Monday, 6 September 2021

Contracts for Co-financing Implementation of EU Projects Presented in Osijek

ZAGREB, 6 Sept 2021 - The Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds, Nataša Tramišak, on Monday presented Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Ivan Anušić with six contracts for co-financing the implementation of EU projects at the local and regional level.

The contracts concern projects in which the Osijek-Baranja County administration is the holder or beneficiary of grant contracts, and their total value is HRK 10.9 million.

According to Minister Tramišak, the most valuable contract concerns the construction of a business center in Osijek. The project is worth HRK 65.5 million, of which HRK 45 million has been secured from the EU's Competitiveness and Cohesion operational program and the City of Osijek's ITU mechanism, while HRK 9.3 million will come from the state budget.

The center is expected to be built and become fully operational in a year's time and serve as a venue for trade shows and similar events.

Tramišak said that 49 contracts for co-financing EU projects in Osijek-Baranja County, worth over HRK 78 million in total, would be presented soon. She added that their purpose was to support local government units and their utility companies in the successful implementation of EU projects.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Adriatic Seawater-Powered Energy System: Significant Potential for Croatia

August 18, 2021 - The Adriatic seawater-powered energy system would produce energy using waves and tides. The sustainable energy system is already recognized as one of the current EU green transition solutions.

By the end of August this year, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds will announce the first call for incentives for sea energy production projects to receive European Union funds, reports Jutarnji List.

Sea energy production using waves, tides, and special heat pumps with seawater is in its infancy in the European Union. However, along with wind farms, solar, and hydrogen, it is recognized as one of the solutions in the current EU green transition.

"The Republic of Croatia has significant potential for developing renewable energy sources, especially for the application of seawater technologies. One of the solutions that could be especially applicable to Croatia, due to its long coastline, is seawater heat pump systems or SDTMV systems," reads the public invitation of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds, which decided at this stage to encourage the production of energy from the sea to support seawater heat pumps. Namely, although there are several mentioned technologies in the range of sea energy production, the state estimated that the most interest could be for cranes, i.e., as stated in the invitation, for installing heating and cooling systems using heat pumps from offshore energy.

"Since the level of development of marine technologies in Croatia is not high, only SDTMV will be considered, crane systems that provide a generally stable and continuous source of heating and cooling of seawater that acts as a stable and reliable heat source. Therefore, although there may be high investment costs, the pilot project needs to be explored," reads the position of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds. In any case, according to the call's content, it is expected that municipalities and coastal cities, among others, could apply with the associated projects.

According to available data, the technology of sea energy production is already used in several locations along the coast. Currently, its application, among others, is being done by the Istrian Regional Energy Agency (IRENA) in cooperation with the City of Poreč. This is a project to install a seawater heat pump system for the Poreč city administration building. Furthermore, according to IRENA, several other public buildings near the building can be connected to the common circuit of seawater distribution as the main source of heat and thus build an environmentally neutral and financially efficient heating and cooling system in Poreč.

In addition to the coastal city and municipal administrations, marine energy production technology, judging by the experiences from Italy presented at the IRENA meetings, could use ports and marinas to deliver surplus energy to the grid. For example, in the Ancona port, according to the same source, there are plans to install 50 devices that would occupy 200 m of the coastline. The investment worth 670 thousand euros would have a payback period of nine years with an annual production of 670 thousand kilowatt-hours of electricity.

In any case, one and a half million euros are available to interested domestic scientists and investors in the mentioned call, with a minimum (200 thousand euros) and maximum withdrawal limits of 1.3 million euros per project. The share that the state is willing to co-finance in the total project budget varies from 50 percent for small to 30 percent for large entrepreneurs.

"Successfully implemented pilot projects for sea energy production would also increase the capacities and skills of suppliers and developers and consequently contribute to lower costs of SDTMV installations in the future," points out the Ministry.

The project preparation, promotion, and management are co-financed. It is planned that the corresponding contracts on the projects that received co-financing will be signed in May next year at the latest, with the obligation to use the withdrawn money by April 2024.

