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 Parliament Confirms that Croatia Meets All Conditions for Schengen

ZAGREB, 8 July 2021 - Croatia has met all the conditions to Schengen, it is said in a resolution of the European Parliament adopted on Thursday in which Croatia is also urged to address shortcomings in terms of providing border staff with training and to persist in a thorough assessment of respect for fundamental rights.

During a visit to Croatia in November 2020, the Commission reaffirmed that the necessary conditions for the application of the Schengen acquis had been met, it is said in the resolution of the European Parliament, adopted with 505 votes in favor, 134 against, and 54 abstentions.

All but two Croatian MEPs voted in favor of the resolution. Those two who voted against were an MEP of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Ladislav Ilčić, and independent MEP Mislav Kolakušić.

The Parliament also called on Croatia to address the identified shortcomings, especially in terms of staff training, the number of staff, and the capacity to protect the land border and to persist in a thorough assessment of respect for fundamental rights following repeated reports by NGOs and the media on abuse, violence, and pushbacks by border police officers.

In that context, the document welcomes the establishment of independent mechanisms to monitor the actions of police officers towards illegal migrants and applicants for international protection.

Croatia expects that its membership in the Schengen area could be on the agenda during Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in late May.

In October 2019, the Commission said that Croatia had met the criteria for joining the Schengen area while in early June it invited EU countries to admit Croatia to the Schengen area.

All EU countries except Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania are members of Schengen, as are four non-EU countries -- Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Violence against migrants

The resolution also says that there are still allegations of violence against migrants, including those seeking international protection, and of illegal pushbacks at the EU's external borders, but no member states are explicitly mentioned.

In that context, it is stressed that the EU does not have a developed mechanism for monitoring fundamental rights at its external borders, which should change.

The Parliament is deeply concerned due to constant and serious reports on violence and pushbacks at the external border, including from one member state to another and then to a third country.

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

Friday, 2 July 2021

Ressler: We Mustn't Give in to Pressure Regarding Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 2 July 2021 - Croatia must not give in to political pressure aimed at changing the policy of preventing illegal migration, Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler said on Friday, adding that Social Democratic Party (SDP) MEPs had been known to be "fall" for "campaigns lambasting" Croatia.

"From the very start of this European Parliament, we have been exposed to political pressure because of our protection of the external border and because of our ambition to become a member of the Schengen Area," Ressler told a virtual press conference called "Asylum, migration and the Schengen Area's functioning" that was organised by the EP's office in Croatia.

Several NGO's and some MEPs claim that Croatia is illegally pushing back migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As we draw closer to joining the Schengen Area, the pressure in the EP has increased, said Ressler, adding that it is necessary to underline that there cannot be any double standards and that it is a duty to protect the EU's external border.

He added that that entails "respecting all human rights, all high Croatian, European and international standards."

Earlier this year four Italian MEPs (S&D) tried to get to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and they were prevented from doing so by Croatian police. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković then said that it was an attempt to mar Croatia's reputation. SDP leader Peđa Grbin and his deputy Biljana Borzan, who is also an MEP, then condemned the fact that the Italian MEPs were prevented from getting to the border.

Ressler said that strong awareness exists among European leaders and institutions that "there is no room in Europe for illegally crossing borders."

State-secretary in the Interior Ministry Terezija Gras said that due to the accusations against Croatia that it was violating the rights of migrants, Croatia would allow an "informal visit" to the Croatian border so that the Commission and member states could be convinced of what Croatia has done with regard to improving its technical equipment on the border with BiH and to strengthen its police capacities.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

Parliament Votes Against Zlata Đurđević For Supreme Court President

June 25th, 2021 -  MPs on Friday rejected President Zoran Milanović's recommendation that Zlata Đurđević is appointed Supreme Court president by 81 votes against, 37 for, and five abstentions.

Before the vote, Marijan Pavliček (Sovereignists) reiterated that Đurđević was unacceptable because she was "ideologically colored, an exponent of liberal-left politics and a toy in President Zoran Milanović's hands."

"There is no ideology about her. On the contrary, she is a professional who bothers all those who don't want change," said Krešo Beljak (People's Party).

Peđa Grbin (Social Democrats) said there were two groups, one that felt that everything in Croatia's judiciary was all right and wanted to change things.

