don't have much to lose; we must fight back as best we can. We have already achieved great success but want more, although we would prefer to play them in the final."

Does Modrić miss Rakitić in the midfield?

"Unfortunately, Ivan is not with us, but Mateo is here, who replaced him very well. So we are good again, maybe not as in Russia, but we have an excellent team."

How is Croatia so successful in sports with less than four million inhabitants?

"Croatia is very talented; we have talents in all sports, not only in football. I don't have a particular explanation. We love sports; talents are born, and good work is done in football schools, where a lot of work is done with children. We are a talented nation; it's hard for me to say why that is," concluded captain Modrić. 

Source: HRT

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

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Croatian Innovator Albert Gajsak's Products Reach American Shelves

December the 8th, 2022 - Croatian innovator Albert Gajsak's product, which is made right here in Croatia, has ended up across the pond on the shelves of American stores.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, young Croatian innovator Albert Gajsak of Circuitmess was a recent guest on N1 television where he talked about breaking into the challenging American market of educational toys. This rather remarkable entrepreneur explained how his Croatian product ended up on the shelves of one of the largest US retail chains of all - Walmart.

"We produce electronic devices that serve to educate children, such as legos with electronics. So, people receive it when it's disassembled and have to put the toy back together, while the children get to learn something about electronics along the way," explained Gajsak.

One of the products that will be on shelves across the USA is Cheter. "It's a set of devices that look like small mobile phones, through which children can send messages to each other, but in doing so they create their own "network" while the kids learn a thing or two about encryption," stated Gajsak. When parents buy it for them, it comes in parts and then the children have to put it together themselves.

"The children can exchange messages between two or more devices and connect to a chat group. But the point is that it can be connected to a computer and programmed, which is what our application (app) exists for," he said.

Croatian innovator Albert Gajsak produces his devices right here at home in Croatia, and said that it's great that he not only produces it here, but also designs the hardware, software, appearance and packaging within Croatian borders as well, making it a true Croatian-made product.

He explained how Walmart contacted him during a campaign, adding that it took three years to assemble so many devices to enter the American market and explained that he had to solve a lot of administration issues and logistical problems in order to be able to place the product successfully on the American market.

"It's interesting to note that our campaign was covered by numerous American media such as Forbes, and that's probably when they saw our product in Walmart, which caught their attention," explained the talented Croatian innovator Albert Gajsak.

"The whole point of our brand is that we create different electronic devices that teach children about all kinds of different topics, from wireless communication, computer vision and so on," he explained, adding that the plan is now to continue cooperation with Walmart. The US retail price is otherwise, $99, a price recommended by Walmart itself.

He explained that they manage to withstand the shortage of chips and semiconductors on the market and added that the problem is, as it is with most other companies at this moment in time, finding labour.

"It's always difficult to find people who are professional, hardworking and want to work, but we do manage somehow. The best thing is that we have full creative control over the production process. From the idea to the final product itself, it's all our own,'' noted Gajsak, who added that he tries to be competitive with the wages he pays his staff in order to attract good employees.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Green Sail Develops Ecological Rating System for Croatian Nautical Sector

December the 8th, 2022 - According to all criteria, the Republic of Croatia is a global nautical power. This country's enviable coastline, numerous inhabited and uninhabited islands, coves, bays and the glorious Adriatic Sea make it something truly special for this sector. It is precisely because of all of the above that the technology to make this industry "greener" and more sustainable is very important. That's where Green Sail comes in.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, although nautical tourism contributes very minimally to global pollution, it can still have a negative impact on local coastal communities through the pollution of the sea and air, as well as through the increased accumulation of waste, etc. The team which makes up the Green Sail organisation recently developed a way for boat owners and boat rental companies to measure their ecological footprint.

VEF (Vessel Environmental Footprint) helps vessels determine their ecological footprint and also acts as a rating system, showing the level of sustainability of each individual vessel, allowing for them to set themselves goals for reduction.

"The biggest advantage of emissions calculation is the management of risks and opportunities. If we're thinking about dealing in a long-term sense with the sea and tourism, it is logical that we keep an account of what sort of impact we're having,'' said Hrvoje Caric from the Institute for Tourism.

