Saturday, 8 May 2021

21 Presidents From EU Member-States Forward Europe Day Message

May 8, 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović, together with other presidents of the European Union's member-states, forwarded a joint message on the occasion of Europe Day on Saturday.

Extending their best wishes to the Europeans, the 21 presidents from the European Union called on EU citizens to use the Conference on the Future of Europe as the "unique opportunity to shape our common future," reads a press release issued by the Office of Croatian President.

"This Europe Day is special. For the second year in a row, we celebrate it in the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. We sympathize with all those who have suffered because of it," those leaders say.

They underscore the importance of the Conference on the Future of Europe which starts on this year's Europe Day.

"The circumstances surrounding this discussion on the future of Europe are very different from those of previous years. It may seem that there is not sufficient time for an in-depth discussion on the future of Europe in the current situation. On the contrary, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of what is truly important in our lives: our health, our relationship with nature, our relationships with our fellow human beings, mutual solidarity, and working together. It has opened up questions about the way we live our lives. It has shown the strengths of European integration, as well as its weaknesses. We need to talk about all of this," say those leaders.

Challenges are manifold

"The challenges we face as Europeans are manifold: from tackling the climate crisis and the creation of green economies, while concurrently balancing the increasing competition among the global actors, to striving for the digital transformation of our societies. We will need to develop new methods and new solutions. As democracies, our strength lies in engaging the many voices of our societies to identify the best way forward. The more people participate in a broad and open-minded discussion, the better for our Union.

The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation.

"The European project is unprecedented in history. It has been 70 years since the signing of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community and 64 since the birth of the European Community in Rome. At that time, European leaders found ways to unify war-torn Europe. Thirty years ago, Europe’s East and West began to connect more closely. Very different countries joined together to form the European Union. Each country has its own historical experiences and burdens of the past, which it deals with on its own and in its relations with other countries," reads their message.

"The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation. It has been so since its conception and remains so today. We advocate for a common strategic vision for Europe, a Europe that is whole, free, united, and at peace.

Fundamental principles of European integration extremely relevant

"All the fundamental principles of European integration remain extremely relevant today: freedom, equality, respect for human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression, solidarity, democracy and loyalty among the Member States. How can we jointly ensure that these fundamental principles of European integration remain relevant for the future?

"Although the European Union may sometimes seem ill-equipped to face the many challenges that have arisen over the last decade – from the economic and financial crisis to the challenges in working towards a just and equitable EU migration system and the ongoing pandemic – we are aware that it would be much harder for each of us if we were alone.

"How can we best strengthen European cooperation and solidarity and make sure that we emerge from the health crisis in a way that makes us more resilient to future challenges?

"We need a strong and effective European Union, a European Union that will be a global leader in the transition to sustainable, climate neutral, and digitally supported development. We need a European Union we can all identify with, certain in the knowledge that we have done our utmost for the benefit of future generations. Together, we can achieve this.

We need to think about our common future, and therefore, the signatories of this joint message invite European "to join the discussion and help find a way forward together."

For more, follow our politics section.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Friends of Croatia: European Parliament Office in Zagreb - First Contact with Croatian Citizens

May 6, 2021 - The third article in the series "Friends of Croatia: European Parliament Office in Zagreb", explores a small but dedicated office whose central focus is the 12 Croatian members of the European Parliament, as well as informing citizens and educating them about the European Union.

July 1, 2013, was a historic date for Croatian international integration as the country finally joined the European Union. The Union of developed European countries called for an enormous celebration on the main Ban Jelačić square in Zagreb. Many people saw different opportunities, and lots of opportunities were promoted by politicians ahead of joining. But, with almost eight years in the EU, could we actually list specific benefits and determine if Croatia is truly taking part in the „European dream“?

