Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Milanović Criticises EU for Prolongations in Croatia's Accession to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 27 Oct 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that Croatia's problem is that it is on the "external border of the Schengen Area, yet it isn't Schengen," he said, criticizing the EU for procrastination in allowing Croatia to join this passport-free area.

That is being prolonged yet Croatia is expected to act as if it is playing in the first four Series A or premiership league teams, Milanović said after meeting with his Maltese counterpart George Vella.

Apart from strengthening cooperation, the presidents discussed foreign policy topics including migration which has once again come to the fore with the Afghanistan crisis.

Milanović believes that Croatia is in an unfavorable situation due to its position.

"This puts us and our reputation in a bad situation because if the Croatian police don’t control the border then Croatia is unreliable and isn’t doing its job. If the Croatian police do their job and make mistakes at times, exceeding their authority, then it is something that Europe points its finger at Croatia. That’s not fair," said Milanović.

Milanović asked Malta to support Croatia, as the youngest EU member state, and its accession to the Schengen Area and criticized the Union for "procrastination and delay."

Romania and Bulgaria have been members of the EU since 2007 and are still waiting for a green light to access that European area without border controls.

Vella said that the migration issue is a huge challenge for the EU, however, he expects a consensus from all 27 members of the bloc.

Saying that his small country is full of migrants, the only solution is to proportionally distribute migrants and refugees among member states prepared to take them. 

We are trying to find countries - 20, 22- as many as possible willing to work together and try and implement a system of distribution (of migrants), said Vella.  

Milanović praised Malta for its treatment of the migration issue.

"A small nation such as Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean – with a special culture, language and identity, is different from others yet open in every aspect the whole time – it is able to deliberate the difficult topic of migration maturely, soberly and humanely, while some Central European states are just about to arm their population. Incredible difference! This just says how openness, especially for small economies, is important. Well done, Malta!"

This is the second meeting between the presidents in a few weeks and Vella said that it confirms "the splendid relations between the two countries and the friendship that has been developing between our nations."

EU enlargement: The bloc "is buying time and the years are passing"

The two presidents talked about the countries in Southeast Europe and their journey towards the Union.

Vella said that Malta has "always advocated for the Western Balkans to become part of the EU."

"Countries such as Croatia and Slovenia have become members and can definitely help, they can show the way. The process of EU accession is lengthy, certain sacrifices are necessary, but I am sure that there is a strong will both in the EU and in the Western Balkans for them to join the EU," said Vella.

During the recent EU-Western Balkans Summit organized by Slovenia as the incumbent chair of the Council of the EU, membership prospects for those countries were once again confirmed however they were not given any time frame for that.

I wouldn't want this to be transformed into some kind of procrastination, delay. "A lot indicates that the EU has such a policy because, in fact, it hasn’t got one, it’s buying time and the years are passing," said Milanović.

There is an election here or there, hence the fear of leading mainstream politicians of right voters and rivals on the right (...) and then countries with an Islamic population which is one of the prejudices we have to talk about, are some of the reasons why the EU is not clearly stating what it wants, believes Milanović.

Croatia's President said he wants a more stable neighbor and that in the context of the Western Balkans it is necessary to talk about stability, predictability, security, and money.

"When we talk about the Western Balkans, we must talk about stability, predictability, and security, and ultimately we talk about money too because those are fundamentally impoverished states," he said.

Malta's President Vella and his wife are on a state visit to Croatia at the invitation of President  Milanović.

Vella is expected to meet with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković. He will also visit Varaždin.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Petrov: More People Have Emigrated Since Joining EU Than in 45 Years of Communism

ZAGREB, 27 Oct 2021 - Opposition MPs said on Wednesday that the Prime Minister's Annual Government Report and indicators he boasted of do not correspond to the reality of life, with Bridge leader Božo Petrov saying that more people had emigrated in the past eight years than in the 45 years of communist dictatorship.

People are not leaving just because of wages but because they feel the injustice, and research indicates that the more people that emigrate the higher the level of corruption, Petrov said during a parliamentary debate on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's annual report, which Petrov believes isn't impartial.

Grbin: We traveled to Switzerland for an hour

"I thank you for enabling us to travel to Switzerland for an hour because this report does not reflect the reality of life in Croatia," Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin told Plenković, saying that he had omitted to provide concrete responses to some burning issues in the country.

