Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Italian Il Giornale Defends Croatia: Is It Really A Time Bomb, Or Did Someone Exaggerate?

August 18, 2020 - Italian newspaper Il Giornale published an article stating that Croatia has found itself under the magnifying glass of Europe after the increase in the number of new coronavirus infections, although Croatian figures are significantly below the number of new cases in Italy.

T.portal reports that the Italian newspaper claims the most probable cause of the deteriorating health situation in Italy is the return of those who decided to spend a few relaxing days on the Adriatic.

"But what are the real numbers in Croatia? First of all, we must emphasize that the number of new daily infections is significantly below the values recorded in Italy. On Sunday, Croatia had 151 new infections, while in Italy, there were 479, or more than double. This gives rise to debate: Are Croats really a time bomb, or has someone exaggerated? The real answer could be the latter. And for a straightforward reason. Infections in Europe have risen almost everywhere. Croatia did not have to fight with significantly higher numbers, as is the case with Spain or France. But it still ended in the middle of a storm," writes Il Giornale.

On August 15, as reported by the Adnkronos agency, Croatia recorded 162 new cases of infection and two deaths. Admittedly, the current numbers are worse than in February, during the first wave. But on the other hand, it is a reduction in numbers given that there were 208 infections on August 14 and 180 on Thursday. The peak of the first wave, discovered on April 1, stopped at a maximum of 96 newly infected in one day.

Minister of Health Vili Beros was very clear in explaining the situation to RTL: "We consciously accepted the risk and decided to continue our life with tourism. Without tourism, one of the key sectors for Croatia, things would be worse for us."

President Zoran Milanovic is of the same opinion. In order not to lose control of the situation, a decision was made that bars, restaurants and nightclubs must close at midnight.

The number of confirmed cases since the beginning of the epidemic has exceeded the threshold of 6,500 people, while the number of deaths is a total of 166. There are 1,062 active cases, while for comparison, in Italy, there are 14,404. This shows that it makes no sense to consider Croatia a dangerous destination. 820,000 foreign guests are indeed in Croatia, and the movement of these tourists may spread the infection from one country to another. But figures show that the risk is not higher than in other locations.

Infections of returnees from holidays or from abroad can be a cause for concern. Several young people who returned home from Croatia transmitted the coronavirus to relatives and friends, creating real hotspots. This was also the reason for the alarm and the decision of the Italian government to introduce measures for the return of tourists from Spain, Greece and Croatia.

"But what is indisputable is that we need to emphasize the attitude of some of the tourists, both in Croatia and in other countries. Several young Italian men said that only a few wear masks in clubs in Croatia. Some of them, as in the case of young people with whom Tg1 spoke on Pag, show that they significantly reduce the real danger of coronavirus. In any case, it would be good to silence the alarm towards Croatia," they concluded.

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Sunday, 19 April 2020

28 Croatians Repatriated from Italy

ZAGREB, April 19, 2020 - Twenty eight Croatians and 10 citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who got stuck in Italy as a result of COVID-19 quarantine, arrived in Croatia by bus on Saturday evening, the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated.

Those citizens were in three Italian regions: Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto.

The Croatian ministry in coordination with the Croatian embassy in Rome and the consulate general in Trieste organised this repatriation with the assistance of the Italian state authorities and the local authorities in those north-eastern regions.

Most of those repatriated citizens were quarantined in Italy in the recent period and their movement was restricted after Italy imposed stringent lockdown measures to curb the coronavirus infection.

Recently, the Croatian ministry has organised repatriation flights from several European capital cities and some of the Croatians who got stuck in Italy and Austria were taken back by bus and by ferry.

The ministry says in the press release that it will continue repatriating Croatian nationals who are stranded abroad due to COVID-19.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

New Consul: Italy Gives Biggest Support to Croatia's Schengen Membership Bid

ZAGREB, February 26, 2020 - The new Italian Consul-General in Rijeka, Davide Bradanini, said on Tuesday that the two countries have had extremely good relations for years and that Italy provides Croatia with the greatest support for its efforts to join the passport-free Schengen Area.

During his visit to the Istrian city of Pula, the consul said that the two countries had developed good relations and cooperation in the economic, political, cultural and tourism sectors.

