Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

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

Thursday, 22 July 2021

REACT-EU Initiative: EC Approves Additional 580 Million Euros for Croatia

July the 22nd, 2021 - An additional 580 million euros has been approved by the European Commission (EC) for use by the Republic of Croatia as part of the wider REACT-EU initiative.

As Novac/Iva Badanjak writes, the European Commission has approved an additional 580 million euros for use by Croatia to preserve jobs during the ongoing pandemic and after two major earthquakes during the spring and winter of 2020 (in Zagreb and Sisak-Moslavina) that had a serious impact on the Croatian economy.

The funds have been sourced from the operational programme of the European Social Fund (ESF) within the REACT-EU initiative.

This additional financial support is aimed at supporting the resilience of the Croatian labour market, employment, small and medium-sized enterprises and low-income families, as well as building a sustainable foundation for the green and digital transition and a sustainable form of socio-economic recovery.

The funds from this new programme will be used for job preservation programmes for about 280,000 people in sectors disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis, such as the tourism sector, the health sector and the food production sector.

Belgium will also receive three million euros from the same fund and for a similar purpose, and Germany will get 48.5 million euros.

The European Parliament and individual EU member states reached an agreement on the REACT-EU initiative and fund back in November 2020, and MEPs and the Council approved the content of the agreement in plenary in December.

It is a package worth as much as 47.5 billion euros (50.5 billion euros in current prices) that will be distributed to the bloc's member states over the next two years. Resources will be available through the EU Structural Funds, with 37.5 billion euros allocated for 2021 and 10 billion euros for 2022. The funds are being made available to member states in full.

MEPs have called for countries to be allowed to use additional funds until the end of 2023, instead of 2022, which was the European Commission's proposal. These resources will be allocated to countries in accordance with the partnership principle, including local and regional authorities, as well as relevant bodies representing civil society and the social partners.

Co-rapporteur Andrey Novakov (EPP) said that the REACT-EU initiative was a textbook example of cohesion policy as part of recovery immediately after the agreement was reached, and before the legal texts were approved by the Council and the European Parliament in plenary.

"2020 was a year of interruption, but also a year of recovery, companies and the healthcare sector have all been hit hard and this funding will bring a breath of fresh air to them. We hope the Council will overcome its internal divisions to allow the flow of these recovery funds across EU.''

MEPs also insisted that a stronger focus being placed on the people most affected by the coronavirus crisis, including but not limited to various cross-border projects. Social Democrat co-rapporteur Constanze Krehl added that she was glad that member states had agreed with MEPs' view that the REACT-EU initiative must focus on the social consequences of the pandemic, as well as on the regions and people most affected by this continuing crisis.

"This includes cross-border projects and support for the most vulnerable people and young people. All spending must respect the goals of sustainable development, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement - that should be self-evident, but it is good to remind member states of these commitments," Krehl said at the time.

Two Croatian members of parliament, Tomislav Sokol and Karlo Ressler, also took part in drafting the package for repairing the damage caused by the crisis, advocating that funds be allocated primarily to the least developed EU member states.

For more on Croatian and EU politics, follow our dedicated section.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Economy Minister Ćorić on EC Plan to Reduce Gas Emissions

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić on Wednesday spoke of an informal EU meeting of environment ministers in Slovenia on new legislation on climate and the European Commission's recommendation to reduce greenhouse emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990.

He explained at a press conference that this refers to 12 legislative proposals from various areas that are being considered by EU member states in reference to the set objectives.

Ćorić said that this was an important step towards strengthening the EU as a leader in the fight against climate change.

Tax on carbon is a novelty - legislation is very ambitious

Ćorić explained that the new legislation envisages a carbon tax that should protect production in the EU compared to countries that export to the EU but are not encompassed by EU standards and mechanisms.

We are aware that if nothing is done in the next ten years, the potential costs of the damage could be much higher than the costs of transforming economies, he said.

With reference to financing that transformation, Ćorić said that Croatia has more than HRK 60 billion available over the next ten years to be spent in various commercial segments to reduce carbon emissions.

