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.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

HDZ Official Accuses “Fake Sovereignists” of Scaring Croats About Euro

ZAGREB, 28 Aug, 2021 - The political secretary of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ante Sanader, said on Saturday that the fake sovereignists were scaring the people about the euro", however they themselves had rushed to the European Parliament to get earnings in that currency.

Sanader wrote on his Facebook account that there was no need for any referendum about the introduction of the euro in Croatia.

There is no need and no legal possibility for a referendum on Croatia's admission to the euro area and the changeover to the euro, as the decision on that matter was made in 2012 when Croatia held a referendum on its EU membership and when Croatian parliament ratified the EU admission treaty.

At  the 22 January 2012 referendum, 66.27% of Croatian voters supported Croatia's accession to the European Union. With 136 "Yes" votes, Croatian Parliament unanimously ratified on 9 March the Accession Treaty of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union.

On Saturday morning a member of parliament from the Croatian Sovereignists party, Marko Milanović Litre, said that his party was launching a campaign for a referendum on the introduction of the euro, criticising the government for ignoring citizens' opinion on the matter.

Sanader also recalls that a member of Sovereignist party, Ladislav Ilčić whom he branded as "great anti-European" grabbed the first opportunity to become a member of the European Parliament.

 "Obviously, fake sovereignists including Milanović Litre cannot understand and do not know what the present-day struggle for the national interests means and what the present-day sovereignism looks like," Sanader wrote, citing some of the benefits of Croatia's membership of the European Union, such as the EU-funded project of the construction of Pelješac Bridge that connects the southernmost Croatian with the rest of the country.

He also mentioned the allocation of 25 billion euros from the EU for Croatia's development in the next years.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 26 July 2021

EU Finance Ministers Give Green Light to Croatia's Recovery and Resilience plan

ZAGREB, 26 July 2021 - EU finance ministers on Monday confirmed the positive assessments of national recovery and resilience plans for another four member states, including Croatia, and initiated written procedure for their approval.

Excellent news for four more member states – Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. We have confirmed the positive assessments of the national plans of these four countries, Slovenian Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said after an informal meeting of the Finance and Economic Council.

Since no decisions can be made at informal video meetings, written procedure was launched after the meeting to formally approve the national recovery and resilience plans of Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. The procedure is expected to be completed within the next few days.

On 8 July, the Commission gave the green light to Croatia's national recovery and resilience plan, worth €6.3 billion, and forwarded it to the Council for adoption.

Croatia has been allocated €6.3 billion in grants and 3.6 billion in favourable loans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the central element of the Next Generation EU recovery plan. It has been decided that Croatia will for now use only grants and that it may ask for loans at a later date. The €6.3 billion amounts to 11.6 percent of Croatia's 2019 GDP.

After the decision on approval of the recovery plan becomes official, Croatia will sign a financing agreement with the Commission and within two months of its signing it will receive an advance of 13 percent of the allocation, or €819 million. It is not yet known whether this amount will be disbursed in one or more tranches.

About ten days ago, EU finance ministers approved the initial batch of 12 national recovery and resilience plans (for Portugal, Spain, Greece, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovakia, Latvia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and France), which means that a total of 16 national plans will have been approved before the summer recess in August.

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

Monday, 19 July 2021

EU Seeks 25% Higher Heating Gas Prices for Croatia - Jutarnji List

ZAGREB, 19 July 2021 - Croatians who use natural gas for heating will be paying 25 percent more for their gas bills by 2026 at the latest, by which time a fee for greenhouse gas emissions would also be put in place, Jutarnji List newspaper said on Monday.

This scenario is included in the recently published European Commission's energy strategy Fit for 55, which aims to phase out the use of fossil fuels in transport and industry, as well as in the building sector which is one of the biggest CO2 emitters and polluters, the newspaper said.

The European Union plans to do away with gas heating by 2050 and the Commission's proposal is going in that direction and is expected to enter into force in 2026, Professor Neven Duić of the University of Zagreb Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture was quoted as saying.

"Big consumers, such as electricity producers, are already required to buy CO2 emission rights. This means that small consumers who use electricity for heating are already paying the CO2 emission fee and are being discriminated against compared to consumers who are not paying this fee because they use natural gas," Duić said.

