Thursday, 30 June 2022

PM Says Government Systematically Making Strategic Headway For Prosperity Of Citizens

ZAGREB, 30 June 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government was "very systematically making strategic headway" to improve the lives of citizens and the economy, referring to Croatia's admission to the euro area and the Schengen Area, as well as to the upgrade of the country's credit ratings.

At its last summit, the European Council confirmed Croatia's entry into the euro area on 1 January 2023, and the government expects that Croatia will also join the Schengen area then too.

"We are very systematically making these strategic steps forward for the prosperity of our citizens and economy. They (that headway) are here, they will last, they will remain, and they will be a kind of legacy of the two terms of our government," Plenković said at a cabinet meeting.

"These are really great strategic achievements. They do not just come with some routine schedule. They come on the basis of the implementation of reforms, the fulfillment of benchmarks, the adoption of laws, and our political and diplomatic engagement," he added.

The Moody's agency has recently announced that it could raise Croatia's credit rating to the investment category following the EU's recommendation for Zagreb's entry into the euro area.

Croatia's current rating of 'Ba1' signals investors that the agency considers the purchase of Croatian government bonds a speculative investment.

Last Friday Moody's announced that it will raise Croatia's rating by two levels, to 'Baa2', investment category.

Plenković said that Croatia will have the best credit rating so far in the investment level, according to the assessments of all the three largest global credit rating agencies.

"We are sending a message of confidence to financial markets, investors, partners (...) There will be many more such positive messages. Only now will we appear on the radar of some serious stakeholders on the market since we have been given a sort of tick from all three agencies," he underscored.

Council's conclusions on BiH call for limited constitutional and electoral law reforms

Commenting on the conclusions of the last European Council on the possible candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Plenković said that the Croatian initiative included the wording that the European Council is ready to give BiH candidate status if it meets reforms in 14 areas, including limited constitutional and electoral law reforms. They "should address the issue of the inequality of Croats as the least numerous constituent people in the country among other things, said the PM underscoring that Zagreb has been systematically advocating the BiH Croats' rights for years.

Plenković also commented on a decision at the NATO summit in Madrid to give the green light for Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO.

He said he was "glad" that President Zoran Milanović agreed with the government's position, who had previously said that it was necessary to block the Swedish and Finnish request for NATO membership until the election law in BiH was changed.

A proposal on initiating the procedure for concluding a protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO was adopted during Thursday's cabinet meeting.

 

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Government Declares Two Seaside Resort Projects Strategic Investments

ZAGREB, 30 June 2022 - The Croatian government on Thursday declared the "Marina Cavtat & Resort" project, estimated at HRK 625 million excluding Value Added Tax, and the "Frapa Resort Medine" project, estimated at HRK 1.04 billion including VAT, to be investments of strategic importance.

"Marina Cavtat & Resort" is a project to be developed on 6.4 hectares in the coastal town of Cavtat, southernmost Croatia. The project consists of a future five-star hotel with 260 accommodation units, that is with 900 beds.

Upon its completion, the resort will hire 250 permanent workers and 150 seasonal workers.

The "Frapa Resprt Medine" project in the coastal town of Rogoznica envisages the construction of a five-star hotel with over 300 beds, and spa facilities.

Furthermore, the whole resorts will offer up to 700 beds on aggregate, and will include villas, and other accommodation facilities within the resort.

Upon the implementation of the project, 110 permanent workers will be hired in the resort, plus 50 seasonal workers.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Opposition Mps: Abortion Should Be Available In All Hospitals

ZAGREB, 5 May 2022 - Female lawmakers from the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Social Democrats, Green-Left Boc, Centre, GLAS, Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) and Workers' Front announced on Thursday they would once again send a motion to Parliament for abortion to be made available in all hospitals in Croatia.

"The case where a child was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in the 26th week of pregnancy and could die, and if it doesn't, it will live like a vegetable has shaken us all but unfortunately, this is just the consequence of a problem that Croatia has been faced with for years," MP Sabina Glasovac (SDP) said at a joint press conference.

Glasovac said that the law treats Croatian women as "second-rate" recalling that the Constitutional Court had clearly said already in 2017 that the present law, dating from 1978, should be updated and made implementable. The government has done nothing in that regard "because of fear of losing part of its electorate and in that way, it is sacrificing the health and lives of women."

Glasovac said that the opposition did not just watch from the sidelines but reacted in 2020 by  submitting a bill. However, the government did not react to it.

She announced that the opposition would once again submit its bill into the procedure and collect signatures from MPs to 'push' it onto the Sabor's agenda prior to the summer recess.

