Sunday, 2 January 2022

EU Funds Misuse in Croatia: 35 Alleged Cases Already Under Investigation

January 2, 2022 - The European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) in Zagreb's Ilica currently has 35 cases indicating possible EU funds misuse.

The State Attorney's Office submitted 25 cases of EU funds misuse after 10 November, the date after which they were obliged to submit cases within the possible competence of the European Prosecutor's Office, reports Jutarnji List. Until that date, the State Attorney's Office had submitted 10 such cases, including the one on the so-called affair software that resulted in the arrest of former Minister Gabrijela Žalac. The former minister decided that the MRRFEU would make this purchase at a price much higher than the market price for the development of software with such technical specifications and functionalities.

It is alleged that, in order to carry out what was agreed, the former minister first decided, in 2017, to conduct a negotiated procurement procedure without prior publication of a public invitation to tender, with an overestimated procurement value of HRK 9,860,000.00 (EUR +/- 1.31 million); and in that process, the companies linked to the second suspect were invited to submit their bids.

A total of 35 cases are on the table of Tamara Laptoš, who heads the European Prosecutor's Office, which also includes Tomislav Kalember and Sani Ljubičić, but that does not mean that as many investigations are being conducted. Namely, these are cases submitted by the State Attorney's Office in which suspicions of misuse of European money are expressed.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office investigates and prosecutes the following types of fraud and other criminal offenses affecting the EU's financial interests: expenditure and revenue fraud, VAT fraud (if involving two or more Member States and worth at least 10 million), money laundering of the EU budget, active and passive corruption or embezzlement affecting the EU's financial interests and participation in a criminal organization if its activities are aimed at committing crimes against the EU budget.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Croatia Must Utilise EU Funds Amounting to 320 Million Euros by Mid-2023

December the 20th, 2021 - The Republic of Croatia has an enormous 320 million euros coming to it by the end of 2021, and it must utilise it in full by mid-2023, by June of that year to be more precise. With Petrinja still shamefully waiting for redevelopment and reconstruction almost one entire year since the devastating earthquake struck, there's no time like the present.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, Darko Horvat, said that Croatia is absolutely ready to accept EU grants which will be spent on reconstructing Petrinja following 2020's earthquake. He said this when in conversation with Dnevnik after MEPs approved the provision at the December the 14th plenary session in which assistance to Croatia in the amount of 320 million euros was agreed upon. The enormous sum will go to repairing the damage caused by the natural disasters of 2020.

"Given the considerable experience we've gained in preparing the applications for repairing the damage from the Zagreb earthquake (which struck in March 2020), we've encouraged the end users of these funds to start drafting project documentation. What's especially important now, given that the implementing bodies are ready to accept the funds, is that at the beginning of 2022 we expect the announcement of the first public calls,'' said Horvat.

Based on the aforementioned decision, Croatia is being provided with a financial envelope of 320 million euros, including the already paid advance of 41.3 million euros. The payment of the remaining part, a sum close to 280 million euros, is expected by the end of the year. Out of a total of about 17 billion euros in estimated earthquake damage, direct damage to the Banovina area is estimated to stand at about 5.5 billion.

As the damage is far greater than the expected FSEU aid can cover, the planned distribution of aid will be largely focused on eligible costs already incurred, as well as projects already contracted or those with certain costs and deadline security. According to available data, of the already incurred or contracted costs of around 240 million euros, almost 80 million euros has been spent on operations eligible for funding from the FSEU. As for the deadline, as was the case with the previous procedure, it is 18 months from the payment of the total amount to the budget of the Republic of Croatia.

According to Minister Horvat and the national coordinating body for the implementation of earthquake remediation, if the payment is made before the end of 2021, the implementation deadline will be June 2023. 