„EU membership made Croatia stronger, and there are many examples of the practical effects of it. I’ll mention two important ones: access to the common market and commitment and implementation of numerous political and economic reforms. Of course, one of the most visible immediate results of the EU membership was the end of customs controls at internal EU borders, which made crossings much smoother, with less hassle for people and goods. The removal of administrative and tariff barriers meant lower costs for businesses which – in combination with access to significant EU funds - translated into concrete economic advantages, helped the recovery, and increased exports. Also worth mentioning - the interest rates on loans have dropped, which lowered the costs of borrowing money for citizens and the business community, and this will be become even more pronounced once the country joins the euro. When it comes to Croatia’s contribution to the EU, along with its heritage, culture, and tradition that enriched the bloc, the country also brought its example and enthusiasm for the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. Croatia is a vocal advocate of the European perspective for the region and considers the enlargement to be the most effective transformation mechanism that the EU has“, summarized Violeta Simeonova Staničić, the Head of the European Parliament Office in Zagreb, which is dedicated as the first contact between the European Parliament (EP) and citizens in Croatia.

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Violeta Simeonova Staničić © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The Office started its work in February 2013. Simeonova Staničić and three other associates put the whole project in a small space in the backyard of a former EU delegation. Describing the team in 2013 as the „EP Delta Force“, Simeonova Staničić recalled the difficulties of their early engagement. „It was difficult to operate properly and to be visible as the country was not yet a member state, so we were not able to function as an official liaison office. We couldn't even do a proper information campaign for the first EU elections when Croats decided who would be their first official members of the European Parliament“, she said.

While any EU organization is often perceived as big and loaded with people, the EP office in Zagreb counts six staff members. Being a complex organization which can often be misunderstood, their informative service on all thing EU is extremely important.

„People tend to have a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the competencies of the EU. In various policy areas, EU member states still hold primary responsibility. Health policy, for example. Social policies and retirement as well. In others, the EU is in the lead as it is ultimately more beneficial for all countries involved that decisions are made and actions taken with the interests of the entire Union in mind. Unfortunately, too often, we can see that when something good happens, usually national governments are credited for it, and if something is not going well, then Brussels naturally is to blame. But various crises and challenges have shown that the EU is at its finest when working as a team player, one community and a common market“, explained Simeonova Staničić. She added that when solidarity prevails, everyone gains a sentence that can underline the usefulness of international cooperation that is the EU.

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2019 EP elections campaign "This time I vote" © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The citizens recognize the help the Zagreb EP office can offer, and the Office gets lots of inquiries daily. Over time, the phone calls were more often replaced by e-mails, and first contacts are often made through the Office's social networks. 45,000 followers on Facebook and heavy engagements on Twitter and Instagram, and the quick response of the small staff are certainly admirable.

„We sometimes receive the bulk of documents as many people send us copies of their dealings with various institutions or judicial bodies. These types of problems are, of course, beyond our remit, but we will always try to help people to identify the right authority they need to address and contact in order to resolve their issues. We also get requests from various researchers and scholars who need help with finding certain data and material important for their work, or who need background information on a certain topic“, said Simeonova Staničić, adding the questions they receive are quite diverse.

The central part of the Office’s daily work revolves around 12 Croatian members of the Parliament. “Working with Croatian members of European Parliament is our daily priority and what we center our work around. We organise press conferences and events around issues they work on and committees that they are members of. We cooperate and communicate with them very successfully, as we foster a mutually beneficial relationship with them. As a rule of a thumb, we virtually have no event without a member of European Parliament present“, Simeonova Staničić explains. 

The other part of the Office's role includes working with youth, media, and NGOs.

When it comes to the media, the Office informs daily about ongoing debates and discussions concerning the day-to-day activities of the European Parliament. They also strive to put important decisions in context and promote and explain the work of members of the Parliament. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Office even invited journalists to follow the plenary sessions in Strasbourg to give them the opportunity to familiarise themselves better with the institution and its role in the EU decision-making process. In return, a steady community of journalists following EU affairs is formed in Croatia, and the expansion of reporters is something the Office always welcomes. The accent is put on working with local media, and several outlets managed to get co-finance for their projects by European grants.

Cooperation with NGOs depends on every project and topic of interest, but with the diversity of NGOs, some sort of collaboration with some organisation is always ongoing.

Regarding the youth, two projects stand out. „Our two most successful projects to date are Euroscola and European Parliament Ambassador School Programme (EPAS). Euroscola became so popular among all Croatian schools that whenever we had rounds of regional or national selections, we had over 100 schools competing for very limited quota to go to Strasbourg for a day at the European Parliament. Through Euroscola, we created a fantastic network of incredibly involved, active, hard-working schools all over Croatia. The EPAS program was launched in 2016, and today we have a wide network of over 50 high schools scattered across the country. They cooperate closely with us and follow the work of Croatian MEPs throughout the entire school year“, pointed out Simeonova Staničić.

