Friday, 5 February 2021

Milanović: HGK Has Become Pointless, Mandatory Membership Fee Should Be Abolished

ZAGREB, 4 February, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Thursday it made no sense any more for the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) to be funded by everyone in business who did not know what they were getting in return, adding that the mandatory monthly membership fee should be abolished.

"The mandatory fee is a parafiscal levy par excellence," he told the press.

Milanović said the HGK was "a political den," much more so than the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts which "has a certain function, although politics managed to become implanted there as well, and deeply. But it has its point, its function and use for Croatia's economy and enterprise."

He said the HGK was not an essential institution of the Croatian people and state, but a useful institution which had become useless. "Political showdowns are taking place there on a weekly basis. The election of a new HGK president after Nadan Vidošević left has turned into a political showdown."

Milanović said that he too had paid a monthly HGK fee but received nothing in return. However, he stressed, he is not for abolishing the HGK.

He agreed with the demand by the Voice of Entrepreneurs NGO for abolishing the mandatory HGK membership. He said that when he was prime minister, his cabinet failed to do so because of serious and deep problems. "That should be done right away."

Asked about yesterday's protest in Zagreb, organised by the Voice of Entrepreneurs to show dissatisfaction with how the COVID-19 crisis is being dealt with, the president said the epidemiological measures were not equal for all.

However, he added, he does not see in that "any devious scheme or conspiracy" by the national COVID response team, only inconsistent messages. "I see no evil intent in that, but it should be elaborated further".

Protests were expected

Milanović said that the protests were expected because when people give up something they demand consistency. He recalled that he had been warning from the start that restrictions must be clearly based in law and logic.

"Legally, the measures should have been passed by a two-thirds majority in parliament because this is a state of emergency," he said, adding that some people were fed up with the state of emergency and the government should talk to them.

Asked about the appointment of former deputy prime minister Martina Dalić as the president of the management board of the Podravka food company, he said that pension funds had a lot of shares in this company with an annual revenue of HRK 4.5 billion. If Podravka had not been restructured and recapitalised in July 2015, the government would now hold less than 25% and would not have such influence on the appointment of the board president.

"This is obviously a political appointment, but it does not necessarily mean that it will be a bad one. We'll see," Milanović said. He recalled that between 2012 and February 2017, when the company was led by the Social Democratic Party's Zvonimir Mršić, Podravka had doubled its stock-exchange capitalisation and increased its revenue during deflation by a quarter. He warned that in the last four years Podravka's revenue had increased by the difference in prices.

"It's a company with millions and millions in savings and our future pensioners also have expectations from it. There is also the responsibility of pension funds and pension insurance fund management companies which apparently agreed to the political demand of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. If the company grows, and it has been stagnating for years, fine, but if it does not, the question of political appointment will be raised because Martina Dalić was never in this business," the president said.

As regards the planned purchase of multi-purpose fighter jets, Milanović said he understood that a decision was delayed because of the present situation, but stressed that a decision must be made in the months ahead.

Commenting on the decision by some of the banks to withdraw from arbitration proceedings relating to the conversion of Swiss franc-denominated loans into euro loans, Milanović said he was pleased with his contribution because when he had served as prime minister his government passed the conversion law.

Asked about the shortage of coronavirus vaccine, the president expressed regret, saying that it was a problem of procurement and agreement with pharmaceutical companies.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Radimir Cacic Claims Desire to Remove HGK Membership Fee Irresponsible

February the 3rd, 2021 - Radimir Cacic has stated that the ever louder desire to remove the need for membership fees paid to the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) are irresponsible, claiming that HGK needs reforms, but that it shouldn't be dismantled. Many who pay their fees would strongly disagree.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after a recent coalition meeting, Varazdin County Prefect Radimir Cacic gave a short statement to the media, more precisely to N1.

"My position is that everyone had a chance - MOST, SDP, HSLS and HNS. Everyone has had the opportunity from 1991 until today,'' said Prefect Radimir Cacic after a coalition meeting when asked by a journalist to comment on the proposal to abolish what many consider to be a banal and pointless membership fee to the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.

He then added: ''Everything they wanted to do... they did. What we've now heard from the gentlemen of MOST consists of one terrible amount of effort made to change one article in the 1991 law that says the Chamber should be abolished. Once you stop funding it, and keep everything else that the law proposes obligations, public authorities… At that moment you can say that the chamber doesn't exist,'' said Radimir Cacic in his usual style of speech.