He underscored that the new legislation is very ambitious and a step towards Europe's economic transformation.

Price hikes to be eased with absorbed funds

He said that transition is a huge challenge and is being disputed by some but that it is also a huge opportunity for economies like Croatia through generous allocations of EU funds.

He recalled that Croatia's energy sector has a very small portion reliant on carbon, considering the significant share of hydro-power and potential for renewable sources.

Referring to the announcement for the construction of a new block at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) in Slovenia, Ćorić said that that project could take up to a decade to be achieved, adding that Croatia has still not been officially informed of that project.

He recalled that obligations existed under international conventions for projects of that nature with a cross-border impact. Croatia has been advised of extending the lifespan of NEK to 2043.

He underscored that NEK is a stable source of energy and believes that it will continue to be so. He added that his ministry is interested in seeing more formal proposals to see whether Croatia would enter into a partnership with Slovenia regarding the construction of a new block at the Krško plant.

He added that Croatia was monitoring the situation with the Paks Nuclear Power Plant in Hungary because Croatia imports 30 to 45% of energy needs from abroad, depending on the hydrological situation.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

European Comission Publishes Rule of Law Report on Croatia

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - A series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings against them, public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and lawsuits against journalists give rise to concern, the European Commission says in a report on the rule of law in Croatia.

The Commission on Tuesday published its second annual report on the rule of law in the EU member states, a new instrument that should help in early detection and prevention of problems relating to the rule of law.

The report covers four key areas: the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media freedom and pluralism, and institutional issues relating to checks and balances.

The Commission noted that the report only provides a description of the situation without giving any recommendations and is not designed as a ranking. Its purpose is to raise public awareness and promote open discussion between the member states on rule of law issues both at national and at EU level.

The justice system

The Commission says that the Croatian justice system has seen improvements in reducing length of proceedings and backlogs, but that further improvements are still needed to address serious efficiency and quality challenges.

"The ongoing process for appointing the new Supreme Court President has given rise to controversy and to repeated disparaging public statements against judges", and "the Constitutional Court stressed the importance of cooperation between state authorities" in addressing different views on the appointment of the Supreme Court President.

"The State Judicial Council made proposals to strengthen its role in selecting judges – an issue already raised in the 2020 Rule of Law Report."

Without naming any names, the report says that "a series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings before the State Judicial Council and Judges’ Councils, as well as to a criminal investigation."

"The level of perceived judicial independence remains very low. Shortages in human resources of the State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Councils remain, even if some limited reinforcements have been allocated to verify the newly published asset declarations of judges and state attorneys," the Commission says.

The anti-corruption framework

The reports notes that a new Strategy on the Prevention of Corruption for 2021-2030 is in the public consultation process, envisaging the strengthening of the legal framework on prevention of conflict of interest, which is currently being drafted. Codes of Ethics for members of the Government and for members of Parliament are still missing, while “revolving doors” are only partially regulated.

"Detailed rules on lobbying activities remain to be introduced. While changes to the framework of political immunity of the members of Government were announced, the legislative action has yet to follow. Public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and several cases have been discovered due to reporting by whistleblowers. The prosecution and investigation of high-level corruption continues, but due to protracted proceedings convictions are often delayed."

Media freedom

"Croatia is updating its media legislation to transpose the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, with the revision of the Electronic Media Act to be adopted still in 2021. Concerns about the political independence of the Agency for Electronic Media persist," the Commission says.

"Croatia has a solid framework on transparency of media ownership information and envisages further improvements. While state advertising is partly regulated by the Electronic Media Act, stakeholders report it often undermines the political independence of media outlets which are economically dependent on such funding, notably at local level.

"A legal framework for the protection of journalists is in place, but they continue to face threats. In particular, the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists continues to be a serious concern. Access to information is ensured by law, but delays in the processing of requests from journalists persist."

Checks and balances

The Commission says that although public consultations are embedded in legislative procedures, stakeholders perceive citizen participation to be rather formalistic than substantive.

