Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Will Croatia Euro Coins Be Able to Feature Tesla?

July 27, 2021 - Last week, the Croatian National Bank announced five motifs to be featured on Croatia euro coins, with the image of Nikola Tesla being the most popular one according to the vox populi. However, these are just the first steps of the process of creating Croatian euro coins. Who has the ultimate say on whether Tesla is to be kept or to be scrapped off? A look into the procedure of approving the designs of euro coins.

The announcement of five motifs chosen to grace the national side of Croatian euro coins that came last Wednesday was soon greeted by a statement on the official website of the National Bank of Serbia. In it, NBS objects to the Croatian idea of using the image of Nikola Tesla. It's described as ''an appropriation of the cultural and scientific heritage of the Serbian people.'' Serbia also stated it would file a complaint if Croatia put his image on one of the coins.

The question is, to whom would these complaints be filed, and to what effect? Is there a set legal way to get Croatia to remove Tesla from the coins not yet minted? (Un)surprisingly, there are a few precedents guarding the question, as this is not the first time that one country objected to the design of another country's euro coins, claiming it belonged to its own national heritage.

In 2005, Slovenia's use of the Prince's Stone on the 2 cents coins launched a protest from the Austrian state of Carinthia. Prince's Stone is an ancient Roman column that was used during the early Middle Ages in the ceremony of installing the rulers of the Slavic principality of Carantania. The ceremony was conducted in the Slovene language, and Caranthania was located, in part, on the territory of present-day north-eastern Slovenia. The stone itself used to be kept in a museum in Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia, where it was considered a historical icon of the state. The Carinthian state government (headed by the then-governor Jorg Haider) issued a resolution of protest on October 25, 2005, which was rejected as "not to be taken seriously" by the Slovene foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel.

Ten years later, in 2015, Belgium issued a €2 commemorative coin (individual Member States are allowed to issue commemorative coins to celebrate subjects of major national or European relevance). To mark the Battle of Waterloo, and the 200th year anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon,  the coin featured an image of the monument at the site. France objected, saying that the image carried a negative connotation. 

According to the COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 729/2014 on denominations and technical specifications of euro coins intended for circulation, when a eurozone country wants to issue a new €2 commemorative coin, it is required to send a draft design of the coin to the Council, the European Commission and to other eurozone countries. In the end, as RFI wrote in 2015, ''Brussels has been forced to scrap 180,000 coins worth 1.5-million-euros that it had already minted before Paris got wind of the affair.''

And in 2013, Slovakia re-thought its idea of issuing commemorative coins with the images of Christian saints and missionaries Cyril and Methodius with crosses and halos above their heads, as some Member States pointed out that the designs went against the ''principle of respect for religious diversity in Europe''. 

However, all of these disputes were started and resolved between the EU Member States, not a Member State and a third country, as is the case with Serbia. As European Commission Deputy Chief Spokesperson Dana Spinant said on Friday, ''the design of the national side of euro coins is decided by the country adopting the euro.''

The designs have to be passed from the Croatia National Bank to the National Council for the Introduction of the Euro for approval and then have to be confirmed by the government of Croatia.

That doesn't mean that the design lays solely in Croatia's hands.

The abovementioned Council Regulation also states that ''each Member State (....) should take into account the fact that euro coins circulate in the whole euro area and not only in the issuing Member State'', and should ''avoid the use of inappropriate designs''.

Recognizing the potential problem when it comes to defining the term ''inappropriate'' the Regulation states that ''uniform conditions'' for the approval of the designs should be laid down and also that ''in view of the fact that the competence for an issue as sensitive as the design of the national sides of the euro coins belongs to the issuing Member States, implementing powers should be conferred on the Council.'' 

Therefore, Croatia has to submit draft designs to the Council, to the Commission, and to the other Member States whose currency is the euro at least three months before the planned issue date. Since Croatia is set to enter the eurozone in 2023, that criterion shouldn't be difficult to meet. 

Within seven days following the submission, any Member State whose currency is the euro may, in a reasoned opinion addressed to the Council and to the Commission, raise an objection to the draft design proposed by the issuing Member State if that draft design is likely to create adverse reactions among its citizens.