The Commission's calculation about the need to increase natural gas prices by 25 percent for Croatian consumers who use natural gas for heating is included in the proposal to amend the rules on emissions trading. The proposal is part of the Fit for 55 strategies, according to which Croatians currently pay 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for gas heating and will be paying nearly 9 cents once the CO2 emissions fee is in place, Jutarnji List said. 

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

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Croatia to Receive €1.4 bn From New EU Climate Action Social Fund

ZAGREB, 15 July 2021 - The European Commission on Wednesday proposed the establishment of a new climate action social fund to help citizens to finance financial investments in energy efficiency, new heating, and cooling systems, and cleaner mobility, and up to €1.4 billion is proposed for Croatia for the period 2025-2032.

On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled a major package of legislative proposals that should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The "Fit for 55" package is a key element of the European Green Deal, which envisions the EU becoming climate neutral by 2050. In order to achieve that goal, it is estimated that by 2030 the greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced by at least 55% compared to 1990.

"While in the medium- to long-term, the benefits of EU climate policies clearly outweigh the costs of this transition, climate policies risk putting extra pressure on vulnerable households, micro-enterprises, and transport users in the short run," the EC wrote on its website, among other things.

"A new Social Climate Fund is proposed to provide dedicated funding to the Member States to help citizens finance investments in energy efficiency, new heating, and cooling systems, and cleaner mobility. The Social Climate Fund would be financed by the EU budget, using an amount equivalent to 25% of the expected revenues of emissions trading for building and road transport fuels. It will provide €72.2 billion of funding to the Member States, for the period 2025-2032, based on a targeted amendment to the multiannual financial framework," the EC said.

The Commission proposes a key for the distribution of the funds among member states which would take into account the percentage of the rural population and the level of energy poverty. Financing will be available to all member states, but the largest share will go to the countries with higher levels of energy poverty.

Croatia should get up to €1.4 billion, which is 1.4% of the total amount of the fund.

The highest amount, of €12.7 billion or 17.61% of the fund, has been earmarked for Poland.

In order to withdraw money from the fund, member states will have to draw up precise plans with measures to help the vulnerable population to invest in the energy renovation of buildings and to encourage the use of electric cars.

Half of the amount set in the plan would be financed from the European climate action social fund, and the other half would be co-financed by the member states.

Under the new plan that proposes Effort Sharing Regulation for member-states, Croatia is expected to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 16.7% in the sector of buildings, road and domestic maritime transport, agriculture, waste, and small industries s in 2030 in relation to its 2005 levels.

Member-states share responsibility for removing carbon from the atmosphere

The Commission says that "The Member States also share responsibility for removing carbon from the atmosphere, so the Regulation on Land Use, Forestry and Agriculture sets an overall EU target for carbon removals by natural sinks, equivalent to 310 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030."

National targets will require the Member States to care for and expand their carbon sinks to meet this target. By 2035, the EU should aim to reach climate neutrality in the land use, forestry, and agriculture sectors, including also agricultural non-CO2 emissions, such as those from fertilizer use and livestock.

Under this regulation, Croatia's contribution is to remove 5,527 kilotonnes of CO2.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Women Work One Month For Free, Says MEP Glavak

ZAGREB, 14 July, 2021 - Women work one month for free due to lower wages and their total income, and consequently their pension, is lower because they care for children and the elderly, Croatian MEP Sunčana Glavak (EPP) said on Wednesday.

She was speaking at an event at Plitvice Lakes which discussed how to strengthen the position of women in Croatia and Europe, held as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Glavak said a division into men's and women's departments was not felt in the EP because the persons there were competent, but added that a balance had not been achieved anywhere in Europe.

She called on citizens to engage in a debate on that and other European topics via the Commission's platform “futureu.europa.eu.”

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said four women ministers in Croatia's 18 government departments was not enough, but added that they "run important departments and make a big contribution to this government."

He boasted that Croatian women hold high positions in European institutions - Dubravka Šuica is a Commission vice president, Marija Pejčinović Burić the Council of Europe secretary-general, Ivana Maletić a judge at the European Court of Auditors, and Maja Markovčić Kostelac the head of the European Maritime Safety Agency.

"As a government, we will continue to make an effort towards empowering and protecting women, towards equality and women's participation at a higher level and a high representation percentage," he said.

Present at the Plitvice conference were Tourism and Sport Minister Nikolina Brnjac, Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak and Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković, while Šuica and EPP Women President Doris Pack participated virtually.

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

 

 

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