Monday, 16 January 2023

4 Million Euros Pumped into Strengthening Zagreb Airport Military Mobility

January the 16th, 2023 - Zagreb Airport military mobility is set to be strengthened with a generous four million euro cash injection from European Union (EU) funds.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the European Union recently approved more than four million euros from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) fund for military mobility to finance the reconstruction of maneuvering areas to improve the civil-military operability of Zagreb's Franjo Tudjman International Airport.

As announced by the Ministry of Defence, Zagreb Airport military mobility is going to be boosted after the airport submitted its project to an EU tender. One of the conditions for obtaining the aforementioned funds was the support of the Ministry of Defense in the form of an explanation of the usefulness of the project for the Croatian Armed Forces.

The Zagreb Airport military mobility project includes the reconstruction of parts of the driving track, the replacement of various pieces of electronic equipment and installations, and the replacement of part of the vertical signaling on the maneuvering surfaces. Defense Minister Mario Banozic also pointed out that the goal of the project, among other things, is to strengthen interdepartmental cooperation in the context of the construction of civil-military transport infrastructure.

"The approval of financing from EU funds confirmed the value of this project, as well as the importance of cooperation between military and civilian institutions. I believe that we will continue on this path and with this same level of intensity," said Banozic.

The call for improving overall Zagreb Airport military mobility under the CEF instrument was announced back in May 2022, and in the sense of the wider military mobility project at hand, 63 applications from all over the EU worth more than 1.5 billion euros were received, of which 35 were approved, totalling a whopping 616 million euros.

Back in 2022, the Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with other competent central bodies of the state administration, adopted the Military Mobility Plan, where one of the goals was to strengthen interdepartmental cooperation and prepare projects for possible co-financing from the EU financial envelope for military mobility for the construction of civil-military transport infrastructure.

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

Monday, 19 December 2022

3 Croatian Cities Ready to Dip Feet in Pool of Almost 700 Million Euros

December the 19th, 2022 - Three Croatian cities are the most ready of all to dip their feet in the proverbial pool of almost 700 million euros provided by the European Union (EU) through the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, through the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds, the EU has provided a massive 681.3 million euros to be spent on increasing the quality of life and the green transition of Croatian urban areas, and most Croatian cities have plans for projects that they will apply under this particular programme.

22 Croatian cities are entitled to access funds from the Integrated Territorial Programme (ITU mechanism), and Bjelovar is one of only three Croatian cities that already have prepared all of the necessary documentation ahead of time.

If we're to include municipal projects, there are fourteen priority projects in Bjelovar alone, with Mayor Dario Hrebak highlighting the restoration of the old prison building in the centre, a protected cultural property whose restoration is demanding and cannot be submitted to other tenders, as well as the revitalisation and furnishing the building for the needs of the student dorms.

"Bjelovar and the neighbouring municipalities of Veliko Trojstvo, Stefanje, Rovisce and Kapela have all acquired the right to a financial envelope of 22 million euros from the ITU mechanism, with Bjelovar receiving 70 percent and the municipalities 30 percent of that amount," says Hrebak. In addition to the revitalisation of the old prison, they also list some other projects in Bjelovar; a digital innovation centre, the Jabuceta business incubator in the municipality of Kapela, the Rovisce development centre, the proper arrangement and equipping of the social centre in Narta, pedestrian and bicycle paths with storm drainage in Gornji Plavnice, the revitalisation and equipping of the student dorms,Terme Bjelovar, and much more.

"Bjelovar currently has prepared documentation for investments worth 1.2 billion kuna in total. I expect that through the ITU mechanism, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and all other sources of funding available to us, we'll manage to realise 80 percent of these projects over the next four years. Equally, we expect that the participation of Bjelovar in this will stand at 250 million kuna", explained Hrebak. In order to realise the projects from the ITU mechanism, Bjelovar established the Administrative Department for the implementation of the ITU mechanism.

