Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Committee Recommends Constitutionality Test for COVID Referendum Questions

ZAGREB, 30 March 2022 - The committee on the Constitution on Wednesday recommended by majority vote that parliament forward the questions from the Bridge party's referendum petitions against COVID certificates, and the national COVID crisis management team, to the Constitutional Court for assessment.

Parliament is expected to vote on the recommendation before the Easter recess.

Seven members of the parliamentary committee were for and five against asking the Constitutional Court to assess the question against the certificates, while 11 were for and one - Božo Petrov of Bridge - against the constitutionality test for the question against the crisis management team.

The opposition Bridge wants Article 17 of the Constitution to include the declaration of an epidemic as a moment when constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms can be restricted, but only by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

The party also wants the law protecting the population from infectious diseases to be amended so that parliament, and not a national crisis management team, decides on restrictions of rights and freedoms.

Nikola Grmoja of Bridge requested the recusal of judge Miroslav Šumanović if the Constitutional Court will assess the referendum questions because of his statement in 2019 that the people cannot decide by referendum on changing the Constitution.

Petrov said the conditions for holding the referendum had been met and that it should be called without the Constitutional Court's opinion.

According to the opposition Social Democratic Party, the petition to amend the law was not prepared well, that it is against the Constitution, and that the court should assess it. "It's simply impossible for every decision, including technical ones, to be implemented through parliament," party president Peđa Grbin said.

Constitutional law expert Sanja Barić said two decisions should be made. "The legislative petition is counter-constitutional, and I doubt the constitutionality of the petition to change the Constitution."

Bridge called her out for acting as a politician and not an expert.

The committee's external member, constitutional law expert Branko Smerdel, said the Constitutional Court should assess both questions. He warned about a flood of populists and "referendum-mania", pushing for amending the referendum law.

The Constitutional Court has 30 days to say if the referendum questions are in compliance with the Constitution.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Parliament: Heated Debate Over COVID Certificates

ZAGREB, 10 Feb 2022 - A formal discussion in the Croatian parliament on Thursday on the Bridge party's motion for a referendum on COVID certificates was preceded by a heated debate on the counting of signatures and the purpose of COVID measures.

Bridge MP Miro Bulj wondered why the ruling majority did not want to determine a deadline for the referendum. "Why haven't they set a deadline? In whose interest is it to block our initiative?" he asked.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin claimed that since the outbreak of the pandemic this government has been wandering, and that different rules apply to different people.

That has led to the situation that Croatia has the highest COVID death rate and the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and its actions have led to this referendum, he said.

Grbin recalled that the last referendum motion too had a lot of unclear situations and appealed that signatures should not be counted by the government but by the State Electoral Commission (DIP) and that a deadline should be fixed for that. 

Marijan Pavliček (Sovereignists) said that the introduction of COVID certificates was ridiculous because they have not produced any results and called on the ruling majority to accept the will of the people and call the referendum as soon as possible.

Dalija Oreškoivć (Centre) said that the HDZ's 'engineering' has shown that it does not respect the state, institutions, parties, or citizens.

HDZ whip Branko Bačić dismissed the criticisms and said that the Sabor decides on the technical aspects and the proposal by its committee that the government should check the signatures and that representatives of the referendum initiative should participate in checking the signatures.

The referendum calls for the abolishment of COVID certificates, even though they exist in other EU member states, and abolishing them would mean to indirectly and directly shut Croatia's borders and would contribute to the spreading of the virus in society, said Bačić.


Sunday, 10 October 2021

Number of E-citizens System’s Registered Users Doubles During Pandemic – Večernji List

ZAGREB, 10 Oct, 2021 - The e-Citizens system could be called a coronavirus profiteer as it boomed during the pandemic, with more than 1.5 million registered users, Večernji List daily said on Sunday.

Although the appetites of the Central State Office for Digital Society Development, which operates the system, are much bigger, the number of registered citizens is almost twice as high as before the pandemic, the paper said.

The first incentive came from the e-passes introduced in spring 2020, during the first lockdown. They were required for crossing county lines and could be obtained much faster via e-Citizens.

The second motive for registering were the COVID certificates. On 1 June 2021, e-Citizens had 1,288,211 users. Since the moment the certificates could be obtained digitally until early September, the number of users went up by 115,255, while the number of those who registered only for the EU Digital COVID Certificate service in that period was 498,842.