"So far, a lot has been done in those sectors, and I would like to deepen our shared interests and cooperation in all fields," said Bradanini.

He praised Pula and Istria for the rights and entitlements enjoyed by the local Italian community.

"I am aware of the fact that the Italian minority here is a great asset," Bradanini said.

The acting Istria County prefect Fabrizio Radin said that although Croatia is part of the European Union, the current border system is still a barrier, underlining the importance of Croatia's admission to the Schengen Area.

Pula Mayor Boris Miletić said he is proud of the city's statute which guarantees rights to all ethnic minorities in Istria's largest city.

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Plenković Attends CEI’s 30th Anniversary in Rome

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - The Central European Initiative (CEI), established at the time of the fall of the Iron Curtain, marked its 30th anniversary in Rome on Thursday, in the presence of six prime ministers, including Andrej Plenković of Croatia, and sent out a strong message of support for further EU enlargement.

The CEI was launched in Budapest in 1989 with the idea of helping countries of Central and Eastern Europe join the EU.

"The foreign ministers of the four countries realised what was happening and seized the opportunity" to launch the initiative, at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, said Giuseppe Conte, the Prime Minister of Italy which has chaired the CEI this year. Croatia chaired the initiative in 2018.

The first four CEI members were Italy, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

Even though in the meantime Austria has left the initiative, it has expanded over the years and now has 17 members - apart from the former Yugoslav republics, it also includes Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.

"The father of the initiative, Italian Minister Gianni De Michelis, realised early that divisions on the old continent were disappearing," Conte said, stressing that thanks to De Michelis' vision Italy had focused on dialogue and integration, which it did today as well.

This is evidenced by Italy's commitment to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and to maintaining close relations with Eastern Europe, the Italian PM said, adding that Italy would be the chief advocate of EU enlargement until it happens.

That goal drifted further away in October, when France, Denmark and the Netherlands opposed the launching of membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia, the country which agreed to change its name for the sake of its Euro-Atlantic integration.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in Rome that despite that Tirana would continue the reform process and that Europe would decide when it felt ready.

He also said that one should be frank and admit that French President Emmanuel Macron, the most prominent opponent of enlargement, was right to claim that the EU should start functioning better before further enlargement.

This is not about the Balkan countries but about Brussels, Rama said.

However, opponents of that view stress that launching membership talks does not mean a speedy accession to the EU, and PM Plenković recalled in Rome that closed policy chapters could be reopened if they turned out to contain something contentious.

The issue of enlargement will gain new impetus with Croatia's EU presidency in the first half of 2020. Zagreb has said that this is one of its main goals and in May a summit meeting will be held between EU and Western Balkan countries in the Croatian capital in an effort to step up the accession process.

Pleković said that the Zagreb summit would send out a message that such systematic dialogues should be held every two years. The last summit in Zagreb, focusing on the same topic, was held in 2000. It was followed by the Thessaloniki summit in 2003, after which there was a 15-year break, followed by the Sofia summit in 2018.

The Zagreb summit will discuss ways to make the accession methodology "simpler, clearer and more encouraging", the purpose being to open talks with North Macedonia and Albania before the summit, said Plenković.

Also attending the CEI meeting in Rome was new European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi of Hungary, a country that also strongly advocates the accession of Western Balkan countries to the EU.

Serbian PM Ana Brnabic, Montenegrin PM Duško Marković, Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev and Moldovan PM Ion Chicu also arrived in Rome for the meeting.

Addressing the closed-door session of the CEI, Plenković also spoke about Croatia's EU presidency during which Zagreb will also focus on Brexit, the new European budget, a conference on the future of Europe, the European Green Deal and the digital agenda.

Next year CEI chairmanship will be taken over by Montenegro.

More news about Croatia’s foreign policy can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Conte and Plenković: Italy and Croatia Have Very Strong Relations

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with prime minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte in Rome on Wednesday, saying that they were working together in the European Council on accelerating the European Union enlargement process.

"We have very strong relations" which are further intensifying, Conte told a press conference in Chigi Palace where he received Plenković on the first day of his two-day official visit to Italy.

The Italian leader said that trade between the two countries had exceeded 5 billion euro last year and that this "very positive trend" was also present this year.