Rijeka also has a horse in the EU funds race. Back during the period from 2016 to 2021, during which the implementation of several projects important for the development of the City of Rijeka and the city's agglomeration was contracted, and this included public transport.

"The preparation of projects for the period until the year 2027 is currently underway, and they'll be presented only after the decision of the Coordination Council as the governing body of the Agglomeration, and we believe that in January 2023 we will be able to state which projects we're talking about. There is no doubt, however, that the newly proposed projects must be shaped within the established priorities, that is, the specific goals on which the Integrated Territorial Programme for the period 2021-2027 is based, and they are; the industrial transition of Croatian regions, strengthening green, clean, smart and sustainable of city traffic and the development of urban areas through the rehabilitation and revitalisation of brownfield areas, the restoration and presentation of cultural heritage for the development of sustainable tourism, and the development of green infrastructure, etc, they explained from the City of Rijeka, headed by Mayor Marko Filipovic.

Of the other ''most ready'' Croatian cities, Osijek also started preparing for the ITU financial period 2021-2027 last year with the establishment of the Osijek Urban Agglomeration. The territorial scope of the Osijek Urban Agglomeration consists of ten local self-government units: the City of Osijek and the municipalities of Antunovac, Bilje, Bizovac, Cepin, Erdut, Ernestinovo, Petrijevci, Vladislavci and Vuka.

As they revealed from Administrative Department for Finances and EU Funds of the City of Osijek, during 2021 and 2022, the establishment of the Urban Agglomeration of Osijek took place alongside the establishment of the Coordination Council. The drafting of the Osijek Urban Agglomeration Development Strategy, a strategic document that defines development goals and is a precondition for the use of funds from the ITU mechanism, has now been started. For this purpose, on November the 22nd, 2021, all local self-government units from the scope concluded an agreement on cooperation on the development and implementation of the Osijek Urban Agglomeration Development Strategy 2021-2027.

For more, check out our news section.

Saturday, 5 November 2022

Works on Long Awaited "Most Expensive Croatian Road" Going Full Speed Ahead

November the 5th, 2022 - Works on the construction of what's often referred to (and has been being called that for about a decade, to be precise) the ''most expensive Croatian road'' are now well underway. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the D 403 road - which is currently being constructed in Rijeka - is one of the most important and expensive infrastructure projects in the entire country at this moment in time. Known as the most expensive Croatian road, it will eventually connect the container terminal of the Port of Rijeka with the A7 motorway as part of a larger trans-European transport network. This very difficult and demanding construction project is estimated to stand at a staggering approximate of 460 million kuna, as reported by HRT.

A whole decade has now gone by with people waiting for the most expensive Croatian road's actual realisation. Roundabouts, viaducts and a tunnel that stretches under urban areas is unique in the Republic of Croatia, and this adds to the difficulties faced in this phase.

"We've reached the Podmurvice tunnel, which is 1,263 metres long and very demanding because it was built in the middle of the city. We have two viaducts - Mlaka, 150 metres long, and Piopi, which is 315 metres long," said Martin Abramovic from Croatian Roads (Hrvatske ceste).

The construction of this brand new and much anticipated road means the development of a complete Croatian traffic route, as was pointed out by Denis Vukorepa of the Rijeka Port Authority.

"This new road will be connected to the container terminal, we'll cover the entire hinterland of [this part of] Europe, and we will also connect that road through what is now the port area, tomorrow we'll take that area out of the port area with the waterfront, you will have a ring going around the City of Rijeka,'' Vukorepa explained.

The dizzying rise in prices as a result of ongoing inflationary pressures requires a certain risk in solving all the previously outlined plans. "The increasing prices of materials, energy sources and raw materials are certainly putting pressure on liquidity, we're in negotiations with investors and we hope that we will soon find a solution to at least partially cover these costs," said Sanjin Puric from GP Krk.