Dražen Bošnjaković (ruling HDZ) said Đurđević did not apply for the post, that she broke the law and that it was therefore unacceptable to appoint her to the Supreme Court.

Stephen Bartulica (Homeland Movement) said Đurđević was "not the best candidate."

Milorad Pupovac (Independent Democratic Serb Party) said it was a pity the procedure had been contaminated from the start and that it was not only a matter of a good candidate but the election atmosphere.

Urša Raukar Gamulin (Green-Left Coalition) said one should elect based on objective and professional criteria and that short-term political interests should be eliminated from such elections.

Marija Selak Raspudić (bridge) called everything a farce in which parliament was reduced to a worthless institution that should participate in a show whose outcome was predetermined.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

SDA, Džaferović, Komšić: Croatia Defeated In EP Regarding Ethnic Divisions

June 25th, 2021 -  The leading Bosniak party, SDA, and two members of the Bosnian Presidency, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić, said on Thursday that Croatia and the concept of ethnic divisions were defeated in the EP with the rejection of an amendment on constituent peoples to a Bosnia and Herzegovina progress report.

At a plenary on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a report on BiH, rejecting amendments by Croatian MEPs on the rights of constituent peoples, which the European People's Party supported but not the Liberals, the Left, and the Greens.

"The rejection of the amendment by the parliamentarians from Croatia and ultra-right European parties, which asked of BiH to additionally deepen discrimination in the election process... is a clear message as to which direction future reforms of the Constitution and electoral legislation in BiH should take," the SDA said in a press release.

Komšić called the result of the vote in Brussels a clear message to Zagreb.

"That was as expected given the fact that the allegedly legitimate representation of the constituent peoples has no basis in European Court of Human Rights rulings. That's a message Zagreb should take note of well because it's clear now that the ethnic concept they are forcing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not acceptable to the EU," he said.

Džaferović said Croatia's idea to introduce "the rhetoric of ethnic divisions" in the EP resolution was rejected.

"After NATO's refusal at the past summit to include similar formulations in its declaration, this is the second important message after which Zagreb should... start changing its policy on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Any attempt by Zagreb to impose solutions on Bosnia and Herzegovina will fail and an unnecessary decline of Croatia's reputation," he said.

Džaferović said BiH should reform its Constitution and electoral legislation based on ECHR rulings and European Commission recommendations to eliminate discrimination and ensure equality for all its citizens across the country.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

European Parliament Adopts Kolakušić Report On Better Law Making

June 25th, 2021 - The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a report by Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakušić, which underlines that it is necessary to oversee better the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the adoption of EU policies and to introduce the EP's right to legislative initiative.

Presenting the "European Union regulatory fitness and subsidiarity and proportionality report on Better Law-Making covering the years 2017, 2018 and 2019," Kolakušić said the expansion of EU powers harmed the EU's democracy and functioning, and that it was necessary to protect better member states' possibility to make decisions and act without European institutions interfering whenever possible.

620 votes adopted the report in favor, 20 against, and 51 abstentions.

The EP stresses that acting at the EU level must be justified concerning possibilities available at a national, regional, or local level while respecting retroactive assessment, impact assessment, and consultation with stakeholders.

MEPs call for reviewing the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and introducing the EP's right to legislative initiative, given that it directly represents European citizens.

Kolakušić said the report contained an important call on MEPs, all member states, and EU citizens that the EU must change and that the power to move bills must be given to citizens and their representatives in the EP.

The resolution presents solutions to the weakened regulation of compliance with subsidiarity and proportionality principles.

MEPs push for better participation by national parliaments in legislative procedures at the EU level.

The EP calls for more open access to the drafting of legislative texts and enabling the independent moving of bills.

To have better regulations, it is essential that the European Parliament, Council, and Commission be included in more structured cooperation to assess the application and effectiveness of EU law to improve legislation, the resolution says.

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

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Matić: No One is Advocating Abortion, It is Women's Choice

ZAGREB, 24 June 2021 - Croatian MEP Predrag Matić said on Wednesday that it was a lie that his report on sexual and reproductive health, which will be put to a vote in the European Parliament on Thursday, promoted abortion.

"No one is advocating abortion, particularly not as a method of contraception," Matić said during the plenary meeting of the European Parliament.

