Thursday, 31 March 2022

PM: Measures To Mitigate Impact Of Energy Prices Enter Into Force On 1 April

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković opened a cabinet meeting on Thursday by commenting on the government's HRK 4.8 billion (€640m) package of measures aimed at mitigating the impact of increased energy prices on households and businesses, which enters into force on Friday.

The increase in electricity prices was capped at 9.6% and the increase in gas prices for households at a maximum of 20%. The VAT rate on gas deliveries was reduced for a year from 25% to 5%, and VAT was also reduced on food, agricultural costs, cultural and sports activities, and so on, the prime minister said.

"We also took into account those most vulnerable in our society, who are living at risk of poverty. For them social transfers were increased from HRK 200 to 400, which also includes electricity and gas bills. In this way we are taking care of our fellow citizens who need our solidarity at this moment," Plenković said.

He also mentioned a special scheme for farmers and fishermen, and one-off allowances for pensioners.

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Croatian Government Reshuffle by May 30? As Many as 7 Names Are Mentioned

March 27, 2022 - Several sources from the ruling coalition claim that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has broken through and that a wider Croatian Government reshuffle will take place around May 30.

This began to be seriously considered after the arrest of Minister of Construction Darko Horvat, and especially after Uskok opened investigations against two other members of the Government: Minister of Labor and Pensions Josip Aladrović, who is suspected of favoring the employment of two people in 2018 and 2019 while being director of the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, who is suspected of mediating in "arranging" incentives for selected companies, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

The idea of ​​a broader government reshuffle, according to sources, was terribly pushed by the latest affair that erupted after the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak publicly announced that she had received terrible threats but did not report them to the police until her public appearance, nor to her boss - the Prime Minister. They are convinced that Tramišak has already been de facto written off, especially after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković publicly said that "the whole situation with Minister Tramišak is extremely bizarre" and that "it is not yet completely clear to him".

''I will not make statements. The whole case was taken over by the police.'', was all that Minister Tramišak told Slobodna Dalmacija yesterday.

The idea has been ''cooked'' before

A source from the HDZ says that the story about the government's reshuffle was "cooking" even before the Tramišak case, that it will cover much wider than her, Aladrović and Milošević, and that it will take place between Easter (April 17) and Statehood Day (May 30).

''As for Minister Tramišak, it is clear that she no longer has any confidence. A more serious reconstruction is being considered, which would not only affect her and the members of the Government burdened with investigations (Aladrović and Milošević). There are executed people in the Government, such as the Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković, and the stay of the Minister of Health Vili Beroš is still uncertain.'', says the source. He claims that the case of the Minister of Defense, Mario Banožić, is particularly interesting. He says that he is terribly untalented and that almost no one in the party supports him (anymore).

''But it would be too bold to claim that he lost Plenković's trust because Banožić is completely loyal to him.'', he says.

In addition to the mentioned names, in the context of the Government reshuffle, sources from HDZ and the ruling coalition parties note that the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić could also leave the Government".

One of the sources claims that he received information that Tomo Medved (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Veterans' Affairs) could replace Mario Banožić as Minister of Defense.

''I think that would be a phenomenal move because the President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, respects him terribly, especially because of Medved's role in the country's defense. Therefore, Milanović could no longer score easy goals, as he does now with Banožić. However, I think that Plenković will not give up Banožić, not (only) because of their good relationship, but because of Milanović who would declare such a move his victory (in a clash with the Government and Prime Minister Plenković).

Ministers are silent

Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved was not in the mood yesterday to discuss the government reshuffle.

We did not receive any comment on the information on the government reshuffle from the others mentioned in that context: Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic, Ministers Banožić, Aladrović, and Beroš, as well as from the Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković.

Some of Plenković's coalition partners are also strongly advocating a broader government reshuffle.

- I am sure that there will be a reconstruction. Without going into, of course, whether they (Aladrović and Milošević, n. A.) Are guilty or not, it is objective that the burden of these investigations puts the Prime Minister in a position to go into government reshuffle. This is not in dispute or questionable at all. In addition, there are still some open topics in the public and it can be assumed that some other ministerial positions may be the subject of government reshuffle - says the head of the Reformists  Radimir Cacic. 

HSLS President Dario Hrebak is also a supporter of the (wider) government reshuffle.

