Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Economic Sentiment Indicator Improves in Croatia, Takes a Hit in EU, Euro Area

ZAGREB, 30 March 2022 - Expectations for Croatia's economy improved in March however, uncertainty prevails due to the war in Ukraine which is bothering managers and consumers in the EU and the euro area, triggering a wave of pessimism, shows a report released by the European Commission on Wednesday.

The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) for Croatia picked up in March by 1.5 points compared to February and now stands at 109.1 points.

The strongest improvement was seen in managers' expectations in the industry, improving by 2.9 points with consumer confidence also improving by 1.7 points.

Given the high inflation, trade confidence slumped with the indicator declining by 3.5 points compared to February.

Construction confidence declined by 2.6 points while expectations in the services sector went down by 0.7 points.

In the next few months, managers expect employment to fall, which is shown in the decrease Employment Expectations Indicator of 3.3 points.

The Economy Uncertainty Indicator eased significantly compared to the previous two months, rising by 5.1 points.

Pessimism in Europe

A wave of pessimism has caught managers in the EU and euro area following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the problem with supply chains and the energy and raw materials price hikes.

The ESI in the EU and the euro area dropped substantially by 5.3 and 5.4 points respectively from February.

Consumers are concerned with the high price of energy and a surge in living costs. Consumer confidence slumped by 9.4 points in the EU and 9.9 points in the euro area.

Retail trade confidence deteriorated by 4.9 points in the EU and 5.3 points in the euro area.

Industry confidence fell by 3.4 points in the EU and 3.7 points in the euro area.

Construction confidence remained broadly unchanged.

Services confidence (+1.3) improved for the second month in a row in the EU, driven by managers’ markedly more positive assessment of past demand, and thanks to epidemiological measures being eased. In the euro area it improved by 1.5 points.

The Employment Expectations Indicator decreased (-1.1) in the EU and by 0.9 points in the euro area.

The European Commission’s Economic Uncertainty Indicator rose abruptly in March (+10.7 points to25.8), "driven by growing uncertainty about the impact of the war in Ukraine on the future economic situation of consumers and businesses."

For more, make sure to check out our business section.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Government Sends Bill On Euro Introduction To Sabor

ZAGREB, 3 March 2022 - The government on Thursday sent the parliament a bill on the introduction of the euro as legal tender in Croatia for first reading, and, among other things, the bill concerns the basic principles of euro introduction, possibilities of exchanging kuna for euros and the period of both currencies being in use.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said the bill defines that, after the Council of the EU decides to introduce the euro and adopts a regulation determining a fixed conversion rate, the government will make a decision announcing the date to introduce the euro, the fixed rate of conversion, the start and end date of both currencies being in use, and the start and end date of dual price display, as well as other issues related to euro introduction.

The bill also defines fundamental principles to introduce the euro, including the principle of consumer protection, the principle of banning unjustified price increases, the principle of continuity of legal instruments, the principle of efficiency and economizing, and the principle of transparency of consumer information said Marić.

Cash exchanges will be possible in banks, FINA financial agency branches, and post offices for a period of 12 months as of the introduction of the euro.

"Citizens will be able to exchange 100 notes and 100 coins per transaction without any fee. After the 12 months expire, exchanges will be conducted in the Croatian National Bank without any fee, and it will be possible to exchange notes for an unlimited period and coins for a period of three years after the introduction of the euro," he underscored.

The period of both kuna and euros being in circulation will last 14 days after euro introduction. The bill also contains details regarding exceptions (poker machines, slot machines, ATMs).

The bill also contains regulations regarding dual price displays as a measure to protect consumers. Commercial enterprises will be obliged to show dual prices clearly, visibly noting the exchange rate. That obligation will apply as of September this year and ends at the end of 2023.

The bill defines also exceptions from dual price display where that isn't practical, for example at market stalls, mobile sales, farms, warehouses, slot machines, recyclable packaging, gift cards, and so on).