"The number of abortions in countries where abortion is allowed is the same as in countries where it is banned. Only in these latter countries, it poses a risk to women's health as 23,000 women throughout the world die from it every year," he added.

Presenting his report, Matić said that abortion is a very difficult choice for every woman, but that in the end, every woman must have a choice.

"No one is denying doctors the right to refuse to provide a medical service for personal reasons, but at the same time the health institution must ensure a doctor who will provide the requested service," Matić said, adding that the resolution clearly says that health care falls within the competence of member states.

Matić, a member of the Croatian Social Democratic Party and the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament, said he had received "angry and disgusting" criticisms and hundreds of hate emails over his report.

He said that by voting for this non-legislative resolution, men would show respect for women's rights and women would show self-respect, while all members of the European Parliament should show what kind of Europe they wanted.

Matić said that opponents of the resolution were ready to ignore the parts of it speaking of improving women's health only to focus on the issue of abortion using "an unbelievable amount of lies and manipulation."

"Tomorrow is a great day for Europe and the entire progressive world. Tomorrow we decide on positioning Europe as a community that chooses to live in the 21st  or the 17th century. Don't let history remember us as the latter ones," Matić concluded.

The report was criticized by parties on the right side of the political spectrum for referring to abortion as a human right, for treating the issue of conscientious objection as a problem, and for sidestepping the powers of EU member states.

Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler (HDZ/EPP) said that the resolution uses confusing language equating conscientious objection with denial of medical care, while his colleague Tomislav Sokol said that Matić, by advocating sexual education in school based on gender ideology, was overstepping the competencies of the EU and telling the member states what they should teach in their own curricula.

"Matić drew up the report probably under the influence of foreign lobbies that promote abortion. This stems from the fact that in the report Matić gives an arbitrary definition of sexual and reproductive health that is not based on international law," Sokol said, demanding that the disputed parts of the report should be voted on separately.

For more news about Croatia, visit our dedicated page.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

MEP Biljana Borzan: Ban on Sale of Energy Drinks to Children Should Have Been Adopted in 2018

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - Biljana Borzan, one of Croatia's members of the European Parliament, said on Tuesday that a motion by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to ban the sale of energy drinks to children should have been supported in 2018 because the recent death of a 13-year-old youth in Zagreb might have been avoided.

MEP Borzan, who put forward a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, told a press conference that this is an exceptionally important topic, however, the ideas and proposals by the opposition were ignored at the time.

"Had our proposal to ban the sale of energy drinks to children three years ago been adopted in the Sabor, perhaps this tragedy would not have occurred. I am nauseated to be here today as a mother and a doctor," she said, expressing her condolences to the family of the deceased youth.

She added that this was the first case of death of a child connected to the consumption of an energy drink and warned that if nothing was done, it would not be the last. "There is a considerable number of cases like this one in the world. Consumption of energy drinks by children is problematic for more than one reason," said Borzan.

By consuming energy drinks, children consume large quantities of sugar, which negatively impacts obesity statistics in Croatia. The second problem is the consumption of caffeine, taurine and other problematic and suspect substances while the third problem is that children's taste changes with such extremely sweet beverages so all other food becomes insufficiently sweet for them, Borzan said. The fourth problem is that the consumption of energy drinks in combination with alcohol is becoming more and more popular among teenagers, she added.

High blood pressure, heart attack, arrhythmia, headache, nausea, vomiting, cramping, panic attacks, anxiety, stress, diabetes, addiction, allergies, insomnia, risky behaviour, are just some of the repercussions of excessive consumption of energy drinks, she explained.

She recalled that in 2018, the SDP had proposed a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 18, which was rejected by the ruling majority, which initially said that the EU did not allow this, said Borzan.

That is not true as some Baltic countries have such a law in force while retail chains in some EU countries have imposed such a ban on their own, Borzan said.

The government then said that it would introduce an additional tax in an effort to deal with that problem, which it did, Borzan said, noting that a ban would be far more effective and just as it would refer only to children.

Citing data from the European Food Safety Authority, Borzan said that the situation in Croatia was concerning as 86% of 16-year-olds consume energy drinks and 47% of them combine them with alcohol.