The latest incentive for registration, bringing 83,500 new users, was the recently held first phase of the population census, during which citizens could self-enumerate online via e-Citizens.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Vili Beros to Healthcare Workers: If You Don't Want Vaccine or Test, You Can't Come to Work

September the 25th, 2021 - Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros has issued a clear message to those not wanting to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and those who don't want to frequently test for it to ensure they're negative.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Vili Beros has stated that safety has no price, and that although costs can always be discussed, safety and security will always come before anything else.

''The process around covid certification is aimed at increasing safety, and safety like that has no price. We can talk about costs, but we will insist on safety above all. We're planning to carry out testing twice a week. We don’t know what to do with those people who choose to refuse a test and also refuse vaccination. In order not to discriminate against anyone, we've introduced the possibility of testing.

It will be free at first, but it can't be like that forever. If someone doesn't want to be tested for the virus, then they will have to enter it in the records of their working hours and will not be able to attend work and will create a problem for the system and for themselves. I can't talk about further actions at this moment in time, but everything will be done in accordance with the law,'' Vili Beros pointed out.

"No responsible person should resort to forgery. As far as I know, there have been no forgeries within the Croatian healthcare system,'' added the Health Minister.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic emphasised that covid certificates cannot be forged due to their specificities. Vili Beros repeated the fact that althoug he wants to avoid discrimination, he didn't know how long the testing procedure would be free for healthcare workers who don't want to be vaccinated against the virus.

"The funds for it been secured, but I can't say what the amount is. It's known that there is sick leave control, you have to have a justification for being off work if you're too unwell, and not wanting to be tested is not yet included in the classification of those diseases,'' he warned.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including the locations of testing centres and vaccination points, as well as travel rules, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and choose your preferred language.

Friday, 24 September 2021

Minister Confirms Possibility of Third Call for COVID-19 Allowance


ZAGREB, 24 Sept 2021 - Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović on Friday confirmed the possibility of a third call for the payment of the COVID-19 allowance for pensioners who meet the requirements and have not received the allowance so far.

Aladrović said the government was considering this move while speaking to reporters after a conference organised by the Pensioners' Convention of Croatia (MUH).

According to MUH data, 140,000 pensioners have not received the COVID-19 allowance even though they are entitled to it.

Profession should decide about institute of "parental alienation"

In a comment on a case involving the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Centre, whose head Gordana Buljan Flander resigned on Thursday, Aladrović said that the City of Zagreb was the founder of the Centre and that its representatives made decisions on the Centre's Steering Board and, indirectly, on its head.

He would not comment on Buljan Flander's resignation, saying only that the interest of children comes first in the social welfare system.

Buljan Flander resigned following negative reactions to her demand for a court injunction to stop the H-alter website writing about her and the Centre.

The injunction by Zagreb Municipal Court judge Andrija Krivak came after the nonprofit website in the past few weeks ran a series of articles by reporter Jelena Jindra problematising the work of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Centre and its head.

Reporters inquired about the legal regulation of the institute of parental alienation, which has caused strong reactions in a part of the public which claims that children are being taken away from their mothers and given to abusive fathers to care for.

Aladrović said that this was not a matter of laws and regulations but of methodology.

A possible solution is for psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists to have a broad debate about the matter to determine if the institute is good, he said.

Whether a method is good should be determined by the profession, the minister added.

The social welfare system is very complex so occasional manipulation or insufficiently conscientious work cannot be ruled out, but the Ministry is trying to reduce such phenomena to the minimum, which is why it has stepped up controls, he said.

COVID-19 certificates

COVID-19 certificates will be introduced for employees in the social welfare system as of 1 October, and the minister said he did not see any rational reason for unvaccinated employees to refuse to get tested, with the cost being covered by the state.

"If there are employees who do not want to get vaccinated and refuse to get tested, employers will act in line with the Labour Act," he said, adding that such cases would not be tolerated, for the sake of responsibility towards other citizens.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Covid Certificates in Croatian Hospitals from October 1: How Will It Work?

September 21, 2021 - Covid certificates in Croatian hospitals will be needed for all employees in the health system and those who are not hospital employees but work within the hospital. They will also be required for employees in homes for the elderly and infirm. But how will it work?

