Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović: Clear Link Between Croatia's Schengen Membership And EU Security

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - The Strategy for the Schengen Area for the first time clearly articulates the link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and the EU's security, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

“The debate today on the Strategy for the Schengen Area is especially significant for us because for the first time it has identified a clear link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and security for the EU as a whole," Božinović said ahead of a meeting of the EU's Home Affairs Council.

The interior ministers of EU member states met in Luxembourg on Tuesday for an initial discussion on the Schengen strategy that was presented by the European Commission last week. The agenda also includes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fight against organised crime, the internal security outlook in terms of artificial intelligence, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and exchanging opinions on the current status in the discussion on the new migration and asylum pact.

Last week the Commission presented the strategy towards a "stronger and more resilient" Schengen Area, which includes enlargement to EU member states that are still not part of the area, and called for Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to be admitted into the Schengen Area as they had met the technical criteria for the application of the Schengen acquis. 

Božinović said that it was becoming more and more clear that Europe's security was not the sum of security capacities of member states but that it was cooperation, interoperability and solidarity.

"These are the principles that Croatia has insisted upon in European forums for years," said Božinović.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović : Croatia's Schengen membership in interest of EU

ZAGREB, 2 June, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that Croatia's entry to the passport-free Schengen Area was in the national interest as well as in the interest of the European Union.

Earlier on Wednesday the European Commission called for the enlargement of the Schengen area to include Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, which have met all technical criteria for membership.

"Schengen's future must be marked by the expansion to those EU Member States that are not yet part of the Schengen area," the EC said while presenting the strategy for making the Schengen area stronger and more resilient.

Božinović recalled that Croatia had met 281 requirements in eight different segments concerning the membership criteria.

The minister is confident that Croatia will be admitted to the Schengen area in the next 12 months.

He said that he was glad to see that in Europe awareness was being raised about the importance of accession of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

40,000 EU Digital COVID certificates issued in Croatia since first day of issuance

Since yesterday, when the issuance of EU Digital COVID certificates started in Croatia, as many as 40,000 such travel passes have been issued.

Božinović said that Croatia was among the first EU countries to make this system operational.

The minister, who visited the Bregana border crossing to get acquainted with the functioning of the system of checking those certificates, said that it took only 10 seconds to check those certificates.

One million kuna has been invested in this project, which included IT solutions, the necessary equipment of border crossings to be able to read the codes from the certificates, and other equipment for the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO), he said.

Croatia tapped EU funds for this purpose, Božinović said at Bregana.

ENTER Croatia application available to people travelling to Croatia

The minister said that people traveling to Croatia can fill in the ENTER Croatia application which will also facilitate passage across the border.

New, relaxed rules for arrivals in Croatia

As of today, some relaxed rules go into force for arrivals in Croatia, including a negative PCR test for coronavirus not older than 72 hours, while travellers who have received at least one vaccine dose at least 22 days before their arrival do not need to self-isolate.

For more about diplomacy in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Remaining Mine-Infested Areas to be Cleared of Mines By Mid-2026

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday that until the spring of 2026 the remaining 250 square kilometres of land believed to be infested with landmines left over from the 1991-1995 Homeland War would be cleared of those explosive devices.

Božinović commented on the plan for a mine-free Croatia at a ceremony in the town of Josipdol, where he presented a HRK 241 million project, Karlovac KARST, for the removal of mines from forests in the areas of Karlovac and Josipdol.

The implementation of the project will create prospects for job creation in the region, he added.

Karlovac County Prefect Martina Furdek Hajdin said that HRK 188 million had been absorbed from the European Union for the Karlovac KARST project.

In the next few years, 17.1 square metres of forest land in Tounj, Josipdol, Plaški, Saborsko and Rakovica will be cleared of landmines, she added.

The county prefect added that Karlovac County had already tapped HRK 29 million from the EU funds to remove landmines from 3.8 square-metre-large farmland.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Bozinovic Discusses Digital Green Certificates for Travel During Pandemic

May the 9th, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has discussed the controversial new ''covid passports'' which he insists are not passports and must not be referred to as that, despite it being both easier to remember and easier to say. Could Croatia's digital green certificates be ready by next month?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Bozinovic stated that ''they aren't passports, let's not call get into the habit of calling them that, maybe it's easier to say that these are digital green certificates that refer to facilitating international travel. They will be interoperable, and they'll allow mutual recognition of vaccination, recovery and testing certificates.

By a majority vote, European Union lawmakers backed the digital green certificates proposal, Bozinovic noted, adding that the final proposal has yet to be adopted, and that it will likely happen in the first half of June.

"Croatia is in the advanced stage of implementing a national technical solution and we're ready to test it on the available European Union platform. Particular emphasis should be placed on the importance of databases, the accuracy and entry of all data as certificates will be issued based on the databases of people who have already recovered from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, those who have been tested in the last 48 hours and people who've been vaccinated.