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

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Zagreb Lighting to be Modernised in 318 Million Kuna Investment

November the 25th, 2021 - Zagreb lighting is about to get a ''do up'' in a large investment. Although in the previous period several EU projects of the modernisation of city lighting were realised in Croatia, the most extensive of which was Newlight from the Elena program in which 57 cities and municipalities from Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje County renovated 54,830 lamps in an investment of 22 million euros, the new Zagreb lighting project will be a step or two above that in terms of its scope.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, thanks to the European Union programme ''Elena'' and the ''RePubLEEc project,'' the City of Zagreb is launching an investment in public infrastructure worth more than 318 million kuna, and it regards the reconstruction of about 40 percent of the existing public Zagreb lighting across the capital.

The main goal of the RePubLEEc project is to increase the energy efficiency of public lighting systems, reduce the impact on the climate, increase standards and safety for citizens and prepare for the so-called Smart City transition. All this also directly implies the achievement of savings in electricity and maintenance and the operating cost of public infrastructure.

As pointed out by the Regional Energy Agency of Northwest Croatia, which both prepared and operationally managed projects for Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje counties, and now does the same for the City of Zagreb, the RePubLEEc project is innovative primarily because its implementation doesn't involve any new borrowing.

“The implementation of the modernisation of the public lighting system is envisaged according to the model of the Energy Performance Contracting (EPC). This contracting model is implemented in such a way that the private partner independently designs, finances and performs works on the reconstruction of public Zagreb lighting and guarantees the realisation of the contracted standards (functionality, lighting and minimum energy savings). The energy performance contract is concluded for a period of seventeen years, two of which are intended for the design and the execution of the works, and fifteen years are intended for the provision of the lighting services. Based on the savings in electricity costs, the entire investment will be paid, ie the City of Zagreb won't have to plan to increase the expenditure side of the budget for its implementation, but instead to reduce it,'' they pointed out from the City of Zagreb.

They added that such contracts not only guarantee implementation but also protect public money, because in the case of non-compliance with contracted standards by ESCO partners, failure to achieve energy savings, insufficient lighting, faulty lamps, etc, and the contracted EPC fee is automatically reduced on a monthly basis (in a pay per performance scheme) which isn't in the interest of the private contractor and is a guarantee of a job well done.

As part of the EPC Agreement, the Management and Control Centre of the public lighting system is being implemented, which will communicate in real time with all luminaires in the scope for the purpose of the monitoring and regulation of luminaires - records of failures, energy consumption and so on. Thus, Zagreb will have the ability to manage and monitor all of its new lamps in real time.

Each lamp in the range will have a place to receive various sensors such as the measuring of noise, air temperature, humidity, vehicle flow, lighting, the monitoring of electric charging stations for vehicles and more. The reconstruction of about 40 percent of the Zagreb lighting fixtures according to the model of the Energy Performance Agreement will achieve savings in electricity consumption in the amount of about 75 percent or about 21 GWh per year.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Zagreb Mayor: Plan is to Absorb HRK 1.35 bn from EU Funds Next Year

ZAGREB, 23 Nov 2021 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević announced on Tuesday that next year the city authorities plan to absorb HRK 13.5 billion from EU funds which is 40% more compared to 2020, and added that with the introduction of new locations the number of vaccinated Zagreb citizens has doubled.

"Our policy is to absorb as much money from funds to alleviate the city budget," Tomašević told a regular press conference, adding that thanks to that money huge changes would be visible next year already.

He announced that projects by the Croatian Natural History and Ethnographic museums would be financed from EU funds.

Tomašević said that thanks to eight new vaccination locations, in less than two weeks the number of Zagreb citizens who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 has doubled, particularly those receiving the first dose. The number of daily vaccinations has increased to 3,800.

More than 20,000 citizens have been vaccinated at these locations, 13,000 have received the first dose while 19,500 citizens have been vaccinated at the location at the Zagreb Fair grounds, 13,000 of whom have received the first dose.

