Sunday, 8 May 2022

Božinović Comments on Case of Croatian National Taken Prisoner in Ukraine

ZAGREB, 8 May 2022 - It is difficult to say at this point when we could expect progress on the case of the Croatian national who has been taken prisoner by Russian forces in Ukraine, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Sunday.

"Croatia is doing and will continue to do all it can. The situation is difficult in that he was arrested by Russian forces. We have sought information through our diplomatic service and will continue following this case, seeking answers to the questions, first of all those asked by his family. That is our obligation under the constitution and law," Božinović told the press in Zagreb.

The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said on Saturday that a Croatian national had been taken prisoner in Ukraine and that it was dealing with the case in cooperation with Ukrainian authorities. Russian media said that "a Croatian mercenary" had been captured in Mariupol.

"Considering the circumstances, at this point I cannot predict when we could expect any progress," Božinović said.

He said that any Croatian nationals who may be fighting in that war are doing that at their own risk and that the Croatian government is not involved in it in any way.

Commenting on today's visit to Ukraine by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, Božinović said: "I think this visit is a strong gesture of statesmanship and a sign of support to Ukraine that has been going on since the first day of the Russian aggression."

The visit came nearly two and a half months after Russia launch a military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

"I don't think this visit by the Croatian prime minister differs in any way from visits made by several prime ministers a while ago, by the UN secretary general, the US secretaries of state and defence, and the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission," Božinović said, adding that the visit was organised in the same way as other such visits given the security situation in Ukraine.

He recalled that Croatia had sent various types of aid to Ukraine and pledged to send €5 million in aid at a donors' conference in Warsaw on Thursday, and that more than 17,000 Ukrainians have found refuge in Croatia.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Final Verdict of the ECHR: Croatia Responsible for Death of Madina Hosseini

April 5, 2022 - The European Court of Human Rights rejected Croatia's request to reconsider the case of the family of little Madina Hosseini, which confirmed the previous verdict and the responsibility of the Republic of Croatia for the tragedy arising from it. Interior Minister Davor Božinović says his resignation is ''not on the table'' following the ruling.

Tportal.hr reports that, in the tragic death of six-year-old Madina Hosseini, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last year found the Republic of Croatia responsible for numerous human rights violations under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: the right to life, the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment, the prohibition of the collective expulsion of aliens, the right to security and liberty and the right to institute legal proceedings. The Republic of Croatia requested a reconsideration of the case, but the court rejected the request on Monday. The Center for Peace Studies reported on its Facebook page, stating that the case of little Madina Hosseini is finally over.

''The Grand Council of the European Court of Human Rights rejected the request of the Republic of Croatia to reconsider the case of little Madina's family and thus reaffirmed the verdict that the Republic of Croatia violated Madina's right to life, treated children inhumanely, kept the whole family illegally, and part of the family was collectively expelled from Croatia, and after all that, they were denied access to lawyers'', Center for Peace Studies shared on their Facebook page.

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Madina Hosseini (Photo: Hosseini family)

The Office of the Croatian Representative before the European Court of Human Rights also informed that the verdict had been passed and that it had become final by rejecting the Croatian request.

''On April 4, 2022, a committee of five judges of the Grand Council of the European Court of Human Rights rejected the request of the Republic of Croatia to submit the case of MH to the Grand Council. Thus, the judgment of the Council of 18 November 2021 became final and the procedure of its execution will follow'', the Office said in a statement.

The full verdict of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of little Madina Hosseini on 18 November 2021 can be read (in Croatian) in Tportal's original article.

This judgment of the ECHR confirms various problems that many actors have been pointing out for many years and about which we report to the Croatian Parliament, the competent authorities, and the public. This primarily refers to the lack of an effective investigation into allegations of human rights violations of migrants, which is necessary in order for the authorities to dispel suspicions or confirm the allegations, Ombudsman Tena Simonovic Einwalter said in November last year.

