Monday, 24 January 2022

Main Infrastructure Projects for Zadar County Presented to Minister

ZAGREB, 24 Jan 2022 - Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković on Monday held talks with Zadar County Prefect Božidar Longin  on to the most important transport and infrastructure projects in that county including a connecting four-lane road from the Zadar 1 exit on the motorway.

After the meeting, Butković visited the construction site on the Zadar waterfront which is being reconstructed and said that this was yet another large project in building port infrastructure along with the first European project and a new port in Tkon and Sali.

"This is a very important project and Zadar County is one of the more successful. Preparations are underway and new financing is being negotiated for the seaports at Preko and Biograd. The Biograd port, similar to the one in Gaženica, will transfer traffic while the Preko port will get a new breakwater," said Butković.

"During the meeting, there was talk about a maritime route between Zadar and Ancona which needs to be restored because these are the two closest points on both sides of the Adriatic and Jadrolinija recently shut down that line because it wasn't feasible. At the same time, the line from Split has survived because it is subsidised. The connection with Ancona is important primarily due to freight transport but also for passenger transport," Longin underscored. Minister Butković promised to talk about this issue with Jadrolinija director David Sopta.

There was also talk about amendments to the county's physical plan which are underway and of identifying priorities of all road directions, railway routes, the Zadar airport and port traffic.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Gov't Establishes Human Rights Council

ZAGREB, 10 Dec 2021 - The Croatian government on Friday formed the Human Rights Council, with Deputy PM Boris Milošević, who is in charge of social affairs and human rights, recalling that Croatia was observing Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Day commemorates 10 December 1948 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the foundation of the international human rights system.

The establishment of the Human Rights Council builds on the political tradition of the existence of a separate interdepartmental body that helps the government in its efforts to recognise and respond, as constructively and as efficiently as possible, to the new challenges regarding  human rights, Milošević noted.

The government's decision defines the tasks and composition of the Council, to be headed by Deputy PM Milošević.

The government today also adopted a programme of measures for the reconstruction of buildings damaged in last year's earthquakes in the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje County, Zagreb County, Sisak-Moslavina County and Karlovac County, which is being aligned with amendments to the law on the reconstruction of earthquake-damaged buildings.

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Friday, 29 October 2021

Sabor Adopts Prime Minister's Annual Report

ZAGREB, 29 Oct 2021 - The Sabor on Friday adopted Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's annual report on the government's work with 76 votes in favour, 41 against and two abstentions, after he submitted the report on Wednesday, announcing an increase in the minimum wage and parental allowance.

As of 1 January the minimum wage will increase by a net amount of HRK 350 from HRK 3,400 to HRK 3,750 or a net amount of €500, Plenković said on Wednesday.

This is an increase of 10.3% for 51,000 workers.

Presenting the report, Plenković reiterated the importance of demography and announced that next year the government would increase parental allowance to HRK 7,500 for employed and self-employed parents as well as introducing a 10-day paternal leave for employed and self-employed fathers.

Plenković also presented optimistic economic indicators.

"Although we expected a growth of 5.2 percent, the successful tourist season and the 16.1% growth in the second quarter give us reason to believe that we could reach annual GDP growth of over eight percent," the PM said on Wednesday.

He said that despite the numerous problems and challenges his government was faced with and possible mistakes made, it was trying to steer the country in the direction of economic recovery and development and a better life for all citizens.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Holds Welcoming Ceremony For Croatian Olympic, Paralympic Athletes

ZAGREB, 8 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday organised a welcoming ceremony for Croatian athletes who had competed at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, congratulating them on their achievements.

Addressing the athletes, Plenković said that the government appreciated and was very grateful for their achievements and promotion of Croatia on the global scene.

He said that his government had increased investments in sports by 100% and would continue to invest.

Attending the welcoming ceremony for the Croatian Olympic and Paralympic athletes were also Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac, Labour Minister Josip Aladrović, Defence Minister Mario Banožić and Croatian Olympic Committee president Zlatko Mateša.

During the 23 July-8 August Olympic Games in Tokyo, Croatia won eight medals: three golds, three silvers and two bronzes.

Croatian athletes with disabilities who competed at the 24 August- 5 September Paralympic Games won seven medals - three silvers and four bronzes.

