Monday, 15 November 2021

EU Citizens Want to Make Decisions for Themselves in European Parliament

ZAGREB, 15 Nov 2021 - Due to their distrust of politicians, European citizens will ask to participate directly in future decision-making in the European Parliament, a Croatian citizen taking part in an online panel debate on democracy in the EU on Sunday said.

Faced with a drop in citizens' trust, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the EU in September and October invited 800 randomly selected EU citizens to discuss topics important for the 27-member bloc in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

A group of 200 citizens discussing European democracy, rule of law, and security gathered again from Friday to Sunday, but this time at an online panel, to formulate a proposal to be put forward to European institutions early next year.

"We will propose that citizens rather than professional politicians sit in the European Parliament. People elected directly by citizens," said 67-year-old Croatian Vinko Sebešić, who took part in the panel.

EU citizens want a legislative framework for the introduction of direct democracy in the European Parliament and possibly other institutions as well.

"That is necessary due to the public's distrust of politicians. That is the future of democracy," he added.

The 200 citizens will get together again from 10 to 12 December in Florence where they will finetune the existing text and formulate a document to be sent to EU institutions for consideration.

The EP is the only EU institution elected directly by EU citizens, and based on Article 17 of the EU Treaty, it elects the European Commission President and confirms other EC members following a proposal by the European Council.

Trust in that process, however, was undermined also during the election of incumbent EC President Ursula von der Leyen, who was appointed even though the lead candidate of the winning group in European elections, the European People's Party (EPP), was Manfred Weber.

It had been expected that as the EPP's lead candidate, Weber would be nominated for EC President, however, Von der Leyen was eventually nominated in line with an agreement between EU countries' leaders. The subsequent vote by the EP only confirmed the European Council's choice even though many EP members had said that they would insist on the principle that the nominee for EC President should be the lead candidate.

Ultimately, each of those institutions is a result of citizens' choice, either direct or indirect.

European Democracy and Demography Commissioner Dubravka Šuica last month promised that the EC would take into account citizens' proposals when defining its policies after June 2022.

European citizens attending panel discussions in Strasbourg also objected against their treatment by politicians during a plenary session of the Conference on the Future of Europe, held in the EP in October, claiming that they had been invited to present their proposals but politicians did not hear them out.

EP member Guy Verhofstadt, one of the organizers of the meeting with citizens, said that at the next session in Strasbourg, set for December, there would be more time for politicians to hear citizens out after they formulate their proposals in greater detail.

Šuica and Verhofstadt have said that the Conference on the Future of Europe, a set of discussions involving EU citizens, is a unique project on the global scale, aimed at involving citizens in decision-making processes. It includes a digital platform where citizens and their groups from all EU countries can leave their comments.

Many, however, wonder if this is really about the inclusion of citizens or about "simulating democracy".

"Citizens are rising against the oligarchy that uses representative democracy only as a fig leaf for the real power balance in European societies," says political scientist Anđelko Milardović.

"Demands for introducing direct democracy have been growing louder as a response to the crisis of representative democracy," he said.

Around 70% of EU citizens polled in August said they were not happy with the way the EU currently functions, shows a survey by the Ipsos pollster.

Next weekend, a new online panel will be held, to be attended by another 200 EU citizens who were among those who gathered in Strasbourg in October.

"We, too, will demand to take part in decision-making and follow the process in the future so that Croatian politicians cannot tell us that something is demanded by Brussels and we do not know for sure if that is so and why that is so," said Croatian Dragan Volarević, who will participate in the panel.

Political scientist Milardović believes one way out could be a hybrid model of democracy - a combination of direct, representative democracy and democracy supervised by civil society.

The result would be greater political participation by citizens and control over the political oligarchy now in power, he says.

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

Friday, 12 November 2021

Croatia Receives Two Letters of Formal Notice for Breaking EU Law

ZAGREB, 12 Nov 2021- Croatia on Friday received two letters of formal notice from the European Commission as part of its regular package of infringement decisions, and one concerns waste disposal  while the other relates to the transposition of new EU-wide rules for VAT on e-commerce.

