Friday, 6 May 2022

Prime Minister Says Euro Area Membership Is a Plus in Crises as Serious as Current One

ZAGREB, 6 May (2022) - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that euro introduction would be positive for Croatia and would enable it to weather challenges better and more easily.

Opening a government session, the PM said that the National Council for euro introduction held a session on Wednesday, stressing that he expected the parliament to adopt the relevant law.

"I believe that membership in the euro area is a benefit in a crisis as serious like the current one, and that it will help us weather the future challenges better and more easily," he said.

He said the government would also formulate changes to the Government Act, announced at the start of the second term.

"We will propose, as one of the measures to step up the fight against corruption, stripping of immunity any government member for crimes of corruption that are prosecuted ex officio," he said.

He added that the government would also formulate a code of conduct for government officials.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

FinMin, HNB Governor Believe Inflation Criterion for Euro Area Entry to be Met

ZAGREB, 4 May 2022 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić on Wednesday expressed optimism regarding the fulfilment of the inflation criterion for euro area entry, with Vujčić saying that it would be unusual for Croatia to be asked to have an inflation rate below the current euro area rate.

Speaking at the 15th session of the National Council for the introduction of the euro as legal tender in Croatia, Marić recalled that a few days ago the government sent a convergence programme to Brussels and now it expected an assessment and a report to be published by the European Central Bank and the European Commission, to be followed by the checking of compliance with the Maastricht criteria, with the focus being mostly on inflation.

Marić said that the average inflation in Croatia for the first three months of 2022 was 6.3%, which, he said, was the euro area average and slightly below the EU average.

The Maastricht criteria refer to exchange rate stability, price stability, interest rate stability and two important indicators related to public finance - budget deficit and public debt.

Under the Maastricht criteria, the assessment refers to the inflation rate in the last 12 months, but not in relation to the general average but to the average of three countries with the lowest inflation rates. That means that Croatia should have an inflation rate that is a maximum 1.5 percentage points above the average inflation rate in the three EU countries with the lowest inflation, Marić said.

He added that the EC and the ECB have the right to exclude some of the countries from the calculation at their own discretion, which, he said, happened in 2014.

Marić said that without wishing to prejudge anything, he believed that European partners fully understood that the increased inflation in Croatia did not in any way differ from the situation in the EU.

"In anticipation of data on inflation in April.... we firmly believe that Croatia will meet that remaining criterion," he said.

The target date for Croatia's entry to the euro area is 1 January 2023.

Vujčić: Importance of euro area membership in times of crisis  

HNB Governor Vujčić said that the reference value a country must comply with to join the euro area had so far never been lower than the average inflation in the euro area.

"If that is so, Croatia too should be able to meet the criterion because it would be a little odd to demand that it should have a lower inflation rate than the euro area which it is joining," he said.

He underlined the importance of euro area membership in times of crisis, noting that crises were easier to overcome and the consequences were significantly fewer for euro area members.

Croatia's lagging behind in terms of growth in the last decade is due to the fact that in crises its decline was much larger than in other countries, he said, noting like Marić, that euro introduction would not cause additional inflationary pressure.

Asked where after the introduction of the euro, kuna coins would be stored, Vujčić said that a solution would be found in cooperation with the Defence Ministry, to be announced after it was determined how they would be stored.

Vujčić also reported that trial euro coins with the national sides that had been approved had already been made and that after a decision on Croatia's euro entry in July, full production should be launched.

First increase in interest rates by ECB possibly in July already

Given that the US Fed Bank has already started a cycle of increasing interest rates, reporters asked Vujčić if the ECB planned the same move, to which he said that last year already he had announced that we could expect a gradual increase in interest rates in 2022 and that the effects were already visible on the bond markets.

When it comes to the ECB, it first plans to halt the programme of quantitative easing by the third quarter of this year, after which interest rates will increase. "We don't know when that will be, however, it is possible that the first increase in interest rates by the ECB could be as early as July," Vujčić said.