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

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Milanović: Croatia Annually Richer by €267M From EU Funds

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday Croatia was richer by HRK 2 billion a year from EU funds but that it was too little.

"When you pay everything, when you absorb everything, when you remove the money for agriculture, which is actually a social fund for the preservation of agriculture which will last as long as France wants it to, that's HRK 2 billion a year, that's one-fifth of Zagreb's budget... that's too little," he said in Trogir at a meeting of the Town Council organised on the occasion of the day of the coastal town.

Milanović said the Recovery and Resilience Facility was something "where the funds are intended for us and we are yet to absorb them, or not."

"That's a huge test, for the administration first of all," he said, calling on the people of Trogir to "fight for that money."

In a dozen years, Trogir will not have fewer people than now, unlike some parts of Croatia which will, just like Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he said did not have just fewer Croats, but Serbs and Bosniaks as well.

"Those are trends which are almost impossible to stop," he said, but added that it was wrong "to give in to a moral panic and create the impression and pressure as if we were disappearing. That's very far from the truth."

He said that demographically, "we will revolve around the level we have reached for another hundred years."

"It's up to us to make life good today and to plan clearly like in the army, which is not being done, what will be in five or ten years. That includes money."

Milanović said the absorption of EU funds was a measure of success. We entered the EU and surrendered some of our natural and state rights and we did that consciously because nobody forced us, he added.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Monday, 25 October 2021

KBC Hospital in Zagreb to Get HRK 2.8M From EU Funds for Its Three Projects

ZAGREB, 25 Oct 2021 - The University Hospital Centre (KBC) Zagreb has concluded EU grant agreements with a total value of HRK 2.8 million to prepare project documentation for three projects that were presented on Monday.

The projects refer to the Centre for Genome Research in Oncology and Perinatology, Centre for Research and Early Detection of Lung Cancer, and the National Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Patients.

The projects will assist in developing documentation to successfully apply and implement the projects and they are being financed from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

The actual projects are aimed at improving access to health care and treatment and monitoring the outcome of that treatment. The project documentation should be completed in the next three to four months and after that KBC will apply for funding to implement them, KBC Zagreb director Ante Ćorušić said.

The lung cancer project documentation, valued at HRK 1.5 million, documents necessary for construction works and equipment.

The multiple sclerosis project is valued at HRK 813,000 and the genome research project is valued at HRK 503,000.

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

Sunday, 24 October 2021

EU Funds Provide Cash for Croatian Projects Worth 515 Million Kuna

October the 24th, 2021 - There can be no doubt that European Union (EU) funds have done wonders for Croatia, and now another very generous EU fund cash injection has provided the means for yet more Croatian projects.

As Jutarnji/Novac/Gordana Grgas writes, the first 36 small enterprises from the manufacturing industry recently received grants according to an EU tender entitled "Strengthening the competitiveness of companies by investing in the digital and green transition" which was announced last spring. This cash amounts to 155 million kuna in support, and the Croatian projects it will work to bring to life total as much as 515 million kuna.

In the top ten from this list are the following domestic companies: Sisarka, Agro Simpa, Turkovic, Zlatko-Commerce, Rotoplast, Spiroflex, Limrol, Molaris, Pivovara Daruvar and Akord, and they will use the subsidies to strengthen their production capacities. Sisarka from Zupanja will, in particular, invest in technologically advanced and energy efficient production, which is a project worth 9.9 million kuna, and this company received 3.5 million kuna in non-refundable funds.

Agro Simpa from Sisak will receive support totalling 1.1 million kuna for their project worth 3.2 million kuna, and Zlatko-Commerce will receive a grant totalling 3.7 million kuna for a project to increase their production capacities, a move otherwise amounting to 10.3 million kuna.

There were as many as 842 proposals...

As announced by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, as many as 842 proposals for Croatian projects were received back in May, and 70 percent of those Croatian projects, or 596 of them, were positively evaluated in the award procedure. It hasn't yet been announced when the remaining decisions will be made, and it is expected that it is set to occur "in the next short period".