If the Commission considers that the draft design does not respect the technical requirements set out by the Regulation, it shall, within seven days following the submission, submit a negative assessment to the Council.

If no reasoned opinion or negative assessment has been submitted to the Council, the decision approving the design shall be deemed to be adopted by the Council.

In all other cases, the Council shall decide without delay on the approval of the draft design, unless, within seven days following the submission of a reasoned opinion or of a negative assessment, the issuing Member State withdraws its submission and informs the Council of its intention to submit a new draft design.

Since there are essentially two criteria to meet - the suitability of the design requirement and the technical requirement, both assessed by other Member States (the EU), the only tool any country outside of the EU can use is its political influence on a Member State to try and come up with a reasoned opinion as to why a draft design is ''likely to create adverse reactions'' - but only among its (a Member State's) citizens.

There is nothing in the Regulation on the influence the design may have on the non-EU countries. In fact, the Regulation even makes sure to point out that the other Member States whose currency is not the euro are excluded from deciding. Will Croatia be able to keep Tesla on its coins?  If these provisions are anything to go by, then yes. 

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 26 July 2021

EC Concerned About Lawsuits Against Croatian Journalists

ZAGREB, 26 July 2021 - The European Commission last week issued a report on the rule of law in Croatia expressing concern over a large number of the so-called SLAPP lawsuits against reporters and the media and voicing suspicion in the political independence of the media regulator: the Electronic Media Agency.

"Croatia is updating its media legislation to transpose the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, with the revision of the Electronic Media Act to be adopted still in 2021. Concerns about the political independence of the Agency for Electronic Media persist," the Commission said in the report.

Apart from concern regarding the independence of that the Electronic Media Agency which, among other things, is expected to deal with hate speech, the report says that lawsuits against journalists and media outlets also gives rise to concern,

"A legal framework for the protection of journalists is in place, but they continue to face threats. In particular, the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists continues to be a serious concern. Access to information is ensured by law, but delays in the processing of requests from journalists persist."

Zovko: Allegations from report expected

The president of the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND), Hrvoje Zovko, commented on the allegations from the European Commission's report regarding media pluralism and freedom in Croatia, describing them as expected.

"Unfortunately, several categories regarding media freedoms in Croatia have been criticized, including numerous verbal attacks by politicians against journalists and the media. We already have a culture of suing journalists and the media. SLAPPs are a new model of attacks against journalists, aimed at intimidating them and the media and imposing censorship, even destroying them," Zovko said.

He recalled that according to an HND survey, there were 924 active lawsuits against journalists in Croatia in April, adding that the HND had been warning about this problem for years and stressing that this was the reason why Croatia was recognized as a problematic country.

He welcomed the initiative by the Ministry of Culture and Media to set up an expert working group to curb SLAPPs, adding, however, that its results were yet to be seen.

"The HND has been lobbying for quite some time for the decriminalization of slander and defamation. This could be the beginning of curbing violence against journalists and the media through lawsuits," Zovko said.

Ministry of Culture and Media: Expert working group set up

In its comment to Hina on the part of the report concerning attacks on journalists and SLAPP lawsuits, the Ministry of Culture and Media said that similar concerns are raised in many countries and that the Ministry of the Interior responds to every complaint.

The Ministry has set up an expert working group after the European Commission adopted an action plan for European democracy, with the protection of journalists against SLAPP lawsuits as one of its main goals.

The working group includes representatives of the media sector, judiciary, lawyers, and the academic community. It has already begun work and one of its first steps is launching training for judges, lawyers, and journalists in cooperation with the Justice Academy.

After the first meeting of the working group, Minister Obuljen Koržinek stressed the importance of ensuring uniform case law and training of journalists and judges.

The Ministry said that media legislation and other laws based on which such lawsuits are brought will be improved and that co-regulation and self-regulation mechanisms would be established within the professions.

The national recovery and resilience plan will finance a system of public disclosure of information on media financing and the development of a network of fact-checkers to further contribute to transparency and trust in the media, the Ministry said.

