Thursday, 16 June 2022

Grlić Radman: Things Moving Towards Opening Talks With N. Macedonia, Albania

ZAGREB, 16 June 2022 - Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, said in the North Macedonia lakeside town of Ohrid on Thursday that "things are moving towards" opening European Union membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Grlić Radman was participating in the Prespa Forum together with Western Balkans leaders and senior EU officials. He said that talks are under way and "things are moving towards finally launching accession negotiations" with North Macedonia and Albania.

He said he believes there is still enough time to reach an agreement before the EU-Western Balkans summit next week.

European Council President Charles Michel and European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi are also in Ohrid, but representatives of Bulgaria have not been announced. Bulgaria has blocked the opening of talks with North Macedonia over identity issues, thus also blocking the path of Albania because the EU treats the two countries in a package.

Grlić Radman said that EU enlargement is the strategic interest of Croatia and the EU and that the Union must use all its legal mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the necessary reforms in the membership candidate countries so that they can join the bloc as soon as possible.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Varaždin to Host Over 1,000 Young Europeans in November For Ø BORDERS Event

ZAGREB, 14 May 2022 - More than a thousand young Europeans will attend the Ø BORDERS youth programme in Varaždin in November, comprising workshops on democratic processes as well as various concerts,  the European Parliament Liaison Office in Zagreb has recently reported.

The two-day programme, known as  Ø BORDERS will be held on 25 and 26 November and will focus on youth, their knowledge, curiosity and innovativeness, the organisers said. 

The programme includes workshops on democratic processes and public policy as well as concerts.

The event is being organised in Croatia by the V.U.K. association of Varaždin youth and the P4 Centre. The organisers have been issued a grant from the European Parliament for this purpose.

"We have followed and always follow the events in Europe and the rest of the world so we created a programme that will address topics related to democracy and the importance of election processes, migration, green policies and geopolitics in general," one of the programme leaders, Nino Preložnjak said.

The event is being organised in partnership with the Network of Croatian Youth and the Croatian Scouts Association with full support from Varaždin city authorities, said Preložnjak.

The European Youth Event (EYE) is an event initiated and hosted by the European Parliament with the aim of stimulating active citizenship amongst young Europeans.

The Varaždin version will also provide a series of activities and debates, interactive workshops, plays, entertainment and educational programmes.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 9 May 2022

13 Member States, Including Croatia, Against Changing EU Treaties

ZAGREB, 9 May 2022 - Thirteen member states, including Croatia, do not support a proposal to change the European Union treaties, which is one of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe supported by French President Emmanuel Macron and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The 13 states are Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden.

They say in a non-paper that although they do not rule out any option at this stage, they do not support rash attempts to initiate changes to the treaties, which they say would carry a serious risk of diverting political energy from the important tasks of finding solutions to questions to which citizens expect answers and from the geopolitical challenges Europe is facing.

The 13 member states feel that the EU can successfully manage crises as part of the current treaties, as proven by the fight against COVID-19 and the response to the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

The EU acted fast, finding and applying common and effective solutions. We already have a Europe which functions, we should not rush into institutional reforms to achieve results, the non-paper says.

It criticises the European Parliament, without mentioning it explicitly, for instrumentalising the Conference on the Future of Europe for its institutional interests.

The ideas which citizens put forward at the Conference should speak for themselves and deserve due attention, the non-paper says, adding that they should not be instrumentalised for special institutional interests.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Last Year Customs Administration Issued 140 Complaints For Gravest Forms of Smuggling

ZAGREB, 9 May 2022 - In 2021 the Customs Administration filed 140 criminal complaints for the gravest forms of smuggling on the EU's external borders, the director of the Customs Administration, Mario Demirović, said on Monday on the occasion of the procurement of new equipment worth HRK 7.5 million.

Demirović specified that the Customs Administration issues about 12,700 misdemeanour warrants each year and that 60% of them refer to offences recorded on external borders. He added that in 2021, 80% more warrants were issued than in 2020 and the value of the fines issued in 2021 was up 40% compared with 2020. 

''That means that our external border is subject to exceptional traffic pressure and that means our responsibility to ensure that the traffic flows undisturbed," said Demirović, presenting the HRK 7.5 million equipment procured through the EU Hercule III programme, with HRK 4.8 million secured from EU funds.

The programme protects the EU's financial interests by supporting action to combat irregularities, fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget. It was administered by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). It was valued at €104 million and was exclusively used for the financial capacities of the 28 member states over a seven-year period.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Milanović Says No One Wants Bosnia to Join EU as Much as Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 April 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday Bosnia and Herzegovina was a security, emotional and state issue for Croatia and that no other state wanted it to join the EU as much, adding that he will see personally that Croats in BiH are not totally politically defeated in the next election.

"There is no state which wants BiH to enter the European Union as much and which is working on that as much as Croatia. For sentimental, but often purely selfish reasons. That's in the interest of the community I represent," Milanović said in Livno, BiH.

He was speaking at a ceremony marking 30 years of a military operation in which Croatian units stopped the Yugoslav People's Army and Serb forces from conquering Livno and cutting Croatia in two.