It's worth mentioning that when the results of this project evaluation was published back in August, it was explained that the money would primarily go to those who have satisfied their project applications to the greatest extent, ie achieved the best results and points. That said, 245 entrepreneurial proposals for Croatian projects were evaluated negatively.

This tender aroused great interest because it was the first major tender from ESI funds this year for small and medium-sized enterprises, and was launched with the intention of strengthening recovery from the crisis caused by the global coronavirus pandemic and in preparing a more green, digital and resilient economic recovery.

In total, this tender regards about 1.14 billion kuna intended exclusively for the processing industry, which the Minister of Economy Tomislav Coric assessed recently at the awarding of the first contracts as "the best placed money of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development over the past four years". He also noted that the manufacturing industry is and will be in focus in the coming years, too.

Enterprises who receive grants from this tender must use them up quickly, more precisely by the end of 2023.

All of the Croatian projects that will be co-financed by EU funds from this tender and in this way are expected to launch an investment cycle worth more than 3.6 billion kuna, and as HAMAG-BICRO's CEO Vjeran Vrbanec said recently, calls for the transformation of entrepreneurship into green and digital will be available in the coming period within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

In 2022 and 2023, support for the transition to an energy-efficient economy of 1.9 billion kuna, 960 million kuna for innovation and digitalisation and 1.1 billion kuna for encouraging investments that are a prerequisite for a circular economy are expected, as was announced back during this summer.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business and politics sections.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Croatian Recovery Plan Foresees 9.5 Billion Kuna for Digital Transformation

October the 7th, 2021 - The Croatian Recovery Plan, more precisely the Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) has been talked about at length recently. In the challenging post-coronavirus age, at a time when global economies are still reeling from the unprecedented and utterly devastating impact of the global pandemic, few things are more important to Croatia than this massive EU payout.

The Croatian Recovery Plan envisages as much as 9.5 billion kuna going directly to the country's much needed digital transformation, which should force Croatia well and truly into modern times and away from excessive paperwork, standing in lines and wasting time.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, in this day and age, smart industries represent the wheel of development of the Croatian economy and society, and the precondition for this doesn't lie solely in digital transformation, but also in the cooperation of the Croatian Government, the domestic economy and the academic community.

Recognising the importance of education about the Smart Industry model in Croatia, Poslovni dnevnik organised a conference entitled Smart Industry 2021, during which, State Secretary of the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society, Bernard Grsic, spoke about smart industries in the focus of national plans, more precisely the Croatian Recovery Plan.

''Digital transformation is a change from one thing to another, and first we need the awareness that we can and do actually want to do it. Man is at the centre of these events and we mustn't simply allow technology to do everything itself. Priorities for implementing this policy in the field of the digital transition of the economy relate to encouraging digital transformation and the application of advanced technologies in the economy and in society, strengthening strategic digital capacities and increasing the level of digital maturity of enterprises, establishing standardised platforms for connection and business, and the proper development of state information infrastructure.

The Smart Industry seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of a particular industry, which means not only an industrial transition but also social transformation, openness and cooperation from the government, as well as from the economy and from universities. In the Croatian Recovery Plan, the contribution to digital transformation stands at 20.4 percent, this is equal to more than 9.5 billion kuna, which is to be distributed across all segments of society.

The goal is to seize this opportunity and accelerate the digital transformation in the Republic of Croatia, create high-paying jobs in the domestic economy for the implementation of the Croatian Recovery Plan and ensure fast and efficient public administration, as well as position Croatia above the EU average on the DESI index,'' concluded Grsic.

For more on the Croatian Recovery Plan (NPOO), make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Vinkovci Urban Area To Absorb at Least €25 M Under ITU Mechanism

ZAGREB, 3 Oct, 2021 - An agreement on cooperation in drafting and implementing the Vinkovci urban development strategy for the financial period 2021-2027, worth at least €25 million, was signed in this eastern city earlier this week by the mayors of Vinkovci, Otok and nine adjacent municipalities.

