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.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Minister Says Organised Reconstruction in Zagreb to Start in June

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - Physical Planning and Construction Minister Darko Horvat said on Sunday, ahead of the first anniversary of the 22 March 2020 earthquake in Zagreb, that preparations for the process of reconstruction were underway and that organised reconstruction would start in June.

"The process has not come to a halt. It is complex and is proceeding slowly," the minister said in an interview with Nova TV, noting that buildings damaged in the earthquake had been prepared for demolition or reconstruction.

He noted that a delay was possible if problems occurred in the procurement and appeals procedures.

"But we plan to have concrete contracts and start with organised reconstruction in June," Horvat said.

He noted that the reconstruction process would be carried out by Croatian construction companies but that foreign ones could be hired as well, depending on the dynamic of obtaining the necessary funding.

Asked if the state would cover interest on loans to be taken by citizens for reconstruction costs, Horvat said that this was being discussed with banks and that it yet remained to be seen if the state would also take over the financing of a part of the loan principal.

He recalled that staff at his ministry could help citizens write requests for reconstruction and that those requests could be submitted by mail or through the e-obnova system.

Until all contracts for the entire job of reconstruction are signed, there will be no excavators in the streets, Horvat said.

"If we want to use money approved by the European Commission fairly and in line with strict EC rules, the procedure must be followed," he said.

Monday, 22 March 2021

VIDEO: Zagreb Earthquake 2020, One Year Later

March 22, 2021- On the Zagreb Earthquake 2020 first anniversary, TCN reporters Ivor Kruljac and Jose Alfonso Kusijanović took to Zagreb's streets to see how locals feel one year later. 

6:24 AM March 22, 2020. It was Sunday, but sleep was as light as it was a workday full of obligations. Zagreb's citizens were awakened by a horrible sound followed by walls shaking, the ground trembling and things falling all over the place. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, at the very end of the first week of the first lockdown where it was advised to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the virus, there was no choice but to rush out of the house, discombobulated and without a clue of what exactly is the damage that 5.5 magnitude earthquake did. Individuals, couples, and entire families were outside but at a distance from one another, and just after the first aftershock, it started to snow. If you didn't leave the very center of Zagreb, the first sign of damage was the cathedral, whose top of the left tower collapsed, and only later you started to see the images of the center, which many compared online to Beirut. The Covid-19 National Response Team expressed its condolences on TV but warning everyone to keep the distance due to corona. Emergency services rushed to the city, later followed by the army. People who lost their homes were taken to student dorms and other locations with free space in the following days. Sadly, a 15-year-old-girl was fatally injured during the earthquake and passed away at Klaićeva's Children Hospital.

One year later, citizens of Zagreb still have mixed feelings about the event. Here are their answers in our short interview.

 

Shaking the memory

Senior citizen Ljerka was walking around European Square. Her home survived the quake, and the aftermath was books that fell from a shelf and broken bottles and jars in her pantry.  She learned about that damage after a few days when she returned home from her sister's because she was too scared to be alone. The memory of last year still gives her the chills. „I jumped out of bed and lost my head; you have no idea where to go. You don't know what to do. I quickly grabbed something, half-dressed, rushed to the street. People were standing outside confused who didn't know where to go or what to do, nothing“, she said. Describing herself as an optimistic person, the scary experience is still stuck with her even one year later. „You remember it from time to time, but you can't forget it," said Ljerka.

A young guy named Dejan Jakovljević was casually walking around a crowded Dolac market, carefully with a mask to respect the measures in the crowds. He handled the earthquake pretty well as he lives in a new building with lots of concrete and reinforcement. 

„It woke me up, but I knew it was an earthquake. It didn't scare me. I just waited for it to be over“, said Dejan. Responding to how he feels about it one year later, he briefly acknowledged that he „honestly forgot about it. “

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

The same can't be said for American-born Stefanie Mikac from New York. We met her while she was walking her dog in Zrinjevac park. Her home was badly damaged. „I was in the bathroom dancing left and right. I didn't think it was an earthquake, I thought 'what is it, the devil had come!’ and there was smoke“, remembered Stefanie. When she realized it was an earthquake, she hid under the door, and when it passed, she searched for her dog that hid in the apartment before finally escaping her flat. On her trip to Hawaii, where earthquakes are quite frequent, she accepted that there is not much you can do against mother nature. Despite her bad experience, a year later, she feels safe in Zagreb. „Very secure, safe. You know, you have to take things as they come, “ said Stephanie sharing her positive attitude.