Asked to comment on the claim by the European Commission that there are still doubts about the political independence of the Electronic Media Agency and the Electronic Media Council, the Ministry cited European models for the appointment of such bodies.

The Electronic Media Council is appointed by the Croatian parliament based on a proposal by the government following a public call. The appointment model is similar to the prevailing model in Europe. The appointment of Council members by parliament, instead of by the government, was introduced in 2009, with public consultations involving all relevant stakeholders, the Ministry said.

The Electronic Media Agency declined to comment, saying that the European Commission's claim was not corroborated. It said that the process of appointment of members of the Electronic Media Council was the same as in all EU member states, given that they are appointed by parliament, government, a president, or a sovereign.

For more, follow our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

European Comission Publishes Rule of Law Report on Croatia

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - A series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings against them, public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and lawsuits against journalists give rise to concern, the European Commission says in a report on the rule of law in Croatia.

The Commission on Tuesday published its second annual report on the rule of law in the EU member states, a new instrument that should help in early detection and prevention of problems relating to the rule of law.

The report covers four key areas: the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media freedom and pluralism, and institutional issues relating to checks and balances.

The Commission noted that the report only provides a description of the situation without giving any recommendations and is not designed as a ranking. Its purpose is to raise public awareness and promote open discussion between the member states on rule of law issues both at national and at EU level.

The justice system

The Commission says that the Croatian justice system has seen improvements in reducing length of proceedings and backlogs, but that further improvements are still needed to address serious efficiency and quality challenges.

"The ongoing process for appointing the new Supreme Court President has given rise to controversy and to repeated disparaging public statements against judges", and "the Constitutional Court stressed the importance of cooperation between state authorities" in addressing different views on the appointment of the Supreme Court President.

"The State Judicial Council made proposals to strengthen its role in selecting judges – an issue already raised in the 2020 Rule of Law Report."

Without naming any names, the report says that "a series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings before the State Judicial Council and Judges’ Councils, as well as to a criminal investigation."

"The level of perceived judicial independence remains very low. Shortages in human resources of the State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Councils remain, even if some limited reinforcements have been allocated to verify the newly published asset declarations of judges and state attorneys," the Commission says.

The anti-corruption framework

The reports notes that a new Strategy on the Prevention of Corruption for 2021-2030 is in the public consultation process, envisaging the strengthening of the legal framework on prevention of conflict of interest, which is currently being drafted. Codes of Ethics for members of the Government and for members of Parliament are still missing, while “revolving doors” are only partially regulated.

"Detailed rules on lobbying activities remain to be introduced. While changes to the framework of political immunity of the members of Government were announced, the legislative action has yet to follow. Public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and several cases have been discovered due to reporting by whistleblowers. The prosecution and investigation of high-level corruption continues, but due to protracted proceedings convictions are often delayed."

Media freedom

"Croatia is updating its media legislation to transpose the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, with the revision of the Electronic Media Act to be adopted still in 2021. Concerns about the political independence of the Agency for Electronic Media persist," the Commission says.

"Croatia has a solid framework on transparency of media ownership information and envisages further improvements. While state advertising is partly regulated by the Electronic Media Act, stakeholders report it often undermines the political independence of media outlets which are economically dependent on such funding, notably at local level.

"A legal framework for the protection of journalists is in place, but they continue to face threats. In particular, the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists continues to be a serious concern. Access to information is ensured by law, but delays in the processing of requests from journalists persist."

Checks and balances

The Commission says that although public consultations are embedded in legislative procedures, stakeholders perceive citizen participation to be rather formalistic than substantive.

It notes that Croatia did not declare a state of emergency, and COVID-19 pandemic measures were based on the twice-mended law regarding infectious diseases. "The Constitutional Court has reviewed these measures, finding that they were compatible with the Constitution and also ruled that Parliament should find ways to guarantee its functions during the pandemic."