In this case, it also referred to the work of the police, the State Attorney's Office, and the judiciary, with the ECHR assessing the effectiveness of the investigation in a different way than the Constitutional Court and, among other things, the way in which the effectiveness of the investigation was examined was indicated in a separate opinion by three judges. To maintain the rule of law in which no one, especially the police, can be above the law, an effective investigation is crucial, taking into account information provided by the mother and police officers about the tragic event, which includes all available information to establish the factual situation (including recordings of thermal imaging cameras, data on the movement and location of police officers by recording the signals of their mobile devices, police vehicles via GPS devices or members of the Hosseini family via their mobile devices), said Ombudswoman Simonovic Einwalter. According to the judgment of the ECHR, and as we ourselves warned, the competent authorities failed to do so, she added.

In the part related to the restriction of freedom of movement of Madina's family with eight children, they warned that it was not clear which procedures were used during the individual assessment of whether other measures, alternatives to detention, could have served the same purpose. In doing so, the proceedings themselves were conducted in the English language, which M. Hosseini's mother did not understand.

How has the Croatian Interior Minister responded?

The Center for Peace Studies issued a statement today stating that "after this strong and final confirmation of the verdict, the Government of the Republic of Croatia and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković can no longer turn their heads, but must urgently dismiss those responsible led by Interior Minister Davor Božinović''.

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Minister of Interior, Davor Božinović, at the US-Croatian Forum in Zagreb which began yesterday. (Photo: Igor Soban/PIXSELL)

Following the ECHR ruling, Božinović said today that "his resignation is not on the table", N1 reports.

"As a minister, I can say, as I said, that it is a tragedy. That it affects us all. Certain investigative actions have been carried out, the court has concluded what it has concluded and we need to take measures to improve the system. My resignation is not on the table."

He said the responsibility in such cases is on the system.

"We have to see what are all the things that can and should be corrected. This was the case in other cases as well. The point of these judgments is to actually fix the system and it is always a matter of correcting what is stated as a defect. Either through certain solutions when it comes to regulations or by changing some practices. The function of the court is precisely to point out such shortcomings", said the Minister.

Journalists also asked the minister if his position was "on ice" because of this verdict.

"Reconstruction is something the prime minister will decide on."

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Božinović: Higher Influx of Refugees From Ukraine Can be Expected

ZAGREB, 20 March 2022 - Since the start of the war in Ukraine, over 8,300 refugees have arrived in Croatia, and Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Sunday that Europe was braced for the growing pressure on three fronts: energy security, defence costs and accommodation of refugees.

"This is an unprecedented humanitarian issue in Europe. Thousands, tens of thousands of people are leaving Ukraine. We can expect an influx of refugees in all EU member-states, including Croatia", Božinović noted.

"The United Nations' recent projections about up to four million people fleeing Ukraine seems today as a conservative scenario, since the numbers of refugees are already coming close to that figure" the minister told the press after a meeting of the Croatian interdepartmental task force for providing protection for refugees from Ukraine.

"The talks are being conducted at the European level to coordinate the response to many issues stemming from the war in Ukraine", he said adding that one of the issues is how to finance the accommodation of Ukrainian refugees.

Currently, the EU is offering assistance to the countries neighbouring Ukraine that are the first to receive Ukrainians when they leave their homeland.

Croatia is not among those first-stop countries, however, it is one of the countries where Ukrainians seek shelter, and it is ready to take in roughly 20,000 Ukrainians. However, this figure could go up depending on the developments in Ukraine.

Large majority accommodated individually in private homes

"Of those 8,300 refugees, as many as 7,421 are now covered by individual reception initiatives, and 827 are in collective accommodation", said the minister.

The aim is to ensure as many individual accommodation options as possible throughout Croatia.

"The reception centres are operating well, refugees come there upon their arrival and after that they are transferred to properties where they can stay longer", the minister said.