Italy is Croatia's second strongest trading partner, after Germany. In the year to September, Croatia exported 1.5 billion euro worth of goods and services to Italy, an increase of 2.6% compared with the same period in 2018. At the same time Italian exports to Croatia reached 2.7 billion euro, up 14.6%.

Italy is also the fourth largest investor in Croatia and the fourth in terms of the number of tourists visiting the country.

The two prime ministers discussed the Croatian presidency of the European Union in the first half of next year.

"This has been a conversation between two friends, two prime ministers who understand each other very well. We will be working together in the year ahead, which is very important both for Europe and for Croatia," Plenković said.

Plenković expressed hope that during the Croatian presidency an orderly exit of the United Kingdom from the EU would be finalised and a consensus would be reached on a new multiannual EU budget.

The two prime ministers were agreed on the need to speed up EU enlargement, after France, Denmark and the Netherlands were opposed to opening membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia in October.

Plenković and Conte want this to happen during the Croatian presidency.

"We are trying to win over the countries that had their reservations before Croatia hosts the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb" in May, Plenković said. He added that he wants such dialogue "to become systematic" and to take place every two years "to define a realistic path towards the EU in the next decade."

Conte noted that the Croatian presidency coincided with the Conference on the Future of the EU, saying that Italy's priorities were to bring the European alliance closer to people, strengthen institutions and simplify EU governance.

The conference should start in 2020 and last for two years. Dubravka Šuica, Commission Vice-President in charge of democracy and demography, will be in charge of the conference. "Now is the time to inject new strength and enthusiasm into the Union," Plenković said.

Conte and Plenković said that the Italian minority in Croatia and the Croatian minority in Italy also contributed to the good relations between the two countries. Plenković expressed satisfaction that the Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Furio Radin, who represents the Italian minority in the Croatian legislature, was also in Rome.

The meeting took place a day before the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the Central European Initiative (CEI), a 17-member organisation whose mission has been to help the countries in the region to join the EU.

Croatia has chaired the organisation over the past year and its chairmanship will now be assumed by Italy and subsequently by Montenegro. The members are: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

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

Friday, 13 September 2019

Croatia Condemns Provocation in Rijeka and D'Annunizo Monument

ZAGREB, September 13, 2019 - After a historical flag of the Kingdom of Italy was displayed in the northern Croatian Adriatic city of Rijeka and a monument to Italian protofascist Gabriele D'Annunzio was unveiled in Trieste to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the occupation of Rijeka by his followers, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Zagreb on Thursday that Croatia would not tolerate such provocations and the government would not allow violations of the country's legal order and dignity.

"We have presented a protest note and Minister (of Foreign and European Affairs) Gordan Grlić Radman was quite clear in his press interview. We condemned the decision by the local authorities, regardless of the fact that the Italian government has distanced itself from it, as well as a series of provocations that happened in Rijeka today. We don't tolerate provocations ... and we don't allow anyone to violate our country's legal order and undermine its dignity," Plenković told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony marking 29 years since the establishment of the youth organisation of his HDZ party.

Reporters recalled recent provocations by the former European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, who said "Long live Italian Istria and Dalmatia" at a remembrance day ceremony near Trieste.

"That's not the same. This was orchestrated specifically for the 100th anniversary. We immediately condemned it and presented a formal note. As I understood the response from the Italian side, it has nothing to do with their government policy," Plenković said.

Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Thursday said that he most sharply condemns a decision by the City of Trieste to erect a monument to fascism originator Gabriele D'Annunzio, which the ministry expressed in a diplomatic protest note, and added that anyone who promotes "ideologies that were defeated has no place in this kind of EU."

Trieste today unveiled the monument to D'Annunzio, who on 12 September 1919 proclaimed Rijeka as an independent state called the Italian Regency of Carnaro. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs sent a diplomatic note in reaction.

"We most sharply condemned that act. The Italian Ambassador came too and in a way apologised," Grlić Radman said in an interview with the Media Servis online news portal.

On Thursday morning, a historical flag of the Kingdom of Italy was displayed on the fence of the Governor's Palace in the northern Croatian Adriatic city of Rijeka and Grlić Radman commended the police for their quick response.