"The People’s Ombudsperson’s access to the information required to undertake investigations
needs further improvement. The National Plan for Creating and Enabling Environment for
the Civil Society Development 2021-2027 remains in drafting phase since 2016 – an issue
raised in the 2020 Rule of law Report," the Commission says.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

European Commission to End Caged Animal Farming in EU By 2027

July 20, 2021 - The "End the Cage Age" campaign to ban caged animal farming was approved by the European Commission with the support of the European Parliament. 170 European animal rights associations, including Animal Friends Croatia, celebrated this major step towards improving animal welfare in Europe!

Since the launch of the End the Cage Age campaign in September 2018 headed by Compassion in World Farming EU, it garnered 1.4 million signatures and big support from citizens and animal welfare associations all over Europe. Two of these associations include Animal Friends Croatia and Victorious Association who were responsible for collecting signatures from Croatian citizens who were supportive of this campaign. Last June 30, 2021, the European Commission finally announced their commitment to phase out animal cages in European farms by 2027 making it the first successful civic animal welfare initiative in the European Union!

 

The European Parliament also supported the banning of cages in animal farming. BBC reported that the parliament had "grave concerns" about animal housing and well-being in farms, with a lot of these animals not having enough space to stand straight, stretch or even turn around. Stella Kyriakides, the EU health commissioner, also announced that animals are sentient beings and humans have a moral and societal responsibility to make sure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this. According to BBC, the EU has one of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, however, the data collected by the End the Cage Age suggested that it still has a lot of room for improvement. As of 2020, it showed that 94% of EU's farmed rabbits are caged and so are 49% of farmed hens and 85% of farmed sows. 

The European Commission is aiming to revise current EU legislation with a commitment to present a legislative proposal by the end of 2023 and to completely phase out the use of cages for hens, cows, rabbits, calves, ducks, geese, and other farmed animals by 2027. The commission also expressed commitment to ensure that the EU will only import products from non-EU countries which comply with cage-free standards and lastly, to provide systems, incentives, and financial support to European farmers in their transition to cage-free farming. The End the Cage Age announced that this monumental event is not the end and success of the campaign, on the other hand, it is only the beginning. The campaign's mission now is to monitor and ensure that the European Commission and the promised legislative laws and processes would be delivered. It is also now reported that some EU countries are already supporting this change. Austria and Luxembourg have already banned battery caging of hens entirely while the Czech Republic and Germany have started implementing protocols to unilaterally ban caged hens by 2025. 

Many associations celebrated this big milestone in animal welfare in Europe including a number of politicians and members of the Parliament and longtime animal rights advocates, Tilly Metz and Francisco Guerreiro. According to Animal Friends Croatia, the approval of the petition is a huge victory for animals and a big step in the fight to completely stop the exploitation and killing of animals. “The European Commission's commitment to ban cages across Europe will have a huge impact on millions of animals. We want to thank all the 1.4 million EU citizens and the hundreds of organizations that have fought for this historic moment.", said Reineke Hameleers - the Executive Director of Eurogroup for Animals. The Osijek Association Pobjeda also thanked everyone who supported the campaign by signing and sharing the information. The activists are proud to make a difference to more than 300 million farmed animals that are immensely suffering from harsh animal farming conditions. Animal Friends Croatia also invites everyone to switch to a plant-based diet and in order to not further contribute to animal cruelty by procuring animal-based food and products. "It is horrible that in industrial farming, animals are being kept their whole short lives in cramped cages in which they cannot even turn around, and then brutally end up in a slaughterhouse.", said AFC.

To learn more about End the Cage Age campaign, CLICK HERE.

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Thursday, 8 July 2021

European Commission Gives Greenlight to Croatia's Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 8 July 2021 - The European Commission on Thursday gave a positive assessment of Croatia's recovery and resilience plan, worth €6.3 billion, which could significantly boost the country's Gross Domestic Product and create 21,000 new jobs by 2026.

The positive assessment was personally delivered by the visiting EC President Ursula von der Layen to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Zagreb on Thursday afternoon.

The green light from Brussels is an important step towards the EU disbursing funds in grants and loans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

"This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €6.3 billion in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This financing will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Croatia's recovery and resilience plan. It will play a key
role in helping Croatia emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic," says the Commission.

