Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

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

Monday, 26 July 2021

Croatian National Bank Answers Important Question About Eurozone Entry

July the 26th, 2021 - The Croatian National Bank has revealed just how long we'll be able to make payments in both Croatian kuna and in euros as the country prepares to join the Eurozone at the beginning of 2023, as is currently planned.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to previous announcements, Croatia should enter the Eurozone and as such finally adopt the on January the 1st, 2023, and before the euro officially becomes the country's official currency in replacement of the kuna, many preparations will have to be made.

When it comes to just who will be in charge of the technical realisation of some important things about the introduction of the euro and how the euro will work at the very beginning, the Croatian National Bank confirmed for Net.hr that the new euro coins of the Republic of Croatia will be made at the Croatian Monetary Institute.

"The production of euro circulation coins with the Croatian national symbols will begin at the earliest six months before the day of the introduction of the euro, ie after the EU Council Decision that Croatia will introduce the euro," the Croatian National Bank explained.

With the day of the introduction of the euro as the national currency of the Republic of Croatia approaching, a sufficient amount of euro coins will be prepared for circulation to meet the needs of all people and business entities, the national bank added. What everyone is interested in at the moment, however, is just how long it will be possible to use both kuna and euro in parallel before the kuna is phased out and placed in this history books entirely.

"During the first two weeks from the day of the introduction of the euro, kuna and euros will remain in circulation at the same time, and traders should return the rest of the money to customers which have paid in kuna exclusively in euros," the Croatian National Bank explainsed After that period, the euro will be the only legal tender allowed in the country, they added.

"In order to ensure a smooth transition to the new currency, in a short transition period, the kuna and the euro will have the status of legal tender at the same time. In other words, people will be able to pay in both currencies in the first two weeks starting from the day the euro is introduced in stores. After two weeks from the day of the introduction of the euro, the euro will be the only legal tender in the Republic of Croatia,'' they stated from the Croatian National Bank.

Money, meaning Croatian kuna, can be exchanged for euros free of charge for the first six months of the euro being in use in the country. However, if someone does forget to exchange any kuna cash they have into euros after that deadline, it will still be possible. Namely, in the first six months from the day of the introduction of the euro by the bank, Fina and Hrvatska posta d.d. will allow kuna cash to be exchanged for euros in all branches free of charge, and in the next six months they will be entitled to charge a fee for this service.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Economy Minister Ćorić on EC Plan to Reduce Gas Emissions

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić on Wednesday spoke of an informal EU meeting of environment ministers in Slovenia on new legislation on climate and the European Commission's recommendation to reduce greenhouse emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990.

He explained at a press conference that this refers to 12 legislative proposals from various areas that are being considered by EU member states in reference to the set objectives.

Ćorić said that this was an important step towards strengthening the EU as a leader in the fight against climate change.

Tax on carbon is a novelty - legislation is very ambitious

Ćorić explained that the new legislation envisages a carbon tax that should protect production in the EU compared to countries that export to the EU but are not encompassed by EU standards and mechanisms.

We are aware that if nothing is done in the next ten years, the potential costs of the damage could be much higher than the costs of transforming economies, he said.

With reference to financing that transformation, Ćorić said that Croatia has more than HRK 60 billion available over the next ten years to be spent in various commercial segments to reduce carbon emissions.

He underscored that the new legislation is very ambitious and a step towards Europe's economic transformation.

Price hikes to be eased with absorbed funds

He said that transition is a huge challenge and is being disputed by some but that it is also a huge opportunity for economies like Croatia through generous allocations of EU funds.

He recalled that Croatia's energy sector has a very small portion reliant on carbon, considering the significant share of hydro-power and potential for renewable sources.

Referring to the announcement for the construction of a new block at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) in Slovenia, Ćorić said that that project could take up to a decade to be achieved, adding that Croatia has still not been officially informed of that project.

He recalled that obligations existed under international conventions for projects of that nature with a cross-border impact. Croatia has been advised of extending the lifespan of NEK to 2043.

He underscored that NEK is a stable source of energy and believes that it will continue to be so. He added that his ministry is interested in seeing more formal proposals to see whether Croatia would enter into a partnership with Slovenia regarding the construction of a new block at the Krško plant.