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

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Financial Minister Zdravko Marić: Overdraft Solution in Days or Weeks Ahead

ZAGREB, 8 Sept, 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday a solution to current account overdrafts was expected in the days or weeks ahead and that it remained to be seen if the law would need to be amended.

He was speaking to the press after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's meeting with representatives of banks' management boards, which was also attended by central bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujčić and Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić.

Marić said the purpose of the meeting was to exchange information and views on current account overdrafts with a view to finding an adequate and satisfactory solution in which, he added, the government emphasised consumer protection.

He said several good proposals crystallised at the meeting, aimed at protecting social sensitivity, fairness, information and transparency as well as at reaching a solution under which authorised overdrafts would again dominate, as they are regulated by law in much more detail, much more clearly and transparently than tacit overdrafts.

The 2010 Consumer Credit Act recognises authorised and tacit overdrafts, but since 2018 the latter have become prevalent, accounting for almost 95% of all overdrafts, Marić said. Tacit overdrafts have been approved for almost 1.8 million consumers and are being exercised by 840,000.

That happened because under a central bank decision from the end of 2017, pursuant to European regulations, the calculation of the effective interest rate includes the fee for having a current account. As a result, authorised overdrafts became less available to lower income citizens and banks switched to tacit overdrafts.

Marić said a solution should be prompt but not rushed and to the benefit of all consumers. He told people living with tacit overdrafts that the government did not intend to nor would support a solution that would result in a drastic cancellation of overdrafts because that would put additional pressure on their everyday lives and livelihoods. "We'll dispel all fears that this instrument will be annulled and disappear."

A solution may be found by changing the decision within the central bank's remit, but if necessary, the law will be adjusted, he said, adding that if the former option was chosen, that would be known in the next few days, and in case of the latter, in the next few weeks. "We are really not talking about months."

The minister said it was necessary to continue to work on people's financial literacy as well as on product transparency.

Vujčić: The goal is that lowest income citizens don't lose current account overdraft option

The central bank governor said that since Croatia was the only country limiting effective interest rate on overdrafts, the inclusion of the current account fee in the rate as of 2018 resulted in the fee "swallowing" interest, primarily on small overdrafts.

He said that, for example, no interest was paid on overdrafts up to HRK 2,000 and a current account fee of HRK 12.

"We have several different regulations which produce such results and that should be put in order, so that for those with the lowest incomes, and consequently overdrafts, those products don't become unprofitable for banks and they start cancelling them."

Vujčić said the point was to return tacit overdrafts under the same regulations that applied to authorised overdrafts, without a certain number of people with the lowest incomes losing the overdraft option in the process.

"That's the point and that's what we'll do," he said, adding that it remained to be agreed on how to do it.

Croatian Banking Association (HUB) director Zdenko Adrović said that representatives of the banking sector spoke at the meeting about practices in other European countries, expressing hope that the new solution would be in line with those practices.

He stressed that there was no cap on the effective interest rate in other countries, so one of the proposals presented was for the cap on the effective interest rate to be removed and a cap on the nominal interest rate to be possibly introduced.

Adrović said that one of the proposals was for costs related to current account overdrafts to be calculated at "a slightly higher minimum amount", but noted that this was a technical solution that still had to be discussed with the HNB.

Asked by reporters how citizens would now be able to trust banks after they had switched their authorised overdrafts to tacit ones, Adrović claimed that everything was done in line with the law and that authorised and tacit overdrafts were two equal products.

He said that he "assumed" that a "vast majority" of citizens had been informed by their banks about tacit overdrafts, but that a large number of citizens, including himself, "relatively rarely" read notices about possible changes.

Marić: No reduction of VAT on food in 2022

Asked is VAT, including on food, would be lowered considering current price hikes, Finance Minister Marić said that the government had already reduced the VAT rate on some food products, including fresh meat and fish, and fruit and vegetables, and that it planned to reduce VAT on all food products during the current term in office.

But that will happen only after the necessary conditions are met, he stressed, noting that currently and in 2022 there was no fiscal room for such a move.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Marija Vučković Takes Part in Informal Meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers

ZAGREB, 7 Sept, 2021 - The agriculture strategy envisions further investment in public services in rural areas, with an emphasis on digitisation, irrigation, renewable energy production and increasing energy efficiency, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said at an informal meeting of EU ministers.