Landfilling

The Commission called on Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Slovakia to correctly apply the Landfill Directive and the Waste Framework Directive.

The Landfill Directive sets standards for landfills to prevent adverse effects on human health, water, soil and air. Under this Directive, Member States must take measures to ensure that only waste that has been subject to treatment is landfilled.

The European Green Deal and the Zero Pollution Action Plan set a zero pollution ambition for the EU, which benefits public health, the environment and climate neutrality.

In its judgment of 15 October 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that, before landfilling, waste must be treated in the most appropriate way to reduce negative impacts on the environment and human health as far as possible. Following this ruling, in 2015, the Commission launched a study to investigate the landfilling of untreated non-hazardous municipal solid waste in Member States.

In Croatia, the study analysed five landfills of non-hazardous waste in five different counties. The study revealed shortcomings in all visited sites and that municipal waste is being landfilled without any treatment. The landfills subject to investigation are lacking infrastructure capacities and so are the counties where these landfills are located.

Taxation

Croatia, Denmark and Lithuania were called upon to explain how they transposed the VAT e-commerce package into national law.

The Commission has decided to open infringement proceedings against Denmark, Croatia and Lithuania for non-communication of the explanatory documents in relation to the transposition of new EU-wide rules for VAT on e-commerce.

The new rules are intended to simplify VAT for companies and consumers involved in cross-border online sales within the EU and to create a fairer environment for EU sellers by removing the VAT exemption for low-value imports from outside the European Union.

In line with Court of Justice case law, Member States must indicate in a sufficiently clear and precise manner the national measures by which they transposed obligations imposed by an EU Directive. Since Denmark, Croatia and Lithuania have failed to provide clear explanations on the way they have transposed these directives, the Commission cannot check that these Member States have completely and correctly transposed the relevant provisions into national law. Denmark, Croatia and Lithuania now have two months to act. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send reasoned opinions.

A letter of formal notice is the first step in the infringement procedure, launched by the Commission against Member States deemed to be in contravention of EU law. If the matter is not resolved, the Commission sends a reasoned opinion, and if that also fails, it refers the matter to the Court of Justice. 

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Expectations For Croatia's Economy Close to Pre-Pandemic Level

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - Expectations for Croatia's economy in September 2021 came close to the pre-pandemic level, supported by confidence in services and retail trade, while consumer confidence was down, a European Commission report said on Wednesday.

In September 2021, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) in Croatia went up 0.7 points on the month to 112.7, its highest level since February 2020, just before the pandemic broke out, when it was  at 113 points.

Services and retail trade confidence saw the highest increases, by 3.3 and 3 points, respectively, while industry confidence increased by 0.4 points.

Construction confidence decreased by 0.8 points and consumer confidence by 1.6.

Business leaders said they planned to intensify hiring in the coming period, resulting in a 0.9 point increase of the Employment Expectations Indicator (EEI) to 111.5, a record high since 2019.

Optimistic European consumers

In September 2021, the ESI remained unchanged in the EU (at 116.6) and broadly stable in the euro area (+0.2 points to 117.8).

Construction confidence went up by 1.8 points in the EU and by 2 points in the euro area, while consumer confidence went up by 1.1 points in the EU and by 1.3 in the euro area.

Industry confidence remained unchanged in the EU and marginally improved in the euro area.

Retail trade confidence decreased by 2.8 points in the EU and by 3.3 in the euro area, while services confidence decreased by 1.4 points in the EU and by 1.7 in the euro area.

The EEI increased further (+1.0 point to 113.6 in the EU and +0.8 points to 113.6 in the euro area).

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

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

MEP Says Croatia Fares Poorly in Terms of Access to Legal, Safe Abortion

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - Compared to other countries, Croatia fares poorly in terms of access to legal and safe abortion, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, Social Democrat Predrag Matić, said on the occasion of International Safe Abortion Day and the presentation of the Abortion Atlas.

"The Abortion Atlas is a new tool that gives an overview of countries according to the availability of abortion, and more importantly, the kind of obstacles women across Europe encounter in terms of access to abortion. Croatia is in the lower section of the ladder in that regard, with the situation considered as poor. Even though abortion in Croatia is legal, we have a problem with practical obstacles to access to abortion," Matić said, as quoted by his office.

