Friday, 26 March 2021

Grant Agreement Signed For Composting Plant in Metković

ZAGREB, 26 March, 2021 - A HRK 12.5 million EU grant agreement for the construction of a composting plant in the southern town of Metković was signed on Friday by Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić and the director of the local Čistoća waste management company, Tomislav Jakić.

The project, which will be implemented as part of the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020, is worth more than HRK 24 million, of which 50% is co-financed by the EU.

Ćorić said that the composting plant would serve Metković as well as Opuzen and neighbouring communities.

The plant's annual capacity is 5,000 tonnes and it guarantees that biodegradable waste in the River Neretva valley will be managed in the best way possible, said the minister.

Dubrovnik-Neretva County head Nikola Dobroslavić said that Metković was the most advanced local government unit in terms of waste management.

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

Sunday, 21 March 2021

EU Funds Minister: Money From EU Funds to be Used to Bring Back Emigrants

ZAGREB, 21 March 2021 - In the next seven years, Croatia will work to absorb as much money from EU funds as possible and direct it to its less developed regions to improve citizens' living standards and stop emigration, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak has said in an interview with Hina.

The minister noted that EU funds were changing Croatia for the better in all its parts.

"I want their impact to be felt by every citizen, and for them to stop negative demographic trends and bring back people who are now emigrating," the minister said, noting that she had personally planned operational programs for the regions of Slavonia, Baranja, and Srijem.

Surplus won't go to waste.

From 2014 to 2020, Croatia had at its disposal €10.7 billion of EU funds as part of the European Commission's cohesion policy, designed to help reduce differences between developed and undeveloped parts of the EU.

Projects contracts in the amount of 115% of the allocation have been signed, and in that regard, Croatia is at the very top in the EU, together with Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and Finland. Those countries, too, have signed project contracts whose value exceeds the amounts allocated to them.

The contracted surplus will be carried over to the new period, which began in 2021 and will last until 2027.

"Those projects will be carried over to the next period. There won't be any delays. We are talking about large projects such as railway infrastructure and water utility projects," she said.

The value of those projects exceeds €50 million. Small projects will continue as planned ad they should be completed by the end of 2023, the minister said.

"I believe that by then, we can implement all the contracted projects and thus absorb the entire financial envelope," said Tramišak.

While project contracting was satisfactory, what was problematic for smaller project beneficiaries was the slow payment of money into their accounts, with 50% of the €10.7 billion having been paid so far, which puts Croatia at the bottom of the EU ranking, along with Spain, Slovakia, and Romania.

In October, the European Commission said that this was because public procurement procedures in Croatia last long and that the Croatian administration imposes complex procedures on beneficiaries.

"Those procedures have been simplified, and they were made public in December, so every user knows how the body in charge of checking their costs and activities will act. We have also simplified procurement procedures for entrepreneurs. The conditions now are minimal," says the minister.

She notes that since she took office in August 2020, the amount paid to end-users has grown from 33% to 50%.

"We will continue additionally simplifying the procedures," she said, adding that there were no delays in payments.

Five goals

In the period from 2021 to 2027, Croatia will have €9.6 billion for cohesion policy goals.

The EC has requested from Croatia a list of priority areas for co-financing in that period. When the list is submitted and the EC approves it, the two sides will sign a strategic agreement, after which Brussels will start approving individual projects.

The minister said the list would be submitted by June.

Project proposals will have to meet one of the five goals set by the new EU regulations, and those are a smarter Europe, a greener Europe, a more connected Europe, a more social Europe, and a Europe closer to citizens.

Emphasis has been put on research, innovation, a stronger economy, enterprise and health system, science and education, and social care.

Investments in the infrastructure of towns, municipalities, and counties will continue through a special fund, said Tramišak.

The biggest project co-financed by the EU in Croatia so far is the Pelješac Bridge. For the time being, it is not known whether there will be any new major infrastructure projects.

"A decision on strategic projects has not been made yet. It will probably be discussed in the next two to three months, and the government will decide what those big projects will be. We will then know how much money we have in each operational program, and we will see if there will be any major projects like before," said Tramišak.

Once the programming period is over, project beneficiaries will have three more years to complete them until the end of 2030.

Earthquakes

Due to last year's earthquakes, Croatia was forced to seek help from the EU Solidarity Fund, with €683.7 million having been paid into the state budget to help remove damage caused by the 22 March 2020 earthquake in Zagreb.

"Those funds are now available for the reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs, and project calls have been published, contracting will start soon. We have until mid-2022 to use the money," she said.

Last week, Croatia sent a request for additional aid from the Solidarity Fund to Brussels, asking for €319.19 million to help remove damage caused by earthquakes Sisak-Moslavina County at the end of last year, and it remains to be seen how much money the EU will grant.