For more, follow our lifestyle 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.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

IMF: Generous EU Funds Offer Croatia Historic Opportunity

ZAGREB, 23 June, 2021 - Despite the considerable setback dealt by the pandemic, Croatia has a rare opportunity in the next five years to restore its economy to health and to ramp up the public investments necessary for appreciably higher growth rates with the help of EU funds, an IMF mission says in a Concluding Statement.

"Following a painful contraction of 8 percent in 2020, the economy looks set for growth between 5 and 6 percent in 2021 driven by a rebound in the services sector and investment - provided the pandemic does not provide further unwelcome surprises," the mission says the statement published on Wednesday after visiting Croatia as part of regular consultations with member states.

"With sufficient luck regarding tourism outcomes, and a successful vaccination drive within the next months, growth could even exceed 6 percent this year. Assuming the pandemic fades by the end of this year, growth could remain high over the next few years, if the country makes full and timely use of the potentially sizable forthcoming inflow of EU funds," according to the statement.

"Since the first quarter, the recovery has picked up noticeably with areas like construction and manufacturing already reaching activity levels higher than in 2019. Overall, the number of registered unemployed persons has fallen by nearly 13 percent since a year ago. However, tourism and directly related sectors are yet to fully recover. This process is likely to take another year or two."

Swift measures by the authorities

"Between the pandemic and two large earthquakes, Croatia has been severely tested, and the country’s resilience has come through. The economic contraction in 2020 - painful as it has been -was not as severe as those experienced by many other economies with a strong tourism component. This is mainly due to the swift measures enacted by the authorities," the IMF staff said.

"Support measures must remain in place until the health of the population and the economy have been fully restored. As conditions improve, support measures need to rotate toward preparing the workforce for the post-pandemic world, and facilitating balance sheet repair of viable businesses. Thereafter, the challenge of once again reducing deficits and the public debt whilst shifting growth into a new high gear must be taken on. The generous funding from the EU represents a historic opportunity, to help meet these challenges successfully - an opportunity that must be fully utilized, in a timely fashion," the IMF mission said.

Not the right time to further cut taxes

Noting the government's support measures, the mission said, "Just as these support measures were essential during the worst of the crisis, they must now be better targeted to lagging sectors of the economy - and they must remain in place till the economy has more fully recovered."

"It is paramount that a vaccination drive be as successful and widespread as possible, that extra healthcare costs are fully met and arrears in the healthcare system are reduced to the maximum possible extent," according to the statement.

"Complementing the use of funds such as the European Social Fund, fiscal resources saved this year due to improving conditions can also be usefully redeployed to train more workers in sectors like greening and digitalization."

"In sum, in the view of IMF staff, the most important fiscal goal in 2021 is to focus on spending available resources wisely to restore the economy to health. If this is successfully accomplished this year, it will more firmly ground the efforts to reduce the deficit and debt over the next few years," said staff said in the Concluding Statement.

"Regarding revenues, the authorities need to conserve all available resources to meet any unexpected expenditures into 2022, and well beyond. This is one clear lesson from this completely unforeseen shock the world has suffered. We hold that this is not the right time for any further tax cuts or weakening of the tax base. Current conditions are still far too fragile for the country to afford them," they said. 

Recovery and Resilience Fund provides unique opportunity for economic development

They said that there were few doubts that a post-pandemic "will be more digitalized in the most basic aspects of our lives, and that it should be greener. In these two areas, Croatia has great strides to take, from which there will be a sizable return on investment, for decades to come."

The IMF reiterated that "our most important recommendation was to raise public investment, for the sake of future growth. Now, that conviction has only deepened, as it is important to acknowledge a singular aspect in which Croatia is actually better off than it was before the pandemic."

That is "the generous allocation of EU Funds, including from the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF). The RRF resources amount to 10.6 percent of GDP in grants to be utilized by 2026."

"These funds reflect a truly unique opportunity along the path of economic development, which many countries in the world are not fortunate enough to have. It is important for all stakeholders in Croatia to fully understand the significance of this opportunity. These funds are available, but they need to be absorbed efficiently, and in a timely manner. They must also be accompanied by needed reforms," the IMF said.

