Saturday, 15 January 2022

EC Tells Government: No Deadline Extension for Spending on Reconstruction

January the 15th, 2022 - The European Commission (EC) has told the Croatian Government that there will categorically be no deadline extension for spending on reconstruction projects for post-earthquake procedures.

As Index vijesti writes, the European Commission has refused to extend the deadline for the Republic of Croatia to use the funds from the Solidarity Fund and added that there is no consideration whatsoever being given to the proposed deadline extension of eighteen months to use the funds from the day the money was paid to the country, Jutarnji list unofficially reported.

Another Croatian publication, Telegram, has since published accurate quotations from a letter from the European Commission sent to the Croatian Government. It is clear from the letter that Croatia cannot receive a deadline extension for the spending of a massive 5.1 billion kuna from the Solidarity Fund.

"It was clarified that the EU Solidarity Fund Regulation doesn't provide for an extension of eighteen months for its implementation, and my colleagues explained that the costs of the first damage as a result of the original event (Zagreb earthquake) back in March 2020 are acceptable. Given its limited amount and timeframe, the EU Solidarity Fund should be used for emergency rehabilitation, while other means are more appropriate for significant and long-term reconstruction,'' reads the European Commission's letter signed by Sofia Alves of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the EC.

This means that the Republic of Croatia will need to return part of the amount totalling 5.1 billion kuna because it will not be able to spend it until June the 17th, when the deadline is set.

Croatia will have to finance these projects contracted so far from other EU sources

The European Commission also requested that the Croatian Government's decision to establish special departments within the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning, which were established exclusively for work on the Fund, be sent.

Special services within the Ministry were established only in December last year, one entire year after initially receiving the funds. They also noted that the funds of the Solidarity Fund are intended for emergency operations after damages, while the funds of other funds can be used for other projects.

On December the 27th, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said he hoped that the European Commission would accept Croatia's argument for a deadline extension. It seems that there will be none of that, which means that the country will have to finance the projects agreed so far from other EU sources, which means less money for development projects.

Plenkovic's ministers: Nobody sought postponement

Plenkovic's ministers, Obuljen Korzinek, Bozinovic and Horvat all claimed that no one had actually asked the European Commission for a deadline extension, nor that this letter published by Telegram (linked above) was rejected.

"These are incorrect allegations, the merits of the letter were to confirm what was discussed at the meeting, and the implementation of the projects financed from the Fund was discussed, as was the method of reporting. The letter reads the follow-up of our technical meeting with the EC during December and at which we agreed on the dynamics of further work. The aim of the letter was to confirm what was agreed at the meeting,'' claimed Obuljen Korzinek.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Why Are Waiting Times for Croatian Covid Tests So Long?

January the 15th, 2022 - Why is it taking so long for Croatian covid tests to be completed? With endless waits, backlogs, followed by another wait for the results, things are tight as people scramble to get negative test results.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, while in Rijeka people come for Croatian covid tests and get their results more or less within 24 hours, in the City of Zagreb, Split and other larger cities, even when a person has symptoms of coronavirus infection, they're often waiting for a week to get in line for testing. As such, many symptomatic people end up coming out of self-isolation before a positive PCR test result confirming their active infection even arrives.

The problem with Croatian covid tests has been going on for months now, and over the last few weeks, under pressure from a growing number of coronavirus patients and symptomatic sufferers, it has become rather unsustainable.

What's the reason for such a long wait to get your hands on Croatian covid tests?

As they say for Novi list from the Croatian National Institute of Public Health, the high vaccination rate could be the reason for the better overall situation in Rijeka, meaning there is less of a rush to get tested because a higher percentage of people already have valid covid certificates, so they don't need to be tested for the virus to such an extent.

"There is crowding for tests due to the large number of new patients and their contacts. Obviously, these new patients have a lot of close contacts, and there are a lot of people who haven't been vaccinated, so if they have to go to public institutions, they need a valid COVID certificate, which they can get based on a negative PCR or RAT result. Numerous travellers also come to get tested. Three weeks ago, Italy introduced new rules that a negative PCR test result is required to enter the country, and some ski resorts also require it,'' explained Dijana Mayer, an epidemiologist at the CNIPH.