He explained that a good part of what will occur with increased interest rates of central banks has already impacted the market, which anticipated it. "When something is announced, financial markets don't wait for that to occur but immediately incorporate it in the price," Vujčić said, adding that it was usual in periods of growing inflation for central banks to respond by increasing interest rates.

In mid-April, the Ministry of Finance released euro bonds on the international capital market with a total nominal value of €1.25 billion, a maturity of 2032, an annual coupon interest rate of 2.875% and a real yield of 2.975%.

If they were to be issued today, the reference interest rate would be 33 base points higher, which means they would be 0.33% more expensive, hence about €4 million will be saved on interest each year, Minister Marić underlined to illustrate the volatility of the market, due also to the war in Ukraine.

PM: Croatia's economy most euroised of all EU economies

During the meeting of the National Council, chaired by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, the PM presented the design of the national side of the €1 coin and a final bill on euro introduction, to be sent to the parliament on Thursday for second reading.

At the meeting, reports were submitted on the progress made in implementing activities related to introducing the euro.

Plenković said that euro introduction and accession to the Schengen Area were two strategic goals for deeper integration with the EU.

He said that Croatian citizens and the economy would benefit from membership in the euro area, underscoring that Croatia's economy was the most euroised of EU economies outside the euro area.

Euro deposits account for 76% of total savings and term bank deposits, 47% of kuna loans are pegged to the euro while countries of the euro area account for 53% of commodity exports and 59% of commodity imports, he said.

Plenković recalled that last week the government said that it foresees a GDP growth of 3% this year and a budget deficit of 2.8% of GDP, to fall to 1.6% in 2023 and 1.2% in 2024. At the same time, public debt should also be reduced to 76.2% this year, 71.7% in 2023, 68.9% in 2024 and 66.9% in 2025.

"All this has to be viewed in the context of changed circumstances and growing energy prices, which impacts all processes," said Plenković, recalling last week's estimate of a 7.8% inflation rate this year.

He stressed that nine measures in four areas had been met as part of the action plan to participate in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II). They are related to preventing money laundering, a more favourable business environment, improved management of state-owned companies and strengthening the bankruptcy framework.

We believe that this comprehensive approach will make it possible for all key and final decisions about Croatia's accession to the euro area to be made at the EU and euro area levels in June and July, said Plenković.

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

Friday, 4 February 2022

Croatian Euro Coin Design Winners Officially Announced

February 4, 2022 - Through their official social media accounts, both the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Government shared the winning motifs for the 2 and 1 Croatian euro coin, and the 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent coins, all of which will enter in circulation next year.

In recent years, the conversation around Croatia's accession to the eurozone has been increasing significantly. Since joining the European Union in mid-2013, the idea of carrying out a transition from the kuna to the euro has gone from being a distant scenario to near reality. It is no secret that the Croatian government's position on such change was favorable and that, eventually, it was simply a matter of defining how and when.

Precisely, as of today, the answers to both questions are already known, as the Croatian Government, its Ministry of Finance, and the Croatian National Bank (HNB) are working on the final details. The Croatian Kuna will cease to be the official currency, and the Euro will replace it in 2023. From September 5th, prices will be displayed in both Kuna and Euros, so that both locals and foreigners get used to the idea and become familiar with the new currency. Likewise, the first two months of 2023 will serve to withdraw the Kuna from circulation. As the Governor of the HNB Boris Vujčić reported shortly ago, citizens will have the possibility of paying with kunas, but only as a way to collect those coins for their subsequent storage.

Now that the idea of the euro as the official currency in Croatia is getting closer and closer to reality, many questions have arisen from both financial authorities, companies, and even Croatian citizens themselves. The positions are diverse: from rejecting the Euro in order to defend a Croatian symbol such as the Kuna, to wondering what the economic consequences will really be. The rejection of a large sector of the population was expressed through a referendum that was recently held throughout the country. The objective of the referendum was to postpone Croatia's access to the eurozone because, it should be remembered, by being a member of the European Union, Croatia cannot bail out of using the Euro as currency, but it could keep an indefinite period of transition.