We have published a public call for 10,000 accommodation units throughout Croatia, and all steps we take will be transparent, he said.

Božinović expressed satisfaction with the organisation of the reception of the refugees from Ukraine and explained that the plans were made to be prepared for possible challenges financially, logistics-like and organisationally.

"Croatia wants to provide the best care and sympathy to those people who have experienced the calamities. The help includes not only accommodation and food but also access to education and the labour market as well as to social welfare services", the minister said recalling that the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive.

Economic and Social Council on including refugees in labour market

Božinović said that the possibility of giving refugees access to the labour market would be on the agenda of the Economic and Social Council (GSV) on Monday.

The fast integration of displaced persons is the best way to provide them with a feeling of stability.

Broken down by the age and gender, a mere 12% of the refugees who have arrived in Croatia from Ukraine are men, 48%  are women and children account for 40%, Božinović said.

He also informed the press conference that in the scenario that Croatia should care for 20,000 refugees, this would cost HRK 1.3 billion provided that the refugees exercise all the rights they are entitled to.

According to some estimates, the daily healthcare costs for a refugee is HRK 15, and 30 kuna for education.

Remuneration for the properties which their owners have put at the disposal to refugees is also being considered, and the minister cited the experiences of other countries where the rental per day ranges between €5-8 per person, however, the figure is reduced for every next member in the family accommodated.

Croatian-Ukrainian web portal

The interior ministry has also developed a website with the data in both the Croatian and Ukrainian language concerning the refugees, their rights and entitlements and information for prospective volunteers. The website will be updated regularly on a daily basis.

For more on this, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Enter Croatia Application Upgraded to Include Ukrainian Language and Alphabet

ZAGREB, 13 March 2022 - The Ministry of the Interior has upgraded the Enter Croatia application to include the Ukrainian language and alphabet, improving the organisation of the reception of Ukrainian refugees and facilitate their arrival in Croatia.

"This is yet another measure with which the Ministry of the Interior, acting in cooperation with other state authorities, is expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine and assisting in providing refuge to Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion", Minister Davor Božinović told Hina on Sunday.

"The application has proved very useful during the tourist season and the arrival of many foreign tourists, given that the collection of personal details during border checks took quite a lot of time," he added.

The aim of the latest upgrade of the Enter Croatia application is to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees who have passports and intend to stay in Croatia to provide in advance their personal details, address and contact number to facilitate their entry into Croatia. Persons without a passport will have to provide this information at the border crossing.

The Ministry of the Interior is in close contact with the Croatian Ambassador to Ukraine, Anica Djamić, and is doing all in its power to help displaced Ukrainians on their arrival in Croatia, Božinović said.

The Enter Croatia application is aimed at reducing the waiting time at border crossing points. It was developed by the Ministry of the Interior as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus and has been in use since 28 May 2020. Over 12.5 million arrivals have been announced via this app since its introduction.

According to information from Sunday morning, 5,609 Ukrainian refugees are currently staying in Croatia and 88 per cent of them are women and children.

For more on Croatia's response to the Russia-Ukraine war, visit TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

COVID Restrictions Likely to be Relaxed Next Week, Božinović Says

ZAGREB, 9 March 2022 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that early next week the national COVID-19 crisis management team would probably relax restrictions on gatherings and some economic activities.

Despite today's minimal increase in new coronavirus cases, there have been significant decreases in new cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the past few weeks, which allows for returning to a regular work dynamic, he said at a cabinet session.

The population's immunity, thanks to recovery from COVID and vaccination, also allows for considering a relaxation of the protocols, he added.

Although the most important restrictions, on gatherings, crossing the border, shops' business hours, public transport, and wearing masks, are in force until the end of this month, those on gatherings and economic activities will probably be relaxed early next week, Božinović said.

According to him, there is no information that the Ukraine refugee wave has considerably affected the epidemiological situation.