The Abortion Atlas, authored by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, is the first comprehensive interactive map with data on access to abortion in Europe.

It ranks 52 countries in terms of their legislative frameworks, access and availability of abortion, abortion-related medical care and available public information on abortion.

Croatia is in the lower part of the ranking, with a score of 60%, and it belongs among countries with a poor rating concerning legal and safe abortion. Of the EU member-countries, the best-ranked are Sweden and the Netherlands while Malta and Poland are worst-ranked.

"Access to abortion in the EU has been prevented due to a number of administrative and imposed medical obstacles and conditions such as compulsory counselling, compulsory additional medical tests and a compulsory waiting period," said Matić, a member of the EP's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee and author of an EP resolution on the state of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU.

The obstacles are unjustified and most citizens advocate access to abortion, Matić said, citing the latest survey on the topic in Croatia, in which 81% of the respondents supported the right to abortion while as many as 63% said that pregnancy termination must be free of charge, which makes abortion truly available regardless of one's geographical and socioeconomic status, Matić's office said.

Matić also recalled an extremely dangerous trend among gynecologists in Croatia, with 186 or 60% of the 322 gynecologists employed in hospitals across the country refusing to perform abortion.

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

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Croatia to receive €7.2m from Brexit Adjustment Fund

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - The Council of the EU on Tuesday approved a fund which will help member states tackle the negative impact of Great Britain's exit and from which Croatia is due €7.2 million.

The fund of €5 billion (in 2018 prices) will support the hardest hit regions, sectors and communities to cover extra costs, compensate losses or counter other adverse economic and social effects resulting directly from the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.

The largest amount, of €4.5 billion, is shared according to the importance of trade with the UK, €656 million is shared based on the importance of fisheries in the UK's exclusive economic zone, and €273 million is distributed based on the importance of neighbouring links for the maritime border regions with the UK.

Consequently, Ireland will receive the bulk of the money (€1.16bn), followed by the Netherlands (€886m) and France (€735m).

The bulk of the resources, €4.3 billion, will be made available to member-countries as pre-financing in three annual tranches - in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The remaining resources will be made available in 2025, after a review of the expenditure on eligible measures in the previous years, which will also factor in any unused amounts.

Today's approval by the Council is final. The European Parliament voted on it on 15 September. The regulation will enter into force on the day of its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

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

Saturday, 25 September 2021

2021 European Languages Day: Varaždin Celebrates German Language Learning

September 25, 2021 - The 2021 European Languages Day was celebrated at the Franciscan square in Varaždin. Pupils presented souvenirs honoring Germany and the German language.

'Gore gore gore gore' (hills burn worse up there) is one of those sentences that show how weird but cool the Croatian language can be. Add interesting phrases to the equation, and you can understand why Croatians are proud and want to preserve their language.

But Croatians also respect other languages too.

As reported by the Varaždinske Vijesti website, September 25 marked the European Day of Languages.

Under the motto "Deutsch ist Nah!" Varaždin's Franciscan square saw five Varaždin elementary schools, the Varaždin high school, and ten schools from Varaždin County celebrate the event with a suitable program.

„Given that we as teachers recognized the importance of multilingual education, we decided to shed light on the German language, which is important for Varaždin County, both because of geography but also for the economy. In teaching, we address communicative approach and active, vocal communication and active usage of the German language which is very significant in our area“, Vidovec Elementary school German language teacher Lea Lesar Dolenc told for Varaždinske Vijesti.

Dolenc is the initiator of the project that is run along with the European Culture Circle EKULT Association for the popularisation of the German language. The program that lasted from 10 AM to 1 PM saw the presentation of souvenirs with symbols of the Federal Republic of Germany made by the pupils from participating schools.

Apart from German, as former British Ambassador Andrew Dalgleish noted for TCN, Croatians speak English very well too.