Most of the people needing tests aren't vaccinated, so they simply have to come for testing if they want to go pretty much anywhere, and there are also new variants that affect people who have already been vaccinated, but for various reasons they still have to be tested.

Crowds of would-be and returning skiers

Among those waiting in lines for Croatian covid tests, she added, are people who live here in Croatia who have returned from a foreign ski resort, and due to respiratory symptoms, coughs and runny noses, they now have to be tested.

“I don’t expect this trend to last for very long, but the issues surrounding Croatian covid tests could last for another two to three weeks. With the introduction of rapid antigen tests in primary care, this could go faster than it is now,'' assured Mayer, explaining that there is a very good situation in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where there aren't waits for days like there currently is in Zagreb, which has a high vaccination rate.

"Primorje-Gorski Kotar County is very well vaccinated. In Split-Dalmatia County, where not that many people have been vaccinated, the situation with covid testing is even worse, because the people of Split are sent for testing to Makarska, Sinj or Trogir. Such a situation directly correlates with vaccination,'' noted Mayer.

Primorje-Gorski Kotar County doesn't have a waiting list for testing, whether it is PCR tests or rapid antigen tests, which have recently earned the same status when issuing COVID certificates.

“We've organised ourselves for these special circumstances in which certain organisational adjustments need to be made. Our cooperation with GPs is very good and all of those who receive referrals, whether it's for a rapid antigen test or for PCR testing, receive the results either on the same day or on the next day. Such an approach is our main task and we'll continue to work like this, and if necessary, we'll once again extend our working hours to 18:00, as we did last week at our test point in Mlaka, but now, due to less interest, we've returned to working until 13:00. We also occasionally notice fatigue in people who work doing these jobs, and we're part of a system that has a high exposure to infection, but we're continuing to work on the prevention of COVID-19,'' explained Prof. Dr. Vladimir Micovic in conversation with Novi list.

According to him, one of the key goals of timely coronavirus testing is to put patients into self-isolation and start treatment in time for when any symptoms of the disease appear, and thus ultimately reduce the pressure on the hospital system. The waiting lists for Croatian covid tests, while the most contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading like wildfire across most of the world at the moment, are actually completely absurd.

In Pimorje-Gorski Kotar County, except at the main test point in Rijeka's Mlaka, people can be tested in all branches of the institute, and when it comes to rapid antigen testing, many private institutions, such as pharmacies and private health institutions, introduced this option back in autumn 2021.

"Rapid antigen tests have their value in proving the presence of the disease, but PCR testing is the gold standard, the final confirmation of the presence of the disease and, after all, the condition that European Union countries require for an EU COVID certificate to be valid," concluded Micovic.

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

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Former Croatian Health Minister Sinisa Varga Returns to Dentistry

January the 15th, 2022 - Following former Health Minister Milan Kujundzic's reign, few are likely to easily recalled Sinisa Varga, who served as Croatia's health minister in Zoran Milanovic's centre-left government from 2014 to 2016. The ex minister, otherwise a doctor of dental medicine, has returned to his original vocation.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, at the beginning of the year, former Minister of Health Sinisa Varga, a doctor of dental medicine, opened the Institution for Health Care - Centre for Smiles (Centar za Osmijeh) in Zagreb's Malesnica district.

According to a recent announcement, the Sinisa Varga's new dental practice intends to provide dental care for all ages (for the whole family), and patient enrollment and the formalisation of the practice's contract with the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO) are now underway, which will cover part of patient dental work, including prosthetics.

Although Varga is best known to the public as a politician and Minister of Health in the Government of Zoran Milanovic, and as a consultant, Varga is extremely active in his profession of dentistry.

He graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Zagreb back in 1990, and completed his specialisation in 1997 in dental prosthetics at the Dental Clinic of the Clinical Hospital Centre in Zagreb.