In ten days, all employees in the health system and those who are not hospital employees but work within the hospital, and employees in homes for the elderly and infirm will be able to work only by presenting a Covid certificate. In particular, they will have to present a document proving that they have been vaccinated, have overcome COVID-19, or have been tested.

However, how this will be controlled is still unknown, as the legal services of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor and Pension System have not yet completed the instructions. Two questions are key: how will testing be organized and how will those who refuse to test be penalized?

As Jutarnji List unofficially finds out from several Zagreb hospitals, everything is ready as far as the organization is concerned.

Hospitals have testing points, and they have enough tests. Jutarnji also learned that the hospital plans to decentralize the verification of certificates, i.e., that the confirmation of the covid status of employees is not done in one place (hospital entrance) but at the entrances to individual departments, and the head nurses of the department will most likely be in charge. There are several reasons for that.

First of all, it would not create crowds in one place. In addition, the head nurse of the department knows all the employees and easily distinguishes them from the patients. Once they have checked the covid status of the employees, in the next few days, they will know which of them have been vaccinated and which needs to be tested, and the vaccinated will not have their certificates checked daily. The situation is also facilitated by the fact that hospital employees were among the first to be vaccinated in an organized manner in their institutions. It is more or less known who was vaccinated.

In the health care system, about 70 percent of the total number of employees have been vaccinated, and some have overcome COVID-19, so the organization itself should not be a problem. In addition, per department, there would be relatively few people to check daily.

And while hospitals are ready as far as internal organization is concerned, they have not yet received instructions from the authorities on what to do with employees without covid-confirmation if they refuse to test.

That is precisely what the lawyers are currently working on, and although the sanction will certainly not be a dismissal, the question of how to penalize it is still open. The same rules will apply to both health and social services, but when the document is ready is unknown, although it should take effect in ten days. According to the information Jutarnji has, it was said that it would be ready by yesterday. Still, the latest information says that the document with all the administration instructions should arrive today or tomorrow.

Another open issue is the expiration of covid certificates. As health and social workers were a priority, they were vaccinated first, in early January. However, their covid certificates begin to expire in mid-October, meaning that 15 days after introducing the certificate, 70 percent of those vaccinated in healthcare would be left without a certificate and would be required to be tested like the unvaccinated.

As a solution, Minister Vili Beroš last week announced possibly extending the validity of the certificates from the current nine to 12 months.

As for the revaccination, it seems that for now, there will be none of that. Namely, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given guidelines that only those over 65 and immunocompromised should be vaccinated with the third dose. On the other hand, the European Agency (EMA) has not yet made a decision. Allegedly, the Croatian Institute of Public Health has already decided to extend the duration, and it should come into force this week.

What do we know so far?
1. What will happen to health care workers who have not been vaccinated or have had COVID-19?

- They'll have to be tested every three days. Initially, the system will pay for their expensive PCR tests, but, according to the announcements, they will have to bear those costs themselves after a while.

2. How will employees without a covid-certificate who refuse to be tested be punished?

- The competent Ministry has not yet agreed on possible penalties. However, it has been confirmed so far that the dismissal will not be among them. In neighboring countries, such employees are suspended and do not receive a salary for the days of suspension.

3. Will the same rules apply to other public sector systems as for healthcare employees?

- For now, it is confident that the same rules will apply to social welfare employees, probably as early as October 1, as well as to the health care system. Education was also mentioned, but it is not planned yet.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

SDP Leader Talks Conflict Within Party, COVID Certificates

ZAGREB, 19 Sept, 2021 - Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said on Saturday he was ready for radical measures against the caucus members who would be for the four ousted members staying in the caucus, adding that he would do his best to prevent a split within the party and that it was now up to the caucus.

The SDP parliamentary group has 32 members, of whom 18 demand that Grbin convene a caucus meeting to vote on the ousting of four caucus members - Rajko Ostojić, Zvane Brumnić, Nikša Vukas and Gordan Maras - who have been expelled from the party.

Speaking on Croatian Television, Grbin said the question was whether there was will in the caucus to resolve the situation through dialogue or continue the conflict.

He said it was now up to the parliamentary group to decide whether "the party will continue to deal with itself or start dealing with what citizens elected us for, which is to care for their interests and standard."

Asked if he was prepared to possibly have 12 or 14 MPs, Grbin said his goal was a strong SDP that was willing to stand up for people's interests.

