Tuesday, 5 July 2022

European Parliament Supports Croatia's Accession to Eurozone

ZAGREB, 5 July 2022 - The European Parliament supported Croatia's accession to the euro area by a vast majority of votes on Tuesday.

With 539 votes in favour from 632 MEPs in attendance, the European Parliament adopted the report on the introduction of the euro as legal tender in Croatia as of 1 January 2023, saying that Croatia met all the criteria for accession to the euro area.

Forty-eight MEPs abstained form the vote and 45 voted against, mostly those from right-wing political groups who criticised Croatia's euro-area membership bid during discussion at a plenary session of Parliament on Monday.

Before an EU member state joins the euro area, the European Parliament gives its opinion on the recommendation from the European Commission. The last step is the adoption of the proposal at a meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 12 July. The European Council has already endorsed Croatia's euro area entry.

By adopting the euro, Croatia will join the Eurosystem, which comprises the European Central Bank and the central banks of the euro-area member states. The Croatian National Bank governor will sit on the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.

The Croatian finance minister will participate in Eurogroup meetings and the prime minister will attend euro-area summits. Croatia will also automatically become a member of the banking union, a bank supervision and resolution system.

The report by European Parliament rapporteur Siegfried Muresan of the European People's Party (EPP), which was adopted on Tuesday, says that "Croatia fulfils all the criteria for adopting the euro as a result of ambitious, determined, credible and sustainable efforts by the Croatian government and the Croatian people."

The report notes that Croatia’s accession to the euro area is the first significant EU integration process after Brexit and that it should enhance the positive image of the European Union in the Western Balkans region.

"Notwithstanding the difficult socio-economic situation generated by the health crisis and the most recent increase in energy prices, Croatia's adoption of the euro and the fulfilment of the necessary criteria represent a strong political signal of the viability and attractiveness of the single currency of the Union," the report says.

Adoption of the euro will strengthen Croatia's economy and benefit its people and companies, as it will make the country's economy more resilient, attract more foreign investment, increase the confidence of international investors and cut down currency exchanges, that will have a relevant effect in the country's vital tourism sector, the European Parliament predicts.

The Croatian government was called upon to ensure that the introduction of the euro does not lead to artificial price increases.

"Croatia joining the euro area represents a strong political signal of the viability and attractiveness of the single currency of the Union. Twenty years after the introduction of the first banknotes, the euro is a symbol of European strength and unity. Thanks to its great commitment in its efforts to meet the conditions for adopting the euro, Croatia is now ready to join the euro area on 1st January 2023, less than a decade after joining the EU. The euro area as a whole will then welcome its twentieth member," the European Parliament said in an explanation of its favourable assessment of Croatia's readiness to adopt the euro.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Croatian Defence Industry Presented in European Parliament

ZAGREB, 29 June 2022 - Protective gear and other products of the Croatian defence industry were presented in the European Parliament on Wednesday as part of a conference on strengthening Europe's security and defence, organised by Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler.

Security and defence are not a choice today but fundamental issues which come first, he said, per a press release from his office.

Croatia's defence industry is one of its strongest and most successful exports and deserves, alongside other European colleagues, even stronger EU support so that Europe stays the safest continent, Ressler added.

Among those attending the conference was former Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who said the situation caused by the Russian aggression on Ukraine called for unity and strengthening the common defence.

She recalled that 90% of EU citizens live in NATO countries and called for deeper cooperation between the EU and NATO.

Also present at the conference were Croatian Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak, Ukrainian MP Maria Mezentseva, and representatives of Croatian and European military companies and the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Defence Industry.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

EU Extends Covid Certificate Regulations for Next 12 Months

June 14th, 2022 - The EU extends COVID certificate regulations, which are intended to facilitate the free movement of people during the pandemic, until June 30th, 2023. Using a QR code, the certificate can be used to prove whether a person has been vaccinated against, tested negative for, or has recovered from COVID-19.

The European Parliament and European governments agreed Monday night that the COVID certification rules will remain in place for the next 12 months because the coronavirus disease pandemic is still ongoing, reports Večernji List.

