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.

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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.

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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.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Croatian Culinary Heritage to be Protected with European Union Funds

April the 13th, 2021 - CUHaCHA might seem like a strange word and a bit of a mouthful to try to pronounce, but this project is set to set just how important Croatian culinary heritage is firmly in stone.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes, aware that traditional food plays a major role in the tradition and folklore of countries and is the basis of cultural heritage, the Zadar County Agency for Rural Development - AGRRA, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Herzegovina-Neretva County-Canton, the Tivat Municipality and Zadar County have jointly launched the CUHaCHA project.

As Ana Zubcic, AGRRA's international cooperation project manager, explained, tradition, Croatian cultural heritage and that of other surrounding countries, gastronomy and catering/hospitality are inextricably intertwined in this region. In addition, Zubcic pointed out, local cuisine and local products can encourage both innovation and promotion, and ultimately ensure further development at the regional and global level, this further improving the overall tourist offer.

Accordingly, the main goal of the "CUHaCHA" project is to strengthen and preserve the identity of Croatian culinary heritage and the common culinary heritage of the programme area, as well as to further contribute to the development of tourism, and it's a project worth 710,946.94 euros in total, of which the EU is co-financing 604,304.89 euros.

"Our general goal is to revive those dishes through gastronomy and traditional dishes that are slowly falling into oblivion and thus provide tourists the opportunity to experience the authentic flavours of the region. Food has played a key role in the tradition of our area for thousands of years now and remains an important part of our cultural heritage. In this way, we not only work to promote the destination and our traditions, but also offer an opportunity for innovation in this field,'' added Zubcic.

The project started back in August last year, and the first meeting of the partners involved was held in November, when the first project activities and plans were initially agreed.

Namely, as Zubcic revealed, as part of the project, common culinary heritage trails will be developed to strengthen and diversify the tourist offer, a culinary heritage monograph will be published, and training will be held for all service providers to ensure better culinary heritage management.

The project will also arrange traditional kitchens with the aim of promoting culinary heritage. Unfortunately, like the majority of other things, this project was also slowed down by the ongoing pandemic, but a culinary heritage survey is planned for the next six months.

"By researching all three areas, we'll find out what these dishes are, and then revive them and offer them in restaurants and in the general tourist offer. We believe that this will encourage farmers as well, because tradition and home-grown food are the key to this story.

The idea is that those who already offer food, if they don't already offer traditional food, for them to go in that direction,'' concluded Zubcic, adding that they will soon adapt and equip a traditional kitchen where training sessions for caterers, chefs and restaurant managers will be held. One of the last steps will be a virtual gastro trail.

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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Minister Tomislav Ćorić Visits Recycling Yard Worth HRK 3 Million in Novi Marof

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - A recycling yard worth HRK 3 million and co-financed by EU funds has been constructed in Novi Marof, and during his visit on Wednesday, Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said that the northwestern part of Croatia has progressed more than other parts of the country in terms of waste management.

The recycling yard in Novi Marof was co-financed from the Cohesion Fund in the amount of more than HRK 2.5 million, while the entire project is worth over HRK 3 million.

Novi Marof Mayor Siniša Jenkač underscored that the recycling yard was a continuation of the policy of efficient and responsible waste management in that northern Croatian city.

"In addition, the remediation of our landfill Čret is currently in its final phase, and it cost a total of HRK 17.5 million, including 30 years of monitoring," he said, adding that they had also procured waste sorting containers.

The remediation of the Čret landfill was co-financed with HRK 13.3 million of EU funds.

According to Jenkač, when it comes to total financing with European money, about HRK 40 million has been invested in waste management in the area of Novi Marof.

(€1 = HRK 7.6)

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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Croatian Craft Owners Also Want Access to European Union Cash

March the 18th, 2021 - Croatian craft owners want their own slice of the EU funds cash pie as they feel they're being held hostage to various systemic restraints put in place by the government.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, numerous Croatian craft owners are set to end up in precarious positions in their expansion, even in terms of their export activities if the government fails to support them.

