Saturday, 8 May 2021

Proposal for 77 Croatian Reforms and 152 Investments Heading for Brussels

May the 8th, 2021 - The plan for many different Croatian reforms and investments, packaged as the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Plan, is on its way to the European Commission's door in the Belgian capital.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Plan, the key to an enormous 49 billion kuna intervention injection, has been completed and it is time to send it to Brussels, with a final agreement set to take another ten days. The more than 1,100 pages list 77 Croatian reforms and 152 investments that the Government, with the practical absence of public debate, envisioned as a springboard for recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the transformation of the domestic economy.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric stated that the focus was on grants and that the core of the document was Croatian reforms and both public and private investments. The plan is designed for five components and one initiative - 26.2 billion of the total amount (54 percent) should be poured into the economy, 4.36 billion (10 percent) into public administration, judiciary and state property, education, science and research should get an injection of 7 .5 billion (15 percent). Then, for the labour market and social protection, another 2.09 billion (4 percent), for the healthcare system 2.56 billion (5 percent of the amount). A large amount of these funds, 5.95 million, is intended for building renovation initiatives.

GDP growth

The effect of this Croatian plan this year should be reflected in 5.2 percent of real GDP growth, which would have stopped at 4.9 percent without it. Next year, growth is expected to reach 6.6 percent instead of what would have been 5.2 percent without such a plan, in 2023 it should reach 4.1 percent instead of 2.7 percent. In 2024, Croatia's GDP should grow by 3.4 percent instead of 2.5 percent, and in 2025 by 2.7 percent instead of 2.5. It should be noted that the predictions of the acceleration of the economic momentum are based on the (rather optimistic) assumption of a successful withdrawal of this money, although Croatia has so far withdrawn less than half of the total funds available to it.

Brussels has already warned that payments will be conditional on the fulfillment of very specific goals, if a member state fails there is a (theoretical) possibility of payment at the discretion of the EC, which, despite the offer, should not be counted on.

About two thirds of the funds will go directly to investments, and one third to desperately needed Croatian reforms. What the funds won't and cannot be used for is "patching up any holes", such as resolving debts in the healthcare sector. The government has begun work on a rebalance in that regard which is planned for early June.

"The purpose of implementing Croatian reforms is to influence the better use of factors of production, those that create added value," Maric added. In particular, education reform would improve the quality of human capital by including children in occupations where there are needs in the labour market. In the judiciary system, reforms will be aimed at greater efficiency and the faster resolution of cases in order to improve the business climate. Referring to the segment of state property, Maric pointed out that many companies are owned by the state. From his words, one can read the good news for the stock market is because “activation can directly contribute to the revival of the capital market”.

Looking ahead...

After the European Commission gives its consent over the next two months, the draft plan will be sent to the European Council, and by the autumn, Croatia could receive a six billion kuna advance (13 percent). Implementation begins at the end of the year.

Commenting on the criticism that insufficient funds are directed to the private sector, which should be the engine of recovery and job creation, Maric reiterated: ''There's no need to divide investments into the public and private sectors because public investments also mean the participation of the private sector. The greatest value of the document is looking ahead, as resilience in the long run means implementing 77 Croatian reforms.''

For more, follow our politics section.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Friends of Croatia: European Parliament Office in Zagreb - First Contact with Croatian Citizens

May 6, 2021 - The third article in the series "Friends of Croatia: European Parliament Office in Zagreb", explores a small but dedicated office whose central focus is the 12 Croatian members of the European Parliament, as well as informing citizens and educating them about the European Union.

July 1, 2013, was a historic date for Croatian international integration as the country finally joined the European Union. The Union of developed European countries called for an enormous celebration on the main Ban Jelačić square in Zagreb. Many people saw different opportunities, and lots of opportunities were promoted by politicians ahead of joining. But, with almost eight years in the EU, could we actually list specific benefits and determine if Croatia is truly taking part in the „European dream“?