Grbin criticized the government's handling of the COVID pandemic and the situation in healthcare, where debts are continuing to increase despite government intervention.

Hrvoje Zekanović (Sovereignists) told the Prime Minister that he supports a lot of things the government has done during the pandemic and in general, saying that Croatia "actually didn't cope badly," but there are some issues he cannot agree with.

One of them, he said, is the introduction of the euro currency, which is not an act of monetary stability but an exclusively political aim of additional cohesion and unitarism in the EU. I do not advocate exiting the EU, but I advocate constantly examining our status to see what membership brings or takes, said Zekanović and added "for now it seems that we are good here."

Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referred to the pandemic and warned that the virus is spreading because we do not have a sufficient level of vaccination and that it is spreading among young people and jeopardizing their health.

With regard to the earthquakes, Pupovac said that the worst is behind us. We know what needs to be repaired. We have adopted a law to speed up reconstruction. I am not sure that the Fund is equipped for that task and that it is doing the job properly and that the ministry is equipped adequately, said Pupovac.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

EC Vice President Admits There Is Gap between Decision-makers and Citizens

ZAGREB, 24 Oct, 2021 - European Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica said on Saturday that there was a gap between decision-makers and citizens, and European institutions were thinking of the inclusion of general public on a permanent basis in discussions on EU-related topics.

We have noticed that there is a gap between decisions-makers and and citizens and we want to lessen that gap. It is the reason why we are organising this Conference (on the Future of Europe), Commissioner Šuica told a press conference in the European Parliament on Saturday after a session bringing together EU representatives and ordinary citizens.

The European Parliament on Saturday started a plenary at which 80 EU citizens were presenting conclusions of discussions on different topics held by 800 randomly chosen citizens in September and October.

Technology has changed the world and we must change, too, said Šuica adding that she did not believe that the Conference on the Future of Europe would remain a one-off event.

We are thinking about a permanent mechanism, although we have not yet decided on it definitely, she explained.

The European Commission says on its web site that "the Conference on the Future of Europe is an unprecedented, open and inclusive democratic exercise, with a Multilingual Digital Platform, where all Europeans are invited to have their say on how to shape our shared future on various issues."

The citizens involved in the Strasbourg gathering are expected to prepare a final document and forward it to the European Commission in December.

According to the EC information on its website, Šuica stated that "this is a historic moment where, for the first time, citizens deliberate on a par with their elected representatives at all levels."

"Bringing citizens to the core of European policymaking will reinforce our representative democracies, as we set sail towards our common future."

Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and a co-chair of the Conference on the Future of Europe, was quoted as saying that "the enthusiasm in the Citizens' Panels is great, expectations are high, the formula is working."

"Now the Plenary has to find answers to the issues raised, in the form of a shared vision of Europe's future and concrete deliverables on how we reform the European Union. EU politics have to rise to the occasion."

He also advocates the organisation of conferences of such format every five years.

In August, 70% of the respondents in a survey conducted by the Ipsos pollster in the European Union said they were dissatisfied with the way the EU was working at present.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

EU Should Use Crisis as Opportunity for Change, Says Grlić Radman

ZAGREB, 23 Oct 2021 - In the time ahead the European Union needs to strengthen its unity and joint action in all areas and use the crisis as an opportunity to make changes with the aim of creating a better future, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Zagreb on Friday.  

Grlić Radman was attending the international conference "European Union in the World: The Past, the Present and the Future", organized by the Croatian Paneuropean Union on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.

The event was part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is aimed at enabling citizens across Europe to contribute to shaping the common future with their ideas.

Grlić Radman said that over the past 30 years Croatia had achieved political affirmation on the international scene and was today an engaged and reliable partner in many global and regional organizations.

He recalled that this year the country marks 25 years of its membership of the Council of Europe and in 2022 the 30th anniversary of its international recognition.

Croatia was once part of a totalitarian, communist system but it won for itself freedom and parliamentary democracy and eight years ago became a member of the European Union, said the minister.

He expressed confidence that on 1 January 2023 Croatia would be ready to join the euro area. Speaking of admission to the Schengen area, he said that all technical requirements had been met and that in 2022 Croatia could hope for a positive political decision of the member countries and accession.

Recalling Croatia's presidency of the EU in 2020 in the conditions of a pandemic, which underlined the importance of unity, he said that joint action and unity should be additionally strengthened in the times ahead.

