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.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Bozinovic's Comments on Vaccination Misinterpreted, Plenkovic Clarifies

September the 12th, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, who is also a leading member of the National Civil Protection Directorate, charged with setting out measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus, sat down to discuss all things ''pandemic'' in Croatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Bozinovic recently appeared on ''Interview of the week'', during which he spoke about the situation with the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Croatia, the excellent tourist season and more.

In the introductory part of the show, the Interior Minister spoke about the increased number of infected people, emphasising that we're now coming to the end of the height of a fantastic 2021 tourist season, which is at the level of record 2019, when we're talking about July and August. Compared to last year, he added, this year there were a lot more people present and activities going on, so infection growth was expected, including the fact that the Delta strain, which is much more contagious, is spreading rapidly and with apparent ease all around the world.

"We aren't at all surprised by the increase in the number of infected people, but we're entering autumn (…) and that's why we are talking all the time about recommendations that always come down to the same - maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask indoors, ventilating indoors and vaccinating people," he told HRT.

When all this is summed up, and when you see experiences from around the world, vaccination against the virus is, he believes, the only way out of the pandemic and the route we must continue to insist on - the more people get vaccinated, the smaller the reservoir is in which the virus will spread.

''Despite everything that has been going on, life mustn't stop, I think that we in the Government and in the Civil Protection Directorate have shown a very high degree of understanding for what people can accept at a given moment. Our measures have never been so strict, nor have they been accompanied by any repressive action by the police, but we can't just let the virus spread without any measures to make the environment more hostile for it in place. The minimum must remain,'' he added.

There will be no new lockdowns, nor will there be any sort of curfew, he said, adding that we have learned that we can calibrate anti-epidemic measures, but the only real protection is vaccination.

President Zoran Milanovic said that "this is all getting very much on people's nerves", and Bozinovic says that this is not a normal situation which we're used to, but the Government has a responsibility on its hands to protect people from the agent as much as possible.

"We have to take certain measures, we have to point out the dangers that are very real - more than 8,300 people in Croatia have died as a result of this virus. The danger is there, we have enough vaccines and everyone in Croatia can protect themselves in the most effective way possible,'' he added.

Some of the arguments against vaccination in this case are that vaccinated people can both spread the infection and become infected themselves. Bozinovic cited the example of the Split hospital, where 93 percent of all those hospitalised were not vaccinated.

"Of course, some vaccinated people get sick, some of them do sadly die, but most of those in that situation who are vaccinated are older, they're people who have various comorbidities, and despite vaccination, they fail to develop a sufficient level of immunity to protect them from SARS-CoV-2,'' Bozinovic told HRT.

Since then, Andrej Plenkovic has come out to state that ''nobody can be forced to be vaccinated'' given the fact that many portals have wrongly interpreted Bozinovic's comments on vaccination. 

"That isn't correct. He was asked about covid certificates, for some reason people thought he was talking about mandatory vaccination, he wasn't. Whoever has published that, please remove it,'' asked Plenkovic.

"We can't introduce the obligation to vaccinate for anyone because we said at the beginning that we wouldn't do that and we're sticking to it. We believe in the intelligence of Croatia's residents. I don't believe that there is anyone in Croatia who doesn't know that covid has existed for more than eighteen months now,'' he added.

He added that the government had done everything in their power to get people to have their vaccinations and that they weren't about to force anyone's hand.

"We can't force anyone to get vaccinated, but at the same time life... has to go on," he said, adding that minimal epidemiological measures are set to remain in place.

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

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Božinović: Opposition Seems Not to Want Corruption Cases to Be Prosecuted

ZAGREB, 11 Sept, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Saturday criticised statements by some Opposition MPs following arrests in two corruption cases in Međimurje County. 

"I am certain that already the present and the future will prove their cheap political statements wrong. They seem not to want such cases to be prosecuted," Božinović said in an interview with Croatian Radio.

Speaking after the arrests of Međimurje County head Matija Posavec and Social Democrat (SDP) MP Stjepan Kovač, MP Nikola Grmoja of the Bridge party said on Friday that the arrests were politically motivated to "divert attention from the scandal in Kutina" involving the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, while the SDP's Arsen Bauk said that the timing of the arrests in two unrelated cases showed "a skilful manoeuvre" by the Attorney-General's Office (DORH).

Responding to these accusations, Božinović said that in the first eight months of this year the police had brought corruption charges in 86 percent more cases than in the same period last year. "This means that the police, along with USKOK (anti-corruption office) and DORH, are fully committed to their work, and great changes can be seen in this regard."

"However, no changes can be seen in reactions from the Opposition. Whenever the police and DORH do something, the Opposition immediately says that it is politicisation. I cannot understand those people at all," the minister said.

Commented on the fact that one of the suspects in the Kovač case is a police officer, Božinović said that the police have zero tolerance to any illegal behaviour. Last year proceedings were launched against more than 540 police officers and so far this year against more than 320 officers, he said. 

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Minister Davor Bozinovic Hints at Mere Extension of Existing Measures

September the 10th, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has touched on what might be the situation with the country's epidemiological measures next week as cases of infection in Croatia continue to rise.