Representatives of the European Parliament and EU governments have agreed to extend the regulation until June 30, 2023, the French presidency of the EU Council said, adding that the regulation could be revoked before that deadline if the health situation allows.

The certificates are intended to facilitate the free movement of people during a pandemic. Using a QR code, the certificate can be used to prove whether a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus, tested negative for coronavirus, or has recovered from COVID-19.

The digital version can be saved to a mobile device. In February, the European Commission proposed extending the covid certification regulation.

"The virus that causes covid-19 is still prevalent in Europe and at this stage, it is not possible to determine the impact of the possible spread of the infection in the second half of 2022 or the emergence of new variants.", the European Commission said in a statement.

The extension of the regulation allows passengers to continue to use their covid certificate if the Member States maintain certain public health measures.

When it comes to yesterday's coronavirus cases in Croatia, in the last 24 hours there were 19 new cases of the infection with coronavirus, and currently, there are 1,655 active cases in the country, Croatia's COVID-19 crisis management team reported.

For everything you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

EP Pushes for Qualified Majority Voting in Certain Foreign Policy Areas

ZAGREB, 8 June 2022 - The decision making by a qualified majority vote, instead of the unanimous endorsement, should be introduced in some segments of the European Union's foreign affairs, a majority of European Parliament members agreed on Tuesday when they also called for more invesments in Ukraine's defence.

A majority of MEPs expressed support to the plans to introduce qualified majority voting for certain foreign policy areas, as already provided for in the Treaties in order to increase the effectiveness of EU foreign policy.

The rule of unanimous consent should be abandoned. This is what citizens who participated in the Conference on the Future of Europe expect, said French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, a rapporteur for  European Parliament recommendation to the Council and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the EU’s Foreign, Security and Defence Policy after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Another rapporteur David McAllister said that it was also proposed that weapons and necessary material should be sent to Ukraine in accordance with the needs expressed by Ukraine's authorities.

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula said that the common security policy mist no longer be the weakest spot in our integration and underscored that by defending itself Ukraine also defends Europe.

Croatian MEP Željana Zovko, said that the EU needed "preventive diplomacy" as a tool to resolve issues and stop crises.

 "What we are lacking is preventive diplomacy," she said.

Today, we have discussed the forthcoming elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina."Twenty years after the conclusion of the Dayton peace agreement, we still have a a half-sovereign country in this case we missed that preventive diplomacy," she said.

Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakušić said that the EU turned into the 51st member of the USA when it comes to foreign ans security affairs.

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

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Osijek-Baranja County Leads in Using European Funds

April 14, 2022 - MEP Karlo Ressler has visited the city of Osijek, where he was presented with several Osijek-Baranja County projects currently in progress that were financed by European funds.

As SiB.hr writes, after a reception in the Osijek-Baranja County, MEP Ressler was accompanied by the prefect Ivan Anušić to visit the construction site of the Economic Centre, which is also financed by European funds

"Osijek and the Osijek-Baranja County do not need additional instructions on how to withdraw money from European funds because they do an excellent job", said MEP Karlo Ressler during his stay in Osijek, adding: "It seems to me that the idea, the perception of a difficult situation as it used to be is no longer associated with the Osijek-Baranja County nor the city of Osijek, and I also think that the new mayor Radić certainly played a big role not only in that but everything that the county has been doing in recent years".

In the company of Osijek Mayor Ivan Radić, MP Ressler visited the construction site of the Osijek Fortress, which is another project financed with European money.

"The city of Osijek is a large construction site, which I explained to MEP Ressler. At the moment, the value of investments in the area of the city of Osijek exceeds one billion kuna, and is largely financed with European money”, said Osijek Mayor Radić and thanked MEP Ressler for showing interest in the city of Osijek and the Osijek-Baranja County.

After the reception in the Osijek-Baranja County, accompanied by the prefect Ivan Anušić, MP Ressler visited the construction site of the Economic Centre, which is also financed by European funds.