He said there were many problems in Croatia and called the ruling HDZ "a clientelist organisation and a party which has done Croatia too much evil."

Grbin said if the situation in the SDP could not be solved through dialogue, he was prepared to take radical action, although he would rather not have to. He added that the situation was untenable and might become even more difficult if it was not solved shortly.

COVID certificates necessary because of negligence

Commenting on a protest against COVID rules held in Zagreb earlier in the day under the name Freedom Festival, Grbin said it was a festival of irresponsibility.

As for making COVID certificates a requirement in health and social care, he said Croatia's vaccination rate was the same as in India, Guyana and Colombia, and not as in Scandinavia as he would like.

Grbin said the certificates needed to be introduced "considering the inaction, negligence and poor government work," adding that "it's an indicator of failure and inaction."

He said the government should have but failed to assure people that nothing happened from vaccination, other than being safer.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Vili Beros: Validity of Croatian Covid Certificates to be Extended

September the 15th, 2021 - After it was confirmed that from the beginning of October, all employees in the healthcare system can only come to work if they have Croatian covid certificates, and soon the same could happen in the social services system, the question arose what to do with those whose certificates are expiring.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at this moment in time, Croatian covid certificates are valid for nine months from the holder receiving their second dose of the vaccine. For those who were vaccinated early and received their second dose in January, their deadline expires in mid-October. This primarily applies to healthcare and social workers, as they were a priority group and were among the first to be vaccinated.

"Doctors, nurses and non-medical staff who trusted science at the end of last year and the beginning of this year and were vaccinated and thus preserved their own and other people's health, will not be left without their Croatian covid certificates,'' confirmed the Minister of Health, Vili Beros.

At this point, Croatian covid certificates are valid if no more than 270 days have passed since the holder received their second dose, a period which, for the first among the population to be vaccinated, including healthcare workers, nursing home staff and residents, will begin to expire soon.

The extension of the validity of Croatian covid certificates will certainly be related to receiving the third dose, and Beros notes that at this moment all eyes are on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) which should decide on the third ''booster'' dose of Pfizer in ten days at the latest. "I believe that the opinion of the EMA will be positive. The Croatian Institute of Public Health is preparing instructions so that we can say that we're ready,'' explained Beros, reports Jutarnji list.

But regardless of the EMA and the decision on the third dose, an extension of the duration of Croatian covid certificates is also being considered in the context of vaccination. For now, only Pfizer has asked the EMA for approval for the third dose, so the question remains what to do with those who have been vaccinated with Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

"As always, we're closely monitoring the situation and adjusting things as needed. Other companies will certainly ask for approvals for the third dose. We're also waiting for answers as to whether it will be recommended that people who received the vector vaccine, for the third dose, receive the mRNA vaccine and vice versa,'' said Beros.

In addition to the booster dose, it seems that Croatian covid certificates will have their validy periods extended.

"Some countries have already extended the validity of their certificates to 12 months, and it's very likely that we'll go in that direction and extend the certificate for a year in accordance with the results of the latest scientific and professional tests," said Beros.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Friday, 27 August 2021

Authorities Thinking of Introducing COVID Certificates in School and Health Sectors

ZAGREB, 27 Aug 2021 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, who heads the national COVID-19 crisis management team, said on Friday that there were still no plans for the introduction of COVID certificates in the educational and health sectors, but the authorities were considering such a move.

He announced the extension of the validity of the current COVID certificate, whose current validity is nine months.

Božinović called for compliance with anti-epidemic rules such as social distancing, room airing and mask wearing.

Croatia's 14-day incidence 143.4 per 100,000

The head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), Krunoslav Capak, said that this week, the number of new coronavirus cases increased by 31.6% as against last week.

He added that currently, Croatia's 14-day incidence was 143.4 per 100,000 population, and that broken down by county, Istria had the lowest incidence and Split-Dalmatia County the highest.

Of the 27 EU member-states, Croatia ranks 11th while Poland and Hungary have the lowest incidence. The current ranking is topped by France and Ireland.

As for the COVID-related mortality rate per million citizens, Croatia ranks 20th in the European Union. Capak said that Croatia would soon start providing booster doses to the most vulnerable groups.

He added that when it comes to children aged between 12 and 18, 10% of this age cohort has so far been vaccinated against coronavirus.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Are Mandatory Covid Certificates in Croatia the Way Forward?