He added that Croatia was monitoring the situation with the Paks Nuclear Power Plant in Hungary because Croatia imports 30 to 45% of energy needs from abroad, depending on the hydrological situation.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

European Comission Publishes Rule of Law Report on Croatia

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - A series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings against them, public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and lawsuits against journalists give rise to concern, the European Commission says in a report on the rule of law in Croatia.

The Commission on Tuesday published its second annual report on the rule of law in the EU member states, a new instrument that should help in early detection and prevention of problems relating to the rule of law.

The report covers four key areas: the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media freedom and pluralism, and institutional issues relating to checks and balances.

The Commission noted that the report only provides a description of the situation without giving any recommendations and is not designed as a ranking. Its purpose is to raise public awareness and promote open discussion between the member states on rule of law issues both at national and at EU level.

The justice system

The Commission says that the Croatian justice system has seen improvements in reducing length of proceedings and backlogs, but that further improvements are still needed to address serious efficiency and quality challenges.

"The ongoing process for appointing the new Supreme Court President has given rise to controversy and to repeated disparaging public statements against judges", and "the Constitutional Court stressed the importance of cooperation between state authorities" in addressing different views on the appointment of the Supreme Court President.

"The State Judicial Council made proposals to strengthen its role in selecting judges – an issue already raised in the 2020 Rule of Law Report."

Without naming any names, the report says that "a series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings before the State Judicial Council and Judges’ Councils, as well as to a criminal investigation."

"The level of perceived judicial independence remains very low. Shortages in human resources of the State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Councils remain, even if some limited reinforcements have been allocated to verify the newly published asset declarations of judges and state attorneys," the Commission says.

The anti-corruption framework

The reports notes that a new Strategy on the Prevention of Corruption for 2021-2030 is in the public consultation process, envisaging the strengthening of the legal framework on prevention of conflict of interest, which is currently being drafted. Codes of Ethics for members of the Government and for members of Parliament are still missing, while “revolving doors” are only partially regulated.

"Detailed rules on lobbying activities remain to be introduced. While changes to the framework of political immunity of the members of Government were announced, the legislative action has yet to follow. Public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and several cases have been discovered due to reporting by whistleblowers. The prosecution and investigation of high-level corruption continues, but due to protracted proceedings convictions are often delayed."

Media freedom

"Croatia is updating its media legislation to transpose the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, with the revision of the Electronic Media Act to be adopted still in 2021. Concerns about the political independence of the Agency for Electronic Media persist," the Commission says.

"Croatia has a solid framework on transparency of media ownership information and envisages further improvements. While state advertising is partly regulated by the Electronic Media Act, stakeholders report it often undermines the political independence of media outlets which are economically dependent on such funding, notably at local level.

"A legal framework for the protection of journalists is in place, but they continue to face threats. In particular, the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists continues to be a serious concern. Access to information is ensured by law, but delays in the processing of requests from journalists persist."

Checks and balances

The Commission says that although public consultations are embedded in legislative procedures, stakeholders perceive citizen participation to be rather formalistic than substantive.

It notes that Croatia did not declare a state of emergency, and COVID-19 pandemic measures were based on the twice-mended law regarding infectious diseases. "The Constitutional Court has reviewed these measures, finding that they were compatible with the Constitution and also ruled that Parliament should find ways to guarantee its functions during the pandemic."

"The People’s Ombudsperson’s access to the information required to undertake investigations
needs further improvement. The National Plan for Creating and Enabling Environment for
the Civil Society Development 2021-2027 remains in drafting phase since 2016 – an issue
raised in the 2020 Rule of law Report," the Commission says.

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

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Europe Direct Rijeka Information Centre Opens

ZAGREB, 13 July, 2021 - The Europe Direct Rijeka information centre which will provide information about opportunities and advantages available to citizens in European Union member states, was officially opened on Tuesday in the premises of the Porin - Rijeka Development Agency (RRA).

Europe Direct Rijeka will be a direct link between citizens and EU institutions, or rather, an extended arm of the European Commission (EC) and it will provide support through a direct flow of information regarding opportunities and advantages that are available to EU citizens, and that means local residents in Rijeka and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County.

The centre aims at bringing Europe closer to the people in the field through various activities and to motivate the people to get involved in the debate on the future of the EU. The activities will include visits to schools, presentations, panel discussions about the EU and publishing various official publications.