The bill defines rules for the conversion of deposits in accounts, kuna payment orders, kuna loans, kuna leasing contracts, and the like as well as adjusting interest rates where necessary. The bill also envisages the obligation to report to clients about the conversion, which must not put consumers in a less favorable position than the one they would be in if the euro had not been introduced.

The bill also brings rules related to preparing the budget and financial plans for the year preceding the year of euro introduction, rules for business bookkeeping, rules on reporting, bodies in charge of oversight, and rules related to violations.

"And that is assuming Croatia meets the set conditions and the process of introducing the euro is completed and the euro is introduced on 1 January 2023," said Marić. 

A total of HRK 32.8 million of budget bunds has been secured in 2022 to implement the bill, plus an additional HRK 3.6 million in 2023 and HRK 0.9 million in 2024.

A total of HRK 13.3 million has been secured in the state budget for the financial plans of extra-budgetary users in 2022, and HRK 1.4 million in 2023.

County budgets for 2022 have been secured HRK 5.78 million while city budgets have HRK 15.89 million secured for 2022 for the implementation of the law.

Public consultation on the bill was conducted between 17 January and 15 February 2022 and 128 comments were submitted. The bill will be discussed under the regular procedure.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 7 February 2022

Stjepan Pranjković Withdraws His Croatian Euro Coin Design Proposal

February 7, 2022 - After four days of controversy over an alleged case of plagiarism, Stjepan Pranjković finally decided to withdraw his Croatian euro coin design proposal.

On February 4, Total Croatia News shared the official announcement by the Government and the Croatian National Bank (CNB) regarding the four winners of the Croatian euro coin design proposal competition. In a government session that day, it was confirmed that the 2 euro coin would feature the geographical map of Croatia; the 1 euro coin would feature the kuna, the symbolic animal of Croatia; the 50, 20, and 10 cent coins would feature Nikola Tesla; and that the 5, 2 and 1 cent coins would feature the Glagolitic alphabet.

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Stjepan Pranjković with Boris Vujčić, Croatian National Bank Governor. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

The four winners were present at a symbolic event after the session, where each one offered more details about the creative process behind their Croatian euro coin design proposal and also received a special gift from the Croatian National Bank. It is also known that each of the winners would receive a prize of 70,000 kunas.

Public reaction was mixed. While some applauded the designs, some others criticized them. Many, for example, considered that choosing the map of Croatia was a very simple and easy idea, and others also called Nikola Tesla's coin part of political propaganda about the debate on its origins.

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However, the biggest controversy would come the next day when suspicions began to spread on social networks about an alleged case of plagiarism. Some people found the design of the one-euro coin quite familiar, specifically because of the kuna animal layout. Thus, several users began to find little coincidence in the resemblance between the design of the coin and the image of the British wildlife photographer Iain H Leach of a pine marten, the name by which the animal is known in English.

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Shortly after, they managed to make contact with Leach, who in turn expressed his ignorance of what happened and, in addition, criticized that his permission was not requested to use an image that in the end would win a prize of at least 9,300 euros. Some users even shared a screenshot in a public Facebook group called Bring Your Own Laptop Online, where Pranjković would have asked for help to transform the photo into editing software, by adding special lighting effects to give it a metallic look.

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Finally, after several days of intense criticism, Telegram.hr reports that Pranjković sent a letter to the Croatian National Bank in order to withdraw his proposal and also apologize for the unpleasant atmosphere created by the controversy.

"It was a great honor for me to participate in the process of selecting the national side of the Croatian euro coin. However, motivated by the unpleasant atmosphere created in the media and social networks, as well as the pressures I was exposed to regarding my design of the reverse of the one euro coin with a kuna motif, I decided to withdraw my design proposal for this motif and waive any rights to on the basis of participation in the competition for the motif of a one-euro coin", said Pranjković.

"I made this decision so as not to aggravate this situation or contribute to further possible uncertainties. I am sorry that there have been controversies regarding my work that could harm this important process for the Republic of Croatia. I did not intend to hurt anyone's feelings, so I apologize to everyone, especially to the Croatian National Bank, the Government and the Croatian public ", concluded Pranjković.