He then expressed his opinion on the proposal: ''Unserious, irresponsible, dangerous, populist. This is something that I personally, neither we as Reformists, have ever been able to, nor will we ever support,'' he said.

He also noted that the Croatian Chamber of Commerce should be reformed, but not abolished entirely. "The chamber needs to be redefined, it needs to be sent out onto the market to a large extent, but it also needs to recognise its public powers. No to populism, yes to reforms. The chamber isn't good enough, not even close to good enough, but on the other hand, it doesn't occur to us to support the destruction of one of the institutions that is important for the Croatian economy and society,'' he concluded.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

HGK's Ivan Barbaric Highlights Problems Croatia and USA Must Solve

January the 20th, 2021 - The US Government has changed, and with Joe Biden as the new president, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce's Ivan Barbaric has looked at precisely which questions must be answered, and which issues must be solved by the countries on either side of the vast Atlantic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the change of Government in the USA could pave way to an additional impetus to the economic relations between Croatia and the USA, and so far the highest priority is to solve the problem of double taxation and abolish visas for Croatian citizens, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) announced.

The Croatian Chamber of Commerce states that Croatian exports to the United States are continuing to grow solidly and constantly, and that a change of government in one of the world's strongest economies could give an additional spring to the step of the two countries' economic relations. 

Back in 2019, the total trade exchange between Croatia and the United States amounted to an impressive 649 million US dollars, of which 461 million kuna was made up by Croatian exports (14 percent more than in 2018). In the first nine months of 2020, the amount of exports of goods to the United States also reached almost 370 million US dollars, an increase of almost three percent over the same period a year earlier. Ivan Barbaric, Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for International Affairs, believes that the economic and trade policy of the new administration of President Joe Biden will change the current direction, will go back into the direction of the process of economic globalisation, cooperation with international organisations and possible inclusion in some new/old trade agreements.

"The currently weakened strategic partnership between Washington and the European Union could now also be repaired, with the hope that the new US administration will enable stability and predictability of EU-US relations and trade. In the end, it would certainly benefit Croatia, ie Croatian companies that do business internationally,'' said Ivan Barbaric, adding that double taxation is one of the burning problems of economic relations between Croatia and the United States and has been for a long time now.

Namely, as he stated, Croatian companies export a significant number of services to the USA, during the first nine months of 2020 revenues from such services amounted to 152 million euros, and the companies that export services will be most helped out by signing the Double Taxation Agreement.

"We believe that the new US administration will realise the importance of this agreement and sign it as soon as possible," Ivan Barbaric stressed. The current topic is the abolition of visas for Croatian citizens, and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce also cooperated with the US Embassy in Croatia in resolving this problem. According to the latest unofficial information, Croatia has met all the conditions, so visas could be abolished soon.

An example of quality economic and political cooperation, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce points out, is the LNG terminal on Krk, which was put into commercial operation at the beginning of the year. This is a project of great strategic and geopolitical importance for both Croatia and the EU as a whole, because the import of American gas reduces the dependence of European consumers on Russian gas, meaning that it diversifies energy supply sources.

President-elect Biden has already announced the return of the United States to the Paris Agreement, which means a greater possibility of American investments in the field of energy, and Croatian companies should also look for their chance in this field. The Croatian Chamber of Commerce also added that wines from Croatia, more precisely Peljesac dingac and zinfandel, will be poured at the inauguration of the new American president, which is just the culmination of long-term trends of successful export and promotion of local wines over on the American market.

Croatian wine exports are growing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent per year, and according to data for the first ten months of 2020, it reached the amount of 860,000 US dollars, meaning that despite the pandemic, it remained at the levels from 2019.

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Monday, 4 January 2021

Earthquake Insurance Premium Rises 28%

ZAGREB, 4 January, 2021 - It is estimated that the earthquake insurance premium at the end of 2020 will total around HRK 110 million, up 28% on the year, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Monday.

The devastating earthquakes which hit Croatia last year have caused over HRK 100 billion worth of damage and many people have lost their properties, so it is not surprising that after the tremor which struck Zagreb and its environs in March there was an increase in earthquake insurance, the HGK said, adding that the tremors which struck Sisak-Moslavina County last week will certainly further raise people's awareness of the need for earthquake insurance.

It is estimated that the number of insurance policies by the end of last year will have risen to 140,000, up 30% from 2019, the HGK said, adding that the average earthquake insurance premium was HRK 800.

The HGK said that although the property insurance premium was rising, it amounted to €48 per capita, far below the EU average of €168.