"The ability to predict crises, the readiness to respond to them as well as the EU's overall resilience and strategic autonomy are areas that deserve our special attention and long-term commitment," he said.

Speaking of climate change, which is high on the agenda of European and global policies, Grlić Radman said that it offered an opportunity to develop new technologies and that Croatia had the potential to offer something in that regard.

Croatia is particularly interested in the continuation of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans because we want a stable neighborhood, he said, calling again for amending Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral law to ensure the legitimate representation of the three constituent peoples and other citizens.

The conference was addressed via video link by European Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica, who called on citizens to join in the work of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the biggest project of participatory democracy ever.

The event was also addressed by the president of the International Paneuropean Union, Alain Terrenoire, Croatian members of the European Parliament Željana Zovko and Karlo Ressler, and Croatian MP Davor Ivo Stier.

For more, follow our politics section.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Conference "IPA III: Connecting People Beyond Borders" Held in Split

ZAGREB, 11 Oct 2021 - Over the next seven years more than €14 billion will be available to Western Balkan countries as EU pre-accession aid to facilitate their integration into the European Union, a conference called "IPA III: Connecting people beyond borders" was told in the southern Croatian coastal city of Split on Monday.

"IPA III (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) will be the most important tool for the European Union in its enlargement policy in the coming years. With a historic budget of more than €14 billion, the EU has reaffirmed its commitment to support the Western Balkan countries with their reform agenda and to progress on their European integration," said Croatian MEP Željana Zovko, vice-chair of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and co-rapporteur on IPA III.

She noted that these funds were very important for cross-border cooperation between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"It will be possible to use IPA III funding for the border areas of Split-Dalmatia County in Croatia and the neighboring three cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and now we have an opportunity to use these funds. It is up to us to prepare ourselves and that's why we organized this conference," Zovko said.

She said that the bulk of the money will go towards economic development and investment to create jobs, improve infrastructure and strengthen human and social resources. This will include education and youth employment projects to prevent further brain drain, she added. 

The conference was attended by the mayor of Split, the prefect of Split-Dalmatia County, and the heads of government of the three adjacent cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, West Herzegovina Canton, and Herceg-Bosna Canton.

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

Monday, 11 October 2021

Dubrovnik: Panel Debate with Citizens on Future of Europe

ZAGREB, 11 Oct 2021 - As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs on Monday held, in cooperation with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, a panel debate on the EU's future global and regional role.

The panel debate was held at Dubrovnik's Lazzarettos buildings, once used as a quarantine station during the Ragusa Republic era.

The aim of the panel debate, entitled "Preparing for tomorrow: The European Union's Global and Regional Role," was to encourage discussion, particularly among young people, on the EU's geopolitical and strategic issues.

The European Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography and the co-chair of the executive committee for the Conference on the Future of Europe, Dubravka Šuica, underscored that it was essential to talk with citizens because of new technologies and digitization were changing democracy.

"We want citizens to be involved, not just for elections but during this opportunity too, to state their ideas which will be examined on a multi-lingual digital platform which is the heart of the conference. They will participate in European and local panel debates which will be followed by a large plenary conference and its conclusions will be presented to the presidents of the European Union's three main institutions," Šuica explained. 

She added that there was a gap between politicians and citizens and that citizens needed to feel that they can create European policies.

"Citizens need to be active because our future depends on them. Young people aged between 16 and 25 in particular because they are creative and they will live that future. Naturally, older citizens can help too. This is the EU's preparation for a new generation, but with them," she said.

She mentioned that more than 3.5 million EU citizens had registered with the multi-lingual digital platform but underscored that so far citizens had not acquainted themselves sufficiently with that complex project.

Spain's State-Secretary for the EU Juan González-Barba said that he expected the most from young people in the panel debate because it mostly concerns their future.

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

Monday, 11 October 2021

Croatia Among EU Member States Calling for Stronger Shift to Nuclear Energy

ZAGREB, 11 Oct 2021 - Croatia is among ten EU member states that have signed an initiative for a stronger EU shift to nuclear energy as an effective way of combating climate change and for decarbonization of the economy, government said on its website on Monday.