The CNB's Money Commission announces that it will hold an emergency session today and will comment on Pranjković's letter. By the way, after the media suspected that Pranjković used someone else's photo for his design, the CNB's Commission reported yesterday that they had launched an urgent inspection of his design.

Speculation regarding the possible alternatives has been present on social networks, with some proposing that the original photographer be credited, that another design be used that also has the kuna as a motif, and others also propose that an entirely different motif be used. However, the outcome of the Croatian euro coin design proposal is uncertain pending the CNB investigation.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Unemployment in EU, Euro Area and Croatia Hit Record Low Since Start of Pandemic

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - The unemployment rate in the European Union (EU), the euro area, and Croatia in November dropped to its lowest level since March 2020 and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Eurostat released on Monday.

The European Union's unemployment rate, measured by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) methodology, in November, fell by 0.2 percentage points compared to the month before, to 6.5%.

In the euro area, it slid by 0.1 percentage point to 7.2%.

In both areas, the joblessness rate thus reached its lowest level since March 2020, when COVID-19 started spreading across the world.

According to Eurostat, there were 13.984 million unemployed persons in the EU in November 2021, including 11.829 million in the euro area.

Compared to October 2021, their number declined by 247,000 in the EU and by 222,000 in the euro area. Compared to November 2020, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 1.659 million in the EU and by 1.411 million in the euro area.

In November 2021, Spain and Greece were the only EU countries to record a double-digit unemployment rate, of 14.1% and 13.4% respectively.

Croatia's unemployment rate, measured by the ILO methodology, dropped to 7.1% from a revised 7.3% in October. An earlier estimate for October indicated an unemployment rate of 7%.

That is the lowest unemployment rate since the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020, when it was 6.5%. In the February before the pandemic, it was 5.9%.

In November, Croatia thus ranked alongside Finland and Latvia, which had unemployment of 7.2% and 7.3% respectively.

There were 127,000 unemployed persons in Croatia in November, according to Eurostat, or 4,000 fewer than in October. Compared to November 2020, their number decreased by 26,000.

The lowest unemployment rate in November was registered by the Czech Republic, of 2.2%. It was followed by the Netherlands (2.7%), Poland (3%), and Germany (3.2%).

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

Friday, 10 December 2021

Marić: Croatia's Eurozone Entry to Benefit Economy and Households

ZAGREB, 10 Dec 2021 - There is a strong consensus that accession to the euro area will benefit the Croatian economy and households, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić told reporters in the northern Adriatic resort town of Rovinj on Friday after a conference on this subject organised by the Večernji List newspaper and Istria County. 

That's why Croatia should do all that is necessary to reduce and minimise any negative risks, such as inflation, and take advantage of positive effects, which outnumber negative ones, for the benefit of its economy and citizens, Marić said.

"Over the past few months we have been witnessing price increases, but they have nothing to do with our eurozone entry. That's a global issue caused by disruptions to supply chains and increases in prices of energy and resources," he added.

Noting that inflation was the biggest risk on Croatia's path to eurozone membership, Marić cited statistics showing that inflation had been around 4% in the past several months and around 2.5% for the whole of this year, which puts Croatia "slightly below the EU average."

Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujčić said that Croatia was the country that would profit the most from eurozone membership.

"One of the benefits of joining the European monetary union is the reduction of foreign exchange risk, which is biggest in Croatia among all EU countries that have not yet adopted the euro. We have a very high level of euroisation. Most of the debt of all sectors in Croatia, including households, companies and government, is tied to the euro. In kuna, it amounts to over HRK 520 billion, which means that 75% of the debt of all sectors is either in euro or indexed to the euro," Vujčić said.

He added that with entry into the euro area interest rates would start to fall, the sovereign credit rating would increase and Croatia would become more attractive to tourism and investment.

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

Friday, 10 December 2021

Croatia Set to Adopt Law on Euro in April 2022

ZAGREB, 10 Dec 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Friday that the bill on introducing the euro currency in Croatia was being prepared and the draft could be outlined in mid-January while its final adoption could be expected in April next year.