Refugees are tested in reception centres and if they are positive, adequate accommodation is provided, he said.

70.6% of adults vaccinated

Health Minister Vili Beroš said that today 2,588 new COVID-19 cases were detected by PCR testing and 662 by rapid antigen testing, which is up 0.21% on the week.

Hospitals are gradually reducing their COVID capacity, which allows for providing more comprehensive care to oncology, mental and post-COVID syndrome patients, he said.

Based on the results of 2021 population census, 70.6% of the adult population has been vaccinated, he said, adding that as of today inoculation begins with Novavax, a new protein vaccine.

Beroš went on to say that since 25 February 249 medical services and 14 emergency medical services had been provided to Ukrainian refugees, that three had been hospitalised, and that five had tested positive for coronavirus.

Ukrainian refugees can get vaccinated against COVID as well as measles, mumps, rubella and polio, he said, adding that there is a big measles and rubella epidemic in Ukraine due to poor vaccination.

For more news about Croatia and the COVID situation, click here.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Europe Facing Refugee Influx Unseen Since WWII, Interior Minister Says

ZAGREB, 2 March 2022 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday Europe would be faced with a refugee influx unseen since WWII, and that no country could deal with that alone.

According to last night's numbers by Frontex, more than 600,000 people from Ukraine have entered the EU, he said on Croatian Radio.

The influx is not big yet because the UNHCR and other agencies estimate that five million people could leave Ukraine, Božinović added.

This is a humanitarian situation that is becoming dramatic, and can be dealt with only if everyone stands together, he said.

Speaking of meetings of EU interior ministers and what they had to agree on, Božinović said it was necessary to resolve the status of refugees first as more and more would be coming. "This is an exodus for which an adequate response will have to be found."

545 Ukrainian refugees in Croatia to date

Božinović said 545 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Croatia and that 39 were in reception centres, while the rest were in private accommodation.

He said Croatia must prepare for a major influx as almost 100,000 had entered Hungary. It is difficult to expect Russia to stop at the moment as it is preparing a bigger escalation with attacks on Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, he added.

Božinović said the entire Civil Protection system was getting ready, together with the health and education systems, so that the arrival of refugees passed with as little difficulty as possible.

Accommodation capacity will be expanded as needed, there are plans for using numerous state-owned facilities, and meetings are being held with the Croatian Tourist Board, hoteliers and the Tourism Ministry, he added.

Božinović went on to say that Croatia's first relief convoy left for Ukraine at 3 am today and that such things should be organised well by the institutions in charge.

Europe has no alternative but to defend its values

Commenting on Russia's threat that the countries donating military equipment to Ukraine, including Croatia, would be held accountable, he said not only NATO member states but neutral ones as well had decided to do that.

"Today we are seeing a change of the paradigm that has been in force in Europe since World War II and determination that everything that Europe has achieved must not be brought into question," Božinović said, adding that in that time the EU has become the most developed part of the world alongside the US, an area where human rights are protected and technology and living standards progress.

"If someone threatens that, and this is a threat, they will face a very clear and harsh European response because Europe has no alternative but to defend its values."

Speaking of fears that some might use the Ukraine crisis to destabilise Southeast Europe, Božinović said there were always some who were interested in destabilisation, those thinking their only trump card was force and armament, and that one could see in Ukraine that stability did not suit them.

As for Southeast Europe, he said the most important stakeholders had sent messages to every country in the region and that he was sure they would consider them well.

To be in Europe and not head for integration is not smart

Commenting on the stand of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who has not imposed sanctions on Russia and is accusing Croatian politicians, Božinović said "it's a rhetoric we are used to." 

"Now is the time for states which have doubts to make the best long-term decisions for the future of their citizens because to be in Europe and not head for integration is not the smartest thing to do", he added.

Božinović also said he expected the political unity of the opposition and those in power on Ukraine to continue in Croatia.

