Monday, 10 January 2022

Unemployment in EU, Euro Area and Croatia Hit Record Low Since Start of Pandemic

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - The unemployment rate in the European Union (EU), the euro area, and Croatia in November dropped to its lowest level since March 2020 and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Eurostat released on Monday.

The European Union's unemployment rate, measured by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) methodology, in November, fell by 0.2 percentage points compared to the month before, to 6.5%.

In the euro area, it slid by 0.1 percentage point to 7.2%.

In both areas, the joblessness rate thus reached its lowest level since March 2020, when COVID-19 started spreading across the world.

According to Eurostat, there were 13.984 million unemployed persons in the EU in November 2021, including 11.829 million in the euro area.

Compared to October 2021, their number declined by 247,000 in the EU and by 222,000 in the euro area. Compared to November 2020, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 1.659 million in the EU and by 1.411 million in the euro area.

In November 2021, Spain and Greece were the only EU countries to record a double-digit unemployment rate, of 14.1% and 13.4% respectively.

Croatia's unemployment rate, measured by the ILO methodology, dropped to 7.1% from a revised 7.3% in October. An earlier estimate for October indicated an unemployment rate of 7%.

That is the lowest unemployment rate since the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020, when it was 6.5%. In the February before the pandemic, it was 5.9%.

In November, Croatia thus ranked alongside Finland and Latvia, which had unemployment of 7.2% and 7.3% respectively.

There were 127,000 unemployed persons in Croatia in November, according to Eurostat, or 4,000 fewer than in October. Compared to November 2020, their number decreased by 26,000.

The lowest unemployment rate in November was registered by the Czech Republic, of 2.2%. It was followed by the Netherlands (2.7%), Poland (3%), and Germany (3.2%).

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

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Plenković: 2022 Essential Because of Accession to Schengen and Euro Area

ZAGREB, 14 Dec 2021 - Next year is very important because we expect a final decision on Croatia's accession to the Schengen and euro areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday, recalling that Croatia has access to about €25 billion from European sources for this decade.

Addressing a launch conference for the Croatian-language special annual edition of the global magazine The Economist, Plenković said that Croatia has about €25 billion at its disposal for this decade, including regular funds from the seven-year European budget, funds from the NextGenerationEU, and about one billion euro for reconstruction following last year's devastating earthquakes.

"That is more than we have ever had....and these are mostly grants," he underscored.

This year's conference dealt with the transformation of the Croatian economy through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) 2021-2026 as the basis for the absorption of funds from the NextGenerationEU mechanism, under which Croatia has access to €6.3 billion in grants and another €3.6 billion in favorable loans.

The NPOO has been approved by the European Commission and Council, Croatia has already received an advance payment of HRK 6.14 billion, and in the first half of 2022 it will receive a new tranche, Plenković said, adding that there are some EU countries that have not yet even delivered their national plans.

The NPOO is the reform basis and financing basis for economic growth and is forecast to increase Croatia's GDP in 2022 and 2023 by 1.4 percentage points.

Economy proved to be exceptionally tough

Plenković said that the national economy showed exceptional strength, agility, and resilience, particularly since the tourism season was beyond all expectations. He also mentioned growth in personal consumption and economic growth which is expected to exceed nine percent, which is more than the eight percent drop in GDP last year.

The most important thing is that Croatia has maintained its image among international organizations, financial institutions, markets, and credit rating agencies, he noted.

"Anyone who is following us sees our credibility and the direction of our actions," said Plenković and highlighted that the direction is based on a speedy return on the path to decreasing public debt and a balanced budget, which cannot be expected this year or next.

He recalled that the Fitch agency has upgraded Croatia's credit rating to its highest level since rating agencies have appraised Croatia.

"This is the framework with which Croatia is entering 2022, which should be very significant institutionally because we expect a final decision on accession to the Schengen and euro areas," said Plenković.

He emphasized the importance of political stability, noting that the period from 2021 to 2028 will have just one intensive period of about 12 months of electioneering.