''HSLS will continue to support the ruling majority, but we should not run away from the problems we have. As a serious party, we believe that Croatia does not need new elections because of everything that is happening in the world, as well as in the domestic economy. But that does not mean that we will not advocate certain refreshments in the Government within the ruling majority. I think it would be good to do that. But the final decision on the reconstruction is made by the prime minister. He is the prime minister, he is forming the Government, and he will best assess whether he needs reconstruction. HSLS sees its role as a party that will not blackmail or condition anything, but propose. We will certainly suggest that we need to refresh the Government because we have two more years of mandate and we are simply coming to a political position that requires us to make certain changes. I would like to mention once again that Prime Minister Plenković has a much broader picture. He should suggest when, in what way, and whether a government reshuffle is needed. HSLS will continue to support the ruling majority.'', says Hrebak.

Consultations have not yet begun

A source from the HDZ, who is also convinced of the government's spring reshuffle, says "serious consultations on the subject in the party have not yet begun".

"We haven't come that far yet," he says.

Clearly, there are those in the HDZ who believe that the government reshuffle should not go much further than those burdened with investigations such as Aladrovic and Milosevic.

''Why would Minister Tramišak, for example, leave the Government as part of a package that includes persons who are the subject of Uskok investigations? Unlike them, she is "pure", she received threats because she did not want to please anyone. After all, we will discuss her position in the Government on Tuesday at a meeting of the HDZ leadership. While the Prime Minister finds it bizarre that Tramišak did not report the threats to the police before she spoke about them publicly, it is bizarre to me that he has a Minister of Defense who has not been able to evict the Nazi for more than two weeks, and it is bizarre to me that in Zagreb, more than two years after the earthquake, reconstruction has not yet begun'', says the interlocutor from the ruling party.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Prime Minister: 9,357 Ukrainian Refugees in Croatia, Accommodation, Costs to be Resolved

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that so far 9,357 Ukrainian refugees had entered Croatia, telling representatives of county and city authorities that the most important thing was to resolve the issue of accommodation for the refugees and to cover those costs.

During a meeting with county heads, representatives of the Association of Cities and the Association of Municipalities, as well as an inter-departmental task force dealing with the reception and accommodation of Ukrainian refugees, Plenković said that by Wednesday morning 9,357 refugees had entered Croatia, 4,556 of whom were women (48.7%), 1,172 were men (12.5%) and 3,629 were children (38.8%).

The prime minister said the purpose of the meeting was to improve coordination between the state and county governments.

"The issue of accommodation and covering the cost of accommodation, as well as a comprehensive policy towards refugees are particularly important. That is a policy of welcome, solidarity and acceptance of Ukrainian refugees. That is our duty and we want to do that," he said.

"We will continue to help with all available resources, particularly humanitarian aid. At this time, Croatia is on the right side of history and international law but also on the side of the values enshrined in our Constitution", the PM said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Government Presents 52 Grant Agreements for Investment Projects

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday presented 52 grant agreements for investment in public water supply and drainage projects and in kindergartens, community centres and fire stations in rural areas. The total value of the agreements is HRK 565 million.

The agreements were awarded under the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021-2026.

Of the 52 agreements, 25 relate to public water supply and drainage systems. Their total value is HRK 394 million, of which HRK 241 million is provided by the EU in the form of grants. The other 27 agreements were awarded under Measure 7 in the Rural Development Programme for the construction of kindergartens, community centres, sports facilities and fire stations. Their total value is HRK 155 million, but the total value of these investments exceeds HRK 171 million.

"The point is that we have joined the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, as a new, additional instrument to speed up the economic development of Croatia, with activities under Measure 7, which has a much wider reach," Plenković said, adding that the purpose of this was to improve the quality of life and infrastructure in rural areas.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Radars Did Not Recognize Drone as Right Sort of Alarm, Plenković Says

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Romanian and Hungarian radars did not recognise the drone that crashed in Zagreb a week ago as there were other false alarms that occured around the same time, but all Croatian partners understood the seriousness of the situation.

Speaking at a cabinet session, Plenković said he visited NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre in Torrejón, Spain yesterday and once again clarified with them radar images from last Thursday night.

"Romanian and Hungarian radars did not recognise the vehicle as the right sort of alarm. That's very demanding given that there are a lot of such blips... It appeared, it didn't appear, and in those days there were other false alarms and fighter jets were raised over situations of a different nature."

"However, since the drone crashed in Croatia's capital, all partners understand the seriousness of the situation". Plenković said.

"There are three possible scenarios, a mistake was made, it was sabotage or it was intentional. That has to be determined so that all surveillance mechanisms are ready for such situations and so that attention is paid because of the war in Ukraine", he said.

"Not even NATO's system could have seen the drone without being informed by those whose radars were closest to it", he added.

