Monday, 17 January 2022

Carnival Festivities Start in Rijeka with Handover of City Key

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - The 39th edition of the Rijeka carnival started on Monday on the feast day of St Anthony the Abbot with the traditional ceremony of handing over the key to the city to carnival revelers, who even during the pandemic temporarily took over this seaport. 

At the formal ceremony, which due to the pandemic and epidemiological measures this year took place in the city administration building, present were Mayor Marko Filipović, director of the Rijeka Tourist Board, Petar Škarpa, the Carnival' longtime master Toni, his successor Sandi Pribanić and the Carnival Queen Dora Pilepić.

Director of the Rijeka Tourist Board, Petar Škarpa, recalled that the international and children's carnival parades were shifted to take place in Rijeka this summer because holding those central events of the Rijeka Carnival would now pose a health risk.

News about those carnival parades will be released as soon as their new dates are set, depending on the epidemiological situation.

Mayor Filipović thanked the master of the Carnival Toni for his invaluable contribution to the Rijeka Carnival, and he wished the new master luck.

Master Toni said that it was time for him to retire and that it was time for the Carnival revelers to choose his successor and their representative. Therefore, according to his decision, "the acting master of the Carnival" will be Sandi Pribanić of the Draške Maškare carnival group.

Also, master Toni decided that Dora Pilepić, who was selected last year, would again carry the title of the Rijeka Carnival Queen.

According to the city administration, carnival events will be held with a minimum number of participants and with adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

ECHR Awards Convicted War Criminal Compensation for Unfair Trial

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has awarded Marinko Pozder, convicted in absentia for war crimes committed in Škabrnja, a compensation of €4,000 for non-pecuniary damage and €2,000 for the costs of the proceedings due to the violation of his right to a fair trial, ECHR has reported.

ECHR notes that the court's decision is final.

Pozder was convicted in absentia in 1998 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes against civilians in the village of Škabrnja in the Zadar hinterland, after which he called for a retrial in 2012 which was rejected by the Supreme Court.

The ECHR determined that Pozder participated personally in the early stages of the investigation against him prior to being released from prison and exchanged as part of a prisoner exchange agreement.

Hence he had some knowledge about the proceedings against him, however, he was never subsequently called to trial nor did the Croatian authorities inform him that the proceedings were continuing against him, the court said and added that it could not conclude whether Pozder attempted to avoid the trial or whether he waived the right to appear before a domestic court.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Some Can't Appreciate Croatia's Success, PM Says

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Croatia's EU entry was difficult because it was necessary to make up for the lost war years, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday, adding that some could not appreciate that today.

Speaking at the Zagreb Faculty of Law on the topic "Croatia's international position: from independence to new challenges and opportunities," he recalled Croatia's difficult path to the recognition of its independence during the Greater Serbia military aggression and later on to EU membership.

"Entering the Union was a process that was anything but simple... In the 90s, unlike other Central and Eastern European countries, we were left completely on the margin."

As we were dealing with occupied territories, refugees, and the war damage, he said, Central and Eastern European countries were becoming financial investment centers.

That fact, Plenković added, created a distance between those countries, which were making fast progress towards the Union, and Croatia, which was trying to catch up.

Trust between old and new Europe

He said the key element for EU enlargement was trust between "old" and "new" Europe. "The key element is trust between Europe's East and West. It isn't written anywhere, yet it's the key to everything."

Plenković recounted an exchange with a British diplomat who said, "You leaders of Eastern and Central Europe pretend you are ready, we in the West pretend we want you."

Croatia's EU accession in 2013 "was very demanding, very difficult. When I look at some political actors today, even the public, I almost have the impression that some people don't appreciate that," he said.

Plenković went on to say that the Schengen and euro areas were the only "deeper" structures Croatia should join and that decisions on that would be made soon.

"We are entering Schengen at a time when Schengen is not what we would like it to be, to freely cross borders... Today, because of three elements - the migration crisis, terrorism, and COVID - it's the opposite. Internal controls are everywhere and the goal is to protect the EU's external border, prevent terrorism, and put the pandemic under control so that we can go back to free movement as it used to be."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Central Bank Governor: Citizens Hold Cash Amounting to HRK 36 Billion

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022- Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujčić said on Monday that inflation might be the most serious potential "cost" of introducing the euro, however, this year, that influence on the total inflation rate could be less than 10%, so he believes this isn't something to be overly bothered about.