To win the fight for climate, we need nuclear energy. For all of us that is a key and reliable tool for a low carbon future, says the declaration titled Why Europeans Need Nuclear Energy, signed on behalf of Croatia by the Minister of Finance, Zdravko Marić, and the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Tomislav Ćorić.

In addition to Croatia, the initiative was signed by Bulgaria, Czechia, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Nuclear energy is a clean, safe, independent, and competitive low-carbon source of energy which gives Europeans a chance to continue developing a strong value-added industry, creating thousands of skilled jobs, strengthening leadership in environmental protection, and ensuring strategic autonomy and energy self-sufficiency for Europe, the signatories said.

They cited the prediction made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest report that the goal of limiting global warming to up to 2°C this century would never be achieved unless greenhouse gas emissions were considerably reduced in the next eight years.

They also noted that the rise in energy prices has shown how important it is to reduce energy dependence on third countries as soon as possible. Problems with supply will become increasingly common, so Europe has no choice but to diversify its supply chain and make sure it does not increase its dependence on energy imports from outside Europe, they added.

Nuclear energy is safe and innovative and must be part of the solution

Decarbonization requires immediate and deep transitions in our production and consumer activities so that we make them less carbon-intensive. This implies mass electrification of our use and development of a low-carbon industry such as hydrogen, which also requires electricity production, the declaration says, stressing that nuclear energy must be part of the solution.

Although renewable energy sources play a key role in our energy transition, we also need other emissions-free energy sources to meet our needs at a sufficient and constant level. Nuclear energy is necessary. It already makes up half of the European carbon-free energy production, the declaration says.

The document notes that nuclear energy is a key affordable, stable, and independent source of energy and that this is so primarily because it protects European consumers from price volatility, given that now we are facing high prices of natural gas, and because it evidently contributes to the independence of our energy and electricity supplies.

This is affordable carbon-free energy that can deliver a large amount of competitive electricity without increasing our dependence on electricity supplies from third countries, the declaration says, adding that the European nuclear industry is a global leader and that its development could generate more than a million highly skilled jobs in Europe in the near future.

Increasing cooperation between the member states will lead to the construction of new modern reactors, such as small modular reactors, the document says.

It concludes by saying that nuclear energy should be treated equally as all other low-carbon energy sources and included in the European taxonomy framework before the end of this year and that there is no scientific evidence showing that nuclear energy is less climate-friendly than any other energy source included in taxonomy.

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

Friday, 1 October 2021

PM: We Didn't Join EU to Take as Much Money as Possible, EU Values Important

ZAGREB, 30 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Croatia had been an EU member for eight years, that it had experience and was respected, and that getting as much money as possible was not the reason it joined the EU but that the values and principles on which the EU was founded were more important.

The EU is founded on democracy, human rights protection, rule of law, market economy and, most importantly, the Christian principle of solidarity, which imbues all EU policies, he stressed.

Plenković was speaking at the opening of a two-day hybrid conference called "Days of regional development and EU funds - New opportunities" in Opatija, at which the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, project results and new challenges will be presented.

Croatia got HRK 50bn more from EU budget than it paid 

Plenković said that Croatia had obtained around HRK 50 billion more from the EU budget than it had paid into it, citing as an example the COVID-19 crisis, when EU member-countries joined forces and invested in protective equipment, control and research that enabled the vaccine and gradual restoration of life to normalcy.

He noted that central and eastern European countries in transition had been part of undemocratic systems and that their main preoccupation was how to catch up with those that had developed in democratic systems and were more developed, estimating that Croatia would catch up with those countries around 2030.

He recalled that the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was HRK 35 billion, while damage caused by two destructive earthquakes amounted to HRK 129 billion, stressing that €25 billion had been secured from the EU for Croatia's development in the coming period.

Plenković underlined the importance of informing citizens about the additional benefits of Croatia's EU membership.

"That framework is important to us now that we have political peace, local elections have just been held and we have a government that has three years until the next parliamentary elections, which is almost a unique case," he said.

He added that the parliamentary majority was strong and stable, based on trust between the HDZ, minority deputies and liberal parties, and that it would remain stable for the next three years.

Five goals of economic development

He said that Croatia had weathered the crisis without major problems and lay-offs, that the 2020 tourist season reflected the circumstances, while this year's season was beyond expectations.

Plenković noted that economic growth would exceed projections and underlined five goals - greater convergence with more developed countries, using EU funds for even regional development, green and digital transition, using EU funds for local development and improving the standard of living.

