Friday, 1 October 2021

European Youth and IT Industry Panel: Digital Osijek on Horizon

October 1, 2021 - The European Youth and IT Industry Panel, part of the European Future Conference, talked about the importance of the IT sector and AI technology. The host city of Osijek is already displaying fantastic results in the field as a digital Osijek becomes more and more of a reality.

The last day of September, which is the unofficial start of new victories and losses for the Croatian youth (due to the beginning of the school year and final deadline exams for students), has been completed with a suitable discussion on the future of new generations.

Osijek, the biggest city in the Eastern Croatian region of Slavonia, was the host of the ''Youth and the IT Industry Future'' panel, one of the thematics panels from the European Future Conference.

Along with the Croatian Parliament and Croatian counties, the European Parliament Office in Zagreb hosts thematic discussions in ten cities which are home to universities.

''The European Future Conference is a series of public debates that allows citizens to express their ideas and come up with suggestions for the reforms and future policies of the EU,'' explains the European Parliament Office in their press release.

They added that the centerpiece of the conference is a multilingual platform where citizens can exchange ideas, connect with each other, and have their say on burning issues outside of these organised events.

The panel in Osijek delighted the mayor, Ivan Radić, one of the opening speakers. Radić stated that Osijek has a lot to say and show when it comes to the IT sector as the city aims to rebrand as a place of excellence for this field, aiming for a more digital Osijek.

There is no better proof of that than the Osijek Software City Association, established in 2021 with the goal of promoting the IT sector towards the local community.

''Several leading IT companies in Osijek realised that the youth needs to be introduced to the IT industry in an approachable way,'' said Osijek Software City representative Ivan Ostheimer.

Thanks to their hard work, many local companies in Osijek now hire experts and produce quality software that can then be exported to the global market, in spite of the still challenging economic situation.

The background goal of the European Future Conference is to show people that European Parliament representatives aren't simply being hermits and hiding themselves in the EU Parliament in Brussels or Strassbourg. In that spirit, the Croatian MEPs Karlo Ressler (European's People Party) and Sunčana Glavak (Croatian Democratic Union) participated in the event (Ressler in person and Glavak via video link).

Ressler is the Vice President of the special EU Parliamentary Committee for artificial intelligence (AI). He stated at the panel the European Union currently has ongoing discussions on regulating this new technology. The goal is to find a balance that would use the potential of AI without stopping the industry, while also avoiding negative scenarios such as manipulation attempts that would damage people's lives.

Glavak pointed out how digitalisation now has a key role in every EU policy.

''The goal is for that at least 80% of the EU population to have digital skills by 2030“, said Glavak.

With the panel in Osijek demonstrating the current successes of the IT industry, the aim for a digital Osijek, and seeing the attendance of both political elites and professionals, it seems that this Eastern Croatian city is on a very good track.

Learn more about Osijek in our TC page.

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

 

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Expectations For Croatia's Economy Close to Pre-Pandemic Level

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - Expectations for Croatia's economy in September 2021 came close to the pre-pandemic level, supported by confidence in services and retail trade, while consumer confidence was down, a European Commission report said on Wednesday.

In September 2021, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) in Croatia went up 0.7 points on the month to 112.7, its highest level since February 2020, just before the pandemic broke out, when it was  at 113 points.

Services and retail trade confidence saw the highest increases, by 3.3 and 3 points, respectively, while industry confidence increased by 0.4 points.

Construction confidence decreased by 0.8 points and consumer confidence by 1.6.

Business leaders said they planned to intensify hiring in the coming period, resulting in a 0.9 point increase of the Employment Expectations Indicator (EEI) to 111.5, a record high since 2019.

Optimistic European consumers

In September 2021, the ESI remained unchanged in the EU (at 116.6) and broadly stable in the euro area (+0.2 points to 117.8).

Construction confidence went up by 1.8 points in the EU and by 2 points in the euro area, while consumer confidence went up by 1.1 points in the EU and by 1.3 in the euro area.

Industry confidence remained unchanged in the EU and marginally improved in the euro area.