"Thanks to the influx of these EU funds beginning towards the end of this year, Croatia can significantly upgrade its public capital stock, decarbonize its economy, catch up with digitalization, and improve its maritime and rail transport systems. If the projected investments go according to plan, we currently assess that the funds from the RRF alone could add as much as 2.9 percentage points to real GDP over the next twenty years."

Opportunity to reduce income gap in relation to EU

"When the effects of the planned reforms, as well as the other EU structural funds are put together, Croatia now has its best chance since independence to significantly narrow the current 35% gap in per capita income with respect to the EU average," the mission said.

It added that "the prospect of living in a vibrant society with prosperity rapidly converging to EU levels could cause the young to fundamentally re-evaluate their future, thereby further stemming the tide of outward migration. That, in turn, would have the positive effect of reducing risks to the sustainability of the healthcare and pensions systems. It is very much possible now, and unlike ever before, to start a virtuous cycle - and to definitively escape past vicious circles."

The authorities have requested a Public Investment Management Assessment from the IMF, to take place in August 2021, the statement noted. "This assessment will help prepare an action plan to help make sure investment spending is effective, is sensitive to climate change related considerations and supports sustainable long-term growth."

The authorities’ National Recovery and Resilience Plan "has laid out major complementary reform commitments across five components: green and digital economy, public administration and judiciary, education, science and research, labor market and social protection, and healthcare. These are essential for the flexibility Croatia needs to operate its economy smoothly, once inside the eurozone."

Reforms needed for stronger public finance

Within the reform areas where the strength of public finances is the focus, IMF staff re-emphasizes the importance of support, from all stakeholders, for civil service and administrative reforms, "including a modernization of the public salary system, as well as improving the territorial organization of sub-national governments."

Support is also called for ending "stop-gap measures to take care of healthcare arrears, through an overhaul of its cost structure" and "exploring a more sustainable revenue base, to preserve healthcare quality standards."

The IMF also recommends the development and implementation of a full-fledged strategy for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), "including the separation of core from non-core businesses, and a strengthened oversight system for the former to ensure that they contribute their fair share to the budget by remaining financially durable after their public service obligations are met. The authorities’ commitments to sell some non-core SOEs over the next few years is a promising start." 

Also recommended is ensuring the long-term sustainability of the pension system, given population aging.

In addition to these areas, constantly improving the competitiveness of the Croatian economy through active dialogue with the private sector, remains essential.

"For the forthcoming increase in public investment to have maximum effect on the economy’s growth rate, it must be complemented by increases in private investment, as well. Reforms to the framework of debt restructuring, insolvency, and efforts to further improve predictability and efficiency in legal procedures remain central to unlocking more resources from investors, as it allows them to invest with greater confidence."

Banking system liquid and sufficiently capitalized

"Monetary policy remains highly expansionary, within the exchange rate anchor in place since 1993. This stance is appropriate given the need to nurse the economy fully back to health," the IMF staff said.

The recent pick-up in inflation is more likely than not to be transitory in nature, but should inflationary pressures prove more persistent than in the euro area, the central bank "may consider reducing excess liquidity in the banking system, while maintaining exchange rate stability."

"The banking system has remained liquid and is on average well capitalized," the mission said, adding that there was more than enough money to meet the demand for corporate loans.

Housing lending remains strong, while uninsured household cash loans have decreased, which the IMF said was positive.

Although the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans has remained stable, the so-called stage II loans, a forward-looking indicator of future asset quality problems, has risen - particularly for non-financial corporations. This development warrants continued close monitoring."

"The pandemic has not affected the upward trend in house prices in Zagreb and coastal areas. To the extent that housing purchases are not driven by excessive household borrowing, they do not constitute an immediate financial stability risk," the IMF said.

However, this also requires continued monitoring by the central bank, If circumstances require it, the central bank "might wish to consider putting in place more formal macro-prudential measures (than the current implicit debt-service-to-income ratio included in the Foreclosure Act)."