Under the European Commission's estimates, Croatia's recovery and resilience plan could help raise the national economy by 1.5% in 2021, an additional 2.5% in each of the next four years, and by 2.9% in 2026.

In the long-term, over the next 20-year period, the plan can have a positive impact of 1.1% on the growth of GDP, without the effects of structural reforms which are supposed to increase Croatia's GDP by 15% over a 20-year period, according to a statement made by an official of the European Commission at a news conference in Brussels.

€818 million to Croatia in prefinancing

After the Commission today adopted a proposal for a decision to provide €6.3 billion in grants to Croatia under the RRF, the document was forwarded to the European Council which will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission's proposal. The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €818 million to Croatia in prefinancing. This represents 13% of the allocated grant amount for Croatia.

The EC says that it "will authorize further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfillment of the milestones and targets outlined in the Council Implementing Decision, reflecting progress in the implementation of the investments and reforms."

The bulk of the funding, which is about 700 million annually, will be disbursed in the first three years each.

Croatia's RRP has met all the criteria, such as that at least 37% of the allocations are spent on climate targets and at least 20% on digital transformation. Furthermore, none of the measures should adversely impact the environment.

"The Commission's assessment finds that Croatia's plan devotes 40% of its total allocation to measures that support climate objectives. These include reforms and investments to promote the uptake of renewable energy, energy efficiency and post-earthquake reconstruction of buildings, and sustainable mobility. Climate change adaptation measures include improved management of water resources and flood protection measures. The plan will also enhance the rich biodiversity in Croatia through the restoration of rivers, floodplains, and lakes. Investment support schemes will support businesses, including SMEs, in their green transition," according to the Commission's press release.

The Commission's assessment of Croatia's plan finds that it devotes 20% of total expenditure to measures that support the digital transition.

"This includes investments and reforms to support gigabit connectivity, the digitalization of public administration, transport, the judicial system, and higher education. It also provides for increasing the national broadband coverage to reduce the urban-rural digital divide and help businesses, including SMEs, adapt their operations to the digital environment thereby increasing their competitiveness."

Croatia's plan consists of 21 components

Croatia RRP is made up of 21 components plus a horizontal initiative referring to the post-quake reconstruction of buildings.

There are 22 measures envisaging 76 reforms and 146 investments, and all those measures envisage 371 key stages and targets.

Economy - the biggest component

The biggest component of the plan is the Economy and €3.4 billion is planned for this purpose.

Education, Science, and Research follow with about a billion euros. Health is highlighted as the third biggest component with €340 million, followed by Labour Market and Social Protection (€280 million).

Key measures to secure Croatia's green transition

When it comes to energy efficiency and post-earthquake reconstruction of buildings, renovating at least 225,000 square meters of residential buildings and 593,000 square meters of public buildings is planned with €789 million forecasts for that purpose.

Low-carbon energy transition includes modernizing energy infrastructure to connect 1,500 MW of renewable energy, supporting investments for the production of advanced biofuels and renewable hydrogen, financing innovative carbon capture and storage projects, and €658 million will be tapped for that purpose 

Croatia plans to improve sustainable mobility by upgrading railway lines, autonomous electric taxis with supporting infrastructure adapted for people with disabilities, installing 1,300 charging stations for electric vehicles, introducing zero-emission vehicles and vessels, and this allocation is set at €728 million.

20% investments support digital objectives

It envisages the digital transition of the public administration, digital connectivity of rural areas, and digitalization of higher education.

Concerning increasing the efficiency of the public sector and the justice system, the document envisages introducing new wage and work models in the civil service, incentivizing the merger of local government administrations, strengthening mechanisms for coordination and integration of public policies, improving the governance of state assets, reducing the backlog of pending cases and the length of court proceedings, and €200 million can be tapped for that purpose.

EC dismisses criticism about insufficient funds distributed to the private sector

Following objections of private entrepreneurs in Croatia that not enough funds would be directed to the private sector, an official of the EC has told Hina that instead of focusing on how much would be distributed to the private sector, it would be more useful to see how the money will be spent.