Vujčić added that the rest of the inflation will be generated from entirely different sources, primarily the prices of energy. He expects that the first half of this year will see strong inflationary pressure whereas "deflating" is expected in the second half.

Vujčić said that the best prevention against prices increasing is competition, adding that state intervention is only justifiable where monopolies exist. In the months prior to and after introducing the euro, consumers have to avoid those who increase their prices and buy from those who don't, he said, believing that the best protection against price increases is showing prices in both kuna and euro.

With regard to losing monetary sovereignty once Croatia enters the euro area, Vujčić recalled that the central bank has been maintaining a fixed exchange rate since the 1990s.

Hence, it is not using it actively as a monetary policy instrument, considering that a 10 percent depreciation of the kuna against the euro, due to the high level of ''euro-zation'' of the economy and households, the debt for all sectors in Croatia would increase by more than HRK 50 billion whereas appreciation of the kuna would disrupt the Croatian economy's competitiveness, that is exports, said Vujčić.

He revealed that fairly reliable data indicate that citizens are holding as much as HRK 36 billion in cash. He called on citizens to deposit cash in banks which would facilitate conversion once Croatia enters the euro area.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Croatia FM: Good Relations with Ukraine Don't Rule Out Good Relations with Russia

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman thanked his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Monday for Moscow's support when Croatia was gaining independence in the early 1990s and said that Croatia's "good relations with Ukraine do not rule out good relations with Russia."

Grlić Radman was on a return visit to Lavrov and the first EU minister in Moscow this year.

Croatia and Russia will mark 30 years of diplomatic relations on 25 May. Russia recognized Croatia on 17 February 1992, a month after EU member states did.

Speaking at a press conference, Lavrov said Russia saw Croatia as "a respected European partner" with which it has historical and cultural ties.

Grlić Radman spoke of the "brave resistance to the Slobodan Milošević regime's Greater Serbia aggression whereby Croatia succeeded in defending its own territory," thanking Lavrov for the "constructive role, recognition and assistance" in the 1990s.

"In the last 30 years, Croatia managed to achieve great things and Russia was always there when it was necessary, so thank you once again for that", Grlić Radman said.

He added that Russia's president, prime minister, interior, and justice ministers have an open invitation to visit Croatia.

The two ministers talked about intensifying business ties, cooperation in tourism, culture, science, and sports, and the signing of an agreement on a Russian cultural center in Croatia.

Croatia's experience in Ukraine

Grlić Radman said when this visit was being arranged, international circumstances were much more different, but that this provided an opportunity to talk "quite openly" about the current geopolitical situation.

His visit to Moscow coincides with high tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Western capitals are concerned about the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, claiming Russia is preparing an invasion, while Moscow seeks legal guarantees from the West that NATO will not spread eastwards.

Grlić Radman told the press he conveyed to Lavrov some messages from an informal meeting of European ministers held in Brest, France last week.

Croatia and Russia believe a solution should be found as part of the Minsk agreements from 2014 and 2015. They envisage the full withdrawal of the army from eastern Ukraine, greater autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk, or restoring full Ukrainian control over the eastern border.

Recently in Kyiv, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who used to chair the European Parliament's delegation for Ukraine, and Croatian diplomats openly supported Ukraine's territorial integrity, offering to share Croatia's experience in the peaceful reintegration of its Danube River Region in the 1990s.

Grlić Radman said that offer was not against Moscow and that "good relations with Ukraine do not rule out good relations with Russia."

He said the peaceful reintegration of Croatia's Danube River Region was one of the most successful operations approved by all UN Security Council member states, including Russia as a significant participant in that process.

"Of course, the Croatian model is not the same as the Ukrainian, but some experiences related to the civilian sector could help," he said, adding that Croatia, "in the bilateral relations with Ukraine, has no intention of doing anything that is not in line with the Minsk agreement."

Lavrov said Croatia and Ukraine had different interpretations of "the transfer of the experience in peaceful integration," with Croatia "thinking about the humanitarian aspects, solving language problems, creating cultural autonomies" and Ukraine wanting to use "the military part of the process that went on."

"Such intentions, which I hope won't occur, are dangerous," he said, adding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said that "Ukrainians who consider themselves Russian can leave for Russia."