"We are implementing numerous projects through the funds of the European Union, through a new financial perspective where our office in Brussels, which has a permanent representative of our 5 Slavonian counties, communicates directly with our MEPs, including Mr. Ressler", said the prefect of the Osijek-Baranja County Ivan Anušić. He concluded that the Osijek-Baranja County and the City of Osijek really have something to boast about.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

EP For More Frequent Unannounced Visits Within Schengen Evaluation Mechanism

ZAGREB, 7 April 2022- The European Parliament on Wednesday discussed a report on the Schengen evaluation mechanism and MEPs called for more frequent unannounced inspections and intensified monitoring of whether human rights are respected at the EU's borders.

Migrant crises and a series of terror attacks on EU soil have resulted in differences in the application of the Schengen acquis by the member states, and the Schengen has come across a crisis.

During the debate, it was also said that the coronavirus pandemic had produced an additional burden on the Schengen area and that internal border controls were restored.

Swedish MEP Sara Skyttedal, who is a rapporteur for the Council regulation on the establishment and operation of an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis, called for more unannounced inspections to deal with suspected international security risks and violations of fundamental human rights.

"Unannounced visits, being one of the most effective tools to verify Member States practices, should take place without prior notification to the Member State concerned," reads the report on this topic.

"Unannounced visits should take place for ‘investigative’ purposes in order to verify compliance with obligations under the Schengen acquis, including, in response to indications as regards the emergence of systemic problems that could potentially negatively impact the functioning of the Schengen area or lead to fundamental rights violations, in particular allegations of serious violations of fundamental rights at the external borders," it is suggested.

The document was adopted on Thursday by 427 votes for, 102 votes against, while 24 MEPs abstained from the vote.

The Schengen area now has a population of 420 million in the 26 member-states.

Croatia has met all the technical requirements for its admission to the passport-free zone.

Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler told Hina that Croatia's joining the Schengen area was in the interest of all Schengen members and the EU.

Asked if there was opposition to plans to admit Croatia to the Schengen area, Ressler said that the visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Zagreb last year was a watershed moment.

Ressler underscored that the whole process is going as planned.


For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Croatian Heartbeat in Brussels: TCN Meets FC Croatia BXL

February 28, 2022 - FC Croatia BXL is the only Croatian football team in the European capital that has already participated in the BXL Euroleague tournament in Brussels for eight years.

Croatian amateur sports clubs are one of the most recognizable symbols of Croatian identity. Today, there are about 200 Croatian football clubs globally, most of which are in countries with sizeable Croatian emigrant communities such as Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Australia. There is not a big Croatian community in Belgium, but it is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic.

Brussels is a lively city that attracts many young talents, being the centre of European institutions. There are also national delegations and the leading European headquarters of the most important international NGOs. With the entry into the European Union, Croatia has also been able to spread its talents and allow many qualified Croatians to start their professional growth here in Brussels. Being surrounded by a favourable environment makes, of course, the difference; that’s why new job opportunities are not enough to be happy.

To settle in, someone must also feel welcomed, find a place where to pursue one’s own interests and passions. And it is precisely from this idea that in 2014 Leon Leskovec (EU Parliament employee) decided to organise a football team that could bring together and welcome Croatian sportspeople. A place where to breathe some homeland spirit. As a result of this call, a weekly meeting point was gradually established, which helped develop friendships and relationships between the participants.


Photo: Archive FC Croatia BXL

We met Diego Antoncic (who works for an Austrian consulting firm) and Oskar Whyte (EU Commission employee), who play a big part in the club.

Tell us a bit more about how you have organised yourselves?

Since 2014 we have regularly participated in the BXL Euroleague with 17 other international teams. FC Croatia BXL is the first Croatian football team in Brussels to participate in this competition. The team consists of about 32 players, of which 70% are Croats (at least of origin), and the remaining are "foreigners" from Bulgaria, Greece and Arab countries, etc. Therefore, we also have our "foreigners”! The age group is between 25 and 35 years old. We train on a weekly basis, and the official matches are held during the weekend at the Stade Chazal, owned by Schaerbeek, one of the Brussels communes. The Schaerbeek commune and all of their employees have been supporting the club for years and providing the necessary football pitch to compete in the league. We are currently in the middle of the rankings, but we hold on and plan to do great things this year: the spirit keeps us motivated!

You don’t have an official coach, but you have created a technical board and consult before each game. Do you get along?