„EU membership made Croatia stronger, and there are many examples of the practical effects of it. I’ll mention two important ones: access to the common market and commitment and implementation of numerous political and economic reforms. Of course, one of the most visible immediate results of the EU membership was the end of customs controls at internal EU borders, which made crossings much smoother, with less hassle for people and goods. The removal of administrative and tariff barriers meant lower costs for businesses which – in combination with access to significant EU funds - translated into concrete economic advantages, helped the recovery, and increased exports. Also worth mentioning - the interest rates on loans have dropped, which lowered the costs of borrowing money for citizens and the business community, and this will be become even more pronounced once the country joins the euro. When it comes to Croatia’s contribution to the EU, along with its heritage, culture, and tradition that enriched the bloc, the country also brought its example and enthusiasm for the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. Croatia is a vocal advocate of the European perspective for the region and considers the enlargement to be the most effective transformation mechanism that the EU has“, summarized Violeta Simeonova Staničić, the Head of the European Parliament Office in Zagreb, which is dedicated as the first contact between the European Parliament (EP) and citizens in Croatia.

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Violeta Simeonova Staničić © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The Office started its work in February 2013. Simeonova Staničić and three other associates put the whole project in a small space in the backyard of a former EU delegation. Describing the team in 2013 as the „EP Delta Force“, Simeonova Staničić recalled the difficulties of their early engagement. „It was difficult to operate properly and to be visible as the country was not yet a member state, so we were not able to function as an official liaison office. We couldn't even do a proper information campaign for the first EU elections when Croats decided who would be their first official members of the European Parliament“, she said.

While any EU organization is often perceived as big and loaded with people, the EP office in Zagreb counts six staff members. Being a complex organization which can often be misunderstood, their informative service on all thing EU is extremely important.

„People tend to have a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the competencies of the EU. In various policy areas, EU member states still hold primary responsibility. Health policy, for example. Social policies and retirement as well. In others, the EU is in the lead as it is ultimately more beneficial for all countries involved that decisions are made and actions taken with the interests of the entire Union in mind. Unfortunately, too often, we can see that when something good happens, usually national governments are credited for it, and if something is not going well, then Brussels naturally is to blame. But various crises and challenges have shown that the EU is at its finest when working as a team player, one community and a common market“, explained Simeonova Staničić. She added that when solidarity prevails, everyone gains a sentence that can underline the usefulness of international cooperation that is the EU.

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2019 EP elections campaign "This time I vote" © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The citizens recognize the help the Zagreb EP office can offer, and the Office gets lots of inquiries daily. Over time, the phone calls were more often replaced by e-mails, and first contacts are often made through the Office's social networks. 45,000 followers on Facebook and heavy engagements on Twitter and Instagram, and the quick response of the small staff are certainly admirable.

„We sometimes receive the bulk of documents as many people send us copies of their dealings with various institutions or judicial bodies. These types of problems are, of course, beyond our remit, but we will always try to help people to identify the right authority they need to address and contact in order to resolve their issues. We also get requests from various researchers and scholars who need help with finding certain data and material important for their work, or who need background information on a certain topic“, said Simeonova Staničić, adding the questions they receive are quite diverse.

The central part of the Office’s daily work revolves around 12 Croatian members of the Parliament. “Working with Croatian members of European Parliament is our daily priority and what we center our work around. We organise press conferences and events around issues they work on and committees that they are members of. We cooperate and communicate with them very successfully, as we foster a mutually beneficial relationship with them. As a rule of a thumb, we virtually have no event without a member of European Parliament present“, Simeonova Staničić explains. 

The other part of the Office's role includes working with youth, media, and NGOs.

When it comes to the media, the Office informs daily about ongoing debates and discussions concerning the day-to-day activities of the European Parliament. They also strive to put important decisions in context and promote and explain the work of members of the Parliament. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Office even invited journalists to follow the plenary sessions in Strasbourg to give them the opportunity to familiarise themselves better with the institution and its role in the EU decision-making process. In return, a steady community of journalists following EU affairs is formed in Croatia, and the expansion of reporters is something the Office always welcomes. The accent is put on working with local media, and several outlets managed to get co-finance for their projects by European grants.

Cooperation with NGOs depends on every project and topic of interest, but with the diversity of NGOs, some sort of collaboration with some organisation is always ongoing.