"During our talks, we realized that Zagreb understands our rhetoric and remarks" about Kyiv's aspiration to use the military elements of Croatia's experience, Lavrov said, adding that for the Ukrainian issue "there is no plan B, only the Minsk agreement, which must be complied with to the last point."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Plenković: No One Can Be Happy with Decrease in Population

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that no one can be pleased with the population decrease but it was not unexpected, stressing that the government will do everything to mitigate the negative trends and improve the positive ones and noting that demographic issues go beyond the framework of one government.

After presenting the bill to adopt the euro as legal tender in Croatia, the prime minister was asked by the press to comment on the 2021 population census, which shows that Croatia has 396,000 fewer residents than ten years ago.

"Naturally, these results are not good, no one can be pleased with them, but at the same time when observing broader trends, they were not unexpected and can be explained quite easily," said Plenković.

He first warned of the structure of the 396,000 fewer people, saying that the difference between births and deaths is 165,000 while the remaining 230,000 refers to 110,000 registered and 120,000 unregistered emigrants.

Referring to the negative natural increase, Plenković noted that this process has been ongoing for 70 years, recalling that in 1948, 95,000 children were born annually, while their number declined by 60,000 to 35,000 in 2021.

In reference to the number of emigrants, he recalled the fact that this has resulted from Croatia's accession to the EU as one of the fundamental freedoms in the EU is the free movement of workers.

"Prior to 2013 you could emigrate to an EU country only if you met one of two criteria - obtaining a work permit or being part of some sort of quota," Plenković recalled.

"Now in 2022, in the ninth year of EU membership and ahead of entering the Schengen area and euro area, we are lifting our economy in terms of the average level of development within the EU and in terms of economic growth. We have the best credit rating ever, wages are increasing and by investing and using EU membership we are taking Croatia forward," he added.

The prime minister recalled that, unlike Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, which started ten years earlier, it was only in 2000 that Croatia started using EU funds and "catching up" will still take this entire decade, in which Croatia has €25 billion at its disposal.

He noted several government measures directed at improving the framework to help young families have more children but warned that is not "just an economic, financial or political issue," but also a matter of culture.

"That relates to the way of life we have today and it is not the same as in the 1950s or in the third decade of this century. Simply, the culture of life is different," he claimed.

The government will do all it can to relieve the negative trends and improve the positive ones. "However, that is an issue that is much broader than the framework of one government or one policy," he assessed.

Unfortunately, the data are as they are but many countries in Western Europe have negative natural increases and are compensating them with immigration, he added.

"We still are not in a situation where Croatia would need to compensate these trends with immigration. When you look at the largest number of people being born in many Western countries, when you observe children's origin, then you will see that many of them are the children of immigrants. These are all the facts that need to be put on the cards before any justification is made," the prime minister said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Croatia to Display Prices Both in Kuna and Euro as of September 5

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday announced a dual display of prices in Croatia, both in kuna and in euro, from 5 September through the whole of 2023.

Plenković made the announcement at a press conference where he unveiled the bill proposing the adoption of the euro as legal tender in Croatia. He was accompanied by Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić, and Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić.

The bill was put to public consultation today and the final proposal is expected to be sent to Parliament for a second reading in the second half of April.

The bill regulates the legal framework, the cash exchange, supplying all legal entities with euro, the loan and deposit conversion, and consumer protection from undue price increases.

Prices will be displayed in both kuna and euro as of 5 September to raise awareness of the euro even before its adoption, for which the target date has been set at 1 January 2023. The dual display of prices will continue throughout 2023.

Plenković said that citizens will be able to exchange kuna for euro at no cost to them at banks, the Croatian Post, and the Financial Agency (Fina) throughout next year, after which they will be able to do so at the Croatian National Bank free of charge too. He called on citizens to deposit any cash they have in banks so that the conversion can be done automatically.

The PM said that the aim is to ensure a smooth switch to the euro and the effective functioning of the economy.

He noted that this year the government would send to Parliament more than 70 proposals concerning the adoption of the euro, including the physical replacement of the national currency with the euro.

Plenković said that Croatia aspired to integrate with the European Union more deeply by joining the Schengen passport-free travel area and the euro area, and in that regard, relevant decisions would be made in the coming months.

He spoke of the steps that had been taken so far regarding the euro adoption and the reasons why Croatia wanted to join the euro area. He said that the Croatian economy is highly euroized, that 70 percent of tourism revenues come from citizens of euro-area countries, 60 percent of trade is generated with those countries, 70 percent of time savings deposits and nearly 60 percent of household and corporate loans are in euro or indexed to the euro.

