Saturday, 23 October 2021

PM on Visa Cancellation: Strategic Goal Achieved to the Benefit of Croatian Citizens

ZAGREB, 23 Oct, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović have welcomed the fact that Croatians can travel to the United States without visas as of Saturday, 23 October.

"As of today, Croatians can travel to the USA without visas!" Plenković said in a Twitter post.

"We have met the necessary criteria and achieved a strategic goal to the benefit of Croatian citizens," Plenković said.

"We are opening a new chapter in our relations, strengthening our partnership and creating preconditions for closer economic cooperation and investments," the PM said.

As of 23 October Croatians can travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes without visas, after obtaining approval via the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, the US Embassy in Zagreb said.

Croatia has entered the Visa Waiver Programme, a comprehensive security partnership between the United States and participating countries that enables travel to the USA for business or tourism purposes in the duration of up to 90 days, with national security being protected in the process.

For a country to enter the VWP, it must meet criteria regarding the fight against terrorism, law enforcement, immigration, document security and border management, and the percentage of rejected visa applications must be below 3%, which Croatia met only recently.

Application via ESTA is possible any time before travel but the US Homeland Security Department recommends that travellers apply as soon as possible, and 72 hours before travel at the latest, the US Embassy says.

Božinović: Visa cancellation major acknowledgement for Croatia

The cancellation of visa requirements for Croatians travelling to the USA is a major acknowledgement for Croatia, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Saturday after talks with the Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy, Mark Fleming.

Božinović thanked the US Embassy for playing an important role in "moments that were very important" for Croatia, such as its accession to the EU and NATO.

He recalled "the hard work on the cancellation of visa requirements over the past few years", including the connecting of data bases, cooperation with the Homeland Security Department and with agencies in charge of fighting terrorism and organised crime, etc.

This is a very good day for US-Croatian relations, Fleming said.

We want more Croatians in the United States, he added.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Croatian Police Burn Over 2 Tonnes of Narcotics

ZAGREB, 18 Oct 2021 - More than two tonnes of narcotics seized in police operations was burnt in a factory in the eastern town of Našice on Monday, including two tonnes of marijuana and hashish, 28 kilos of amphetamines, 15 kilos of cocaine, and 12 kilos of heroin, with a street value of about €9.5 million.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that the amount of drugs seized was proof of good cooperation between relevant state authorities. He said that drug abuse was a global problem, especially in Europe which has become the main market for some types of drugs, notably cocaine.

"The fact that this is the second drug incineration this year shows the magnitude of the challenge we are all facing. The illegal market is very large, there are many interests of criminal groups, and our job is to be as efficient as possible," Božinović said.

"The present campaign by criminal groups is the result of the opening of communications that were closed for a while due to the pandemic," he added.

Božinović said that the government's goal was to increase prevention and "lead as many young people as possible, especially those in their formative years, away from this evil."

Over the past ten years, Croatia has incinerated over 20 tonnes of seized narcotics. About 500 kilos of cocaine was incinerated in July this year.

For more on politics, click here.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Božinović: COVID Vaccine Best Prevention Against Serious Illness

ZAGREB, 18 Oct 2021- The head of the national COVID-19 crisis management team, Davor Božinović, said on Monday, ahead of the start of the administration of the third vaccine dose, that vaccination was the best prevention against serious illness and hospitalization.

"We can protect ourselves from the most serious illness, individually and as a community, if we accept the fact that science, not just in this epidemic but in previous ones too, has helped humankind to survive," he told the press in Našice.

He added that "those who don't trust science first of all harm themselves, and then the community."

He said the recent rise in new cases meant a rise in hospitalizations and that vaccination was the proper defense against that.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Božinović Says Waiting for Results of Investigation Into Violence Against Migrants

ZAGREB, 11 Oct 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Monday said that he did not have any new information related to videos of police violence against migrants and that it is necessary to wait for the results of the investigation.

"We'll wait and see what the results of the investigation show. Everything that will happen as part of the relevant procedures will be in line with what the police chief said on Friday," Božinović told reporters.

Protecting the borders in line with the law

Asked about responsibility in the chain of command, Božinović underscored that the orders are to protect the state borders in line with the law.

