Tuesday, 16 March 2021

$480,000 Invested in Upgrade of Rijeka's Offshore Emergency Response Centre

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - The refurbished building housing Rijeka's Maritime Crisis Centre for Faster Response to Any Disaster off Croatia’s Coastline was officially opened on Tuesday.

The investment into the upgrade of this offshore emergency response centre in the biggest Croatian seaport totalled US$ 480,000, and the lion's share of the investment was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

During the ceremony, the state secretary of the Croatian Sea, Transport and Infrastructure ministry, Josip Bilaver, thanked the U.S. administration and military as well as the US Embassy in Zagreb for this donation in the amount of HRK 3.2 million.

The ministry has invested a million kuna, while the local county authorities provided 100,000 kuna for the project.

"The U.S.-Croatia partnership at sea is essential to the two countries’ NATO military cooperation and shared security. That is why the United States, through the U.S. Military’s European Command (EUCOM), provided assistance to the Croatian Ministry of Sea, Transportation and Infrastructure and the Rijeka Harbor Master’s office to advance training and emergency-response capabilities at sea," the embassy said on its website.

The U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Victoria Taylor, who today joined State Secretary Bilaver for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, expressed satisfaction with the completion of this project.

Over the last decade, the USA has set aside HRK 4.5 billion to support numerous civilian and military projects in Croatia, she said.

The Rijeka centre is described as a a renewed facility that will become "the central point for planning, training, and management in response to emergencies at sea, from supporting persons and vessels in need to addressing maritime accidents and oil pollution."

"The upgraded center will therefore play a critical role in maintaining the safety and environmental stewardship of Croatian coastal waters, ensuring quick action in response to a potential environmental disaster. Protection of the environment is a key priority for both Croatia and the United States, and joint capacity to mitigate against incidents and accidents at sea can make all the difference in a crisis."

The embassy recalls that "Rijeka is already a hub for U.S.-Croatia cooperation, with the port city benefiting economically from nearly 900 million kuna in contracted services by the U.S. Navy for ship maintenance and support since 2011."

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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Sibenik Factory Succeeds in Placement of Products on US Market

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes on the 25th of November, 2020, with full production being successful in the fourth quarter of 2020 in its own factories in three locations - in Slovenska Bistrica, its Sibenik factory and the one in Seval in Serbia, the Slovenian aluminium company Impol Group is looking forward to 2021 with moderate optimism.

As has since been found out, euros of total annual revenue thanks to new orders as the market is clearly waking up. This means the Sibenik factory, along with others in other locations will hold firm with the same business framework with a characteristic fundamental determinant according to which the EU will remain their primary market.

At the same time, however, the above was supplemented by a plan to maintain a share of exports achieved by a breakthrough in the new major world market where, under the latter in difficult economic circumstances due to the coronavirus crisis, they succeeded in an almost impossible mission. The company ensured the successful placement of their products on the highly demanding and competitive US market, where a fifth of their aluminium production from right here in Croatia is currently ending up, from the established four shifts being worked by their Sibenik factory. This is also the reason why that same Sibenik factory, in anticipation of the forthcoming investments of the owners, is working at full capacity.

Increased demand in Croatia

Despite interventions in the US customs policy towards aluminium products originating from certain parts of the world through sanctions, which caused issues for as many as 18 countries, including some exporting member states of the European Union, with European countermeasures put up in response, an economic war struck the world of metals - yet it didn't hit Croatia.

Croatia, with a customs duty of slightly more than 3 percent placed on products placed across the pond, which is similar to the policy of Slovenia, did well in this respect. Five hundred employees of Impol - TLM in the Sibenik factory can link a good part of the company's production activities to exports to no less than the US market.

Customers are large suppliers who buy to order for several important industries - predominantly for the needs of these products of the processing and packaging industry and for transport and trade.

Tomaz Smolar who is currently on Impol's supervisory board emphasised a new set of circumstances in Croatia, and says that "the Croatian food packaging market has compensated very well in the face of all the obstacles of the coronavirus crisis and succeeded in investing in additional capacities as well as in increasing the total demand for aluminum foils in 2020,''

The Impol Group, which employs about 2,350 people - is the sixth company in neighbouring Slovenia in this category, and the sixth largest exporter from that country. It has been receiving new orders since back in September, when the market woke up.

"Our success is due to several factors, the key ones being the positive impact of subsidies in the EU that boosted production and allowed activities to continue, while another big motive is to re-establish business cooperation with America. In general, this year is expected to end with about 15 percent lower total revenue due to falling orders in the second and third quarters and the temporary closure of the US market due to dumping on some EU member states,'' explained Smolar.