We spotted Mira Francem walking on Jelačić square. Her house was built following all the construction demands and proved to be earthquake-proof. Still, the rocky feeling isn't something that she liked. „I personally felt terrible. I had a feeling the whole world was collapsing, and in the end, that feeling of losing the ground under my feet is an instinct, you know?”, said Mira adding that even though her house is fine, the trembling ground was awful. When asked if there is still anxiety over the last year's event, she resoundingly repeated, “yes.”

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

Mladen Habuš was standing on Vlaška street that connects European Square with Kaptol, where the City's cathedral is located.

“My home was okay. The earthquake surprised everyone at first, but fortunately, they don't last, so you stabilize psychologically”, said Mladen calmly, as if it didn’t really leave an impression on him.

“I already forgot about it because it's not as frequent as in Glina or Petrinja, whereas they say, it shakes every five minutes,” he emphasized, and that the key is to remain relaxed. 

December – another round, another rumble

The second earthquake with a 6.4 magnitude that hit Petrinja and ravaged Banovina / Banija didn't damage Zagreb as it did to the southern part of central Croatia. Still, it was certainly felt, and many agreed it was stronger than the one in March.

„Jesus Christ! That one was even worse!“said Ljerka the second I mentioned the Petrinja earthquake. She learned that Zagreb is situated in a seismic active area, and earthquakes are something people in Zagreb need to learn to live with, but March didn't make her welcome the December tremble with more ease. She ran out of the house, not knowing what when her niece, who also lives in Zagreb, called her.

„I asked her if there was another earthquake in Zagreb. I didn't get anything. She said, 'no, that's the aftermath of Petrinja.' We are really close to Petrinja“, said Ljerka.

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Nikola Cutuk / PIXSELL

Stephanie was walking her dog during the Petrinja earthquake. She witnessed bricks falling and was relieved nobody was passing underneath at the time. However, when she returned home, she entered the mess, and the damages that were still not fixed from March intensified. „All the cracks are wider now, and everything will need to be taken down to get to the healthy wall,” said Stephanie.

When asked if the December quake was easier or the same to handle for her, she laughed, acknowledging that it was actually worse.  “We repeated the reactions from the first earthquake, you know? It's a very unpleasant feeling even today when a tram passes or something buzzes. I think something is trembling, and we are quite tense”, shared Mira. She said that no matter how rational you are, consequences as emotions are different from rationale.  “I'm really sorry for those people. My house isn't damaged, but I was scared and lost, and I can only imagine how those people felt. It's a huge catastrophe on which we cannot influence,” said Mira with empathy.

Dejan felt the December quake was stronger but feeling safe in his building; he wasn't too worried. “I instinctively rushed to save the TV. Everything else was irrelevant”, recalled Dejan with gentle laughter underneath his mask.

Despite Mladen being relaxed after Petrinja, anxiety crept up on him too. “You start listening; someone starts a car, you raise your head to see what's going on. You are expecting another earthquake”, said Mladen. Still, he added that “you get used to it.”  

 

Insurance vs. safe building

As revealed earlier this year, 85% of Croatian households don't have earthquake insurance.

Dejan doesn't know if the building had insurance but given his building proved safe, he didn't seem too concerned with that question.

Mira also didn't have insurance, but her investment in the safe building certainly paid off.

Stephanie's home was badly damaged, but she pays 1200 kuna annually for insurance and says it isn't too expensive in Croatia. However, regarding the walls in her home that need to be fixed, there was a bit of an issue. „The insurance company actually secured only the furniture, but then through a lawyer, we made a deal to cover half of it. Something is better than nothing“, said Stephanie.