For 23 whole years he ran the Clinic for Surgical Prosthetics, the Clinical Institute for Oral Surgery, the Clinic for Facial and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the Dubrava Clinical Hospital. Since it is the only centre of its kind in the Republic of Croatia, he worked on improving the surgical prosthetic profession by introducing and applying modern methods in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with congenital or acquired defects of the face and jaw.

In addition, Sinisa Varga regularly participates in the training of nurses, dental technicians, non-medical staff and trainees and specialists in dental prosthetics, oral surgery, maxillofacial surgery and otorhinolaryngology. Due to his professional work on improving the overal profession of dentistry, he earned the title of primarius from the Ministry of Health back in 2007.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Renowned Health Resort In Istria to Introduce Senior Housing, Focus on Foreign Markets

Istarske Toplice is a renowned thermal health spa resort in central Istria offering a wide range of health care, wellness and fitness services. Their new plan to introduce independent living facilities for persons aged 55+ has already drawn interest from Slovenia, Italy, and Croats in diaspora

As of January 2022, the popular health resort in Istria has a new director who’s planning to turn things around after the pandemic dealt their business a blow. The new director of Istarske Toplice Vlado Mezak discussed his plans with Glas Istre on January 13th, 2022.

‘I’ve approached my new position with a vision to keep developing medical and tourism services that will take us to the top ranks of health tourism in Croatia and beyond. After all, we’re at a location with more than 75 million people living within the radius of 500 kilometres. The resources are there, Istarske Toplice ranks among the top three thermal springs in Europe based on the water quality and its curative properties’, said Mezak.

Business was thriving before the pandemic struck, so much so that the company was about to start an investment cycle in early 2020. And then…

‘We saw a drop from 35,000 overnight stays in 2019 to 10,000 stays in 2020. Last year there was an increase during summer so things were slightly better, but still half as much as in 2019. Energy prices increased, and we had additional expenses because of Covid’, said director Mezak.

‘The state did help us in 2020 and 2021 to some extent, but this year there’s no support for our business segment. We’re in a situation where we have to come up with new business models that will help us get through the crisis’, said the new director, adding that the resort is only booked at 10% of its full capacity at the moment.

As expected, it’s a situation they don’t find satisfactory, but are actively working to turn things around. They are planning short-term activities that are expected to attract more guests, and are modifying some of their packages to highlight their affordability, the quality of their health services and the benefits of visiting a health spa.

‘We will be offering anti-stress packages, as well as post-Covid rehabilitation which is sorely needed these days’, explained Mezak.

Istarske Toplice has a total of 148 hotel rooms, 120 in Hotel Mirna and 20 in Hotel Sv. Stjepan; there are some 250 beds available to resort guests.

So far, domestic guests made up the majority of their visitor count, growing from 55% in 2018 to 78% in 2021. As far as international visitors are concerned, the resort mostly saw guests from Italy and Slovenia who either stay for the weekend, or book one-week or two-week rehabilitation programmes.

The management is now planning to focus more on foreign markets, namely Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.

Another major plan is in the works for the health spa, according to its owner and Chairman of the Board Mirko Kliman.

Named ‘Quality of life +55’, the project would introduce senior housing at the resort, i.e. independent living units for persons over the age of 55. The project is worth 30 million kuna; Kliman is expecting to get EU funding to cover 50-70 percent of the sum, and he will personally finance the other part.

Existing facilities at the resort would thus be partially reconstructed to create the new housing units. Some 100 hotel rooms will be remodelled into 40 apartments, accommodating sixty to seventy tenants who will also have access to other available facilities and services at the resort. According to the owner, they don’t lack interest.

‘When we first started to elaborate the project a few years ago, we conducted a survey and received 114 applications in the span of 15 days, most of which came from Slovenia, Italy, and from Croats living abroad’, said Kliman.

They’ll soon be applying for EU funding and if everything goes according to plan, implementation of the project could begin in late autumn.