Regarding the youth, two projects stand out. „Our two most successful projects to date are Euroscola and European Parliament Ambassador School Programme (EPAS). Euroscola became so popular among all Croatian schools that whenever we had rounds of regional or national selections, we had over 100 schools competing for very limited quota to go to Strasbourg for a day at the European Parliament. Through Euroscola, we created a fantastic network of incredibly involved, active, hard-working schools all over Croatia. The EPAS program was launched in 2016, and today we have a wide network of over 50 high schools scattered across the country. They cooperate closely with us and follow the work of Croatian MEPs throughout the entire school year“, pointed out Simeonova Staničić.

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Senior EP Ambassadors © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

Apart from media and citizens, the cooperation with the official bodies of the state is at a high level too.

„We collaborate very well with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions. For example, we cooperate when the delegation of the European Parliament comes to Croatia to work on a certain topic related to the upcoming legislation. This cooperation was particularly pronounced in the run-up to and during the first Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union“, said Simeonova Staničić.

Particularly good collaboration is also made with the Croatian Parliament, a natural counterpart of the European Parliament. Currently, they are organizing the conference on the future of Europe, but also a more regular public award ceremony for the European Citizens’ Prize (established in 2008 by the EP to award individuals or groups that contributed to empowering European Integration).

„We are also regularly in contact with foreign embassies in Croatia, in pre-Covid times they were not only guests at our events, but also provided interesting speakers from their own countries for our panels and conferences “, described Simeonova Staničić the vast web of cooperation the Office has in Croatia.

Although being an Office for the European Parliament, they also help citizens by giving information on other EU institutions and how to get in touch with them. Informing citizens of ways to actively take part in European democracy, Simeonova Staničić describes as „the core of everything we do as an office of the most democratic institution of the EU“.

„European citizens can petition the European Parliament through our dedicated portal (European's Citizens's Initiative). This is a very transparent process whereby individuals or associations can submit a petition on a subject which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and which affects them directly “, she explained.

Croatian perception and EU scepticism.

Perhaps it depends on the algorithm or just the loudness of its spokespersons, but it seems Euroscepticism is on the rise in Croatia. Still, Simeonova Staničić's view is much more optimistic and based on the public opinion surveys

„Actually, the latest Eurobarometer survey shows that 78% of participants in Croatia state that EU membership is beneficial to Croatia, and 74% of those asked believe that COVID-19 economic recovery will be faster thanks to the EU. The majority of the respondents also answered that they have a positive image of the EU“, she said. She continued, however, that almost similar in size is the number of people who have neither negative nor positive opinions.

„For us, these 'non-committal' ones are really important and we try to reach them with our work. We need to raise their awareness about the advantages of the EU; thus, we mainly address young people, who are natural citizens of the EU, who are so accustomed to all the freedoms and opportunities the EU gave them that they take them for granted. They are not aware that there was a time, not so long ago, when these opportunities did not exist“, explained the Head of Office headmistress.

She added that entrepreneurs, managers, and small and medium business owners are most aware of EU benefits, making them natural partners and ambassadors with whom the Office also works really well.

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Lux Party on election year © European Parliament Office in Zagreb 

In similar rhetoric, Simenonova Staničić dismissed my thesis that young people recognize the easier traveling and working in other member countries as the only benefits of the EU. Firstly pointing out that „freedom of movement, freedom of choice, and the privilege to be employed without administrative barriers in any member state is one of the biggest values and benefits coming from an EU membership“, which means „escaping Croatia is not the right terminology“. Also, just as Croatians are leaving the country, other countries experience the same thing as their citizens are coming to Croatia.

„Due to the pandemic, we are actually witnessing more EU nationals temporarily moving to Croatia, as they work remotely. There is a large community of EU nationals which continues to grow, and it has a lot to thank Croatia’s EU membership“, argued Simeona Staničić.

Indeed, the reputation, and trust in the global community secured by EU membership, certainly contributed to the rise of digital nomads coming to Croatia, on which TCN regularly reports

The Head of Office once again repeated how most of the benefits in EU Croatians regularly experience and are enjoyed without realizing it is thanks to the EU. 