The strategy until 2025

The backbone of this company's development strategy was presented with the aim that by 2025, their turnover will amount to an enormous one billion euros. To achieve this extremely high end goal, this would mean significantly faster growth than the average 3 percent growth per year. The company would instead use levers such as specific sub-goals like going from 250,000 tonnes to 400,000 tonnes per year and developing a new product programme to the point where part of the retailer’s customers are replaced by end customers.

Combined with the expansion of the entire scope of business, this would mean a higher degree of processing and completion, which brings a higher degree of added value and better product competitiveness to Impol, and as such to their Sibenik factory.

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Saturday, 14 November 2020

Croatian Company Serengeti Secures Job in Heart of Global IT Industry

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 13th of November, 2020, although the phrase "every crisis is an opportunity" sometimes sounds a bit odd when it comes to recognising the Croatian company Serengeti's Team Extension work model, the ongoing coronavirus crisis has really prompted many companies to recognise this model as an ideal business model.

In the first 10 months of this year alone, the Croatian company Serengeti, which deals with IT, successfully concluded 8 contracts with new clients, which is a step up from 2019, long before the pandemic hit. What is particularly gratifying is that Serengeti was able to sign a contract in early November 2020 with a client from California, which is the very heart of the global IT industry.

"This is a very valuable and large project that affects this industry on a global level. Given this, as expected, it's a very demanding project in the technological sense, it also means long-term cooperation. It's an e-commerce platform that deals with health services, which also includes integrated counselling of those interested in making the best choice for their healthcare. This includes the following functionalities related to B2C and back office: lead generation, connection to the contact centre, the content management of the portal, billing, as well as analytics and reporting,'' revealed Goran Kalanj, the CEO of the Croatian company Serengeti.

Although this isn't their first client from American soil, this contract is special because of the size and seriousness of the project they will be working on. Serengeti is known as an IT company that since its inception has been working on large enterprise projects and for companies that are leaders in their industries, whose products are used by millions of users around the world.

"For our model of work, this crisis has brought about one good thing, and that's that companies that were previously skeptical about remote working have now realised that this is a serious business model that has more advantages than it has disadvantages. This opened up an additional opportunity that we didn't want to miss out on,'' added Kalanj.

By the further expansion of Serengeti into the promising American market, their developers have the ability to work on global projects. The Croatian company Serengeti is otherwise continuously hiring new employees, and plans to hire new developers to work on various pieces of technology by the end of this year. This year, they launched two new development centres in Serbia and Kenya. In 2021, in addition to their offices in Zagreb, Varazdin and Bjelovar, they plan to open offices in Split and Rijeka.

The Croatian company Serengeti builds its expertise primarily in industrial production, finances, energy logistics and retail. They have helped many clients implement an agile way of working as well as advanced DevOps methodologies, automated testing, and advanced SCRUM practices. It's worth recalling that they also recently announced that they have started a collaboration with the American company Tricentis, a world leader in automated software testing, which is one in a series of very large projects.

On top of their business success, the Croatian company Serengeti is also distinguished by their enviable so-called ''work-life balance'' and nurturing the same core values; teamwork, agility, ambition and professionalism.

Additionally, work is continuing on improving the soft skills of developers to better fit into the client culture that is mapped to a particular project. Like many other companies, they have a variety of benefits, rewards and bonuses for their employees. However, the biggest reward is the customer satisfaction with their developers who regularly receive words of praise and very high ratings in periodic questionnaires as well as on external platforms like Clutch.

The Croatian IT scene has been recording significant successes lately, which is only confirmed by Serengeti, which, in addition to a significant number of new large projects, recently became a co-owner of the RedAI application, which uses artificial intelligence technology to analyse the situation on shelves in just a few seconds. Systematic business improvement at all levels and nurturing company values ​​are what have enabled the Serengeti to grow rapidly and work with companies that are true leaders in their respective fields.

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Saturday, 10 October 2020

Croatia, USA Start Talks on Avoidance of Double Taxation

ZAGREB, October 10, 2020 - Croatia-US talks on an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation have started and Croatian exporters, notably those from the IT sector, are looking forward to them as the new measures will help them save up to 30% of their earnings, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce said on Saturday.

Dividends for tax non-residents are taxed at a rate of 30%, which causes significant problems for Croatian companies and makes them uncompetitive.

The lack of an agreement on double taxation avoidance makes business operations less transparent, and the very fact that Croatia is the only EU and NATO member that does not have such an agreement with the USA puts Croatian businesses at a disadvantage compared to businesses from other EU countries, the HGK says.