Retail trade confidence decreased by 2.8 points in the EU and by 3.3 in the euro area, while services confidence decreased by 1.4 points in the EU and by 1.7 in the euro area.

The EEI increased further (+1.0 point to 113.6 in the EU and +0.8 points to 113.6 in the euro area).

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

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

MEP Says Croatia Fares Poorly in Terms of Access to Legal, Safe Abortion

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - Compared to other countries, Croatia fares poorly in terms of access to legal and safe abortion, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, Social Democrat Predrag Matić, said on the occasion of International Safe Abortion Day and the presentation of the Abortion Atlas.

"The Abortion Atlas is a new tool that gives an overview of countries according to the availability of abortion, and more importantly, the kind of obstacles women across Europe encounter in terms of access to abortion. Croatia is in the lower section of the ladder in that regard, with the situation considered as poor. Even though abortion in Croatia is legal, we have a problem with practical obstacles to access to abortion," Matić said, as quoted by his office.

The Abortion Atlas, authored by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, is the first comprehensive interactive map with data on access to abortion in Europe.

It ranks 52 countries in terms of their legislative frameworks, access and availability of abortion, abortion-related medical care and available public information on abortion.

Croatia is in the lower part of the ranking, with a score of 60%, and it belongs among countries with a poor rating concerning legal and safe abortion. Of the EU member-countries, the best-ranked are Sweden and the Netherlands while Malta and Poland are worst-ranked.

"Access to abortion in the EU has been prevented due to a number of administrative and imposed medical obstacles and conditions such as compulsory counselling, compulsory additional medical tests and a compulsory waiting period," said Matić, a member of the EP's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee and author of an EP resolution on the state of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU.

The obstacles are unjustified and most citizens advocate access to abortion, Matić said, citing the latest survey on the topic in Croatia, in which 81% of the respondents supported the right to abortion while as many as 63% said that pregnancy termination must be free of charge, which makes abortion truly available regardless of one's geographical and socioeconomic status, Matić's office said.

Matić also recalled an extremely dangerous trend among gynecologists in Croatia, with 186 or 60% of the 322 gynecologists employed in hospitals across the country refusing to perform abortion.

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

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Croatia to receive €7.2m from Brexit Adjustment Fund

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - The Council of the EU on Tuesday approved a fund which will help member states tackle the negative impact of Great Britain's exit and from which Croatia is due €7.2 million.

The fund of €5 billion (in 2018 prices) will support the hardest hit regions, sectors and communities to cover extra costs, compensate losses or counter other adverse economic and social effects resulting directly from the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.

The largest amount, of €4.5 billion, is shared according to the importance of trade with the UK, €656 million is shared based on the importance of fisheries in the UK's exclusive economic zone, and €273 million is distributed based on the importance of neighbouring links for the maritime border regions with the UK.

Consequently, Ireland will receive the bulk of the money (€1.16bn), followed by the Netherlands (€886m) and France (€735m).

The bulk of the resources, €4.3 billion, will be made available to member-countries as pre-financing in three annual tranches - in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The remaining resources will be made available in 2025, after a review of the expenditure on eligible measures in the previous years, which will also factor in any unused amounts.

Today's approval by the Council is final. The European Parliament voted on it on 15 September. The regulation will enter into force on the day of its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

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

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Croatia's Sasa Bilic to Present APIS IT at EURITAS Summit in Brussels

September the 26th, 2021 - The Republic of Croatia is set to present APIS IT, headed by Sasa Bilic, at an upcoming summit in the Belgian capital of Brussels at the end of this month.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, the development of a cloud strategy and the application of open source and cyber security issues are the main topics of the EURITAS summit entitled "Ensuring Digital Sovereignty of European Governments" which is set be held on the 30th of September in Brussels.

EURITAS is an organisation of European providers of IT services operating within the public sector that brings together eleven IT companies in majority public ownership from eight countries. Along with Croatia, those countries are Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.