"There cannot be any order that is not in line with the law. As soon as I receive the report from the police directorate, I will forward it to the prime minister, even though we have already discussed all this," said Božinović.

He said that police officers, particularly those assigned to border control, doing one of the most difficult jobs.

He added that there were cases when the police themselves identified cases of police officers overstepping their powers or unlawful conduct.

He said that disciplinary procedures had been underway from before against eight police officers and that 22 cases had been documented and submitted to the State Attorney's Office (DORH).

"When someone individually breaches or oversteps their authority anywhere, there are services in the police directorate and internal controls to conduct investigations and decide on the penalties," he said.

Commenting on an anonymous letter by a police officer who claimed two years ago that an order existed for violent pushbacks, Božinović reiterated that anything that was reported was always investigated. DORH rejected 13 of the 22 cases for lack of evidence, he said.

The anonymous police officer's letter refers to a specific case, with a specific location and date, which previously was not the case, said Božinović and added that a prompt reaction followed the anonymous letter and that the matter was still being investigated.

Božinović also commented on a recent drug incident in the Croatian Army, underscoring that police offices were exceptionally active regarding the fight against drug smuggling.

"The cocaine market is expanding into the general population, which is concerning. We will meet with the anti-drug commission in the next few days. In 2020, 60 kilograms of cocaine were confiscated whereas in the first eight months of this year more than 667 kilograms were seized," he said.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Changes in Use of Croatian Covid Passes in Health, Social Care

October the 8th, 2021 - There have been many issues (for some) about the introduction of mandatory Croatian covid passes for entry into hospitals and other such facilities. Even medical and other staff working in Croatian healthcare institutions as well as in the social care system must now have either Croatian covid passes, or accept that they need very frequent testing, which will eventually need to be paid for out of their own pockets.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, who has, since the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, been much more associated with the National Civil Protection Directorate than with the police, has revealed some quite significant changes in this regard.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at the recent suggestion of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), the decisions regarding the obligation to test people for the presence of the novel coronavirus in the healthcare system and social welfare systems were changed, according to Minister Bozinovic.

The period of validity of Croatian covid passes, which have caused a lot off fuss and by which certain categories of persons can prove that they have overcome the illness or are fully vaccinated has been extended from nine to twelve months. The move will more than likely result in a sigh of relief for all those who are either fully vaccinated or have proof of their recovery from the disease, as they will now be able to put this issue to the backs of their minds for an entire year.

Those who have very recently tested negative for the disease, are fully vaccinated against it, and those who have contracted coronavirus in the past and can prove it with a positive test result from that time, can all obtain Croatian covid passes.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Božinović: Everything Is Ready for Mandatory COVID Certificates in Hospitals

ZAGREB, 3 Oct, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović announced on Sunday that everything was ready for the introduction of mandatory EU digital COVID certificates in the healthcare and welfare systems.

"Everything is ready. ... I am confident that the people working in the healthcare and welfare systems will do their best and that the interests of patients are their priority. I think they will continue to observe the professional and ethical principles as they have so far," Božinović told RTL television during a visit to Velika Gorica, just south of Zagreb.

Commenting on the request by the nurses' union for assessment of the constitutionality of this decision, Božinović said that the purpose of decisions like this was to protect the health of the most vulnerable people, adding that the decisions by the national COVID-19 response team were in line with the constitution and law.

"Mandatory testing of staff before coming to work was in place before. Drawing a parallel between COVID certificates and mandatory vaccination is completely wrong and untrue," Božinović said, adding that the Constitutional Court had confirmed the constitutionality and legality of decisions made by the national coronavirus response team before and "that is what is going to be this time as well."

For more on COVID-19, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović Praises Police For Their Irreplaceable Role in Many Segments

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - Addressing the central ceremony of Croatian Police Day, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that the police were "engaged in all areas of national security" and that their role in many other segments was irreplaceable.

During the ceremony held in Zagreb, when the police observed their day on 29 September, the feast of their patron saint, St. Michael, Minister Božinović said that until the end of the term of the current government, all the working processes of the law enforcement authorities would be digitalised.