Another challenge in realising this capital project, which European Union funds are financing as much as 85 percent, is the lack of manpower here in Croatia. This country is now importing more and more labour from elsewhere, and the construction of the so-called most expensive Croatian road is no exception.

Part of the labour force present on the construction site today are from Turkey, India, and of course, from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, which isn't unusual. The D403 road construction project began back in mid-2020, and the plan is for it to be completed at the end of June next year, when the traffic jams on Rijeka's roads should finally become a thing of the past.

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

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Ex-Minister Released from Investigative Custody

ZAGREB, 30 July 2022 - Former HDZ minister Tomislav Tolušić, whom the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) suspects of misappropriating European funds to build a winery, was released from investigative custody on Friday.

Tolušić was released at the EPPO's request after all 16 witnesses who he could have tampered with were questioned.

The former minister was remanded in custody on 8 July, after he and Željko Ferenc, an employee at the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, were arrested in Virovitica.

Ferenc was released from investigative custody on Thursday after having been previously suspended.

Following their arrest, the EPPO said, without revealing their identities, that Tolušić, as an owner of a family-run farm, submitted an application for a project for the construction and equipment of a winery, worth HRK 4.65 million, with the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development in early May 2020, and that the level of co-financing with European funds was 70%.

In the application, Tolušić falsely stated that the financing of the project would be secured with a loan from a financial institution. However, he did not apply for a loan, and he financed the project with money whose legal origin cannot be proved, the prosecutor's office said.

Moreover, he did not inform the agency about the change in the financing, and was granted HRK 2.92 million in aid.

Tolušić applied to another tender, advertised by the agency on 2 June 2021 for the construction of new vineyards and the reconstruction of existing ones.

For the second application, Tolušić reportedly incited Ferenc to give a positive opinion on his application for the grant, although the application falsely stated that the piece of land in question had no crops planted in it, when in fact he had previously planted a vineyard there.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food refused to issue a positive opinion on the submitted technological project due to knowledge of the existence of a vineyard already planted there and due to other observed irregularities, the EPPO said.

After the rejection, Tolušić removed the grapevine that had been planted, obtained a new technological project and submitted it with the application.

He expected to receive a grant of HRK 1.5 million, with 85% being co-financed by EU funds, that is, more than HRK 1.3 million. However, the agency established that he did not meet the conditions, so the funding was not granted, the EPPO said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 20 May 2022

EC Grants Croatia Extension of Deadline for Using EUSF Funds for Earthquake Relief

ZAGREB, 20 May 2022 - The European Commission has granted Croatia an extension of the deadline for using money from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) for the repair of the earthquake damage.

"Today, the Commission has decided to exceptionally grant Croatia the possibility to extend until 30 June 2023 the deadline for the use of the financial contribution from the EU Solidarity Fund to compensate for the damage of the earthquakes that severely hit the country in 2020 and 2021," the Commission announced on Friday.

Croatia has been allocated over €1 billion from the Solidarity Fund to remedy the damage caused by the earthquakes that struck Zagreb in March 2020 and Sisak-Moslavina County in late December 2020 and January 2021. The usual deadline for the use of funding is 18 months, and in this case, it expires in June this year.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in February this year, after which it was announced that the deadline would be exceptionally extended for a year. The Commission has never before extended the usual deadline.

"Croatia was hit twice by strong earthquakes, first in Zagreb and then in the city of Petrinja and the Sisak-Moslavina county. All of that happened during the first wave of the Covid pandemic, considerably hampering the recovery efforts. Ensuring that Croatia can fully benefit from the financial support from the EU Solidarity Fund for the reconstruction of the two regions is of utmost importance for the population and a sign of strong and concrete solidarity by the European Union," said Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

506 Million Euros for Green Transition for Three Croatian Regions

May the 3rd, 2022 - Three Croatian regions in different parts of the country are set to get their hands on as much as 506 million kuna in the name of pushing the green and digital transition forward.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the three Croatian regions of Pannonian Croatia, Northern and Adriatic Croatia will receive a separate allocation of 506 million euros for further investments in green and digital transition of their local economies, as was announced on Friday the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds, Natasa Tramisak, at the opening the Conference on Industrial Transition of Croatian Regions held at the Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences in Osijek.

