Thursday, 21 March 2019

German President Steinmeier Visits Zagreb

ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 - The European Union must not lose itself in bilateral quarrels, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Zagreb on Thursday after meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, with whom he agreed that the prospects of even better bilateral cooperation would occur in 2020, when both countries are set to preside over the European Union.

Steinmeier began his two-day official visit with talks in Grabar-Kitarović's office during which they said the two countries shared the same views on many European issues and that they were strongly linked by the Croatian community in Germany.

In a joint press conference after the talks, Steinmeier said Croatia, as the newest EU member, was a bridge between the European bloc and Southeast Europe, with which it shares a common past. There were difficult periods in that past, he said, urging the countries of Southeast Europe to resolve outstanding issues.

In Europe, "dealing with the difficulties of the past paved the way to the future," he said. Later today, he will visit the Eurocampus international school, where German and French schools operate under the same roof. "That's a nice example of reconciliation," he said.

Grabar-Kitarović said Croatia supported the Euro-Atlantic perspective of all Southeast European countries. "In that sense, we want a stable Southeast Europe, notably Bosnia and Herzegovina." She said that Croatia would dedicate another summit on EU enlargement to Southeast Europe while chairing the Council of the EU in the first half of next year.

The calendar envisaged that we assume responsibility one after the other, Steinmeier said. Germany will chair the Council in the second half of 2020. "That's a chance to cooperate even better at European level."

Grabar-Kitarović said the two countries shared common European values and commitment to a strong EU. Croatia will always remember "the key role of Germany and other close friends during the struggle for survival, notably the then Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher," she said, adding that Croatia continued to count on Germany's support.

Croatia appreciates Germany's "constant and strong" support for Croatia's membership of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said Grabar-Kitarović.

The EU will "become safer and stronger when Croatia enters the Schengen and euro areas," she said. "In that respect, we are counting on Germany's support," she added, noting that Croatia is making big efforts to efficiently monitor "the EU's longest eastern external border."

Germany is one of Croatia's principal economic partners - its first trade partner, the fourth foreign investor and the first in the number of tourists, Grabar-Kitarović said, noting that 2.9 million Germans visited Croatia last year.

She said Croatia wanted to increase exports to Germany. The two countries cooperate in many areas and Croatian citizens in Germany and ethnic Germans in Croatia are "a strong bridge of friendship and a link." The 360,000-strong Croat community in Germany is strongly integrated, she added.

Asked by German journalists about the emigration of Croats, Grabar-Kitarović reiterated that demography was the number one issue and that mobility was something good but that it was necessary to create return conditions.

Steinmeier said Croatia was a new member state but has "settled in the heart of the EU" as a bridge helping to overcome the difficulties between old and new member states. He illustrated Croatia's role with the Three Seas Initiative, which some in Europe saw as an attempt to distance new member states from "the old Europe."

Croatia said from the very beginning that the Initiative must not be used for political purposes and invited other countries to join, which Germany did, he said. "A lot is at stake in Europe" today, which is why the European Parliament election "isn't just another election in history" as it "will decide on the different drafts of the European Union's future," he added.

Neither president would speculate on the outcome of a European Council meeting on Brexit that is taking place today and tomorrow.

Asked how that would impact the decision to call the EP election for May, Grabar-Kitarović said she would announce it by March 26.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Prime Minister Receives Steiger Award in Germany

ZAGREB, March 17, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković received in Essen on Saturday the Steiger Award in the Europe category and called for Europe's unity.

"I see this award also as a recognition to my fellow citizens in the building of a European Croatia," he said at the award ceremony, recalling that Croatia's EU journey was much harder than those of other central European countries.

Europe is facing the biggest challenges since World War II, he said. "Not even the biggest EU countries can deal with all the problems alone. That's why the key is in unity and that's the point of the European Union."

Plenković underlined the importance of the European perspective for Southeast European countries. "Europe should not neglect its neighbourhood. This especially refers to Southeast Europe because there the European Union membership is a motivating perspective, as shown by the European Union's attractiveness. That's also the European Union Croatia wants to push for while chairing the European Council in the first half of next year."

Plenković was presented with the award by North Rhine-Westphalia PM Armin Laschet, who underlined Plenković's commitment to the European idea.