"Despite the considerable setback dealt by the pandemic, Croatia has a rare opportunity, over the next five years, to restore its people and economy to health. It can ramp up the public investments necessary for appreciably higher growth rates, with the help of EU funds. Such opportunities should not be taken for granted. The onus of efforts is not exclusively on the authorities. All stakeholders in society must offer them the support for vital reforms, while doing their parts to re-energize private investment, and innovation. Adopting the euro will help remove some existing economic frictions by removing exchange rate risk. Yet, reaping the full benefits of the currency union requires strong focus and preparation. A brighter future is very much within reach. The time to act is now," according to the Concluding Statement.

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

 

Monday, 21 June 2021

Milanović: We Need To Utilise EU Grants To The Maximum

June 21st, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović visited the town of Popovača on Monday and attended a special City Assembly meeting on the occasion of the town's day, where he welcomed efforts by local authorities to absorb EU grants to the maximum in order to realize essential projects for economic and demographic revival.

We have to utilize the benefits of membership in the European Union, he underscored.

"That is why for me, the only criterion for any city, municipality, and the state is to absorb the last euro possible. But for each one that we didn't, I want to see who was responsible and not just as the president of this country, but as a citizen," said Milanović.

We owe that to ourselves. Otherwise, we will once again be in some large conglomeration where we have no influence, he underscored.

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

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Milanović Says Will Insist on Accountability for Every Euro of EU Funds Not Taken

ZAGREB, 13 June, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said during a visit to the eastern town of Našice on Sunday that as a citizen he would insist on accountability for every euro of EU funds available to Croatia but not taken.

Milanović visited the eastern town on the occasion of its day and the day of its patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua.

The president noted that he measured the performance of local government units only by how much EU funds they managed to absorb.

"As a citizen, I will insist on accountability for each euro not taken. Otherwise going to Brussels to listen to smart advice there makes no sense," he said.

He noted that Našice was a small, well-organised town.

"As such, it provides an excellent basis for a good, comfortable life," he said, adding that Croatians would not die out as a nation even though such forecasts could often be heard.

"That won't happen. Do we have reason to worry? We do. Do we have reason for action? Most certainly. Do we have reason to despair? No," he said.

Mayor Krešimir Kašuga said that Našice today was a town of pleasant and quality living, where projects worth HRK 600 million, mostly financed with EU funds, were under way.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Lawmakers Call for Strengthening Absorption Capacity for EU Funds

ZAGREB, 19 May, 2021 - Croatian lawmakers on Wednesday agreed on the need to strengthen the administrative and absorption capacity for the use of EU funds and to further simplify and standardise the rules.

MP Marko Pavić (HDZ) commended the bill on the institutional framework for the use of EU funds in Croatia, saying that strengthening the capacities would facilitate and improve the absorption.

"So far we've had €10.7 billion and in the future period that will be €24.5 billion, and already now there is a shortage of 1,000 people to process applications for EU funds," said Pavić. 

MP Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) believes that the basic problem in the use of EU funds is that there is no independent administrative body to check the application procedures, public procurement and the criteria.

"The legality and allocation of funds is not supervised by anyone at the administrative level but instead it is sent to the State Attorney's Office or Interior Ministry, which are already inundated with work and this is where the hitch occurs. The only department that has the competence and is capable of conducting checks, doesn't have that power," she said.

"In the next two years, we would have to expend as much EU money as we barely managed to absorb in the 7 years and that's a major challenge for Croatia," claimed  MP Ivana Posavec Krivec (SDP), asking what we have been waiting for until now.

MP Sandra Benčić (We Can!) believes the key problem is the various intermediary bodies and the inconsistent practice, which she claims, will not change with the proposed institutional framework.

The proposed bill establishes a stable institutional framework for the use of EU funds for the 2021-2027 period and defines activities to strengthen the capacities of beneficiaries, partners and stakeholders in EU-funded projects.