In addition to that bill, it will be necessary to amend 46 laws and 70 by-laws prior to the euro changeover, Marić said at a conference on Croatia's accession to the euro area, organised in Rovinj by the Večernji List daily and Istria County authorities.

The blueprint for the euro adoption envisages that on 1 January 2023 Croatia ought to be ready to enter the euro area while the formal announcement of accession to the euro area is expected mid-2022.

"At that moment, Croatia will practically enter the final phase and the preparations for the euro changeover will have to be stepped up," said Marić and recalled that almost 1.1 billion coins and 500 million kuna banknotes have to be withdrawn and banks, post offices, Fina and companies need to be pre-supplied with sufficient euro coins and banknotes.

The financial sector will have to adapt and then there is one huge common task and that is to inform and protect consumers as an integral principle of the entire process.

Prices will have to be expressed in both currencies as of August next year and that should also help alleviate inflation pressure.

"As of 1 January 2023 we will change over to the euro overnight and then have another two weeks for both currencies in circulation and citizens will be able to continue to pay in kuna but after that payments will be in euro. The dual prices will remain for at least one year," he underscored.

"Prime Minister (Andrej) Plenković and (HNB) Governor (Boris) Vujčić and I are lobbying our European colleagues for Croatia to be the next country to enter the European monetary area. We all know that we have a highly eurorised society and economy. And the HNB too, is integrated into the European system of central banks, so it is natural to head towards what is stipulated in EU accession agreements," he said.

The conference further heard that despite some of the economic risks that may occur by relinquishing the national currency, changeover to the euro opens a series of economic opportunities.

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

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Introduction of the Euro: What Will the First Two Weeks Look Like?

September 21, 2021 - Speculation and doubts continue to appear about the future financial scenario in Croatia after the eventual introduction of the euro in the country as an official currency, displacing the kuna, and CNB Governor Boris Vujčić gives some clues about what it would look like in the first weeks.

Pay in kunas, get euros back. At least this is how the first two weeks in Croatia would look after the introduction of the Euro on January 1, 2023, reports Poslovni Dnevnik. The objective is to stop the circulation of what would be the old Croatian currency at that time and to start the circulation of the euro. To provide more information and details, RTL Direkt interviewed CNB Governor Boris Vujčić, who in addition to the introduction of the euro, also talks about inflation and tacit minuses.

Why is the Minister of Finance so tough about not lowering VAT, couldn't the introduction of the euro be used to reduce it?

You have to ask him about VAT. As for inflation, I would say that a good part of inflation really comes from food especially now in the summer while in the first half of the year most of the inflation came from rising energy prices. At the moment, about half of the rise in inflation is energy, and now in the summer, food, vegetables and fruits are practically poor due to partly weather conditions.

Aren't you afraid of rising inflation? In the US it is somewhere around 6 percent…

The US has a higher inflation rate, but the economy is overheated there, they also have strong fiscal stimuli that are stronger than European ones and I do not see that at this time such an inflation rate could happen in Croatia, we expect that year-round inflation rate to be 2.2 percent. This is, in principle, the goal of the European Central Bank, so we should not be concerned about that. The problem is if there is a change in expectations, wage growth, but we do not see that at the moment. A significant part of that inflation comes from the fact that the so-called supply chains in the world at this time were disrupted. The Crown has disrupted all that, now you have continents where there are a lot of containers, some countries where you don't have them. You have a situation that road traffic, air travel, is still at a very low level and everything that flew with passengers on airplanes cannot fly… Then companies formed very large stocks that they never had and that logistically present a problem, say in the car industry you have full car parks that you can’t reach at the moment. It all takes some time to clear up and get back to what we had in 2019, one good mechanism, and then prices will slowly start to fall. I would say it won’t happen in the next 6 months.

Especially rising real estate prices. Housing squares are not in the inflation basket?