The big disproportion of investing in property insurance in Croatia is especially worrying considering that besides Greece, Turkey, North Macedonia and Italy, Croatia is in tectonically the riskiest part of Europe, the HGK said.

After the March 2020 earthquake, insurance companies paid HRK 237.5 million and processed 7,269 damages claims by the end of November, the HGK said, adding that the Zagreb quake showed that an extremely low percentage of apartment buildings had earthquake insurance.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

HGK Calls On Croatian Companies With Machines to Help in Earthquake Efforts

December the 30th, 2020 - Two major earthquakes struck Petrinja and Sisak causing enormous levels of damage, more or less destroying the towns. As such, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property have called on all Croatian companies that have the necessary machinery to make themselves available and help those affected.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, currently, the most needed help is clearing the rubble, and anyone who has trucks, loaders and other machinery can help with that immediately. Croatian companies that are willing to make their resources available can contact the Construction Department of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (tel: 01 460 6707, 01 460 6747) or the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property (tel: 01/3782 143, 01/3782 445).

"In these difficult moments, we're all aware that our reaction must be quick and concrete, so we'd like to appeal to everyone to invest their resources and time to help out," said the president of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce Luka Burilovic.

An appeal to Croatian companies and all other individuals for help was also sent out by HUP.

"In these difficult times, which we've all witnessed, we sympathise with our fellow citizens who are particularly affected by this devastating earthquake. Each of you certainly has at least one friend, employee, seasonal employee, family member, partner or customer from Petrinja and Sisak. Maybe you went to school with someone from there. Maybe you cooperated with a company or two from this once highly industrial part of Croatia. It's very likely that one of these people or a member of his or her family was killed in the earthquake,'' they stated from HUP.

The aforementioned association therefore decided to collect donations to help all of the residents of Sisak, Petrinja and the surrounding areas where the earthquake damaged homes and other property.

''Let's show that HUP is made up of entrepreneurs and employers with big hearts, who care about individuals and the poorest parts of Croatia. Let's all come together to help those people who, throughout history, have always and unreservedly been ready to bear the heaviest burdens for all the rest of us,'' they said from HUP.

Anyone who wants to donate and thus help can do so by making a payment to the account:

The Croatian Employers' Association (Hrvatska Udruga Poslodavca/HUP)

Radnicka cesta 52, Zagreb

Privredna banka Zagreb, Radnicka cesta 50, Zagreb

IBAN: HR7123400091510359955

Reference number: OIB of the company

Description: HUP earthquake donation

The funds they collect will be given to those most in need, and HUP have extended their thanks in advance to everyone who donates or helps in any way.

For more on the Petrinja earthquake, follow our live updates for today. For more on how you can help/donate, click here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Chamber of Commerce Encourages Purchase of Croatian Christmas Trees

December the 9th, 2020 - Christmas is drawing ever closer and with the festive period now well and truly here, despite it not feeling very joyous at all after a completely horrendous year, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) is encouraging the purchase of Croatian Christmas trees in order to boost domestic production.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, in order to create a truly traditional Christmas atmosphere, a Christmas tree is inevitable. The mass sale of Christmas trees will soon begin, and the most common on the market are the common spruce (Picea abies) and the silver spruce (Picea punges), and to a lesser extent ordinary fir (Abies alba).

Here in Croatia, we have about a thousand local producers who mostly sell their own Croatian Christmas trees on the domestic market.

"According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, local producers placed more than 200,000 Croatian Christmas trees out on the market last year. Given such a large number of domestic producers, the export potential is significant, especially when we take into account that last year we exported only 310 trees to Bosnia and Herzegovina which amounted to a figure less than 1,300 euros. In that same period, more than 28 thousand Christmas trees were imported, of which two thirds came from Denmark, which is otherwise the largest European exporter of Christmas trees,'' said the Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for Agriculture and Tourism, Dragan Kovacevic, explaining that it is mostly Nordic fir (Abies nordmanniana) which thrives better in a milder climate, and called on all those in Croatia to buy live, Croatian Christmas trees this year.

Natural trees have many advantages over artificial ones. They are grown in nurseries and on agricultural land, so they don't endanger forest ecosystems. At the same time, they produce oxygen and, during their lifetime, affect the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. It is estimated that one hectare of Christmas tree growth area can absorb up to 1 tonne of CO2 per year.

Otherwise, only those natural and legal persons who are registered in the Register of Christmas Tree Suppliers can sell and produce Christmas trees, and Croatian forests (Hrvatske sume) are among the largest domestic producers of real Croatian Christmas trees.