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

For more news about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Friends of Croatia: European Parliament Office in Zagreb - First Contact with Croatian Citizens

May 6, 2021 - The third article in the series "Friends of Croatia: European Parliament Office in Zagreb", explores a small but dedicated office whose central focus is the 12 Croatian members of the European Parliament, as well as informing citizens and educating them about the European Union.

July 1, 2013, was a historic date for Croatian international integration as the country finally joined the European Union. The Union of developed European countries called for an enormous celebration on the main Ban Jelačić square in Zagreb. Many people saw different opportunities, and lots of opportunities were promoted by politicians ahead of joining. But, with almost eight years in the EU, could we actually list specific benefits and determine if Croatia is truly taking part in the „European dream“?

„EU membership made Croatia stronger, and there are many examples of the practical effects of it. I’ll mention two important ones: access to the common market and commitment and implementation of numerous political and economic reforms. Of course, one of the most visible immediate results of the EU membership was the end of customs controls at internal EU borders, which made crossings much smoother, with less hassle for people and goods. The removal of administrative and tariff barriers meant lower costs for businesses which – in combination with access to significant EU funds - translated into concrete economic advantages, helped the recovery, and increased exports. Also worth mentioning - the interest rates on loans have dropped, which lowered the costs of borrowing money for citizens and the business community, and this will be become even more pronounced once the country joins the euro. When it comes to Croatia’s contribution to the EU, along with its heritage, culture, and tradition that enriched the bloc, the country also brought its example and enthusiasm for the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. Croatia is a vocal advocate of the European perspective for the region and considers the enlargement to be the most effective transformation mechanism that the EU has“, summarized Violeta Simeonova Staničić, the Head of the European Parliament Office in Zagreb, which is dedicated as the first contact between the European Parliament (EP) and citizens in Croatia.

Violeta_Simeonova_Stanicic.jpg

Violeta Simeonova Staničić © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The Office started its work in February 2013. Simeonova Staničić and three other associates put the whole project in a small space in the backyard of a former EU delegation. Describing the team in 2013 as the „EP Delta Force“, Simeonova Staničić recalled the difficulties of their early engagement. „It was difficult to operate properly and to be visible as the country was not yet a member state, so we were not able to function as an official liaison office. We couldn't even do a proper information campaign for the first EU elections when Croats decided who would be their first official members of the European Parliament“, she said.

While any EU organization is often perceived as big and loaded with people, the EP office in Zagreb counts six staff members. Being a complex organization which can often be misunderstood, their informative service on all thing EU is extremely important.

„People tend to have a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the competencies of the EU. In various policy areas, EU member states still hold primary responsibility. Health policy, for example. Social policies and retirement as well. In others, the EU is in the lead as it is ultimately more beneficial for all countries involved that decisions are made and actions taken with the interests of the entire Union in mind. Unfortunately, too often, we can see that when something good happens, usually national governments are credited for it, and if something is not going well, then Brussels naturally is to blame. But various crises and challenges have shown that the EU is at its finest when working as a team player, one community and a common market“, explained Simeonova Staničić. She added that when solidarity prevails, everyone gains a sentence that can underline the usefulness of international cooperation that is the EU.

Kampanja_i_aktivnosti_u_normalnim_vremenima.jpg

2019 EP elections campaign "This time I vote" © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The citizens recognize the help the Zagreb EP office can offer, and the Office gets lots of inquiries daily. Over time, the phone calls were more often replaced by e-mails, and first contacts are often made through the Office's social networks. 45,000 followers on Facebook and heavy engagements on Twitter and Instagram, and the quick response of the small staff are certainly admirable.

„We sometimes receive the bulk of documents as many people send us copies of their dealings with various institutions or judicial bodies. These types of problems are, of course, beyond our remit, but we will always try to help people to identify the right authority they need to address and contact in order to resolve their issues. We also get requests from various researchers and scholars who need help with finding certain data and material important for their work, or who need background information on a certain topic“, said Simeonova Staničić, adding the questions they receive are quite diverse.