When it comes to language learning in Croatia, apart from various courses and private schools, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FFZG), part of the University of Zagreb, is the most pristine high-education facility that educates its students to be translators. As well as understand various languages and cultures that tag along with lingual expressions. Additionally, FFZG is the home to Croaticum.

„Croaticum – Centre for Croatian as a Second and Foreign Language is the oldest and largest institution engaged in teaching, research, and description of Croatian as a second and foreign language. It is part of the Department of Croatian Language and Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb, the largest Croatian academic institution specializing in social studies and humanities. Croaticum is renowned for its tradition, expertise, and knowledge“, says the Croaticum website, an institution founded back in 1962.

Commemorating the learning of second languages by celebrating the European Day of Languages is now a twenty-year-long tradition, as it was founded in 2001.

„Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans are represented in the Council of Europe's 47 member states, and all are encouraged to discover more languages at any age, as part of or alongside their studies. This stems from the Council of Europe’s conviction that linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent. Therefore, the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, promotes plurilingualism in the whole of Europe“, explains the European Language Day website.

Learn more about Varaždin in our TC guide.

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

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Croatia Among EU States With Biggest Industrial Output Drops in July Month-Over-Month

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Europe's industrial production recovered in July 2021 but Croatia was among the EU countries with the largest monthly decreases, an Eurostat report showed on Wednesday.

In July 2021, the seasonally adjusted industrial production rose by 1.5% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU, compared with June 2021, when industrial production fell by 0.1% in the euro area and remained stable in the EU.

In the euro area in July 2021, compared with June 2021, production of non-durable consumer goods rose by 3.5%, while in the EU it rose by 2.8%.

Capital goods went up by 2.7% in the euro area and by 2.4% in the EU, and intermediate goods by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU, while energy production was stable in the EU and fell by 0.6% in the euro area.

Among member states for which data are available, the highest monthly increases were registered in Ireland (+7.8%), Belgium (+5%) and Portugal (+3.5%). The largest decreases were observed in Lithuania (-2.0%), Slovenia (-1.8%) and Croatia (-1.6%).

In July 2021 compared with July 2020, industrial production increased by 7.7% in the euro area and by 8.3% in the EU.

In the euro area in July 2021, compared with July 2020, production of intermediate goods rose by 11.2%, nondurable consumer goods by 10.1%, durable consumer goods by 9.8%, capital goods by 5.9% and energy by 1%.

In the EU, production of intermediate goods rose by 11.8%, non-durable consumer goods by 9.4%, durable consumer goods by 8.9%, capital goods by 6.3% and energy by 2.7%. 

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

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Says it's Reasonable to Adopt Euro 9.5 Years After EU Entry

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday during the national parliament's Question Time that it was reasonable for Croatia that entered the EU in 2013 to switch to the euro nine and a half years after its admission to the Union.

"It seems a reasonable time frame to me for a country that joined the Union on 1 July 2013 to adopt the euro on 1 January 2023, that is nine and a half years," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in response to the question from Marko Milanović Litre (Croatian Sovereignists) whether the citizens should be asked about the adoption of the euro and renunciation of monetary sovereignty.

"You are a new MP. Your predecessors in this same parliament ratified the EU Accession Treaty by 150 votes in favour. Your colleague, Ruža Tomašić, thanks to whom you are sitting here, was a member of the European Parliament in 2013. Your colleague Ilčić has rushed to the EP where he is paid in euro," Plenković said.

The PM said that the strategic goal of his government was to get Croatia into two deeper integrations - the Schengen passport-free travel zone and the euro area.

"We have made sure to fulfil the Maastricht criteria in the present circumstances of a pandemic, earthquakes and crises and have come close to adopting the euro, and now we listen to this initiative of yours. I don't know if we have all slept through this entire period," the prime minister said.

"Is there anyone who still thinks that EU membership is bad for us, after we have absorbed 44 billion more than we have contributed?" he concluded.

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

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

European Parliament For Recognising Same-Sex Marriage Across EU

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - A majority of members of the European Parliament on Tuesday endorsed a draft resolution seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states.

The draft was endorsed by 387 MEPs, 161 voted against and 123 abstained.