Croatia has just been ''painted'' red on the latest update of the ECDC coronavirus map, and while the tourist season has gone remarkably well and the country continues to record excellent numbers as we head into the post-season and then into autumn, some believe an extension of the current measures, at the very least, should occur.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said that, as things stand now, next week the National Civil Protection Directorate will mainly go in the direction of the extension of the country's existing measures, emphasising that the best weapon against serious clinical pictures, hospitalisations and deaths is to take one of the several available coronavirus vaccines. Being vaccinated with any of them has been proven to be very effective in protecting people against more serious forms of the disease.

"As the autumn months approach, people will typically be spending much more time indoors and that's why it is important to follow the basic anti-epidemic measures and recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health,'' said Minister Davor Bozinovic.

He also presented the data from the supervision of the implementation of anti-epidemic measures over the past week, during which inspectors conducted a total of 15,597 inspections. They issued two written warnings, eight notices of violations, nine oral rulings, eight indictments, and three fines for those violating the measures.

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

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Božinović Says EU Should Prevent Mass Migration From Afghanistan

ZAGREB, 31 Aug, 2021 - The European Union should adopt a common position on preventing large migrant waves from Afghanistan, which does not exclude humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups in that country, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Brussels on Tuesday.

"I hope we will take a common position that would place emphasis on the fact that ultimately our goal is to prevent massive, large migrant waves. Croatia certainly holds that position," Božinović told reporters ahead of an extraordinary meeting of European home affairs ministers on Afghanistan.

"Of course, that doesn't exclude humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups, women, girls, children and those who worked for European institutions in Afghanistan," Božinović added.

EU home affairs ministers will discuss the situation in that country, which is again under the Taliban rule, and the possible consequences for the EU.

European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas stressed that the EU should use the Afghanistan crisis to finally agree on a common migration and asylum policy based on the Commission's proposals.

Now is the time for a political agreement on the migration pact, Schinas said upon arriving at the meeting.

The ministers are expected to issue a joint statement in which they will express determination to prevent illegal migrant waves and uncontrolled arrival of migrants from Afghanistan to the Union's external borders in order to prevent a recurrence of the 2015 migrant crisis.

For daily news on Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

New Rules for Weddings and Events on the Croatian Coast in Effort to Save Season

July 22, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović announced that new restrictive measures would be introduced on Monday, applying to the "orange" Adriatic Coast and that EU digital Covid certificates would be a criterion for participating in events on the Croatian coast. 

"They will refer to the Croatian Adriatic according to NUTS regions, that is, the part that is currently in orange and where the incidence is growing, although not as in other countries in the Mediterranean. Croatia is holding up well compared to others. However, the numbers are growing, and we have to do something to prevent at least some events from turning into super-spreaders," Božinović told Dnevnik Nova TV, as reported by Index.hr.

He explained that all gatherings of more than 50 to 1,000 people would have to be organized so that local headquarters and county headquarters take responsibility for their organization, while the EU digital Covid certificate is a criterion for entering the event.

“I am sure, if this is respected, that we can practically continue normally this summer, but under control,” he pointed out.

As for the numerous festivities and fairs held throughout the Adriatic, which bring together many people, Božinović explained that the point is to register these festivities and local headquarters with county officials to decide whether they can control them and whether they will let it happen. If the two headquarters do not agree and there have been such cases, then the National Civil Protection Headquarters will decide.

Božinović said that it is in the country's interest for as many tourists as possible to come to Croatia and create conditions so that they feel safe and so that the infection does not spread too much.

In addition, he stated that weddings also have their own epidemiological framework.

"Anything over 15, now it will be practically unlimited in Dalmatia, but weddings can be 200, 300 people at most. So a Covid passport is a high guarantee that everything will go well," said Božinović.

He also commented on sports competitions, stating that they will allow spectators to come with Covid certificates. He added that these measures should take effect on Monday.

Stricter conditions for British tourists

In addition, it was announced today that British tourists would have more difficulty entering Croatia.

All Britons, Russians, and Cypriots must have a negative test to cross the Croatian border, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or have contracted the virus.

As far as tourism is concerned, this could have the greatest impact on the expected increased arrival of the British on the Adriatic. As a reminder, practically all measures have been lifted for them since Monday, making it easier for them to travel. Meanwhile, Portugal and Spain, the traditional destinations of British tourists, have ended up on the red epidemiological list, making entry into those countries difficult, and several measures have been introduced. Therefore, a significant number of Britons are expected to come to the Adriatic. In Britain, the Delta strain has spread significantly in recent weeks, despite high vaccination coverage, especially among young people. Therefore, there is a danger that the number of infected people in Croatia will increase, which would negatively affect the tourist season.

For these reasons, all Britons, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, will need to show a negative PCR test.

The CNIPH published the news, which is transmitted in its entirety below.

"To protect health and prevent the spread of COVID-19, additional epidemiological measures have been introduced, which are applied when crossing the border into the territory of the Republic of Croatia to prevent the introduction of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Furthermore, due to the above, there was a quarantine obligation for arrivals from the Republic of South Africa, Brazil, Zanzibar, and India for a period of 14 days, which a negative PCR test can shorten after 7 days.