They are not. I am in favor of having these prices in the basket and what the European Central Bank, where we are going now, has done, and what will be the standard… that these prices will also start to be included in the basket, however, this will only be through two, three years. At the moment we have only the so-called implicit prices through rents and they do not reflect the fact that real estate prices have risen significantly, and they have risen because there is a lot of liquidity, a lot of money, part of which flows into the real estate sector. For example, interest rates that are at zero, or in the countries around us in the eurozone are even negative on deposits of citizens - some of these citizens take money from banks and carry and buy real estate, which inflates real estate prices.

Aren't you afraid that we will enter the eurozone just when euro inflation starts?

I wouldn't say. I don't see it as a danger. I do not see the inflation we measure through the consumer basket as a medium-term danger when we enter the eurozone, but I see the risks arising from these prices that we see at the moment in the bond market, real estate where much money has flowed and even cryptocurrencies. That bubble can always burst, as you know, financial crises arise, but it can blow out easily, prices can stabilize, which will depend on a lot of things, in my opinion, there is primarily a risk. Not these consumer prices.

What do you think would be the best advice for citizens?

Since I do not see any great risk from inflation itself, then I do not think that it should not be insured by investing in those types of assets for which the price is already too high, said Vujčić.

The Governor on the introduction of the euro

How many kuna, physical, banknotes are in circulation?

You have a billion and one hundred million coins and about half a billion of paper money. It is a demanding logistical operation, it all needs to be pulled.

What will it look like? I go to the store, I pay in kunas, the change is returned to me in euros?

That's right. Until 01.01. is HRK, from 01.01. is either kuna or euro for two weeks, after that it is only euro, with the proviso that when you pay in those two weeks, you pay in kuna, the euro is returned to you. And we collect all the kuna.

And then what about them? Are they going somewhere to catch fire?

Coins are a bigger problem. I already said it’s like 120 ZET trams. We have to store and store it somewhere, because it is money for another three years, as long as it changes. As long as they change, they are money. We agreed with the Croatian Army…

Are you building a safe somewhere?

We will build a safe, but at the same time, we agreed with the Croatian Army. It’s really all together logistically difficult.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Croatia Set to Amend 118 Laws and Regulations Before Switching to the Euro

ZAGREB, 16 Sept 2021 - The government on Thursday adopted a conclusion on amending 46 laws and 72 regulations until 15 July 2022  as part of the roadmap for the euro changeover process.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić informed the cabinet that in the last month, the competent agencies had itemized a total of 118 laws and regulations which should be amended within the national plan for the adoption of the euro.

The time frame for Croatia's admission to the euro area in 2023 thus entails the amending of the necessary legislation until 15 July 2022.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković recalled that three days ago, the European Commission Executive Vice President  Valdis Dombrovskis, who attended the 11th meeting of the national council for the introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency, strongly supported the work and ambitions of the government and other Croatian institutions to join the euro area.

Last Thursday the Irish Finance Minister and Eurogroup President, Paschal Donohoe visited Zagreb and said that Croatia had made important and positive progress on the road to euro area membership.

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

Monday, 13 September 2021

Switching to Euro Will Help Croatia Enjoy Better Credit Rating

ZAGREB, 13 Sept 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Monday that the introduction of the euro as the sole legal tender would impact Croatia's credit rating, and quoted the Fitch agency's presumption that the country's admission to the euro area would raise its credit rating by two notches.

Addressing a meeting of the National Council for the introduction of the Euro as Official Currency in Croatia, which was also attended by the EC Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, Minister Marić recalled that the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic triggered off a rise in the budget gap, and last year the general government deficit amounted to 7.4% of the country's GDP.

This year, it is estimated at 3.8%.

According to the latest estimates, the budget deficit in 2022 will fall to 2.6% of GDP and to 1.9% in 2023, while in 2024 it is projected to be 1.5% of GDP.

Marić recalled that as a consequence of the higher budget deficit, the public debt also rose in 2020 when it reached 88% of GDP.

This year, the public debt is likely to fall by two percentage points to 86.6%, and in 2022, it is expected to be reduced by a further three percentage points.

Marić expects the public debt to be 76.8% of GDP at the end of 2024.