Croatia will be represented at the summit by APIS IT (Agency for Support of Information Systems and Information Technologies), whose President of the Management Board, also Vice President of EURITAS, Sasa Bilic, will participate in the discussion on digital sovereignty. This is a close area to APIS IT, considering that it is Croatia's leading state-owned company for IT solutions for state administration and local self-government, which participates in the development of the national cloud strategy.

As a publicly owned company, APIS IT is focused on the needs of public administration, so the biggest users are the Ministry of Finance, ie Tax and Customs Administration, the Ministry of Justice and Administration and the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property for which APIS IT has built and maintains complex information systems.

On the other hand, in cooperation with the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society, APIS IT is collaborating on two significant EU projects - the establishment of the Shared Services Centre (CDU) as a state cloud, and e-Business.

As the cloud strategy is one of the key topics of the summit, Sasa Bilic gave a brief overview of cloud services in Croatia and in Europe, but also specifically in the company he leads.

"According to Eurostat data, Croatia's use of cloud services is above the European average, ie in the upper third of the table. This, however, applies to the economy, while we as a technical partner to the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society in the cloud platform construction project are particularly focused on public administration. Here we can say that in less than two years since the beginning of the project, we've reached 200 public administration bodies that use the infrastructure and services of the Shared Services Centre, which is an excellent indicator of the justification of the project implemented by the Central State Office. Namely, the planned performance indicator that we need to achieve by the end of 2023, when the project officially ends, is 300 users, which speaks volumes about the interest and needs of public administration bodies,'' explained Sasa Bilic in a bit more detail.

Sasa Bilic also explained why the summit's focus is on primarily digital sovereignty. For the European Union this issue is becoming increasingly important given that 92 percent of the data from the Western world is stored on servers owned by companies outside the EU that aren't subject to European laws on personal data protection, while at the same time, among the largest 20 technology companies have none from the EU.

"Such a state of affairs and dependence on monopolistic suppliers who aren't subject to the European Union's rules of the game is an obvious strategic weakness of the EU, which the prime ministers of Germany, Denmark, Estonia and Finland warned about in a joint letter sent to the European Commission a few months ago.

Control over data, but also hardware and software, they pointed out, is not only an important economic but also a first-class social and security issue. Therefore, the leaders of the four countries, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called on the European Commission to adopt an action plan based on a new digital policy that will be open to cooperation with all, but whose main motive will be digital independence and self-determination.

The Croatian IT giant, which records revenue growth every year, has secured two national data centres in Zagreb and Jastrebarsko that meet the strictest TIER3 security and availability standards.

"Thanks to such a level of security, we can be the first choice for storing all IT systems, applications and data, so, for example, data about people will not have to be stored outside of Croatia. However, an equally important aspect of this topic is that through the construction of digital independence, we can provide and retain high value jobs, which creates the preconditions for the further development of society as a whole,'' explained Sasa Bilic.

The guaranteed availability of data centres stands at an impressive 99.98 percent per year, they have more than 1800 square metres intended for the storage of IT equipment, with the possibility of further expansion, while the delivery of 1.6 MW of electricity is guaranteed through the installation of four electricity sources with a total capacity of 7.2 MW.

This provides capacities that can successfully follow the growing needs of public administration, but also the private sector in the next medium term. According to the company, both data centres have redundant power sources, cooling systems and telecommunications networks, which can guarantee their customers uninterrupted operation and business continuity in all circumstances.

For more, see Made in Croatia.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

2021 European Languages Day: Varaždin Celebrates German Language Learning

September 25, 2021 - The 2021 European Languages Day was celebrated at the Franciscan square in Varaždin. Pupils presented souvenirs honoring Germany and the German language.

'Gore gore gore gore' (hills burn worse up there) is one of those sentences that show how weird but cool the Croatian language can be. Add interesting phrases to the equation, and you can understand why Croatians are proud and want to preserve their language.

But Croatians also respect other languages too.

As reported by the Varaždinske Vijesti website, September 25 marked the European Day of Languages.

Under the motto "Deutsch ist Nah!" Varaždin's Franciscan square saw five Varaždin elementary schools, the Varaždin high school, and ten schools from Varaždin County celebrate the event with a suitable program.