Besides being a team, we are also friends who meet outside the matches, even after work. Those who move here soon start looking for an activity that makes them feel "at home”. Usually, football among us guys is a significant motivational boost. Mladen Mlinaric has been our coach for a long time, but two years ago he went back to Croatia. Since then, we have gotten along well as a team of coaches. A proof of this is that we also organised our first Team Building last year in Bosnia and this year we will do it in Bulgaria to pay homage to one of the "foreigners" in our team. We believe it is a positive gesture and a sign of good integration.


Photo: Archive FC Croatia BXL - First Team Building

And how do you organise when our national team plays?

Since we enjoy and play football ourselves and have a good audience that follows us, we regularly organise watching the matches of our national team at the Stade Chazal. During the Euros and World Cup, the city of Brussels also sets up mega screens in strategic points, such as the Cinquantenaire Park. We usually book a whole side of the lawn under the big screens to enthusiastically support our “Vatreni”, contacting all our followers and spreading the word to be as numerous as possible.

FC Croatia BXL self-finances all expenses (from stadium rental to membership fees). They have only two sponsors: the Mexican restaurant “El Sombrero” in Leuven (the owner is Croatian and their long-time player Adrian) and Access Advisors, a consultancy owned by one of our strikers. The Croatian National Football Federation has twice given them the uniforms to play and as of a few weeks ago, they are expecting a new self-funded delivery. They would also like to play with other "Croatian" teams in Europe or even host teams directly from Croatia. In June, they usually organise a tournament between Croatian teams from neighbouring countries (Holland, Luxembourg, Germany) to celebrate the Croatian national day together. In 2016 they were also candidates for the Večernjakova Domovnica for the sports category.


Photo: Archive FC Croatia BXL

We look forward to seeing how they will organise for next autumn with the World Cup in Qatar. Still, given their overwhelming enthusiasm and excellent organisation, I would advise Croats in Brussels to follow their Facebook page not to miss any opportunity to support and cheer on Croatian sport, starting from the local one.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 18 February 2022

Milanović: Croatia Embarrassed Itself in Brussels Over Reconstruction Money

ZAGREB, 18 Feb 2022 - Croatia embarrassed itself by not spending any of the post-earthquake reconstruction money, so Brussels charitably extended the deadline, but is denying charity to Croats in Bosnia, President Zoran Milanović has said, blaming that on the incompetence of the foreign minister and the premier.

It's not a "total embarrassment," just an "embarrassment, he said on Friday, commenting on the European Commission's decision to extend the deadline until June 2023, to spend the money from the European Solidarity Fund for the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb.

The president said reconstruction took time and that he accepted that not all the money could have been spent because "that's impossible."

Milanović said he had defended the government from attacks for the slow spending of those funds, but added that the government "has practically not absorbed anything" and that he "would have been proud had we utilized 50%."

He said that in Brussels Prime Minister Andrej Plenković "had to buttonhole someone, sponge" and that perhaps they laughed at Croatia and said, "give them this charity."

However, he said, Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina "can't be in a situation to ask for simple moldy charity."

They must not be accused of being a disruptive factor because BiH cannot exist without them, Milanović added.

For months he has been accusing the government of not being successful in Brussels in defending the demands of Croats in BiH for changing the election law in order to stop the Bosniak majority from electing their Presidency member and deputies in the Federation entity's upper house.

As an EU member state, Croatia has its vote and can oppose Brussels' decisions, he said.

Zagreb has not exercised that right to defend Croats in BiH, the president said, pointing the finger at Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman.

Croat representatives will have "my full support," Milanović said, adding that the Croatian government "can" and "must" block elections in BiH unless the election law is changed as demanded by local Croats.

He said it was unacceptable of foreign diplomats to say that the elections would be held regardless.

Criticisms against foreign minister

The president also commented on the failure to appoint Croatia's military envoy to NATO, saying that he was being asked only to sign the appointment, without directly participating in the process.

He said the foreign minister was the reason why he and the prime minister had not decided, even after six months, to relieve of duty all the ambassadors whose four-year terms had expired.

Milanović added that Grlić Radman "will do everything just to be liked by his boss."