The central part of the Office’s daily work revolves around 12 Croatian members of the Parliament. “Working with Croatian members of European Parliament is our daily priority and what we center our work around. We organise press conferences and events around issues they work on and committees that they are members of. We cooperate and communicate with them very successfully, as we foster a mutually beneficial relationship with them. As a rule of a thumb, we virtually have no event without a member of European Parliament present“, Simeonova Staničić explains. 

The other part of the Office's role includes working with youth, media, and NGOs.

When it comes to the media, the Office informs daily about ongoing debates and discussions concerning the day-to-day activities of the European Parliament. They also strive to put important decisions in context and promote and explain the work of members of the Parliament. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Office even invited journalists to follow the plenary sessions in Strasbourg to give them the opportunity to familiarise themselves better with the institution and its role in the EU decision-making process. In return, a steady community of journalists following EU affairs is formed in Croatia, and the expansion of reporters is something the Office always welcomes. The accent is put on working with local media, and several outlets managed to get co-finance for their projects by European grants.

Cooperation with NGOs depends on every project and topic of interest, but with the diversity of NGOs, some sort of collaboration with some organisation is always ongoing.

Regarding the youth, two projects stand out. „Our two most successful projects to date are Euroscola and European Parliament Ambassador School Programme (EPAS). Euroscola became so popular among all Croatian schools that whenever we had rounds of regional or national selections, we had over 100 schools competing for very limited quota to go to Strasbourg for a day at the European Parliament. Through Euroscola, we created a fantastic network of incredibly involved, active, hard-working schools all over Croatia. The EPAS program was launched in 2016, and today we have a wide network of over 50 high schools scattered across the country. They cooperate closely with us and follow the work of Croatian MEPs throughout the entire school year“, pointed out Simeonova Staničić.

senior_ep_ambassadors.jpg

Senior EP Ambassadors © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

Apart from media and citizens, the cooperation with the official bodies of the state is at a high level too.

„We collaborate very well with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions. For example, we cooperate when the delegation of the European Parliament comes to Croatia to work on a certain topic related to the upcoming legislation. This cooperation was particularly pronounced in the run-up to and during the first Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union“, said Simeonova Staničić.

Particularly good collaboration is also made with the Croatian Parliament, a natural counterpart of the European Parliament. Currently, they are organizing the conference on the future of Europe, but also a more regular public award ceremony for the European Citizens’ Prize (established in 2008 by the EP to award individuals or groups that contributed to empowering European Integration).

„We are also regularly in contact with foreign embassies in Croatia, in pre-Covid times they were not only guests at our events, but also provided interesting speakers from their own countries for our panels and conferences “, described Simeonova Staničić the vast web of cooperation the Office has in Croatia.

Although being an Office for the European Parliament, they also help citizens by giving information on other EU institutions and how to get in touch with them. Informing citizens of ways to actively take part in European democracy, Simeonova Staničić describes as „the core of everything we do as an office of the most democratic institution of the EU“.

„European citizens can petition the European Parliament through our dedicated portal (European's Citizens's Initiative). This is a very transparent process whereby individuals or associations can submit a petition on a subject which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and which affects them directly “, she explained.

Croatian perception and EU scepticism.

Perhaps it depends on the algorithm or just the loudness of its spokespersons, but it seems Euroscepticism is on the rise in Croatia. Still, Simeonova Staničić's view is much more optimistic and based on the public opinion surveys

„Actually, the latest Eurobarometer survey shows that 78% of participants in Croatia state that EU membership is beneficial to Croatia, and 74% of those asked believe that COVID-19 economic recovery will be faster thanks to the EU. The majority of the respondents also answered that they have a positive image of the EU“, she said. She continued, however, that almost similar in size is the number of people who have neither negative nor positive opinions.

„For us, these 'non-committal' ones are really important and we try to reach them with our work. We need to raise their awareness about the advantages of the EU; thus, we mainly address young people, who are natural citizens of the EU, who are so accustomed to all the freedoms and opportunities the EU gave them that they take them for granted. They are not aware that there was a time, not so long ago, when these opportunities did not exist“, explained the Head of Office headmistress.

