Wednesday, 22 January 2020

"EU Funds Are Changing Croatia" Exhibition Opens in European Parliament

ZAGREB, January 22, 2020 - "EU funds are changing Croatia" is the title of an exhibition that opened in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday evening, featuring 40 projects funded from the EU budget.

The exhibition was organised by the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds and HDZ MEPs Tomislav Sokol and Karlo Ressler, and opened by the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds, Marko Pavić.

Pavić and a dozen government ministers and state secretaries are presenting the priorities of the Croatian EU presidency before relevant European Parliament committees this week.

"European funds are indeed changing Croatia for the better. We can see that from these 40 photographs, including Peljeac Bridge, which will be a lasting memento of EU membership, the 'Make a Wish' women employment scheme, airports, railways, aid schemes for young farmers and entrepreneurs," Pavić said.

The minister said that contracts for 83.4 percent of funds available to Croatia had been signed so far and that over 100 percent would be signed by the end of this year. He added that over 30 percent of funds had been reimbursed, or 3.3 billion euro.

"I think we can be satisfied, given that only nine percent of funds was contracted at the time this government took office," Pavić said.

This is the first in a series of events that the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds plans to organise during the Croatian EU presidency in the first half of this year.

More news about EU funds can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Over 128 Million Euro for Split-Solin Water Utility Infrastructure Upgrade

ZAGREB, January 3, 2020 - The European Commission approved on Friday an investment from the Cohesion Fund worth more than 128 million euro to modernize the water and sewerage infrastructure of the Split-Solin agglomeration.

The project will provide four thousand people with high-quality drinking water and 25,000 inhabitants with sewerage service.

Water is one of our most valuable resources, but not everyone has equal access to drinking water. Thanks to this EU investment Croatian citizens will be able to use water sources more effectively, guaranteeing high-quality drinking water and cleaner waste water, which will ultimately lead to less sea and groundwater pollution, said Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the water and sewerage infrastructure modernization will boost the local economy by expanding tourism, the main economic activity in the area. By implementing this project, the Split-Solin agglomeration will align itself with the EU drinking water and urban waste water directives, the Commission states.

The project of Split-Solin water utility infrastructure improvement consists of the construction of a water supply, drainage and sewerage system and covers the area of the City of Split, the City of Solin and municipalities Klis, Dugopolje and Podstrana.

More Split news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 16 December 2019

EU Project on More Effective Protection of Women Victims of Violence Ends

ZAGREB, December 16, 2019 - Speaking in Zagreb on Monday at a closing press conference for an EU-funded project that dealt with effective protection of women victims of violence, Gender Equality Ombudswoman Višnja Ljubičić said that about 1,200 final court rulings that had been analysed in the last two years revealed all the weaknesses of the system.

"More has been done in the two years of this project than in the last 20 years. About 1,200 final court rulings have been analysed, both in criminal and misdemeanour cases, because we wanted to know what our penal policy is like, how we process the perpetrators and whether the victims are sufficiently protected. The results have shown that unfortunately the victims are not protected enough," Ljubičić said.

Ljubičić said that the victims were not satisfied with conditional sentences, which account for nearly 80 percent of misdemeanour cases, with amounts of fines or with the treatment of double jeopardy.

Maja Mamula, the coordinator of the Women's Room - Centre for Sexual Rights, said that there was not enough political will in Croatia to improve the protection of women against violence.

"In Croatia, femicide has been on the decline over the last few years, but each case of a murdered woman shows that we have a serious problem," Mamula said. She noted that most of the women were killed by their present or former partner, "which shows that the femicide was preceded by things that can be easily recognised and can serve as a signpost for change."

In 80 percent of cases, a woman's murder was preceded by physical violence, and in 70 percent of cases such violence had existed before. In over 60 percent of cases, a firearm was already present in the family and the perpetrators already threatened the victim, and in over 50 percent of cases the victim believed the perpetrator was capable of using violence.

A conference on femicide was held on the occasion of the conclusion of the EU project.

More news about the status of women in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 16 December 2019

New 35 Million Euro Railway Track Inaugurated Northeast of Zagreb

ZAGREB, December 16, 2019 - The 12.2 kilometre Gradec - Sv. Ivan Žabno railway line, which has cost 258 million kuna and has been co-funded by the European Union's funds, was formally opened on Monday morning.

This is the first investment in a new railway line in 52 years in Croatia, and in attendance at the ceremony were top officials including Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković who were among passengers aboard the train which was the first to be driven from Sveti Ivan Žabno to Gradec and back, some 60 kilometres north-east of Zagreb, on Monday morning.

The new railroad will shorten commuting times from these parts of Croatia and the capital city of Zagreb.

This investment included three overpasses and three underpasses and a bridge. Also bypasses and ringroads in the area were reconstructed.