‘Quality of life +55’ would enable the tenants to live a carefree life at a quiet location, with access to additional services and facilities at the health spa, such as medical consultations, a thermal pool and a heated pool, a wellness centre, a fitness centre, and more.

Kliman says it’s the only such project in Croatia as far as he’s aware, as this housing concept is still more prevalent in western European countries. ‘It’s a modern approach to growing old’, he says.


Friday, 14 January 2022

Croatian Minister Attends Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers

ZAGREB, 14 Jan 2022 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Thursday and Friday attended an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers (Gymnich), organised in Brest by the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Croatian ministry said.

The meeting opened with a debate by foreign and defence ministers on a revised draft of the EU Strategic Compass.

"We welcome the global ambition of this document as well as the fact that it underlines the EU's role in the neighbourhood, including the Western Balkans. We also mentioned the importance of the partnership with the USA and NATO," Grlić Radman said, adding that the document has to be inclusive and encompass each member state's security problems.

The ministers also discussed the situation in the EU's eastern neighbourhood and possible responses to short and long-term challenges in that region.

"We have sent a clear message about the importance of defusing the situation, as well as of close coordination with NATO and the USA, stressing that the EU should be actively involved in talks that concern its security," the minister said.

He underlined the importance of bilateral contacts with Russia, noting that he would use his coming visit to Moscow to advocate efforts to calm tensions, promote dialogue and convey the EU's common position.

The meeting also discussed the EU's relations with China, with Grlić Radman underlining the importance of the issues of competitiveness and strategic dependence, and of giving priority to diplomatic solutions whenever possible, without giving up on the EU's interests and values.

The EU ministers also met with representatives of the African Union, with whom they discussed further development of the partnership between the EU and Africa.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Croatia Might See its Population Size Shrink to 3.5 million by Decade's End

ZAGREB, 14 Jan 2022 - Demographers Ivo Turk and Ivan Čipin warned on Friday that Croatia's population might decline to 3.5 million by the end of the decade, after the latest census revealed the largest decrease in the population size compared with other census periods.

Croatia has a population of 3.89 million, which is 9.25 per cent fewer than in 2011, according to the initial results of the 2021 census released by the National Bureau of Statistics (DZS) on Friday.

Turk noted that in the last 10 years Croatia had lost population faster than in any previous census period.

Croatia's population had been on the decline all along, with the 2011 census showing a drop of 3.4 per cent compared with 2001 and the 2001 census recording a decline of 7.25 per cent compared with 1991.

Turk said that these negative indicators were not the worst thing, adding that "it is yet to be seen what the age and gender structure of the population is."

The DZS published only the data on the population size by town and county, while more detailed statistics, including those on the age structure, will be released at a later date.

Turk said that the data on the age structure are expected to show an even greater number of elderly people (those aged 60 and above) because it is young people who are assumed to have emigrated from the country.

"Further population ageing will have negative repercussions for the birth rate," he stressed.

Čipin said that these results were expected and that the trend in the population decline might accelerate.

"If the present trend continues, the number of inhabitants might fall below 3.5 million much sooner than projected by Eurostat and the UN, already before the end of this decade," he said.

Čipin said that the negative birth rate (a larger number of deaths than births) would continue in the next decade and that it was not realistic to expect a reversal of this trend.

Low fertility and emigration as symptoms of social problems

Čipin said the record-high negative difference between births and deaths in the last two years was solely due to the considerable increase in deaths during the pandemic, "while the number of births stayed more or less the same in the last five years, at 36,000 on average."

There is only one demographic process we can rely on if we wish to slow down or turn depopulation around - migration, he added.

"We should not expect any significant increase in births, not even if we reach 40,000 births per year. We can't significantly reduce the number of deaths below 50,000. But the government can impact migration and the politicians in power should decide how to do it."

Before that, it is necessary to make serious demographic, economic and other analyses, Čipin said, adding that emigration should not be treated solely as a "problem that should be solved" but as a symptom of social problems. "Only when we start solving them can we expect even partial demographic revitalisation."