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Senior EP Ambassadors © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

Apart from media and citizens, the cooperation with the official bodies of the state is at a high level too.

„We collaborate very well with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions. For example, we cooperate when the delegation of the European Parliament comes to Croatia to work on a certain topic related to the upcoming legislation. This cooperation was particularly pronounced in the run-up to and during the first Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union“, said Simeonova Staničić.

Particularly good collaboration is also made with the Croatian Parliament, a natural counterpart of the European Parliament. Currently, they are organizing the conference on the future of Europe, but also a more regular public award ceremony for the European Citizens’ Prize (established in 2008 by the EP to award individuals or groups that contributed to empowering European Integration).

„We are also regularly in contact with foreign embassies in Croatia, in pre-Covid times they were not only guests at our events, but also provided interesting speakers from their own countries for our panels and conferences “, described Simeonova Staničić the vast web of cooperation the Office has in Croatia.

Although being an Office for the European Parliament, they also help citizens by giving information on other EU institutions and how to get in touch with them. Informing citizens of ways to actively take part in European democracy, Simeonova Staničić describes as „the core of everything we do as an office of the most democratic institution of the EU“.

„European citizens can petition the European Parliament through our dedicated portal (European's Citizens's Initiative). This is a very transparent process whereby individuals or associations can submit a petition on a subject which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and which affects them directly “, she explained.

Croatian perception and EU scepticism.

Perhaps it depends on the algorithm or just the loudness of its spokespersons, but it seems Euroscepticism is on the rise in Croatia. Still, Simeonova Staničić's view is much more optimistic and based on the public opinion surveys

„Actually, the latest Eurobarometer survey shows that 78% of participants in Croatia state that EU membership is beneficial to Croatia, and 74% of those asked believe that COVID-19 economic recovery will be faster thanks to the EU. The majority of the respondents also answered that they have a positive image of the EU“, she said. She continued, however, that almost similar in size is the number of people who have neither negative nor positive opinions.

„For us, these 'non-committal' ones are really important and we try to reach them with our work. We need to raise their awareness about the advantages of the EU; thus, we mainly address young people, who are natural citizens of the EU, who are so accustomed to all the freedoms and opportunities the EU gave them that they take them for granted. They are not aware that there was a time, not so long ago, when these opportunities did not exist“, explained the Head of Office headmistress.

She added that entrepreneurs, managers, and small and medium business owners are most aware of EU benefits, making them natural partners and ambassadors with whom the Office also works really well.

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Lux Party on election year © European Parliament Office in Zagreb 

In similar rhetoric, Simenonova Staničić dismissed my thesis that young people recognize the easier traveling and working in other member countries as the only benefits of the EU. Firstly pointing out that „freedom of movement, freedom of choice, and the privilege to be employed without administrative barriers in any member state is one of the biggest values and benefits coming from an EU membership“, which means „escaping Croatia is not the right terminology“. Also, just as Croatians are leaving the country, other countries experience the same thing as their citizens are coming to Croatia.

„Due to the pandemic, we are actually witnessing more EU nationals temporarily moving to Croatia, as they work remotely. There is a large community of EU nationals which continues to grow, and it has a lot to thank Croatia’s EU membership“, argued Simeona Staničić.

Indeed, the reputation, and trust in the global community secured by EU membership, certainly contributed to the rise of digital nomads coming to Croatia, on which TCN regularly reports

The Head of Office once again repeated how most of the benefits in EU Croatians regularly experience and are enjoyed without realizing it is thanks to the EU. 

„When there is a new school lab or student housing being built with European funds, or when our young people go off to university or college and take for granted that they would go on an Erasmus exchange; when they don’t have to pay major tuition fees while studying abroad in some other EU member state but are charged the same rate as locals; when, together with other European countries like France, Belgium, and Germany, your government is part of negotiations on major questions of international importance: from health to peace and security...“, she listed various examples.

When asked to comment on Croatia's respect for human rights and European values, a question inspired by last year's cases the Republic of Croatia lost in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, Siemonova Staničić refused to comment and instead explained that the role of the Office in Zagreb (as well as anywhere in Europe for that matter) is not political.