A considerable share will end up in private enterprises as they will take part in the implementation of investments and projects envisaged by Croatia's NRRP, say representatives of the EC.

As for the Rimac Automobili company, they explain that it will use funds under the Free Mobility Project.

This is a new project and does not amount to direct support to the company owned by Rimac, the EC official explained.

Commission President von der Leyen was quoted as saying that "with €6.3 billion, Croatia will be the largest recipient of the Recovery and Resilience Facility compared to the size of its economy."

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said that "this plan will put Croatia on the path to recovery after being hit hard both by the crisis and deadly earthquakes." The plan places a welcome focus on improving the justice system and fighting corruption. This plan will also help Croatia prepare its economy for a successful membership in the euro area, he added.

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

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Von der Leyen to Visit Zagreb Thursday after European Commision Okays Croatia's Recovery Plan

ZAGREB, 6 July, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the European Commission's President Ursula Von der Leyen would arrive in Zagreb on Thursday after the European Commission approved Croatia's national recovery and resilience plan.

President von der Leyen has decided to personally deliver the national recovery and resilience plan to each of the 27 member states.

PM Plenković said that the green-light to Croatia's €6.3 billion recovery plan was an important encouragement.

"We are satisfied with the finalisation of the process before we expected," Plenković said on Monday evening.

In early June, Croatia and another four EU member-states -- Slovenia, Poland, Sweden and Romania -- asked the European Commission to extend a deadline for the assessment of their national recovery and resilience plans.

The EC had two months to assess these plans that set out the reforms and public investment projects that each Member State plans to implement with the support of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The rules envisage that member-states can request a reasonable extension of time for the assessment of national recovery and resilience plans after the documents are submitted.

The Commission received Croatia's plan on 15 May, and Zagreb "has requested a total of almost €6.4 billion in grants under the RRF", the EC says on its website.

The Croatian plan is structured around five components: green and digital economy, public administration and judiciary, education, science and research, labour market and social protection, healthcare. It also encompasses one initiative on building renovation.

The plan includes measures to improve business environment, education, research and development, energy-efficiency in buildings, zero-emission transport and the development of renewable energy sources.

Projects in the plan cover the entire lifetime of the RRF until 2026. The plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas, the EC added.

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

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović: Clear Link Between Croatia's Schengen Membership And EU Security

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - The Strategy for the Schengen Area for the first time clearly articulates the link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and the EU's security, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

“The debate today on the Strategy for the Schengen Area is especially significant for us because for the first time it has identified a clear link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and security for the EU as a whole," Božinović said ahead of a meeting of the EU's Home Affairs Council.

The interior ministers of EU member states met in Luxembourg on Tuesday for an initial discussion on the Schengen strategy that was presented by the European Commission last week. The agenda also includes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fight against organised crime, the internal security outlook in terms of artificial intelligence, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and exchanging opinions on the current status in the discussion on the new migration and asylum pact.

Last week the Commission presented the strategy towards a "stronger and more resilient" Schengen Area, which includes enlargement to EU member states that are still not part of the area, and called for Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to be admitted into the Schengen Area as they had met the technical criteria for the application of the Schengen acquis. 

Božinović said that it was becoming more and more clear that Europe's security was not the sum of security capacities of member states but that it was cooperation, interoperability and solidarity.

"These are the principles that Croatia has insisted upon in European forums for years," said Božinović.

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

Saturday, 15 May 2021

EC Confirms Receipt of Croatia's Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 15 May 2021 - The European Commission on Saturday confirmed having received national recovery and resilience plans from Croatia and Lithuania.

The plans determine reforms and public investment projects which each member-country plans to implement with the help of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

The EC has so far received national plans from 17 member-states.

It now has two months to determine if the plans contribute to efficiently dealing with all or a significant portion of subgroups of challenges identified in relevant recommendations for individual member-countries in the context of the European Semester.

The EC will also determine if at least 37% of the outlays in the plans are intended for climate goals and at least 20% for digital transition.

After a national plan is given a passing grade, the EC sends it to the Council for adoption, for which the Council has four weeks.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the key part of the EU's plan for recovery from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, called the Next Generation EU. It has at its disposal €672.5 billion for support for investments and reforms in the member-states. Of that amount, €312.5 billion are grants and €360 billion are loans.