In order to succeed in that, it is essential to continue investing in human capital, the minister stressed.

Minister Vučković was taking part in an informal meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, which was held in Kranj, Slovenia on Monday and Tuesday. The Agriculture Ministry reported on Tuesday that the central topic of the meeting was strengthening dialogue between urban and rural areas in the EU, with an emphasis on possibilities for their further development.

The long-term vision for the EU's rural areas up to 2040 aims to reverse negative trends affecting rural areas, including depopulation, population ageing and the decline in attractiveness of rural areas as places to live. The vision brings together several policies that go beyond the common agricultural policy (CAP) and require a more integrated and coordinated approach at the EU, national and regional level, the press release says.

In order for the process aimed at strengthening rural areas to succeed, it is necessary to continue investing in human resources, Minister Vučković stressed.

We have to provide funds for investments and help young people to realise their business goals in rural areas and respond to challenges by creating added value, she said.

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Friday, 27 August 2021

FinMin Pleased with State of Budget

ZAGREB, 27 Aug 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Friday that he could be pleased with the state of the budget and that it was in line with expectations, with some tax revenues exceeding them, such as VAT, which outperforms its 2019 level since the beginning of the year.

As the level of employment has been preserved, and even increased, Marić is also pleased with the amount of paid contributions for pension insurance.

He underscored again that the key to the sustainability of public finance lay on state budget expenditures, on which great emphasis was placed.

Asked by the press whether the government had a clear reform plan on the table, for instance, for health care, which is a great burden on the budget, the finance minister recalled the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) had been adopted and it listed reforms in various segments.

The health care reform, Marić said, should go beyond what is written in the NPOO, because that is a more comprehensive process which everyone knows is needed, Health Minister Vili Beroš is working on it, and the entire package of measures should be presented to the public by the end of the year.

Asked about job-retention grants for entrepreneurs, Marić recalled there were conditions for those grants, such as a drop in revenue, so those grants were not crucial for a significant part of businesses. However, he added that one always had to be braced for any negative surprises.

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Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Deputy PM Boris Milošević: It is Important That Hate Ends

ZAGREB, 25 Aug, 2021 - It is important that hate stops and is not passed on to new generations because only that way, can we build a better Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević said at a commemoration for the civilian victims of the 1995 Operation Storm in Plavno and Grubori near Knin.

"Unfortunately, those who know what happened in Grubori 26 years ago have chosen silence, they have chosen to protect those who committed the crime. Those who have chosen to keep silent and those who committed the crime, just as all of us here, need to be aware of the importance of human life, including in war, when people get killed. There is no higher goal that can justify the killing of elderly and infirm civilians," Milošević said at the commemoration, organised by the Serb National Council (SNV) and the Šibenik-Knin County Serb Minority Council.

One should not differentiate between victims, justify crimes

Noting that one should not differentiate between victims or justify the crimes committed by one side with crimes committed by others, Milošević said that forgiveness did not give legitimacy to crimes nor did it mean oblivion but rather "that we opt for the future and hope."

"Those who committed this horrible crime with impunity did not expect that the survivors who were expelled from here would return," SNV vice-president and Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) MP Anja Šimpraga said.

She noted that the state had finally launched reconstruction in Grubori and that the first steps had been made in that regard.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's envoy Veran Matić said that so far "Croatia has failed in every possible respect when it comes to Grubori."

"By rebuilding Grubori, a process that was launched last year when a new policy of reconciliation was introduced here, Croatia would show that indeed it has not failed in every respect when it comes to this area," Matić said, adding that the return of pre-war villagers could not threaten anyone.

Pupovac: Awareness of need for reconciliation built in Grubori

SNV president Milorad Pupovac said that Grubori was one of the places where an awareness of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation was fostered.

"We are doing our best for the number of such places in Croatia to grow. Much stronger reconstruction efforts are needed in this area, in terms of public lighting, public transportation and social care," he said.

On Ustasha salute

He also commented on current debates about a ban on the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready".