 The centre also plans a partnership with local media outlets, cooperation with other EU networks, raising awareness about sensitive issues for the EU, and the like.

The project was approved by the European Commission - Europe Direct for the period 2021 - 2025.

The centre began operating on 1 May as part of the Europe Direct network in Croatia and the New Generation Europe Direct information centres in the EU, and are managed by the EC.

All of the centre's services will be free of charge for all citizens but it is not intended to interpret or provide legal advice on EU legislation.

The head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Ognian Zlatev, said that the Rijeka centre has increased the European network of centres which comprise more than 420 such centres and it will bring EU citizens closer, inform them and enable them to make their own assessments.

He underscored that the network is important so that citizens throughout the EU can experience the EU in their own cities and counties. We want to hear citizens' opinions about the EU. How they see the future and to be better informed of its policies and initiatives, said Zlatev.

Croatia has shown that it can be a leader in certain segments, he said and concluded that the objective is a common one - a clean and more beautiful Croatia and Europe for future generations.

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

Saturday, 10 July 2021

As Country Gets Hands on European Funds, How Will Croatian GDP Fare?

July the 10th, 2021 - Croatia has an enormous sum of money waiting to be utilised in various ways thanks to the European Union, but how will it do so? More importantly, what will be the effect on Croatian GDP?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, this plan which involves this EU cash should raise Croatian GDP growth by 1.5 percentage points in 2021 and by 2.5 to 2.9 percentage points in all years until 2026, including that final year, which is a huge boost following the coronavirus pandemic which left horrendous scars on the Croatian and European economies.

It should create 21,000 new jobs, too, and this is just an assessment of the direct impact of all the investments envisaged in the plan, not including the many reforms, which are an equally important part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. If Croatia manages to close the half of the gap with the European Union average with structural reforms, in the next 20 years, Croatian GDP would be as much as 15 percent higher than today.

These are just some of the figures that European Commission experts came up with when analysing and approving the much talked about Croatian NPOO. After the approval of the Croatian plan, Vecernji list found out about their thoughts and impressions from a high-ranking European official in Brussels.

It should not be forgotten, they added from the Belgian capital, that in addition to these 6.3 billion euros provided by the completely new fund from the mechanism for recovery and resilience, Croatia has about 9 billion euros at its disposal from the classic, structural EU funds.

''In front of you is a gigantic effort, you need to be able to manage and implement projects that will see all that money spent in a very short amount of time. You need to focus on that common challenge,'' said the official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

After yesterday's green light from the European Commission, the EU Council has four weeks to adopt an implementing decision, which is a formal approval and allows for the payment of an advance of 13 percent of the value of the NPOO, which in the Croatian case totals about 819 million euros. In Brussels, everyone hopes that the Croatian plan will be approved by the Council before collective holidays begin during August.

For more, follow our politics section.

Friday, 9 July 2021

REPLACE Project Presented at JOINT SECAP Workshop in Rijeka

July 9, 2021 - The REPLACE Project was presented at the JOINT SECAP workshop in Rijeka on June 23. There is no better way to end a year and a half-long Interreg project for Croatia, which was one more ecosystem-concerned cooperation between Italy and Croatia.

When it comes to energy efficiency in Croatia, there is no doubt anybody cares about it more than the scientific community working and associating with Energy Institute Hrvoje Požar (EIHP).

Not only is the EIHP building on its way to becoming the first nearly zero energy building in the whole of the country, but EIHP's expertise also plays a big role in REPLACE Project from Horizon Europe. As TCN previously covered, the project aims to make Primorje Gorski Kotar County energy-renewable territory, and the ongoing meetings about the project (in collaboration with the University of Rijeka) see slow but steady progress in those respects.

As EIHP reports on its website, June 23 saw REPLACE Project presented in the congress hall of Rijeka's Jadran Hotel as part of the final workshop of the JOINT SECAP project.

„On behalf of EIHP, Antonia Tomas Stanković presented REPLACE in the second half of the event. The goal is to support European energetic, climate, environmental, economic, and social goals by 2030 and 2050 by encouraging the gradual replacement of inefficient and outdated cooling and heating systems with new, energy-efficient systems based on renewable energy sources“, informed EIHP.