Leverage from their own capital is nowhere near enough, while on the other hand most of them don't plan to borrow, so the projects remain in the drawer, with everyone waiting for the outcome.

In order to push them with their own participation, there is a great interest among Croatian craft owners for non-refundable cash injections from European Union (EU) funds, and as a result, talks on this topic are expected from the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts in the Government.

The key issue is the tender threshold, how to lower it from the existing one million kuna down to 150,000 kuna, which would ensure access to a large number of small entities to calls for such grants.

Results of the HOK survey

Through the Chamber's research on a sample of 1772 Croatian craft owners, the planned investments in property were crystallised - from the purchase of equipment and machinery to the reconstruction and construction of production facilities, in relation to which their participation in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) is required.

Unofficially, based on the value of the projects surveyed, it is an item which stands at approximately 100 million euros, while it is estimated that for this year the amount of non-refundable money would be in the range of 6 to 10 billion kuna, ie in seven years - about six billion euros.

In anticipation of answers to the problems of this group of entrepreneurs and the Chamber's proposal to advise the Prime Minister, they currently don't have an appointment, but will a joint solution with the government, in accordance with the intentions of this initiative led by HOK leader Dragutin Ranogajc, projects, which would be reflected on other small entities, will be seen quickly.

The predictable total value of the projects, according to the research, which would cover the needs of most Croatian craft owners, is from 150,000 to 750,000 kuna.

Croatian craft owners, they claim, are ready to immediately invest their own funds through co-financing these projects, but they also pointed out that more than 73 percent of the respondents aren't planning to use financial instruments.

The preparation of the necessary documentation

That is why HOK, as they say, is making efforts in the preparation of documentation in the field of drafting programming documents for the financial period of the EU 2021-2027.

The goal is to adequately identify the needs of Croatian craft owners and to provide them with appropriate calls for the allocation of EU money, which presupposes intervention to reduce the criteria to the previously mentioned 150,000 kuna.

They have previously warned that it is necessary to adjust the terms of the tender to Croatian craft owners, because according to Ranogajc, it must be borne in mind that "the economy is only as resistant as the smallest of its subjects are."

This approach is supported by economist Ljubo Jurcic, accompanied by the warning that without a systematic approach, there will be no great benefits to be had. He says that a system that produces added value should be built, in which the role of Croatian craft owners should be envisaged, who, he claims, also need a cash injection to cover the damage caused by the blockade due to the coronavirus crisis, in order to preserve any sort of pre-pandemic economic position.

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Thursday, 25 February 2021

Croatian Employers Association Wants EU Funds Sum Directed to Private Sector

February the 25th, 2021 - The Croatian Employers Association (HUP) want more European Union cash to be directed towards the private sector, with employers doing their best to urge the government to amend a certain document to ensure this happens.

As Novac/Gordana Grgas writes, at least 50 percent of European Union money is set to be available to Croatia in the next period, which is a total of about 24 billion euros. The Croatian Employers Association believes that around half of that massive amount should be made available to the private sector through calls for grants.

Employers are also urging the Croatian Government to properly amend the draft National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO), the first version of which it has already sent to the European Commission (EC), and to further strengthen the role of the private sector in it.

Although the draft itself hasn't yet been published, and has only recently been roughly presented to the Croatian Employers Association, it appears that most of the 6 billion euros in grants from the NPOO, to be funded by the European Recovery and Resilience Mechanism as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, could end up in reform-related public sector projects. As announced by the Croatian Employers Association at a recently held press conference, they plan to urgently send their remarks and suggestions to the European Commission itself. The final draft, they say, should be ready and sent to Brussels in April.

So far, a quarter of the money available to Croatia from EU funds has gone to the private sector, warned the Croatian Employers Association's Damir Zoric. The rest ended up going to public investments and public infrastructure, and Croatia needs larger investments in production for the development of the economy. Boris Drilo, President of the aforementioned associations's ICT Association explained that previous investments in the private sector have been shown to have a significant impact on economic growth.