She added that entrepreneurs, managers, and small and medium business owners are most aware of EU benefits, making them natural partners and ambassadors with whom the Office also works really well.

Lux_party_izborna_godina.jpg

Lux Party on election year © European Parliament Office in Zagreb 

In similar rhetoric, Simenonova Staničić dismissed my thesis that young people recognize the easier traveling and working in other member countries as the only benefits of the EU. Firstly pointing out that „freedom of movement, freedom of choice, and the privilege to be employed without administrative barriers in any member state is one of the biggest values and benefits coming from an EU membership“, which means „escaping Croatia is not the right terminology“. Also, just as Croatians are leaving the country, other countries experience the same thing as their citizens are coming to Croatia.

„Due to the pandemic, we are actually witnessing more EU nationals temporarily moving to Croatia, as they work remotely. There is a large community of EU nationals which continues to grow, and it has a lot to thank Croatia’s EU membership“, argued Simeona Staničić.

Indeed, the reputation, and trust in the global community secured by EU membership, certainly contributed to the rise of digital nomads coming to Croatia, on which TCN regularly reports

The Head of Office once again repeated how most of the benefits in EU Croatians regularly experience and are enjoyed without realizing it is thanks to the EU. 

„When there is a new school lab or student housing being built with European funds, or when our young people go off to university or college and take for granted that they would go on an Erasmus exchange; when they don’t have to pay major tuition fees while studying abroad in some other EU member state but are charged the same rate as locals; when, together with other European countries like France, Belgium, and Germany, your government is part of negotiations on major questions of international importance: from health to peace and security...“, she listed various examples.

When asked to comment on Croatia's respect for human rights and European values, a question inspired by last year's cases the Republic of Croatia lost in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, Siemonova Staničić refused to comment and instead explained that the role of the Office in Zagreb (as well as anywhere in Europe for that matter) is not political.

„We are here to provide support to members of the European Parliament in the exercise of their official mandate on the hand and to ensure that people understand actions of the Parliament and to encourage them to engage in the European democratic process on the other. This is important because citizens have tools to influence the legislative agenda of the EU directly “, explained Simeonova Staničić. For the already mentioned European Citizens Initiative, the EP must consider proposals with 1 million verified signatures.  

Zagreb office for every EU citizen: Speaking English, Croatian, and six more languages!

As the EU is dedicated to being beneficial for every EU citizen from every country in the organization, so is the EP Office in Zagreb. Simeonova Staničić says the Office serves every EU citizen in Croatia, and whether - in person or online, they will address any issue or interest non-Croatian EU citizens may have and gladly respond and engage.

„In general, we work in the language of our host, which in this case is Croatian. Nevertheless, every European official is obliged to pass the employment exams in one of the working languages of the European Union and within two years to be able to work in 3 languages. In our case, our Office uses predominantly Croatian and English, but I am proud to say that my colleagues are proficient in many languages, and we can serve European citizens also in French, German, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Dutch, and Italian, without hesitation“, assured Simeonova Staničić.

The same service is also offered to Croatians in other EU countries, as every member state has an EP office. And cooperation being the keyword, the offices are frequently in touch as well.

"For example, the Parliament organized an online solidarity event called #EPASwithPetrinja where pupils from three member states (France, Ireland, and Spain) engaged with their counterparts from Petrinja and Zagreb to express solidarity in the wake of the disastrous earthquake that hit parts of Croatia and to comfort children their age from those hard-hit areas. At the event, we had members of the European Parliament from France, Ireland, and Croatia as speakers,“ Simeonova Staničić gave one example, adding that the cooperation is also there whenever there is a common topic or members of the European Parliament from different delegations work on major legislative or policy issues of interest to European citizens across the Union.

EPASwithPetrinja European_Parliament_Office_in_Zagreb.jpg

EPAS with Petrinja © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The EP offices are always located in the capital city, and several countries also have the so-called „Antenna offices“ located in other larger cities such as Germany (Munich), France (Marseille), Poland (Wroclaw), Spain (Barcelona), and Italy (Milan).