We're in favour of the adoption of these regulations as soon as possible. With out participation in the pilot project, we've become one of the EU member states that will be ready to issue certificates as early as June the 1st. In Croatia, these certificates will be issued in digital PDF format, and people will be able to submit their applications through the e-citizens system. Certificates in physical form for people who request them will be issued in some of the 150 HZZO offices. The verification of these certificates will be carried out by reading QR codes, and 250 certificate readers have already been deployed at the country's border crossings,'' pointed out Bozinovic.

The entercroatia.mup.hr portal will provide announcements for the arrival of foreign nationals, which will shorten the time spent at Croatian borders. Passengers will be able download their receipts for their digital green certificates in PDF format on the aforementioned page before their arrival for the purpose of verification as soon as possible.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, from border, travel and quarantine rules to the locations of vaccination points and testing sites across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and choose your preferred language.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Health Minister Vili Beroš Says 230,000 Vaccine Doses to Arrive Weekly As of May

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš said at a government session on Thursday that as of 1 May, 230,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines would be arriving in Croatia on a weekly basis, calling on citizens to register for vaccination.

"The pressure on hospitals has been growing, notably by younger patients. The number of hospitalisations and patients on ventilators continues to grow. The average age of hospitalised patients is 66.7, 15% are people under the age of 50, 15% are people aged 50-59 while the rest are people above 60," said Beroš.

Third vaccination phase to start soon

The minister noted that the arrival of a larger quantity of vaccines during May and June would facilitate the process of vaccination.

Public health institutes have been instructed to include in the vaccination process all health institutions and private medical workers in the public health service network, and to organise, along with vaccination in family medicine offices, mobile vaccination teams and a sufficient number of vaccination points as well as to use civil protection, army and other resources in the process.

The vaccination plan for priority groups will be finished next week and the third phase of vaccination will begin, Beroš said.

So far, 902,670 vaccine doses have arrived in Croatia and 80% of them have been administered. A vaccination rate of above the average 14.2% has been achieved in age groups above 60, he said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković called on elderly people to register for vaccination, saying that a half of the country's adult population should be vaccinated by June 30.

"There will be enough vaccines, I call on all citizens to call their family doctors, register on the vaccination platform so that we can contribute together to health security," Plenković said.

"As many as 77% of people who have died of COVID-19 in Croatia since the start of the pandemic were aged above 70 and 93% were people older than 60. We call on all citizens who are above the age of 60, 70 to register for vaccination," the PM said.

The head of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, said that there had been no changes to epidemiological restrictions at the national level, that existing restrictions had been extended, as had been most of those introduced by local crisis management teams.

For more about vaccines in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Croatia to Extend Current Epidemiological Restrictions

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - The head of the national COVID response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said on Thursday that the epidemiological measures in force until midnight tonight would be extended, underscoring that the restrictions would not be tightened at the national level, but as necessary from county to county.

Speaking to the press after a meeting of the government's Scientific Advisory Council, Božinović said that meeting mostly focused on the current situation with the spread of coronavirus.

County response teams, he added, will adopt stricter measures depending on the epidemiological situation which at the moment will not be ramped up at the national level.

He said that the situation varies from county to county, adding that currently Primorje-Gorski Kotar has the strictest measures.

Vaccines no longer doubtful in Croatia 

Božinović announced that an additional 50 million doses of vaccines were arriving in the EU in the second quarter and he expressed hope that the number of doses for Croatia would not be brought into question.

He added that the experts had different opinions regarding school lessons but there is no reason now to change the decision for schools to go online as the number of those infected is not falling but actually increasing.

Asked what number would be required to ramp up restrictions according to the experts, Božinović said that some countries that introduced so-called traffic lights had tied their own hands in some situations.

"We are referring to trends here. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and applying measures on a county to county basis. I think that we won't refrain from that approach as it has shown to be correct so far," he underscored.

Croatia has not registered the experiences with AstraZeneca's vaccination like in other countries

As far as mistrust towards the AstraZeneca vaccine is concerned, Božinović said that reports by the HALMED medical agency and the Croatian Institute for Public Health "have not had any experiences that are being referred to in other countries."

However, it will be necessary to improve the trust in that vaccine through communication with the public, recalling that government members, including the Prime Minister, were inoculated with that vaccine.

"It is important for the overall public to realise that the pandemic has affected all four corners of the earth and that we will come out of this situation when an adequate solution is applied in all the countries affected by COVID," Božinović underlined, adding that it was important for the vaccine to be available everywhere.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

New Coronavirus Restrictions to be in Force Until 15 April

ZAGREB, 31 March, 2021 - The national coronavirus crisis management team on Wednesday announced new epidemiological restrictions to be in force until 15 April, including a ban on indoor training, restrictions on the work of children playrooms and a temporary ban and restriction of cross-border travel.

