Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Biljana Borzan: Why Isn't Government Lobbying for Croatian Label in Brussels?

March the 23rd, 2022 - Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan has asked quite the valid question: Why isn't the Croatian Government doing more to lobby for the Croatian label in Brussels as a new rule on food packaging is set to come into force?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the European Union (EU) will soon introduce mandatory nutrition labels for food on packaging, and EU member states are currently vigorously lobbying for their national labels to be chosen. Croatia, quite unsurprisingly, isn't doing the same. MEP Biljana Borzan warned that Croatia is simply ignoring the existence of the "Live Healthy" label in Brussels, which, with co-financing from EU funds, was developed by the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

''Across the EU, eight labels are used on a voluntary basis, Croatia should be proud and take advantage of the fact that one of these is the Croatian "Live Healthy" label, and of course, Croatia should lobby to be elected. However, a meeting of representatives of EU member states was held on March the 11th to discuss this very topic, and according to the minutes taken, our representatives didn't even bother to mention that there is a Croatian label at all, let alone lobby for its use. The meeting was organised by Italy, which harnessed significant diplomatic resources for their so-called "Battery" label, and Croatia is indirectly supporting it with its silence, warned Biljana Borzan, who has long advocated the introduction of a single EU label.

At the end of 2022, the European Commission (EC) will propose a single label system for the entire European Union (single) market, in order to better inform the public and combat the growing problem of obesity and other such related diseases. This is part of the "From the field to the table" strategy, for which vice president Biljana Borzan is in charge on behalf of the Eurosocialists.

''More than 950,000 people died across the EU in 2017 as a result of eating an unhealthy diet, mainly from heart disease and cancer, and Croatia is worse than the average. The new labels will help customers find more nutritious products on store shelves. These new labels must be noticeable, easy to understand and based on scientific knowledge. These are the characteristics of "Live Healthy", which is well known to the Croatian food industry. Significant amounts of money from EU funds have been invested in its promotion, and the inactivity and lack of information of the representatives of the Croatian Government in Brussels is all the more inadmissible,'' Biljana Borzan believes.

The MEP added that the Eurobarometer survey showed that 82 percent of respondents in Croatia fully or mostly agree with the statement that there should be one logo that would signal that food is healthy and sustainable.

"Unfortunately, this situation reminds me of the debacle with the candidacy for the seat of the European Medicines Agency, when Croatia withdrew Zagreb's candidacy in favour of Italy. The explanation was that we didn't have a great chance and that Italy would somehow repay us, but of course, there was nothing of that to speak of. Slovakia also insisted on Bratislava's candidacy and a year later gained the seat of a new EU labour agency. The EU is a community that provides opportunities, but they don't benefit the modest, self-denying and inert, but those who fight for their slice of the cake", concluded Biljana Borzan.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 31 January 2022

Majority of Citizens Have to Buy New Appliance as Repair Not Worth It

ZAGREB, 31 January 2022 - The majority of citizens are compelled to buy a new electric appliance because the cost of the repair is not worth it, according to the latest results of a survey commissioned by MEP Biljana Borzan's (S&D/SDP) office, which she presented in Europe House in Zagreb on Monday.

The majority of citizens, or 81%, bought new appliances because repairs were not worth it, 72.9% opted to buy a new appliance because it was not possible to repair the old one and 43.4% did so because repairs were not available, according to the survey conducted in November 2021 by the Hendal agency on a sample of 800 respondents.

"I consider this to be truly sad because, on the one hand, we want to protect consumers so they do not have to spend money on new appliances, and naturally considering the fact that the European Union is exceptionally green orientated, which is an absolute priority in all our laws," said Borzan, who is a member of the European Parliament's  Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

When buying new appliances, consumers look at the price first (90.6%), then at the expected lifespan (89.6%), guarantee duration (82.8%), availability of servicing and spare parts (80.3%), and lastly care for the environment (56%).

Citizens trust institutions the least

"When adopting laws we endeavour to build in this green, ecological part and take the environmental impact and future of the planet into consideration," she added.

"As many as 94% of citizens think that appliances should last longer, and the life span and the availability of repairs are the most important aspects to them when they are buying a new product," she said and explained that a new resolution calls for the introduction of a new feature, repairability. She said that each appliance should bear an indication of the life span of the appliance and the availability of spare parts and servicing, adding that 78% of citizens expect this, said Borzan.