Police Director Nikola Milina said that police work had focused on detecting tax frauds and evasion, money laundering, and crimes affecting the state budget.

In the first eight months of 2021, the law enforcement authorities had detected 85% more corruption crimes, the number of reports concerning suspected white collar crimes increased by 20%, and the number of detected conspiracies to perpetrate crimes went up by 43%.

All that is not by chance, it is a result of well thought-out strategic planning and our commitment to conducting investigations into economic crimes and corruption, Milina said at the central ceremony.

As for organised crime, so far this year Croatian police officers have arrested 661 people smugglers.

When it comes to the protection of the Croatian and the EU border, it has been established that we have met all the technical and legal requirements which has made our border the best protected external border, he added.

Milina said that significant results had been achieved in raising cyber security, and that the police were ready to respond to all the challenges and threats stemming from the use of new technologies.

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

Monday, 20 September 2021

Božinović: COVID-19 Team Not Considering Tightening or Relaxing Restrictions

ZAGREB, 20 Sept 2021 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Monday the national COVID-19 response team was not considering either tightening or relaxing epidemiological restrictions, such as the reopening of nightclubs, and that the protest against those restrictions held on Saturday was unjustified.

"At the moment we are not planning any tightening of the restrictions or their further liberalization," Božinović, who heads the COVID-19 response team, told reporters in Šibenik when asked if the reopening of nightclubs was being considered, as demanded by bar owners on Sunday.

He noted that it was not necessary to explain in great detail why nightclubs would not be allowed to reopen even if complying with anti-epidemic rules, including COVID-19 certificates.

"After 18 months of the pandemic, everyone will tell you that indoor areas are the main problem if they are not aired sufficiently and if people do not keep at least a minimum physical distance from one another," he said, stressing that gatherings at nightclubs were more difficult to control than gatherings at football matches.

No reason for the protest

Commenting on a protest against epidemiological restrictions, held in Zagreb on Saturday, Božinović said the protesters had gathered without any real reason.

"After the protest, at least some of them probably went to a cafe or a restaurant and were probably mad because they protested without any real reason," he said, adding the organizers had rushed to "stage something" after seeing scenes of protests in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

The minister also said that he did not know if police had acted after Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković had reported a person to them, who called him by the nickname 'Njonjo' (Wuss) in a phone conversation.

"It is normal for a protected person who gets a call from an unknown number to tell their security that they received a call from an unknown person who had insulted them. The protocol about that is clear... there is staff who take care of that," said the minister.

"I do not know if the police did anything, but I'm sure that everyone in that chain did what they were supposed to do," he said.

Božinović also commented on the lifting of visa requirements for Croatian nationals traveling to the USA, saying that after a long-lasting process he was an optimist. He expressed hope that Croatians would be allowed to travel to the USA without visas by the end of the year.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border, and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of vaccination points and testing centers across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Friday, 17 September 2021

MUP Confirms: Visa-Free Travel for Croatians to USA Possible by End of 2021

September 17, 2021 - MUP confirms that visa-free travel for Croatians to the USA should be possible by the end of the year.

A decision on Croatia's entry into the US Visa Waiver Program should be made by the end of the US fiscal year, while Croatian citizens could travel to the US without visas by the end of this year, the Ministry of the Interior reported on Index.hr.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović met with US representatives on an evaluation visit to Croatia from September 12 to 18 to enter the US Visa Waiver Program.

Božinović pointed out that this evaluation visit, despite the coronavirus pandemic, is a critical moment in Croatia's accession to the Visa Waiver Program and expressed satisfaction with the intensive cooperation over the past years, which significantly helped Croatia reach this advanced stage of the accession process.

The Croatian government is committed to meeting all political, legal, and security preconditions for accession. These preconditions, among other things, included reducing the rate of rejected visa applications to a minimum and creating conditions for better cooperation in law enforcement between the two countries, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

They add that the intensification of interstate and interdepartmental cooperation has led to the fact that in May 2019, Croatia submitted answers on 176 pages. After verifying the submitted answers, which indisputably show significant progress of Croatia in meeting the security requirements, significant efforts have been made to lower the level of rejected visa applications.

