Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Agreements Signed in Knin to Support Entrepreneurs

ZAGREB, August 6, 2019 - Eleven agreements were signed on Monday in Knin to support entrepreneurs in the areas of Knin and Benkovac with EU grants worth 8.5 million kuna.

The agreements were signed by Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Marko Pavić and representatives of 11 companies.

Pavić said that the funds would contribute to encouraging young people in the area stay there as the funds were earmarked for job creation.

"These agreements support entrepreneurship, trades and companies and the 8.5 million kuna will help create 20 new jobs and preserve 32 more," Minister Pavić said.

He explained that the funds were earmarked for areas formerly affected by the war.

Pavić expressed satisfaction that the agreements were signed in Knin on Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Veterans.

He announced that new agreements, worth more than 22 million kuna, would be signed for the Knin area soon.

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

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Millions for Young Farmers and Non-Agricultural Activities

ZAGREB, August 1, 2019 - The Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development on Wednesday signed 400 new agreements worth a total of 94 million kuna from the Rural Development Programme, intended for young and small farmers and the development of non-agricultural activities.

The agreements include 90 agreements to support young agrarians, 271 agreements to support the development of small farm and 39 agreements to support the development of non-agricultural activities in rural areas.

Newly-appointed Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković attended the signing ceremony and said that these measures were important because they would contribute to the survival of Croatian agriculture, the development of small farms, generational revival and would provide support for non-agricultural activities such as rural tourism, hospitality industry, and preserving and developing traditional skills.

She added that so far contracts had been agreed for 70% of available funds from the Rural Development Programme and more than 40% had been paid out. She called on farmers to merge, to use innovations and EU funds.

Vučković said that Croatian farmers were still faced with numerous challenges, but that it was worth noting that certain progress was evident at the end of 2018 - in the volume of European funds being absorbed and faster growth of exports compared to imports. "It is too early to talk about trends but we in the ministry will do everything for that not to be a coincidence," she said.

With today's agreements included, 1,367 agreements granting 473.3 million kuna have been signed to date, the ministry said in a press release.

The ministry added that with regard to absorption from the Rural Development Programme, 97% or 17.5 billion kuna has been put at the disposal of agrarians and other beneficiaries, 70% or 12.6 billion kuna has been contracted and 40% or 7.3 billion kuna has been paid out of the funds available.

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Grant Agreements Signed to Promote Health

ZAGREB, July 23, 2019 - The Ministry of Health and the Croatian Employment Service in Zagreb on Tuesday presented health institutions and organisations with 7.7 million kuna (1 million euro) worth of grant agreements aimed at increasing public awareness of the importance of health promotion and disease prevention.

The agreements were presented as part of the project "Health Promotion and Disease Prevention - Phase 1" from the European Social Fund.

The total amount of the grants is 27 million kuna (3.6 million euro), and today the first 12 successful applicants were granted 13 agreements worth 7.7 million kuna. EU funding will be used to promote healthy habits and good health, increase public awareness of the importance of preventing chronic contagious, non-contagious, rare and malignant diseases, and provide additional training for medical staff.

These projects will help health organisations throughout the country "to raise public awareness of how important it is for each of us to take measures to prevent numerous diseases, primarily cardiovascular ones," Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said.

He said that smoking and alcohol were "the two greatest evils" affecting people's health and family lives.

"I hope that through education people will become aware how harmful smoking and alcohol are and that in the years ahead far fewer Croats will suffer from diseases they could influence through prevention," Kujundžić said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Commssioner Cretu Says Croatia Absorbing EU Funds Well

ZAGREB, June 29, 2019 - European Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy Corina Cretu said on Friday that Croatia was doing well in absorbing EU funds considering that it was the last country to join the Union, and added that she believed Croatia would be prepared for the presidency of the Council of the European Union in January.

Croatia had a shortage of experts to work on European funds, however progress has been made and today the country is doing well in absorbing money, Cretu told Hina on the margins of a meeting of Danube countries in Bucharest.

