Saturday, 26 March 2022

EU Leaders Task EC to Propose Solution for Addressing Electricity Price Hikes

ZAGREB, 26 March 2022 - The heads of state or government of the European Union's member states, who on Friday concluded their two-day summit meeting in Brussels, tasked the European Commission to propose an efficient solution to electricity price hikes.

The European Council calls on the European Commission "to submit proposals that effectively address the problem of excessive electricity prices while preserving the integrity of the Single Market, maintaining incentives for the green transition, preserving the security of supply and avoiding disproportionate budgetary costs," according to the Council's conclusions.

The Council of the EU and the European Commission are called upon "to reach out to the energy stakeholders, and to discuss, if and how, the short-term options as presented by the Commission (direct support to consumers through vouchers, tax rebates or through an "aggregator model/single buyer", State aid, taxation (excises and VAT), price caps, regulatory measures such as contracts for differences) would contribute to reducing the gas price and addressing its contagion effect on electricity markets, taking into account national circumstances."

After the discussion on the excessive energy prices, which took several hours, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that it was difficult to find a single solution which would suit all the member-states, having in mind that some of them are highly dependent on Russian Russian gas, oil and coal imports.

The EU has three goals: to ensure new supply routes for gas, complete and improve the gas and electricity interconnections throughout the Union, and provide direct support to consumers, he added.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Croatia PM to Attend EU Summit on Monday, Tuesday

ZAGREB, 23 May, 2021 - The leaders of the EU-27 will convene for a summit on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the meeting of climate protection targets, foreign policy issues and the COVID-19 situation.

This will be the first physical summit in Brussels since December.

While in Brussels, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković will hold talks with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

On the fringes of the European Council, Plenković is expected to talk about Croatia's two strategic goals - entering the eurozone and the Schengen Area.

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

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Saturday, 27 March 2021

Details of EU Summit Negotiations: At Least Another 500,000 Pfizer Doses in Croatia?

March 27, 2021 - Will there be at least another 500,000 Pfizer doses in Croatia? If the EU Summit negotiations successful, Croatia could vaccinate more than half of the adult population with a single dose of vaccine by June 30, 2021. 

Jutarnji List reports that if the negotiations of the permanent representatives of the EU member states in COREPER are successful, Croatia could vaccinate just over half of the adult population with one COVID-19 vaccine dose by June 30, which would bring it closer to the EU average.

This is the essence of the European Council meeting held on Thursday, at which Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković advocated that 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine, which will arrive in the second quarter of this year, be distributed so that more doses are given to those members who are being the EU vaccination average because they were left without large quantities of vaccines ordered from AstraZeneca.

Croatia has missed a lot because only 17 percent of the promised AstraZeneca doses arrived in Croatia. Thus, the country is currently third in the EU in terms of the number of vaccinated citizens with one dose, followed by Latvia and Bulgaria. No agreement was reached at the European Council. Still, the joint statement emphasized that the doses would be distributed according to the principle of European solidarity, which would have to be agreed upon by the political body. That fact alone gives us hope that Croatia could do well.

Namely, out of 100 million doses planned for delivery in the fourth quarter, Pfizer will deliver 10 million doses in the second quarter. They will now negotiate what percentage will go to the countries that lag behind the most and how much to all others. 

Among the numerous proposals was that all 10 million doses go to the four, five, or six most severely deprived countries, including Croatia, but this could not pass because each country wants certain doses for itself. It was mentioned that Croatia could receive as many as 1.4 million doses by the end of June, but that, Prime Minister Plenković explained yesterday, was just one of the proposals.

While the amount of doses Croatia is now counting on is still unclear, given that it is a matter of negotiations, we know that a little more than half a million Pfizer doses would bring Croatia closer to the average by the end of June. With this dynamic, Croatia could have more than half of the adult population vaccinated.

Some countries have demanded that the principle continue, with these 10 million doses, to be exclusively proportional, i.e., concerning the number of inhabitants, but this would be unfavorable for Croatia because it would receive only 90,000 doses June 30, which would still lag behind the EU average.

As things stand now, Croatia will get far more than that; the goal is more than half a million to make up for the loss with others.

According to these calculations, Bulgaria should get the most, given the population and the fact that it is at the bottom of the EU in terms of vaccination.