The drone carried explosive device

"We will inform the public of all details so there is no confusion, false information, wrong comments and expert analyses without insight into what really happened because that's not good either for the public or those commenting on incomplete information."

The relevant authorities are still looking into all the details of the crash. It has been established that that it was a Tupolev Tu-141 Strizh reconnaissance drone whose range was over 1,000 km.

Given the traces found at the crash site, it has been established that the drone had an explosive device which exploded several metres below ground, Plenković said.

He went on to say that military exercises were taking place these days in Croatia with the French and US air forces, reiterating that this was a strong message to the Croatian public that the allies and partners were with Croatia in this situation.

He also said Croatia had taken in 7,200 Ukrainian refugees to date.

For more on this developing situation, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Prime Minister Says More People Allowed at Events, Children no Longer Need to Self-test

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - The COVID situation allows for further relaxing restrictions, so more people will be allowed at public events and hospitality establishments to stay open longer, while the self-testing of children in schools is being revoked, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday.

There will no longer be restrictions on the number of people allowed at events for which COVID certificates are required. Bars and restaurants can stay open until 2 am. Also, pre-school children will not have to self-isolate.

Restrictions will also be relaxed for sporting competitions, cultural events, fairs and other economic and tourism events taking place indoors, as well as religious services.

Speaking at cabinet session, Plenković said the consequences of infection with the Omicron variant were much milder than before, "but we must stay on high alert, the virus is still here and has the gravest consequences on some citizens."

He added that 70.6% of adults have been vaccinated with at least one dose.

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.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Plenković Announces Stronger Cooperation With Spain

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - Wrapping up his visit to Spain on Wednesday evening, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced the further strengthening of bilateral relations in economy, science, culture in the Mediterranean as well as cooperation in international issues such as the Ukraine conflict.

"Spain has extended strong political support for Croatia's entry to Schengen, the euro area and the OECD. We appreciate the cooperation in the Mediterranean", Plenković said after meeting with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Plenković was the first Croatian prime minister who visited Spain since 1996.

"I took the opportunity for talks on Southeast Europe as well, on the need to reform the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We want that law to be just for all three constituent peoples, so that they can elect their true representatives", he said, adding that Croatia will support BiH on its EU path.

The situation in BiH is not in Madrid's focus.

Sánchez said they confirmed that they would strengthen the bilateral relations and commended the cooperation with Croatia in the Council of the EU.

This year marks 30 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.

After meeting with Sánchez, Plenković met with Congress of Deputies President Meritxell Batet for talks on parliamentary cooperation and the humanitarian repercussions of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

He was then received by King Felipe VI at the royal palace.

Speaking to the press afterwards, Plenković said the meeting was cordial. They exchanged views on bilateral and European matters.

"Faced with new security challenges, we are strengthening our partnership within the EU and NATO", he wrote on Twitter.

King Felipe VI vacationed on the Croatian coast in the past and an official visit is being arranged.

Plenković wrapped up his visit by meeting with the Croats living in Madrid at the Croatian Embassy, telling them to continue to develop cooperation in all areas.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković Visits Drone Crash Site in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 12 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited the drone crash site in Zagreb on Saturday morning. 

A Soviet-era unmanned aerial vehicle crashed in the Jarun area of southeast Zagreb on Thursday night. 

The drone was launched from the territory of Ukraine and crashed in Zagreb shortly after 11 pm on Thursday after running out of fuel, having flown over Romania and Hungary.

"We don't know whose it is, everyone says it isn't theirs," Plenković said. He added that it was down to luck that no one had been hurt, apart from about 40 cars that had been damaged in a nearby car park.

"This indicates the need for closer cooperation within NATO itself because this is NATO's air space, as well as Romania's Hungary's and Croatia's. We cannot tolerate this kind of situation and it should not happen in the future. This was a very clear and present threat which requires a response," the prime minister said.

Plenković said that he would raise this issue in all NATO and EU institutions and call for an effective and rapid response. He added that yesterday he had informed all EU leaders of what had happened and had sent a letter to NATO's secretary-general noting that something like this could happen to other cities.

Theoretically speaking, this could have been Budapest, Ljubljana or Bratislava, but what is important is for us to step up our cooperation, he said.

"Was it accidental, was it an error, was it intentional, we don't know at this moment," Plenković said, adding that the incident was being investigated by the military, police, and the State Attorney's Office.

He said that the drone would be dug out of the ground to see if contained any valuable information, and the authorities would contact other countries for more information.

The prime minister was accompanied by relevant government officials.