Besides Vinkovci, as the centre of the urban area, and the city of Otok, the agreement was signed by the municipalities of Andrijaševci, Ivankovo, Jarmina, Nijemci, Nuštar, Privlaka, Stari Jankovci, Stari Mikanovci and Vođinci.

This agreement has opened up new opportunities for the city of Vinkovci and the entire urban area, said Vinkovci Mayor Ivan Bosančić, underscoring that this was an opportunity to give fresh impetus to the development of the urban area using the mechanisms and funds of the European Union.

"Through the ITU mechanism, local government units connect and work together, and we have many links. From the economy and culture to education, there is almost no area in which we are not connected," he said.

According to Bosančić, the signatories of the agreement will have about €25 million at their disposal for projects important for the development of the area, and the focus will be on projects in the field of education and economy.

Otok Mayor Josip Šarić said the city authorities were interested in investments in projects for the reconstruction and construction of unclassified roads.

"This is a great opportunity to use EU funds for projects we consider most necessary," the mayor of Otok said.

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Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Dok-Ing Seeks Path to EU Funding Through Croatian-Slovenian Consortium

September the 28th, 2021 - The well known Croatian company DOK-ING has signed a letter of intent to form a Croatian-Slovenian consortium of companies in the field of security and defense with the Croatian companies Orqa and Defensphere and the Slovenian companies MIL Sistemika and Bijol.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, an agreement was also signed between the Croatian and Slovenian defense industry competitiveness clusters with the aim of providing support to the defense industry sector of the two neighbouring countries in the use of available EU funds. The signing was held as part of the eighth International Fair of Defense, Security, Protection and Rescue SOBRA, which took place from the 23rd to the 25th of September, 2021, in the Slovenian town of Gornja Radgona.

The new Croatian-Slovenian consortium, composed of members of the competitiveness cluster of the defense industry of the two countries, opens the possibility of joint application to the future European Defense Fund and the use of European Union funds made available in the field of defense. The association of cluster members is also a consequence of the long-term promotion of connecting companies that, through the transfer of knowledge and joint action, work to strengthen their own capabilities for the development of high-tech products and positioning on the highly demanding international market.

"DOK-ING has been present in the defense industry worldwide for thirty years now, and it's always looking for new and innovative solutions that can improve its existing product portfolio and develop completely new products for the global market. We're extremely pleased that as an international leader in the market of robotic systems for special purposes, we've signed a letter of intent for cooperation on the eve of the upcoming European Defense Fund with the companies Orqa, MIL Sistemika, Bijol and Defensphere.

By connecting these companies, transferring knowledge and new technologies, as well as exchanging business experiences on foreign markets, opportunities open up for the development of advanced innovative systems that can be financed from European Union funds. This is our opportunity to translate our common knowledge and potential into products that will be imposed as systems of the future of the defense industry, and which will be competitive worldwide,'' said Ana Pesic, a member of the board of Croatia's DOK-ING.

“Orqa d.o.o. is an international market leader in the field of research and the development of video glasses and systems for remote-controlled and unmanned platforms. The European Defense Fund is an excellent opportunity to finance projects that combine the knowledge, experience and capacity of companies from our consortium into globally competitive products. The key to the resilience and growth of the Croatian defense industry is in the direct support of the competent state administration bodies to projects that have great added value and high-tech elements. I believe that the coming period, supported by the European Defense Fund, will be a new impetus for the development of the defense industry sector,'' said Tomislav Krolo, Chief Operating Officer (COO), at Orqa d.o.o.

DOK-ING is otherwise a well known and respected Croatian company based in Zagreb which boasts offices in the USA and South Africa. It is an international market leader in the design, production and delivery of high quality and proven robot systems for special purposes to customers from around the world.

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