When it comes to complaints, citizens have the most faith in consumer protection associations, followed by traders and manufacturers, while they have the least faith in state institutions, which only 18.4% of citizens trust.

Resolution on the right to repairs in March

Borzan believes that the resolution will be put to the vote in March, after which she expects a prompt response from the European Commission so that work on preparing the law can begin in the spring.

Borzan added that Croatia was near the bottom of the EU ranking as far as consumer protection is concerned.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

European Parliament For Recognising Same-Sex Marriage Across EU

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - A majority of members of the European Parliament on Tuesday endorsed a draft resolution seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states.

The draft was endorsed by 387 MEPs, 161 voted against and 123 abstained.

The resolution says same-sex spouses and partners should be treated equally as heterosexual ones, and that marriages and partnerships concluded in one EU member state should be recognised in all.

Of the Croatian MEPs, the draft was endorsed by Biljana Borzan, Predrag Matić and Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Valter Flego of the Istrian Democratic Party.

Independent Mislav Kolakušić and conservative Ladislav Ilčić were against, while Sunčana Glavak, Karlo Ressler, Tomislav Sokol and Željana Zovko of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) abstained.

Ivan Vilibor Sinčić (Human Shield) did not vote as he was in Rome, and Romana Jerković (SDP) could not because of technical difficulties, but her office told Hina that she "supports this resolution."

Speaking to Hina, Matić said the adoption of the resolution was a "civilisational achievement", while Flego said it was unacceptable that LGBTIQ rights were being reduced instead of advanced in many countries, and that it was time to "finally give everyone equal rights."

Ilčić told Hina the resolution "is consciously trying to equate the legal status of same-sex couples in all member states, thus negating the right of the states to independently decide which unions they will recognise and which they won't."

"That would mean that the whole EU must follow the most liberal states to avoid alleged discrimination, which is absurd, contrary to the treaties and the subsidiarity principle," he said, adding that the LGBT lobby was exerting enormous pressure on the European institutions.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission to take action against Romania, Hungary and Poland for violating LGBTIQ rights and fundamental EU values.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 10 September 2021

MEP Warns Against Manipulating Consumers with Incomplete Product Information

ZAGREB, 10 Sept 2021- Labelling products made with imported raw materials 'local' is perfidious manipulation of consumers, European Parliament member Biljana Borzan said on Friday, after her amendments for more transparent labelling of products in the EU were adopted by the competent EP committees.

The EP committees on environment, public health and food safety and on agriculture and rural development on Friday stated their position on the European Commission's proposal for the From Farm to Fork strategy and adopted amendments put forward by Borzan, a Croatian Social Democrat who is the Socialists' rapporteur on the strategy.

Borzan asked in her amendments that the system of identifying the origin of raw materials on food products in the EU be changed to include the name of the country of origin, the exact content of honey from the EU in relation to third countries, such as China, and more visible identification of the origin of primary raw materials on food products sold on the EU market.

"Producers use the fact that in each member-country, including Croatia, 70% or more citizens prefer local products to make them believe that they have bought local products," Borzan told a news conference in Zagreb.

"I am not denying producers the right to import raw materials if there is not a sufficient amount of the raw materials they need in Croatia, but consumers must be aware of that and must not be misled," she said.

The current practice is to label a product on the front of the packaging "local, Slavonian, Dalmatian, Istrian, etc." while on the back of the packaging the country of origin of the raw material other than Croatia is put in small print, she said.

If, for example, the Slavonian kulen salami is made from imported meat, that information should be clearly visible on the packaging, she said, noting that currently information on the country of origin is necessary only for products such as fresh and frozen meat, fish and eggs but not for smoked and cured meats, milk and dairy products, which are labelled only "made in the EU", which Borzan believes should be changed.

The SDP MEP thanked former Croatian MEP Ruža Tomašić for ensuring support of her political group (European Conservatives and Reformists) for her amendments, recalling also the contribution to the EP's position of Croatian MEPs Tonino Picula, Sunčana Glavak and Ivan Vilibor Sinčić.

MEP Picula's amendments to contribute to consumption of locally produced food 

Amendments by Croatian member of the European Parliament Tonino Picula to the EU's From Farm to Fork Strategy, which were adopted on Friday by the EP committees on environment, public health and food safety and on agriculture and rural development, will contribute to tourists consuming local food, which will help small family farms and rural areas in Croatia, Picula's office said after the vote on the strategy before the two EP committees.