"We expect payments from the European budget very soon, during this year," the minister said.

Croatia is also a member of two EU macroregional strategies, the Adriatic-Ionian and the Danubian strategy, as part of which the EC finances cross-border projects.

Tramišak notes that most funding goes for cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro as part of that European territorial cooperation.

She says that €186 million will be available in the coming period for cross-border cooperation projects focusing on environmental protection, infrastructure, tourism, education, and connecting people.

For more news, follow TCN's dedicated page.  

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Rijeka-Karlovac Railway Line Heading for Chinese or EU Hands?

As the Chinese show greater interest in various Croatian strategic projects, the EU and the EC become more and more uneasy at the thought of such a heavy Chinese business presence in Croatia. As the EC changes its attitude towards some Croatian projects to which it reacted negatively in the past, has the Chinese influence rendered this change of heart senseless?

As Novac/Kresimir Zabec writes on the 13th of April, 2019, Croatia wants to finance the construction of the railway line from Karlovac to Rijeka, covering a length of 170 kilometres with EU funds, because that's more favourable to Croatia than doing it through a concession, stated Croatian Minister of Transport Oleg Butković at the construction site of Pelješac bridge recently.

Ironically much like Chinese whispers, it began to circulate in the media that everything had already been agreed with the Chinese, and that China's CRBC which is already building Pelješac bridge would construct the railway line via a concession model. Economy Minister Darko Horvat has thus announced giving the Chinese company a fifty year concession. However, Butković has very clearly stated that there has been absolutely no direct agreement with the Chinese and that everything will go through a tender, as usual.

''If we decide on a concession tender, then Chinese companies can also apply. If the line is built using EU funds, Chinese companies will be able to bid to be the contractors for the project,'' said Butković.

EU funding for the project is much more favourable for Croatia because it doesn't affect the growth of public debt. Should the case result in giving a concession to a Chinese company, they would build and finance it, but with government guarantees amounting to 1.7 billion euros, which is something the state can ill afford. According to current projections, the entire line should be completed by 2030.

Of the 270 kilometre of railway line from Botovo on the Croatian-Hungarian border, to Rijeka on the shores of the Northern Adriatic, the section from Karlovac to Rijeka is currently not covered at all by any form of EU co-financing.

A few years ago, the European Commission told the Croatian Government quite clearly that they would not finance that part of the line from Karlovac to Rijeka because it was too expensive and it just doesn't pay off. After that, the Croatian Government turned to the Chinese who were constantly showing interest in constructing that section. Now that the negotiations between China and Croatia have entered a much deeper and more serious phase, signals from Brussels, more specifically the European Commission, have been arriving which indicate that they are, despite all, still interested in the project.

Although that railway line is not officially part of the trans-European transport network, senior officials of the European Commission's Directorate General for Transport have openly told reporters that the Commission is ready to co-finance this project, and that it is a very important part of the European budget planning in the period commencing in 2021. Quite a turnaround, no?

In addition, this railway line is part of the line from Rijeka to the Hungarian border, which the European Commission has invested around 400 million euros into the modernisation and construction of, and that obviously doesn't quite sit well with the idea of the entrance of the Chinese into this project. According to statements, the ultimate goal of the overall project is to build a new bridge to the island of Krk and to build a new port on the island for container transport, which is an idea that the Chinese are also very interested in.

What stage are the works in?

Rijeka - Zagreb

The railway line from Rijeka tp Zagreb to the Hungarian border is part of the international Mediterranean Corridor connecting southern Europe with Central and Eastern Europe. The modernisation of this line would be of great importance to the Port of Rijeka. The modernisation and the construction of these lines are all in different stages of execution.

Botovo - Koprivnica - Križevci

In 2016, the European Commission approved 240 million euro for Croatia to build this section, but the contractor for the job hasn't yet been selected. A tender is in progress, but it has been stopped once again due to an appeal lodged by an Italian company.

Križevci - Dugo Selo

This is the only section of the track where works are ongoing. The European Union has invested about 180 million euros in this project, but works began a year and a half late because of contractor issues.

Hrvatski Leskovac - Karlovac

The design of this part of the line was co-financed by the EU in the amount of about 6 million euros. It is expected that tenders will be announced to modernise the existing works and build another track. The value of the works is estimated at 315 million euros and is planned to be funded through EU funds.

Karlovac - Oštarije

An entirely new two-track railway would be constructed on this part of the track, and the value of the works would be estimated at about 400 million euros. Project documentation has been produced, which has been paid for by the EU in the amount of 9 million euros.

Oštarije - Škrljevo

This, which is considered to be the most challenging part of the line, hasn't yet been fully defined, and technical documentation is being prepared by the EU, for which it has paid nearly 6 million euros. The value of the works on this section is estimated at as much as one billion euros.