The resolution says same-sex spouses and partners should be treated equally as heterosexual ones, and that marriages and partnerships concluded in one EU member state should be recognised in all.

Of the Croatian MEPs, the draft was endorsed by Biljana Borzan, Predrag Matić and Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Valter Flego of the Istrian Democratic Party.

Independent Mislav Kolakušić and conservative Ladislav Ilčić were against, while Sunčana Glavak, Karlo Ressler, Tomislav Sokol and Željana Zovko of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) abstained.

Ivan Vilibor Sinčić (Human Shield) did not vote as he was in Rome, and Romana Jerković (SDP) could not because of technical difficulties, but her office told Hina that she "supports this resolution."

Speaking to Hina, Matić said the adoption of the resolution was a "civilisational achievement", while Flego said it was unacceptable that LGBTIQ rights were being reduced instead of advanced in many countries, and that it was time to "finally give everyone equal rights."

Ilčić told Hina the resolution "is consciously trying to equate the legal status of same-sex couples in all member states, thus negating the right of the states to independently decide which unions they will recognise and which they won't."

"That would mean that the whole EU must follow the most liberal states to avoid alleged discrimination, which is absurd, contrary to the treaties and the subsidiarity principle," he said, adding that the LGBT lobby was exerting enormous pressure on the European institutions.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission to take action against Romania, Hungary and Poland for violating LGBTIQ rights and fundamental EU values.

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

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

First Croatian STED Microscope: New Opportunity For Cell Researchers

September 14, 2021 - The first Croatian STED microscope purchased and owned by the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) in Zagreb offers new opportunities for Croatian scientists and researchers.

The super-resolution microscope (STED) worth 4.5 million kuna has become a new edition to the selection of delicate but useful equipment the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) uses to tackle the hottest questions faced by modern science.

As IRB reported in its press release, the microscope made its way to Iva Tolić's lab with thanks to the European Union funds.

"Stimulated Emission Depletion microscopy (STED) is a super-resolution technic of fluorescent microscopy and one of the methods of overcoming the limitations of visible light microscopes in observing matter structures of incredibly small sizes. German physicist Stefan W Hell received the Nobel Prize for developing STED in 2014,'' informed IRB in its press release. It also stated this is the first microscope of its kind in all of Croatia.

''With the help of this STED microscope, we can see three times the amount of small structures in a cell than we could before with the standard microscopes. We'll use them for observing cell division, more precisely for chromosome division. When it comes to division, it's very important that the chromosomes are well-connected microtubules, which are protein pipes that tie chromosomes and pull them onto separate parts of the cell. With this type of microscopy, we'll be able to determine how microtubules are connected to chromosomes in various phases of spindle formation, which is still a mystery,'' explains Iva Tolić.

As TCN previously reported, Iva Tolić's team already made a significant contribution to cell biology and spindle research when their work led them to new information on microtubule-sliding.

In addition, back in 2014, the then-president of Croatia Ivo Josipović awarded her the Order of the Croatian Danica (the medal which boasts an image of a famous scientist, Ruđer Bošković) for her particular contribution to the promotion of science in Croatia and abroad.

''Tolić earned her international reputation due to her research into complex cellular processes. Namely, not so long ago, in cooperation with her colleagues from the Max Planck Institute, Tolić discovered the first potentially immortal organism – a special kind of yeast, which was isolated from African beer. This type of yeast is very special because it rejuvenates every time it reproduces. In the case of most other yeasts, the mother cell creates a young daughter cell while it ages and eventually dies. Contrary to that, the mother cell of this yeast splits into two equal daughter cells, which remain young throughout their divisions,'' wrote IRB on its website at the time of the ceremony.

With Tolić's international reputation and well-established name, as well as scientific findings found by other scientists at IRB, it is understandable that European Union funds supported the further development of IRB's equipment.

''The outstanding power of STED microscopy allows researchers to discover complicated processes in cell structures. These understandings are the basis for further research on how specific medications, chemical compounds or bacteria and viruses affect processes in a live cell,'' concluded IRB's press release.

Learn more about Croatian inventions and discoveries from Tesla to Rimac on our dedicated TC page.

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

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