The ban on indoor training does not apply to top competitions and athletes.

Certificates of vaccination with Russian, Chinese vaccines valid

Croatian border authorities will accept fast antigen tests as well as certificates about vaccination with the Russian and Chinese vaccines, and certificates proving their holders' recovery from COVID-19 and those certificates will be considered valid for 180 days, the team's head, Davor Božinović, said.

Border crossing has been regulated due to tourist visits, the exception being digital nomads and children.

"Considering restrictions in neighbouring countries, we do not expect a large number of arrivals," said Božinović.

He noted that the tighter restrictions were being introduced following a proposal to that effect by county COVID-19 response teams.

Apart from nationwide restrictions, the national team also made decisions on restrictions for Šibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia counties.

In Split-Dalmatia County, which has seen a big increase in new infections, the mandatory wearing of face masks at outdoor venues with an increased flow of people will be introduced, as will a ban on the sale of alcohol from 8pm to 6am. The work of cafes will be restricted until 8pm, and it will be possible to serve food and drinks only in the open. Foreign language schools will switch to online classes again.

Božinović said that restrictions could be additionally tightened since the epidemiological situation was not good.

Restrictions to be tightened if number of infections continues to grow

"We have a significant increase today and we cannot ignore the possibility of the scenario in neighbouring countries happening here as well. These restrictions will be in force for a few days but should statistics be worrying, we will introduce new measures," said Božinović.

The latest restrictions go into force on Thursday and will be in force until 15 April.

In the last 24 hours, 2,623 new coronavirus cases and 19 COVID-related deaths have been registered in Croatia, the national coronavirus response team said earlier in the day.

The number of active cases now stands at 11,306. Among them are 1,337 people receiving hospital treatment, of whom 144 are placed on ventilators.

Croatian Public Health Institute head Krunoslav Capak warned that today the number of new infections was 47% higher than last week.

Istria County has the lowest incidence, while Primorje-Gorski Kotar County has the highest. Croatia is currently 18th in the EU in terms of the number of deaths per one million inhabitants, while in terms of the 14-day incidence it is 12th.

Speaking about the start of the third phase of vaccination, Capak said that care would be taken of the order in which people had registered for vaccination at the cijepi.se online platform.

"All people older than 16 can be inoculated in the third phase, but a certain priority will be given to people in services in which they come into contact with a large number of people," he said, adding that the third phase could start in May.

He noted that cases of infection with coronavirus after vaccination had been reported. "We have about 20 such cases. Forty-four people in aged care homes got infected after receiving the first dose and 22 got infected after the second dose, but the symptoms were mild."

Commenting on an announcement by the Zagreb COVID-19 response team about the wearing of face masks outdoors, Capak said: "If you are outdoors and alone, there is no need to wear a mask."

"Outdoor mask wearing refers to places where there are a lot of people, in the farmers' market, on the waterfront," he said, noting that the recommendation to wear a mask outdoors had been in force so far for places where physical distancing was not possible.

For more about Covid-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Minister Davor Bozinovic: Tourists Will be Able to Enter with Antigen Test

March the 25th, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has spoken out about the new measures set to be introduced as the current ones are due to expire at the end of this month. As we look towards the tourist season, it seems that negative antigen test results will be enough to enter the country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the current anti-epidemic measures are set to expire at the end of the month. ''At the beginning of April, we will adopt new measures,'' said Minister Davor Bozinovic at today's press conference of the National Civil Protection Headquarters. It all depends on us as to whether it will be just an extension, whether there will be some more restrictive solutions introduced or whether we'll be more liberal,'' Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic stressed.

Bozinovic confirmed that those who violate the measures will no longer be entitled to financial aid from the state.

"It's important to look at whether someone is violating the measures and whether or not they're registered. It doesn't matter if they only get a warning, which is also a form of sanction, or a misdemeanor warrant has been issued, the National Civil Protection Headquarters will send out a list of all these legal entities and they will no longer be entitled to any support grants," Minister Davor Bozinovic warned.

As part of the preparations for the upcoming tourist season, he said that tourists who have been vaccinated, who have overcome the disease (and can prove it with a doctor's certificate of recovery) or have a negative antigen test result will be able to enter the Republic of Croatia.

He also assessed that the regional approach to tightening the current measures is justified due to the preparations for the tourist season because "the EU will assess the incidence in our counties and make decisions for citizens who plan to travel there."

For more current information on coronavirus specific to Croatia, bookmark this page.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović Says Zoran Mamić Being Able to Cross Border Not Logical

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that he did not consider it logical for former Dinamo football club coach Zoran Mamić, who was given a final verdict for corruption, to be able to cross the state border, adding that police acted in line with rules regulating the work of border police.

