Wednesday, 29 September 2021

President Zoran Milanović: "We're Nearing 'Red' Zone With Regard to Zagreb's Reconstruction"

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that as far as Zagreb's post-quake reconstruction was concerned, the processes "are already entering the red zone", warning that the financial situation in Zagreb is not good because the previous city administration brought it to the edge of the abyss.

"If we are talking about Zagreb's reconstruction we are already entering the red. The financial situation in the City of Zagreb, as far as I have heard, is not good and not because of its current authorities but its previous administration. They invoiced or tried to invoice and give away anything possible over the past years. And in the end, we all know how that ended - the other option won and it is barely making ends meet," said Milanović.

Asked about Zagreb's reconstruction following the 2020 earthquake, Milanović said that it was important for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to dedicate attention to the issue of Zagreb's finances.

"There is no room for bartering and agreements. The City of Zagreb cannot incur debts above certain levels and the previous authorities have brought it to the edge of the abyss," said Milanović.

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

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Croatian School Museum: 120th Anniversary Clouded by Earthquake Damage

 September 4, 2021 - The Croatian School Museum, despite marking 120 years of existence, isn't really in a celebratory mood as it remains closed to the public and awaiting earthquake reconstruction.

With this weekend being the final one for the summer break before the 2021/22 school year begins in Croatia, families in Zagreb could've ideally used the weekend to introduce the kids to the importance of education by taking them to the Croatian School Museum. However, with the building still undergoing reconstruction after 2020's earthquakes, it would be wise to wait a bit longer before going to see the collection of items and historical evidence that tell the story about the development of education in Croatia.

What is interesting to note, however, is that with 2021 marking 150 years since the first Croatian teacher congress that shaped the course of the education system in the country, it is also the year that marks 120 years of the Croatian School Museum.

The museum first opened its doors on August 19, 1901, marking the 30th anniversary of the Croatian Education and Literary Assembly (the oldest association of Croatian teachers, which is still active today). The museum is located at Trg Republike Hrvatske 4 (Republic of Croatian Square), near Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre (HNK).

''The basis of the museum material was made up of objects from the teaching exhibition that was held in Zagreb back in 1871 and 1892, and materials were also donated by various teachers, schools, publishers, and education material manufacturers,'' explains the museum's website.

The new and current permanent exhibition was refreshed back in the year 2000 and many visitors have become interested in visiting the museum since then. With occasional exhibitions, we deal with topics from the history of school and education, and we represent the materials from the museum's collection,'' the site adds. Hrvatski_Školski_Muzej_iap.jpg

© Hrvatski Školski Muzej

The museum has gone through two world wars, one regional war and four different political systems. Štefka Batinić, the museum's headmaster, wrote for the Croatian School Museum blog site about the history of the museum and teaching in Croatia using historical sources from these periods. She noted that during that past, which, in Croatia, much like today, saw society divided owing to various ideological conflicts, teachers were also not spared discussions and different views on how society might move forward.

Still, one can assume that despite reading up on these conflicts which were of paramount significance, teachers were still united in putting their students first despite disagreeing with each other on what the best way to provide them with the most quality education and future was.

It is also interesting to note from Batinić's writing how teachers in charge of teaching new generations of pupils were perceived during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, when events and reforms which were the cornerstone of the current Croatian education system started to unfold.

''Croatian teachers (class teachers, working with the youngest among us) were denied the epithet of Croatian intelligence (in the education community, the term was reserved for the academically educated high-school and university professors), but their tendencies and goals were directed towards the finest practice examples of the teachers' community in Austrian and German lands,'' wrote Batinić.

Batinić's blog also cynically wrote in the caption underneath the photo of a damaged chimney on the museum that ''hopefully, it won't collapse before reconstruction begins.''

''We don't feel like celebrating. We'll celebrate when the reconstruction begins. Some important people from the city visited us recently. We're thankful for that,'' concluded Batinić in her blog post.

With faculties and higher educational institutions seeing progress in the reconstruction process following 2020's earthquakes, other educational institutions and, as we can see, museums, still await their turn for reconstruction as the bitter taste in their mouths grows. It isn't surprising, given that in the eyes of many, this government prioritises neither reconstruction nor education in general.