"As part of our nursery production, we're also raising Christmas tree plantations. As of now, 140,000 seedlings of common and silver spruce have been planted on an area covering ​​approximately 40 hectares, and a smaller amount of fir and spruce spruce has been intended exclusively for Christmas trees. In the past year, about 7,300 finished products were sold, mostly to domestic shopping centres and partly in the retail segment. This year shows an upward trend in domestic market demand.

Our goal is to achieve an annual delivery of mature Croatian Christmas trees of 30 to 50 thousand pieces, both for the domestic and the European market, which is slowly opening up to us,'' said the President of the Croatian forests, Krunoslav Jakupcic.

''In this way, we strive to provide domestic producers with quality raw materials produced from seeds collected in indigenous forest stands and adapt all of that to our climatic conditions. By soing so, we continue to develop finished Croatian products, encourage private production and protect Croatian forests from illegal logging," he added.

It's worth mentioning that one single tree is grown for an average of ten years, and new ones are planted every year to replace the ones sold. Equally, the lifespan of a tree doesn't end with the expiration of the festive season. In accordance with the principles of the circular economy, the trees are collected and disposed of at composting sites, all of which is properly organised by authorised waste disposal companies.

If you want to support domestic producers and buy a Croatian Christmas tree, pay attention to the special stamps that all the trees that are sold here must have and choose the one that is produced at home in Croatia.

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Monday, 23 November 2020

Kutina Has First "Smart" Business Zone in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 23, 2020 - The Kutina industrial-logistic zone is the first smart business zone in Croatia and it offers future investors a series of benefits like digital technology, exemption from utility contributions and for waste management for a period of five years, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Monday.

Presenting the project on Monday HGK said that the zone extends over 74 hectares and provides a series of benefits for future investors.

Apart from ensuring utility services, power and transport infrastructure the zone is geographically situated well and future investors will be exempt from paying utility fees for a period of five years, HGK said in a press release.

The zone will be the site of a new unique pilot programme - SMART&KIND - which is for digitising business infrastructure, including the Internet of Things among other things, a unique software to monitor business management of infrastructure and city assets which should lead to energy savings, the digitisation of essential information for investors and connecting them with citizens, it was said at the presentation.

City authorities will equip entrepreneurs at the business zone with smart modules to gauge electricity, water and gas consumption. The modules present an overview of zoning in the city and an analysis of available labour force.

Kutina Mayor Zlatko Babic said that this is a strategic project for the town and apart from attracting investors it will improve the city administration's management, open new jobs and generally upgrade living standards.

State-Secretary in the Central Office for the Development of a Digital Society, Bernard Grsic said that digital transformation is not just technology, it is changing business models and creating new values. This is a horizontal topic that impacts all spheres of society.

HGK also presented its online services which concludes the project of digitising the chamber and its activities and services.

The system encompasses eight online services (e-financing, e-public authorities, e-membership, e-legislation, e-fairs and promotions, e-launch a business, e-commerce information, and e-training). The system accelerates communication between the chamber and its members, it was said at a press conference.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Pandemic Has Affected Croatia-Russia Economic Relations, Forum Hears

ZAGREB, November 12, 2020 - The COVID pandemic has affected Croatian-Russian economic relations, with trade dropping 21% in the first seven months of the year, and the focus should be on turning the trend around, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Thursday in a press release on a Russian-Croatian banking forum.

In the first seven months of 2020, trade between the two countries totalled US$ 228 million, down 21% on the year. We must focus on turning the trend around and work together on returning to the volume of trade which used to exceed $2 billion, the online forum was told.

Banks must play a key role in that, said Josip Zaher, the HGK vice president for commerce and financial institutions.

Croatian Ambassador to Russia Tomislav Car said relations between the two countries were slowly becoming dynamic.

"Both the interstate and economic elements are looking forward, which is a message of encouragement to all of us. However, behind all that are people with their knowledge and ambitions," he said, adding that the embassy and the HGK's Moscow office were always at entrepreneurs' disposal.

Russian Ambassador to Croatia Andrey Nesterenko said all efforts must be focused on the normalisation of relations, with emphasis on banking.

In these difficult times it is very important to continue with activities and maintain continuity in relations. It is also important to learn from one another, exchange ideas and thus find new opportunities in this crisis, he said, announcing that the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation would meet soon.

The forum's main topic was banking in conditions of the coronavirus pandemic.

Zaher said commercial bank assets at the end of June totalled HRK 444.3 billion, up 4.4% from the end of 2019, while bank profits plunged 48% annually.