"It's a minute until midnight for all of us, after which we can turn into either a princess or a pumpkin," he said in a rather picturesque manner. He also stressed that investments in private sector projects lead to sustainable employment for high-value jobs.

In February, the Croatian Employers Association conducted a survey among 1,700 enterprise owners, which showed that more than two thirds of them have prepared projects or investment plans for the next financial period in the amount of more than 21 billion kuna. As many as 94 percent of them would exclusively utilise EU grants, so there is extremely little interest in these so-called financial instruments, such as loans, and 30 percent say they will not be able to invest if these grants aren't enough.

On top of that, 28 percent of enterprise owners say they will not survive the ongoing pandemic crisis without better co-financing. Most of them stated that they would invest in capacity expansion and modernisation if they could be more certain, and the projects they have in those areas are the ones which are the most ready to be realised.

Drilo explained that, in general, the investment potential of available European Union money is significantly higher if it is directed to private investments, and it is also less burdensome for the state budget. Namely, a private company from the EU receives 40 to 70 percent of the investment amount as support, and the rest is financed by itself. The public sector, on the other hand, receives 85 percent of the money from the EU for the project, and the rest is added from public sources, which is less favourable.

Answering a question related to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the Croatian Employers Association said that the state should be prevented from competing with the private sector with its projects.

Ana Fresl, president of the Croatian Employers Association's Association of Professionals for EU Funds confirmed that the draft plan presented to them, in which only state bodies participated, exceeded the available six billion euros, and there has not been any feedback on which parts of the plan will remain and which will be discarded. In their belief, what was presented to them under the name "economy", the first version of the plan envisages a series of projects that have nothing to do with entrepreneurship whatsoever.

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Friday, 19 February 2021

Finance Minister Maric Feels Confident About Croatian EU Cash Negotiations

February the 19th, 2021 - Croatian Finance Minister Maric has spoken of his confidence of how Croatian negotiations are progressing in relation to the payout of European Union (EU) funds.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Finance Minister Maric has stated that intensive communication is being undertaken and is currently taking place, with 45 meetings having been held so far with all departments involved in them. 

''Just as it is for all European Union member states, Croatia is obliged to send the final version of the document regarding their payout by the end of April this year,'' stated Finance Minister Maric.

"After that, there will be a process of evaluation of the document by the European Commission, and the Council needs to say something on those lines too, and then, accordingly, programmes will be approved for everything that will be written inside it," he added.

In the Croatian state budget itself, he noted, the vast majority of these funds aren't there yet and Croatia has no plans to make space for that. However, he added, the country can count on the fact that according to the latest information we have on a thirteen percent advance for the first year of use of the total amount of grants for 2021,'' as was reported by HRT.

"Most importantly of all, the document is significant in itself, but its implementation is even more important. Most of them are grants and I think we negotiated it very well and we have an above-average share of grants. For the most part, those 6 billion come from the Recovery and Resilience Fund.

The European Commission's remarks aren't only directed towards Croatia, but towards all countries for which the relationship between investment and structural reforms related to recovery must be more evenly coordinated. We'll use loans if necessary, but of course the focus is on grants,'' concluded the Finance Minister Maric before the government.

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Sunday, 3 January 2021

Should EU Cash go to Croatian Private Sector for Investment Purposes?

Thanks to a good pre-crisis initial capitalisation, Croatia's banks have enough potential to continue to provide all the services they have provided so far, but should future EU cash injections go to the Croatian private sector for investments?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 3rd of January, 2021, although the second wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is now at its peak, announcements of an effective vaccine and the expected natural calming down of the spread of infection with the arrival of spring 2021 gives us hope that all of those promises of domestic economic recovery will come true. At the same time, what's more important than that growth itself is what the quality of the recovery will be, how long it will last for, and for those at HUB, the most important thing is to analyse what the role of banks could be in that saga.

