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.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Guess Fined for Discriminating Consumers in Croatia, Other Countries

US fashion brand Guess is the first "victim" of the new EU geographic blocking regulation, which came into force at the beginning of the month. The European Commission has fined Guess with almost 40 million euros for discriminating consumers in Croatia and a number of new EU member states in its online store, reports Jutarnji List on December 19, 2018.

The Brussels investigation has shown that Guess had fragmented the EU single market by setting 5 to 10 percent higher prices for buyers from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Simply put, if someone from the aforementioned new members of the European Union bought a Guess product over the internet, they automatically paid for it more than buyers from old EU members, according to the EU findings. The European Commission has assessed that this is improper business practice, which is the result of consumer discrimination on the basis of the geographical location. It is also considered to be an obstacle in the development of internet commerce and the single EU digital market. Therefore, Brussels has fined Guess with 39,821,000 euro. The penalty which was initially supposed to be issued has been cut in half because Guess was "cooperating," explained the European Commission.

"There are many illogicalities in online trading, and consumers are suffering. After Guess has been punished, we hope that it will be a warning to others,” said Biljana Borzan (SDP), a Croatian Member of the European Parliament. Similar examples abound in the package delivery business, which is closely related to online retail.

The EU now intends to prevent such practices because the Union wants to encourage the development of online retail trading, which grows at an annual rate of 22 percent. However, according to EC data, only 15 percent of Europeans buy online products from other EU member states, and one of the main reasons is geoblocking.

Ilija Rkman, the former president of the Croatian Consumer Protection Society, agrees with Borzan. “Our statistics show that our consumers mostly complain about material failures of products they have bought, as well as about their warranties. It is hard to believe that a new smartphone or a home appliance can break down so very soon after the purchase. This is an indicator of double standards for consumers in the old and new EU member states,” warned Rkman.

Because of all this, Rkman says that the consumer protection situation in Croatia is not as good as it should be. It has improved somewhat, but Croatia is still at the bottom of the EU. “Consumer protection should be a priority for the government. Today, it is considered a part of the protection of human rights,” Rkman said.

Borzan agrees that there is still much work to be done to strengthen consumer protection. “Our consumers complain less often than those from more developed countries, who fight for their rights,” concluded the Croatian MEP.

More news on the activities of Croatia’s MEP Biljana Borzan can be found in our Politics section.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Adriano Milovan).

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Croatia’s MEP Biljana Borzan Wins EU Oscar

ZAGREB, March 22, 2018 - Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Biljana Borzan of Croatia's Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Wednesday won the MEP Award or the so-called EU Oscar, which is given every year to the most successful members of the European Parliament in 18 categories. For each of the 18 categories three MEPs were shortlisted.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Croatia’s MEP Secures 800,000 Euro to Investigate Consumer Products Quality

ZAGREB, March 5, 2018 - Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan (SDP) on Monday said that she had secured additional 800,000 euro from the EU budget to test the different quality of same brand products on EU markets, which should serve as the basis to amend the law on labelling products and unfair trade practices in the EU.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Croatian MEP Warns about Vast Quantities of Food Being Thrown Out

ZAGREB, February 16, 2018 - The European Commission has published a large study on the impact of “use by date” labels on food waste in the EU, which amounts to about 90 million tonnes a year, with 10% of that quantity being thrown out because of the use by date, Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan's Osijek-based office said in a press release on Friday.

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