„When there is a new school lab or student housing being built with European funds, or when our young people go off to university or college and take for granted that they would go on an Erasmus exchange; when they don’t have to pay major tuition fees while studying abroad in some other EU member state but are charged the same rate as locals; when, together with other European countries like France, Belgium, and Germany, your government is part of negotiations on major questions of international importance: from health to peace and security...“, she listed various examples.

When asked to comment on Croatia's respect for human rights and European values, a question inspired by last year's cases the Republic of Croatia lost in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, Siemonova Staničić refused to comment and instead explained that the role of the Office in Zagreb (as well as anywhere in Europe for that matter) is not political.

„We are here to provide support to members of the European Parliament in the exercise of their official mandate on the hand and to ensure that people understand actions of the Parliament and to encourage them to engage in the European democratic process on the other. This is important because citizens have tools to influence the legislative agenda of the EU directly “, explained Simeonova Staničić. For the already mentioned European Citizens Initiative, the EP must consider proposals with 1 million verified signatures.  

Zagreb office for every EU citizen: Speaking English, Croatian, and six more languages!

As the EU is dedicated to being beneficial for every EU citizen from every country in the organization, so is the EP Office in Zagreb. Simeonova Staničić says the Office serves every EU citizen in Croatia, and whether - in person or online, they will address any issue or interest non-Croatian EU citizens may have and gladly respond and engage.

„In general, we work in the language of our host, which in this case is Croatian. Nevertheless, every European official is obliged to pass the employment exams in one of the working languages of the European Union and within two years to be able to work in 3 languages. In our case, our Office uses predominantly Croatian and English, but I am proud to say that my colleagues are proficient in many languages, and we can serve European citizens also in French, German, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Dutch, and Italian, without hesitation“, assured Simeonova Staničić.

The same service is also offered to Croatians in other EU countries, as every member state has an EP office. And cooperation being the keyword, the offices are frequently in touch as well.

"For example, the Parliament organized an online solidarity event called #EPASwithPetrinja where pupils from three member states (France, Ireland, and Spain) engaged with their counterparts from Petrinja and Zagreb to express solidarity in the wake of the disastrous earthquake that hit parts of Croatia and to comfort children their age from those hard-hit areas. At the event, we had members of the European Parliament from France, Ireland, and Croatia as speakers,“ Simeonova Staničić gave one example, adding that the cooperation is also there whenever there is a common topic or members of the European Parliament from different delegations work on major legislative or policy issues of interest to European citizens across the Union.

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EPAS with Petrinja © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The EP offices are always located in the capital city, and several countries also have the so-called „Antenna offices“ located in other larger cities such as Germany (Munich), France (Marseille), Poland (Wroclaw), Spain (Barcelona), and Italy (Milan).

„We do not have offices around the country. However, both our Office and the Representation of the European Commission in Croatia use the network of the so-called Europe Direct Information Centres. There are 10 of them in Croatia currently, and they are located in Petrinja, Slavonski Brod, Čakovec, Šibenik, Zadar, Osijek, Virovitica, Split, Pula, and Karlovac. They are not under our authority - we do not control them, and they are not a part of our structure. But they are our natural partners in various activities and often serve as local contact points“, explained Simeonova Staničić.

To conclude, the European Parliament Office in Zagreb is open to assist anyone that wants to receive any information related to the European Parliament - be it regarding its debates, ongoing plenaries, committee meetings, work of the members of the European Parliament, or general information concerning other European institutions.

The address of the Office is Augusta Cesarca 4 in the House of Europe on European Square in Zagreb, which is open from 9 am to 5 pm (however, due to the pandemic, the office is closed to the public until further notice). At that same time, you can reach them on the general E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on the following phone numbers:

For public relations (citizen inquires): 

Violeta Simeonova Staničić (Office head): + 385 1 4880 280 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Janja Mateja Aleš (assistant): +385 1 4880 269 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Andrea Čović Vidović: +385 1 4880 273 or +385 91 510 6830 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Marko Boko: +385 1 4880 274 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

For media relations:

Maja Ljubić Kutnjak: +385 1 4880 272 or + 385 99 490 4715 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Barbara Peranić: +385 1 4880 272 or + 385 99 271 3026 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

You can also follow the Office on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Flickr.