„Given that we as teachers recognized the importance of multilingual education, we decided to shed light on the German language, which is important for Varaždin County, both because of geography but also for the economy. In teaching, we address communicative approach and active, vocal communication and active usage of the German language which is very significant in our area“, Vidovec Elementary school German language teacher Lea Lesar Dolenc told for Varaždinske Vijesti.

Dolenc is the initiator of the project that is run along with the European Culture Circle EKULT Association for the popularisation of the German language. The program that lasted from 10 AM to 1 PM saw the presentation of souvenirs with symbols of the Federal Republic of Germany made by the pupils from participating schools.

Apart from German, as former British Ambassador Andrew Dalgleish noted for TCN, Croatians speak English very well too.

When it comes to language learning in Croatia, apart from various courses and private schools, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FFZG), part of the University of Zagreb, is the most pristine high-education facility that educates its students to be translators. As well as understand various languages and cultures that tag along with lingual expressions. Additionally, FFZG is the home to Croaticum.

„Croaticum – Centre for Croatian as a Second and Foreign Language is the oldest and largest institution engaged in teaching, research, and description of Croatian as a second and foreign language. It is part of the Department of Croatian Language and Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb, the largest Croatian academic institution specializing in social studies and humanities. Croaticum is renowned for its tradition, expertise, and knowledge“, says the Croaticum website, an institution founded back in 1962.

Commemorating the learning of second languages by celebrating the European Day of Languages is now a twenty-year-long tradition, as it was founded in 2001.

„Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans are represented in the Council of Europe's 47 member states, and all are encouraged to discover more languages at any age, as part of or alongside their studies. This stems from the Council of Europe’s conviction that linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent. Therefore, the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, promotes plurilingualism in the whole of Europe“, explains the European Language Day website.

Learn more about Varaždin in our TC guide.

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

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Croatian Eurozone Accession: Changes to Begin as Early as Next Summer

September the 23rd, 2021 - Croatian Eurozone accession might still seem like a far away event on the domestic political stage, but it is edging ever closer and things are set to start being quite significantly different as of next summer.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, preparations for Croatian Eurozone accession have already started, and one of the measures is to ensure that prices don't increase significantly, which is something most people fear when asked what their worries surrounding the process of phasing out the Croatian kuna is.

Tihomir Mavricek pointed out that this will be among the very first things that will be tackled, and that the fixed exchange rate will be determined just before the decision of the EU Council on the introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency.

"It will be around 7.53, but it will finally be determined in May or June next year and will become valid from January the 1st, 2023. Until December the 31st, 2022, the commercial exchange rate will be valid, it'll be as we have it now," he explained for HRT.

"There's no need to be afraid of price increases"

Many people are afraid of price increases as a result of Croatian Eurozone accession, but Mavricek has assured that the practice of countries that have already adopted the euro has shown that the replacement of the national currency has had very little effect on price growth, ie inflation.

"The countries that first adopted the euro had a small so-called harmonised growth of the consumer price index, which ranged between 0.09 and 0.28 percentage points. Countries that later adopted the euro had one which stood at around 0.3 - so we don't expect any significant impact on prices, maybe of some 0.37 percentage points, with the biggest impact coming from services and a slightly smaller number of commonly used products, such as pastries and newspapers,'' said Mavricek.

After the introduction of the euro in neighbouring Slovenia, prices in transport, restaurants and hairdressing/beauty salons increased, while in Slovakia the prices of food and construction works increased.

"Research has shown that these increases mostly regard products that don't affect people with lower incomes when compared to those with higher incomes, such as sectors like accommodation services, restaurants, and sports services - these are usually services used by people with higher incomes," explained Mavricek.

For more on Croatian Eurozone accession, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Croatia Among EU States With Biggest Industrial Output Drops in July Month-Over-Month

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Europe's industrial production recovered in July 2021 but Croatia was among the EU countries with the largest monthly decreases, an Eurostat report showed on Wednesday.

In July 2021, the seasonally adjusted industrial production rose by 1.5% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU, compared with June 2021, when industrial production fell by 0.1% in the euro area and remained stable in the EU.