The government's position is clear and one of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's first visits was to Ukraine, which is just one sign of knowing the situation and Ukraine's importance for Europe and our bilateral relations, he added.

Speaking on coronavirus, he said there were about 2,500 new cases today, 33% fewer than a week ago, a sign the steep decrease was continuing.

"If such trends continue, we will consider further relaxing restrictions", said Božinović, who heads the national COVID-19 crisis management team.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Davor Bozinovic: Several Ukrainian Refugees Have Arrived in Croatia

February the 27th, 2022 - Ukrainian refugees have begun to arrive in other countries following Russia's illegal and unjustified invasion of their country. Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has stated that several Ukrainian nationals have already arrived in Croatia and that the groundwork to make them comfortable and provide for their needs is now underway.

The news comes just after Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic took to Twitter to tweet that he has spoken with the government and with the Red Cross and that things were now fully underway to accept fleeing Ukrainian refugees.

''I convened a meeting with members of @VladaRH, Civil Protection and @crvenikriz_hr in order to raise the level of preparedness regarding the reception of refugees from Ukraine due to Russian aggression. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people'' read Plenkovic's tweet.

As N1 Hrvatska writes, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has stated that things are moving forward and that those who usually deal with the question of refguees are all involved.

"Everyone who deals with refugee issues was there. We've decided to structure the coordination [of the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees in Croatia] through one government body that will engage with as much intensity as the situation requires of our institutions. We've reviewed the current situation on these issues,'' said Davor Bozinovic, before adding:

"A special council has been convened in Brussels, I will go there and we will consider these issues at the European Union (EU) level, given that the potential is such that more or less all EU member states are likely to be involved in dealing with the increased influx of displaced persons from Ukraine, and all countries have prepared for their reception.

A dozen people from Ukraine entered Croatia who came through private channels, through friendly contacts, and they have been properly accommodated in private accommodation,'' the minister said.

He said Croatia has accommodation facilities to accommodate an influx of Ukrainian refugees as the conflict there escalates even further.

"The point of today's meeting is to simply coordinate the matter," he added.

"We can manage, we're ready, if needed - and I must say that I would not like to rush into it - but yes, we can accommodate people from today onwards," concluded Davor Bozinovic.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

New Croatian Coronavirus Rules to Begin as of February 1st, 2022

January the 30th, 2022 - New Croatian coronavirus rules are set to come into force as of the 1st of February as things are altered to reflect what we know about the Omicron variant.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after the meeting of the National Civil Protection Directorate with the representatives of the Dr. Andrija Stampar Public Health Institute, statements were given by Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic and the director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak on the new Croatian coronavirus rules.

“As of the 1st of February, we'll extend the decisions which are currently in force. The change that will happen as of that day concerns the regulation of border crossings. From February the 1st, covid certificates will be issued for those vaccinated with two doses for a period of 270 days, with nothing changing for those who need to take PCR tests - they are valid for 72 hours after testing. As far as rapid antigen tests are concerned, it will be possible to cross the Croatian border if it hasn't been more than 24 hours since the test was taken, and when it comes to recovery from the virus, covid certificates will be provided for a period of 180 days since recovery. As of February the 1st, Croatia, in cooperation with the Croatian Institute of Public Health, will issue EU digital covid certificates with these validity deadlines,'' explained Davor Bozinovic.

“There is also the national component of covid certification to think about, this refers to the need for the certificates to enter healthcare facilities, social welfare facilities, as well as state and public services. We aren't going to change anything there. Everyone who has previously been issued with certificates, when it comes to both recovering from the illness and vaccination against it, will be able to use until the date until which they were issued, which is a period of 365 days. We've asked for the recognition of rapid antigen test results for the EU digital covid-certificate, but this hasn't yet been decided at the EU level as we wanted it to be. However, an increasing number of countries are joining our initiative and we expect that decision to be made.