JOINT SECAP, part of Interreg Italy-Croatia strategic program (much like the CASCADE Project TCN previously wrote about) aims to improve the climate change monitoring and planning of adaptation measures tackling specific effects in the cooperation area.

„The project idea reflects the necessity to operate at a wider district level and better define strategies and actions for climate change adaptation, especially for those weather and climate changes and hydrogeological risks affecting coastal areas. The first phase is developed to build the common methodology for Joint Actions definition and implementation and to share the basic knowledge about issues concerning climate change adaptation strategies and energy efficiency measures. The second phase starts upon the analysis uploaded in the web platform, acting as a useful tool for the development of scenarios for the Joint Actions to be implemented in the Joint SECAP plans, those last constituting the main project deliverable“, explained JOINT SECAP on its website. The workshop in Rijeka was the conclusion of the project as JOINT SECAP ended on June 30 after it began on January 1, 2012, with a budget of € 2,094,857.

The workshop in Rijeka, writes the EIHP website, was organized by Primorje Gorski Kotar County Office for Regional Development Infrastructure and Project Management and by Kvarner Regional Energetic Agency. Representatives of local authorities of Primorsko-Goranska county that were enrolled in creating an Energetic and Climate Sustainable Development Action Plan. These local authorities include towns such as Opatija and Kastav and the districts of Čavle, Matulji, and Viškovo.

„Joint SECAP analyzed energy spending for the included towns and districts, their risks and vulnerability regarding climate change, yearly emissions of CO2 in sectors of building construction industry, public lighting, and traffic. Concrete measures with the goal of adjusting to the effects of climate change and CO2 emissions down to at least 55% by 2030 were suggested“, stated EIHP.

With measures identified, the race with time begins as these measures should be in place as fast as possible to tackle one of the biggest challenges humanity is facing, and Croatia isn't able to be isolated from the threat.

Learn more about Rijeka on our TC page.

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

Saturday, 3 July 2021

How Did Croatian Post Staff Cope on 1st Day of New EU Postal Rules?

July the 3rd, 2021 - Croatian Post staff have had their hands full trying to cope with the European Union's new rules on packages being sent into the bloc from third countries which came into force at the beginning of this month.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, Croatian Post Variety Centre (HP) in Velika Gorica near Zagreb was ready and waiting to welcome the first day of the application of the new EU regulations which abolish the tax relief for the import of small value shipments from third countries. The sorting plant even worked at a reduced capacity because they shipped all shipments the day before, as they themselves point out, so as not to put their customers at a disadvantage.

Infrastructure

As Kresimir Domjancic, Head of HP Corporate Communications, explained, the biggest change occurred with the IT infrastructure that is now connected to the customs services of all EU countries, Croatian Post staff now only have to scan delivery notes into the system.

"Although we've selected shipments to those from the internal market and those from third countries so far, now everything will be even more detailed because all shipments from third countries must pass the customs procedure for VAT collection. Most of the work is being done by our employees in the process of control of such shipments, for which we charge a fee of 18.50 kuna for shipments worth up to 150 euros and 37 kuna for those ranging from 150 to a thousand euros,'' said Domjancic.

He pointed out that by midnight on June the 30th, Croatian Post staff had already shipped all shipments from the sorting plant, whether they were from the internal market or third countries, but that it may happen that some customers who ordered goods several weeks ago still have to pay VAT and processing costs according to the new EU regulations because the shipments entered the sorting and processing procedure only after the date on which the new rules came into force.

“People often blame us for the delay in delivery because trackers show them that their shipment has arrived in the destination country. Very often this isn't inaccurate in showing the estimated time of arrival, and even more often, that the goods have arrived in a warehouse in the internal market somewhere in Germany, France or the Netherlands. However, in such cases, it's common practice for the shipping company to need to wait a couple of days, sometimes weeks, to fill a container, truck or plane to Croatia,'' explained Domjancic.

He added that in the coming days, the procedure on who pays VAT and customs and where that happens will have to be harmonised because it is possible to arrange it so that the seller pays in advance, it's paid for when entering the EU market or it's paid for in the destination country, such as Croatia.

Ivan Plazanic, head of the International Shipping Department at Croatian Post, explained that a total of 110 employees deal with this in the sorting room, 12 of whom work the night shift, because the department works 24 hours a day, 25 work during the afternoon and about 60 work the morning shift.