Ljerka complemented her landlord and how she manages things. Her building received a green sticker but chimneys needed to be removed. Insurance helped there a lot. „We took down the chimney ourselves, and we got the money back, I think 3000 kuna, “ said Ljerka. The roof was renewed a year or two ago, but the same couldn't be said about the terrace residents have in the back of the building. Insurance didn't want to cover it, and a loan was needed to be taken for the fixture.

City officials to the rescue! Or not?

Both the country and international community, not to mention companies and individuals, rushed to help Zagreb, and the now-deceased mayor Milan Bandić found himself challenged to return Zagreb to its old glory and shine as fast as possible. The situation even called for a Zagreb reconstruction bill on the parliament level as the government took the lead in rebuilding the city. In the meantime, Bandić passed away, and with local elections coming up, the city's repair remains a topic for all the candidates that hope to take the lead chair of city politics in May.

Regarding the response of the city officials, Ljerka isn't happy.

„What did the city do? Nothing. It was all ruins. Look at what Zagreb looks like now after the earthquake. How long has passed, and nothing is done. Nothing. Only the houses that people renovated themselves, but the city gave nothing”, commented Ljerka. She did, however, add that the city doesn’t have money and that she understands that.

Mira shares Ljerka's opinion that the situation is better for those who organized repairs privately. Still, when it comes to the city authority response, she says, „it should have gone faster, better, and more organized. “

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

„I see a lot of my friends who live in the center. It's all at a standstill. For those who engaged themselves privately, it is better, but otherwise, it is prolonged. It needs to be better, more active, more engaged to ease the people and make them stronger."

Dejan also thinks that the authorities' response was not good and that “they should help people.“

When asked to comment on the city's response to the earthquake damage, Stephanie was hesitant at first. She feared many people would disagree with her opinion and her different way of thinking because she lived in the US.

“Over there, we have asbestos insurance and insurance for everything. If you have a bank loan and the bank has input on the house, you have to have insurance”, explained Stephanie asking me if it is fair for her to pay the insurance while others don’t and later demand the city to pay for everything. “Imagine if the city would fix apartments for everyone and secure the buildings. Nobody would ever do that anywhere. They may give you a percentage, but that's it,” concludes Stephanie.  

Mladen is happy with the city's response.

“I think the city, to my knowledge and how much I followed, was the only one that jumped to help those who lost their homes and put them in free spaces,” Mladen pointed out. He also reminds us that the government took over the rebuild and the city is involved with 20%. When asked if it’s good for Zagreb that the government took the lead over the city, a resounding yes was the final answer. “The city doesn't have enough money, so the government needs to jump in," concluded Mladen.  

Steady ground wishes above all

Being the biggest and the capital city of Croatia, which attracts people from everywhere in the country and beyond, Zagreb streets offered truly diverse answers to Jose and me. There was more or less fright on March 22, 2020, and different levels of anxiety today. Different views on insurance and the city’s response. We can only guess how differently they will vote in May. But one wish is the constant for the Purger's hearth - the wish to see Zagreb as a safe city where you only get awakened by an alarm clock.   

 For more about the earthquake in Zagreb, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Quake Damage Done to Cultural Heritage in Central Croatia Estimated at €640 Million

ZAGREB, 19 March, 2021 - Damage done to listed buildings and monuments in the quake-hit Sisak-Moslavina County has been estimated at €400 million, while the total damage done to cultural heritage in all the quake-hit areas of Croatia is put at €640 million.

These figures were presented on Friday after Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek met the task force for dealing with quake aftermath in Sisak-Moslavina County for the talks on registering the damage to cultural heritage.

Obuljen Koržinek informed the task force of the next steps to be taken including urgent measures for the protection and preparation of documentation for the reconstruction of individual listed buildings and monuments.

Reconstruction will be such that it will preserve all the features of the area, however, (listed) buildings will also be renovated to be quake-resistant and energy efficient, the minister said.

Yesterday, we estimated the damage to cultural heritage at €640 million, with just over €400 million in Sisak-Moslavina County and just over €200 million in the nine other affected counties. As far as listed buildings in Petrinja alone are concerned, the damage done to them is estimated at more than €100 million, said Minister Obuljen Koržinek.