As they themselves explained from Green Sail, the general goal of the innovative VEF system is to raise awareness and reduce the impact of the nautical industry on the environment and help with the transition of the Croatian nautical industry towards a more sustainable future because, among other things, it enables clients to make informed purchasing decisions.

Green Sail's rating system takes into account emissions produced on the vessel, energy and water consumption, as well as waste produced. The VEF system also takes into account elements that have the ability to neutralise or reduce the vessel's impact on the environment.

This includes the reduced use of antifouling, the presence of renewable energy sources on board, and whether there are proper places marked out for separating waste on board. The age of the vessel, how often and how it is used are also taken into account when giving a rating.

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

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

FIFA Disciplinary Committee Confirms Croatia's Fine for Fan Taunts at Milan Borjan

December 7, 2022 - The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has confirmed Croatia's fine for fan taunts at Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan in their second-round Group F match at the World Cup on November 27, 2022. 

The disciplinary committee of the International Football Federation (FIFA) fined the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) 50,000 Swiss francs for the behavior of some fans at the 2022 World Cup match against Canada in Qatar.

During the match, some Croatia fans insulted the Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who has Serbian roots and had previously made inappropriate statements about the Homeland War and being born in Krajina, not Croatia, back in 1987. A poster with offensive content referencing his leaving Croatia also appeared in the stands.

"The Croatian Football Federation was fined 50,000 Swiss francs for violating Article 16 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (use of words and objects to convey a message that is not appropriate for a sporting event) in connection with the behavior of Croatia fans during the match against Canada," FIFA announced.

The Football Federations of Serbia and Saudi Arabia were also fined.

Serbia was fined 20,000 Swiss francs for "violations of Article 11 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and Article 4 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Regulations about the flag displayed in the dressing room after the match against Brazil," they said.

Namely, after the match against Brazil, a flag was hung in Serbia's dressing room with a map of Kosovo painted in the colors of the Serbian flag, with the slogan: "No surrender."

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has been fined 15,000 Swiss francs twice for misconduct by players who earned six yellow cards during matches against Argentina and Mexico.

Source: HRT

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

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

How to Croatia: An Overview of the Croatian Education System

December 7, 2022 – In today’s edition of How to Croatia, we are bringing an overview of the Croatian education system from early childhood to higher education.

The Croatian education system starts with childcare or formally with the preschool year. While the earliest that children can be enrolled is at six months in jaslice (Croatian term for nursery), the mandatory aspect of education typically starts at the beginning of the year before the start of primary school at the age of 6 and lasts until the age of 14. Secondary and higher education in Croatia are accessible to all but not mandatory. There are both public and private education institutions at every level. The academic year in Croatia usually starts in early September for primary and secondary education or October for higher education. It ends in early June for primary and secondary levels, while at the higher education level, it sometimes extends to the second half of July.

Childcare and preschool

As mentioned above, the earliest a child can be enrolled in childcare is at six months old, though that depends on the specific institution. In most places, local authorities will have a system of benefits or subsidies for parents, especially those with more than one child. English is taught in most Croatian kindergartens, while international kindergartens with programmes in foreign languages (German, French, Italian, Spanish) can, for now, only be found in Zagreb and Split. Preschool education is mandatory and free of charge for all children in the year just before they start primary school.

Primary school

Children start primary school at 7 or 6 if they turn seven before the 31st of March of the following year (that same academic year). Primary school is split into two levels and lasts eight years. Grades 1-4 are oriented towards class teaching, where there is one main teacher who covers the base subjects (Croatian, mathematics, art, social), while subject teachers for foreign languages, computer science, and religion come in to teach their specialised subjects usually for one or two classes per week.

The second level of primary education, grades 5-8, is oriented toward subject teaching. The pupils are still organised into classes and allocated a teacher responsible for class admin, but specialised subject teachers teach all the subjects. Subjects like geography, history, and biology are introduced in grade 5, while chemistry and physics are introduced in grade 7.

Specific inclusive programmes are set up for children with learning disabilities, which are either adjusted or individualised to fit their needs.

Secondary education

The secondary level of education typically starts at the age of 14, while the duration depends on the type of programme. There are two main types in Croatia, grammar schools and vocational schools.

Grammar schools are further specialised into those with a general or classical programme, those which focus more on natural subjects, or those with a focus on languages. Programmes in all grammar schools typically last four years and enable the students to pursue higher education.

