Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Croatia and Cyprus Can Assist in Europe's Energy Independence

ZAGREB, 11 May 2022 - Cyprus can help the European Union achieve energy independence, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday during an official visit by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who underscored that the LNG terminal on Krk Island would have a big role in that.

The two officials discussed the energy crisis in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

President Anastasiades also condemned a decision by Turkey to not join in Europe's sanctions against Russia.

Anastasiades spoke about energy inter-connection projects in the eastern Mediterranean, between north Africa and Europe, and about the EastMed gas pipeline which should connect Cyprus with Europe via Greece.

That island state has in recent years discovered significant offshore gas deposits, and the proposed project is still being analysed to test its economic feasibility, said Anastasiades.

It can help Europe's energy diversification, he told a news conference.

Addressing the news conference in Nicosia, Plenković underlined that the LNG terminal on Krk Island would have a significant role in achieving Europe's energy security. Thought is being given currently to increasing its capacity and not just for Croatia but for the needs of countries in Central Europe, he said.

Croatia can become an energy hub in the north Adriatic for gas and oil, said Plenković.

He underscored that Europe has to find a new, long-term sustainable alternative to Russia's energy products at an affordable price.

Bilateral cooperation

The two officials emphasised that this was the first visit by a Croatian prime minister to Cyprus and that it should mark a turning point in cooperation between the two countries so that their political agreement on European topics can expand to economic ones.

The two countries are expected to finalise in November an agreement on avoiding double taxation and they have also signed a memorandum on strengthening economic cooperation, which should be accompanied by a memorandum on digital transformation and sea traffic.

We are two Mediterranean countries not far from each other, we share the Mediterranean and I believe there is a lot of room for expanding cooperation, Plenković said, underlining the petrochemical and electrical energy industries, IT sector, pharmaceutical industry and financial and digital cooperation.

Cyprus and Croatia have been connected by air for the past two years, which has resulted in an increased number of tourists.

Croatia's political objectives

Plenković said that he and "his good friend" Anastasiades also discussed Croatia's ambitions for deeper integration in the EU that should occur this year - accession to the passport-free Schengen area, on which a final formal decision is expected in June or July, and accession to the euro area, on which a decision is expected in July.

We will be ready for euro changeover on 1 January, said Plenković.

The two officials also discussed the situation in Southeast Europe, with emphasis on Bosnia and Herzegovina and the need to ensure the political rights of Croats in that country, with Zagreb having full support from Nicosia in that regard.

Plenković's two-day visit to Cyprus, during which he laid a wreath at the monument to Makarios III, Archbishop of Cyprus who was the country's first president and is considered to be the father of the nation, ended with a meeting with the country's parliament speaker.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Plenković: Croatia Admires Resistance of Ukrainian People

ZAGREB, 8 May 2022 - Croatia admires the resistance of the Ukrainian people and their European aspirations and is ready to help with its own experience in post-war reconstruction, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said during a visit to Kyiv on Sunday.

Plenković made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Victory in Europe Day and ahead of Europe Day, observed on 9 May. In his speech, he expressed Croatia's full support to the Ukrainians in their resistance to the military aggression by neighbouring Russia and to Ukraine's EU path.

"We admire the resistance you have demonstrated in the face of the Russian aggression. You are fighting not only for the freedom of Ukraine but also for the values that we all share," the Croatian PM said.

Croatia itself experienced military aggression and that's why "we understand how hard the pressure is and how difficult the situation is for the defenders and Ukrainians," Plenković said and added: "I have the highest regard for the heroism of Ukrainian soldiers defending their homes, their families, their territory and their homeland."

Addressing a joint press conference with President Zelensky, Plenković noted that he was well aware of the European aspirations of the Ukrainian people.

Before becoming prime minister, Plenković had served as chairman of the European Parliament delegation to Ukraine and headed an EP observer mission for the 2014 election in Ukraine. As prime minister, he had offered Ukraine Croatia's experience with the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region after its 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Plenković also offered Croatia's experience with post-war reconstruction, mine clearance, and reconciliation. "We would like to share this experience with you," he said, recalling that he had last visited Kyiv five months ago when he and Zelensky signed a statement on Ukraine's EU membership perspective.

He commended Ukraine for responding so quickly to the EU questionnaire, presented to the Ukrainian president in Kyiv by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which is the first step by an aspirant country to gain the status of a membership candidate.

"We will be on your side every step of the way," Plenković said.

Croatia has supported the first five packages of sanctions which the EU has imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and will support a sixth package which is being prepared.

Plenković expressed satisfaction that Croatian Ambassador Anica Djamić has returned to Kyiv and that the Embassy will continue to operate normally. "This, too, is a strong sign of support to Ukraine and Ukrainians," he said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Andrej Plenkovic Visits Ukraine, Visits Kyiv, Meets with Zelensky

May the 8th, 2022 - Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic visits Ukraine as the war rages on following Russian invasion which began back in February this year. He has paid a visit to the capital, Kyiv, and will have further meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Andrej Plenkovic arrived in the City of Kyiv on Sunday morning as part of his visit to Ukraine, where he will meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Denis Smihal and Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, Banski dvori announced.