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

 

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Croatia Earthquakes: Why, Where and When They Happen

January 19, 2021 – The relief effort is nationwide, international. Media pages are awash with the aftermath and repercussions. The devastating earthquake in Petrinja has created unforgettable images and changed lives forever. With the ground still shaking from sizeable aftershocks, we caught up with one of the country's leading geologists, working in the field near Petrinja, to as him why, where and when Croatia earthquakes happen?

“Once in 100 years”, they said, after the large earthquake hit Zagreb in March 2020. But, in late December, another. This time near Petrinja. Then, unbelievably, an even greater tremor - the biggest yet - on the following day. The aftershocks are considerable. They arrive after those from March's earthquake had only just begun to subside. It's a little wonder people can't sleep at night.

Stood on this shaky surface, our nerves on edge and with too many questions to ask, TCN tried to find some solid ground by turning to science. We spoke with one of the best-placed people in the country to tell us all about Croatia Earthquakes - why they happen, where they happen and when they will happen. We interviewed Josip Stipčević of the Geophysics Department, University of Zagreb, while he was on-site in Petrinja.

JosipStipevi.jpgJosip Stipčević and the Geology Department of the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb © University of Zagreb

My name is Josip Stipčević and I'm an assistant professor in the Department of Geophysics at the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. At our faculty, part of what we do is explore underground and undertake research using seismic waves. We record earthquakes. The geology department explores rocks.

Seismologists and geologists have instruments all around Croatia that record earthquakes. Immediately following the large earthquake near Petrinja, I joined geology colleagues in the near vicinity of the earthquake to look for surface ruptures, visible cracks on the surface. Because of the weather conditions and type of ground, it was important we go immediately because some of these expressions of the earthquake may be quickly lost.

The work we did will form the basis of a report that takes in geological and seismological findings. It's important to integrate these different sets of data with satellite and GPS measurements to learn as much as possible about the earthquake - why it happened, where it happened, what actually happened - how it progressed. You want to build up the most detailed and accurate account of the event. By doing this, it may give us a better understanding of what might take place in the future.

What we already knew was that this is an area where Croatia earthquakes happen. What we don't know is how often they happen or exactly why they happen - what are the forces that drive this build-up of strain in the earth's crust?

Croatian_Geological_Institute.jpgOutdoor educational board constructed by Professor Stipčević's colleagues from the Croatian Geological Institute © Croatian Geological Institute

There were quite a lot of us working in the area, over at least two different sites. It will take months more to analyze all of our findings. I was with a group from the University of Zagreb but there were colleagues from the Geology Institute also. A lot of us.

Croatia Earthquakes: Why do they happen?

Our Earth is a geologically alive planet. The Earth's core is hot. It is gradually cooling, over billions of years since it was formed. The heat must be released. There is convection taking place within the earth - a heat transfer. This is what drives the movement of the solid, outer layer of the earth which, using technical terms, we call the lithosphere. On the top of the lithosphere, there is a crust - like the outer layer of an onion. Here, the convection of the earth drives the movement of different tectonic plates that sit on the surface.

The_Lithosphere.pngThe Lithosphere, or 'Earth's crust' © KDS44

The surface of the Earth is broken up into several major parts. These are what we call the tectonic plates. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, except not all of the pieces fit so comfortably. These tectonic plates are moving because of the convection. They interact with each other. In some places, you have a divergence - where the plates are moving away from each other and new plates are forming. Then, you have plates where there is convergence - the plates are coming together. In those places, one plate is often going underneath the other or, like here - where we have two continental plates coming together, neither of which can sink beneath the other (because continental plates are more buoyant), we have an interaction where the plates collide. It is this collision that creates all of the mountain ranges in Europe - the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Dinaric Alps and so on. When the tectonic plates collide, there is an expression in the build-up of the energy. That is what an earthquake is.

tectonic_plates.pngThe major tectonic plates of the Earth in the present day © Public domain

The major plates in our region are the African plate and the Eurasian plate. They interact through the Mediterranean. But, it's not so simple. You also have small, fragmentary parts of the plate that are ‘stuck’ between these larger plates. One of these fragments, which is still attached to the African plate, is the Adriatic plate. It exists in the area of the Adriatic sea. Because of the movement of the Adriatic plate, you have material on both sides which is strained. This strain, or stress-energy, builds up in the crust and is released in Croatia earthquakes.