"Due to the new regulations and the expected increase in the volume of work, we hired eight new people. We also have a model for Croatian Post staff from the administration department to come to our aid during any crisis,'' Plazanic stated, adding that the first day of the new regime was a bit surprising because their warehouse was left unusually empty, which is partly attributed to the indecision of customers due to the new regime, but also because of the summer season.

Coronavirus induced issues

''The coronavirus crisis has disrupted our normal business a lot because we can no longer estimate when we'll have a certain amount of work. This applies in particular to border blockades and irregular air traffic. Before, we knew exactly when a cargo was coming to us, and now it's often sudden or delayed,'' pointed out Plazanic. About five million shipments from third countries, most often from China, pass through this department annually.

Melita Buljan from the Customs Administration confirmed that in the first hours of the new procedure, there were no problems or additional burdens because most of the challenges had already been solved by IT support.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Croatian Purchasing Power Rises, Country Still Among EU's Worst

June the 24th, 2021 - Croatian purchasing power has risen a little, but the country unfortunately still remains ranked among the European Union's very worst as the tremendously devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be more than evident.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ljubica Gataric/VL writes, after falling during and owing to the year dominated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Republic of Croatia dropped to 64 percent of the value of the average GDP of the European Union per capita in 2020, down from 65 percent back in pre-pandemic 2019, thus cementing its status as the second poorest EU member state. Croatia is as such ranked alongside Greece and is just behind Bulgaria.

Looking at Croatian purchasing power by actual individual consumption (AIC), Croatia has jumped by 1 percentage point to 67 percent of GDP due to falling prices, but it is still the second worst position within the bloc.

Romania, on the other hand, raised its GDP per capita to 72 percent, ahead of Slovakia, while in real individual consumption it was 79 percent. Last year, according to Eurostat, the AIC per capita expressed in purchasing power standards (PPS) ranged from 61 percent to 131 percent of the European Union average.

Nine EU member states have a standard which is deemed to be above average, most notably the very rich country of Luxembourg, which is an impressive 31 percent above the EU average, followed by Germany (23 percent above) and Denmark (21 percent). The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Sweden and France were all 5–20 percent above the EU average also.

In Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania and Ireland, levels were 10 percent or less than average, while Spain, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Malta, Poland and Slovenia lagged 11-20 percent behind. Estonia and Greece were 21-25 percent below the EU average. Slovakia, Latvia, Hungary and Croatia are down by an average of 25-33 percent.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Foreign Minister Grlić Radman Calls on Remaining EU Countries to Recognise Kosovo

ZAGREB, 16 June, 2021 - Croatia encourages the remaining EU countries who have not done so to recognise Kosovo's independence, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday, which is a move that Serbia certainly will not be pleased with as it does not recognise the sovereignty of its former southern province.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 and it has been recognised by about one hundred countries, including all EU member states with the exception of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia.

"Croatia encourages the remaining five EU member states to recognise Kosovo because that would contribute to stabilising the region and Kosovo itself," Grlić Radman told reporters.

Today Grlić Radman is participating at the international GLOBSEC conference in Bratislava, convened to discuss also the situation in the western Balkans.

Croatia's foreign minister said that three things were key to the region's stability: respecting countries' territorial integrity, equal constitutional rights of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the establishment of mutual trust after the 1990s wars.

"The territorial integrity of Balkan countries needs to be preserved and respected, hence without changing borders like we heard over the past few months in some much-vaunted non-papers that were heading in that direction," said Grlić Radman.

He believes that trust can be achieved through sincere talks, by resolving the issue of the war missing, processing war crimes and providing justice for the victims.

Speaking about BiH, he said the country is trapped between two political tendencies - centralism, or rather unitarism, and separatism.

"That undermines the foundations of a stable BiH and negatively reflects on the status of the Croat people in BiH," he underscored.

He reiterated Croatia's stance that the multi-ethnic BiH needs to reforms the election law to eliminate any form of discrimination and violation of equal rights.

Grlić Radman said that Croatia is a "sincere advocate" of BiH's Euro-Atlantic pathway and that at all international forums it keeps that country in the limelight because it is in its interest to have a stable, functioning and prosperous country in its neighbourhood.

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

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