The government responded by guaranteeing that not only will the transition from one currency to another take place smoothly, but that the long-term benefits will allow Croatia to reach economic standards that allow it to equalize its status with other European Union countries. Minister Zdravko Marić revealed that the Ministry of Finance will make sure to monitor that prices are set correctly, and does not rule out the existence of sanctions for those who increase them unsustainably. For its part, the Croatian National Bank promised to effectively control the inflation rates that may be generated as a result of this currency change.

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Today's session of the National Council for the Introduction of the Euro as the Official Currency in Croatia. (Photo: Goran Stanzl/PIXSELL)

Most likely, doubts will be resolved along the way, since it seems that the decision has already been made and there is no going back. Following an official Croatian government meeting earlier today, the Government of the Republic of Croatia shared the official winner designs of the Croatian Euro coin, and all the details about each design, on their social media accounts. You can watch the complete session here. Each coin was accompanied by a video and information about its designers. The Government shared the following on their Instagram account:

''At today's session of the National Council for the Introduction of the Euro as the Official Currency in Croatia, the design solutions of the Croatian side of the euro and cent coins were presented. A total of 1,299 proposals were submitted to the open competition, and the commission in charge of selecting the most successful solutions did not know who the authors were, but evaluated and ranked each proposal only on the basis of the proposed design.

The first-ranked proposals were officially approved by European Council on January 28 this year. We also thank and congratulate the authors of the selected motifs! These are:

  • Ivan Šivak - author of the conceptual design "Geographic Map of Croatia" for a 2 euro coin

The author of the 2 euro coin motif, "Geographical Map of Croatia", is Ivan Šivak, born in 1985 in Zagreb. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 2011 at the Department of Animated Film and New Media. Since 2011 he has been a member of the Croatian Society of Fine Artists. He lives and works in Samobor.

  • Stjepan Pranjković - author of the conceptual design "Kuna" for a 1 euro coin

The author of the 1 euro coin motif, ''Kuna'', is Stjepan Pranjković, born in 1995 in Ostfildern, Germany. At the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka, majoring in Applied Arts, module painting, he obtained the title of Master of Applied Arts in 2020. He lives in Rijeka.

  • Ivan Domagoj Račić - author of the conceptual design "Nikola Tesla" for 50, 20 and 10 cent coins

The author of the 50, 20, and 10 cent coin motif, ''Nikola Tesla, is Ivan Domagoj Račić, born in 1999 in Zagreb. Today he is a full-time third-year aeronautics student at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences in Zagreb. His interest in graphic design began in high school, when he began to study independently.

  • Maja Škripelj - author of the conceptual design "Glagolitic" for coins of 5, 2 and 1 cent

The author of the 5, 2 and 1 cent coin motif, ''Glagolitic'', is Maja Škripelj, born in 1988 in Zagreb. She graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb with a master's degree in engineering and architecture in February 2014. From graduation until July 2020, she worked in the architectural office, and now has her own business.

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The designers behind the winning motifs for the Croatian euro coin: Ivan Šivak, Ivan Domagoj Račić, Stjepan Pranjković, and Maja Škripelj. (Photo: Goran Stanzl/PIXSELL)

After presenting the winners and their designs, the Croatian Government continued: 

''In addition to the mentioned motifs, the Council of the European Union also approved another, additional motif, ie the text, which is an inscription that each country can choose and engrave on the 2 euro coin, which is the largest.

On the Croatian 2 euro coin, in addition to the Croatian chessboard, as an element of the Croatian coat of arms, and a map of the Republic of Croatia, Gundulić's verse "O LIJEPA O DRAGA O SLATKA SLOBODO" will be engraved on the rim.