For any changes with the address, contacts, etc., check their official website.

To read more from the series "Friends of Croatia", follow TCN's dedicated page.

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

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Croatian Public's Opinion on Eurozone More Positive But Skepticism Remains

May the 5th, 2021 - The Croatian public has always had a very suspicious view of the entry of the country into the formerly deeply troubled Eurozone, but it seems that although it's only very slight, that opinion is beginning to alter. Skepticism, however, remains as strong as it was when the country's very EU referendum took place.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, the positive image of the European Union (EU) held by the Croatian public today is slightly better than it was around half a year ago, according to the national report of the Standard Eurobarometer for Croatia, which was published recently by the European Commission (EC).

When compared to the previous Croatian public opinion poll on the EU, the positive perception of surveyed Croatian citizens increased by one percentage point (from 47 to 48 percent), while at the same time the negative perception decreased by two points, from 13 down to 11 percent.

According to the latest Eurobarometer results, Croatian respondents in the latest survey also showed slightly higher support for the country's planned entry into the Eurozone than they did half a year ago. However, although this support has increased by one percentage point, up to 48 percent, and the number of those who oppose Eurozone entry has decreased by the same amount, Croatia still deviates considerably from the EU average. In the rest of the bloc, the single currency is supported by as much as 70 percent of the population of its member states, or three percent more than was recorded just half a year ago.

As the European Commission points out, European respondents, as well as the Croatian public, are at the forefront of the EU's achievements in the free movement of people, goods and services within the territory of the bloc. They consider peace among the EU's member states to be the second most important plus, and solidarity among the EU member states is in the third place.

The aforementioned survey was commissioned by the European Commission's Directorate General for Communication, and the survey in Croatia, on a representative sample of 1,028 citizens over the age of fifteen through direct interviews with respondents in their own homes, was conducted by the Hendal agency from February the 15th to March the 7th this year. The Standard Eurobarometer survey is otherwise conducted twice a year, and of the 94 such surveys conducted so far, the most recent is the 33rd, which also covers Croatia.

For more, follow our politics section.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Croatia to Ask For EU Funding For New Electronic Toll Collection System - Večernji List Newspaper

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - Although planned for the beginning of this year, the new electronic toll collection system in Croatia will be put into operation as late as the end of 2025, the Večernji List newspaper wrote on Tuesday.

Once installed on the motorways managed by the HAC and Bina Istra companies, the toll will be charged automatically by an upgraded version of the electronic toll collection and number plate recognition system without vehicles having to stop at a toll booth.

To get most of the money needed for the new system, the government has decided to apply for EU funding, including this project in the national recovery and resilience programme 2021-2026. The project has been presented as being part of digitalisation and development of a competitive, sustainable and efficient transport and traffic system.

The value of the project is estimated at HRK 730 million (€96.9m), or HRK 912.6 million (€121.13m) including VAT.

Until the new system is put in place, HAC plans to switch to a cashless-only payment service at 18 of its 76 toll booths where the toll will be charged by the existing electronic toll system or paid by bank cards. These toll points normally see very little traffic, especially in wintertime, the newspaper said.

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

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.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Croatian MEPs Fight for Epidemiologically Favourable Counties as Season Approaches

April the 26th, 2021 - Croatian MEPs are acting as the voice of those Croatian counties which have fared better in the epidemiological sense throughout the coronavirus crisis, warning that they mustn't be made victims of worse off counties during the upcoming tourist season this summer.

As Novac/Ljubica Vuko writes, on Friday, the Office of the European Parliament in Croatia organised an online conference on the digital future of Europe and current events from the work of the European Parliament, which were discussed by Croatian MEPs Karlo Ressler (HDZ, EPP) and Valter Flego (IDS, Renew Europe).

Speaking about current events in the work of the European Parliament, the aforementioned Croatian MEPs pointed out the initiatives they've launched in order to better prepare for the 2021 Croatian tourist season in the current circumstances which are still very heavily dominated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Valter Flego stated that he had sent a letter with 24 signatures to the European Commission and the Council to mark Croatia differently on the European map by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). This same initiative was signed by 9 of the 12 Croatian MEPs.