The second part of our meeting on new Croatian coronavirus rules was dedicated to the possibility of shortening the self-isolation period given the speed of spread of the new Omicron variant. The healthcare system, public activities, and other necessary functions are being burdened, but more about that will be explained to you by Krunoslav Capak,'' said Davor Bozinovic, adding that all decisions on new Croatian coronavirus rules will be officially announced on Monday.

Krunoslav Capak then said: ''Omicron causes a milder clinical picture, especially in vaccinated people, but it has also learned to bypass the system and it spreads more quickly than others variants. It's important to reduce isolation and quarantine periods, as its incubation period lasts slightly shorter than those of previous variants, the disease itself is shorter and the person is less contagious. That's why we're considering shortening the quarantine period. An ECDC document was released yesterday recommending that this possibility be considered.

This will be regulated by Croatian Institute of Public Health recommendations which will be adopted soon, but we're considering reducing the quarantine period for all those who are vaccinated down to seven days, as well as shortening the isolation period for patients with only mild or moderate clinical pictures down to five days, provided that they don't show any symptoms for 24 hours following their exit from self-isolation and as long as they return a negative result on a rapid antigen test. For other people, the rule remains the same as it was before.

"As for the booster vaccine, things still haven't yet been properly defined. We provide 365 day covid certificates to people after they receive their third dose because there's still no scientific evidence to suggest how long this booster remains effective. Entry into Croatia, but also into other EU member states using EU digital covid certificates will be possible only on the basis of these new rules, which will be made valid from the 1st of February. We aren't just changing the part for their use within Croatia. If you travel to or from Croatia, then these new rules apply to you,'' added Bozinovic.

Asked whether complete abolition of covid certificates is being considered at all, Bozinovic said: "Their main purpose of them is to slow down the spread of the disease. It is almost impossible to stop this variant from spreading, but with these Croatian covid rules, wearing masks, which we're now emphasising, we can slow it down, and that is the most important thing. The abolition of covid certificates in the EU is not something on the table,'' he said.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Croatia Near Top in EU Security-Wise, Interior Minister Says

ZAGREB, 28 Jan 2022 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Friday Croatia was near the top in the EU in terms of security, and announced the procurement of new police vehicles and equipment.

That would not have been possible had we not embarked on a comprehensive procurement of everything the police need," he said at a ceremony at the Police Academy at which 28 traffic police vans worth HRK 13 million were handed over.

Božinović announced the procurement of motorcycles and interceptor vehicles worth HRK 40 million, saying that it was an investment in comprehensive security so that Croatia could stay near the top in the EU in terms of security of its own citizens and foreign tourists.

"Besides all the equipment, we put the most trust in Croatian police officers who are on the street, in their offices, round the clock, and who at this moment, when temperatures are well below zero, are on Croatian roads and borders. All of that is a complex job coordinated by the General Police Directorate," he said.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Security Issues Shouldn't Be Discussed Publicly, Says Minister

ZAGREB, 28 Jan 2022 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Friday that messages on security issues are not disseminated at news conferences, after he was asked by the press about speculations that President Zoran Milanović's security is at risk following his statements on the situation in Ukraine.

"The basic principle is that security issues should not be discussed publicly. As far as our services are concerned and that refers to security and intelligence services and the Interior Ministry, they do their job 24 hours a day and I am certain that they are monitoring everything that is relevant to the security of Croatian citizens, including protected persons," said Božinović.

Božinović added that security services cooperate with other services and underscored that a press conference is not the place to send messages of that kind.

"Not any serious person, not any service in any country, talks about that in public space," said Božinović.

After President Milanović's statement that Croatia would not interfere in the Ukraine crisis, that it would not deploy its troops there and that NATO has nothing to do in Ukraine, he was denounced as pro-Russian collaborator on Ukraine's online blacklist.

Responding to reporters, Božinović said that the motion for a no-confidence vote in Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Darko Horvat would end just like all of the opposition's previous initiatives.

For more, check out our politics section.

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