As is well known, this is one of the most famous and beautiful verses from the Anthem of Freedom, which is an integral part of the pastoral "Dubravka" from the 17th century by Ivan Gundulić. The Republic of Croatia, as a symbol of Croatian statehood and independence, should also have a verse from the Anthem of Freedom, which best symbolizes the millennial aspiration for freedom of the Croatian people''.

Below we show you each Croatian euro coin in detail:

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The Croatian Euro coin designed by Ivan Šivak features the geographical map of Croatia and due to its size also features the verse: ''O LIJEPA O DRAGA O SLATKA SLOBODO'' engraved on the edge.

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The Croatian Euro coin designed by Stjepan Pranjković features the Kuna, Croatia's symbolic animal.

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The Croatian Euro coin designed by Ivan Domagoj Račić features Nikola Tesla, the world-famous inventor and engineer born in Smiljan.

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The Croatian Euro coin designed by Maja Škripelj features the Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest Slavic alphabet, from Croatia. The two Glagolitic letters chosen will form the Croatian ISO: HR.

 For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Some Zagreb Hospitality Establishments Plan to Increase Coffee Prices

February the 3rd, 2022 - Could coffee become a luxury? This Croatian custom which involves sitting around a (usually really small) cup of coffee for hours on end while putting the world to rights might be affected by the introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency next year.

As Novac/Jutarnji writes, how we can avoid price increases is a question that is becoming more and more important as the introduction of the euro approaches. In the run up to the change, mechanisms are needed to monitor prices - such as their double expression, and, ultimately, so-called blacklists. The Croatian Government is not giving up on trying to hound this further, and it claims that it intends to denounce all those who have decided to make extra money on the back of the change unjustifiably.

It's too early to guess how much a cup of coffee will end up costing due to the introduction of the euro and the rounding off of prices. Because even before that, some Zagreb hospitality establishments will, as they say, raise their prices due to the overall higher prices of energy and raw materials.

''This year, we expect an increase in all prices due to rising energy, gas and electricity costs, as well as the already announced increase in coffee prices of 150 percent, which has been announced by some Zagreb hospitality establishments. Will coffee become a luxury now? That's the question that has arisen. The introduction of the euro in Croatia will also result in a certain price increase, Franz Letica, president of the Association of Caterers of the City of Zagreb at HOK, told HRT.

Even before the introduction of the euro, hairdressing and beauty services will become significantly more expensive, but the conversion itself should not cause too much of a price increase for the end user.

''There will be no problems in terms of recalculating prices, but it will probably involve some rounding, purely because of the simpler handling of the euros,'' said Antonija Tretinjak from the Guild of Beauticians and Pedicurists at HOK.

The growth of prices of most products is already very visible in stores. The Most (Bridge) party believes that the Croatian Government must not give up publishing a black list of traders who will unjustifiably increase their prices due to the conversion.

''What we're asking for is that this measure of publishing the list of those who unjustifiably raise prices will certainly be part of this changeover of the kuna to the euro. We also want to open the question of whether this is the time for the introduction of the euro at all,'' said Nikola Grmoja from Most.

The advantages of the introduction of the euro are multiple, says the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric, and the black list will be one of the ways to prevent any unjustified price increases.

''The idea is that those who change their prices and use the time and process of conversion for one-time profit without any reason or basis should be noticed, both by consumers and institutions. What we'll do in the coming months is for that to happen and for them to be denounced,'' warned Coric.

The best way to prevent unjustified price increases is to double-check prices and keep making a note of them in the few months before the introduction of the euro.

For more, check out our business and politics sections.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Croatia to Display Prices Both in Kuna and Euro as of September 5

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday announced a dual display of prices in Croatia, both in kuna and in euro, from 5 September through the whole of 2023.

Plenković made the announcement at a press conference where he unveiled the bill proposing the adoption of the euro as legal tender in Croatia. He was accompanied by Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić, and Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić.

The bill was put to public consultation today and the final proposal is expected to be sent to Parliament for a second reading in the second half of April.