Read about Croatian politics and history since 1990 on our TC guide.

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

Thursday, 2 September 2021

PM: We Will Do Everything to Accelerate Post-Earthquake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 2 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government would do everything to accelerate the process of post-earthquake reconstruction, and recalled that new tenders for about 4,000 houses in Banovina would be advertised already today and tomorrow.

"We will make every effort to speed up that process... and the Ministry of Construction and State Assets will present a comprehensive proposal of measures and possible legal changes which should make the entire reconstruction process more efficient and faster," Plenković said at the beginning of a government session.

As for the beginning of the new school year, the prime minister expressed satisfaction with the increase in the number of vaccinated persons in the school system.

"They set a good example and motive to those that haven't done that yet," he said.

Currently, 57.5% of the teaching staff in primary and secondary schools have been given at least one shot against COVID-19 and in tertiary education, this percentage is higher, 64.5%,  Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Wednesday.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 23 August 2021

Science Faculty (PMF) Earthquake Reconstruction: Croatian Faculties Receive Aid

August 23, 2021 - The Science Faculty (PMF) Earthquake reconstruction money was received in July by the Croatian government and Education Ministry. The aid was given to other high-education and scientific institutes that suffered from the earthquake too.

With August concluding, the academic community is waking up after a summer break. Students are preparing for exams, and professors are grading those exams as both groups boldly look towards new wins and losses in October and another season of active higher education in Croatia. However, with faculties being low-key in the summer, one might have missed an important action in early July when prime minister Andrej Plenković and education minister Radovan Fuchs came to Zagreb's National and University Library. They delivered 42 contracts of assigning non-returnable financial aids to reconstruct infrastructure of higher education and scientific institutions hit by the earthquake. The total amount is 2,140,837,980 kuna, and Zagreb's University Faculty of Science (PMF) received a total of 160.988.403 kuna for its own reconstruction after the natural disaster first hit Zagreb on March 23, 2020, and later Petrinja on December 29, which was also felt heavily in the Croatian capital.

With the University of Zagreb being founded in the middle of the 17th century, teaching and research of natural sciences and mathematics, which led to today's PMF, can be found almost two years after the university was founded, on April 21, 1876. The faculty, in its current form of working, was established on June 8, 1946. Since then, PMF has worked on its educational and research contributions, whose excellence is recognized domestically and internationally.

„The Faculty designs and conducts relevant university studies and scientific research programs which are an integral part of the higher education process in the fields of biology, physics, geophysics, geography, geology, chemistry, and mathematics," says the PMF website.

Today, PMF has seven departments (Biology, Physics, Geophysics, Geography, Geology, Chemistry, and Mathematics), organized into 28 divisions. It has around 4000 students enrolled in undergraduate, integrated undergraduate and graduate, and graduate university studies within 35 study programs and about 1000 students at seven postgraduate studies and one postgraduate specialist study.

„It is less known that the PMF also comprises the Seismological Service and its seismological stations all over Croatia, the mareographic station in Bakar, the geomagnetic observatory in Lonjsko polje, and the green jewel located in the very heart of Zagreb – the Botanical Garden. And in the background of it all are nearly 500 scientists and teachers for whom you will not only be just another name on a sheet of paper but a truly personal and (hopefully) successful story about your future and ours“, explained PMF.

The earthquakes damaged PMF, particularly the buildings of biology and geography departments. Still, it is admirable that amidst its own trouble, PMF found a way to help students of the Faculty of Metallurgy in Sisak, which also took a heavy hit from the earthquake, by donating five new laptops for educational purposes.

As TCN previously reported, citizens of Zagreb had mixed feelings regarding how the city and the government handled the situation in Zagreb. However, Croatian Parliament MP Sandra Benčić from the Možemo Green-left coalition, while commenting on the victory of his party colleague Tomislav Tomašević on Zagreb elections, stated that the citizens he helped filling out paperwork for damaged homes needed to receive European funds for the reconstruction, for which Zagreb needs to apply by June 2022 to receive the aid.

With these moves by the new administration and the aforementioned aids for the high scientific institutions, the steps to recover Zagreb, the center of science, culture, politics, economy, and more in the Republic of Croatia are underway. But, it will still take time for citizens to recover fully from 2020's tragedies.