Plenković said that the goal of euro area membership was included in government activities 20 years ago.

"What will be happening this year will be the culmination of the processes that have been systematically worked on in the last two decades," the prime minister said, announcing that the Council for Euro Adoption would meet before a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Croatia's Annual Inflation Rate in Dec Reaches 5.5%, Highest Since Oct 2008

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Prices of consumer goods and services in Croatia, as measured by the consumer price index, increased by 5.5% in December 2021 compared with December 2020, while in the whole of 2021 they rose by 2.6% year on year, the State Bureau of Statistics (DZS) said on Monday.

The annual inflation rate in December was the highest since October 2008, when it was 5.9%.

Compared with November 2021, consumer prices on average stayed the same.

The highest year-on-year price increase was observed in transport, of 11.4%, which was largely generated by fuel price increases, of 22.5% on an annual level.

All other categories also recorded annual price increases, except the health sector which registered a decrease of 0.3%.

Food prices, which account for a significant portion of the goods basket, continued their rise that began in July, increasing by an average of 8.1% in December.

Prices of alcoholic drinks and tobacco increased by 5.9%, clothing and footwear by 3.7%, housing by 3.2%, and household furniture by 4%.

Compared with November, the highest increase in prices was registered for food and non-alcoholic beverages (+1.4%). Prices of clothing and footwear decreased by 8.2% and those of housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels by 0.2%.

The average annual inflation rate for the entire year was 2.6%.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Croatia Expects 200,000 Russian Tourists this Year

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Croatia expects a record number of Russian tourists this year, and last year saw a record volume of commodity trade in the past few years, it was said on Monday at the start of an official visit to Russia by Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman. 

Grlić Radman is on a reciprocal visit to Moscow where he will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov after Lavrov visited Zagreb in December 2020.

In the morning, Grlić Radman met with representatives of Croatian companies which are members of the Croatian-Russian Business Club.

"The fact that the visit has begun with this segment clearly shows what Croatian-Russian relations mean for the economy," Croatia's Ambassador to Russia, Tomislav Car, said at the meeting attended by representatives of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Croatian Tourist Board, and about a dozen Croatian and Russian companies.

Grlić Radman said that Croatia's exports to Russia had increased by 16.2% in 2020 compared with 2019, amounting to US$201.7 million. Additional growth of about 25% is expected for 2021.

"Our data and statistics regarding the first ten months of 2021 indicate that that will be a year with the greatest commodity trade in the past few years," said Grlić Radman, announcing a Croatian economic forum in several Russian cities this year.

Croatia has a trade deficit with Russia, "which is inevitable with a country rich in energy resources like Russia, not just for us but for almost all the countries in the world," said Grlić Radman.

He expressed his satisfaction that 145,000 Russian tourists had visited Croatia last year and generated 800,000 bed nights.

The director of the Croatian Tourist Board Office in Russia, Rajko Ružička, said that this was because Croatia had opened up to Russian tourists and started issuing visas as early as April "which is something none of the competitors in the European Union did." The key also lies in the fact that Croatia was one of the first to recognize Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, he added.

"This year we expect further growth and I hope that it will be a record year with about 200,000 Russian visitors," said Ružička.

Later in the day, Grlić Radman is scheduled to meet with Lavrov and the Metropolitan Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Hilarion. After that, he is due to attend an informal meeting of the Russian-Croatian Friendship Association.

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

Monday, 17 January 2022

Obuljen Koržinek Calls on Serbia to Stop Laying Claim to Croatian Cultural Heritage

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Croatian Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said on Sunday that the recent adoption of the Cultural Heritage Act by Serbia, which lays claim to old literature from Dubrovnik, was scandalous, calling on Serbia to refrain from usurping Croatia's territory and cultural heritage.

"We will react through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our embassy has already been contacted in this regard," Obuljen Koržinek said in an interview with public television HTV.

The Cultural Heritage Act, passed by Serbia two weeks ago, says that old literature from Dubrovnik belongs to both Serbian and Croatian cultures.

"This is mythomania, this need to usurp Croatian cultural heritage, notably literature from Dubrovnik. That is unacceptable and professionally unfounded. They included in their law provisions according to which the Dubrovnik literature predating 1867 has some sort of dual affiliation, both Croatian and Serbian, which of course is complete nonsense," Obuljen Koržinek said.

She said she expected Serbia to do away with such legal provisions and to "stop once and for all laying claim to our territory and our cultural heritage."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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