"The Croatian police reacted promptly to the displaying of the flag of the Kingdom of Italy, the flag of the occupier, and arrested the perpetrators."

Grlić Radman said that this is not an example of Italy's state policy and that he considers Italy to be "one of the most important members of the EU," but rather a decision by local authorities in Trieste. He recalled that Croatia considers D'Annunzio an occupier.

"Those are ideologies that were defeated and that introduced the horrors of the Second World War. Anyone who supports such an ideology has no place in this kind of European Union," Grlić Radman said.

Asked about a comment from Serbia that a terrifying revision of history was occurring in Croatia, Grlić Radman said that he did not "know whether to laugh or pay any importance to that."

"The surprising thing is that Serbia doesn't understand the geo-political context," he added.

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

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Istria County Assembly Chairman Honoured for Promoting Croatia-Italy Ties

ZAGREB, September 4, 2019 - The chairman of the Istria County Assembly, Valter Drandić, has been awarded a medal for promoting friendship and cooperation between Croatia and Italy.

Drandić was presented with the Ordine della Stella d'Italia (Order of the Star of Italy), with the title of Ufficiale (Officer), by the Rijeka-based Italian Consul-General Paolo Palmintieri at a ceremony in the Istria County capital of Pazin on Tuesday. The Order is conferred by the President of Italy.

Drandić said that this honour was a recognition of his work on connecting people in the two countries. He added that although some of the projects had failed, he was ultimately pleased with the results of cooperation.

Speaking of relations between Croatia and Italy, Drandić cited Croatia's bid to join the Schengen area, the connection of the two countries by a motorway and the modernisation of the railway as the most important projects in Istria that would better connect the people and economies of the two countries.

Palmintieri thanked Drandić for his tireless work on promoting ties between the two countries, noting that Drandić had promoted the twinning of several Istrian towns, such as Buzet, Vodnjan, Svetvinčenat and Cerovalje, with Italian regions in the last few years.

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

Friday, 5 July 2019

Italy's Emilia-Romagna Region an Example for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem

ZAGREB, July 5, 2019 - Investments in research, innovation and human resources are the key to Slavonia's development which requires the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders, it was heard at a conference on the development experience of the region of Emilia-Romagna and its complementarity with the regions of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem, held by the World Bank office in Croatia in Zagreb on Friday.

The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds in July last year signed a three-year agreement with the World Bank on technical assistance in increasing growth and employment by implementing the Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem project. As part of the agreement, the World Bank has established cooperation with Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, focusing on the transfer of development experience to help in the economic development of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

Emilia-Romagna is the seat of several global companies like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati and the Barilla food company. In the period between 2014 and 2020, it will absorb 1.15 billion euro in EU funds and it has defined its regional strategy by a business pact signed by the main stakeholders in the region.

Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac said that Emilia-Romagna had achieved impressive results with regard to industry and human resources, which were important for Slavonia's future development.

She said that cooperation with that region would certainly continue and that representatives of local government, development agencies and the private sector would visit that Italian region to see which of the examples of good practice there could be implemented in the regions of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

As regards cooperation with the World Bank on the Slavonia project, Žalac said that to date five vertical sectors had been identified - the wood industry, food production, information-communication technology, the metal-processing industry and tourism.

She said that project proposals were being prepared for EU funding in the current financial perspective and that five horizontal project proposals were being prepared with the World Bank concerning innovations, attracting foreign investment and human resources.

"It is up to us to start preparing already now bigger strategic projects for the next financial period, projects that can create value chains in the economy and change trends in Slavonia for the better," she added.

Asked whether some desirable models had already been identified in the Italian region, Žalac highlighted smart specialisation, specifically in the car industry, which, she said, was applicable not only to Slavonia but to any Croatian region.

"As regards the car industry, we have already compared what they are doing with what is developing at an incredible pace at Rimac Automobili and what will certainly be in the vanguard of future development," she underscored.

Žalac also singled out the bio-economy sector for the Croatian Pannonian region, noting that big projects in that sector were being prepared to apply for EU funding.

She said that more should be invested in research, development and innovation and that that could be achieved through EU funds.