The results of education and science curiosity pay off. Learn more about Croatian inventions & discoveries: from Tesla to Rimac on our TC page.

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

Saturday, 10 July 2021

PM Says Croatia Preserves Its Financial Reputation

ZAGREB, 10 July 2021 - Croatia has managed to preserve its firm financial reputation, while weathering the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of the 2020 devastating earthquakes, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in his speech at the 14th edition of Dubrovnik Forum on Saturday.

The fourteenth annual international conference titled "Dubrovnik Forum: (Post)-Pandemic Geopolitics - Together in a World Apart" focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the geopolitical relations and global economy. The programme includes three panels: "Unmasking the Geopolitics of a Post-Pandemic World"; "The International Community and the Western Balkans: How to End the Quarantine?"; and, "European Union, Three Seas Initiative and 17+China: How to support Central and Eastern Europe’s economic growth and societal development?".

Addressing the forum, PM Plenković said that Croatia's financial reputation remained firm owing to good results in the pre-pandemic period.

After being hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating earthquakes, Croatia is now learning how to endure the pressure and tap considerable financial funds so as to provide the citizens with the real development that is evolving into two directions: admission to the Schengen Area during 2022, and the full readiness in 2023 for the admission into the euro area, he said.

The Croatian PM underscored the importance of international cooperation, notably joint efforts within the European Union.

The prevailing opinion of European leaders last summer was that we were faced with a huge problem that required the proper solution. The only way to find the solution for that big problem was to make agreement on the EU Next Generation instrument and withdraw a great amount of money for the recovery, Plenković explained.

He recalled that the European Commission had recently given its greenlight to Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan, worth €6.3 billion, which could significantly boost the country's Gross Domestic Product and create 21,000 new jobs by 2026. 

The greenlight from Brussels is an important step towards the EU disbursing funds in grants and loans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The EU plan for the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was described by the Croatian prime minister as the wisest move.

He also recalled that at the onset of the pandemic, Craotia did not have enough equipment and protective clothes to address the crisis. Only one telephone call to Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was enough and the problem was solved, the Croatian PM added.

During his key-note speech Plenković said that the developments in the western Balkans was one of the topics of the Dubrovnik event and he reiterated his support to Balkan countries' striving for EU membership.

He expressed hope that Bulgaria and North Macedonia would find a solution to their bilateral dispute as soon as possible.

The time has ripened for Albania and North Macedonia to finally start their accession negotiations, he added.

PM recalled that Croatia perceived Bosnia and Herzegovina as its most important neighbour in the historical, geographic and cultural sense.

We support the current process that is being conducted with the assistance of the USA and the European Union in relation to efforts to amend the election law in that country. We believe that this issue should be settled and that institutions should include legitimate representatives (of constituent peoples) and that we should comply with the letter and law of the Dayton Agreement, Plenković said.

All the three constituent peoples should be equal, and the moves being taken since 2006 have not made Croatia happy. We do not think that such moves are conducive to the good functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said.

Croatia also supports reforms being taken in other EU membership aspirants: Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

Plenković conveyed Croatia's readiness for the strengthening of cooperation in the Mediterranean region and announced that in September Croatia and Slovenia could join the informal group of Mediterranean countries called MED 7.

For more on business, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Demolition of Private Houses Damaged by Zagreb Earthquake Starts

ZAGREB, 10 June 2021 - The authorities in Zagreb on Thursday started demolishing the first houses, which were given red warning notices due to the extent of the damage they suffered as a result of the 22 March 2020 earthquake.

The demolition started with the removal of a property, owned by the Sunek family, in the northern suburb of Granešinski Novaki.

The head of the post-quake reconstruction fund, Damir Vanđelić, said that the decisions on the demolition of the damaged property and on the reconstruction were within the remit of the Construction Ministry.

He called for the acceleration of the whole process of decision-making and for making joint efforts to step up the reconstruction 446 days after the 5.5 earthquake hit the capital city, killing a girl and causing extensive damage.