„We are here to provide support to members of the European Parliament in the exercise of their official mandate on the hand and to ensure that people understand actions of the Parliament and to encourage them to engage in the European democratic process on the other. This is important because citizens have tools to influence the legislative agenda of the EU directly “, explained Simeonova Staničić. For the already mentioned European Citizens Initiative, the EP must consider proposals with 1 million verified signatures.  

Zagreb office for every EU citizen: Speaking English, Croatian, and six more languages!

As the EU is dedicated to being beneficial for every EU citizen from every country in the organization, so is the EP Office in Zagreb. Simeonova Staničić says the Office serves every EU citizen in Croatia, and whether - in person or online, they will address any issue or interest non-Croatian EU citizens may have and gladly respond and engage.

„In general, we work in the language of our host, which in this case is Croatian. Nevertheless, every European official is obliged to pass the employment exams in one of the working languages of the European Union and within two years to be able to work in 3 languages. In our case, our Office uses predominantly Croatian and English, but I am proud to say that my colleagues are proficient in many languages, and we can serve European citizens also in French, German, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Dutch, and Italian, without hesitation“, assured Simeonova Staničić.

The same service is also offered to Croatians in other EU countries, as every member state has an EP office. And cooperation being the keyword, the offices are frequently in touch as well.

"For example, the Parliament organized an online solidarity event called #EPASwithPetrinja where pupils from three member states (France, Ireland, and Spain) engaged with their counterparts from Petrinja and Zagreb to express solidarity in the wake of the disastrous earthquake that hit parts of Croatia and to comfort children their age from those hard-hit areas. At the event, we had members of the European Parliament from France, Ireland, and Croatia as speakers,“ Simeonova Staničić gave one example, adding that the cooperation is also there whenever there is a common topic or members of the European Parliament from different delegations work on major legislative or policy issues of interest to European citizens across the Union.

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EPAS with Petrinja © European Parliament Office in Zagreb

The EP offices are always located in the capital city, and several countries also have the so-called „Antenna offices“ located in other larger cities such as Germany (Munich), France (Marseille), Poland (Wroclaw), Spain (Barcelona), and Italy (Milan).

„We do not have offices around the country. However, both our Office and the Representation of the European Commission in Croatia use the network of the so-called Europe Direct Information Centres. There are 10 of them in Croatia currently, and they are located in Petrinja, Slavonski Brod, Čakovec, Šibenik, Zadar, Osijek, Virovitica, Split, Pula, and Karlovac. They are not under our authority - we do not control them, and they are not a part of our structure. But they are our natural partners in various activities and often serve as local contact points“, explained Simeonova Staničić.

To conclude, the European Parliament Office in Zagreb is open to assist anyone that wants to receive any information related to the European Parliament - be it regarding its debates, ongoing plenaries, committee meetings, work of the members of the European Parliament, or general information concerning other European institutions.

The address of the Office is Augusta Cesarca 4 in the House of Europe on European Square in Zagreb, which is open from 9 am to 5 pm (however, due to the pandemic, the office is closed to the public until further notice). At that same time, you can reach them on the general E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on the following phone numbers:

For public relations (citizen inquires): 

Violeta Simeonova Staničić (Office head): + 385 1 4880 280 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Janja Mateja Aleš (assistant): +385 1 4880 269 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Andrea Čović Vidović: +385 1 4880 273 or +385 91 510 6830 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Marko Boko: +385 1 4880 274 (E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

For media relations:

Maja Ljubić Kutnjak: +385 1 4880 272 or + 385 99 490 4715 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Barbara Peranić: +385 1 4880 272 or + 385 99 271 3026 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

You can also follow the Office on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Flickr.

For any changes with the address, contacts, etc., check their official website.

To read more from the series "Friends of Croatia", follow TCN's dedicated page.

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

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Defence Minister Mario Banožić Meets With Hungarian Ambassador Csaba Demcsák

ZAGREB, 5 May, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Wednesday met Hungary's incoming Ambassador to Croatia, Csaba Demcsák, expressing satisfaction with Croatian-Hungarian friendly relations.

"Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the long-lasting friendly relations between the two countries while Minister Banožić said that the two countries have developed excellent bilateral military cooperation," a press release from the defence ministry notes.

Banožić spoke about Croatian-Hungarian cooperation within the RACVIAC centre for security cooperation and the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) and at the Multinational Division Command Centre in Hungary, established jointly by Hungary and Croatia, as well as about their cooperation in the EU and NATO.

Ambassador Demcsák presented Hungary's current defence policy, underlining that he believes in the continuation of the two countries' good cooperation, the ministry's press release notes.

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

 

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Croatian Public's Opinion on Eurozone More Positive But Skepticism Remains

May the 5th, 2021 - The Croatian public has always had a very suspicious view of the entry of the country into the formerly deeply troubled Eurozone, but it seems that although it's only very slight, that opinion is beginning to alter. Skepticism, however, remains as strong as it was when the country's very EU referendum took place.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, the positive image of the European Union (EU) held by the Croatian public today is slightly better than it was around half a year ago, according to the national report of the Standard Eurobarometer for Croatia, which was published recently by the European Commission (EC).

When compared to the previous Croatian public opinion poll on the EU, the positive perception of surveyed Croatian citizens increased by one percentage point (from 47 to 48 percent), while at the same time the negative perception decreased by two points, from 13 down to 11 percent.

According to the latest Eurobarometer results, Croatian respondents in the latest survey also showed slightly higher support for the country's planned entry into the Eurozone than they did half a year ago. However, although this support has increased by one percentage point, up to 48 percent, and the number of those who oppose Eurozone entry has decreased by the same amount, Croatia still deviates considerably from the EU average. In the rest of the bloc, the single currency is supported by as much as 70 percent of the population of its member states, or three percent more than was recorded just half a year ago.

As the European Commission points out, European respondents, as well as the Croatian public, are at the forefront of the EU's achievements in the free movement of people, goods and services within the territory of the bloc. They consider peace among the EU's member states to be the second most important plus, and solidarity among the EU member states is in the third place.

The aforementioned survey was commissioned by the European Commission's Directorate General for Communication, and the survey in Croatia, on a representative sample of 1,028 citizens over the age of fifteen through direct interviews with respondents in their own homes, was conducted by the Hendal agency from February the 15th to March the 7th this year. The Standard Eurobarometer survey is otherwise conducted twice a year, and of the 94 such surveys conducted so far, the most recent is the 33rd, which also covers Croatia.

For more, follow our politics section.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Croatia to Ask For EU Funding For New Electronic Toll Collection System - Večernji List Newspaper

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - Although planned for the beginning of this year, the new electronic toll collection system in Croatia will be put into operation as late as the end of 2025, the Večernji List newspaper wrote on Tuesday.

Once installed on the motorways managed by the HAC and Bina Istra companies, the toll will be charged automatically by an upgraded version of the electronic toll collection and number plate recognition system without vehicles having to stop at a toll booth.

To get most of the money needed for the new system, the government has decided to apply for EU funding, including this project in the national recovery and resilience programme 2021-2026. The project has been presented as being part of digitalisation and development of a competitive, sustainable and efficient transport and traffic system.

The value of the project is estimated at HRK 730 million (€96.9m), or HRK 912.6 million (€121.13m) including VAT.

Until the new system is put in place, HAC plans to switch to a cashless-only payment service at 18 of its 76 toll booths where the toll will be charged by the existing electronic toll system or paid by bank cards. These toll points normally see very little traffic, especially in wintertime, the newspaper said.

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

Saturday, 1 May 2021

University of Split: First in EU to Issue Europass Digital Certificates

May 1st, 2020 - A big step forward for the University of Split, as it is the first in the European Union to issue Europass digital certificates. 

RTL reports, the University of Split has made a step forward at the European Union level in the application of Europass digital credentials, a European tool that enables the digitization of documents in formal and non-formal education. Namely, they became the first institution in Europe to successfully issue as many as 437 digital certificates of participation in January 2021 to participants in the international online conference Week of Innovative Regions in Europe - WIRE 2020, organized by the Faculty of Economics in Split.

"Given the importance of this event, we knew we had to issue certificates to participate and since I was actively participating in the European universities project in parallel, we looked for a testing ground for digitally signed credentials and somehow happily merged with each other," said Maja Ćukušić, Faculty of Economics in Split.