PM Plenković said that the new railway line would facilitate the transport of residents in the counties of Koprivnica-Križevci, Zagreb and Bjelovar-Bilogora, and cut travel time between Zagreb and Bjelovar by an hour.

Minister Butković added that upon the reconstruction of some railway lines and the construction of a new section between Križevci and Dugo Selo, the travel time by train between Bjelovar and Zagreb would take less than an hour.

Butković said that currently 1.5 billion euro of investments were being implemented in the rail sector in Croatia.

More news about EU funds can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Architecture of Early Modern Adriatic First Croatian Humanities Project Funded by ERC

ZAGREB, December 10, 2019 - Architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries is the first Croatian humanities projects to receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC), Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences said on Tuesday.

The project, led by Jasenka Gudelj of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of the 78 projects selected among 674 that were submitted in the field of social sciences and humanities. The projects are financed by the ERC from a 600-million-euro budget through the Horizon 2020 programme.

"We expect that the results of five years of work will help in safeguarding and evaluating the early medieval architectural heritage of the Adriatic. We are excited about this success and the possibilities that are opening up for us," Gudelj said.

The research team includes Ana Marinković and Neven Jovanović from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Zagreb, Laris Borić from the University of Zadar and five young researchers. They will be working with the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula, the Croatian Museum of Architecture, the National and University Library, and other Croatian and foreign institutions.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Investments in Transport Infrastructure Worth More Than 2.7 Billion Euro

ZAGREB, November 25, 2019 - Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković on Monday said that investments in Croatia's transport infrastructure were valued at more than 20 billion kuna and that most of these investments went to the road sector.

Butković was attending a conference on the future of Croatia's transport system, organised by the Via Vita roads' association, about current road, railway, sea and air transport and of the strategy, financing, public procurement, and construction of infrastructure.

Commenting on the ongoing projects, he cited the future Pelješac Bridge, a bypass road around Omiš, an access road to the Rijeka ring road and so on.

Speaking of procurement procedures, Butković made reference to long appeals procedures which often make it difficult to close financial constructions for various projects.

He added that the law that regulates this has been aligned with EU directives and that a balance needs to be found so that appeals processes are resolved more quickly and that possible abuse is diminished.

As for road transport investments, he also mentioned projects referring to the infrastructure within the pan-European 5C corridor, the motorway to Sisak, the Istria Y-motorway and the future, second tunnel through Učka as well as completing the Zagreb-Macelj motorway and fast roads in Zagorje, Bjelovar.

"We need to be grateful for EU funds, which help us to resolve large investment," he underscored and added that along with economic growth, Croatia's budget is all the more stable and is opening opportunities for the country to slowly resolve the question of investments from the state budget in collaboration with international institutions.

More transport news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Plenković for Agreeing on 2021-27 Financial Framework as Soon as Possible

ZAGREB, November 6, 2019 - Croatia will do its best during its presidency of the Council of the EU, together with the next European Council President Charles Michel, so that an agreement on the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is reached as soon as possible, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Prague on Tuesday.

The moment when the agreement is reached isn't unimportant. The last seven-year budget was adopted quite late, which affected the implementation of operational programmes and concrete payments to the member states, he said at the end of a summit of 17 EU member states which are part of the Friends of Cohesion informal group, which is against slashing cohesion funds in the 2021-27 EU budget.

Plenković said he would not speculate as to when an agreement could be reached.

He was speaking at a joint press conference with the summit host, Czech PM Andrej Babis, as the prime minister of the next country to chair the Council of the EU, which Croatia will do in the first half of 2020.

As the next Council of the EU president, Croatia has the good will and the ambition to try to find, together with the next European Council president, Charles Michel, the broadest consensus possible on the next seven-year budget, which is undoubtedly the most important political document for the whole Union, Plenković said.

We must make sure that citizens in the member states feel the added value of Union membership. Aside from the importance of the cohesion and the common agricultural policy, we realise that we should also take into account security, migration, border management etc, he added.

He said the draft MFF presented by the European Commission was a solid foundation for reaching a compromise.

Participants in the summit adopted a joint declaration which reads that "the EU co-financing rate under shared management should be kept at the current 2014-2020 level, with sufficiently flexible rules, as excessive rigidity in this area would have a significant impact on the beneficiaries and could endanger effective absorption capacity."

The current national co-financing rate 15%, while the Commission is proposing 30%.

"In this respect, it is also necessary to maintain sufficiently high the EU pre-financing and the current n+3 decommitment rule, taking into account the challenges posed especially at the beginning of the implementation."

The Friends of Cohesion also insist "that the system of own resources needs to be fair, rationalized, simplified and that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom offers a unique opportunity to remove all rebates and corrections as from 2021."