"Protection of small local producers in the supply chain as well as consumption of local and fresh organic food is a guarantee of the long-term survival of our family farms and consequently the survival and prosperity of rural areas," Picula said.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Biljana Borzan: Croatian Digital Transformation Hasn't Progressed Much

July the 21st, 2021 - Just how is the much talked about Croatian digital transformation actually going? While the pandemic has seen an acceleration in some respects, according to Biljana Borzan, Croatia still isn't anywhere even remotely close to where it should be.

As Novac/Iva Badanjak writes, Croatian digital transformation is something not only desperately needed here, but is one of the European Union's top priorities for the next decade.

The digital transition of society and the economy should lead to new opportunities for businesses and consumers and the development of digital competences and digital jobs. Digital technologies also have a key role to play in transforming the European economy and society to make the EU climate neutral by 2050, one of the goals agreed by Union leaders.

Various Croatian MEPs were asked to give their views and positions of the Croatian digital transformation in relation to that of other EU member states and the rest of the world.

Biljana Borzan, vice president of the Club of Progressives of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, pointed out that according to the digital index, which combines important elements related to the degree of digitalisation such as human capital, infrastructure, the digitalisation of public administration, etc., Croatia is, rather unsurprisingly, slightly below the EU average.

"However, there are big differences within the EU, and the four strongest European countries are all behind the USA in terms of digitalisation, but the EU as a whole is behind a large number of countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada or New Zealand,'' added the Borzan.

When asked what needs to be done in order to further encourage the Croatian digital transformation, Borzan believes that it is necessary to provide quality infrastructure across the Republic of Croatia.

"Although a large number of households in Croatia have access to the Internet, there are very big differences between urban and rural areas. In addition, Croatia has not come far in preparing for future technologies, and as far as the 5G network is concerned, only one single test has been conducted so far. The great success of local communities in attracting funds from the WiFi4EU programme for free internet in public spaces should, however, be commended,'' said Borzan, adding that special attention should be paid to strengthening the issue of digital literacy and bridging the digital divide.

"It's important that digital is an option for end users, but not the only option," it was noted.

As an opportunity for Croatia, Borzan points out the new Digital Programme, which is a 7.6 billion euro-heavy package, and can be used by small and medium-sized enterprises, and refers primarily to investment in digital technologies and infrastructure. It is also intended for investment in the development of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, the development of digital skills and through sectoral digitisation.

"I hope that Croatia will use it better than we have used the European Union funds that have been available to us so far," the MEP concluded.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

MEP Biljana Borzan: Ban on Sale of Energy Drinks to Children Should Have Been Adopted in 2018

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - Biljana Borzan, one of Croatia's members of the European Parliament, said on Tuesday that a motion by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to ban the sale of energy drinks to children should have been supported in 2018 because the recent death of a 13-year-old youth in Zagreb might have been avoided.

MEP Borzan, who put forward a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, told a press conference that this is an exceptionally important topic, however, the ideas and proposals by the opposition were ignored at the time.

"Had our proposal to ban the sale of energy drinks to children three years ago been adopted in the Sabor, perhaps this tragedy would not have occurred. I am nauseated to be here today as a mother and a doctor," she said, expressing her condolences to the family of the deceased youth.

She added that this was the first case of death of a child connected to the consumption of an energy drink and warned that if nothing was done, it would not be the last. "There is a considerable number of cases like this one in the world. Consumption of energy drinks by children is problematic for more than one reason," said Borzan.

By consuming energy drinks, children consume large quantities of sugar, which negatively impacts obesity statistics in Croatia. The second problem is the consumption of caffeine, taurine and other problematic and suspect substances while the third problem is that children's taste changes with such extremely sweet beverages so all other food becomes insufficiently sweet for them, Borzan said. The fourth problem is that the consumption of energy drinks in combination with alcohol is becoming more and more popular among teenagers, she added.

High blood pressure, heart attack, arrhythmia, headache, nausea, vomiting, cramping, panic attacks, anxiety, stress, diabetes, addiction, allergies, insomnia, risky behaviour, are just some of the repercussions of excessive consumption of energy drinks, she explained.