The councillor for the coordination of European policies on development, education, vocational training, university, research and work for the Emilia-Romagna region, Patrizio Bianchi, recommended investment in human competencies for the stronger development of Slavonia and Croatia in general, including further training, investment in agricultural research and opening up the economy.

World Bank Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia Elisabetta Capannelli assessed that changes had already occurred in Slavonia and that the WB was just a part of the solution.

The solution is primarily coming from the private sector and through good cooperation between the government and all relevant stakeholders in Slavonia and beyond. The World Bank can contribute with know-how, technical assistance, international experience as well as by encouraging cooperation, she said.

Capanelli said the key areas were agriculture, ICT, cooperation between universities, and innovation. She added that efforts were being made to improve the business environment and reform the education system at all levels and that all of that should contribute to the development of Croatia, including the region of Slavonia.

More Slavonia news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Croatia and Italy Announce Defence Cooperation

ZAGREB, June 19, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met with his Italian counterpart Elisabetta Trenta in Rome on Wednesday during the first official visit of a Croatian defence minister to Italy after 15 years, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Krstičević and Trenta expressed their satisfaction with increasing cooperation, which is mostly evident in traditional cooperation between the two countries' navies. Croatian and Italian naval forces are currently participating in the international military exercise Adrion 2019 Livex.

In order to further strengthen the bilateral defence cooperation, the two ministers announced that a new defence cooperation agreement would be signed soon.

As European Union members, Italy and Croatia are participating in four PESCO projects and in European firefighting forces. In 2017, Croatia provided two firefighting planes to help Italy in putting out fires in the Genoa region, and in 2018 and 2019 Croatian troops were attached to the Italian contingent as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The two ministers agreed that there was a lot of potential for advancing defence cooperation, especially in the defence industry.

"Croatia has a high-quality military industry and Italian soldiers have had a chance to see the exceptional quality and functionality of the Croatian helmet for themselves," Krstičević said.

The meeting also focused on the current security and political situation in Southeastern Europe, with Krstičević reaffirming Croatia's commitment to the EU and NATO's enlargement policy and readiness to provide further support to membership aspirants.

As part of the official visit, the Croatian delegation visited the Vatican and met with the Holy Father, and were also scheduled to visit the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome in Rome, according to the press release issued by the Mnistry.

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

Friday, 14 June 2019

Croatian Foreign Minister Visiting Italy and Malta

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić visited Italy on Thursday and met with her counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the ministry said in a press release, adding that the two officials confirmed the good relations between the two countries and underlined the desire to further strengthen bilateral relations.

The ministers exchanged opinions on numerous regional, European and global issues of common interest such as the results of the European Parliament elections, the EU's new institutional framework, enlargement, the multiannual financial framework, Brexit, the protection of the EU's external borders, and the crisis of multilateralism.

The two ministers underlined the importance of the cooperation between the two countries within the Central European Initiative, whose chairmanship Italy took over from Croatia at the start of the year.

They also discussed Croatia's chairmanship of the Council of the EU next year, extending support for the European journey of Southeast European countries. It was said that Croatia will organise a summit on that topic in Zagreb.

Minister Pejčinović Burić also met with the Italian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

Earlier in the day, Minister Pejčinović Burić was on an official visit to Malta, where she met with her counterpart Carmelo Abela on Thursday to talk about global and regional topics and of improving the already good bilateral relations, her ministry said in a press release.

Pejčinović Burić and Maltese Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Minister Abela underscored the very good relations between the two countries, with the desire to intensify them, particularly in trade, culture, tourism and protection of the sea, according to the press release.

The two foreign ministers exchanged opinions on current global and regional topics, and topics related to the European Union, on a comprehensive approach to migrations, security issues, the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe.

They pointed out the need to intensify dialogue and the exchange of good practice and stances as part of Croatia's preparations for its chairmanship of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

One of the priorities of Croatia's chairmanship will be the European journey of Southeast Europe, which Malta too considers important, and in that regard, Croatia will organise a summit of the EU and Southeast Europe dedicated to that topic, the press release said.

During her visit Pejčinović Burić met with members of Malta's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Pejčinović Burić is a candidate for that organisation's secretary-general, along with Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will decide on the next secretary-general by secret ballot in Strasbourg on June 25, who will then step into office on October 1.

More foreign policy news can be found in the Politics section.

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