July 13, 2021 - Are mandatory Covid certificates in Croatia the way forward? A look at what could be introduced from mid-September. 

France has introduced strict restrictions for those without Covid certificates. This was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron, which resulted in 900,000 people applying for vaccinations, twice as many as the last record set on July 11, reports

Macron said vaccination will not be mandatory for the general public for now but stressed that the restrictions would affect those who have not been vaccinated.

As for Croatia, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković eliminated the possibility of compulsory vaccination yesterday. "There is no theoretical chance that vaccination will be mandatory," Plenković said.

Since it is becoming increasingly clear that the fourth wave of coronavirus is already spreading in parts of Europe and that vaccination has been slowed down in Croatia for some time, Plenković's resolute removal of compulsory vaccination as an option could mean that in Croatia, almost as in France, some kind of restriction will be introduced for those without Covid certificates. This, the government and the headquarters expect, would achieve two goals. On the one hand, a new wave of the coronavirus could be controlled much better, and on the other hand, restrictions would encourage many to be vaccinated.

Although real restrictions are expected in the autumn, strict measures affecting the unvaccinated have already begun.

As of yesterday, new rules for gatherings apply in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, according to which more than 20 people cannot gather without a Covid certificate.

"These are measures that at first glance show that the approach is proactive; we cannot wait with folded arms for an unwanted scenario to happen to us. We have experience of how unwanted events occur, the Delta Variant is present, and we have a certain problem, we want to be proactive and prevent the spread of the virus in the population, especially in events known as super-spreaders, and these are all forms of the gathering of people," said Vladimir Mićović, director of the Teaching Institute for Public Health of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. He added that the measure was adopted for a period of 14 days with the possibility of extension.

By introducing these restrictions, several public events in Rijeka and the surrounding area were canceled yesterday.

It should also be reminded that last week in Zadar County, concerts and similar outdoor events were banned, where it is not checked whether visitors have a Covid certificate.

Even more serious restrictions for those without Covid certificates are announced for the fall.

Tomorrow is a new round of government talks with unions and employers on a new support scheme for the economy that will be paid only to those employees with a Covid certificate, but also on the possibility of introducing a Covid certificate as an obligation for all public sector activities and employees in contact with a larger number of people. As the Minister of Health Vili Beroš confirmed ten days ago, these are drivers in public transport, teachers, professors, educators, health workers, people who work at the counters or are otherwise in daily contact with a larger number of people.

A similar Covid certification regime is being considered for healthcare facilities. As he said, serious consideration is being given to introducing testing on entering the hospital, but also that healthcare professionals work as long as the Covid confirmation lasts, i.e., that they are tested every 48 hours if they have not been vaccinated or have not had coronavirus in the last six months.

But the plan of the government and the Headquarters is much broader.

Covid certificates should become a means of entry to almost all events and shopping malls, which is a very realistic option for autumn. Such an obligation should be introduced through the Headquarters decision, i.e., it is not necessary to change any law. If necessary, the places for which a Covid certificate is required would be further expanded.

Since the shopping centers would be entered only with Covid certificates, everyone inside would be without masks. Shopping centers will, most figuratively speaking, look like in 2019, that is, before the epidemic. In addition to not wearing masks, there will be no restrictions on the number of people in the shops, restaurants in the centers will work as before, and playrooms will work as before the pandemic. Wardens will control Covid certificates at the entrances to the shopping centers. The Headquarters is convinced that the owners of these centers will be much more profitable than the measures because people will stay longer in the centers, go to cafes, restaurants, and children's playrooms.

"Those who have not been vaccinated will also be able to enter but will have to be tested as prescribed for Covid certificates. We have two goals: one is to extend the season as much as possible, and the other is to enter the fall with a new regime based on Covid certificates. Depending on how the epidemiological situation develops, it is possible to apply Covid certificates even more widely, i.e., to make them an obligation in even more places," said Index's source close to the Headquarters about ten days ago.

One of these places could be office buildings, and Covid certificates could be checked at the entrance to the building. All places where masks are now mandatory are potential places where a Covid certificate obligation could be introduced. This applies to various institutions, public and private, and in the broadest case, to all stores.

The new regime could be introduced as early as the second half of September.

For all, you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border, and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of vaccination points and testing centers across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.