She recalled that in 2018, the SDP had proposed a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 18, which was rejected by the ruling majority, which initially said that the EU did not allow this, said Borzan.

That is not true as some Baltic countries have such a law in force while retail chains in some EU countries have imposed such a ban on their own, Borzan said.

The government then said that it would introduce an additional tax in an effort to deal with that problem, which it did, Borzan said, noting that a ban would be far more effective and just as it would refer only to children.

Citing data from the European Food Safety Authority, Borzan said that the situation in Croatia was concerning as 86% of 16-year-olds consume energy drinks and 47% of them combine them with alcohol.

Sixty percent of children under the age of 12 who regularly consume energy drinks said they did so because they liked the taste, Borzan said, noting that it was bizarre that 40% of them said they consumed them because they lacked energy.

In addition to a ban, it is important to educate the public so parents don't buy these drinks for their children, she said.

Referring to an announcement by the government that it plans to establish an inquiry commission for this problem, Borzan said that this was a tardy response and warned that inquiry commissions had not resulted in positive changes in the past.

For more about health in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 19 February 2021

SDP: Government Helping Multinational Companies, Shifting Burden of Crisis Onto Citizens

ZAGREB, 19 February, 2021 - SDP vice-presidents Siniša Hajdaš Dončić and Biljana Borzan on Friday announced an initiative in the European Parliament that would force multinational companies to pay taxes where they operate, stressing that the Croatian government does not want to support the initiative.

That way, the government is shifting the burden of the crisis onto citizens, they said.

According to the latest figures, 10% of the EU's total GDP is stolen, hidden or unfairly distributed, and the populist movements that call for tax cuts have at their core the wish to enable the rich in the business sector to pay less and less taxes while the entire cost of social spending is shifted onto the middle class, small and micro businesses and EU citizens, Hajdaš Dončić said at a news conference.

"The SDP considers this an unacceptable way of sharing the national wealth and the only solution is progressive taxation. The main question is how to facilitate fair tax distribution and force the richest to pay their share and participate in the crisis caused by the pandemic," he said.

He noted that tax or fiscal policies were national policies but that without coordination and a joint approach, EU countries would not be able to respond to the key problems of the last decade, including the question of why everyone was not contributing in line with their economic power.

There is also the question of why the biggest multinational corporations use tax breaks and tax havens and why some member states unfairly, through lower taxes, attract the wealthiest to start business in them.

When the amount of evaded taxes is compared, it accounts for 3 to 4% of Croatia's GDP for companies that run some business operations in Croatia. The proposal is to make a black list of those companies and to exclude them from any EU programmes, he said.

"I really do not understand why the HDZ-led government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is opposed to that," he said.

Difference between left and right

SDP vice-president and MEP Biljana Borzan said that an EP study showed that the EU loses 30-50 billion euros annually to tax evasion by multinational companies.

A Eurobarometer report shows 86% of EU citizens want stricter control of tax evasion and tax havens and 71% of Croatian citizens believe the problem should be solved at EU level.

A draft directive to be discussed by the European Council next Thursday is aimed at obliging big multinational companies with turnovers of more than €750 million to report for each member state how much money they make there, the value of their assets, the number of employees and the amount of taxes paid.

The directive also regulates fines that are proportional and deterring.

The health crisis brings with itself a major economic crisis, and some countries' governments can decide to shift the burden of the crisis onto citizens or they can force those who earn big profits in Europe to pay taxes, Borzan said.

She noted that the directive had been stuck at the Council for four years even though it had passed all the necessary procedures. She explained that a majority could not be achieved as some member states did not want to support the directive as they themselves are tax havens and some protected their own multinational companies.

Croatia has found itself among them even though it has no such companies, with the government explaining that a decision must be unanimous because it concerns tax policy even though the EC has explained that the directive concerns business reporting, which requires a qualified majority, Borzan said.

She noted that by the start of Croatia's EU presidency a turnaround happened and majority support was created to launch changes, "but Croatia did not put the issue on the agenda of the Council even though it could have and as EU chair should have," Borzan said, adding that at the time she sent a letter to then economy minister Darko Horvat to put the issue on agenda, but nothing happened.