It notes that Croatia did not declare a state of emergency, and COVID-19 pandemic measures were based on the twice-mended law regarding infectious diseases. "The Constitutional Court has reviewed these measures, finding that they were compatible with the Constitution and also ruled that Parliament should find ways to guarantee its functions during the pandemic."

"The People’s Ombudsperson’s access to the information required to undertake investigations
needs further improvement. The National Plan for Creating and Enabling Environment for
the Civil Society Development 2021-2027 remains in drafting phase since 2016 – an issue
raised in the 2020 Rule of law Report," the Commission says.

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

Monday, 19 July 2021

Voting for Appearance of Future Croatian Euro Coin Comes to a Close

July the 19th, 2021 - The voting process for the appearance of the brand new Croatian euro coin when the country joins the Eurozone has now drawn to a close, with a final choice to be made soon.

Croatia's planned Eurozone entry date is growing ever closer, which many have put to the back of their minds owing to more pressing circumstances surrounding the ongoing pandemic of late. The country's entry into the Eurozone comes with concerns for many, with others asking where the referendum on the matter was, not realising that all countries with the exception of Great Britain agreed to eventually sign up to the common currency when joining the European Union in the first place.

For others, no longer having the Croatian currency which is very sensitive to exchange rate fluctuations resulting in numerous issues when working with the euro, will come as a breath of fresh air and a fuller pocket. Others fear that the introduction of the Eurozone's currency will see prices rise, despite assurances that it won't happen. 

To make this serious matter a bit lighter and bring it directly to the public, voting on what the Croatian euro coin will look like took place, in which the public got to choose from several very Croatian coin designs.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the symbols for the Croatian euro coin will be chosen from the kuna, the map of Croatia, the Glagolitic alphabet, Dubrovnik and the Croatian coat of arms.

Almost 50,000 people voted for their favourites via the Croatian National Bank's official website. Some would like the Glagolitic alphabet because that was the very first Croatian script, some would like the map and the country's famous checkers because that symbol is the closest to them, but some also had new ideas, their own suggestions, writes Dnevnik.hr.

Additional proposals will also be taken into account, Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujcic confirmed. "The motive that was most often proposed will definitely be considered to be placed on the Croatian euro coin,'' Vujcic concluded.

By the end of the week, the Croatian National Bank's commission will choose the final symbols and which will be on which Croatian euro coin. They will then immediately announce a tender for artists who need to design the look of the coins themselves with the selected motifs.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Europe Direct Rijeka Information Centre Opens

ZAGREB, 13 July, 2021 - The Europe Direct Rijeka information centre which will provide information about opportunities and advantages available to citizens in European Union member states, was officially opened on Tuesday in the premises of the Porin - Rijeka Development Agency (RRA).

Europe Direct Rijeka will be a direct link between citizens and EU institutions, or rather, an extended arm of the European Commission (EC) and it will provide support through a direct flow of information regarding opportunities and advantages that are available to EU citizens, and that means local residents in Rijeka and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County.

The centre aims at bringing Europe closer to the people in the field through various activities and to motivate the people to get involved in the debate on the future of the EU. The activities will include visits to schools, presentations, panel discussions about the EU and publishing various official publications.

 The centre also plans a partnership with local media outlets, cooperation with other EU networks, raising awareness about sensitive issues for the EU, and the like.

The project was approved by the European Commission - Europe Direct for the period 2021 - 2025.

The centre began operating on 1 May as part of the Europe Direct network in Croatia and the New Generation Europe Direct information centres in the EU, and are managed by the EC.

All of the centre's services will be free of charge for all citizens but it is not intended to interpret or provide legal advice on EU legislation.

The head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Ognian Zlatev, said that the Rijeka centre has increased the European network of centres which comprise more than 420 such centres and it will bring EU citizens closer, inform them and enable them to make their own assessments.

He underscored that the network is important so that citizens throughout the EU can experience the EU in their own cities and counties. We want to hear citizens' opinions about the EU. How they see the future and to be better informed of its policies and initiatives, said Zlatev.