„We do not have offices around the country. However, both our Office and the Representation of the European Commission in Croatia use the network of the so-called Europe Direct Information Centres. There are 10 of them in Croatia currently, and they are located in Petrinja, Slavonski Brod, Čakovec, Šibenik, Zadar, Osijek, Virovitica, Split, Pula, and Karlovac. They are not under our authority - we do not control them, and they are not a part of our structure. But they are our natural partners in various activities and often serve as local contact points“, explained Simeonova Staničić.

To conclude, the European Parliament Office in Zagreb is open to assist anyone that wants to receive any information related to the European Parliament - be it regarding its debates, ongoing plenaries, committee meetings, work of the members of the European Parliament, or general information concerning other European institutions.

The address of the Office is Augusta Cesarca 4 in the House of Europe on European Square in Zagreb, which is open from 9 am to 5 pm (however, due to the pandemic, the office is closed to the public until further notice). At that same time, you can reach them on the general E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on the following phone numbers:

For public relations (citizen inquires): 

Violeta Simeonova Staničić (Office head): + 385 1 4880 280 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Janja Mateja Aleš (assistant): +385 1 4880 269 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Andrea Čović Vidović: +385 1 4880 273 or +385 91 510 6830 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Marko Boko: +385 1 4880 274 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

For media relations:

Maja Ljubić Kutnjak: +385 1 4880 272 or + 385 99 490 4715 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Barbara Peranić: +385 1 4880 272 or + 385 99 271 3026 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

You can also follow the Office on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Flickr.

For any changes with the address, contacts, etc., check their official website.

To read more from the series "Friends of Croatia", follow TCN's dedicated page.

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

Saturday, 24 April 2021

President: National Recovery and Resilience Plan Insufficiently Transparent

April 24, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday that the recent presentation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan was insufficiently transparent, which he considers problematic, saying the public lacks precise information on what the funds which Croatia will obtain from the EU will be spent on.

"That is a problem because it erodes the little trust that exists between citizens and the EU and that link - having information about what the money will be spent on - is very important. For the sake of transparency, so that one knows if it goes to public firms, those with political ties to the ruling party," Milanović told reporters during a visit to Samobor, where he attended an event at which awards were presented to the best local salami makers.

Milanović said that he had no information whatsoever on the content of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and that if he were Prime Minister, he would take care everything was as transparent as possible.

Having information on projects on which EU money will be spent is important to dispel suspicion of or rumors about preferential treatment, he said, adding that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) should be available to a larger number of people.

The Prime Minister should not have come to the parliament with the NPOO as it is. "He has only provoked people to ask him legitimate questions," said Milanović.

Explaining his statement of Friday that the coming commemoration of the 1995 military and police operation "Flash" would turn into a show, he said that he was referring to the protocol because wreaths would again be laid by five different delegations.

"It will take until Christmas to do it instead of doing it all at once," he said.

Describing the current commemorative arrangements "as an escapist, cowardly policy that does us no good," Milanović said that they would put some of the participants in the commemoration of Operation Flash in an awkward position, primarily military commanders, whose supreme commander he is and who will come with him.

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

Friday, 26 March 2021

Grant Agreement Signed For Composting Plant in Metković

ZAGREB, 26 March, 2021 - A HRK 12.5 million EU grant agreement for the construction of a composting plant in the southern town of Metković was signed on Friday by Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić and the director of the local Čistoća waste management company, Tomislav Jakić.

The project, which will be implemented as part of the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020, is worth more than HRK 24 million, of which 50% is co-financed by the EU.

Ćorić said that the composting plant would serve Metković as well as Opuzen and neighbouring communities.

The plant's annual capacity is 5,000 tonnes and it guarantees that biodegradable waste in the River Neretva valley will be managed in the best way possible, said the minister.

Dubrovnik-Neretva County head Nikola Dobroslavić said that Metković was the most advanced local government unit in terms of waste management.

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

Page 1 of 12

Search