The head of the HGK group for the gaming industry and Pandora Studio company director, Andrej Levenski, said that all the more important platforms, from Steam, Google Play and Apple Store to Origin, are US companies, which means that they charge a 30% fee for commercial services.

He noted that the cancellation of double taxation would help Croatian gaming businesses save US $15-30 dollars per $100 of sales.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Croatia One Step Away from US Visa Waiver

ZAGREB, September 7, 2020 - Visas for the US, if another 2,000 are issued this month, will become history, Vecernji List daily said on Monday, adding that Croatia was a step away from US visas being waived.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry has asked civil servants and people in the banking and business sectors to apply for US visas and they will almost certainly be approved, which will help the rejection rate to drop below 3% by the end of this month, which is the last requirement Croatia must meet, the paper said.

Croatia was a step away from meeting that requirement before the coronavirus pandemic stopped travel and reduced the number of visa applications to a minimum. The ministry's call is a way to make up for that.

There is little time as Americans wrap up the fiscal year during which they take the rejection rate into account on September 30.

If Croatia makes that date, visas will be waived next year, but if it misses it, now, when we are a step away from achieving the goal it has been waiting for since declaring independence, it will enter a new fiscal year and the counting of rejections will begin again.

In order to achieve that goal which now seems very likely, it was necessary to have good political relations and meet technical standards, including technical equipment, functioning border services, security data processing and sharing, and passports which meet the highest standards, the Vecernji List said.

 

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Wednesday, 25 March 2020

U.S. Ambassador Donates His March Salary for Earthquake Relief

ZAGREB, March 25, 2020 - U.S. Ambassador in Zagreb Robert Kohorst on Wednesday said on his Twitter profile that he would follow the Prime Minister's example and donate his March salary for Zagreb's earthquake relief.

"Given the challenge Croatia is facing, I will follow PM Andrej Plenković and the Croatian Government and donate my March salary to help those affected by COVID-19 and the Zagreb Earthquake," Kohorst tweeted.

"This is the least we can do, considering how Croatia welcomed us to your country," Kohorst underlined and added #WeStandTogether.

Two strong quakes struck Zagreb on Sunday morning, the first measures 5.5 on Richter scale and the second was 5.0. They were followed by several tremors. A 15-year-old girl was killed in the quake.

Prime Minister Plenković on Tuesday said that he and his government would donate their March salaries for earthquake relief. Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said he would donate his salary too and called on lawmakers to do the same.

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

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Croatia Exempt from Trump's Ban on Travel from Europe to U.S.

ZAGREB, March 12 (Hina) - Croatia has been exempted from the decision by US President Donald Trump on introducing a ban on most travel from Europe due to not being a Schengen Area member state.

The ban takes effect on Friday at midnight, it will last for 30 days and will affect the 26 countries of the passport-free Schengen Area in Europe.

In those states there have been most confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection outside mainland China.

By March 11 there were 17,442 cases of infection and 711 cases of death, and the diseases was exported to 53 states.

The free movement of people among member states of the Schengen area impedes efforts to curb the spread of the virus, Trump said in the decision posted on the White House's website.

Among those countries there is no border control, which makes it easier for the COVID-19 to spread. Croatia, which is not a member of the area, so far has 19 positive cases and no victims of that infectious disease.

It is recommended that Americans planning travel to Croatia should not go if they are ill, should wash their hands more often and should take additional effort to monitor their health 14 days after returning to the US, the instructions by the White House state.

America's well-being always comes first, Trump said in a address from the Oval Office.

In addition to Croatia, countries exempted from Trump's ban are the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania.

The ban concerns anyone who has been to the Schengen Area 14 days before planning to enter the US.

American citizens, as well as holders of some visas and people with family ties to American citizens or to those permanently resident in the US, are exempt from the ban.

Trump made the decision after the US had begun to feel negative effects of the pandemic, ranging from disruptions in the financial market to sport events being cancelled and schools being closed.

On Wednesday the number of deaths from the coronavirus in the USA reached 37, 29 of which were in the US state of Washington in the Northwest of the US, while the number of cases of the infection exceeded 1,300, data by John Hopkins University show.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section

Saturday, 25 January 2020

U.S. Official Warns Croatia to Be Careful When Choosing 5G Network Equipment

ZAGREB, January 25, 2020 - The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cyber and Communications, Robert Strayer, said in Zagreb on Friday that the Croatian government and the private sector should take care when choosing the providers of equipment for the development of 5G network and services.

Advising Zagreb to be careful when selecting providers, he explained that this was important so that the country could protect itself against cyber-attacks and data insecurity in a timely fashion.

During his short stay in Zagreb, the US official held talks with representatives of local regulators, after which he held a news conference at which he said that during the procurement of equipment for the development of mobile networks and data security, one should take heed of potential future security risks.