Owing to a good pre-crisis initial capitalisation, banks have enough potential to continue to provide all the services they have provided so far. This potential can be applied equally to liquidity and available capital. Good projects, as well as the needs of people who will regularly repay their obligations will be financed at the lowest interest rates in Croatia's history. How can we ensure that the start of Croatia's economic recovery in 2021 and the availability of funds at a very low cost of capital turn into lasting recovery at high growth rates? The answer depends on how the country uses European Union (EU) funds.

It is of the utmost importance to use those funds so that as much as possible falls into the hands of the Croatian private sector, more precisely the corporate sector, in order to increase investment. Banks are ready to support such projects, because investments accompanied by favourable financial structuring strengthen the sense of trust in clients and this improves their creditworthiness in general in the long run.

An important part of European Union funds is that which is used for various financial instruments. This is of great importance when it comes to the very structure financial instruments so that they don't crowd out the market but instead complement and improve it, in two ways. First of all, the improvement of the framework for resolving insolvency and the development of capital markets, especially venture capital funds, is imposed as a necessity to increase the economic dynamics on the way out of this terrible and unprecedented crisis. It is good that these measures are mentioned in the National Development Strategy 2030 and are in the recommendations of the EU Council to Croatia, so the implementation of these measures can now be readily expected.

Second of all, when it comes to debt instruments, the trend of sectoral and earmarked fragmentation of credit guarantee schemes needs to be reversed. The guarantee schemes of HBOR and HAMAG-BICRO, which are financed from EU funds, should be simplified, reduced in their numbers and made more flexible and transparent according to the needs of the market. This will encourage risk-taking that wouldn't have been taken without government intervention, which directly increases investment and economic growth.

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Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Croatian Company Podravka Gets EU Cash, Sees Potential in Certain Area

December the 30th, 2020 - Podravka is as well known to every Croat as the dangers of propuh and arguments over what real burek are. Thanks to EU cash, the much loved Croatian company Podravka has its sights on one area in particular.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, for the project of developing innovative by-products during vegetable processing, worth a little less than seven million kuna, the Croatian compan Podravka was approved three million euros in non-refundable funds from the European Regional Development Fund. This is the first research project of the Koprivnica-based food company that will be financed from European Union funds.

As the Croatian company Podravka explains, during the two years of its implementation, an innovative, technologically efficient process of separating nutritionally valuable biowaste from the industrial vegetable processing of Podravka's Kalnik Factory in Varazdin will be looked into for the development of new and innovative food products.

The potential for biogas production from all waste production streams will also be further investigated, and the expected results of this project are the creation of new knowledge and the increase of Podravka's intangible assets through patents and yet more new brands, increasing the efficiency of the production process through the commercialisation of innovative products.

A few years ago, Podravka started analysing the condition and potential of by-products that arise during production in its factories, especially in the Kalnik and Umag plants.

As explained from the company, the research and development sector of Podravka in that period in cooperation with the academic community set hypotheses based on previously published scientific papers, and preliminary tests determined the existence of the nutritional potential of vegetable by-products that could focus on the development of completely new products and added value.

Since additional larger-scale research was needed for stronger evidence to back that up, back in February 2020, the Croatian company Podravka applied for EU funds through this project.

"I believe that the comprehensiveness of the project's goals, which touch on as many as three thematic priority areas of the Smart Specialisation Strategy of the Republic of Croatia (Food and Bioeconomy, Energy and Sustainable Environment and Health and Quality of Life), has greatly contributed to this rapid positive result.

We're extremely proud of this project, which is the result of cooperation between different sectors within the company, management, associates and consultants,'' said Jasmina Ranilovic, the project manager and the director of Research and Development at Podravka.

The recently presented project for the development of innovative products from the category of food for special medical needs is being co-financed from EU funds, which together included the Rudjer Boskovic Institute (RBI) and the pharmaceutical company Belupo. The value of the joint research and development project stands at an impressive nine million kuna, of which 6.1 million kuna was co-financed with European Union money.

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