"These days it doesn't just go without saying that someone stands for Europe. The European Union has many external and internal enemies. Only a few stand for Europe. One of them is Croatian Prime Minister Plenković," Laschet said, adding that former German Foreign Minister "Hans-Dietrich Genscher would have been pleased to see that a country he advocated is a recipient of this award."

Laschet recalled that 50,000 Croats live in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's largest state, and said they had contributed to the well-being in Germany.

"Croats have played an important role in this process and that's why the award for Europe is going into the right hands," he said, hoping the award would help Plenković deal with the challenges when Croatia presides over the EU early next year.

According to a press release from the Steiger Initiative, Plenković was nominated for the award by Laschet and German MEP Elmar Brok. "Honoured are people who demonstrate straightforwardness, openness and tolerance in their actions and thinking. They are people who are not deterred on their way and willing to take responsibility," the press release said.

Among the previous recipients are former Israeli President Shimon Peres, former Serbian President Boris Tadić, and Genscher.

More news about Andrej Plenković can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Croatia and North Rhine-Westphalia Discuss Economic Relations

ZAGREB, March 17, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Armin Laschet in Duesseldorf on Saturday for talks, as announced before the meeting, that would focus on boosting economic relations and creating conditions for investing in Croatia.

"I'm glad that today we'll talk about the advancement of relations between Croatia and North Rhine-Westphalia, one of Europe's economically strongest regions, comparable with the Netherlands," Plenković said ahead of the talks.

He pointed to Croatia's cooperation with Germany's states, notably cooperation aimed at improving economic relations. "Today's visit is part of a policy which, apart from good relations with Angela Merkel's federal government, wants to strengthen relations with some German states."

Laschet underlined the importance of intensifying contacts with Croatia, notably ahead of the year in which Germany and Croatia will chair the European Council.

"Today we have the chance to talk about some bilateral matters. Croatia is a country which did a lot in a very short time to become a member of the European Union and is now preparing to enter the Schengen Area," he said ahead of the talks.

Plenković said they would also talk about European matters. Both were members of the European Parliament. "We understand well what is cooperation at parliamentary level and what is cooperation at government level."

Plenković said the Steiger Award he would receive in Essen for advocating European unity was "a recognition to Croatia as the newest member of the European Union." He said Croatia was making "a lot of effort to join the euro area soon too."

Laschet said "Croatia is a completely European country, which gives us hope now that members are leaving the European Union."

On Sunday, Plenković will meet representatives of the Croatian community in North Rhine-Westphalia and Croatian exhibitors at the Pri Wino wine fair in Duesseldorf.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Substantial Decrease in Bookings by German Tourists for 2019

Last week’s ITB Berlin tourism fair did not give the Croatian tourist industry what it wanted after a months-long pause in sales to the German tourists. Instead, in the first week of March, they received a worrying number: in four months, from early November 2018 to late February, nine per cent fewer travel packages were sold in Germany for all destinations than in the same period a year ago, reports Večernji List on March 11, 2019.

We can only try to guess what is happening with the significant travelling nation, which each year registers some fifty million travels. Turkey is popular this year, but surely not everyone is going there. Did the slowdown of the German economy make them think twice? Are they planning to stay in Germany, after the perfect summer weather last year?

There are many questions, and there was no optimism after the results of the annual major study Reiseanalyse were published. Researchers have corrected their earlier, more optimistic forecasts about 55 million travels by German citizens in 2019. They have concluded that the number of German tourists this year will be similar to last year's 54.1 million.

They will also spend less on travel than in 2018 when the amount reached 72.7 billion euro. This year, they forecast 71.2 billion euro in tourist spending. On average, Germans will spend 1,017 euro on travels longer than five days, as opposed to last year's 1,045 euro. All this is equally relevant to Mediterranean countries, which are all facing drops, with the exception to Turkey. The state currently has 25 to 30 per cent more bookings than last year.

“Yes, the slowdown in bookings is not just our problem. It is unusual that at this time so many German citizens, who are usually among the first to decide on their holidays, have not yet made that decision. The tension is growing. Spain has already reacted by lowering prices, and I would say that a price war could be expected in the Mediterranean this season. It is a battle which we cannot win, and for us, the key is the ratio between quality and price. Those who have not offered the right value for money will have to consider making price corrections. Although it should not be done overnight, we have another month to see how the situation will develop,” said Boris Žgomba, president of the Association of Travel Agencies at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, saying that the booking for Croatia is currently weaker by three to ten per cent.