The Dean of the University, Dragan Ljutić, points out that the entire project of the digital European diploma started from them. "In today's time of digitalization, it is clear that we are seriously thinking about it, that is, that we have already started," said Dean Ljutić.

The University of Split, together with the universities of Cadiz, Brittany, Malta, Kiel and Gdansk, has been a member of the alliance called the European University of the Sea (SEA-EU) since October 2019. With the membership in the SEA-EU Alliance, the University of Split has been awarded almost one million euros in grants, which will be invested primarily in the networking of six universities at all levels in the three years of the project. Some of the activities within this project include work on the processes of automatic recognition of qualifications, digitization of qualifications, the introduction of the European Student Card, development of virtual and physical mobility, migration issues, creation of the Center for Socially Beneficial Learning, the connection of research capacities of six universities.

The digital credential has the same legal value as paper certificates, and will allow institutions to issue certificates of qualifications free of charge, such as diplomas and other learning credentials that cannot be illegally altered.

Individuals can store the obtained Europass digital credentials on their Europass profile on the new Europass platform and share it with employers when looking for a job, and employers have a better and more credible insight into the acquired skills and knowledge of potential job candidates.

"I was thrilled by the digital credentials because they are very easy to use and can be downloaded in pdf or image format and as such easily placed on business networks or paired with our Europass CV. I was also delighted that the exact listed competencies were acquired by workshops, and these competencies themselves are in line with internationally standard qualifications of education and as such are recognized throughout the European Union", says a student of the Faculty of Economics in Split Ana-Marija Ivčević.

To read more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Government Adopts Draft National Recovery and Resilience Plan, to Send it to European Commission

ZAGREB, 29 April, 2021 - The Croatian government on Thursday adopted the Draft National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) 2021-2027, worth HRK 49 billion, and it will send it to the European Commission for final harmonisation.

The document, which has more than 1,100 pages, contains descriptions of 77 reforms and 152 investments on which EU funds will be spent. It has five components and one initiative: the business sector, with investments amounting to HRK 26.2 billion or 54% of the total amount; public administration, justice and state assets (HRK 4.36 billion or 10%); education, science and research (HRK 7.5 billion or 15%); labour market and social protection (HRK 2.09 billion or 4%); health (HRK 2.56 billion or 5%); and the initiative "Reconstruction of buildings", with planned investments amounting to HRK 5.95 billion or 12% of the NPOO funding.

Sixty-six percent of the amount or HRK 32.15 billion is intended for recovery while 34% or HRK 16.5 billion is intended for resilience.

PM Andrej Plenković said the NPOO was a key document that "will enable us to use, in the next five years, more than HRK 47 billion for structural reforms and investments that will contribute to our economic recovery and make us more resilient to future crises."

If necessary, by the end of 2023 Croatia will also be able to seek loans in the amount of around €3.6 billion or HRK 27 billion, he said.

Economic recovery primarily refers to investments in those sectors that can guarantee fast economic growth in the short and long run, as well as job preservation and job creation, said Plenković.

Each component has 'digital' and 'green' elements, the goal being to reach the targets of 20% of investments being directed to digital transformation and 37% of investments being directed towards green transition.

Macroeconomic effects

According to projections, the NPOO's effects are expected to contribute to a real GDP growth in 2021 of 5.2% instead of 4.9% without the NPOO, while growth in 2022 would be 6.6% instead of 5.2% without the NPOO, and in 2023 it would be 4.1% instead of 2.7% without the NPOO. In 2024 the effects of the NPOO would result in a 3.4% economic growth instead of 2.5%, and in 2025 it would help achieve a 2.7% growth rate instead of 2.5%.

The government expects the implementation of the NPOO to cumulatively increase GDP by an additional 4.2% in 2025 in relation to 2020.

In the last year of its implementation, 2026, the NPOO will have resulted in GDP being close to HRK 17 billion higher than it would be without the NPOO.

Concrete examples of NPOO implementation

PM Plenković said that the implementation of the NPOO would make it possible to achieve the European target share of renewables in energy consumption (for Croatia the target is 36.6%) and achieving the European target of at least 14% of renewables in the transport sector until 2026. Investments in water management are planned as well to make drinking water available to around 93% of the population.