Since the Delta strain was imported from India, it has now become dominant in the European Union. The list of countries for which quarantine is mandatory remains the Republic of South Africa, Brazil, and Zanzibar. For persons coming from India, the mandatory quarantine after crossing the border is abolished. Instead, the obligation to present a negative test result on SARS-CoV-2 is introduced within 48 hours when crossing the border if it is a rapid antigen test or within 72 hours if it is a PCR test, regardless of whether the person has contracted COVID-19 or has been vaccinated.

Due to the worse epidemiological situation in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, and the Russian Federation, as an additional measure for all persons coming from these countries, a negative SARS-CoV-2 test performed in the home country, regardless of vaccination status or recovery from COVID-19, is required before entering the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

The change will be published on the CNIPH website and will take effect on Monday, July 26, 2021," the CNIPH said.

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

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Božinović Talks HDZ, Tourist Season, Assistance to Czechia

ZAGREB, 26 June 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Glina on Saturday that the HDZ, notably under Andrej Plenković's leadership, was winning despite all criticisms, not just from President Zoran Milanović, because citizens saw that the HDZ solved problems.

Responding to questions from the press, Božinović denied that there would be a constitutional crisis after parliament yesterday rejected Milanović's candidate for the Supreme Court president, Zlata Đurđević, saying that a third call for applications would probably be advertised.

Asked to comment on Milanović's claim following the rejection of Đurđević that the HDZ "is destroying" the state and the constitution, Božinović said the HDZ was winning despite all criticisms and enjoying the strongest public support because most citizens saw that the HDZ-led government was solving problems in very complex circumstances.

Success of tourist season depends on our responsibility

Speaking of the tourist season, Božinović said its success depended on people's responsibility in complying with COVID-19 measures.

Asked if night clubs would be closed this summer, he said those outdoors would be able to operate if customers were either vaccinated, tested or had recovered from the virus.

Solidarity with Czech Republic

Asked if the government had discussed helping the Czech Republic after a recent tornado, Božinović said the Interior Ministry and the Civil Protection Directorate immediately offered assistance to their Czech colleagues, "who informed us that at the moment assistance is not needed."

He said they were constantly in touch. "If anyone understands our friends in the Czech Republic, it's us in Croatia, and we know what the response was in the Czech Republic and the EU as a whole to what happened to us in Banovina and Zagreb," he said, referring to last year's devastating earthquakes.

Solidarity and the spirit of a common response to crises is becoming stronger in EU, he said, adding that recently emphasis was on bilateral cooperation, which he said would be cultivated in future as well.

"But for the system at European level to be as effective as possible, given that climate change will cause more and more such situations across the world and Europe, capacities must be joined for a rapid, effective and solidary response to such challenges and threats," Božinović said.

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

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Davor Bozinovic Talks Croatian Covid Certificate, Dodges Pressing Issue

June the 10th, 2021 - There has been a lot of conversation surrounding the controversial so-called ''covid passports'', which Croatia has already introduced. Of course, in true Croatian fashion, the Croatian covid certificate has been plagued (no pun intended) with issues from the very beginning.

The rules appear simple if you want to get your hands on a Croatian covid certificate. You either have to have been vaccinated, have proof of having recovered from the disease, or have a negative PCR test result proving you aren't hosting the novel virus. Easy, right? No. Not at all.

Many people who have previously contracted and then recovered from the disease, including myself, are unable to get their Croatian covid certificate approved. Many people had absolutely no idea they had the disease, either having only very mild symptoms or being asymptomatic, and as such never sought medical attention, testing, or proof of them being infected. The number of people who have actually been infected is more than likely far higher than official records suggest. This poses a massive problem and despite Croatia's attempts to ''avoid discrimination'' - this is precisely what this is.

As a result of numerous complaints, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has decided to speak out about the Croatian covid certificate, claiming that all is working well, much to the frustration of very many people who are entitled to the document, but can't get it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Bozinovic announced on social media that the Croatian system for issuing the EU digital COVID certificate, also referred to in this article as the Croatian covid certificate, has confirmed its full functionality and interoperability. Many would disagree.

"More than 100,000 people managed to have their certificates approved in just seven days," wrote Bozinovic, who said the certificate was eligible for 1.7 million people, who had either been vaccinated or had contracted the disease and since recovered.

The problem of those who overcame the disease, but didn't confirm that with by taking a PCR test, however, still remains an enormous problem, writes RTL vijesti/news. This is a huge issue which it seems nobody even thought about when coming up with this idea, which honestly seems incredibly shortsighted.

By the way, the European Parliament has adopted regulations on its digital certificate which will be applied at the level of the entire bloc from the 1st of July. The certificate will be issued free of charge by the national authorities and will be available in either digital and paper form and will contain a QR code.

The document will serve as confirmation that the person has been vaccinated, has a new negative test result, or has overcome the disease. In practice, these will be three different confirmations. The EU Common Framework will ensure the interoperability and verifiability of certificates throughout the Union and prevent their forgery and fraud.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

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