Strayer says that Washington continues urging other countries to stick to clear criteria about the country of origin of software and hardware providers and in this context, he pointed out the criterion of the rule of law. This is necessary so as to avoid situations in which a government requests certain data from providers but they decline to provide them, he said.

Strayer criticised China for insufficient protection of both data and users of equipment made in that Asian country.

With the advent of the 5G network, which will offer plenty of useful public services, the security aspect is becoming more and more important, not only for governments and operators but also for all people, Strayer said.

According to him, Croatia and the USA share close views on a number of topics, including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, development of web services, digital technology and so on.

The USA finds cybersecurity to be one of the most important topics in the present-day world and Strayer visited Zagreb to become acquainted with the steps Croatia was taking in that regard.

When it comes to the development of the 5G network, companies such as Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson have great opportunities and the Zagreb-headquartered Ericsson Nikola Tesla certainly has a role in that, and all of them are producers of terminal and other equipment for mobile and fixed networks outside China, said the U.S. official.

The USA wants to cooperate with the European Union and European countries in the provision of equipment, including providers and telecom companies, with the aim of improving the security of data and networks, said Strayer.

He conveyed his country's concern over the use of technology made in China, mentioning Huawei and its products in EU member-states but also praised the EU and its member-countries for discussing the issue extensively and being able to control the supply.

More IT news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

EU Believes All EU Citizens Should Be Exempt from USA Visa Regime

ZAGREB, January 22, 2020 - The European Union is absolutely unanimous in the stance that citizens of all member states have to be exempted from the visa regime for entry into the United States, Croatia's Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Brussels on Tuesday.

Božinović presented a report to the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on a Joint EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting that took place on 11 December 2019.

The European Union was represented at the meeting by Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson of the then EU chair Finland, while Minister of the Interior Božinović and Minister of Justice Dražen Bošnjaković attended the meeting on behalf of the then incoming Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU.

EU-USA ministerial meetings in the fields of justice and home affairs are held twice a year and focus on transatlantic cooperation and common security threats.

After a debate at the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Božinović addressed the press and said that the EU was unanimous in its stance that citizens of all member states should be treated equally with regard to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. US citizens are permitted to travel to all EU member states without a visa while Croatian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Cypriot citizens are still required to apply for a visa to enter the USA.

"It was evident at the meeting in Washington and during the committee's debate today that the EU is unanimous with regard to visa free travel for citizens of all member states," Božinović said.

He said that the committee meeting was dominated by the issue of transatlantic cooperation regarding high technology, particularly with regard to cross-border access to electronic evidence and warrant-proof encryption at an international level.

"It is necessary to find a balance between protection of fundamental civil rights and enabling police and judicial authorities to exchange data as quickly as possible because without that, we cannot fight crime effectively," Božinović said.

Asked to comment on criticism expressed by some members of the European Parliament last week concerning the conduct of Croatia's police toward migrants, Božinović reiterated that Croatia would not allow illegal entries into its territory.

"Our position is clear. We will not allow illegal entry into Croatian territory and that has nothing to do with the right to international protection. We are open when it comes to anyone who is in need, however, Europe and the world have to find a response to the question of how to treat migrants who are seeking a better life and refugees," said Božinović.

Božinović added that reports indicate that a growing number of people are using the right to seek asylum so they can physically enter the EU and then seek a place for a better life there. "I can understand that when it comes to individuals, however, the state has to protect its interests, which includes protecting the national border," concluded Božinović.

More news about relations with the USA can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

“Croatia Strongly Heading Towards Entering US Visa Waiver Programme”

ZAGREB, December 14, 2019 - Croatia is making strong progress in meeting all the criteria for the US Visa Waiver Programme, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović, who is on a visit to Washington this week, said on Friday.

The minister said Croatia had managed to reduce the number of declined visa requests from 5.9 percent to 4.02 percent.

Under the US law, the percentage of declined visa requests exceeding three percent makes it impossible for a country to be admitted to the USA's Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Once this percentage goes below that threshold, talks about cancelling visa requirements can be launched.

Božinović stressed Croatia had been systematically dealing with this issue for nearly two years.

He underlined that Croatia would soon sign the Air Marshalls Agreement with the United States, given that earlier this year a direct flight between Dubrovnik and Philadelphia was launched.

Božinović said that also important for waiving US visas for Croatian citizens were agreements that Croatian Justice Minister Drazen Bošnjaković and US Attorney General William Barr signed on Tuesday whereby Croatia and the US regulate mutual legal assistance and extraditions.

Bošnjaković also visited the FBI academy in Quantico and the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Office of Training.

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

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