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic Radman is also in Kyiv as Plenkovic visits Ukraine.

"Croatia knows what it's like to be under military aggression and continues to provide political, diplomatic, financial, humanitarian, technical and any other possible support to Ukraine, as well as assistance in taking care of Ukrainian refugees," the government said in a statement.

During the meetings, the Ukrainian state leadership will inform Plenkovic about the consequences of the destruction caused by the Russian attacks on Ukraine, and they will also discuss further assistance and the continuation of Ukraine's European Union (EU) path.

The Croatian Ambassador to Ukraine has also returned to Kyiv

Plenkovic's visit to Ukraine is taking place on the eve of Europe Day and is an expression of solidarity and support for the Ukrainian authorities and the brave Ukrainian people, who are victims of brutal and horrendous Russian aggression.

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Prime Minister paid an official visit to Ukraine in December 2021, and also attended a meeting of the Crimean Platform summit with EU leaders back in August 2021.

Plenkovic and Minister Grlic Radman were welcomed by Ambassador Anica Djamic, who herself returned to Kyiv, where she will remain and continue to work at the helm of the Croatian Embassy in Ukraine.

For more, make sure to check out out dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

MP Says Government Must go Due to Lack of any Results

ZAGREB, 3 May 2022 - An MP of the Green-Left Bloc, Sandra Benčić, said on Tuesday that the Andrej Plenković government has to go, not only because of scandals in which its members were implicated but because of the lack of any results, reforms or vision.

Benčić made the statement ahead of a parliamentary debate to be held this week on an opposition motion to dissolve the parliament to call an election.

The MP said that in the six years of the government's term, the EU funding obtained under the first financial perspective had yielded no effects on key quality of life indicators in the country and that there were still no operational programmes for the absorption of funding from the new, 2021-2027 financial perspective.

Most importantly, there is no progress in reconstruction even two years since the Zagreb earthquake and close to a year and a half since the earthquake in Banija, Benčić said.

The government boasts about having managed to extend the deadline for the absorption of funding from the EU Solidarity Fund but is still not using it, she said.

"We will be late again and have to return the money", she said, adding that due to the lack of progress on any of the important issues in the past six years the government has to step down.

She noted that the appointment of Ivan Paladina as Construction Minister was evidence that PM Plenković did not have the support or the team in his HDZ party to check and propose scandal-free ministerial candidates.

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

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Plenković Says on Labour Day Government Will Continue With Wage Increases

ZAGREB, 1 May 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Sunday greeted Croatian citizens on International Workers' Day, saying that the government will continue to improve workers' status during times of numerous challenges and resolutely continue with its policy of wage increases in the years to come.

"This year on International Workers' Day I once again wish to express my gratitude to all workers who in these difficult circumstances are the most deserving for the Croatian economy's resilience, growth and competitiveness", Plenković wrote in his message. 

"Hence, the government will continue to improve workers' status in times when we are faced with numerous challenges and changing global and market opportunities that the 4th industrial revolution brings".

Faced with the consequences of the COVID pandemic, Russia's aggression against Ukraine and increased prices of energy and food, the government has taken a series of measures to save jobs, economic stability and the economic and social standards of Croatian families.

The Prime Minister added that, led by the principle of social solidarity, the government is resolving key issues together with the unions for the well-being of workers.

He is satisfied with the agreement reached recently with unions in state and public services that guarantees the further growth of the base wage and material rights and, with that, increased purchasing power for employees.

He noted that after years of stagnation in wages, in the past five and a half years a significant improvement has been made and the base wage in the public and state sector has increased by more than 23%.

The average net wage increased by 32% to HRK 7,452 in February and the minimum net wage increased by 50% to HRK 3,750. In the period from 2016 to 2021, real wages increased significantly more than prices.

"Despite the demanding economic circumstances, and with the support of Croatian citizens, we will resolutely continue with our policy of wage increases in the coming years", Plenković said.

He underscored that the government will continue to implement reforms, create a quality business environment, stimulate investments as a precondition to modernise Croatia, continue with economic growth, create new jobs and continue to increase wages, which means a higher living standard for Croatian citizens.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Plenković Says Net Wages Have Increased by 32% Since Start of His Premiership

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that net wages had risen by 32% since 2016 when he became Prime Minister, increasing from HRK 5,642 to HRK 7,352.

Commenting on Tuesday's meeting with trade unions, Plenković emphasised the government's commitment to social dialogue and recalled that the base pay in the public sector had not been raised from 2012 to 2016.

The increase is a consistent policy of our cabinet, Plenković said during today's meeting of the government.

Thus, the base pay has been increased on several occasions during the terms of his cabinets, or 18.31% on the aggregate.