Čipin said Croatia reached a population peak in 1990 and 1991 at 4.78 million, adding that it was very difficult to expect to reach those numbers ever again, at least this century.

Turk, whose work focuses on the population of Croatia's peripheral parts, said one of the biggest problems was the dying out of those as well as of the rural parts of the country.

Lika-Senj County has a population density of less than ten per square kilometre, he noted.

Vukovar-Srijem County is dying out, too, yet Croatia should have a strong demographic policy there, strategically set and long term, Turk said.

Peripheral regions require central functions in order for people to move there, he said, adding that no one would come to live in Lika because it was beautiful if they had no job opportunities there.

Demographic policy should be above party and government

Croatia needs a demographic policy which is above party and government, one with continuity, irrespective of changes of government, Turk said. "A long-term strategic plan needs to be made. It shouldn't be partisan or political. Experts should be influential."

At present, there is no quick fix for a demographic revival because nothing in demography can be fixed overnight, he said, adding that the first results would be visible only in 20 or 30 years.

A solution lies in the return of young expats, Turk said.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Seven Croatian Hotels Hold the ''HolidayCheck Special Award''

January 14, 2022 - The largest independent travel web portal in Germany, HolidayCheck, has recognized seven Croatian hotels with the HolidayCheck Special Award for their top-quality offer, service, and great reviews from guests.

HolidayCheck provides reservations based on guest reviews, as well as up-to-date information on destinations around the world.

All hotels have to meet a series of strict criteria in order to enter the competition for the award. One of the stricter conditions for winning this award was the high level of recommendations of hotel visitors, which exceeds 90 percent. The survey was conducted based on 360,000 reviews of 2021 vacations, and a total of 619 hotels in 27 countries boast this recognition.

According to HrTurizam, seven Croatian hotels that have been recognized with the "HolidayCheck Special Award": Hotel Plaza Duće, Miramar in Opatija, Valamar Padova on Rab, Bretanide Sport & Wellness Resort in Bol on Brač, Valamar Parentino in Poreč, Aminess Maestral in Novigrad, and in seventh place is the Plaza Hotel in Omiš.

“This award is a great achievement for the entire team of the Aminess Maestral Hotel, without which such success would not have been possible. We want to provide our guests with an unforgettable holiday experience and service at the highest possible level at all times. We are proud that our guests recognized and rewarded it. Each of their praises encourages us to be even better", said the director of Aminess Maestral Hotel Mateo Žiković and added that with this important award, the travel company Aminess and Aminess Maestral Hotel once again confirmed that their service guaranteed to every guest is extremely high.

Aminess facilities have won a number of prestigious awards and recognitions that testify to their top-quality offer, service, and high guest satisfaction.

Under the Aminess brand, there are hotels, campsites, and villas of high category in Novigrad in Istria, Krk, Korčula, Pelješac, and recently in Makarska. It is a total of 13 hotels, 4 camps with more than 450 mobile homes, 92 apartments, and 80 villas, which can accommodate more than 13,000 guests daily.

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


Friday, 14 January 2022

Denmark Congratulates Croatia on 30 Years Since International Recognition

ZAGREB, 14 Jan 2022 - The Danish Embassy congratulated Croatia on Friday on 30 years since international recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations.

In cooperation with the Zagreb design studio Beton, the embassy presented a Danish-Croatian logo as a sign of partnership and friendship which will be used for all embassy activities in Croatia this year.

The logo is a symbolic platform on which we wish to additionally strengthen our relations. Most projects will be related to sustainable development and the green transition, such as the Green Together exhibition, as well as the common historical and recent links in arts and culture, Ambassador Ole Frijs-Madsen said, per an embassy press release.

I congratulate Croatia on this day and I congratulate it on its strength and perseverance to achieve the goals set long ago despite all the challenges this beautiful country faced in the last 30 years. We Danes love to look to the future and always look for new solutions for a better and more prosperous life, the ambassador said.