"The police acted the only way they could, and as to whether the court could and should have issued some order regarding Mamić, courts are the third branch of government. Personally I don't consider it logical, but that's not up to police because in this case police had no reason to act differently than they did, complying with rules that regulate the work of border police," Božinović said at a session of the national COVID-19 response team, which he heads.

Zoran Mamić on Tuesday left the country for Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where he returned to Croatia on Wednesday morning, after, as he said, he visited his brother Zdravko whom he had not seen for seven months.

"I travelled there while I still had the opportunity, until the procedure is finished," he said, adding that it was difficult for him to say if he would again travel to BiH.

In an interview with N1 Zoran Mamić noted that he had to take care of his family before starting to serve his sentence.

Even though together with his brother Zdravko he was given a final verdict for siphoning money from Dinamo, Zoran Mamić travelled to the neighbouring country without any problems because he still has not received a call from the Zagreb County Court judge in charge of the execution of prison sentences.

The Supreme Court last week upheld a ruling by the Osijek County Court sentencing Zdravko Mamić to six and a half years in prison for siphoning HRK 116 million from Dinamo. 

It reduced the prison sentence for his brother Zoran from four years and 11 months to four years and eight months, while former tax official Milan Pernar's sentence was reduced from four years and two months to three years and two months.

The Supreme Court upheld the first-instance judgement for former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović sentencing him to three years in prison.

Zdravko Mamić, who holds dual Croatian and Bosnian citizenship, fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2018, the day before the Osijek County Court announced the verdict sentencing him to six and a half years in prison.

He has said that he is willing to serve his sentence only in Bosnia and Herzegovina while Zoran Mamić has said that he is ready to start serving his sentence as soon as possible.

The State Secretary at the Croatian Justice Ministry, Juro Martinović, said earlier that if Zdravko Mamić did not return to Croatia after his sentence became final and Bosnia and Herzegovina did not extradite him, the Justice Ministry could launch a procedure to have him serve his sentence in the neighbouring country.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

New Coronavirus Infections Up 46% Week on Week

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - The number of new coronavirus infections in Croatia is up by 46% from last week and among the 12 COVID fatalities in the past 24 hours is a 12-year-old girl who had multiple comorbidities, the national COVID-19 response team said on Wednesday.

"In the three days of this week, we had 2,265 new cases, while in the first three days of last week, we had 1,547. The incidence is 222.7, the lowest  being in Istria County and highest in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County," said Krunoslav Capak, head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

In EU rankings, Croatia is seventh with the lowest incidence. Today 16.7% of the test results were positive (1,445 cases).

British variant detected in 50% of samples

Speaking of new variants, Capak said the British one was present in more than 50% of the sequenced samples.

"These new variants spread somewhat faster, and due to vaccination, nicer weather and the favourable situation we have had, people have relaxed. There is more and more socialising, gatherings, which is the biggest risk for the spread of coronavirus infection," he said, adding that the classic epidemiological measures were also effective against the new variants.

Asked if Croatia was in a third wave of the epidemic, Capak said it was difficult to say but that the important thing was to continue to fight to cut down the numbers of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Speaking of the 12-year-old girl who died of COVID in the past 24 hours, Capak said she had a serious cardiovascular comorbidity.

He went on to say that less than 30% of people had refused the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Asked if the ministers who had recovered from COVID would be given that vaccine to promote it and if the vaccination of people over 65 with AstraZeneca would be suspended for fear of side effects, Capak said the response team was not considering either.

He said "we believe we have no reason" to suspend the administration of AstraZeneca to those over 65, adding that the European Medicines Agency's "commission on side effects is intensively investigating all side effects."

He said there was no difference in the occurrence of side effects with either Pfizer or AstraZeneca and that it was 0.5% in each.

Božinović: Existing regime should stay

The head of the national response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said the existing regime of restrictions should stay and that possible changes should be made at county level.

Asked if restrictions would be tightened ahead of Easter, he said this regime could be kept up only if everyone was responsible and disciplined.

"In recent days the virus has been rapidly spreading in some parts of Croatia, so the measures should be considered at county level. Serious measures are in force, although they are the least restrictive in the European Union, and we will keep this regime only if everyone assumes responsibility."

Božinović said some counties were already tightening restrictions based on their epidemiological situation.

He would not comment on the suspension of vaccination with AstraZeneca in some countries despite there being no proof that some deaths were related to the vaccine. "We always explain the background of our decisions transparently and publicly, including this one to continue to administer AstraZeneca."

The head of Zagreb's Infections Diseases Hospital, Alemka Markotić, said she could not say how big the increase was in the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, adding that the outcomes of the children treated in her hospital were continually good and that the percentage was not high.

"The important thing is that the syndrome has been recognised. Our doctors manage to deal with it well and there are no major problems for now."

 For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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