Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Tourist Board Using Croatian EU Presidency to Attract Belgian Tourists

The Croatian EU presidency is now in full swing. Having taken over the EU's rotating presidency from Finland, the next six months will see Croatia partake in influential decisions within the bloc. Not only that, but as Brexit is set to occur at the end of this month, seeing the UK enter into a transitional period, Croatia will take a leading role in helping to negotiate the UK's (hopefully) smooth exit.

Hotels, particularly those in the capital city of Zagreb, are also experiencing a boom which is expected to continue as the city plays host to many EU delegates, and Croatia's presence grows more strong on the European tourist map. Owing to that, the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) has decided to use the Croatian EU presidency as a way to attract tourists from the country in which Brussels is situated - Belgium.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 8th of January, 2020, HTZ's director Kristjan Staničić has stated that guests from Belgium usually book their holidays between December and February.

HTZ is conducting a major promotional outdoor advertising campaign in Brussels to mark the beginning of the Croatian EU presidency. During January and mid-February, public transport, buses, trams, airports and the most frequent and representative city locations in Brussels will be adorned with Croatian motifs, all with the aim of further emphasising that Belgians should pay a visit to the youngest, and also the most beautiful, member of the EU.

"The Croatian EU presidency is an ideal opportunity for the further promotion of the country, so before the very beginning of the presidency we started this campaign that we believe will have positive promotional effects. We also support the timing of the campaign, which fits in perfectly with the Belgian "tourist" calendar, as market research by the umbrella association of Belgian tour operators ABTO shows that guests from Belgium most often book their holidays between December and February,'' and Kristjan Staničić, adding that more than 220,000 arrivals and almost one million overnight stays were realised in Croatia from the Belgian market last year alone.

As part of the Brussels campaign, 25 buses and trams operate on which citizens of the European Union's capital, as well as its numerous visitors, can see pictures of Croatia with a focus placed on the country's nautical tourism.

Advertising activities are also carried out through large posters located at subway stations in Brussels, in the city centre, and in the so-called "European Neighbourhood", in selected attractive city locations and through large digital screens positioned at the most frequent locations within Brussels Airport, which sees over 26 million passengers annually.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travel page for more.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Croatian EU Presidency Already Contributing to Filling of Zagreb Hotels

The Croatian EU presidency is now in full swing and the country will chair the rotating presidency of the bloc for the next six months, after having taken over from Finland. While numerous events are set to take place in Croatia, hotels, especially those in Zagreb, are already experiencing a boom in filling up their capacities, as we reported on recently.

As Barbara Ban/Novac writes on the 4th of January, 2020, the current Croatian EU presidency will unarguably contribute to the better occupancy of hotels in the capital city of Zagreb, however, the largest HUP hotelier in Zagreb, under whose cap operate highly popular hotels including The Westin Zagreb, Sheraton Zagreb, Panorama Zagreb, International, Adriatic and Zagreb, with a total capacity of 1,227 units, is not yet revealing any figures publicly.

During the Croatian presidency of the EU, the highest interest was recorded in hotels of the highest category, The Westin Zagreb and the Sheraton Zagreb Hotel, which are already very well filled and extremely popular among tourists and those in Zagreb on business alike.

''We believe that we will realise a better occupancy compared to the same period in 2019,'' reads a statement on the matter from Rovinj's Maistra, which after managing the sale of shares and strategic partnership between the Adris Group and HUP Zagreb, manages these hotels located in Zagreb today.

''The hotels have a solid team of experts in them who have hosted numerous international conferences and summits for many years, and our hotels, restaurants and conference halls are ready for the upcoming event. A special menu has been prepared for EU delegates to present the diversity of the Croatian gourmet offer. Namely, each region will be represented through the choice of traditional food and drink,'' they conclude from Maistra.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more on the Croatian EU presidency and Croatian hotels.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Officials Extend Best Wishes for New Year

ZAGREB, January 1, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday extended his best wishes for the New Year, saying that his government would continue working to improve living standards and ensure even development of all regions in Croatia.

He said that in the past year the government had consolidated economic growth, continued with tax cuts and structural reforms, launched many infrastructure projects, considerably increased the intake of EU funding and restored the country's credit rating to investment grade.

2020 will be a year of further economic development and international positioning of Croatia, especially during its presidency of the European Union which should give an extra impulse to the political and economic affirmation of the country, Plenković said.

"Confident that together we continue building and leading the Croatian society in the right direction towards prosperity and wellbeing, I wish you a lot of happiness, good health and all the best in the New Year 2020," the prime minister said in his message.

Incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who is running for her reelection, on Tuesday visited Krapina-Zagorje County and the town of Marija Bistrica where she wished everyone all the best in 2020 and in the hope that the New Year is the best ever. During her tour of that northwestern county, she stopped in a few municipalities and towns.

The president also releases her greetings on the website of her office.