For more on politics, visit TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Government Adopts €667 Million Worth of Measures to Buffer Energy Price Hikes

ZAGREB, 9 March 2022 - The government on Wednesday adopted a set of measures to buffer energy price hikes worth almost HRK 5 billion, including a bill of amendments to the VAT Act, decisions to subsidise gas prices for households and small businesses, and once-only aid to pensioners and the socially vulnerable.

The measures enter into force on 1 April, whereby the government is directly helping households and businesses, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said.

The measures are aligned with European Commission guidelines which allow for regulating prices in case of need and justifiable circumstances, he added.

VAT cuts

The government sent amendments to the VAT Act to parliament for fast-track adoption, under which VAT would be reduced from 25% and 13% to 5% on children's food, edible oils and fats, butter and margarine, live animals, fresh meat and fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, seedlings, fertilisers and pesticides, food for animals, and tickets for concerts, sporting and cultural events.

The government also proposed a 13% VAT rate on natural gas and heat deliveries, firewood, and menstrual products, among other things, and a 5% VAT rate on natural gas deliveries from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

The VAT cuts are estimated at HRK 2.1 billion.

Gas subsidies for households and businesses

To buffer the impact of gas price hikes, the government decided to subsidise the price for households with HRK 0.10/kWh as well as the price for microbusinesses and SMEs, whose average annual consumption is up to 10GWh, with HRK 0.15/kWh.

The cost of the subsidies is HRK 1.2 billion and will be financed by selling greenhouse gas emission units at an auction in Croatia. The government estimates that the revenue from the sale of those units by 2025 will amount to HRK 4.72 billion.

The government also decided to release 22,000 tonnes of diesel on the market to be sold at market prices.

Measures for the socially vulnerable

At the moment 51,000 persons eligible for a minimum allowance and 40,000 persons eligible for disability benefits and members of their households receive HRK 200 a month for their electricity bills. Today the government decided that 5,700 elderly persons eligible for the national allowance will also be entitled to this monthly allowance.

As of 1 April, this HRK 200 allowance will be doubled to cover gas bills. The annual cost of this measure will be HRK 300 million.

The government also adopted a decision on a monthly allowance, ranging from HRK 1,000 to 4,000, for 1,100 providers of social services for 40,000 persons.

Additionally, 2,570 foster families and 6,000 beneficiaries will be entitled to a HRK 400 monthly allowance, which measure will cost HRK 33 million.

The government tasked the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund with paying HRK 1.2 billion from the auction sale of emission units into the state budget to be used as direct support to energy end buyers.

Energy allowance for pensioners

The government adopted a decision on a once-only allowance for 721,000 pensioners whose monthly pension is up to HRK 4,000.

Those whose pensions are up to HRK 1,500 will receive a HRK 1,200 allowance, those with pensions between HRK 1,500 and 2,000 will receive HRK 900, those with pensions between HRK 2,000 and 3,000 will receive HRK 600, and those with pensions between HRK 3,000 and 4,000 will receive a HRK 400 allowance. The cost of this measure totals HRK 480 million.

Aid to farmers and fishermen

The set of measures also envisages aid for 88,000 family farms estimated at HRK 200 million and for fishermen in the amount of HRK 75 million. This aid is subject to approval by the European Commission.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more information on this, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Plenković: Women's Equality Precondition for Modern and Healthy Society

ZAGREB, 9 March 2022 - Referring to International Women's Day on Wednesday Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that equality between women and men "is a precondition for a modern, successful and healthy society that we are building together."

"Equality between women and men is a right and a fundamental value of our constitution and legislative framework," Plenković said in his opening remarks at a cabinet meeting.

He mentioned women in Ukraine, saying that their "fundamental rights and security are threatened in these difficult circumstances" of Russian military aggression.

Plenković said that International Women's Day is an opportunity to examine women's position in Croatian society, "inequality between women and men on the labour market, discrimination, and in particular psychological and physical violence against women, and prejudices and stereotypes that cause them."

He said that equality means equal status, equal opportunity, equal reward for the results achieved, dignity and respect.

He added that his government is focused on protecting women's rights and freedoms, and resolute in condemning and fighting any form of discrimination and violence.

"I think we are changing things for the better, creating a society in which women and men live in equality in all spheres of life. That is a precondition for a modern, successful and healthy society that we are building together," the prime minister said.

Plenković congratulated Ivan Paladina on becoming the new Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets, after he had received the trust of the ruling majority in Parliament. He wished him success in his work, particularly in speeding up the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb and the Banovina region.

For more information on this, check out our dedicated politics section.

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