Friday, 17 February 2023

Lawsuits Against Croatia Submitted by European Commission to EU Courts

February the 17th, 2023 - The European Commission (EC) has submitted two lawsuits against Croatia to the EU courts for failing to implement waste directives. Hungary and Portugal also have cases against them.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, on Wednesday, the European Commission submitted two lawsuits against Croatia to the EU courts, one for not transposing the directive on energy from renewable sources, and the other for not complying with an earlier court ruling regarding an illegal landfill in Donje Biljane (close to Benkovac).

On that same day (Wednesday) as part of the package of violations of European Union law for this month, the European Commission referred to the lawsuits against Croatia, as well as to those cases against neighbouring Hungary and also Portugal with a request to impose financial sanctions for not transposing the EU Directive on energy from renewable sources into the national legislations of those member states.

The EU member states in question, including the Republic of Croatia, were all obliged to transpose the directive by June the 30th, 2021, but Croatia, Hungary and Portugal have not yet duly reported on the specific transposition of all of the necessary provisions of the aforementioned EU-wide directive into their national legislation.

The European Commission thus decided to re-refer the lawsuit against Croatia because it has failed to fully comply with the Court's judgment from back on May the 2nd, 2019. It found that Croatia failed to fulfill its obligations from the Framework Directive regarding waste in connection with the illegal landfill close to Benkovac referred to above.

Around 140,000 tonnes of residue from ferromanganese and silicomanganese processing since way back in 2010 have been dumped directly in this illegal waste dump, less than 50 metres from the houses themselves. The court confirmed that the stone aggregate dumped there should be considered waste, and not a mere by-product.

The court further established that the waste must be managed in a way that does not endanger people's health or cause damage to the surrounding environment. In addition to the two lawsuits against Croatia, the country also received a few more official warnings, which is the first step in procedures initiated against European Union member states.

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

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Croatia Receives Largest Ever Grant from European Commission

ZAGREB, 28 June 2022 - European Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica on Tuesday presented Prime Minister Andrej Plenković with a decision on the payment of the first installment of €700 million as part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the largest grant Croatia has received from the Commission.

These are funds for reforms from the national recovery plan undertaken by 31 December 2021, including active employment measures, a program to decarbonize the energy sector, activities in the field of physical planning, labor market, and social welfare reforms, Plenković explained after meeting with Šuica.

"We have been given clear criteria defined for undertaking reforms, all those benchmarks that were important for the Commission to evaluate our achievements every six months. We can say that we are fast and efficient in this regard," said Plenković, adding that this is the largest grant that Croatia has received from the European Commission ever.

Šuica pointed out that Croatia is the sixth EU member to receive the first payment from the Commission under the Recovery and Resilience Facility. 

"That is a program that should protect the EU and its members from future possible shocks, created as a consequence of COVID-19," Šuica said.

Asked by reporters whether inflation would affect the increase in funds within the program, Šuica said that the Commission is borrowing money on the capital market and is obliged to repay it by 2059.

"There probably will not be any change, but fewer projects are likely to be made than envisaged in the national programs," Šuica said.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Marin Piletić were also present during the meeting.

Addressing the press conference after the meeting, Piletić presented a social mentoring program that will be financed from the next payment within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The project envisions the training of at least 220 social workers who will be employed as social mentoring experts, and it is anticipated that the social mentoring service will be used by 30,000 beneficiaries, Piletić explained.

From 1 January 2023, that program should be up and running, and the Croatian Institute for Social Work will also be established, the goal being empowering individuals, self-activation, and motivating socially vulnerable groups, he added.

Beneficiaries will include the long-term unemployed, children from families with the guaranteed minimum allowance, people with disabilities, and victims of human trafficking.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Croatian National Recovery and Resilience Plan Arriving to EC Door This Week

April the 28th, 2021 - The Croatian National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which has been met with many criticisms and questions, is set to arrive at the European Commission's door this week. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, Portugal is the first EU member state to submit its own national recovery and resilience plan to Brussels, with twelve more countries announcing that they'll do the same by the end of the week, including Croatia - officially launching a two-month evaluation.

The formal delivery deadline for not only the Croatian National Recovery and Resilience Plan, but that of all EU member states is April the 30th.

That being said, half of the countries will still spend time ''polishing'' up their respective plans. The European Commission have stated that they'd much rather see the delivery of quality over quantity, saying on Friday: ''The plans are meant to cover the next six years, it's important that they're done properly and nothing will happen if they end up being sent later. We want EU member states to submit a ready and finished plan, not one with holes.''

Subsequent negotiations are indeed possible, they pointed out from the EC, but "for the sake of efficiency we want to limit that possibility".

Questionable projects will also enter the race...

Assessing the strategic documents of the 27 remaining EU member states is an enormous share of work for about a hundred people from several segments of the EC, and the plan of Andrej Plenkovic's government alone will boast about 700 pages when it is completed, and only a summary of about 80 pages has been published and made public, attracting attention and criticism.

In typical Croatian style, this combination of a very large volume of text and only a short time to compile it resulted in a great deal of concern and skepticism on the part of experts who worried that due to limited resources, questionable projects will end up flying under the radar.

EU member states must direct at least 37 percent of their money to the green transition, at least 20 percent to digitalisation on the principle of not causing significant damage to the climate and the environment, and the guiding thought is reforms to emerge more resilient after recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

How countries will use the available funds (in the Croatian case, 6.3 billion euros of non-refundable cash and 3.6 billion euros in loans) is left to the member states depending on the structure of their respective economies, but in line with specific recommendations issued to them (CSR).

As touched on, the Croatian National Recovery and Resilience Plan has come under significant and quite fierce criticism that too much money has been directed to the public sector and infrastructure to the detriment of the private sector. The "green" threshold has been exceeded by the majority, and in many cases the figure is over 50 percent, so Brussels estimates that this could generate around 250 billion euros in investment.

At the same time, more than 50 billion euros are to go to energy efficiency and the renovation of buildings. High on the list of priorities is green mobility, investments in railways, e-mobility, electric charging stations and the like. Many have also skipped the digital minimum, which means more than 130 billion euros will go to investments in high-speed networks, the digitalisation of public administration and even cross-border projects, of which there are many at the EU level.

Robust control systems

With coronavirus still hovering quite ominously in the foreground, as much as 28 percent of the money will go to the healthcare sectors and social cohesion; from renovating and building hospitals, to strengthening primary care and linking up the social welfare and healthcare systems.

Journalists were naturally interested in whether the fund could finance (higher) salaries in healthcare, but this isn't an option because it represents multiple costs.

The key message is the expectation that members will “establish robust spending control systems”. After the advance payment, the next tranches will depend on the fulfillment of the objectives. A missed goal means the stopping of these payments, and by that point there is very little room left for negotiations.

"The EC can decide on a partial payment, but the amount of the payment is a discretionary decision," they stated from Brussels.

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