The two-day forum, which ends on Friday, was convened to discuss EU-funded projects in 14 countries along the Danube River. It was the last event organised by Romania as the chair of the Council of the EU. Finland will chair the Council for the next six months and as of January 2020 the presidency will assumed by Croatia for the first time.

My advice is that Croatia should not be underestimated as a country. I am sorry that Romania's chairmanship started with a lot of presumptions that it would not be capable of that task, yet it managed to achieve a lot. This is not just about politicians, but an entire machinery and I believe that Croatia will be prepared for the task, Cretu said.

She added that she hoped that the next multi-annual budget will be adopted during Finland's chairmanship. If the budget is not adopted in the coming months, thousands of projects could be jeopardised, she warned.

Croatia has been a member since 2013 and has great expectations from EU funds.

In countries like Croatia, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, more than 60% of public investments are funded by the EU, she said.

Cretu added that the cohesion policy has for three decades tried to reduce the difference in development between poorer and wealthier member states as well as assisting neighbouring countries that are still not part of the EU but participate in projects funded by the EU.

Countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are already participating in some common forums with member states like the Forum of Danube Countries.

The EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) is a macro-regional strategy adopted by the European Commission in December 2010 and endorsed by the European Council in 2011. The Strategy seeks to create synergies and coordination between existing policies and initiatives taking place across the Danube Region.

The EU finances joint cross-border projects for nine member states and five countries that are still not members and some projects include emergency situations such as floods, wildfires and so on.

The Commission's President Jean-Claude Juncker had decided that during his term in office (2014 - 2019) enlargement would not occur, however recently negotiation procedures and preparations of future members have continued and Cretu believes these procedures need to be accelerated.

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

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Croatia Expects Wave of Investment in Transport Infrastructure

ZAGREB, May 21, 2019 - The Zagreb Infrastructure Summit was held on Tuesday to discuss the planning and development of infrastructure projects in Croatia, including the development of seaport, airport and railway transport infrastructure.

"We are witnessing a major pickup in the financing of transport infrastructure. Since funding from one source is not enough, we are combining all sources available to us," said Tomislav Mihotić, state secretary for infrastructure at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure.

He said that large investment projects regarding railway, road and airport infrastructure were planned, citing the railway lines Dugo Selo - Križevci, Zabok - Zaprešić, and Gradec - Sveti Ivan Žabno.

"We are building the Pelješac Bridge, the largest road infrastructure project that is being implemented with EU funding, and we have also begun projects relying on domestic funding. Some are being implemented from domestic sources, some through concessions, some with the aid of EU funding, and some based on private-public partnerships," Mihotić said.

Speaking of road infrastructure, Mihotić pointed out the 160 million euro Bina Istra project to upgrade the motorway network in Istria County, including the reconstruction of the Učka tunnel. He mentioned the planned construction of a road from Krapina to the Slovenian border and the construction of an express road from Solin to Split to Omiš in southern Croatia, a project worth 300 million euro.

He also mentioned the construction of a bridge across the Sava river at Stara Gradiška and the continued construction of a motorway from the bridge at Beli Manastir in eastern Croatia to the Hungarian border.

Mihotić said that one of the largest projects was the construction of a lowland railway from the northern Adriatic city of Rijeka to the Hungarian border. "This is an extremely important strategic project because it develops maritime transport, trade and railway. If we manage to obtain funds from the EU and use them for part of this project, we will try to cover the rest through concession agreements," he said.

"Our interest is to link up with China and other remote countries so that they can use our ports as their gateway to the European market. But the general problem is the underdevelopment of all Croatian Adriatic ports, because of total traffic through the Suez, about 8 percent enters the Adriatic, while over 50 percent uses the Baltic. The port infrastructure should be much better if Central Europe is to be interested in changing the existing transport routes. That's why Chinese partners are extremely important to us," Mihotić said.

The deputy director for EU funds of the HŽ Infrastruktura railway company, Janja Groš, said that the company planned investment projects of 9.3 billion kuna (1.26 billion euro), of which 60 percent would be provided by the EU.