For the latest news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

New Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević: Sandra Benčić (Mozemo!) On First Moves

June 1, 2021 - With the new Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević soon coming to the office, Sandra Benčić of the green-left platform Mozemo! (We Can!) spoke to Index.hr about the first moves of the new administration.

Following intense post-first round campaigns in Zagreb for the second round of local elections, Tomislav Tomašević is the new mayor of Zagreb. Additionally, Tomašević's green-left coalition Mozemo! earned 23 seats in the City's assembly, and if the previously announced support of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) that has five, Mozemo! will have the majority in the assembly. 

The new mayor is expected to take his seat by the end of this week, and as Index.hr reports, Sandra Benčić, the Mozemo! MP says that ZG Holding chief and directors can be removed from their position immediately.

However, first and foremost, the earthquake damages seem to be taking the lead.

„The most urgent thing is to prepare documentation for the reconstructions of kindergartens, schools, and institutions in the city ownership that were damaged in the earthquake. We have to do that as fast as possible because the deadline to pull money from the EU Solidarity Fund is June 2022. I'm afraid there will be a fiasco regarding how much will the State pull from the fund, but we can only take the money for estates in the city property, and the damaged kindergartens and schools are our priority“, told Benčić for Index.hr

She added that they plan to start an Office for Zagreb Reconstruction and establish mobile teams which will help citizens to fill in documentation and requests for the reconstruction of damaged homes.

Regarding the statement about the fiasco with the State pulling money from Solidarity Fund, the conflict with the government was sparked yesterday when PM Andrej Plenković talked to the press regarding Tomašević's victory. He said he didn't congratulate Tomašević yet, but he will and that he expects good cooperation.

„I see that Mozemo! is paraphrasing my message from 2016 when I said that we are changing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) so we can change Croatia. They say they are changing Zagreb to change Croatia. Clearly, they have something against this Croatia“, said Plenković, sparking controversy.

And Benčić is not the one to remain silent on such statements.

„Yes, we do have something against this kind of HDZ and evening HDZ with the State. They are not the State but an interest group that trapped our country. We want to see the country returns to all its citizens and that, of course, hurts them to the level that the prime minister allows himself these kinds of statements which, if they weren't malice, would be at minimal, unsmart“, said Benčić.

With the biggest number of votes in the history of mayoral elections in Zagreb, Benčić continues they are ready to justify this trust, and they start with work immediately.

„We are going with the financial revision of City's administration, restructuring City offices. We will do it step by step and connect offices while ensuring that functions and services need to deliver to the citizens. It should be noted that Zagreb used to have fewer offices, 17 until 2000 and then offices start to grow exponentially, only to put politically suited people to positions and raise their payments“, explained Benčić.

 And the new Mayor Tomislav Tomašević also gave an interview on Monday. As Jutarnji List reported, Tomašević also talked about his plans to improve Zagreb and fulfill his promises, particularly with so many earned votes.

„This big trust is also a big responsibility. Citizens can expect that we will lead by example from the start. The city administration and authority will be based on three things: decency, modesty, and being at the citizen's service.

He also added that Mozemo! is considering filing a lawsuit against Miroslav Škoro for the filthy instigating campaign, as Tomašević and many other public figures described it.

„I wouldn't like this to happen to anyone anymore on any other elections in Croatia, regardless are we talking about a candidate from the right, left or center," commented Tomašević.

Although no direct link can be proved at the moment, Škoro's rhetoric could've been the fuel for the attacker that set fire to the Mozemo! election headquarters at Zagreb Contemporary Museum on the election night saying to the gathered that „they are communists“ and how he will „kill them all“, on which T-portal reported

The elections are over, but will Zagreb continue to celebrate in such a majority as it did on election night? This is something only Tomašević on his new function can answer in the following months and years.

Learn more about Zagreb on our TC page.

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Strike at HŽ Infrastruktura Railway Company Called Off

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Three representative railway workers' unions whose members are employees of the HŽ Infrastruktura railway company have called off a strike announced for noon on 25 March after reaching a compromise solution and signing a new collective agreement with the employer.

The leader of one of the three unions, Mario Grbešić, told Hina that the dispute with the employer had been about two provisions, one being a non-taxable wage supplement and the other meal allowances.