Congratulations to winners of Slovenian and French elections

PM Plenković expressed satisfaction with French President Emmanuel Macron's re-election on Sunday, and extended congratulations to the new Slovenian PM-elect, Robert Golob, expressing hope that the Croatia and Slovenia would continue developing friendly relations and partnership, noting that the cooperation with the outgoing PM Janez Janša was very good.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Plenković Presents Šimpraga, Filipović, Piletić as New Cabinet Members

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday after a meeting of the parliamentary majority that he would nominate Anja Šimpraga as a new deputy prime minister, Davor Filipović as the new labour minister and Marin Piletić as the new economy minister.

Speaking to the press after presenting the candidates to the coalition partners, Plenković said all three had known for 20 days that they would be nominated, but the announcement was postponed until after the Easter holidays and the completion of negotiations with trade unions led by Labour Minister Josip Aladrović.

"They are the new generation, they are very young and I think six cabinet members were born in the 1980s, which speaks to the trend of politically rejuvenating the government", Plenković said.

The new ministers are expected to take office on Friday, after being heard by the relevant parliamentary committees and voted in.

Plenković once again thanked the outgoing ministers for their contributions.

He said new business challenges awaited Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić and that the ruling HDZ would support him for the position of central bank vice governor.

As for Aladrović and Deputy PM Boris Milošević, who are under investigation by the State Prosecutor's Office, Plenković said that if they were not proven guilty, the government's door would be open and that he was confident they might contribute to it in the future.

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

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Government Expects Real GDP Growth to be 3% in 2022

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - The government forecasts a 3% rise in GDP in 2022 and it expects the budget deficit to narrow to 2.8% of GDP, and the government debt to fall to 76.2% of GDP and an inflation rate of 7.8%, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said opening a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The government expects real GDP to increase by three percent in 2022, which will be followed by a growth of 4.4% in 2023, then 2.7% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025.

A gradual narrowing of the budget deficit is expected and that being 2.8% of GDP in 2022, 1.6% in 2023 and 2024 then 1.2% of GDP in 2025.

The government's 2023-2025 Convergence Programme expects government debt to decrease from 79.8% of GDP in 2021 to 76.2% in 2022, 71.7% in 2023, then to 68.9% in 2024 and 66.9% in 2025.

The government estimates an inflation rate of 7.8% and for it to decrease significantly in the years to come (3.7% in 2023 and 2.5% in 2024).

The Convergence Programme is a document that the government presents every year within the framework of the European Semester. It defines the framework and objectives of the government's economic policy, macroeconomic and fiscal trends as well as key structural reforms in the medium term.

The government is also expected to adopt the National Reform Programme today which, according to Plenković, is based on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It contains 95 measures in six areas (the same areas as the Recovery Plan): economy, pubic administration, judiciary and state assets; education, science and research; labour market and social welfare; health and building reconstruction.

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

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Plenković and Jandroković Meet With Visiting Bulgarian FM

ZAGREB, 21 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković met separately with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska during her visit to Zagreb on Thursday.

Genchovska, a historian, military academy graduate, and expert on security and defense issues, and Plenković discussed the situation in Ukraine, emphasizing that the two countries shared views on the war in Ukraine and the need to continue providing assistance to that country, according to a government press release.

Plenković informed Genchovska about Croatia's final preparations for accession to the Schengen area and euro area, as well as about its bid to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is the objective of both countries.

The two officials also exchanged views on EU enlargement and the situation in southeastern Europe.

The situation in the Western Balkans was also discussed during Genchovska's meeting with Parliament Speaker Jandroković. They agreed that it was of critical importance to prevent a spillover of the Ukraine crisis to the region.

According to a press release from Parliament, Jandroković emphasized the importance of the equality of all three constituent nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Jandroković and Genchovska strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people. They also discussed humanitarian and technical assistance to Ukraine and the acceptance of refugees.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

€163m Scheme for Construction of Kindergartens for 22,500 Kids Presented

ZAGREB, 21 April 2022 - A HRK 1.22 billion (€163 million) scheme for the construction and equipment of kindergartens, the aim of which is to create 22,500 new kindergarten places was presented by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday.

By the end of 2026, we intend to create conditions so that 90% of children aged three or more can participate in early and preschool education before going to school, which will enable a better educational outcome for children, and Croatia will catch up with the world and Europe, Plenković told a press conference.

In Croatia, the participation rate in preschool education is still among the lowest in the European Union.

In the 2004-2016 period, the number of children attending regular kindergarten or nursery programs in Croatia rose by 37.2%, while the number of kindergartens increased by 34.7%.

Since 2017, the government has invested HRK 2 billion in 498 kindergartens in Croatia, and with these investments, the total amount will reach HRK 3.43 billion, said Plenković.

The achieved level is still significantly below the "Barcelona objectives" of having 33% of children under three years of age and 90% of children between three years old and the mandatory school age covered by education programs, that is, the goal of the European Education Area to have 96% of children between three years of age and primary school to be covered by preschool programs.

(€1= HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our politics section.

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