"We will seek that every health institution regardless of conscientious objection ensures a sufficient number of doctors who will provide this medical service to terminate a pregnancy without seeking the reason for it, for it to be ensured and legally implementable," Glasovac announced.

Katica Glamuzina (Social Democrats) said that they are inviting Health Minister Beroš to come to the Sabor and explain why the law has not been adopted in the past three years, why the conscientious objection is not regulated by any act and why patients are referred to Slovenia to pay €1,000 for something they should have for free in their own country.

Raukar Gamulin (ZLB): System has left the desperate pregnant woman on her own

Urša Raukar Gamulin (Green-Left Bloc) said that the incomprehensible tragedy of a pregnant woman was not enough and that the system has left her to be completely on her own.

"The thing that happened to that pregnant woman is a tragedy of the system and has shown that there is no 'health system' to protect women. The system is obliged to ensure an abortion for every woman regardless of conscientious objection because what is happening now is inhumane and has no regard for that woman. We do not know how many women have been referred to Slovenia to solve their problem, but as she said, she is a citizen of Croatia and wants to solve her problem in Croatia," Raukar Gamulin said.

Katarina Peović (Workers' Front) warned  that the vested right, support from the science community, and support from the legislature for women ensuring their health and right to manage their own bodies "did not last long."

"We will fight with all our means to raise that issue to a higher level, to put it in the public sphere, because only the fight by both men and women can restore this right that was once won," she said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

PM Plenković Wishes Happy Easter

ZAGREB, 16 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday issued a message with the best wishes for Easter and calls for showing solidarity with those in need in the Croatian society as well as with all persons whose lives and freedoms are threatened by the war and military aggression in Ukraine.

In the light of the greatest Christian holiday, I wish a happy Easter and health, peace, love and family togetherness, Plenković said underscoring that our thoughts are with those in need in the Croatian society as well as with all persons whose lives and freedoms are threatened by the war and military aggression in Ukraine.

May the power of Christ's resurrection give us faith and hope about overcoming all the difficulties and challenges we are faced with and about building better mutual understanding and respect in the society, says the premier.

He also underscored that the Croatians are called on to care for the future and survival of the Croatian nation, with demographic revitalisation being an essential a prerequisite for that.

 

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Croatian Government Unveils €640 Million Support Package to Cushion Energy Price Rises

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - The Croatian government on Wednesday launched an HRK 4.8 billion (€640 million) package of measures aimed at shielding consumers from rising energy prices.

The package includes the capping of the growth of electricity prices to 9.6% and the growth in prices of gas to 20%.

Furthermore, the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate on gas supplies and some agricultural products will be lowered.

The package also provides a rebate on domestic energy bills.

Unveiling the set of measures, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that the package had been prepared in a systematic manner, and is "timely and all-encompassing".

The package contains the measures targeting households, businesses and agricultural producers, Plenković said adding that the state-run Croatian power provider HEP will also bear a part of the burden to address the rising electricity prices.

The measures encompass tax reduction, subsidies for citizens at risk of energy poverty, and one-off discounts on energy bills for pension recipients, while businesses, farms and fisheries will be entitled to subsidies to cope with the rising energy costs.

Cap for electricity paid to make HRK 460 million disposable to households

The caps on the rise in prices of electricity will make HRK 460 million disposable to households.

The subsidies for households using gas will include HRK 0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

The support will be provided to micro businesses and SMEs with the average annual consumption of gas up to 10 gigawatt-hour, and the discount will be HRK 0.15 per kWh.

The VAT rate on gas and heating energy will be lowered from 25% to 13%, the same VAT already applied on power. The lower VAT is a permanent measure.

VAT will additionally be reduced to 5% on gas as a temporary measure, in place from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

VAT to be reduced on some food in bid to tackle rising cost of living for households

The VAT rates of 13% will be reduced to 5% for fresh meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, cooking oils, and baby food and the the standard 25% VAT rate will be slashed to 5% on some items in the agricultural production (fertilisers, plants etc.).

The package aimed at tackling rising costs of living also includes the reduction of the 25% VAT to 13% on feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and sanitary towels.

The coupons for electricity bills for senior citizens at risk of poverty will increase from 200 to 400 kuna a month and will now also be applicable to gas bills.

Pensioners whose monthly income is up to HRK 4,000 will be also entitled to payments between HRK 400 and 1,200 under the the energy support scheme. 

(€1 = HRK 7.523717)

For more, check out our politics and lifestyle section.

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.

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

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.

For more on politics. CLICK HERE.

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.

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

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