Croatia has shown that it can be a leader in certain segments, he said and concluded that the objective is a common one - a clean and more beautiful Croatia and Europe for future generations.

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

Friday, 9 July 2021

REPLACE Project Presented at JOINT SECAP Workshop in Rijeka

July 9, 2021 - The REPLACE Project was presented at the JOINT SECAP workshop in Rijeka on June 23. There is no better way to end a year and a half-long Interreg project for Croatia, which was one more ecosystem-concerned cooperation between Italy and Croatia.

When it comes to energy efficiency in Croatia, there is no doubt anybody cares about it more than the scientific community working and associating with Energy Institute Hrvoje Požar (EIHP).

Not only is the EIHP building on its way to becoming the first nearly zero energy building in the whole of the country, but EIHP's expertise also plays a big role in REPLACE Project from Horizon Europe. As TCN previously covered, the project aims to make Primorje Gorski Kotar County energy-renewable territory, and the ongoing meetings about the project (in collaboration with the University of Rijeka) see slow but steady progress in those respects.

As EIHP reports on its website, June 23 saw REPLACE Project presented in the congress hall of Rijeka's Jadran Hotel as part of the final workshop of the JOINT SECAP project.

„On behalf of EIHP, Antonia Tomas Stanković presented REPLACE in the second half of the event. The goal is to support European energetic, climate, environmental, economic, and social goals by 2030 and 2050 by encouraging the gradual replacement of inefficient and outdated cooling and heating systems with new, energy-efficient systems based on renewable energy sources“, informed EIHP.

JOINT SECAP, part of Interreg Italy-Croatia strategic program (much like the CASCADE Project TCN previously wrote about) aims to improve the climate change monitoring and planning of adaptation measures tackling specific effects in the cooperation area.

„The project idea reflects the necessity to operate at a wider district level and better define strategies and actions for climate change adaptation, especially for those weather and climate changes and hydrogeological risks affecting coastal areas. The first phase is developed to build the common methodology for Joint Actions definition and implementation and to share the basic knowledge about issues concerning climate change adaptation strategies and energy efficiency measures. The second phase starts upon the analysis uploaded in the web platform, acting as a useful tool for the development of scenarios for the Joint Actions to be implemented in the Joint SECAP plans, those last constituting the main project deliverable“, explained JOINT SECAP on its website. The workshop in Rijeka was the conclusion of the project as JOINT SECAP ended on June 30 after it began on January 1, 2012, with a budget of € 2,094,857.

The workshop in Rijeka, writes the EIHP website, was organized by Primorje Gorski Kotar County Office for Regional Development Infrastructure and Project Management and by Kvarner Regional Energetic Agency. Representatives of local authorities of Primorsko-Goranska county that were enrolled in creating an Energetic and Climate Sustainable Development Action Plan. These local authorities include towns such as Opatija and Kastav and the districts of Čavle, Matulji, and Viškovo.

„Joint SECAP analyzed energy spending for the included towns and districts, their risks and vulnerability regarding climate change, yearly emissions of CO2 in sectors of building construction industry, public lighting, and traffic. Concrete measures with the goal of adjusting to the effects of climate change and CO2 emissions down to at least 55% by 2030 were suggested“, stated EIHP.

With measures identified, the race with time begins as these measures should be in place as fast as possible to tackle one of the biggest challenges humanity is facing, and Croatia isn't able to be isolated from the threat.

Learn more about Rijeka on our TC page.

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

Monday, 5 July 2021

With Croatian Eurozone Entry Coming, Economist Talks Price Rises

July the 5th, 2021 - Croatian Eurozone entry might seem a far away event, but it is edging ever closer with discussions about what the Croatian design on Euro coins taking place. What will happen if you're making loan payments in Croatian currency? The details so far.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, on Thursday, after a session of the National Council for the Introduction of the Euro, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujcic stood before the press and talked about Croatian Eurozone entry. Plenkovic said that they were convinced that the country would be ready to enter the Eurozone on January the 1st, 2023, and Vujcic added that until that date, we need to work "at full speed".