''The travel measures/rules to a country are determined in relation to the epidemiological situation in that country at any given time. At the Committee on Transport and Tourism, I started with the initiative stating how dissatisfied we are with how Croatia is being marked on the European map. We don't think it's fair that it's been divided into statistical regions because in that way, the entire Adriatic coast is one area, one colour, and that map fails to show the real epidemiological situation all over our coast. This is an injustice that I set out to explain to the Committee when we discussed tourist season preparations and during the Renew Group preparatory meeting. We came up with the idea to collect signatures and I offered it first to my colleagues from my group, then to members of the Croatian delegation, besides me, nine others signed it, I want to thank everyone, first of all Mr. Ressler who got involved with this,'' said Flego.

He emphasised that the aim of the initiative launched towards the European Commission and the Council was to have this issue rectified as a matter of urgency.

''It's important that the epidemiological situation is viewed in relation to Croatian counties, and not in relation to statistical regions,'' warned Valter Flego.

Members of the HDZ Delegation to the European Parliament also sent a parliamentary question to the European Commission on Wednesday on the topic of a regional approach to labeling epidemiological travel risks.

''Some counties are better off than others, some are worse. It's important that those counties that are more favourable epidemiologically aren't deprived of anything and aren't viewed together as part of Adriatic Croatia, ie through the NUTS2 division. The Ministry of Tourism also has a role to play in explaining the situation as it actually is and the differences between the counties, and to show that there are large parts of Croatia where it's more than safe to come on holiday,'' said Karlo Ressler.

Walter Flego said that he had also launched another initiative, concerning digital green certificates, the introduction of which was initiated by the European Commission in order to facilitate free and safe movement at the European Union level.

''The topic about green certificates or as some would say covid passports is very hot at the minute, and it's wrong to refer to them as the latter because they aren't passports. All initiatives around green certificates are welcome as they will speed up travel, but it's very important to determine just will pay the cost of testing for those people who haven't yet been vaccinated and those who have recovered from coronavirus. That's why I've taken the initiative to the European Commission because I believe that testing should be free, as is vaccination. If we don't want discrimination in these certificates, and we truly do not want that, then the testing procedure should also be free,'' Flego pointed out.

Karlo Ressler said the crux of the problem is that we're facing another uncertain tourist season, much like that of 2020.

''Last year, unlike some other countries which rely heavily on tourism, Croatia achieved relatively good results, but not when compared to the best tourist years. I have no fear of these digital certificates restricting freedoms, they'll actually work to increase mobility. My fear is that this mechanism won't be effective enough to make a big difference, which is why I think it is important, once the European Parliament adopts its opinion next week, for us to negotiate with the Council and make that document really make a difference and facilitate mobility for people ahead of the tourist season in summer,'' Ressler said.

For more, make sure to follow our politics section.

Friday, 16 April 2021

31 Croatian Products "Protected" Since 2015, 21 Still Await Desired Label

April the 16th, 2021 - There may well be numerous Croatian products now protected at the European Union level, but many are still sitting waiting on the list, hoping to get their hands on that much desired label.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes, April the 14th, 2015, was the date on which Krk prosciutto became the very first Croatian food product registered in the European Union (EU), and the Croatian Parliament passed a decision marking that day as the Day of Protected Croatian Indigenous Products.

To this day, the Republic of Croatia has 31 agricultural and food products whose names are registered with a protected designation of origin or a protected geographical indication label, ranking Croatia ninth in the entire bloc when it comes to protected local products.

In addition, 21 other procedures for the protection of the names of various Croatian products are currently in progress. This refers more precisely to the registration of the names of edible Croatian products, and the last ones to have been registered are Dalmatian pancetta and pečenica.

According to the relevant ministry, the ultimate goal of manufacturers is not to protect their names and the registration of the label, but the added value of the products they use in marketing and achieving better sales prices for protected Croatian products, as well as the raising of competitiveness here on the local market and further afield on the highly demanding European Union market.

“The Republic of Croatia has a rich tradition of the production and preparation of various agricultural and food products that are characterised by a special quality and a traditional way of production.