In the euro area in July 2021, compared with June 2021, production of non-durable consumer goods rose by 3.5%, while in the EU it rose by 2.8%.

Capital goods went up by 2.7% in the euro area and by 2.4% in the EU, and intermediate goods by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU, while energy production was stable in the EU and fell by 0.6% in the euro area.

Among member states for which data are available, the highest monthly increases were registered in Ireland (+7.8%), Belgium (+5%) and Portugal (+3.5%). The largest decreases were observed in Lithuania (-2.0%), Slovenia (-1.8%) and Croatia (-1.6%).

In July 2021 compared with July 2020, industrial production increased by 7.7% in the euro area and by 8.3% in the EU.

In the euro area in July 2021, compared with July 2020, production of intermediate goods rose by 11.2%, nondurable consumer goods by 10.1%, durable consumer goods by 9.8%, capital goods by 5.9% and energy by 1%.

In the EU, production of intermediate goods rose by 11.8%, non-durable consumer goods by 9.4%, durable consumer goods by 8.9%, capital goods by 6.3% and energy by 2.7%. 

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

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Says it's Reasonable to Adopt Euro 9.5 Years After EU Entry

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday during the national parliament's Question Time that it was reasonable for Croatia that entered the EU in 2013 to switch to the euro nine and a half years after its admission to the Union.

"It seems a reasonable time frame to me for a country that joined the Union on 1 July 2013 to adopt the euro on 1 January 2023, that is nine and a half years," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in response to the question from Marko Milanović Litre (Croatian Sovereignists) whether the citizens should be asked about the adoption of the euro and renunciation of monetary sovereignty.

"You are a new MP. Your predecessors in this same parliament ratified the EU Accession Treaty by 150 votes in favour. Your colleague, Ruža Tomašić, thanks to whom you are sitting here, was a member of the European Parliament in 2013. Your colleague Ilčić has rushed to the EP where he is paid in euro," Plenković said.

The PM said that the strategic goal of his government was to get Croatia into two deeper integrations - the Schengen passport-free travel zone and the euro area.

"We have made sure to fulfil the Maastricht criteria in the present circumstances of a pandemic, earthquakes and crises and have come close to adopting the euro, and now we listen to this initiative of yours. I don't know if we have all slept through this entire period," the prime minister said.

"Is there anyone who still thinks that EU membership is bad for us, after we have absorbed 44 billion more than we have contributed?" he concluded.

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

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

European Parliament For Recognising Same-Sex Marriage Across EU

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - A majority of members of the European Parliament on Tuesday endorsed a draft resolution seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states.

The draft was endorsed by 387 MEPs, 161 voted against and 123 abstained.

The resolution says same-sex spouses and partners should be treated equally as heterosexual ones, and that marriages and partnerships concluded in one EU member state should be recognised in all.

Of the Croatian MEPs, the draft was endorsed by Biljana Borzan, Predrag Matić and Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Valter Flego of the Istrian Democratic Party.

Independent Mislav Kolakušić and conservative Ladislav Ilčić were against, while Sunčana Glavak, Karlo Ressler, Tomislav Sokol and Željana Zovko of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) abstained.

Ivan Vilibor Sinčić (Human Shield) did not vote as he was in Rome, and Romana Jerković (SDP) could not because of technical difficulties, but her office told Hina that she "supports this resolution."

Speaking to Hina, Matić said the adoption of the resolution was a "civilisational achievement", while Flego said it was unacceptable that LGBTIQ rights were being reduced instead of advanced in many countries, and that it was time to "finally give everyone equal rights."

Ilčić told Hina the resolution "is consciously trying to equate the legal status of same-sex couples in all member states, thus negating the right of the states to independently decide which unions they will recognise and which they won't."

"That would mean that the whole EU must follow the most liberal states to avoid alleged discrimination, which is absurd, contrary to the treaties and the subsidiarity principle," he said, adding that the LGBT lobby was exerting enormous pressure on the European institutions.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission to take action against Romania, Hungary and Poland for violating LGBTIQ rights and fundamental EU values.

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

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