Saturday, 26 November 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Rijeka Designer Marko Perozic Stands Out to John Malkovich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 November 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Dalić replied: 

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

Will there be any lineup changes compared to Morocco?

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

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

Will this be Perišić's last World Cup?

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

On how the team was different four years ago in Russia

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

Who will be the #9 for Croatia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 25 November 2022

Former Minister Žalac Paid for Her Birthday Party with EU Funds

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, 25 November 2022

Sinteza Clinic Changes Ownership, Announces Growth Post-Acquisition

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 25 November 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Look at PFL 2022 Championship Fighters

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

Friday, 25 November 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 25 November 2022

Esplanade Hotel General Manager Ivica Max Krizmanic Wins Award

November the 25th, 2022 - The general manager of Zagreb's well known and very popular Esplanade Hotel, Ivica Max Krizmanic, has won the prestigious World Luxury Hotel Award for 2022.

As Suzana Varosanec/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the general ,anager of Zagreb's Esplanade Hotel, Ivica, Max Krizmanic, is the winner of the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2022 for the best general manager in all of Southern Europe. This is otherwise a very prestigious award that is traditionally awarded to the absolute best in the demanding hotel industry.

The press release stating that Ivica Max Krizmanic had received this year's prestigious award was signed by Sanda Sokol, the PR & Marketing Manager of the Esplanade Hotel, stating that "this significant international success is the crowning achievement of the impressive career of the general manager of the Esplanade Hotel, Ivica Max Krizmanic and is a great honour for the hotel itself, as well as for the City of Zagreb".

"I can say that I'm surprised, I didn't expect that this great international recognition would go to me. This is a special honour and certainly a motivation to achieve even better results in my future work. I'm glad that I built my career here at the Esplanade Hotel, which is the pride of Croatian tourism. And I'd first of all dedicate this award to my colleagues, who are the main link in the overall work and successful business of the hotel,'' said Krizmanic when receiving the award. It's worth noting that this year, he'll mark around 30 years of work at the Esplanade Hotel and exactly one decade in the position of its general director. The above makes him one of the longest serving directors of the Esplanade Hotel in history.

"The merits for his work have been recognised at the international level, where he has already been awarded for his success in the past. Back in 2018, he received the prestigious international Five Star Diamond Award for excellence in the hotel industry, and in 2021, the Fest - Antonio Conte Charter award, which was awarded to him for his professional excellence, creativity, achieved results, exceptional contribution to the promotion of Croatian tourism and the improvement of tourist cooperation,'' it was stated in the press release.

It's worth noting that Ivica Max Krizmanic also holds many other important positions: he's a member of the Council of the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb and the Assembly of the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ), he's an honorary member of FIJET (Croatian Association of Travel Journalists and Writers in Tourism), a member of SKAL, as well as a member of the international gastronomic society Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and the organising committee of AmCham Talents. On top of that, he also acts as a mentor to future professionals. He is also an Ambassador of Knowledge at the Life Learning Academy and a long-time prominent member of the prestigious European Association of Hotel Managers (EHMA).

Ivica Max Krizmanic grew up in the City of Zagreb, and is a mechanical technician by profession. He was educated at the management schools of the Rezidor hotel group, as well as at Cornell University, Ithaca NY, in the USA. In 2012, he took over the management of the Esplanade Hotel and year after year since, the hotel has recorded constant growth and quite significantly increased revenue.

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

Friday, 25 November 2022

Croatian Modepack Company to Increase Revenue with Eurozone Accession

November the 25th, 2022 - The Croatian Modepack company is set to cash in and increase its income on the mere change of the country's currency from the kuna to the euro as of January 2023.

As Darko Bicak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, with an investment of 63 million kuna in their new plant in Velika Gorica near Zagreb, the Croatian Modepack company has recently rounded off its strategic efforts to double its capacity conceived in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, when the demand for their range of courier and security packaging on the global market exploded.

As explained by Jure Siric, director and owner of the Croatian Modepack company, the projections were that the investment, which was supported by the European Union (EU) from its funds in the amount of 7.5 million kuna, would amount to 50 million kuna. However, the drastic increase in the prices of raw materials and goods, as well as rising labour force costs, raised the total investment amount by about 15 percent.

"Given the fact that it's a large space, a building of 5,500 square metres and a plot of land spanning 32,000 square metres, further expansion is also possible. 2/3 of the total investment has already been invested in equipping production. This enabled us to increase our production capacity by approximately 100%, which in practice would mean 300 million pieces produced per year. Further planned investments, such as that intended for solar panels, will make us completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity, which is the only energy we use in the production process," Siric revealed.

Although the foreign market is their main focus, this yea,  suddenly there was a great demand for their products right here in Croatia as well. The reason is the introduction of the euro, that is, the withdrawal of kuna from circulation as the nation's currency.

"We knew that this represented a big opportunity for us, that there would be a lot of work, but what happened in the last weeks was far beyond that. We prepared well and consulted all potential clients. We estimated that we could achieve a turnover of around one million euros on this. Interest was weak until October, when everything exploded and everyone needed our safe packaging for money transfers - banks, Fina, shops, etc. We're very flexible and, thanks to this new facility in Velika Gorica, we've started with the production of this assortment in three shifts. Our current estimates are that our planned turnover on packaging for the collection of kuna and the distribution of euros across Croatia will increase from one million to at least two million euros," explained Siric.