The plan also envisages better coverage with broadband infrastructure, access to fast internet for citizens and the business sector, and reduction of the number of outstanding cases at municipal courts by at least 5% by mid-2026.

The NPOO also envisages an increase in the share of children aged between 4 and school age who are covered by early preschool education, from 81% to 96%, which is the EU target.

Also envisaged are investments to create conditions to create as many jobs as possible for the sake of increasing the employment rate from 66.7% to 70% by the end of 2024.

"Labour market reforms and policies will help provide conditions to create at least 100,000 new jobs, with emphasis on people under 30 and the self-employed," said the PM.

Investment of HRK 2.5 billion in the health system is aimed, among other things, at raising the survival rate for cancer patients from 46 to 51% and saving around 5,000 lives. Also planned is the continuation of the functional integration of hospitals.

Post-earthquake reconstruction accounts for 12% of funds expected to be obtained under the NPOO, while the projected energy consumption for heating is expected to be reduced by at least 50% for buildings renovated as part of the NPOO.

Plenković said that in the next ten years and mostly in the first five, Croatia would have at its disposal close to €30 billion from EU funds. The amount is a unique opportunity to contribute to modernisation and growth of the business sector and Croatia's social and even development, he said.

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

Friday, 23 April 2021

Croatian PM Andrej Plenković, European Commissioner Ylva Johansson Discuss Migration Issues

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday received European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson for talks on migration and Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area, the government said in a press release.

The officials discussed the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which aims to halt arrivals of irregular migrants since the migrant crisis of 2015 and 2016, and to make the Union and member states better prepared for efficient migration management, the press release said.

Prime Minister Plenković underlined that for Croatia, as a country of the EU's external border, it is exceptionally important that the talks on the new pact define key issues such as responsibility and solidarity, procedures on the external borders, strengthening cooperation with third countries, efficient implementation of readmission of migrants who are not entitled to stay in the European Union and legal migration paths.

Significant investments in technical equipment to supervise the border and its border police enables Croatia to successfully protect the EU external border and the country is ready to protect the external Schengen Area border, he underscored. 

Plenković and Johansson discussed Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area. At the the Home Affairs Council meeting on 12 March Commissioner Johansson confirmed that Croatia had successfully completed the evaluation process and ensured the full application of Schengen rules and she supported the adoption of the relevant political decision in that regard.

The two officials also discussed migration trends in neighbouring countries and underscored that in order to reduce the permanent migrant pressure on the Croatian border it is key to better manage migrations along the entire East-Mediterranean route, the press release concluded.

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

 

Friday, 23 April 2021

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman Slams Removal of Croatian Flag From Ambassador's Residence in Belgrade

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Friday condemned the removal of the Croatian flag from the ambassador's official residence in Belgrade, saying that such incidents fomented an atmosphere of hate, hostility and intolerance.

"Such incidents are certainly not conducive to understanding (...) We hope and wish for the relations between Croatia and Serbia to be good because it makes sense that we should have stable relations," he told the press.

Croatian Ambassador Hido Biščević told N1 television on Thursday it was no accident that the Croatian flag was taken down from his residence and that the incident reflected "part of the atmosphere" in Serbian society, which he said continued to feed on hate speech.

Unknown persons removed the flag from the building which has video surveillance but no guards most likely on Wednesday morning, he said.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry said this was an "injudicious and isolated act," hoping that it "won't cast a shadow on efforts to set Serbia-Croatia relations on new foundations so that in future they can develop in the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation."

Grlić Radman said that because of such incidents "we can't say the relations have good prospects, we can't talk about a good future, but we must believe in a good future."

He announced that he will go to Subotica on 28 April for the laying of the cornerstone of a new Croatia House. His talks with local officials will also address an initiative, opposed by Croatian linguists, to declare the Bunjevci dialect an official language in that town in northern Serbia.

The minister reiterated that the initiative was contrary to the Croatia-Serbia agreement on the protection of national minorities.

He said that on 27 April the prime minister of the Vojvodina province, Igor Mirović, would visit Petrinja, struck by a devastating earthquake last December.