The recognisability of the products is also connected with the recognisability of the area in which they're produced, which contributes to the strengthening of tourism, but also to the sustainable development of more rural areas of the country,'' pointed out Marija Vuckovic, Minister of Agriculture.

For more on Croatian products, including edible ones, as well as restaurants and recipes, check out our dedicated section.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Vaccination Process Slow, is EU Digital Green Certificate Idea Premature?

March the 25th, 2021 - The EU digital green certificate proposal has piqued the interest of most people, be that for good or bad reasons, but the idea which has conveniently made sure the controversial ''covid passport'' term isn't in its name still has a lot of question marks above its head.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, the EU green digital certificate won't solve all of the now highly specific problems that are set to arise around the freedom of travel and protection against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it will provide a model that will ensure the mobility of EU citizens and eliminate the current discrimination which goes against EU rules. 

The above was the main conclusion drawn from the online conference "Digital Certificates and the COVID-19 virus" which was organised by the Office of the European Parliament in Croatia back at the end of last week.

Croatian MEP Valter Flego pointed out that last year showed us the chaos that can quite easily arise and this year we all need to try our best to avoid it happening again at all costs.

"It's obvious that this Easter is also going to be a failure in terms of any sort of tourist season, and it's certain that the opening up of the country will not take place even during the pre-season. We should already be engulfed in some serious preparations for the upcoming season, everything should be ready for the pre-season, including the hiring of seasonal workers.

Tourist staff would now be at various fairs and finishing off everything for this season and starting preparations for the next one. But there's been none of that. Last week, the European Commission (EC) adopted a proposal for the introduction of the EU digital green certificate, but the fact is that due to bureaucratic and technical reasons, the move will only come to life in two to three months from now,'' Flego warned.

He explained the importance of the EU digital green certificate through one simple example - if a family of four now wants to go from Germany on holiday to Croatia and return home, then they need to set aside 600 euros for testing, which is ridiculous and enough to put anyone off bothering going anywhere at all.

Analyses show, according to Flego, that the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be 10-12 times longer and more expensive than the situation following the 2009 economic crisis was.

"If coronavirus just disappeared right now at this moment, the question is how successful our recovery of the economy, and especially tourism, would be this year. Some people in Croatia say that this year we will be at 60 percent of the turnover of 2019. Personally, I'm not convinced of that and I really don't know what such estimates are based on,'' concluded Flego.

MEP Tomislav Sokol emphasised that this model of the EU digital green certificate, although compromises must still be reached and there will still be harmonisation to come in the Council and the Parliament, is certainly a great achievement in many fields. It will end discrimination against EU citizens with regard to which member states they come from and simplify and reduce the cost of their travel.

"The EC has given member states the right to decide on the details, from how and which tests they will accept, to the fact that each country can decide which vaccine to recognise as being valid - including those which aren't registered in the EU, such as the Russian and Chinese vaccines.

However, it's already a great achievement in itself that the certificates will be bilingual and machine-readable, which means that there will be no procedures and costs for translating and establishing their authenticity,'' said Sokol.

He also pointed out that it is important that there will be no first or second class citizens and that there will be no restrictions on movement for any EU citizens. Sokol also referred to the issue that many EU member states are already looking at, or even seriously considering, using both Russian and Chinese vaccines, which haven't been approved by the EU itself.

"The EC regulation on digital certificates states that each country can decide whether and under what conditions to accept those certificates and vaccines that have not received EU approval. In this particular case, this means that Croatia can accept certificates for, for example, Hungarian residents/citizens who have been vaccinated with the Russian or Chinese vaccine,'' explained Sokol.

What about those who don’t want to be vaccinated?

Professor Iris Goldner Lang from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb pointed out that so far, we've had to get used to researching every day on how to enter and return from countries, because there were, and still are, vastly different measures which are changing almost daily. This new EU model solves all this through a "green certificate".

"This sort of digital confirmation will take some time yet because today we have a situation where relatively few citizens have been vaccinated. In some cases, people refuse to be vaccinated for whatever reason, but more importantly, there are a large number of countries where vaccine distribution is still in its infancy.