Croatia has at its disposal €6.2 billion in grants and 3.6 billion in loans.

Under Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan, for the time being the country plans to use grants, while a decision as to whether loans, too, will be taken has been left for later.

Croatia's plan consists of five components and one initiative - green and digital economy; public administration and judiciary; education, science and research; labour market and social protection; and health. The initiative refers to building reconstruction.

The plan also contains measures for improving the business environment, education, research and development and the energy efficiency of buildings as well as for zero-emissions transport and development of renewable energy sources.

For more, follow our business section.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Commission Receives Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 15 May 2021 - The European Commission has received Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday thanked government members and all who worked on the key document for structural reforms and investments.

He tweeted that by implementing the reforms, Croatia will ensure more than HRK 47 billion in grants that will contribute to economic growth.

Croatia's plan is based on a green and digital economy; public administration and judiciary; education, science and research; the labour market and welfare; healthcare; and post-earthquake reconstruction.

The plan covers 77 reforms and 152 investments which, Plenković said earlier, will also make Croatia more resilient to future crises.

For more, follow our business section.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Croatian European Research Council (ERC) Fund Receiver: Meet Brilliant Dr. Vernesa Smolčić

May 13, 2021 - With Croatian scientists' reputation on the rise on the world stage, dr. Vernessa Smolčić is now the Croatian European Research Council (ERC) Fund Receiver. 

Croatian scientists continue to impact the European science scene. As the Faculty of Science (PMF) at the University of Zagreb reports on its website, their scientist and professor, dr. Vernesa Smolčić is one of the 10,000 receivers of non-returnable funds by the European Research Council (ERC). As PMF states, the excellence of research work is the only criteria to get these funds.

„Scientists compete in a very strong international competition in which the European Commission from the total number of applications picks up only 8-15% of the best. Projects founded by the ERC are the best researches in all of Europe, and working on ERC projects increase international recognition of the research, and cooperation with the elite global universities“, says PMF.

An online ceremony saw representatives of ERC welcoming all 10,000 receivers with particularly pointing out the top 15 who contributed to the transformation of science and research.

One of them was, you guessed it, dr. Vernessa Smolčić.

„Vernesa Smolčić studied physics at the University of Zagreb, where she is now a full professor at the Department of Physics in the Faculty of Science. She obtained her Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, followed by a postdoctoral position at Caltech in California, USA. In 2009, she obtained an independent ESO ALMA COFUND Fellowship from the European Southern Observatory. In 2013, she won one of the first ERC Starting Grants in Croatia“, says the ERC website.

vernesa_smolcic.jpg

screenshot / Astroučionica

The website also offers more details on how Smolčić (and other scientists, for that matter) made an incredible contribution in expanding human knowledge.

As Smolčić explained for the ERC website, there were more than a few unknowns in the astrophysics field due, primarily to instrumental limitations at the time. But, in 2014, „Smolčić’s team was one of the first to use new and upgraded radio telescopes in Chile, USA, Australia, and India. These telescopes offered a higher level of accuracy for tracing star formations and detecting galaxies, stretching back to when the universe was very young“, writes ERC.

„While the observation phase was very time consuming, Smolčić was immediately taken aback by the extent of the data. She was not only probing new areas of Space, but she was observing radio wavelengths that no other scientist had been able to see through a telescope lens in such detail, or for so many galaxies. Three years down the line, her team had over 850 hours of data. They analyzed and assembled datasets (radio sky mosaics, data collections) on various types of galaxies, their sources, and physical properties. These datasets were made publicly available to the broader astronomy community, to be used by other scientists to explore more of the universe’s unknowns“, concludes ERC.

„ERC funding really allowed me to conduct my research at the highest competitive levels“, said Smolčić. And you can learn more about her work in this interesting podcast.

European Research Council was established in 2007. As they say themselves, their mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, based on scientific excellence.

„The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of Horizon Europe, the European Union's Research Framework Programme for 2021 to 2027“, they said.

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