Most Mediterranean tourist countries have also increased their promotion budgets. This was recently done by Croatia as well, which allocated an additional 2.5 million kuna for the German market. Is it enough or should the amount be increased will be monitored during the next ten days.

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli is convinced that Croatian tourism will welcome 2.9 million guests from Germany in 2019, the same number as last year. He also advised the tourist industry not to lower the prices.

“Croatia has become a competitive destination in the world's tourist market primarily because of the quality it offers to its visitors. This is supported by the fact that so far this year there are 14 per cent more tourist overnights from Germany. That is why we need to work on improving the quality of the tourist offer, whose value will surely be recognised by our guests. Based on the news coming from the largest tourist fairs, I believe that in the current year we will continue to achieve positive results while retaining the image of a quality tourist destination” said Cappelli.

More news about Croatian tourism can be found in the Travel section.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Radmila Kovačević).

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Eastern Croatia Becoming More Interesting for German Tourists

Eastern Croatia is presented among 10,000 exhibitors from all over the globe at the leading European tourism fair ITB in Berlin. In addition to ITB, which will be visited by almost 200,000 visitors this weekend, the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) has organised, in cooperation with the Croatian Embassy in Berlin, the presentation of the tourism potential of the Osijek-Baranja County at the Baden-Wurttemberg Representative Office. The county presented the tourist potential of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem with a film, songs and its ethno- and gastronomic offer, reports on March 9, 2019.

“Eastern Croatia is becoming a more desirable destination on the German market. Tourism is no longer just the sea and the sun. The Danube is an excellent base on which we can build an exceptionally high-quality ethno- and gastronomic offer. Vineyards, cycling routes, river cruises are just some of the opportunities offered by the Danube,” said County Prefect Ivan Anušić at the presentation.

“Although our focus is still on the Croatian tourists, Germany is also a market we need. Also, this is an excellent opportunity for us to learn from colleagues from other countries and share experiences,” said Tatjana Roth, head of the Department of Continental Tourism of Osijek-Baranja County.

According to HTZ director Kristijan Staničić, the HTZ and the government consider Slavonia as an undiscovered tourist gem. That is why they have announced additional investments in infrastructure that will enable eastern Croatia to have better transport connections. “We are in constant contact with the Osijek Airport, where we now cooperate with Wizzair, and I believe that we will intensify our cooperation with other airlines and tour operators with respect to Slavonia and the continental part of Croatia,” said Staničić.

The largest Bavarian tour operator, Selimir Ognjenović, the owner of the I. D. Riva Tours company, also spoke about the recognisability of Slavonia. He was among the first to offer Slavonia as a tourist destination to his clients.

“People from Dubrovnik asked me why Slavonia is so visible, can we talk about the coast a little bit? Now that the global tourism sector is sometimes accusing us that we have overdone certain tourism segments, especially on the coast, Slavonia demonstrates innovation and its tourist power, and I think that is great for the whole of Croatia. Last year, we had 890 people who travelled from Munich through our agency exclusively to Slavonia. Perhaps this is not too many in comparison with the millions of tourists who come, but I always say that we should treat each guest like they are the only one, because until the first and the second come, there will not be the third one and the millionth one. They are all ambassadors of continental tourism because, when they returned to Germany, they all said they wanted to visit Slavonia again. They often tell me that Slavonia is as beautiful as Bavaria was twenty years ago. That is what makes Slavonia unique,” said Ognjenović.

Translated from (reported by Suzana Lepan Štefančić).

More news about Slavonia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Croatia and Germany Sign Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement

ZAGREB, March 7, 2019 - Croatia and Germany signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement in Berlin on Thursday, which they described as a milestone in relations between the two countries.

Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas signed a joint statement on increasing government cooperation and an action plan aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation and relations at EU level.

"I think we can describe the signing of these documents as a milestone in our bilateral relations which are developing well in any case and which, based on this action plan, will be further intensified," said Maas.

According to Germany's FM, the action plan that defines the expansion of cooperation between the two governments, covers a "comprehensive range of topics," like digitisation, a dual education system, science and research, climate protection, and security.