"I wish the best of health and happiness in 2020 to all Croats, Croatian citizens in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that we continue working for a better and more prosperous future of our Homeland in a spirit of community and patriotism," says the Croatian head of state.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jadroković on Tuesday extended a message for the 2020 year wishing prosperity in the private, family and business life of Croatian citizens and expressing hope that the new year is an incentive for thinking about one's own contribution to the further strengthening of Croatia.

"I wish that in the spirit of optimism and unity, the beginning of the new year can serve as an incentive for thinking about one's own contribution to the further strengthening of our homeland and the Croatian society in resolute endeavours to address all the possible challenges," Jandroković writes in his seasonal greetings.

"Our joint aim is to see to it that Croatia is developed as a prosperous country, with stable and strong institutions and economic and demographic growths, in parallel with the strengthening of social equity and solidarity for the purpose of creating a high-quality, dignified future of all the Croatian citizens," he added.

As for the national parliament, Jandroković promised the work on further strengthening of the legislative framework and adoption of legislative proposals meeting the demands and needs of all citizens in order to raise the quality of their life and promote political stability.

Jandroković recalls the legislative activities taken by the parliament to date have created a positive economic atmosphere that is supposed to "encourage us to invest more knowledge, commitment and thinking in the development of social, political and economic values in our homeland."

The Sabor will give its strong contribution to efforts to ensure the accomplishment of the goals and priorities of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union for the purpose of creating a stronger Europe "in a world of challenges", Jandroković says in the message he forwarded on his own behalf and that of the parliament.

"I wish a happy New Year to all Croatians and all citizens who have chosen Croatia as their homeland," he added.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Zagreb Landlords Evicting Tenants for EU Officials in 2020

A big cash cow will be coming to Zagreb early next year, just after Christmas, when thousands of European diplomats and officials who need accommodation will arrive in the city for Croatia's six-month EU Council presidency.

Up to 30,000 EU Officials Expected

According to Deutsche Welle, official sources are saying that about 25,000 people will descend on Zagreb in early 2020, while other estimates say that the figure will be closer to 30,000. Many won't be staying in Croatia for the entire six months nor will they all be arriving at the same time. In any case, this is creating real chaos in the tenant world. Simply put, Zagreb landlords can earn more by expelling their current tenants and renting their apartments to EU officials.

Zagreb does not have many hotels. In fact, Jutarnji List notes that there are only 24 four or five-star hotels in the city, which is by no means enough capacity to accommodate the large number of high-level diplomats and EU officials arriving soon.

Zagreb Landlords Are Evicting Tenants

Stanka, a student from Zadar, experienced the nightmare of moving because of the upcoming EU Council presidency, according to Zagrebinfo on December 2, 2019. She had just moved to Zagreb to pursue her college degree.

“My landlady bought my apartment and acquired me with the inventory. During our negotiations, she indicated that she would be upgrading the furniture and raising the rent. She also disclosed that we would not be signing a lease because she had plans to rent the apartment to diplomats in early 2020 for a much higher price. However, then she decided to completely renovate the apartment prior to their arrival, so I had to move out in September,'' the student reported, and claims she had less than a week to move everything out of an apartment where she had lived for only three months.

With the boom in Zagreb tourism over the last few years, a sizeable chunk of apartments which used to be rented monthly, are now being rented out to tourists by the day. This has greatly increased the average apartment rental rates.

“Of the approximately three and a half thousand who are officially registered, there are perhaps ten thousand available beds. And I believe that a large portion of this housing pool is ready to respond to the demands of the Eurobureaucrats," said Zoran Dragun, administrator of the Zagreb Private Landlords Association to Jutarnji list.

He claims that Zagreb has now become a year-round tourist destination, but also believes that rents in Zagreb have not increased as much as publicly reported. The current focus for private landlords is Advent (December); then they'll begin preparing for the big EU opportunity.

No Tenant Rights

Nedjeljko Marković, president of the Pragma social association, has a different opinion.

"The unpredictability of market movements is our biggest problem, because nobody in Croatia oversees these changes. We simply do not have any public housing policies,” he emphasized while referencing the unfortunate circumstances that many Zagreb tenants will soon face.

He claims that his sources from the association, which deal with tenant issues, have already received reports that scores of Zagreb tenants are facing eviction, and will soon be without a roof over their heads due to the arrival of EU bureaucrats and diplomats.

For more information on the housing situation in Croatia, check our our Lifestyle page here.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Croatia's EU Presidency Offers Chances for Foreign Investment

As Croatia's presidency of the EU quickly rolls around, AmCham, the US Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb, held a conference on the opportunities that the six-month rotation brings to the Croatian economy.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes on the 7th of November, 2019, a whole six and a half years after its accession to the EU, Croatia is soon set to take over the EU Presidency from January the 1st, 2020. During these six months, Croatia will represent the common interests of all EU countries in addressing pressing issues such as Brexit and harmonising the European budget.

On top of all that, the rotating presidency is also an opportunity for the EU's newest member state to come into the international focus of the investment public, when it manages to make a positive shift on the competitiveness ladder.