Milanović laid a wreath and lit candles at a monument to fallen Croatian defenders in the town.

He said questions would be raised about the motives of his messages in Livno, adding that Zagreb is pushing for BiH's perspective much more strongly "than a larger part of Sarajevo."

"This is important for us. For us, this is a security, emotional and state issue of a neighbouring state."

Milanović criticised international officials' treatment of BiH, notably attempts to "organise elections by force" and to defeat Croats in them.

"Agreements await you, not battles. Not all is lost. I will do everything so that not all is lost, so that you are represented by the people you elect."

He said the fundamental principles of the Dayton peace agreement were undermined in preparing general elections for October.

"That's not the path to Europe. A European state doesn't function like that," Milanović said, adding that he is not a nationalist, of which some Bosniak politicians and part of the public accuse him.

Speaking of the Croatian military victory in the Livno field, he said Croatia would never forget that. "Thirty years ago, BiH, the European BiH, was defended here with rare courage, as well as the Croatian coast. Croatia can't forget that."

He said that if Croatia and BiH had not had an armament embargo but had available arms as Ukraine did today, the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar "would not have fallen, the tanks would not have crossed the Danube."

Croatian National Assembly of BiH president Dragan Čović said the attempts to divide Croats in BiH would not succeed and that the principles from the country's Constitution for which the defenders had fought would be preserved.

"We neither did nor will allow constituency, equality and sovereignty to disappear from the Constitution," he said, adding that BiH will be the homeland of the Croatian people.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

EIB Group Invests €760m in Croatia in 2021

ZAGREB, 12 April 2022 - The European Investment Bank (EIB) Group in 2021 secured €760 million to support Croatia's economy, and in 2022 and the years to come emphasis will be put, among other things, on increasing energy independence with investments in renewable energy sources and liquefied natural gas.

In 2021 the EIB invested €113 million and the European Investment Fund (EIF), as the other component of the EIB Group, a record €647 million, with total investments by that EU bank in all key economic sectors in Croatia since 2001 having thus reached €7.2 billion, it was said at a working breakfast organised by that financial institution in Zagreb on Tuesday.

The so far biggest volume of EIF activities in Croatia is based on guarantees issued to state and commercial banks as part of the European Guarantee Fund, worth €650 million.

This has supported the launch of new credit lines for small and medium businesses, with the aim of preserving jobs and helping businesses recover from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, it was said.

The EIB invested €63 million in the Croatian Power Company (HEP), thus supporting the company's programme of investment in renewable energy sources, which are considered crucial for building energy independence at an accelerated pace, both in Croatia and the EU.

The EIB also secured an additional €50 million in EIF guarantees for the Croatian Reconstruction and Development Bank (HBOR) to improve financing conditions for medium-capitalised and big Croatian companies.

EIB Group Croatia office head Anton Kovačev said the EIB's emphasis in Croatia this year and in the years to come would be on the European Green Deal and the fight against climate change, notably financing of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and new energy sources.

In the context of Russia's aggression on Ukraine, Kovačev particularly underlined the importance of energy independence, both for Croatia and the EU.

He said that intensive talks were already underway on new projects for renewable energy sources, saying only that they concerned hydrogen.

Asked about the nuclear power plant in Krško and the possible construction of a new plant block, Kovačev said the EIB could finance such energy on the condition "the highest level of safety" was secured.

Considering the role of the EIB as the EU's climate bank, since early 2022 the bank has not been participating in financing projects based on fossil fuels.

In line with the strategy of increasing energy independence as much as possible, Kovačev said that the EIB was willing to finance the construction of new LNG terminals, both in Croatia and in other EU countries.

He also noted that the group would not neglect other priorities, such as digitalisation and innovation.

Kovačev said the bank wanted to help all enterprises opting for investments in new products and services or the improvement of the existing ones, as a way of helping to boost the competitiveness of the Croatian economy, but that it would also provide support for the state and public sectors. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

EIB Supports Projects of Renewable Energy Storage Capacities in Croatia

ZAGREB, 12 April 2022 - Olga Pascenco, the European Investment Bank's Global Relationship Manager in Croatia, said on Tuesday that this European Union bank would finance and support projects for the construction of storage facilities for energy generated from the renewables.

Addressing a news conference at which the EIB presented its results in Croatia in 2021, Pascenco said that there was great potential for the construction of renewable energy storage facilities.

The EIB is ready to offer financial, technical and advisory support to the private sector in such projects, she said.

The EIB representative spoke about the importance of developing rail and maritime connectivity and about transport connections between islands and the mainland.

Concerning the rail sector, she pushed for improving train services between Zagreb and Rijeka, having in mind the great potential of the seaport of Rijeka.

The EU's lending arm will place emphasis on direct financing of local communities, that is cities, in a set of essential projects such as affordable housing, improvement of energy efficiency and the post-quake reconstruction, she added.

The bank's assistance to Ukraine

The EIB Board of Directors has recently approved a EUR 668 million loan as immediate financial support for Ukraine.