"The conclusion on that topic was to find an agreement on the ratio of distributing those 10 million doses in the spirit of solidarity, which means that those who have less will get more," said Plenković yesterday and later explained that EU leaders support compensating Croatia for the lack of vaccines. 

The good news from the meeting is that the leaders agreed to distribute these doses according to the principle of solidarity. Still, the not-so-good news is that the rest of the vaccine will be distributed as before, according to the "pro-rata" principle. However, if the first goal is achieved, then further distribution according to the principle of proportionality is less unfavorable for Croatia.

These are the two messages from the summit that ended on Thursday before midnight. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's idea to "distribute the vaccine more fairly" between member states has only been understood when it comes to an additional 10 million doses without Austria, which, according to others, has not been missed.

Kurz was not only not supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel but also by Mark Rutte from the Netherlands. Austria will not be able to count on abandoning the principle of dividing the vaccine "pro-rata" according to the number of inhabitants and according to the quantity ordered by the states from individual producers. They won’t be able to count on most of these 10 million doses either.

However, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia, and the Czech Republic can benefit from this. When Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he is ready to agree to give more to Croatia, that is important news. Rutte is a classic representative of the school that in diplomacy, it is necessary to go cold-headed but also cold-hearted. So, if the principle of solidarity is agreed upon, which means that some need to give more for others to get more, the factual situation should also be taken into account. And the fact is that Austria, unlike Croatia and Bulgaria, does not lag far behind others in vaccination. Moreover, Austria is even above the EU average.

According to the plan presented by Ursula von der Leyen at the summit, 360 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter. But of that, just 70 million AstraZeneca, 200 million Pfizer doses, 35 million Moderna doses, and 55 million Johnson & Johnson.

To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Slovenia PM will Represent Croatia at EU Summit

ZAGREB, Dec 9, 2020 - Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa will represent Croatia at Thursday's EU summit, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday.

Plenkovic will not attend the summit as his isolation has been extended due to a cough caused by COVID-19.

Speaking at a virtual cabinet meeting, he said he first suggested to President Zoran Milanovic to attend.

"I offered (Milanovic) to go on Croatia's behalf. He appreciated the gesture, thanked me, but given the topics, he assessed that he would not go to Brussels," Plenkovic said, adding that Milanovic agreed with Jansa being authorized to represent Croatia.

The two-day in-person summit will focus on Hungary and Poland's veto on the EU budget and recovery plan, relations with the United States, and the pandemic.

Plenkovic will isolate a few more days at doctors' orders due to a cough. The government said earlier today that he was feeling well and did not have a temperature and that he would continue to work from home. He tested positive for coronavirus on November 30.

At the cabinet meeting, he said it was very important for the decreasing trend of new infections to continue, calling this a still "very demanding task."

"It's important that we all together comply with the measures so that we reduce the dynamic of the epidemic before Christmas."

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

PM Praises Results on Recent EU Summit in Report to Parliament

ZAGREB, July 29, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday reported to the Croatian parliament on the recent EU summit at which Croatia was granted access to €22 billion over the next seven years, which he said was a strong lever for economic recovery.

Plenkovic reported on the results of the marathon summit of EU leaders that ended on July 21 with an agreement on the post-pandemic recovery plan and seven-year budget, after which Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman presented the results of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of the year.

"Never before has the government presented to parliament a report of such great financial importance and with such far-reaching consequences for our economic development, our social cohesion, for the progress of Croatia and the entire European project," Plenkovic said.

Of the €1.824 trillion agreed at the summit, Croatia will have access to €22 billion, which is €165 billion over the next four, i.e. seven years, he said. "That is double the amount that was made available to us in the Multiannual Finance Framework for the past 2014-2020 period," he added.

He said that this is one of the largest amounts per capita "which will ensure that for each euro invested we get more than 4.5 euros from the EU budget."

"For Croatia, for its citizens and economy, we have ensured a strong lever for economic development over the next four, that is seven years," Plenkovic said, stressing that in this way his government had defended Croatian interests.

He said that Croatia had shown that "it is a strong state that protects its national interests, utilises its strength for the benefit of its citizens and its economy, improving its international standing through EU membership."

"Croatian citizens have seen this, they understand it and recognise it better than those who missed out on this topic 30 years ago," the prime minister said.

Financial package

The EU financial package is based on two strategically designed and related pillars: the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and the recovery plan called Next Generation EU.