He dismissed claims that Croatia does not have ambassadors because he, as the president, was pushing members of the Social Democratic Party as candidates.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Croatian Citizens See Defense of Freedom of Speech and Movement as European Parliament's Top Priority

ZAGREB, 14 Feb 2022 - The highest share of Croatian citizens think that the European Parliament's (EP) priority is to defend freedom of speech and freedom of movement, while most respondents in the European Union (EU) think that the EP's top priority should be to defend democracy, a Eurobarometer survey released last Tuesday shows.

In Croatia, the highest number of respondents think that the EP's priority should be to defend freedom of speech (28%) and freedom of movement (28%), while 25% see the protection of human rights as a priority and 22% see democracy as a value the EP should primarily defend.

At the level of the EU, democracy is seen as the most important value (32%), followed by freedom of speech and thought (27%), and the protection of human rights (25%).

Freedom of movement is the most important value for 16% of respondents in the EU, compared to 28% in Croatia.

In the survey, carried out on behalf of the EP, respondents could choose four topics which they think should be a priority to the EP.

At the EU level, the top priority is public health (42%), followed by the fight against poverty and social exclusion (40%) and action against climate change (39%), which is significantly different from the results in Croatia.

Croatian citizens see the fight against poverty as the top priority (52%), followed by support to the economy and the creation of new jobs (48%), public health (34%), and action against climate change (29%).

As many as 83% of Croatian citizens think that Croatia has benefited from being a member of the EU, which is an increase of 5% compared to the previous Eurobarometer survey. In the entire EU, fewer citizens see the benefits of EU membership, with only 72% support.

52% of Croatian respondents see membership of the EU as "a good thing", 9% see it as "a bad thing", while 39% see it as neither a good nor a bad thing.

Most EU citizens (63%) are optimistic about the future of the EU.

According to the survey, citizens' support for the EU, and especially for the EP, significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Croatia and in the EU, 58% of respondents would like the EP to play a more important role.

45% of respondents have a neutral opinion of the EP, and only 17% have a negative opinion. This positive attitude towards the EP is also visible in the latest Standard Barometer 95 of the European Commission, according to which citizens trust the EP the most out of all EU institutions.

Since 2015, the percentage of respondents with a positive opinion of the European Parliament has increased by 12%, to 36%.

In Croatia, 43% of respondents have a positive opinion of the EP, 48% a neutral and only 9% a negative opinion.

The autumn Eurobarometer survey of the EP was conducted from 2 November to 3 December 2021 in all 27 EU member states.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 11 February 2022

Croatian MEP: Russian Troops on Ukraine Border Not Local Issue But Global Threat

ZAGREB, 11 Feb 2022 - The buildup of Russian forces along the Russia-Ukraine border is not a local problem but a global security threat, Croatian member of the European Parliament, Tonino Picula, told the BBC on Thursday.

The war with the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine is entering its eighth year, and pro-Russian separatists, supported by Russia, carried out secession of the three eastern Ukrainian areas:  Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea, said Picula, a foreign policy coordinator of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

According to a statement issued by Picula's office, the MEP said that Ukrainians deserved to be commended for their rational attitude.

It can seem paradoxical that while Ukraine is facing a dramatic situation, citizens and the state leadership of that country are not inclined to dramatize it. Citizens are definitely worried but they are not panicking, the Croatian MEP says.

He added that even without direct military aggression, Russia has been undermining Ukraine's democratic, social and economic development for years, through the dissemination of misinformation and other means, he added.

Picula said, among other things, that during this crisis many European leaders have an opportunity to show their position on the current security architecture in Europe.

Picula believes that the unity of the West is now of crucial importance.

Commenting on the Russian and the European approach, Picula said that it is much simpler for Russia to speak in unison, as it is President Vladimir Putin who speaks about the matter.

On the other hand, the West is pluralistic, various member-states have different sensibilities and interests. In this crisis it is most important to stick to the joint approach in order to make it impossible for Russia to take advantage of disagreements in a bid to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine, said Picula.

"This crisis is a big stress test for us in the European Union, the biggest one since the wars after the breakup of Yugoslavia," he added calling for the European support to Ukrainians' efforts to defend their freedom and way of life.

For more, check out our politics section.

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