Back in December 2020, the Ministry of Regional Development and European Union (EU) Funds began the process of industrial transition of NUTS 2 Croatian regions, which includes Adriatic, Northern and Pannonian Croatia. Namely, these regions are significantly below the EU development average and have the potential to strengthen their respective competitiveness by using the opportunities offered by global trends to revive economic growth and increase overall productivity.

The transition will be implemented with the help of European Union funds under the new Integrated Territorial Programme, which provides for the allocation of 506 million euros, which will be available only to enterprises owners and businessmen from the aforementioned three Croatian regions.

"We're completing the process of approving operational programmes, of which the plans for the industrial transition of Croatian regions for the period 2021-2027 are an integral part," added Tramisak.

Croatia's more obvious shift at least towards the digital transition occurred primarily as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic which saw very many ''in person'' errands quickly made available online, and more and more can be done administratively from the comfort of the home thanks to the popular e-Citizens (e-Gradjani) portal. That said, Croatia is still very much behind the times in many of these aspects, hence the cash injections aimed at improving this quickly as part of the EU's wider goals as a bloc.

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

Monday, 2 May 2022

Zagreb Aims to Withdraw Maximum Amount of EU Cash for Planned Projects

May the 2nd, 2022 - The Croatian capital city of Zagreb is aiming to withdrawn the maximum amount of European Union (EU) cash possible in order to complete all of its planned projects.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the City of Zagreb is among 100 European Union cities and partner countries that will participate in the so-called ''mission of EU cities'', which aims to reduce the carbon footprint being caused in them to an absolute minimum by the year 2030, for which the European Union will allocate 350 million euros from the Horizon Europe programme. According to the European Commission (EC), 75 percent of EU citizens currently live in urban areas.

These areas account for more than 65 percent of the world's energy consumption, and thus more than 70 percent of its CO2 emissions. It is therefore important that cities such as Zagreb be ecosystems for experimentation and innovation to help everyone else in their transition become entirely climate-neutral by 2050. The European Commission will invite 100 selected cities, including Zagreb, to draw up climate agreements, which will include a general plan to achieve climate neutrality across all sectors.

Zorislav Antun Petrovic, President of the Environment Committee of the Zagreb City Assembly, claims that Zagreb is fully ready for the energy transition.

"A few months ago, we presented precisely how we see the green transition of Zagreb to the Committee. The focus is being placed on renewable energy sources, first of all numerous solar power plants on public buildings, and then on private ones, ecological transport, the energy efficiency of lighting - where a lot has already been carried out.

There is also green integrated planning, a centralised heating system, geothermal energy, an energy efficient block reconstruction of the city following the aftermath of the 2020 earthquake, sustainable social housing, a sustainable urban mobility and ZET as a green energy transit on the list, too,'' explained Petrovic, adding hat he is more than sure that Zagreb will be able to withdraw the maximum amount of funds for its planned projects from this EU project as well.

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

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Croatia Improving In EU Funds Absorption

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Croatia has surpassed nine EU member states in terms of EU funds absorbed since 2020 and now ranks 19th, the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry said on Thursday.

According to Cohesion Data, the European Commission platform on finances and achievements under the European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020, in 2020 Croatia ranked 27th among the EU's then 28 countries in terms of payments.

Croatia is better at absorbing funds than Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Romania, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Austria. Lithuania has absorbed the most EU funds.

In the 2014-20 period, Croatia had €10.73 billion from ESIF at its disposal. By 24 March 2022, projects worth €13.4 billion were contracted, or 124.91% of the allocation, above the EU average of 113%.