Plenkovic said that Croatia had wanted the agreement to be reached because "the political responsibility of EU leaders at this point is of paramount importance." He said that Croatia had managed to ensure that the other EU member states took into account the specific position of Croatia which has so far used only one seven-year budget.

"We managed to achieve several objectives on which we had been working for months," the PM said, adding that Croatia managed to keep the national co-financing rate for cohesion and rural development at 15%, and not at 25%.

"At the same time we advocated that the rule on automatic decommitment of cohesion funds three years after their allocation, the so-called N+3 rule, should remain in place. The idea initially was that it should be N+2, but at this stage N+3 still suits us and we managed to keep it," Plenkovic said.

This gives Croatian beneficiaries a longer, three-year period to use budget funds and reduces the risk of loss and paying the money back into the EU treasury, he added.

In the next seven-year EU budget, Croatia will be have access to €12.7 billion in three envelopes: €7.5 billion for cohesion, €2.5 billion for direct payments for agriculture and €2 billion for rural development. Added to this should also be funding from different EU instruments: €270 million for fisheries, €250 million for internal security and migration, as well as funding for a fair and just green transition, research, health, education, transport and digital infrastructure.

Plenkovic said that Croatia had also managed to present to the European Union to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic had affected its tourism and other economic sectors. In this context, he also mentioned the March 22 earthquake that struck Zagreb and its environs, causing extensive damage.

Plenkovic said that Croatia had also highlighted the specific economic and demographic situation in eight of its counties that make up the Pannonian Croatia region.

"In addition to this 400 million, we also insisted on and were granted 100 million euros as aid for rural development because of specific structural challenges faced by the agricultural sector," he said and added that these arguments were part of efforts to reduce the negative demographic trends and keep young people in rural areas and in the agricultural sector.

Croatia also managed to ensure an advance of 10% of grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility which will be paid out in 2021. These nearly 600 million euros will ease the burden on the state budget, the prime minister said.

This is important for the sake of macroeconomic stability, particularly in the light of the recent accession of Croatia to Exchange Rate Mechanism 2, a sort of waiting room membership of for the euro area.

In order for member states to obtain EU funding, they must draw up national plans in compliance with the the objectives of the EU's digital and green transition.

"A positive evaluation for disbursement of funds will be tied to the fulfilment of the relevant criteria" from plans which will be approved by the European Commission and the Council, Plenkovic said.

Croatia will prepare its plan by the end of the year and present it to parliament. On Thursday, the government will set up a special task force to solely deal with this matter, Plenkovic said, adding that he personally will chair this coordinating body.  

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Plenkovic: Idea of Recovery Package Should not Be Watered Down

ZAGREB, July 18, 2020 -  It would not be good to water down the idea of a strong and quick response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters before the continuation of the EU summit in Brussels on Saturday. 

EU leaders were meeting on Saturday in renewed efforts to reach an agreement on the next seven-year budget and the coronavirus recovery plan after negotiations hit a deadlock on Friday because the Netherlands insisted that payouts from the recovery fund should be decided unanimously.

Plenkovic said that the Dutch position was bad.

"The whole meaning of the idea of €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans was to provide a strong and quick response immediately in order to accelerate the economic recovery. If for some reason this is watered down, then it's not it anymore," the Croatian PM said.

He said he expected a new proposal from the European Council president and a new start to negotiations.

"I believe a majority of member states will make an effort to reach an agreement. I cannot say with certainty whether some countries will stay firm in their positions," Plenkovic said.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Foreign Minister Says Virtual Eastern Partnership Summit To Be Held In June

ZAGREB, May 22, 2020 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said on Friday that a virtual EU summit with the six Eastern Partnership countries would be held in June.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Minister Grlic Radman met at the National and University Library in Zagreb with ambassadors from EU member countries in Croatia.

They discussed Croatia's EU presidency in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery.

Grlic Radman said that a summit would be held on the Eastern Partnership as part of Croatia's EU presidency in the second half of June, slightly more than a month after the EU-Western Balkans summit organised by Zagreb, which the minister said had "put the topic of EU enlargement back on the agenda."

"The summit on the Eastern Partnership will be held in the same way the (EU-Western Balkans) summit was held, in its full format," said Grlic Radman.

The Eastern Partnership countries are Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova.

The EU has prepared for those countries a €960 million euro relief package to help them fight COVID-19 and alleviate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.