Liu Kai, economic adviser at the Chinese Embassy in Croatia, said that the Pelješac Bridge project was a good example of cooperation between the two countries. "After a Chinese company has been selected in the tender for the construction of Pelješac Bridge, China's cooperation with Croatia has opened up a new dimension. The bridge is a symbol of the road to a joint success and cooperation between China, Croatia and the EU," Liu said.

He said that the Chinese economy had risen by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year as a result of strong industrial growth and higher consumer spending.

"Complying with EU rules and standards, more and more Chinese companies are interested in investing in projects in Croatia, not just in infrastructure, but also in science, culture and tourism," Liu said.

More news about transport infrastructure can be found in the Business section.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

European Funds Are Changing Croatia

ZAGREB, May 19, 2019 - European funds are the key to development, better living standards and economic growth, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday, adding that over the past 15 years the EU had invested 365 billion euro in the development of central and east European countries and that 80% of public investment in Croatia came from EU funds.

Until 2020, Croatia has 10.7 billion euro in EU funds at its disposal and it expects as much in the next seven-year budget, Plenković said at the EU Funds Open Doors Day.

"The Croatian state couldn't find that in the form of grants in any other way," he said, citing as an example the renovation of the roundabout in Zagreb's Remetinec neighbourhood, which costs 330 million kuna, of which 273 million kuna comes from EU funds and 50 million kuna from the government.

"This modernisation proves how important EU membership is and how much it improves the quality of living," Plenković said.

He announced that an agreement will be signed on Monday for the establishment of the Shared Services Centre which will coordinate and manage the utilisation of all IT applications and e-services which government institutions provide to citizens. The project is worth 360 million kuna, of which 307 million kuna comes from EU funds.

The prime minister said the EU had invested 365 billion euro in the development of central and east European countries that became member states in 2004 and 2007. "And when we know that 80% of public investment in Croatia comes thanks to the European Union, then we see that it's the key to our development, better standards and economic growth."

The EU Funds Open Doors Day was organised by the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry under the slogan "EU funds are changing Croatia".

Minister Gabrijela Žalac said that at the end of October 2018 contracted European projects were worth 7.3 billion kuna and that now the amount was 54 billion kuna. "That's 68% of the contracted allocation of 10.7 billion kuna."

The government's goal is for the contracting rate to reach 85% by the end of the year, she said, adding that applications had been called for over 88% of the allocation.

EU projects worth 1.8 billion kuna have been contracted in Zagreb, she said. "We will keep up the same tempo next year so we can contract 100% of the allocation."

The head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Branko Baričević, said the cohesion policy was one of the most successful EU policies, voicing confidence that Croatia would know how to use it. EU funds "are aimed at increasing overall prosperity and prepare the countries using them to transform their economies into self-sufficient economies," he added.

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

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Minister Satisfied with EU Funds Absorption

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 - Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac said at a government meeting on Thursday that she was exceptionally satisfied with indicators of EU structural and investment funds absorption from mid-2017 to late 2018, stressing that in the said period contracts were signed for projects worth 4.3 billion euro.

Meeting its obligation to report to parliament every six months about the absorption of EU funds for the 2014-2017 period, the government sent to parliament three six-month reports for the following periods: 1 July-31 December 2017, 1 January-30 June 2018 and 1 July-31 December 2018.

According to Žalac, in the period covered by the three reports, contracts were signed for projects worth 4.3 billion euro.

End beneficiaries have received a total of 1.3 billion euro in the period from mid-2017 to late 2018. A total of 1.5 billion euro has been verified and the European Union has released 937.4 million euro.

The minister also presented data for the 2007-2013 financial period, given the N+3 rule which means that allocations are divided into annual amounts which must be spent within three years.

The minister said that the number of irregularities in funds' absorption is on a mild rise which was in correlation to a rise in the rate of the conclusion of contracts on EU funds.