Of that amount, €7.32 billion was paid and €6.03 billion was verified, 68.17% and 56.17% of the allocation, respectively. The EU payments average is 63%.

If €763.17 million from REACT EU and €597.56 million added to the Rural Development Programme are added to the original allocation, the total allocation by 2023 amounts to €12.09 billion.

Between 2013 and 24 March 2022, Croatia received from the EU budget HRK 49.06 billion more than it paid into it. When the advance paid for the National Recovery and Resilience Plan is included, Croatia is HRK 55.19 billion in the black, the ministry said.

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

European Union Cash Up for Grabs for Croatian Technology Companies

March the 1st, 2022 - European Union (EU) funds are up for grabs by Croatian technology companies in the current programming period of the bloc for the period between 2021 and 2027.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Tajana Striga writes, the current programming period of the European Union, planned for the period from 2021 to 2027, is the most generous so far and makes over 25 billion euros available to the Republic of Croatia. By comparison, Croatia's annual gross domestic product was just over 55 billion euros last year. The size of the funds available is encouraging, but it still isn't enough to declare success.

Only the efficient and market development-oriented distribution of those funds can lay a sound foundation for the growth and development of the Croatian economy in the long run. The first step in this is to provide clear, accurate and above all adequate information to potential applicants so that they can identify tenders of interest as soon as possible and start preparing for them.

Among the first tenders announced for this year is the "Commercialisation of Innovation", which is planned for the first quarter of the year. The competition is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises with mature innovation projects that are close to entering the market (TRL level 7 or higher). TRL (or Level of technological readiness) is a measurement system in which each level is characterised by a stage in the development of technology. There are 9 levels of technological readiness, and in order for a given project to be considered level 7 and eligible for funding under this tender, it's necessary to have a prototype whose performance has been tested out in an operational environment at the pre-commercial level.

In addition to the above, a clear plan for the production and commercialisation of products (TRL 8 and 9) is needed. In order for a product or service to be considered an innovation in the context of this tender, its functionalities when it comes to terms of application and characteristics must differ significantly from existing market solutions. In addition to the innovativeness of the project, the probability of commercial success will also be taken into account.

Although the details of the tender are still unknown, we've since learned from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan that the total budget for this tender stands at a massive 380 million kuna. The investment will be supported by at least 95 small and medium-sized enterprises during one public call/invitation and the amount of financing per project ranges from 760,000 kuna to a maximum of 5.32 million kuna.

Additional points will be achieved by those proposals that contribute to the green transition by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and stimulating the circular economy, offering blossoming Croatian technology companies a fighting chance. While the contribution to the green transition isn't explicitly prescribed by the tender, the project must meet the principle of "no significant harm", meaning that it must not have a negative impact on the six environmental objectives set within the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

Environmental objectives include climate change mitigation and adaptation, the sustainable use and protection of waters and marinas, pollution prevention and control, the transition to a circular economy, and the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems. This form of funding can be used to adapt a developed product or service and prepare for the launch of a product or service, which is perfect for many quickly developing Croatian technology companies. For example, eligible activities to adapt a developed product include the additional testing and incorporation of those test results into a final product, consulting services, capacity building, feasibility study audits, product design, and the protection of intellectual property rights.

Eligible activities for product launch preparation include the preparation or revision of a business plan and/or marketing plan, market research and testing, product testing with potential customers, production preparation and zero-batch investment, as well as operational marketing activities.

In addition to the aforementioned "Commercialisation of Innovation", the first quarter is expected to have yet another tender announced "Grants for start-ups" intended for innovative small and medium enterprises in high-tech sectors and knowledge-based sectors for TRL projects level 5-8, or those projects maturity beyond the concept-proof phase, but not yet ready for the market.