The bill regulates the legal framework, the cash exchange, supplying all legal entities with euro, the loan and deposit conversion, and consumer protection from undue price increases.

Prices will be displayed in both kuna and euro as of 5 September to raise awareness of the euro even before its adoption, for which the target date has been set at 1 January 2023. The dual display of prices will continue throughout 2023.

Plenković said that citizens will be able to exchange kuna for euro at no cost to them at banks, the Croatian Post, and the Financial Agency (Fina) throughout next year, after which they will be able to do so at the Croatian National Bank free of charge too. He called on citizens to deposit any cash they have in banks so that the conversion can be done automatically.

The PM said that the aim is to ensure a smooth switch to the euro and the effective functioning of the economy.

He noted that this year the government would send to Parliament more than 70 proposals concerning the adoption of the euro, including the physical replacement of the national currency with the euro.

Plenković said that Croatia aspired to integrate with the European Union more deeply by joining the Schengen passport-free travel area and the euro area, and in that regard, relevant decisions would be made in the coming months.

He spoke of the steps that had been taken so far regarding the euro adoption and the reasons why Croatia wanted to join the euro area. He said that the Croatian economy is highly euroized, that 70 percent of tourism revenues come from citizens of euro-area countries, 60 percent of trade is generated with those countries, 70 percent of time savings deposits and nearly 60 percent of household and corporate loans are in euro or indexed to the euro.

Plenković said that the goal of euro area membership was included in government activities 20 years ago.

"What will be happening this year will be the culmination of the processes that have been systematically worked on in the last two decades," the prime minister said, announcing that the Council for Euro Adoption would meet before a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

HDZ Official Accuses “Fake Sovereignists” of Scaring Croats About Euro

ZAGREB, 28 Aug, 2021 - The political secretary of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ante Sanader, said on Saturday that the fake sovereignists were scaring the people about the euro", however they themselves had rushed to the European Parliament to get earnings in that currency.

Sanader wrote on his Facebook account that there was no need for any referendum about the introduction of the euro in Croatia.

There is no need and no legal possibility for a referendum on Croatia's admission to the euro area and the changeover to the euro, as the decision on that matter was made in 2012 when Croatia held a referendum on its EU membership and when Croatian parliament ratified the EU admission treaty.

At  the 22 January 2012 referendum, 66.27% of Croatian voters supported Croatia's accession to the European Union. With 136 "Yes" votes, Croatian Parliament unanimously ratified on 9 March the Accession Treaty of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union.

On Saturday morning a member of parliament from the Croatian Sovereignists party, Marko Milanović Litre, said that his party was launching a campaign for a referendum on the introduction of the euro, criticising the government for ignoring citizens' opinion on the matter.

Sanader also recalls that a member of Sovereignist party, Ladislav Ilčić whom he branded as "great anti-European" grabbed the first opportunity to become a member of the European Parliament.

 "Obviously, fake sovereignists including Milanović Litre cannot understand and do not know what the present-day struggle for the national interests means and what the present-day sovereignism looks like," Sanader wrote, citing some of the benefits of Croatia's membership of the European Union, such as the EU-funded project of the construction of Pelješac Bridge that connects the southernmost Croatian with the rest of the country.

He also mentioned the allocation of 25 billion euros from the EU for Croatia's development in the next years.

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

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Croatian National Bank (HNB) Currency Committee Proposes Five Motifs For Euro Coins

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - The Croatian coat-of-arms, a geographical map of Croatia, the marten (Croatian: kuna), the Glagolitic script and Nikola Tesla are motifs proposed for the Croatian side of euro coins, the Croatian National Bank (HNB) said on Wednesday.

The HNB Currency Committee today defined the final proposal for motifs for the national sides of future Croatian euro coins, which will now be considered by the National Council for the Introduction of the Euro as Official Currency in the Republic of Croatia, and then the government will adopt a conclusion.