The declaration says "it is crucial to strike a balance between the common EU targets and the possibility for Member States to allocate resources in accordance with their national and regional priorities, needs or changing circumstances."

"More flexible thematic concentration rules at regional as well as Member State level for Cohesion Policy funds, mainly the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), would enable such balance."

The first Friends of Cohesion summit was held in Bratislava in 2018, and since then Spain joined the group which comprises Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Italy, Portugal and Greece.

The Prague summit was attended by ten prime ministers, while the remaining seven states were represented by ministers or state secretaries.

More news about Croatia and the European Union can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Croatian Health Sector Has Absorbed 100% of Available EU Funds

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić on Tuesday said that Croatia had absorbed 100% of the European Union's funds put at disposal for the national healthcare sector.

Kujundžić said this during the ceremony of opening of the reconstructed Gastroenterology Department at the Dubrava general hospital in Zagreb.

The Regional Development and EU Funds State-Secretary Spomenka Đurić confirmed Kujundžić's statement saying that almost 380 million euro had been allocated for the health sector from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme.

"This is a sector that has absorbed not just what was made available to it but much more - it has invested in day hospitals, primary health protection, specialised hospitals," Đurić said at the opening ceremony of the project that involved an investment of 9 million kuna from EU funds.

Kujundžić announced that the healthcare sector was making preparations to absorb even more funds from the EU in the 2020 - 2030 period to build four new university hospital centres in Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Zagreb.

More healthcare news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Varaždin Wins RegioStars Award as Part of CityWalk Project

ZAGREB, October 13, 2019 - The CityWalk international project, of which the northern Croatian city of Varaždin is part, which promotes walking in cities with a view to reducing pollution and improving people's health, received the RegioStars award in Brussels earlier this week.

This European award for innovative regional projects has been presented since 2004.

The goal is to improve air quality, reduce noise and make people healthier, said the European Commission, which organised the presentation of the award.

CityWalk received the award of the basis of votes by EU citizens, submitted online between July 9 and September 9.

Seventeen partner institutions from Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia participate in CityWalk, which provides city dwellers with information on routes via a mobile phone app, encourages them to refrain from driving cars, and encompasses recommendations on encouraging mobility in cities and the expansion of pedestrian zones.

A total of €2.2 million was invested in the project, of which 1.9 million from the EU budget. The pilot project lasted from December 2016 to May 2019.

More Varaždin news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

EC, Croatia to Discuss Use of EU Funds Beyond 2020 Next Week

ZAGREB, October 9, 2019 - Representatives of the European Commission and the Croatian government will meet in Zagreb next week to discuss the use of EU funds in the period from 2021 to 2027, when there will be less money available to all EU member states, it was said at the European Week of Regions and Cities conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

This will be the second such meeting after last month an informal dialogue started in anticipation of the next seven-year period financial period.

The Croatian side is expected to be led by Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Marko Pavić while the European Commission is to be represented by Aurelio Cecilio, who heads a unit in charge of Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria.

The Croatian government depends on money from EU funds, which account for about 80% of public investments in the country. The EC, the EU's executive body that approves financial allocations, in February this year published a report with guidelines for cohesion policy investments.

It proposed that Croatia should invest in areas such as research and development, environmental protection and digital and transport connectivity, which includes connecting Croatian islands with the mainland to improve the life of local population and stop emigration.

Croatia is yet to determine its priorities. In recent years most of the EU money has been invested in transport and agriculture, the most expensive project being the construction of the 526 million euro Pelješac Bridge. Talks held between the EC and Croatia so far indicate that there will be no more of such big and visible individual projects and that money is to be invested in a large number of smaller projects.

In the 2021-2027 period Croatia is expected to receive 6% less allocations from the EU budget than is now the case. Over the past seven years Croatia has had at its disposal 10.7 billion euro from the EU budget.

However, this is not the only piece of bad news for countries like Croatia. This week the EC has continued to insist on greater participation of local authorities in joint projects. In the period from 2014 to 2020 the EC has given a maximum 85% of the money for individual projects while the remaining 15% has been provided by local government units.

The EC now wants the share from the EU budget to be reduced to 70% and the share given by local authorities to increase to 30%. This is mostly supported by northern EU countries that pay more into the joint budget than they get from it while south-eastern countries, which take more money than they pay into the joint budget, are against it.

Their position is supported by the European Committee of the Regions, the EU's advisory body representing European regional and local authorities, but during Tuesday's European Week of Regions and Cities, the biggest annual event on the EU's cohesion policy, the EC insisted on its view that the share of local project funding should be increased, notably owing to economic recovery and GDP growth.

The final decision could be made next year, when the EU will be chaired by Croatia in the first six months, after which Germany takes over the six-month presidency.

More news about EU funds can be found in the Politics section.

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