Government faced unbelievable challenges last year

Speaking of last year, Plenković said that all governments faced an unbelievable challenge as a consequence of coronavirus and had to find solutions to enable normal functioning and economic trends.

That led to a decline in all trends and weaker economic activities, but the government managed to overcome that and it does not regret the expenditure due to the coronavirus crisis which has exceeded HRK 40 billion.

"We have no regrets because we did not see any mass layoffs or bankruptcies," the PM underscored, recalling government support for wages in the private sector among other measures.

Challenges of climate change and demographic revitalization

Globally, the pandemic is still continuing and no one can know when it will end and what new variants we will meet, or what measures we will have to take. However, we will do everything we can to protect the health of citizens while ensuring economic, financial, and social flows, he said.

Everyone has had to learn how to balance - governments, companies, educational institutions, and international institutions, he said.

In the global context, Plenković reflected on relations between the USA and China, the need to strengthen the EU's strategic autonomy in all possible aspects, relations with Russia in the context of Europe's stability, and the issues of migration, climate change, and demographic revitalization.

Polarisation in society during the coronavirus crisis

Plenković said that the coronavirus crisis has led to an exceptional polarisation in the social and political environment, both in Croatia and in the world.

He highlighted the impact of the Internet, social networks, and false information that deceives people, which is why they do not trust institutions, public health, and science.

The latest edition of The Economist was presented by Ivan Vrdoljak from the Livit company. The edition is published in Croatian and provides analyses and forecasts for next year.

Vrdoljak said that The Economist was wrong in its projection of Croatian growth for this year due to unexpectedly fast recovery.

The Economist has forecast growth of 4.7% whereas the government expects growth of about 9%. The Economist projected next year's Croatian GDP growth at 4.1% and inflation at 1.7%, added  Vrdoljak.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

HGK: Croatia Meeting Conditions For Entry To Euro Area As Planned

ZAGREB, June 6, 2020 - Findings of the ECB's assessment showing that all the major commercial banks in Croatia have met capital adequacy requirements and passed stress tests means that Croatia is a step closer to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Friday.

Therefore we can expect the country to join the euro area in 2023, as planned, the HGK says in a press release after the Croatian National Bank (HNB) stated that the comprehensive assessment conducted by the European Central Bank showed that the five leading banks in Croatia are well-capitalized and resilient to shocks.

Zagrebacka banka (ZABA), Privredna banka Zagreb (PBZ), Erste & Steiermaerkische Bank, OTP banka Hrvatska and Hrvatska Postanska Banka (HPB), which were covered by the comprehensive assessment conducted by the ECB, do not face any capital shortfalls as they did not fall below the relevant thresholds used in the asset quality review (AQR ) and the stress test, the Croatian central bank reported earlier on Friday.

The findings are also the confirmation of the stability and good quality of the Croatian banking system, the chamber underlines in its comment.

This is also an act of recognition of our members from the banking system and of the whole economy, says the HGK.

The chamber reiterates some of the advantages of the membership of the euro area such as the access to funding through the European Stability Mechanism, the fact that the HNB would no longer have to maintain the stability of the kuna, and the consequent higher credit ratings for the country.

Banks covered by ECB assessment make up four-fifths of total banks' assets in Croatia 

The five banks that fared well in the ECB comprehensive assessment make up 79% of the total assets of the banking system, the HGK notes.

Croatia sent its letter of intent to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) to the ECB on 4 July 2019.

The finance ministers of the euro area's 19 member states and Denmark, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB) and a representative of the Danish central bank's governor discussed the letter at a meeting in Brussels, after which the finance ministers issued on 9 July 2019 a statement in which they "welcome the intention of the Croatian authorities to put in place the necessary elements for a successful entry into ERM II."

The euro area statement said then that the ECB could complete its assessment of Croatia's compliance with the commitments outlined in the letter of intent in about a year's time.

In case of a positive assessment, a decision would be made on Croatia's ERM II participation, a sort of euro waiting area where it should spend at least two years, which means Croatia could introduce the euro in 2023 at the earliest.

Croatia would simultaneously join ERM II and the Banking Union.

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