The_Adriatic_Plate.jpgThe Adriatic Plate © Public domain

It is this collision that has formed all of the mountains that exist all around the Adriatic - the Apennines, the Alps and the Dinaric Alps. It is also responsible for the range of volcanoes we find running down the west of Italy and the ones more towards the south of Italy, some of which are still active.

There are two kinds of tectonic plates - continental plates and oceanic plates. They are both different. The oceanic plates are thin and dense, very heavy. The continental plates are thick and more buoyant, less dense. It is so buoyant that it cannot sink back down into the mantle - the deeper parts of the Earth. But, the oceanic plates are dense enough to sink back into the mantle. When that happens, one expression is the formation of volcanoes.

The_volcanoes_of_Italy.jpgThe volcanoes of Italy, caused by the Adriatic Plate © Public domain

The Adriatic plate is partly oceanic and partly continental. Broadly speaking, the oceanic part of this plate is sinking beneath Italy, producing volcanoes. In Croatia, we mostly have the continental part of this plate. It cannot sink, so it instead collides and we have Croatia earthquakes. We had volcanoes here maybe 20 or 30 million years ago, but the part of the oceanic plate responsible for those was consumed. I'm speaking in very broads terms here - some of what you're asking me is really quite heavy stuff, ha! It's much more complex when you delve into it.

Croatia Earthquakes: What are the fault lines?

If you take a pencil between your hands and try to break it, the stress you create will find a point at which the pencil will break. The break in the pencil is like a fault line. It's a different kind of strain within the earth's crust, but the same principle applies. The force is absolutely ginormous and this action has been happening for billions of years, in our region alone it has been happening for many millions of years.

Because this has been taking place over such a long period of time and because the movement is still happening, some of the fault lines become inactive. Others are still active and new ones may even be created. In other parts of the world, these fault lines can run hundreds of kilometres long.

San_Andreas_Fault.jpgThe San Andreas Fault in California © John Wiley User: Jw4nvc - Santa Barbara, California

We don't really speak of 'active faults' because it's so hard to measure them. Some of them exist very deep in the earth. Some of them have surface expressions, but not all. So, it's not easy to say 'we have this many active faults here in Croatia'. You can say that in other parts of the world - everyone has heard of the San Andreas fault in California, it is a huge surface expression. Here in Croatia, the fault lines are smaller. The interaction is not so vigorous as in California, which is where the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate meet.

Croatia Earthquakes: Where do they happen?

Rather than active faults or fault lines, it is more accurate in Croatia to speak of active fault areas. We know which areas are tectonically active - where you may experience Croatia earthquakes. Those areas are southern Dalmatia, the Rijeka region, the Zagreb region and the Petrinja / Sisak region.

RTL_Television_depicted.jpgHow Croatia's RTL Television depicted Croatia's fault lines - or fault areas - in their graphic © screenshot

In Dubrovnik, you had one of the most major Croatia earthquakes of the last millennium during the 17th century. It was considerably larger than the one we just had in Petrinja. The whole city was devastated. Extensive damage. Dubrovnik and southern Dalmatia is the area that is most prone to larger Croatia earthquakes. I have just received a grant from the Croatian Science Foundation to explore just this. We are due to start in just a couple of months.

Dubrovnik_from_before_the_major_earthquake.jpgA painting of Dubrovnik from before the major earthquake of the 17th century © Public domain

From what we know, the areas of the country which experience the least seismic activity are Istria and some parts of Slavonia and Baranja. Other parts of Slavonia do have some seismic activity - there were famously earthquakes in the Dakovo area in 1884 and in a wider area of Slavonia in 1964. But these were only moderately strong. From what we know, Istria, Slavonia and Baranja are definitely the safest places where you will not experience a large earthquake. In Istria, you do not see any seismic activity at all. This is because Istria is the only part of Croatia which is on the Adriatic plate. All of the rest of Croatia is on the European plate.