Sixty percent of children under the age of 12 who regularly consume energy drinks said they did so because they liked the taste, Borzan said, noting that it was bizarre that 40% of them said they consumed them because they lacked energy.

In addition to a ban, it is important to educate the public so parents don't buy these drinks for their children, she said.

Referring to an announcement by the government that it plans to establish an inquiry commission for this problem, Borzan said that this was a tardy response and warned that inquiry commissions had not resulted in positive changes in the past.

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

Saturday, 29 May 2021

MEP Zovko Pushes for Croatia's Use of Opportunities from New European Bauhaus

ZAGREB, 29 May 2021 - The new European Bauhaus, an initiative about climate adaptation of the built environment, is an opportunity for Croatia to raise the architectural and living standards, notably in the quake-hit areas, Croatian MEP Željana Zovko told Hina on Saturday.

The idea about a new European Bauhaus was presented by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech last year. In her address to the European Parliament on that occasion, she outlined her plan to create a "new European Bauhaus" to kickstart a cultural and sustainable movement in the European Union.

The New European Bauhaus, named after the influential German design school founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, will be part of the €750 billion NextGenerationEU investment and recovery plan put in place following the coronavirus pandemic. 

Zovko, a member of the European Parliament from the ranks of the European People's Party (EPP), says that the initiative "is still in its infancy", however, the purpose is to encourage citizens, experts and professionals to develop their communities in accordance with the principles of energy sustainability and taking spatial planning approach.

The European Union is set to provide financial support to innovative ideas in that regard, with the aim of ensuring the green and digital transformation of aesthetically pleasing structures, according to this Croatian MEP.

Green construction will be the basis of a new vision of cities and rural areas in the European Union, she said.

"The new European vision will satisfy climate neutrality, and at the same make cities and villages tailored to man" she added.

The European Commission has recently published "Renovation Wave", explaining that a refurbished and improved building stock in the EU will help pave the way for a decarbonised and clean energy system, as the building sector is one of the largest energy consumers in Europe and is responsible for more than one third of the EU's emissions.

The EC calls for effective action to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050.

Until 2030, 35 million buildings are supposed to undergo energy efficient renovation.

Thus, the EC aims to double annual energy renovation rates in the next ten years. "These renovations will enhance the quality of life for people living in and using the buildings, reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, and create up to 160,000 additional green jobs in the construction sector," the EC says on its web site.

New Bauhaus seen as opportunity for post-quake reconstruction of central Croatia

Earlier this year, Zovko sent a request to the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, for expanding the New European Bauhaus initiative to include the safety of construction and architecture, having in mind two devastating earthquakes that hit Croatia in 2020.

Zovko is confident that funds envisaged under the New European Bauhaus scheme could be made available for reconstruction of the quake-affected areas.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

EP Seeks Easier Access to Solidarity Fund for Regions Struck by Natural Disasters

ZAGREB, 19 May, 2021 - The European Parliament on Tuesday adopted a report on the review of the EU Solidarity Fund and called on the Commission to facilitate the use of aid from the fund for regions struck by natural disasters, noting that 2020 was a great challenge, in particular for Croatia.

The EP pointed to the difficulties faced by beneficiary countries when it comes to determining precise amounts of damage in very short periods of time. It said that climate change and the intensification of natural disasters were making member states increasingly vulnerable and that the EU should speed up aid disbursement to regions affected by natural disasters.

MEPs therefore called on the Commission to explore ways of removing administrative barriers and to demonstrate maximum flexibility in fund allocation.

Parliament called for special attention to be paid to outermost regions, islands and regions prone to seismic or volcanic activity that are the most at risk of natural disasters.

The report was adopted by 668 votes in favour, 10 against and 18 abstentions.

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit said that 17 member states, including Croatia, and three accession countries had been allocated funds to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

He noted that Croatia was one of the countries that had been allocated the largest amount of financial aid, given that it was also struck by two strong earthquakes and a series of minor tremors. A total of €683.7 million was disbursed to Croatia already after the first earthquake in 2020. This is the largest amount ever paid out after a natural disaster, he added.

Schmit said that Croatia would take a long time to recover and would need additional funding, adding that this only showed how important the Solidarity Fund was.

The EU Solidarity Fund was established in 2020 to provide aid to member states in the event of major natural disasters and other emergencies.

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

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