The question of how ready Croatia actually is for this step and whether the aforementioned period is long enough to prepare everything was discussed by economic analyst dr. Sc. Petar Vuskovic, who believes that in technical terms, Croatian Eurozone entry can happen relatively quickly.

"Croatia is already highly euroised. This means that the kuna is just a currency model. In that sense, we're ready for the euro. We have to convert the kuna, adjust the ATM system, and harmonise accounting items,'' explained Vuskovic for Net.hr.

When people start talking about Croatian Eurozone entry and the removal of the kuna, what worries people the most is that with the arrival of the euro, everything will become more expensive.

"The rise in prices due to the introduction of the euro will not occur because the rise in prices is predominantly dependent on the movement of raw material and energy prices. If you look at the countries that have already adopted the euro, price growth was at most a mere 0.3 percent. Annual inflation is, for example, one percent,'' explained Vuskovic, before adding:

"The euro will reduce loan installments. Countries that have the euro are considered currency-safe, so the cost of capital is lower. The euro means more than two billion kuna to the market that exchange offices and banks would have taken during exchange operations,'' Vuskovic concluded.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Foreign Minister Grlić Radman Calls on Remaining EU Countries to Recognise Kosovo

ZAGREB, 16 June, 2021 - Croatia encourages the remaining EU countries who have not done so to recognise Kosovo's independence, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday, which is a move that Serbia certainly will not be pleased with as it does not recognise the sovereignty of its former southern province.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 and it has been recognised by about one hundred countries, including all EU member states with the exception of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia.

"Croatia encourages the remaining five EU member states to recognise Kosovo because that would contribute to stabilising the region and Kosovo itself," Grlić Radman told reporters.

Today Grlić Radman is participating at the international GLOBSEC conference in Bratislava, convened to discuss also the situation in the western Balkans.

Croatia's foreign minister said that three things were key to the region's stability: respecting countries' territorial integrity, equal constitutional rights of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the establishment of mutual trust after the 1990s wars.

"The territorial integrity of Balkan countries needs to be preserved and respected, hence without changing borders like we heard over the past few months in some much-vaunted non-papers that were heading in that direction," said Grlić Radman.

He believes that trust can be achieved through sincere talks, by resolving the issue of the war missing, processing war crimes and providing justice for the victims.

Speaking about BiH, he said the country is trapped between two political tendencies - centralism, or rather unitarism, and separatism.

"That undermines the foundations of a stable BiH and negatively reflects on the status of the Croat people in BiH," he underscored.

He reiterated Croatia's stance that the multi-ethnic BiH needs to reforms the election law to eliminate any form of discrimination and violation of equal rights.

Grlić Radman said that Croatia is a "sincere advocate" of BiH's Euro-Atlantic pathway and that at all international forums it keeps that country in the limelight because it is in its interest to have a stable, functioning and prosperous country in its neighbourhood.

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

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović: Clear Link Between Croatia's Schengen Membership And EU Security

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - The Strategy for the Schengen Area for the first time clearly articulates the link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and the EU's security, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

“The debate today on the Strategy for the Schengen Area is especially significant for us because for the first time it has identified a clear link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and security for the EU as a whole," Božinović said ahead of a meeting of the EU's Home Affairs Council.

The interior ministers of EU member states met in Luxembourg on Tuesday for an initial discussion on the Schengen strategy that was presented by the European Commission last week. The agenda also includes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fight against organised crime, the internal security outlook in terms of artificial intelligence, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and exchanging opinions on the current status in the discussion on the new migration and asylum pact.

Last week the Commission presented the strategy towards a "stronger and more resilient" Schengen Area, which includes enlargement to EU member states that are still not part of the area, and called for Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to be admitted into the Schengen Area as they had met the technical criteria for the application of the Schengen acquis. 

Božinović said that it was becoming more and more clear that Europe's security was not the sum of security capacities of member states but that it was cooperation, interoperability and solidarity.

"These are the principles that Croatia has insisted upon in European forums for years," said Božinović.

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

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