The Croatian coat-of-arms will be used as a background on all coins, and other motifs will be used on coins of different denominations so that the 2 euro coin will feature a geographical map of Croatia, the 1 euro coin the marten, the 50, 20 and 10 cents coins Nikola Tesla, and 1, 2 and 5 cents coins the Glagolitic script.

The HNB said the main criteria for the selection was that the motif is acceptable to the general public and that it is a national symbol.

The rating given by citizens via an online survey at euro.hr, in which nearly 50,000 citizens took part, and a structured national survey on a sample of 1,000 citizens also influenced the Committee's final decision.

Based on the selected motifs, the HNB will announce a tender for the design of the national side of the euro coin. In mid October, the HNB will send the design of the motifs to the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, the press release said.

The production of euro coins with the Croatian national side should start at least six months before the introduction of the euro, that is the decision of the Council of the EU that Croatia is introducing the euro.

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

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Croatian Public's Opinion on Eurozone More Positive But Skepticism Remains

May the 5th, 2021 - The Croatian public has always had a very suspicious view of the entry of the country into the formerly deeply troubled Eurozone, but it seems that although it's only very slight, that opinion is beginning to alter. Skepticism, however, remains as strong as it was when the country's very EU referendum took place.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, the positive image of the European Union (EU) held by the Croatian public today is slightly better than it was around half a year ago, according to the national report of the Standard Eurobarometer for Croatia, which was published recently by the European Commission (EC).

When compared to the previous Croatian public opinion poll on the EU, the positive perception of surveyed Croatian citizens increased by one percentage point (from 47 to 48 percent), while at the same time the negative perception decreased by two points, from 13 down to 11 percent.

According to the latest Eurobarometer results, Croatian respondents in the latest survey also showed slightly higher support for the country's planned entry into the Eurozone than they did half a year ago. However, although this support has increased by one percentage point, up to 48 percent, and the number of those who oppose Eurozone entry has decreased by the same amount, Croatia still deviates considerably from the EU average. In the rest of the bloc, the single currency is supported by as much as 70 percent of the population of its member states, or three percent more than was recorded just half a year ago.

As the European Commission points out, European respondents, as well as the Croatian public, are at the forefront of the EU's achievements in the free movement of people, goods and services within the territory of the bloc. They consider peace among the EU's member states to be the second most important plus, and solidarity among the EU member states is in the third place.

The aforementioned survey was commissioned by the European Commission's Directorate General for Communication, and the survey in Croatia, on a representative sample of 1,028 citizens over the age of fifteen through direct interviews with respondents in their own homes, was conducted by the Hendal agency from February the 15th to March the 7th this year. The Standard Eurobarometer survey is otherwise conducted twice a year, and of the 94 such surveys conducted so far, the most recent is the 33rd, which also covers Croatia.

For more, follow our politics section.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Should Croatia Join the Euro? No, says Nobel Winner

August 30, 2020 – Should Croatia join the Euro? No, says Nobel prize-winning economist. And Coronavirus is exactly why.

Should Croatia join the Euro? To be honest, we thought this had already been decided upon. But, new comments made by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on Saturday 29 August open the question again within the new perspective of the Coronavirus era.

We say new comments, but that's not exactly true. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001, has long been an opponent of the Euro. He is of the opinion that joining the single currency removes a country's ability to respond to crises. While it is true that joining the single currency removes a country's ability to change the exchange rate and deprives it of monetary policy, and thus of changing interest rates, the rub is that Euro countries get more favourable loan deals.

On 10th July 2020, Croatia and Bulgaria joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), a necessary step in joining the Euro. Both must spend at least two years in ERM II before joining the single currency. Croatia will be eligible to adopt the Euro in January 2023. But what will be the situation with Coronavirus and its economic fallout at that time? Should Croatia join the Euro?

The Euro is the currency for only 19 of the 27 countries in the EU. Some EU countries, such as Sweden and formerly the UK, have flatly refused to introduce the Euro despite many years of EU membership, believing that having a national currency is absolutely necessary to manage economic policy.