From the perception of the EU legal system, the EU digital green certificate would be unacceptable at this point as it would lead to discrimination because very few people are currently vaccinated, for one reason or another. That's why it's still going to take some time for it to come to life,'' said Goldner Lang. She added that even after vaccination is at a high level, there will be people who aren't allowed or who don't want to be vaccinated, and the way in which they can travel will have to be regulated.

The legal expert recalled that there have been certain vaccination rules and obligations in the world for many years to enter some countries - mostly African countries that insist on vaccination against, for example, yellow fever and some other infectious diseases.

For more on travel, borders rules, testing centres and other information on coronavirus specific to Croatia, bookmark this page.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

When Can We Expect Croatian Eurozone Membership? Earliest Date Revealed

March the 24th, 2021 - The subject of Croatia joining the Eurozone has been put on the backburner, at least in the public eye, ever since the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe. Despite other things now taking priority in the media space, the matter of Croatian Eurozone membership is still very much a hot topic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, Croatian Eurozone membership can officially begin on January the 1st, 2023 at the absolute earliest, and the biggest advantages of the country's adoption of the common European currency could be in the form of export-oriented companies within the area. The above was discussed at a recent conference on the matter organised by the student association Financial Club in Zagreb.

"Whether or not Croatia will enter the Eurozone on January the 1st, 2023 or a year or two later, all depends on when we'll manage to meet the nominal convergence criteria," said Croatian National Bank (HNB/CNB) Governor Boris Vujcic, recalling that Croatia did successfully join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERMII) last summer. The Governor noted that ERM II membership requires EU member states to spend at least two years within the mechanism, often known as the Eurozone's ''waiting room''.

If Croatia fails to meet the nominal convergence conditions of the so-called Maastricht criteria - a stable exchange rate, stable interest rates, a budget deficit and level of public debt, a country can then end up spending an unlimited period of time in the ERM II, as opposed to just a couple of years.

Vujcic referred to the research which revealed residents of Croatia are most afraid of falling living standards due to rising prices upon the realisation of Croatian Eurozone membership. Research in the countries that have already adopted the euro shows that this isn't actually a justified fear because in the year of the introduction of the euro, prices rose by an average of a mere 0.23 percentage points.

Economy Minister Tomislav Coric said that potentially the biggest winners from the country's introduction of the euro could be Croatia's exporters, given the disappearance of any currency risk. He pointed out that Croatian Eurozone membership is not a mere means to an end in itself, but instead is a very good tool for long-term economic growth, stability and development.

For current information about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including border rules, travel regulations, testing centres and more, click here.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

490 Million Euros for Croatia from SURE Programme by End of 2020

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 23rd of October, 2020, the Republic of Croatia should be able to withdraw 490 million euros by the end of the year from the SURE programme, which was established by the European Union in the spring with the aim of supporting the preservation of jobs and reducing the risk of unemployment and losses of income across the Union.

This was pointed out at the session of the Government by Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who is authorised on behalf of the Government to sign the Agreement with the EU on a loan for this type of temporary support.

The total projected amount that the European Commission will redirect to Croatia within the SURE programme amounts to slightly more than a billion euros (1.02 billion), which means that a payment of slightly less than half is expected within the next two months. The aforementioned 490 million euros will then be included in the budget revision.

Maric noted that the goal of establishing the SURE programme is to provide additional financial assistance to the affected member states of the European Union in the total amount of up to 100 billion euros, taken out in the form of EU loans. The EC will borrow for this financing on financial markets, and then lend these funds to member states under more favourable conditions.

The SURE programme has already become operational, focusing primarily on part-time schemes and similar measures to help EU member states preserve jobs and protect employees from the risk of unemployment and loss of income. This is a move which also applies to self-employed individuals.

Maric emphasised that Croatia had applied for funding to finance measures that had led to a sharp and serious increase in actual and planned expenditures that were directly linked together, on the one hand, to subsidies for job preservation and support for part-time work.

The maximum average maturity of the loans issued under the SURE programme is 15 years, and the period of availability for financial support stands at 18 months. The financial support can be used through a maximum of eight installments, which can be repaid through one or more tranches, the Minister explained, emphasising that these are extremely favourable loans.

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