Vocational schools, on the other hand, equip students for a specific profession. The duration depends on the programme, where programmes for trades typically last between one and three years, hospitality and tourism programmes last three years, economy and computer science last four years, and nursing school lasts five years. After graduating from a vocational school, students can either pursue higher education or enter the job market with the qualification they acquire.

When it comes to primary and secondary programmes in foreign languages, just as is the case with childcare, international schools exist in Zagreb and Split.

Higher education

One of the best aspects of life in Croatia is that higher education is free for all. The public education system of universities, colleges, and polytechnics is very well developed and follows the European Higher Education framework based on the Bologna Process. The requirements for enrollment depend on the specific programmes, but the base is a points system that accounts for the student’s final grades during all years of secondary education and a state exam at the end. All students who wish to study at public higher education institutions must pass the mandatory subjects – Croatian, English, and mathematics, and they can choose to sit for the supplementary subjects which might be required or bear extra credit for specific fields (e.g., biology and chemistry for medicine). When it comes to programmes in foreign languages, alongside language studies, several universities have started offering public programmes in English, like those in Zagreb, Split, and Rijeka. A vast network of private higher education institutions also exists in Croatia, offering various programmes.

Inclusive special education

Croatia has a developed inclusive education system for children with developmental and learning difficulties, starting with childcare. Depending on the extent of their needs, they might be enrolled in mainstream classes where they are approached with programmes tailored specifically for them or have a learning assistant assigned. On the other hand, they might be directed toward a specialised school which, in some cases, they can attend until the age of twenty-one.

Art and music

Another aspect of education regulated by law is official art (dance) and music education. Primary music school lasts six years, and children from the age of 7 can be enrolled. Secondary music school lasts four years and can be taken as the only programme of secondary education. More often than not, though, students attend music school parallel to another secondary school. Primary dance school lasts four years, and so does secondary dance school, which can also serve as the only secondary programme.

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

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

Historic Croatian Schengen Entry Decision Awaited with Bated Breath

December the 7th, 2022 - On Thursday, the Croatian Schengen entry decision will finally be made. Croatia has fulfilled all requirements and Schengen countries have all said they have nothing against the accession, despite a bit of confusion having been caused by nearby Austria, which has since been cleared up. Long queues at the land borders will become a thing of the past if we're given the green light.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the ministers of justice and interior affairs of the member states of the European Union are set to meet on Thursday to decide on Croatia's admission to the passport-free Schengen zone, which enables the free movement of more than 400 million people.

One of the most contentious points was Croatia's ability to police the EU's longest external land border, at a time when migration remains a key challenge, AFP said in its analysis. On top of that, Croatia's request for membership in the Schengen area back in 2016 also came at a very sensitive time for Europe.

Millions of migrants, many having fled from various conflict zones, have risked their lives since 2015 trying to enter the EU illegally, and then the global pandemic broke out in 2020. Both of these crises forced Schengen countries to reintroduce certain border controls despite being a zone of so-called ''free movement''.

If Croatian Schengen entry is granted tomorrow – potentially alongside Bulgaria and Romania – the kilometre-long lines of vehicles at the Bregana border crossing with Slovenia that we all know (and loathe) will finally become a thing of the past. Bregana is otherwise one of the 73 land crossings on the Croatian border with Slovenia and Hungary that will cease to exist if the green light is given.

"On January the 1st, 2023, we will remove those barriers and border traffic will flow freely," Zoran Niceno, head of the Border Administration, told AFP. At Croatia's airports, the change as a result of Schengen entry will take effect on March the 26th only, due to technical requirements which don't need to be assessed at land borders.

Croatia hopes that Schengen membership will strengthen its lucrative tourism industry, which is already booming, with less waiting around and passport checking to consider for all those coming from other Schengen countries.

"International carriers will be delighted," Vladimir Jurcec from the national association of road carriers told AFP, and abolishing border checks will save them six to ten hours a week.

On January the 1st, 2023, Croatia will also scrap the kuna and adopt the bloc's single currency (the euro) with its official accession to the Eurozone, which despite controversies and varying opinions, will also work to make life much easier when it comes not only to tourism but to residents of this country with loans, as they will no longer be vulnerable to exchange rate fluctuations.

For more, make sure to check out our news section.

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