Serbia's EU path "goes also across Croatia"

The minister went on to say that Serbia's EU path "goes also across Croatia." Before Serbia joins, it is necessary to resolve the issue of the war missing, universal jurisdiction, and reparations for POWs, he said.

Serb representatives have three guaranteed seats in the Croatian parliament and Croatia wants Croats in Serbia to be represented as well, he added.

Serbia "must actively and strongly deal" with reforms, the fight against corruption, and the rule of law, he said.

Serbia was granted EU candidate status in March 2012 and began accession negotiations in January 2014.

Ambassadorial appointments

Although Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović have not yet agreed on the appointment of new ambassadors and consuls, Grlić Radman said he did not think the process was blocked and that there was "only one Croatian diplomacy."

He dismissed the possibility of a quota or a 50:50 model (between the president's and government's proposals). He said "agreement must be reached" and that one could talk about the list of candidates the government had sent the president, but that the government was not in favour of quotas.

He said the candidates were "professional diplomats who have proved themselves on the job."

Milanović, on the other hand, wants it to be known who is behind which ambassador for responsibility's sake, saying that this has been the practice before.

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

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Friends of Croatia: New TCN Series On All Things Diplomatic

April 20, 2021 - Check out the newest TCN series "Friends of Croatia", dealing with all things diplomatic, by TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac

December 22, 1990, the Croatian parliament known as Sabor brought its first independent constitution, known as „The Christmas Constitution“. After that, the same parliament officially declared Croatia as an independent country and no longer part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. Then followed the Ex-Yu War known in Croatia as a Homeland War, which lasted until 1995.

While this war is one of the foundations of Croatian independence, noted by the modern constitution as well as on other grounds of historic events, the dedication of soldiers, tactics, weapons, force and combat skills weren't the only cards Croatia had to achieve its sovereignty. It was also the communication with the international community and international recognition. This allowed Croatian citizens to not end up in the trap of Transnistria, a sovereign state officially recognized as part of Moldova, where Moldova does not rule due to the army and force monopoly by the Transnistrian government, but whose passports have no benefit for its citizens and despite being a state, in official maps does not exist.

Iceland was the first sovereign country to recognize Croatia as a sovereign state on December 19, 1991, followed by Germany in whose recognition took effect on January 15, 1992. Slovenia technically did recognise Croatia first, the same as Croatia was the first to recognise Slovenia, but neither country had international recognition at the time, which is the reason Iceland counts first. Floored by Iceland and Germany, other countries started to recognize Croatia and the new-found Republic joined the UN on May 22, 1992. The international status was then additionally boosted with joining Nato on April 1, 2009, and the EU on July 1, 2013.

Today, Croatia has 176 diplomatic relations; and for TCN writers, reporting on diplomacy is nothing new. Diplomatic relations can be viewed, in layman terms, like friendships, and this is why this series is called „Friends of Croatia“. As stated by the E-International relations site, diplomacy has existed as long as the human race. It can be viewed in the first negotiations amongst individuals before graduating to the level we know today.

„Among the many functions of diplomacy, some include preventing war and violence and fortifying relations between two nations. Diplomacy is most importantly used to complete a specific agenda. Therefore without diplomacy, much of the world’s affairs would be abolished, international organizations would not exist, and above all, the world would be in a constant state of war. It is for diplomacy that certain countries can exist in harmony“, writes the E-International relations site.

And indeed, shutting down diplomatic relations is a final step before potential war escalation and the spread of violence. Even with certain diplomatic tensions, Croatia has with Slovenia around Piranski Bay, or with Serbia regarding uncleared questions from the Homeland War, the fact there are diplomatic relations both with Serbia and Slovenia ensures that these tensions can be solved by peace and not violence.

But what exactly are the details of Croatian diplomatic relations with other countries and international organizations? This is precisely what this series strives to bring by explaining the history of Croatian diplomatic relations by talking to diplomats, embassies, and representers of international communities, with an informative, unique approach to each specific relation. The series wants to inform of the ups and downs of Croatian international collaboration, how to make them better, what benefits are there in these relations for Croatia, and what benefits are there for other countries. Keep your eyes open for articles in these series with more details and interesting facts about diplomacy in general too.

If you are working in the embassy or in an international organization in Croatia, feel free to reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

To read more from the series "Friends of Croatia", follow TCN's dedicated page.

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

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