"This initial support package for the war-torn country benefits from the EU guarantee under the External Lending Mandate and complements other initiatives announced by EU institutions," the EIB says on its website.

In addition, the Board agreed that the EIB should pursue further initiatives under the emergency Solidarity Package for Ukraine, worth four billion euros. It includes help to countries in Ukraine's neighbourhood and within the EU that are welcoming refugees from Ukraine or are affected by the war in other ways.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Croatia Has Cheapest Agricultural Land in EU

ZAGREB, 5 April 2022 - Agricultural land in Croatia is the cheapest in the EU, more than 20 times cheaper than in the Netherlands, which has the most expensive agricultural land, show data from the EU's statistical office Eurostat.

Eurostat has established that one hectare of farmland in the Netherlands cost as much as €69,632 in 2019, noting that all Dutch regions are above the average of other EU countries.

Croatia had the cheapest arable land, with the price of one hectare being €3,440 in 2020.

Among the regions, the most expensive are the Spanish Canary Islands, where one hectare of arable land in 2020 cost €120,447.

Sweden's Oevre Norrland was the cheapest, with a hectare of agricultural land costing only €1,822 in 2020.

Eurostat did not have data for Germany, Portugal and Cyprus.

In the period from 2011 to 2020 the price of farmland grew the most in Romania and the Czech Republic, more than five times.

Prices of farmland grew significantly also in Estonia and Lithuania, as well as in Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.

Farmland prices grew also in other EU countries albeit less, the only exception being Greece, where farmland in 2020 was as much as 18% cheaper than in 2011.

Eurostat had data for Croatia only for the period from 2015 to 2020, and they show that the price of farmland in that period grew 26.2%.

Croatia in the company of Baltic countries

Renting agricultural land was most expensive in Italy, an average €837 per hectare annually. The Netherlands was close, with an average €819 a year.

Among the regions, the highest average price of farmland rent was reported in 2020 in Italy's Friuli-Venezia-Giulia at €1,714 per hectare.

In Croatia, renting a hectare of agricultural land in 2020 cost €73. Latvia and Estonia followed, with €71 and 76 respectively.

Renting agricultural land was cheapest in Slovakia, a mere €57 per hectare annually.  

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

EU Still Without Agreement on Taxation of Multinationals, Croatian FinMin Says

ZAGREB, 5 April 2022 - Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Tuesday that EU member states had again failed to agree on a minimum taxation of multinational companies and that one or more attempts would be necessary to reach an agreement.

He was speaking in Luxembourg, where he attended a meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council.

Croatia has been very constructive from the start and for a good compromise that would mean faster and more efficient implementation, as recommended by the OECD, Marić said. "We hope that we will reach an agreement in the next meetings."

He said today's debate focused on the situation in Ukraine, the enforcement of the sanctions against Russia and an upcoming debate on potentially new sanctions.

Also discussed were refugees, how to provide for them and make it easier for the countries which are more exposed to their influx.

Marić said Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko addressed the meeting via video, conveying the latest news about the situation in his country

Marić said there were many parallels to Croatia's 1991-95 Homeland War due to the daily human losses, destruction and extensive material damage as well as the stoppage of production and fall of revenues and GDP.

He said the ministers also talked about energy prices and that they were agreed that it is necessary to do everything to reduce the dependence on Russian energy.

The last topic of the meeting was the new financial structure of the EU's key financial institutions, primarily the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Marić said certain steps forward had been made on that front but that it is necessary to work more to affirm those institutions and, more importantly, the EU's role, not just in the EU but globally.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Jandroković: EU Should Focus on SE Europe, Moscow Might Use Vulnerabilities

ZAGREB, 29 March 2022 - The European Union should in particular focus on southeastern Europe and monitor the impact of the Ukraine war on the situation in the region as well as the potential growth of Russian influence, Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Tuesday.

"We need to follow the potential effect of a spillover of the Ukraine conflict to neighbouring areas as well as to southeastern Europe," Jandroković said in his address on the second day of the conference of EU parliament speakers in Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia.

"I emphasise that the European Union should in particular focus on southeastern Europe," he added.

Jandroković said the main challenges to stability in the region were issues stemming from the past conflicts and Russia might use "vulnerabilities to expand its influence."

That's why it is necessary to support the European membership prospects, sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina based on the equality of all three of its constituent peoples and their legitimate representation in the country's political institutions, he added.

Jandroković said that the EU should focus on southeastern Europe because otherwise other countries would spread their influence and pose "a potential threat to the EU and our values."

"Russia is already showing an inclination towards these parts of Europe," he noted.

Jandroković said that Croatia "strongly condemns" the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, which began on 24 February, and that the Croatian Parliament had adopted a resolution by consensus condemning the invasion.

On the sidelines of the conference, Jandroković met on Monday with his counterparts Igor Zorčić from Slovenia, Jüri Ratas from Estonia and Markéta Pekarová Adamová from the Czech Republic, while on Tuesday he is due to meet with Spain's Meritxell Batet Lamaña.

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