"I think that every country that retains its flexibility is well advised," said Stiglitz, in an online exchange during this year's Alpbach European Forum. Stiglitz, a former World Bank chief economist and former economic adviser to US President Bill Clinton, is of the opinion that grants available to EU member states should instead be used to deal with times of crises, rather than cheaper loans facilitated by being a member of the single currency.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Numerous Challenges Lie Ahead on Croatian Path to Eurozone Entry

If things go according to the plans and wishes of the Government, Croatia should replace the national currency with the euro about a year and a half before its 30th birthday, but as Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes on the 13th of July, 2020, there are numerous obstacles to overcome on the path to the Eurozone...

On Friday, Croatia got the green light Brussels for the entry of Croatia (and Bulgaria) into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), and we learned that the central parity between the euro and the kuna with which to enter the Eurozone's proverbial ''lobby'' was set at 7.5345 kuna for one euro, which was the state of the exchange rate on Friday.

At least two years should be spent in the Eurozone's waiting room, which would mean the introduction of a common European currency at the earliest in early 2023. How likely this actually is for Croatia is quite another story.

"Joining the ERM II doesn't mean that the process of adopting the euro is now on autopilot, because both Croatia and Bulgaria are still facing important challenges and will hardly meet all the convergence criteria anytime soon," said ING analysts.

In short, while the Croatian authorities calculate that we are currently on the way to meeting the necessary criteria, the bank's economists predict the introduction of the euro for Croatia (as well as for the Bulgarians) "well after January the 1st, 2023."

In the case of Croatia, they see the challenges primarily in the sphere of the sustainability of public finances (public debt, deficit), and for Bulgaria, the main thorn in the side of that country is its institutional framework and the rule of law.

A ticket to ERM II was actually expected as the Croatian Government managed to comply with the reform points promised in last year's action plan, and the banks have also passed a comprehensive ECB assessment. However, the news received a lot of attention and positive comments, including the reaction of the market through the decline in yields on Croatian government debt - it fell to about 1.1 percent in a ten-year period.

By joining the exchange rate mechanism, which is accompanied by the establishment of very, very close cooperation with the European Central Bank, Croatia will be able to count on more generous ECB support than the recently agreed two billion euro heavy package as an additional source of foreign exchange liquidity.

At the same time, after Brexit and with the current frictions over the adoption of the EU Economic Recovery Plan, this is a welcome message that there is still an appetite among some nations for greater integration within the Union for the bloc itself after all.

Of the EU countries that have not yet adopted the euro, most of them don't yet show any intention of doing so.

The advantages of Croatia's entry into the Eurozone are considered to outweigh the disadvantages. Thus, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) points out that the introduction of the euro should facilitate the business of entrepreneurs with more ease.

In addition to the elimination of currency risk and exchange costs, as well as the potential growth of the credit rating and lower financing costs, they also emphasised the advantages of additional financing that Eurozone members have in the current coronavirus crisis.

Entrepreneurs who advocate Croatian Eurozone membership see this as a better chance to implement the reforms that are desperately needed in Croatia, but unfortunately only get done when the country is under significant external pressure.

In addition to the Maastricht criteria, part of the set of measures that Croatia has undertaken to implement within the ERM II application includes administrative, ie the parafiscal relief of the economy and residents, as well as measures related to improving bankruptcy legislation and management in state-owned enterprises.

When it comes to those against the introduction of the euro, the arguments are mainly buffered up by claims that Croatia isn't yet economically ready for this step. People, on the other hand, are most afraid of the potential for rising prices.

They cite examples from other countries that suggest that prices should not increase significantly, and in most countries there has been some increase in wages at the same time to make up for it.

Given the weak industry and large imports, the average price level of consumer goods and services in Croatia is still higher than in some Eurozone countries. Finance Minister Zdravko Maric emphasised that the tax policy is still in our hands, and this also has an impact on prices and the control of them.

For more on Croatia's path to the Eurozone, follow our politics section.

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