I am extremely pleased to be in Croatia at a time when there have never been more possibilities for cooperation. One of the main paths in strengthening our relations is the development of technologies in sustainability and green energy, to which we committed under the Paris Agreement and at the recent COP26 conference in Glasgow, he added.

Croatia and Denmark established diplomatic relations on 15 January 1992.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark visited Croatia with her husband in 2014, including Solin, after which an agreement was signed on digitalising the legacy of Danish archaeologist Ejnar Dygge, who was researching the ancient Roman city of Salona.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Direct Railway Line Between Bjelovar and Split Will Start this Summer

January 14, 2022 - The Bjelovar-Bilogora County has managed to reach an agreement with HŽPP, and Bjelovar will be connected to the Adriatic by a direct railway line for the first time from July 1st, this year.

The seasonal tourist train will run once a day on the route Osijek-Virovitica-Bjelovar-Zagreb-Split, reports HrTurizam.

It will depart from Osijek at 8 pm, in Bjelovar at 11.35 pm, and at its final destination in Split it should arrive at 8.42 am. Return from Split is planned every day at 22.06 hours, the train would arrive in Bjelovar at 8.11 hours, and in Osijek at 11.36 hours. The line will run until August 27.

"The direct railway line that will connect Bjelovar to the Adriatic for the first time is the result of our efforts and talks we started last autumn. We are extremely pleased with the agreement reached with HŽPP and consider it important progress in connecting Bjelovar with other parts of Croatia," said the prefect Marko Marušić, who talked with the representatives of HŽPP about the better connection of Bjelovar with Zagreb and the possibility of introducing a student train from Bjelovar to Zagreb.

Namely, children and students of primary and secondary schools will be able to travel for free, in accordance with the Conclusion of the Government of the Republic of Croatia on the introduction of a pilot project of free public rail transport, which is in force until the end of this year.

Recall, this pilot project includes unlimited daily train journeys from the place of residence to the place of schooling and occasional trips, such as day trips, trips to the doctor, on vacations and other trips in the 2nd class of regular trains.

If you want to learn more about train travel in Croatia, be sure to check Total Croatia's guide HERE. Now available in your language!

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

Friday, 14 January 2022

Associations of Persons with Disabilities Satisfied with Set of Bills, Says MP

ZAGREB, 14 Jan 2022 - The federation of associations of disabled persons in Croatia is satisfied with the final bills on social welfare whereby the monthly disability allowance has been raised from HRK 1,500 (€200) to HRK 1,750 (€233), and the means test has been abolished for eligibility to this entitlement.

Presenting the changes, lawmaker Ljubica Lukačić on Friday explained that the abolishment of the means tests to be eligible for the disability allowance would enable all disabled people, regardless of whether they are employed or receive pensions, to be entitled to the monthly disability allowance.

Currently, 40,000 people are eligible for the disability allowance, and the new law will encompass all people with disabilities, Lukačić said at a news conference held by the federation of associations of disabled persons in Zagreb.

She said that this and some other legislative amendments would improve the quality of life of the disabled.

The head of the Blind Persons' Association, Vojin Perić, told the news conference that a civilisation headway was made with the recognition of the potential, values and skills of persons with disabilities.

It is impossible to annul the effects of disabilities but one can try to minimise them, said Perić, thanking the prime minister and the government for their support in this regard.

The federation's vice president, Marica Mirić, also expressed satisfaction with the set of final bills that would help the disabled to be more included in society.

Presenting the social welfare bill and another six bills in the set that will overhaul the sectors of foster care, psychotherapy services, psychological services and other rehabilitation services and introduce some new services, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Josip Aladrović said on Thursday that housing allowances for people in need and people with disabilities would be increased.

Furthermore, a list of persons who can be awarded the status of carers will be extended.

The scope of persons who can be granted the status of carers will be expanded under the new laws, which will make it possible for more and more children with disabilities and disabled adults to remain in their own homes and thus make institutionalisation rates lower, he added.

Page 12 of 3357