He said that the incumbent government wanted entry to the Schengen area and the euro area to be its legacy, underlining the responsibility of all political parties in contributing to efforts to explain to citizens the benefits of membership of the two areas.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan is a new instrument that will require expediency, with deadlines being shorter, he said, calling on everyone to cooperate and make sure projects were good.

Minister: Croatia must be able to introduce euro in 2023

Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak said the past year had been very successful in terms of absorption of EU funds.

We have adopted a number of important regulations, created a new framework for regional development and EU funds, and we are entering a period in which funds made available to us have never been higher, she said.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said that one of the government's strategic goals at the start of its term was the consolidation of public finances, noting that the introduction of the euro depended on meeting a number of criteria.

We must do our best to make Croatia able to introduce the euro in 2023, he said.

The conference in Opatija was organised by the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry as an opportunity to exchange experience, network and strengthen cooperation to more efficiently implement projects in the new financing period in which Croatia will have around €25 billion at its disposal, to be used as part of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Croatia Soon to Receive €800m for Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 17 Sept 2021 - Croatia will soon receive over €800 million to start implementing projects from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Athens on Friday after meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"We expect in the days ahead a concrete decision on the payment of an advance of more than €800 million to start implementing the projects we submitted," he said.

In July, the Commission approved Croatia's €6.3 billion National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which could increase GDP by 2.9% and create 21,000 jobs by 2026.

"That programme should facilitate a faster economic recovery and a clear development course, the so-called double transition, both digital and green," said the prime minister.

He and von der Leyen also talked about COVID-19, post-earthquake reconstruction, the introduction of the euro in Croatia and Croatia's Schengen membership bid.

Plenković said she "confirmed that the European Commission stands strongly by Croatia's ambition to introduce the euro as its currency at the beginning of 2023."

He reiterated that Croatia had met all the Schengen entry requirements and expected to join the area in 2022. "The Commission supports us. We want to get the consensus of the other member states as well, so that we achieve this second goal of deeper integration within the EU next year."

Plenković, Mitsotakis talk economic cooperation

Ahead of an EU MED9 summit, the Croatian prime minister met with the host, his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek-Croatian trade is increasing and now stands at €300 million. Plenković said there was room for increasing it. "We are pleased that the Greek company Avax is among those building the access roads to Pelješac Bridge. Trust between economic operators increases that way."

He said talks on the Greek airline Aegean's interest in a strategic partnership with Croatia Airlines were expected to be "renewed" in the months ahead.

Croatia is grateful for Greece's help after the December earthquake and Greece appreciates that Croatia sent planes and backup to fight the wildfires this summer, Plenković said. "Our team was there seven days. They appreciate that very much, it was the biggest wildfire they had in recent years."

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

EU Council Recommends Its Members to Reintroduce Restrictions on American Travelers

August 31, 2021 - Due to the increase in infections and delays in the vaccination process, some countries, including the US, would be removed from the safe list of several European countries, on the recommendation of the EU Council. Should Croatia follow these measures?

HrTurizam writes that national representatives of the Council of the European Union met yesterday, Monday afternoon, to discuss and update the EU's safe travel list, a process that takes place every two weeks.

The EU Council has decided to remove six countries from the listIsrael, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, and the United States, claiming that their current coronavirus infection rate exceeds the agreed threshold of 75 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.

The US vaccination campaign has stalled in recent months and has lagged significantly behind EU vaccination efforts. More than 57% of the EU population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 52% in the United States. The U.S. has more than 1,000 new cases a day, the highest level since March.

Removal from the EU safe list means that trips that are not important again become subject to temporary travel restrictions, such as testing, quarantine, or a total ban.

However, compliance with the recommendations is not mandatory. Some EU countries have the right to decide unilaterally whether to keep their borders open to US travelers. On the other hand, America still does not allow European travelers free entry into the country.

The presence of American tourists in Croatia has been positive in the August statistics so far, and even September arrivals are still expected. At the moment, the United States is on Croatia's safe list, which means that that the travelers arriving from the USA do not have to provide any reason for their travel in order to enter Croatia. They will be required to prove that they’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID and that they haven’t spent any significant time outside of the “green countries”.

Follow the latest flights to Croatia HERE and the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia HERE.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

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