The rate of rejected visa applications was lowered below three percent in 2020, which the State Department officially confirmed on February 16, 2021. Meeting that condition has been a major challenge for years.

In the process of joining the Visa Waiver Program, several security requirements also had to be met, with the Department of the Interior working intensively with the US Department of Homeland Security for the past four years.

Most of the security conditions were related to strengthening the capacity and providing technical conditions for collecting and analyzing biometric data of passengers entering Croatia, security of travel documents, strengthening the capacity to fight terrorism, exchanging information on foreign terrorist fighters, and a range of other relevant security information with the relevant U.S. services, primarily those in the Department of Homeland Security, and then the FBI, the Terrorist Surveillance Center, and the DEA.

Minister Božinović reminded that during this process, Croatia and the USA concluded important international agreements and arrangements aimed at improving security and data exchange between the two countries while at the same time working on building the highest security standards.

A pre-evaluation visit by a delegation from the Ministry of Homeland Security to Croatia was held earlier this year, from June 14 to 18. A draft report submitted to the State Department by the US Department of Homeland Security following a visit was followed by a formal invitation from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to include Croatia in the program, one of the last steps before a formal visa waiver decision.

Minister Božinović emphasized that the Government of the Republic of Croatia was also working on Croatia's accession to Schengen and that all preconditions had been met in that field.

"Croatia is determined not only to meet all the requirements for access to the visa waiver program but also to maintain compliance with these requirements. This determination stems from our deep conviction that this compliance will further improve cooperation between Croatian and US authorities and increase the security of our citizens," said Božinović.

As part of the evaluation, from September 12 to 18, the US delegation visited, among others, the Port of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Airport, the Karasovići and Bregana border crossings, and the Ježevo Reception Center for Foreigners.

Following this week's evaluation visit, the US Department of Homeland Security will submit to the State Department a final report on meeting all the necessary conditions and a proposal for a final decision on Croatia's accession to the US Visa Waiver Program.

The members of the American delegation clearly underlined that due to the seen readiness and equipment of the Croatian police, their earlier optimism for fulfilling the conditions turned into satisfaction, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Accordingly, the US expects that the decision on Croatia's entry into the US Visa Waiver Program should be made by the end of the US fiscal year, more precisely by September 30, 2021, while Croatian citizens could travel visa-free to the US by the end of this year. 

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Minister Bozinovic Reveals New Measures Valid Until September 30

September the 17th, 2021 - The situation with the pandemic in Croatia has been much more favourable, but a recent rise in infections has prompted some new measures, six to be exact, which Minister Bozinovic explained in further detail.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said during a recently held Government session that the National Civil Protection Directorate had made six new decisions at the national level which will last until September the 30th, 24sata reports.

''In addition to three decisions extending the measures related to the mandatory use of face masks, the working hours of shops and the organisation of public transport, the Civil Protection Directorate also decided on the mandatory possession of EU digital covid certificates for enumerators and controllers due to the recent implementation of the second phase of the 2021 census,'' said Minister Bozinovic at the aforementioned Government session.

''Following on from that, the amendment of the Decision on restricting gatherings which prescribes a new measure allowing the holding of fairs and other economic and tourist events, and events where products are sold, exhibited or displayed indoors, provided that the organiser ensures that only persons holding an EU digital covid certificate, meaning both exhibitors and visitors, can attend.

And thirdly, we've made an amendment to the Decision on temporary prohibition and temporary restriction of crossing the Croatian border. What we've introduced means third country nationals who are coming into the Republic of Croatia for tourist reasons and who have a confirmation of payment of accommodation can now present that confirmation of accommodation reservation and their entry into the Republic of Croatia will be granted. The negative result of their PCR tests must still not be older than 72 hours,'' said Minister Bozinovic about the new decisions.

Please note, that while Minister Bozinovic didn't specifically mention other tests accepted for entry, rapid antigen tests (RAT) are still accepted for entry into Croatia as long as their negative results more than 48 hours old at the time of crossing the border. You can find more about who needs one here.

For now, people coming in from the United Kingdom, Cyprus and the Russian Federation (regardless of their citizenship or residence status in Croatia) still need to have a negative PCR test or a negative RAT to enter, regardless of their vaccination status.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

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