Companies that have been present on the market for a maximum of five years, with a somewhat defined team, and projects with a credible path to commercialisation can apply. The grant serves to support product development and increase existing production capacities, including upgrading, designing, verifying performance, market validation, testing, pilot line development, intellectual property protection and external services aimed at developing innovative ideas (product, process, service, etc) as well as training on the

Funded activities may also include part of the cost of accessing global business networks/clusters, which also involves the adopting of new marketing tools and accessing new markets. Eligible costs include the purchase of equipment, materials, staff recruitment and outsourcing. The total budget for this tender is planned in the amount of 141.7 million kuna, and the investment will support up to 141 small and medium-sized Croatian companies with individual grants of up to 1 million kuna.

In general, the focus of policies and measures of this EU programming period is the pursuit of systematic integration of sustainable development and green and digital transformation of the economy, which is something most Croatian technology companies also place a focus on, be it directly or otherwise. Thus, in the second quarter of the year we can expect the tender called "Digitisation Vouchers" with a maximum grant of 150,000 kuna, as well as the tender called "Digitisation Grants" with a maximum grant of 750,000 kuna on offer.

During the year, the announcement of the tender "Support to companies for the transition to energy and resource efficient economy" with a maximum amount of support of 7.5 million kuna is expected, and eligible applicants will be micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and investments will be directed to energy-intensive industries.

In addition to all of the above, in the second half of the year, we can expect the announcement of the tender "Strengthening sustainability and encouraging the green and digital transition of enterprises in the tourism sector." Eligible applicants for this tender will be micro, small, medium and large companies engaged in the field of tourism and hospitality, and the primary focus will be on investing in less developed tourist areas of Croatia.

In the potential lack of pre-tender public consultation, the timeframe for preparing extensive draft documentation is relatively short. The very serious preparation of projects that maximises the probability of success in the tender takes months and requires a significant amount of human resources. At the same time, despite the significant increase in the amount of available funds, the level of competition among interested applicants has increased, as more and more companies are turning to this form of financing.

On top of that, significant interest in grants can be expected from young and innovative companies, such as Croatian technology companies, given the fact that traditional banking financing is often not a realistic option for them, while alternative sources of financing in Croatia are still at negligible levels.

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Why Was Croatia Granted EU Fund Use Delay? Plenkovic Explains

February the 20th, 2022 - The European Commission (EC) very recently granted the Republic of Croatia an EU fund use delay. The cash in question is from what's known as the Solidarity Fund.

While 2020 was a horrendous year for the vast majority of the globe, if not all of it, thanks to the emergence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 and its journey around the world in the form of a pandemic, Croatia also suffered two devastating earthquakes. One struck the City of Zagreb in March, and another struck Sisak-Moslavina County in Central Croatia at the very end of December that year. Known as the Petrinja earthquake, this shattering natural disaster is still fresh in people's minds and the reconstruction process is moving at a classical snail's pace.

The situation here in the very heart of Zagreb isn't miles better, but when it is compared to the situation that has been left to fester in Petrinja, Glina and other nearby locations, it's difficult to fathom how December 2020 was now so long ago. 

We recently wrote about PM Andrej Plenkovic having successfully secured an EU fund use delay from the European Commission which would allow those funds from the aforementioned Solidarity Fund to be utlised until June 2023. Plenkovic has since been asked how and why that approval was given from the EC.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic recently commented on current events and his stay in the Belgian capital of Brussels following probes from journalists. He was also asked if Ursula von der Leyen had asked him to explain why the post-earthquake reconstruction following 2020's natural disasters in Croatia is going so painfully slowly.

“There are two fundamental reasons for that, you have progressive damage and you've also got a global pandemic. These are extraordinary circumstances, they're acts of God. Other countries had the use of the same Solidarity Fund, but not in such conditions,'' explained Plenkovic.

Asked whether or not things being classed as an act of God was the only reason why the Republic of Croatia had successfully received an EU fund use delay, Plenkovic said that it was.

"I don't know another capital city that was hit by such a strong earthquake in these circumstances," Plenkovic briefly commented.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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