The American Chamber of Commerce, AmCham, organised the aforementioned conference which discussed the opportunities that lie before Croatia to encourage it to boost its competitiveness and growth in order to embrace the positive changes the presidency of the Union could bring to the domestic economy.

''In January 2020, Croatia assumes the important role of representing the common interests of the member states. Given the fact that Croatia receives more than 60 percent of its foreign trade from the EU, the Croatian presidency represents a unique opportunity not only to show what we have, but also to learn from others, because a competitive Croatia means a more competitive Europe,'' said AmCham's executive director, Andrea Doko Jelušić.

In these circumstances, American Chamber of Commerce members, such as Google, Coca-Cola, Uber and Merck, who participated in the panel discussion of the conference, expect the Croatian Government to hear their voices during this period.

"Dialogue is really important to us and is a sign for the future. What we would like to see at the end of the six months of the EU presidency is an active Croatia in Europe. Ultimately, we're all interested in seeing a more competitive Croatia and a more competitive Europe,'' said Doko Jelušić.

The United States and Europe are each other's major trading partners, generating a massive 5.5 trillion US dollars in trade annually and employing nearly sixteen million workers on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a lot of room for much more foreign direct investment.

The strength of America-Europe ties is illustrated by figures alone: in 2017, 54 percent of US foreign direct investment came from Europe, while 55 percent of global US investment was invested here in Europe.

Commenting on Croatia's presidency as "historically important", Minister of Foreign Affairs and EU Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman stressed that the government wants to bring the six-month presidency closer to everyone.

"We want to involve all citizens, the academic and business community, local units, so that citizens understand what the overall interest of Croatia is, and not just that it's just the changing of the rotating presidency," the minister emphasised, noting that Croatia is technically ready, at least when is the completion of the buildings in question.

Opportunities for boosting competitiveness and growth were discussed at a panel discussion attended by Ministers Grlić Radman and Josip Aladrović, in addition to giants like Coca-Cola, Uber, Google, Merck and AmCham.

The Minister of Labour, Josip Aladrović, highlighted the development of skills in the context of lifelong education and active adaptation to the labour markets in all sectors and across the EU as a priority for Croatia.

Joško Mrndže, Google's director for the Adriatic region, said that Croatia is not far behind in terms of adopting artificial intelligence and new technologies, but that their development is another issue. He welcomed the adoption of a national digitalisation strategy that would include artificial intelligence. The importance of digitisation is borne out by the estimate that 20 million jobs will be created in Europe by 2030, 90 to 95 percent of which will require basic or advanced digital skills.

"This represents an opportunity for growth on the one hand, and a challenge on the other," Mrndže said, emphasising more education, since quite a few people in Croatia don't possess this skill. Ruža Tomić Fontana, CEO of Coca-Cola HBC for Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia, emphasised the importance of really listening to the industry during Croatia's presidency, as companies have specific knowledge.

According to the foreign minister, taking over the EU presidency represents a historic moment for Croatia to gain in both rating and reputation, but would-be foreign investors will nevertheless base their decisions on concrete figures on cost-effectiveness and feasibility, something that Croatia struggles painfully with.

According to the World Bank's latest Doing Business report, Croatia has advanced seven places when compared to last year, ranking 51st out of 190 countries in the world.

This confirms that things are changing for the better, although AmCham's members would like it to be much faster.

"Others are changing too, but they're doing it even faster. We can definitely see the effects of the tax relifs, it has given momentum to the economy and we shouldn't just stop there. What we see as one of the key things is the digitalisation of the private sector and of public administration. New technologies give us the opportunity to be more transparent, faster and more efficient and to skip and catch up with everything,” the foreign minister explained

''I'm sure that successful completion of this process will greatly help the Croatian administration to strengthen its voice in the European club, but also to be more effective and more willing to engage in dialogue with all the stakeholders in Croatia. This dialogue is something we need to work on much more, the economy can offer a number of good practices, many opportunities for cooperation, and I'd like the government to hear that and be able to use those opportunities,'' said Doko Jelušić.

The conference was closed by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who talked about a growing Europe - the first pillar within which focuses on equally sustainable and inclusive growth, which also includes efforts to address the problem of poor demographics, another burning issue for Croatia.

The second pillar is a Europe which connects, which will promote initiatives that contribute to transport, energy and digital connectivity. These include the promotion and completion of trans-European transport networks, maritime affairs and the development of competitive and sustainable shipping, creating the conditions and removing barriers to the full functioning of 5G networks, the continued establishment of a functional digital single market and the continuation of the establishment and implementation of the Energy Union as the backbone of a European Common Energy Policy.

Finally, what is needed is a Europe that protects its citizens by enhancing their security, both internally and externally, with an emphasis on a comprehensive approach to migration, especially illegal migration, while continuing to be a Europe that is open and assertive in its immediate neighbourhood and globally.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics and business pages to find out more about Croatia's upcoming EU presidency.