"An agreement has been reached concerning these two issues in a satisfactory way. One will be implemented immediately and the other will be in force as of 1 January next year," Grbešić said.

Under the new collective agreement, to be in force from 1 April this year until 30 June 2022, as of 1 April workers have the right to a HRK 416 non-taxable wage supplement each month.

As of 1 January 2022, workers will receive a meal allowance of HRK 1.30 per each working hour.

They will also receive an Easter bonus of HRK 500, holiday pay of HRK 1,300 and a Christmas bonus of HRK 1,200.

The three unions that were planning to strike represent railway workers, train dispatchers and railway infrastructure workers.

The previous collective agreement expired on 28 February.

The unions further expressed their willingness to postpone negotiations on the cost of labour until the last quarter of this year considering the economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and last year's earthquakes.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Tomašević Announces Reconstruction of Zagreb in Four Dimensions

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - A Zagreb Mayor hopeful, Tomislav Tomašević, warned on Monday on the first anniversary of the Zagreb quake that nothing had been done in the post-quake reconstruction and promised the rebuilding of the city in four dimensions if he won the 16 May local election.

"We have come to know that we do not have not one decision forwarded to the Reconstruction Fund nor has any action been taken," Tomašević told a press conference in front of the City Hall, which was organised by his We Can party and its partners: "Zagreb is Ours " and OraH parties.

He warned that the fund and Ministry of Construction are passing the buck regarding to whether decisions have been written or not and the problems they had outlined during the debate on the Reconstruction Act have now occurred.

He pushed for bringing together experts under the one roof so that good decisions can be made faster.

Tomašević said the current situation could be seen as an opportunity for reconstruction and also for earthquake-resistant development of the city in four dimensions including physical reconstruction which is aimed at increasing earthquake resilience and developing earthquake-proof infrastructure.

The plan is also to reconstruct public places which will give a social dimension to the historical centre of town and suburbs on the rim of Sljeme mountain that will include local construction companies in rebuilding projects and will increase energy efficiency and improve the quality of living as part of the fourth "green" dimension. 

MP Sandra Benčić added that the Reconstruction Fund had received money however it was not being used because blueprints had not been approved through a tender that was advertised.

They believe that the key mechanism to fund reconstruction is in the European ITU mechanism of integrated territorial management whereby structural funds are are managed by city agglomerations.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Plenković: Government Taking Steps to Provide €3.8bn for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalisation in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering - 1CroCEE.

The conference was organised by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.

Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.

For that expensive and long process of the reconstruction to be implemented it is essential to secure the necessary funds, particularly from European and international sources, said Plenković.

The government has to date taken intensive activities at all levels for reconstruction and revitalisation of affected areas  so as to secure €3.8 billion or about HRK 28.5 billion, which is 22% of the funds required.

Of that amount, almost €1.4 billion is from European sources and €2.4 billion through international financing institutions.

The European funds include €684 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Zagreb's reconstruction and almost €600 million is planned through the Recover and Resilience Mechanism, while €111 million will be reallocated from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), he said.

In addition, we will endeavour to secure funds from the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework  which is currently being programmed and financing reconstruction will be treated as a specific item, said Plenković.

When it comes to international financing institutions, in addition to an already contracted loan of €184 million from the World Bank, talks will be conducted for an additional €1 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB), €900 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and €300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

An additional €319.2 million needs to be added to all that which Croatia requested from the European Solidarity Fund for the removal of damage caused by the earthquake in the Banovina region, he added.

Plenković added that constant talks were being held with a series of development and commercial banks to come up with solutions that will provide credit lines with favourable interest rates for individuals. That primarily refers to the 20% of the costs they need to cover reconstruction, to finance the difference between structural repairs and complete reconstruction, to finance the reconstruction of apartment buildings and also to fund the reconstruction of public buildings by the state.

"We are about to enter the phase of organised structural repairs and comprehensive reconstruction, not just in Zagreb but in neighbouring counties," said Plenković.

He underscored that reconstruction should boost a new large development cycle for Zagreb and neighbouring counties as well as trigger the revitalising of the Banovina region.

World Bank director for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, said that the estimated quake damage was equal to reached 30% of Croatia's GDP.

Page 1 of 7

Search