Pejčinović Burić said that Germany was one of Croatia's most important trading partners and that the agreement on expanding cooperation, which was reached in August by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, would additionally strengthen mutual relations.

She added that the action plan provided for strengthening cooperation in a dozen areas, from common interest to foreign and European policy to the economy, education, culture, sport and parliamentary cooperation.

"I believe that in two years’ time we will analyse how the plan is developing and will extend it to other areas of cooperation," Pejčinović Burić said before meeting with Maas.

"Signing this agreement is an important step that we will make as part of the existing partnership in the EU and NATO and our common interest for Southeast Europe, which is essential for stability and security in that region and for Europe as a whole. We believe that the signing of this agreement will specifically raise the level of contacts relating to the agreed topics and concrete projects that will develop from those contacts," Pejčinović Burić said.

The talks focused on the future of the European Union, particularly with regard to EU enlargement and Brexit.

Maas recalled that next year Croatia and Germany would chair the Council of the European Union one after the other.

"We wish to use this fact at the European level for a constructive policy and I am already looking forward to joint cooperation between Germany and Croatia," Maas said.

He underscored that the two main themes of the German EU presidency would be unity and strength.

"I think that these are important issues for the European Union's future and am looking forward to cooperation with Croatia," he added.

Maas said that as a "regional power" Croatia brings a rich experience to relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans.

"The Western Balkans is a strategically key region for the EU. What we need in our neighbourhood is stability, democracy, economic growth and that's why we cannot turn our backs on the Western Balkans. That would be a big mistake," he said.

Pejčinović Burić said that it was important to intensify cooperation between Germany and Croatia because, among other things, both countries would chair the EU next year.

"We will discuss countries in Southeast Europe and their pathway and progress toward EU membership, of course, when conditions for that have been met," she said.

Maas pointed out the good relations between citizens in the two countries. "There are 370,000 Croatian citizens living in Germany and last year a record number of German tourists visited Croatia. For me that is an example of the Europe that we live for and that we feel like neighbours," he concluded.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Croatia Hoping German Tourists Will Not Abandon It

ZAGREB, March 4, 2019 - Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli and the director of the Croatian Tourism Board (HTZ) Kristjan Staničić have said before departing to Berlin for the ITB travel trade show that they expect a similar number of German tourists this year, that is about three million, as in 2018.

The ITB Berlin, which takes place in the German capital from 6 to 10 March, brings together over 10,000 exhibitors from 190 countries, including Croatia.

The HTZ stand comprises 23 exhibitors – companies and local HTZ offices – and Staničić has said that the tourist statistical data in the first two months give rise to optimism.

Thus, in January and February, the e-visitor system registered 485,000 tourist arrivals in Croatia, which was 9% more compared to the corresponding period in 2018. The overnight stays rose 4% to 1.3 million.

Although at the global level a rise in the tourist industry is expected, some of the regions have more cautious forecasts ahead of the ITB Berlin show than in the past few years.

Such caution has been prompted by deceleration in bookings for the summer season, notably in Mediterranean destinations.

For instance, Spain and Portugal have experienced a decline in bookings, whereas in Croatia a slowed down rate of bookings has been noticed.

In this context, Minister Cappelli has called for patience. "I know that there is some nervousness due to deceleration in bookings on foreign markets. However, we should be patient and be recognisable on markets by quality without lowering prices," he said.

Deceleration in bookings is also due to the fact that there are now more capacities on the market than two or three years ago when migrants and political crises were in Turkey, Greece, Egypt and other north African countries, which are now more stable and tourists have now more options to choose, the minister says. He also believes that last-minute booking will be more pronounced this year.

More news on the Croatian tourism can be found in the Travel section.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

President Meets with Croatian Diaspora in Berlin

ZAGREB, February 20, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović concluded her two-day visit to Germany on Tuesday by meeting with representatives of the Croatian diaspora in the country, noting an important role of Croatian citizens in the German economic success.

"I take immense pride in what you do in Germany and in your contribution to Germany being among the strongest countries in world," Grabar-Kitarović said at the meeting in the Croatian Embassy in Berlin.

She said that meetings with Croatian emigrants were important to her because for the most part of her career she had dealt with the issue of Croatian emigrant communities.