Škrljevo - Rijeka - Jurdani

Project documentation was produced by the EU at a cost of 8.5 million euros. The value of the works is estimated at 270 million euros in total.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and politics pages for more on Chinese-Croatian relations, doing business in Croatia, the investment climate in Croatia, Croatian companies, products and services, government policies and much more.

Click here for the original article by Kresimir Zabec for Novac/Jutarnji

Friday, 12 April 2019

Croatia in Plus of 14.4 Billion Kuna from EU Membership

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 11th of April, 2019, in terms of the use of EU funds, the Republic of Croatia has a total of 10.7 billion euros available to it, and at this moment in time, 66 percent of allocations have been contracted, almost 85 percent of the tenders have been announced, while 21 percent of the funds have been disbursed to their respective beneficiaries.

As one of the members of the European Union, Croatia has paid 19.7 billion kuna into the EU's joint budget since its accession back in the summer of 2013. The Republic of Croatia has since received 34.1 billion kuna in the same period, resulting in a welcome plus of 14.4 billion kuna, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds stated.

''With the faster and better absorption of EU funds available, this difference will continue to grow. At present, more than 80 percent of all public investments and 8,306 private companies in Croatia are funded by the European Union's non-refundable funds,'' the aforementioned ministry added in its recent press release.

For the purpose of achieving economic and social growth and the development of Croatia at all levels, the financing of large infrastructure projects in the areas of transport, health, science, entrepreneurship, environmental protection [have taken place], such as the construction of Pelješac bridge, currently the largest and most important project in Croatia, the upgrading of Dubrovnik Airport, the upgrading and the electrification of the existing Vinkovci-Vukovar railway line which is of significance for international traffic, the modernisation of tram infrastructure in Osijek, investment, the equipping and reconstruction of hospitals and health centres, the construction of computer and data clouds, the research and education centre for health and medical ecology and radiation protection, the construction and renovation of student homes, the construction of business zones, the management centre for Krka National Park, the Vučedol archaeological park, etc...

''Since joining the European Union, the general economic trends in Croatia show that they're going in a positive direction: the increase in gross domestic product (GDP); the reduction of unemployment; the growth of exports, especially in the European Union, as a result of Croatia's free access to the EU's single market which consists of 500 million inhabitants.

The stable environment within the EU also favours the development of tourism as an extremely important economic branch [for Croatia]. With regard to fiscal policy, a major step forward has been made, and significant efforts have been made in the field of public finances, while trends that have been extremely unfavourable have also been reversed, along with the many opportunities that are offered by EU funds,'' the ministry said in its statement.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Infrastructure and EU Funds: Port and Breakwater Renovation for Senj

Along with the current works on the renovation of the Senj harbour, the Senj Port Authority has begun to develop projects for the extension of Senj's port, so that the breakwaters can be lengthened.

As Morski writes on the 2nd of April, 2019, the Điga breakwater, more specifically the Sv. Marija breakwater, would be extended by a further one hundred metres, adjusted to the length of Jadrolinija's ferries, and the Hungarian riva (waterfront), would be extended by another thirty metres. The construction of a brand new waterfront instead of Senj's current wooden waterfront would add another pier to the southernmost part of the harbour, opposite to Tičak house. According to the conceptual solution which has been drawn up for the project, this operation would cost around 110 million kuna net, and VAT still needs to be added to that figure, Novi list writes.

An assessment on the environmental impact for this project has already been prepared, which is already in process at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and after the release of the competent ministry's observations, what further steps which need to be taken will be known, eventually followed by the issuance of the required building permits.

''Breakwaters can be co-funded from EU funds and we've already asked for this and have received a firm opinion on it, and internal arrangements such as the 300 new communal berths can be funded from national funds and from the Port Authority's budget,'' said Senj's port authority director Predrag Dešić, adding that with the realisation of this project, Senj's port would boast much greater functionality.

In the port part of the Hungarian waterfront, the conditions for accommodating tourist ships and smaller cruisers would be created, which would substantially restore the basic role of the harbour, while ferries to nearby islands and liner ships would have their place at Điga. After this extension, Senj could be a significant port for tourists from Istria and from the islands, such as Lošinj and Cres, who would like to visit Plitvice Lakes because a combination by sea to Senj and buses to Plitvice would shorten their journey by about two hours, make it much more enjoyable, and the actual visit to Plitvice would last longer. This is a very desirable combination, given that road traffic, especially in the summer, is slow and cumbersome.

New funding in the amount of three million kuna, approved by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure for the Senj Port Authority this year, will be intended for the repair of the main harbour, which is essentially a continuation of the works on the current project of renovating Senj harbour as a whole.

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Click here for the original article by Dorotea Prpic for Novi list

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