The Croatian Modepack company has otherwise recorded double-digit growth since its very foundation, and that trend has only continued this year, when they expect about 75 million kuna in revenue, which is about 30 percent more than the 53 million kuna they earned last year. Their plans for the next three years are even more ambitious, by 2025, the plan is to achieve 150 million kuna (20 million euros) in revenue.

The opening ceremony of their new plant, where eight production lines will be installed for the time being, was an opportunity for the Croatian Modepack company to present its modernised logo adapted to the global market, from which they generate more than 90 percent of their revenue.

"This seemed like an excellent timing for this move. Modepack always strives to be up to date even now, after six years, and we wanted to modernise everything together. Through this process, we were guided by the backbone of our business: the product - people - production - the planet. The goal we set when creating a new brand was to strengthen our position on the market through clear and consistent communication. Amazon, H&M, Vans, Adidas, DHL, DPD, Loomis, numerous European financial institutions as well as the Antwerp Diamond Exchange (AWDC) are just some of the many users of the company's courier and security packaging.

Although we've only been present on the market for six years, Modepack is already one of the global leaders in the production of high-quality packaging for the logistic transport of goods, with an emphasis placed on e-commerce and courier deliveries, as well as security packaging for money and valuables. We export to 32 world markets,'' Siric explained, adding that Modepack was created based on the assessment that e-commerce would become a reality very soon, and this happened much earlier than expected. This was especially pronounced during the coronavirus pandemic, when e-commerce grew at triple-digit rates.

"I'm not a complete stranger within this industry because I come from the Weltplast family company, which has been involved in packaging and recycling since back in 1983, and since 2010, I've been in charge of sales for the EU market. However, it's a large company that generally deals with packaging and all of the raw materials for it, and my desire was to step into something new and a bit different. I don't think I made a mistake in doing so,'' said Siric, whose company occupies an increasingly large part of the global market, and currently their main focus is Scandinavia and France, where they were present at a large specialised fair this week.

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

Thursday, 24 November 2022

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Key Witness Shares Thoughts on LinkedIn

November 24, 2022 - Last week's hearing in the ongoing lawsuits against TCN CEO Paul Bradbury from the Croatian National Tourist Board included two witness cross-examinations. One shared his thoughts about the experience on LinkedIn.  

The first comment I saw on a thread about the trial from Zoran Pejovic was 'Kafkaesque.'

Zoran and I have known each other for a decade and he is what I consider to be one of the true tourism visionaries in this country, particularly in the luxury tourism sector. It was no surprise that he also appeared in the article in the Croatian media which led to me getting the first lawsuit of my life. Even though I didn't write the article, don't own the portal which published it, there was no request for a retraction, and the article is still live in its original format. You can read it (with Google Translate) here.

Zoran wasn't sued for his comments in the article (indeed, it turns out that the only journalist/blogger that the Croatian National Tourist Board sued in 2020 was me - twice), but he was called as a witness. And so he got up at 04:00 to take the first flight from Split to Zagreb, flying back immediately after the hearing. Another waste of time and resources in this 2.5 year saga. 

Zoran was excellent during his first-ever appearance on the witness stand, and he took to LinkedIn to share his thoughts once back in Split. 

You can read his post in full below, but for those less familiar with the case, you can read the latest instalment of the saga and a look at last week's heaing in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Irish Newspapers & Belgian Radio.

You can read the full official transcript of last week's hearring here

Over to Zoran:

The curious (court) case of Paul Bradbury

It was early June 2020. My phone rang and the voice on the other side of the line introduced herself as a journalist for Index.hr, Croatia's leading online news portal. She said that she was writing an article on the preparedness of Croatia for the summer tourism season and asked if I would comment on the perception of Croatia in the international travel trade and travel media, given the uncertainties we were facing in those early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Long story short, I had shared my take on the situation that the international travel trade and travel media did not have clarity and understanding of Croatia's Covid rules and border restrictions and that the national tourist board was failing to communicate news and updates clearly.

The article was published on June 12, 2020, and I didn't make much of that, other than finding out that the other contributor to the article was Paul Bradbury, award-winning journalist, and owner of Total Croatia News.

This entire story would have been quickly confined to the forgotten corners of the internet if it was not for a call I received about a year later from Paul Bradbury informing me that he is being sued by Croatian National Tourist Board for the thoughts he expressed in the article we have both contributed to. I was baffled beyond belief. He inquired if I was being sued as well. I wasn't.

Fast forward to today. This morning I took an early morning flight to Zagreb where I was summoned by the court as the witness in the case of Croatian National Tourist Board vs Paul Bradbury. Zagreb was foggy and wet, and the chilling morning breeze was only adding to the slightly unnerving feeling one gets when faced with a court proceeding that could be described only as Kafkaesque. I took the stand and recollected the days of early Covid for the court.

There was not much new to be sad about those days, but as I was standing there I came to a personal realization. Ever since I learned of the case against Paul I have reduced my Croatian media appearances. Several times I was asked to comment on some of the ongoing challenges of Croatian tourism and I politely declined. It only today dawned on me that I chose the path of lesser exposure to stay out of the limelight and avoid similar litigations, regardless of how pointless and ultimately unsuccessful they tend to be.

Perhaps they never aimed for victory in court.

You can follow Zoran Pejovic on LinkedIn.

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You can follow the latest in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, including Judgment Day on January 13, 2023 in the dedicated TCN section.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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