"Below the society's surface, a battle is being waged between what constitutes today's democratic Croatia and what constitutes a pro-Ustasha Croatia and its integration in today's Croatia as a legacy. That is a battle we should wage and for that, we need media, schools, public authorities, as well as the government, parliament and the president of the republic, and not only courts and criminal laws," said Pupovac.

Today's commemoration in Plavno and Grubori was held for 32 people killed in Plavno and for six Serb civilians killed in its hamlet of Grubori.

Former members of the Anti-Terrorist Unit Lučko Frano Drlje and Božo Krajina were tried on two occasions for the murder of the six Serb civilians in Grubori on 25 August 1995, but the Zagreb County Court acquitted them both times for lack of evidence.

The Supreme Court upheld the verdict in October 2019 and explaining its ruling, it stated explicitly that there had been attempts to cover up the atrocity.

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

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Opposition MP Doesn't Believe There'll Be Anything of Zagreb Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 24 Aug, 2021 - Member of Parliament Anka Mrak-Taritaš on Tuesday said that it seems there won't be anything of Zagreb's reconstruction following the earthquake that hit the city 17 months ago and that the lack of goodwill for reconstruction is "the greatest shame of Andrej Plenković's government." 

Seventeen months after the earthquake, there is still nothing regarding Zagreb's reconstruction. There is no longer even any meetings between the government and City authorities. Damir Vanđelić, the director of the Fund for Reconstruction and Economy Minister Darko Horvat have even stopped debating in the media about who is more at fault for that," Mrak-Taritaš told a press conference on Tuesday.

As an example of what could have been done in that time, she recalled that the Empire State Building with its 102 floors was built in sixteen months' time, "and without disrupting traffic."

MP Mrak-Tartiaš warned that eight months had passed since money from the EU Solidarity Fund was paid into the government's account and "that Croatia is at risk of being the first member state to not spend that money within the set deadline and that the country might be compelled to repay it to the EU budget, while at the same time the government is using alibis why things are not being done, from the law to the programme of measures and the fund." 

The sole GLAS lawmaker believes that "it is absolutely certain now" that there won't be anything of Zagreb's reconstruction as that "requires the know-how, good management and will, yet there is none of that." She concluded that the fact that there is no will is the Plenković's government's greatest shame and sin of not doing anything."

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Thursday, 19 August 2021

SDP, GLAS Criticise Gov't Decision to Co-Finance Construction of Chapel in Bethlehem

ZAGREB, 19 Aug, 2021 - The Social Democratic Party has criticised the government's decision to co-finance the construction of a chapel in Bethlehem with HRK 3.3 million, calling on it to use the money for the reconstruction of houses in the earthquake-hit region of Banija while the GLAS party called the decision scandalous.

"At a time when the healthcare system is under strain, when post-earthquake reconstruction in Zagreb and Banija is late and people lack basic conditions for normal living, our foreign minister considers it a priority to finance the Church," SDP political secretary and MP Mirela Ahmetović said in a statement.

Calling on the government to use the money intended for the chapel to rebuild a dozen homes in Banija or buy expensive drugs for children suffering from rare diseases, Ahmetović noted that the Catholic Church receives around HRK 300 million from the state budget annually plus donations from local government units.

Another opposition party, GLAS, described the government's decision as scandalous, noting that Croatia did not have a sufficient number of radiation therapy machines, which was why some cancer patients had to wait for therapy for up to three months.

"The Andrej Plenković government has always chosen its priorities wisely, including this time. Their clients and the Church that brings votes come first, and if something is left over, citizens get what they really need," the party said in a statement.

GLAS MP Anka Mrak-Taritaš proposed to the parliament that the government should purchase three new radiation therapy machines, one costing HRK 5 million.

Earlier in the day the government decided to allocate 3.375 million kuna(€450,000) for the construction of a Croatian chapel in Bethlehem and thus granted a request made by Conventual Franciscans in Zagreb.

The chapel will be built in Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem to honour Croatian saints and Croatians who have been blessed.

Friar Sandro Tomasevic, a clergyman in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, told Hina that he was happy with the government's decision and described Croatia's plan to build the chapel as one of the six nations to do so in Bethlehem as a great success.

"It is a great thing for the whole homeland, particularly for our faithful and pilgrims," the priest said.

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