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

Friday, 5 April 2019

Agreements Signed for Provision of Emergency Medical Service by Speed Boats

ZAGREB, April 5, 2019 - Agreements granting the Health Ministry a total of 45 million kuna from EU funds for the purchase of six speed boats for the provision of emergency medical aid along the Adriatic and twelve biochemical blood analysers for emergency diagnosis on the islands, were signed at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds on Friday.

The funds will be used to procure speed boats, ensure berths in home ports and purchase blood analysers that can quickly determine whether a patient needs to be transferred to a hospital on the mainland, it was said at the signing ceremony.

The boats will be stationed on the islands of Mali Lošinj and Rab, in Zadar, Šibenik, Supetar and Dubrovnik and will serve all inhabited islands, with a total population of 122,000, and visitors during the tourist season.

The agreements were signed by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac and the head of the Central Finance and Contracting Agency, Tomislav Petrić.

The speed boats and blood analysers will significantly improve emergency treatment of patients on the islands and facilitate the work of physicians in establishing a diagnosis and deciding on the condition of patients, Minister Kujundžić said and added that he expects the boats to be operational in two years’ time while the analysers could already be available at the start of this year's tourism season.

Minister Žalac expressed her satisfaction that the entire amount of 45 million kuna will be secured from the Competitiveness and Cohesion operational programme, noting that the number of agreements for European funding for healthcare infrastructure had accelerated this year and last.

"Together with the Health Ministry, we have advertised six of the planned calls for bids and contracted 51 projects amounting to 1.7 billion kuna, which is 85% of the envelope envisaged for the health sector in this financial period. We expect to contract the remaining 15% of the healthcare allocation by the end of the year," Žalac said.

Considering that emergency medical services have to be available to all citizens, Žalac announced the possibility of establishing a helicopter emergency medical service in the next financial period which would complement today's agreements and would facilitate the emergency medical care of patients on the islands.

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

Thursday, 28 March 2019

European Commission Approves Grants for Fruit, Veg and Milk in Schools

ZAGREB, March 28, 2019 - An amount of 250 million euro was approved by the European Commission on Wednesday for the free distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk for 20 million children throughout the EU in the 2019/2020 school year.

The national budget allocations were adopted today. 145 million euro was set aside for fruit and vegetables, and €105 million for milk and other dairy products. The distribution programme is complemented by educational measures that teach children about agriculture and promotes healthy eating, the European Commission said in a press release.

Croatia will receive 1.66 million euro for fruit and vegetables and an additional 800,354 euro for milk.

According to the law that has been applicable since 1 August 2017, 2 previous schemes were combined under a single legal framework which is focused on an enhanced educational dimension.

Countries participating in the programme are expected to prepare strategy outlines for a period of 6 years, noting objectives and priorities, target groups (primary schools, for example), products (apples and carrots for example) and education activities (farm visits, school gardens, training).

"Thanks to the EU School Scheme, our young citizens can benefit from the nutritious, safe and high-quality food that our European farmers produce, while also learning about where it comes from. The Commission is proud to contribute to this important educational journey, establishing healthy habits from a young age," Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said.

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

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Two Million Euro Secured for Tvrđa Visitor Centre in Osijek

ZAGREB, March 17, 2019 - The historic heart of the eastern Croatian city of Osijek is expected to get a two million euro visitor centre in two years' time, the head of the municipal department for EU programmes, Kornelija Mlinarević, announced at a press conference earlier this week.

Construction work is expected to begin this autumn. The visitor centre would offer at one place tourist information on the City of Osijek, Osijek-Baranja County and the wider region, and provide services such as parking spaces for cars and buses, shops with local, regional and national products, guided tours, and services for cycling tourists, Mlinarević said.

The Tvrđa project is expected to boost tourist numbers and employment in the tourism industry.

Mayor Ivan Vrkić said that the city government had so far invested 170 million kuna (23 million euro) in the Tvrđa project and would invest an additional 15 million kuna (2 million euro) in the visitor centre.

More Osijek news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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