Croatia_location_map.pngCroatia: the areas within red circles are presumed - for now - to be at extremely low risk of a major earthquake © NordNordWest, adapted

Each mountain you see in Croatia is essentially a fault area. That's where the ground somehow had to rise. It is only a question of when that fault line was active. It might have been millions of years ago and the mountain is merely evidence that this once happened, like with older mountain ranges such as the Appalachians in America or the Scandinavian mountains in Sweden and Norway. Or, it might still be happening, in younger mountains like the Alps, the Dinaric Alps and the Himalayas - the earth is active there, there is a collision, the mountains might still be growing. This is where geologists come into the picture. We look at the rocks and we can say when that interaction happened and if it is still happening.

The_Dinaric_Alps.jpgThe Dinaric Alps - a relatively young mountain range. They run down the entire length of the Croatian coast © Pavle Cikovac

It has been said that the fault lines on which the Zagreb earthquake of March occurred and the fault lines on which the Petrinja earthquake occurred are separate. Is it, therefore, correct to say that the Zagreb earthquake of March is unconnected to the Petrinja earthquake?

Basically, we would say yes. They are unconnected. The forces on the tectonic plate are acting on a large scale. The expression of these tectonic forces is different in different regions. From our measurements, we know that these fault systems - Zagreb and Petrinja - are not directly connected. They may be connected in some way, which is not straightforward to explain and not so immediate, but it is not like they are the same crack in the earth. They do not interact directly. The movement on one fault line cannot produce earthquakes on the other.

Petrinja__Croatian_Geological.jpgTop: the fault areas of Croatia. Bottom: The fault area around Petrinja © Croatian Geological Institute

There was an earthquake in Banja Luka. Is that earthquake connected to the one near Petrinja?

They had an earthquake there, yes and an even more devastating one in 1969. That activity does take place in the same fault area as the Petrinja earthquake, yes. But, the connection between the two is still not established. We can only speculate that the stresses and strains on one part of the area can produce earthquakes in another. It is possible that we may have a better answer to this once we have completed all the research we are currently doing. We may be able to say, yes, what happens in Banja Luka directly affects what happens here, or vice versa. You can already do this in other fault areas, such as the one which runs from Istanbul all the way to the east of Turkey.

1969_earthquake_in_Banja_Luka.jpgAftermath of the 1969 earthquake in Banja Luka © Public domain

Croatia Earthquakes: When do they happen?

We can only say what we know from the past and use some measurements that are available to us to guess the probability of Croatia earthquakes happening within a certain period of time. If you hear someone say “Yeah, I know when the earthquake is going to happen”, that’s the time you need to stop listening to that person. They obviously don't know what they are saying. No scientist would say that. What we know for sure is that we don’t know that. A broad estimate, using the data we have from history, is that the probability of a stronger earthquake happening here, something the magnitude of 6.5, is roughly 10% every 50 years. This means that such an earthquake does happen here, but only around once in every 500 years when using a scale of thousands of years.

movement_direction_of_the_earth_in_the_Petrinja.jpgThe fault area and movement direction of the earth in the Petrinja area © Croatian Geological Institute

The second earthquake in Petrinja was a large earthquake. The one the day before, and the Zagreb earthquake in March, were moderately large. Yes, it is unusual that we have experienced these three incidents in just one year, but it is certainly not unheard of. It is possible, like I say, that there is some connection that we don't yet know about between these fault lines. It's an area where research is ongoing and that requires more.

We have experienced three earthquakes in one year. Taking into account that the broad statistics say large earthquakes are predicted to happen within a certain frequency, are we now at a greater risk of another large earthquake happening or can we say that we are at a lesser risk because we have these three already behind us?

It is a difficult, difficult question. The stress was locked in a fault. Once that stress is released, you are much safer. But, if the stress is released in one fault, it may be that it increases the stress on another fault. So, it's hard to say. But, from what we currently know, we should now be safe. But (laughs), nobody can say with absolute certainty that there won't be another earthquake in this area for, say, another 10 years. The reassurance people needed by people who live in a seismically active region comes not from being told “don't be afraid of earthquakes, one will not come” but from constructing buildings that can cope with the earthquakes. But, I am a geologist, not a builder, so I cannot talk about that aspect.

This article was originally published on 8 January 2021

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