The forum was organised by the Association of Russian Banks and the HGK, with the support of the Russian and Moscow Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Ivan Barbaric: Croatian Chamber of Commerce Adapted Communication

As Novac/Jozo Vrdoljak writes on the 7th of November, 2020, the development of the online platform Go Global - Go Virtual for B2B meetings presented itself as a decent occasion in which to talk with Ivan Barbaric, Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for International Affairs and the EU. During the conversation, Ivan Barbaric didn't comment on anything outside the scope of his own work, except on the measures of the Croatian Government in order to try to help the economy during the coronavirus crisis within the framework of EU policies and perspectives.

Have the international activities of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in this period been hindered due to the fact that fairs aren't being held and economic delegations aren't being organised?

Circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic stopped regular activities and established practices, but improved communication and accelerated the application of digital platforms. At the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, we quickly adapted to these new circumstances and saw the opportunity in online connection, as such, we created an online platform for B2B meetings Go Global - Go Virtual.

How does the HGK Go Global - Go Virtual platform work?

With the support of the European Entrepreneurship Network, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce launched a platform for online B2B meetings on the markets for which Croatian businessmen have shown the greatest interest. In the first survey, we defined the markets of Slovenia, Russia, Austria, Germany and the countries of the Visegrad Group as key ones. The goal is to sustain foreign activity and accelerate the recovery of the Croatian economy. The platform enables foreign customers to find qualified Croatian suppliers, meet potential partners, and discover new products and services. Each edition begins with invitations to Croatian companies that bring their profiles, activities and interests for cooperation to the platform.

Can you tell us what activities you held thanks to that platform, as well as some of your plans?

We held meetings with Slovenia, Russia and the countries of the Visegrad Group. When we analyse the profiles of companies, imports, exports or distributors, we can see that this platform is by far the most interesting to exporters, in the case of Slovenia, almost 90 percent of the companies in the forum were interested in exporting. At times, it's important that they reach their potential partners through a platform backed by institutions, Croatian ones and those belonging to foreign chambers. We're now preparing for Austria, Germany and Israel, with the proviso that in 2021 we'll be able to identify additional markets in agreement with our companies.

Are there any concrete results?

I'll single out the most successful example of this approach. In the midst of the lockdown, we connected Vuplast with a French hospital that was looking for a supplier of soluble bags for biohazardous items. Recently, at the conference of the European Entrepreneurship Network, which operates within the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, they were named the best entrepreneurial story in all of Europe. They also reached out to their new Swiss partners through EEN. This is an example of how the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, through its strong international network and contacts, helps out with exports. This innovative company recognised the opportunity, designed the product, and we opened the international door for it.

You say that there has been great response from Croatian enterprises when it comes to using HGK Go Global - Go Virtual. How many of them participate in the meetings?

Most of them were interested in meetings with the countries which make up the Visegrad Group, 171 registered Croatian companies and 144 companies from the Visegrad Group, and more than 500 virtual meetings were held. Regarding online meetings with Russia, there were more than 250 registered companies and more than 400 meetings held, while more than 90 companies participated in B2B meetings with Slovenia.

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Friday, 30 October 2020

Croats Increase Savings by HRK 11 Bn in Past Year

ZAGREB, October 30, 2020 - Over the past year, Croatian citizens increased their savings by HRK 11 billion despite the pandemic and a weaker tourism season, with saving deposits across Croatia totalling HRK 52,784 per capita, the Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Friday ahead of World Savings Day.

Citing central bank data, the HGK said household deposits reached HRK 214.9 billion in August, up 5.4% on the year.

Across Croatia, deposits per capita amount to HRK 52,874, above last year's average of HRK 48,626, ranging from HRK 23,443 in Vukovar-Srijem County to HRK 78,681 in Istria County.

People on the coast, and partly in Zagreb, save based on tourism, which is why this year's disappointing season has changed some trends. 

Year on year, deposits increased in every county bar Osijek-Baranja, but those in continental Croatia increased by 7.5% and those along the coast by 2.5%. This, the HGK said, shows that the weaker tourist season resulted in weaker deposits in the coastal counties.

Interestingly, deposits along the coast increased less than in 2019, whereas in continental Croatia the growth rate was above the national average, the opposite of last year.

Central bank economist Vedran Sosic said there were no household saving estimates in Croatia, i.e. estimates of the part of one's income that is not spent, so they are based on trends in the value of financial assets and bank deposits as their biggest component.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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