"I understand your problems and will do all I can to have the obstacles to your return to Croatia removed," the president said, expressing hope that Croatian citizens would return to their homeland in large numbers.

Grabar-Kitarović said that her two-day visit was successful. On Monday evening she addressed an annual reception given by the German Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, and on Tuesday morning she opened a German-Croatian business forum. Later in the day she met with the parliamentary group Northern Adriatic and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble.

More news on the diaspora can be found in the dedicated section.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Croatian President Invites German Business People to Invest in Croatia

ZAGREB, February 18, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in Berlin on Monday at an annual event organised by small and medium-sized businesses that she wanted to encourage German entrepreneurs to intensify their investments in Croatia.

"Economic cooperation with Germany is very important to Croatia, as Germany is Croatia's fourth most important investment partner," Grabar-Kitarović said at the conference of the German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses in the capital city. She underscored that Croatia's export to Germany had been growing following Croatia's EU entry.

Grabar-Kitarović said Croatia's priorities were entering the euro area and the Schengen zone, as well as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), thanking Germany for supporting Croatia's aspirations.

Grabar-Kitarović stressed that the next objective was to increase the annual economic growth rate to 5%.

She also said Croatia was strongly against the policy of protectionism and was completely sided with Germany on that issue.

The Croatian president also spoke about the construction of an LNG terminal in Croatia, saying it would contribute to the energy efficiency of the EU and its neighbours.

At the end of her speech, Grabar-Kitarović expressed hope her two-day visit to Germany and the announced visit of Germany President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Croatia would contribute to the development of the two countries economic ties.

Addressing the press before the start of the conference, Grabar-Kitarović highlighted the objections which German investors doing business in Croatia have. "I think that red tape is the biggest problem," Grabar-Kitarović said, and also mentioned the changeability of the laws and a slow judiciary. "We change our laws and administrative rules too often," she warned.

"Corruption is not such a big problem as is the slowness of the judiciary. We must make judicial proceedings faster," the president added.

She is also due to meet representatives of the Croatian expat community in Berlin and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Will Recession in Italy and Problems in Germany Spread to Croatia?

Italy has sunk into a recession, which has been confirmed by the latest statistics on the economic trends of Croatia’s largest export partner. In the last three months of 2018, the economy sank 0.2 percent, while the quarter earlier it dropped 0.1 percent over the same period of 2017. Although it might seem to be a mild recession, the Italian government expects the deepening of the crisis later this year. The recession in Italy will negatively affect Croatian exports and is undoubtedly a source of risk for Croatian economy that should not be ignored, reports Večernji List on February 3, 2019.

Italian economists say that the decline of the GDP was a consequence of a fall in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and industry, but that so far there is no indication of a reduction in consumption by citizens, which is crucial for Croatia. The latest figures from Italy in December even gave a hint that the economy might accelerate, but the decline in production and orders was too significant for the recession in Italy to be avoided.

From January to October 2018, Croatian entrepreneurs exported to Italy 12.9 billion kuna worth of goods, increasing the value of exports to the country by 10 percent. At the same time, Croatia imported 19.5 billion kuna worth of products, which was also an increase of 10 percent compared to the previous year.

The recession in Italy has not yet spilled over to Croatia, but if the Italian government's expectations come true, the orders could fall this year.

Another issue is that the German Ministry of Economy has revised its growth forecasts for 2019, from 1.8 percent to just 1 percent. That is the lowest growth rate of Germany in the last six years, but also a very conservative forecast inspired by the fear of the consequences of Brexit. For the time being, everything is stable in Germany, so the country has again recorded exceptionally low unemployment. What is essential for Croatia is that the Germans expect growth of imports as well as of the consumption of citizens, so it is possible that the slowdown in Germany could pass without significant consequences for Croatia.

Croatia’s exports to Germany grew by about 13 percent last year, but the trade balance is still unfavorable since Croatia exports just 12 billion kuna while at the same time importing 22.5 billion kuna worth of goods and services from Germany.

The trends in Germany and Italy should be a warning sign for Croatia, especially concerning public finance planning. Since the slowdown of growth is noticeable at a global level as well, this is the time for savings and cuts, and not for brisk spending, given that external and internal risks threaten to derail Croatia’s 2.8 percent growth plans for this year.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Marina Šunjerga).

More news on Croatia’s economy can be found in the Business section.

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