He announced a shift of the focus to inflation, noting that inflation trends were now present worldwide.

Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor, Boris Vujčić, said that Croatia's admission to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) II had brought the country under the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and it also joined the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM).

Concerning the HNB, we are already in the bank union to a large extent. Our experience from participation in the SSM and SRM is good, we have adjusted ourselves to that, Vujčić said.

Commenting on fears of higher prices being triggered off by the euro changeover, the governor pledged the protection of consumers and good communication.

"We are preparing the code of ethics which will be offered to businesses and services to sign, whereby they undertake fair performance during the euro changeover, he explained.

We will introduce monitoring and we will use the best practices of countries that have already converted their national currencies to the euro, he said.

For more, follow our business section.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Prime Minister Confident Croatia Will Be Ready to Join Euro Area on January 1st, 2023

ZAGREB, 13 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday he was confident Croatia would be ready to enter the euro area on 1 January 2023.

Speaking at the 11th meeting of the national council for the introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency, Plenković said Croatia had the full support of the European Commission and the European Central Bank to join the euro area.

"We approached this process in a very structured way, carefully. We believe we will fulfill in time all the commitments we undertook by entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism."

He said the government regularly discussed reform implementation in money laundering prevention, the business environment, public administration management, and the justice system, adding that he was confident all the ministries involved would fulfill what had been agreed.

Highly euroized economy

Plenković reiterated that over 60% of Croatia's export was to EU member states, over 60% of tourists in Croatia came from the euro area, over two-thirds of savings and half the loans in Croatia were in euros and that Croatia was already a highly euroized economy.

The experience of the countries which joined the euro area shows that it benefitted both their citizens and economies. Entering the euro area will eliminate the currency risk and exchange costs, reduce interest rates, boost foreign investment, and increase the possibility of financing on the capital market, which we are sure will have an additional effect on our credit rating, Plenković said.

That will also facilitate exports and tourist arrivals, he added.

By comparing pay and price trends in new member states, one can conclude that gross wages increased considerably in relation to price growth, he said. "Living standards increased considerably after the introduction of the euro."

Plenković reiterated that Croatia would have €25 billion in EU funds at its disposal in the years ahead.

"We expect an advance of €818 million could arrive in Croatia in the weeks ahead and, with the GDP growth we saw in the second quarter and which, after such a successful tourism season, will certainly be such in the third quarter as well, to embark on strong economic recovery, strengthening the resilience of the Croatian economy, quality of life, and raising the standard of our fellow citizens."

Dombrovskis: EC strongly supports Croatia's work and ambition to join the euro area

The European Commission Executive Vice President of for an Economy that Works for People Valdis Dombrovskis said at the meeting the Croatian government had shown a strong political will and set ambitious goals.

The Commission strongly supports the work and ambitions of the government and other Croatian institutions to join the euro area, which requires meeting all Maastricht criteria, he added.

Your economy is recovering well and will receive support via the recovery and resilience plan. Croatia is the biggest recipient of EU funds. 11.6% of GDP has been allocated to Croatia in grants, he said.

Dombrovskis said taking the euro path was worth it as it would lead to a more prosperous economy.

Asked by the press about the current inflationary pressures and if prices would go up once Croatia joined the euro area, the Commissioner said one should carefully monitor the impact of introducing the euro on prices also while preparing to introduce it in order to prevent significant price growth.

He said that when the euro was being introduced, product prices were being monitored in two currencies, among other things so that citizens could get used to prices in euros.

The relevant authorities will also have to monitor prices. Latvia, for example, where Dombrovskis was prime minister, conducted a campaign for a fair and equitable introduction of the euro.

Everything that was necessary was done to prevent the introduction of the euro from being used to raise prices, and even retail chains took part in the campaign, he said.

He added that no significant price increase was registered in the Baltic countries that entered the euro area last.

Plenković told the press there was no need for a referendum on euro adoption, explaining that during its referendum on its European Union's admission, Croatia also assumed the obligation to enter the euro area.

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

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