"We often hear questions about the difference between the left-wing and right-wing parties today. Here is the difference - while the SDP is looking for ways to relieve the burden on citizens, the HDZ has, for reasons unclear to us, been siding with multinational companies which evade the payment of huge amounts of taxes," she said, noting that according to information available to her, the chances of the directive being passed were very big and that it would be interesting to see which position the Croatian government would take.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Croatian MEP Borzan Selected Vice-Chair of European Socialists Group in EP

ZAGREB, June 20, 2019 - Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan (SDP) has been selected as one of the nine vice-chairs of the European Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament. "I thank my colleagues and the new chair of the group Iratxe Garcia Perez for their support," Borzan said.

The other vice-chairs of the S&D group include Eric Andrieu (France), Miriam Dalli (Malta), Helene Fritzon (Sweden), Roberto Gualtieri (Italy), Bernd Lange (Germany), Claude Moraes (Great Britain), Kati Piri (the Netherlands) and Rovana Plumb (Romania).

"As I have until now, I will fight for Croatia to have a strong role at the table in European policies. I want the voice of our citizens to be heard when European decisions are made which impact their lives. There must not be big and small, significant and insignificant (countries)," Borzan said.

Earlier this month, Dubravka Šuica (HDZ) was selected as one of the ten vice-chairs of the European People's Party (EPP) group.

More news about European Parliament can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Croatian MEP Borzan Says End Put to Dual Product Quality

ZAGREB, April 17, 2019 - The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted a law banning products of dual quality, and the Romanian presidency of the Council of the EU had the key role in efforts to put an end to the sale of products of poorer quality in eastern European countries, said a Croatian member of the European Parliament, Social Democrat Biljana Borzan.

The European Parliament adopted by a majority vote the final agreement reached in March by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council to ban products of dual quality in the EU.

"Romania's EU Council Presidency had a crucial role in putting an end to the division between the EU's east and west because it put the item high on the agenda," Borzan, a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and a deputy member of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, told Hina.

Borzan said that the new law "primarily protects consumers in eastern countries, however, western consumers are not spared unfair business practices either."

Two years ago, Borzan and the Croatian Food Agency presented results of a product quality survey analysing the quality of the same products sold in Croatia and Germany.

The analysis revealed quality differences in more than half of product samples and that most of the analysed products were more expensive in Croatia.

It has been decided that the existing directive on unfair trading practices would be supplemented with a law banning dual product quality, and producers will be penalised for breaches with up to 4% of their annual sales.

Member-states will have one year from the entry into force of the directive to transpose it into their national law. A safeguard clause has been agreed to ensure that the effects of the directive are analysed in 2022 to determine if it functions in practice, Borzan said.

"If producers come up with innovative ways to bypass the law, we will have the opportunity to make the law more strict," said Borzan.

More news on the European Parliament can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 25 January 2019

No More Second-Rate Products for Croatian Consumers

The committee on the internal market and consumer protection of the European Parliament has adopted a law prohibiting sales of apparently same products of different quality in the European Union. This was announced at a press conference by Croatian Member of European Parliament Biljana Borzan. The measure will help protect Croatian consumers, reports Večernji List on January 25, 2019.

“The official position of the European Parliament is that the different product quality in the east and west of the EU must be banned. This is the position to which we have arrived after years of persuasion and explaining! I am delighted with such good results of difficult negotiations. This process has lasted for five years. It is challenging to push a law that nobody wants to happen except you and some of the members from Eastern European countries,” said Borzan.

The committee has adopted the amendment to the so-called blacklist of the directive on unacceptable business practices and has explicitly banned different product quality.

“More than 80 percent of Croatia's citizens believe that large corporations treat us as second-rate citizens. These are the figures I got while doing the first research on product quality in our and German market, which I commissioned together with the Croatian Food Agency. This information meant I had to do something. The European Parliament has adopted the best possible position, despite the difficult negotiations. Now it is up to the Council do to its work, and our government has to play a major role in that,” said Borzan.

The directive stipulates that penalties for producers of double quality products will be up to four percent of their annual turnover. In parallel to the legislative process, the European product quality survey is being conducted, for which funds from the EU budget were also secured by Borzan.

“According to my information, the sample will soon be formed on the basis of the contributions of 19 member states. The first results will be known in a couple of months, and it is possible that the law may be passed before that. This makes the whole issue even more important since first fines are about to be announced,” concluded Borzan.

More news on the activities of Biljana Borzan in the European Parliament can be found in the Politics section.

Translated from Večernji List.

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