Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Preschool Education Act Amendments Met With Criticism

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Amendments to the Preschool Education Act on Wednesday provoked strong criticism by the opposition, which claims that they are detrimental to children, while the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) points out they will provide higher quality preschool education and better access to it.

Presenting the bill, State Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Education, Tomislav Paljak, said that the goal was to allow each child to attend early and preschool education from the age of six months to when they start school.

Due to the lack of space, it is not possible to allow all children to enrol in kindergarten, so priority of access criteria have been established.

In order to increase the capacities of preschool facilities, HRK 1.6 billion has been provided from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan for the construction and extension of kindergartens. By the end of 2026, this will create room for an additional 22,500 children in kindergartens, enabling 90% of children from the age of 3 up to the age of starting school to participate in preschool education, said Paljak.

Currently, 58 local units do not have a single preschool facility, he added.

Paljak dismissed as false the claim that the law abolished the pedagogical standard on the number of children per group.

Associations and trade unions of preschool teachers against Preschool Education Act

Today, representatives of five professional associations and four trade unions of preschool teachers held a press conference in several Croatian cities in order to protest against the amendments to the Preschool Education Act.

The head of the association Sidro (Anchor), Katarina Turković Gulin, said at a press conference in St. Mark's Square, where the parliament and government are located, that the conditions in which preschool teachers worked and the conditions they provided to children were not satisfactory. The law has been amended six times, and none of the changes have brought what the profession has demanded, she said.

She recalled that over the past two months, representatives of kindergarten employees had spoken out against the proposed amendments, saying that they caused additional damage and deepened discrimination between children.

Since the government has ignored our demands, we will stay here all day today and wait for the outcome of the second reading of the bill, said Turković Gulin, and she announced that the protest rally would be staged as many times as necessary, not only in Zagreb, but also in Osijek, Rijeka, Pula and Čakovec.

The leader of the trade union of preschool education employees, Iskra Vostrel Prpić, said the problems were due to an inadequate financing model because the entire preschool education was financed from local budgets.

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

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Government Expects Real GDP Growth to be 3% in 2022

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - The government forecasts a 3% rise in GDP in 2022 and it expects the budget deficit to narrow to 2.8% of GDP, and the government debt to fall to 76.2% of GDP and an inflation rate of 7.8%, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said opening a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The government expects real GDP to increase by three percent in 2022, which will be followed by a growth of 4.4% in 2023, then 2.7% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025.

A gradual narrowing of the budget deficit is expected and that being 2.8% of GDP in 2022, 1.6% in 2023 and 2024 then 1.2% of GDP in 2025.

The government's 2023-2025 Convergence Programme expects government debt to decrease from 79.8% of GDP in 2021 to 76.2% in 2022, 71.7% in 2023, then to 68.9% in 2024 and 66.9% in 2025.

The government estimates an inflation rate of 7.8% and for it to decrease significantly in the years to come (3.7% in 2023 and 2.5% in 2024).

The Convergence Programme is a document that the government presents every year within the framework of the European Semester. It defines the framework and objectives of the government's economic policy, macroeconomic and fiscal trends as well as key structural reforms in the medium term.

The government is also expected to adopt the National Reform Programme today which, according to Plenković, is based on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It contains 95 measures in six areas (the same areas as the Recovery Plan): economy, pubic administration, judiciary and state assets; education, science and research; labour market and social welfare; health and building reconstruction.

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

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Ten Water Management Investment Projects Signed

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - Ten contracts worth HRK 116.4 million were signed on Thursday to finance water management projects as part of the 2021-26 National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The contracts were signed at the Hrvatske Vode water management company by Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić and Hrvatske Vode general manager Zoran Đuroković.

They said these ten contracts were the first step in utilizing National Recovery and Resilience Plan funds.

The contracts concern the allocation of grants from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility to finance investment in public water supply and drainage projects. A total of 70 projects were submitted and the maximum amount available for allocation is HRK 800 million.

Contracts were also signed on the national component of co-financing the projects.

One of the signatories is the Pula city waterworks. Their project is the most valuable at HRK 44.5 million, with the grant amounting to HRK 28.5 million. The company's director, Dean Starčić, said the money would be used to reconstruct and construct pipelines.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

HRK 77m Earmarked From National Recovery Plan for Digitising Agriculture Sector

ZAGREB, 8 Dec, 2021 - The survival of Croatia's agriculture largely depends on digitisation, the key to increase productivity and the driver of the development of domestic production, for which HRK 77 million is envisaged for investments, a conference on digital farming heard on Wednesday.

Addressing the conference, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that digital technology has the potential to significantly improve farming and that the digital transformation of Croatia's agriculture has been included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO). 

A total of HRK 77 million is earmarked in the NPOO for the digitisation of the agriculture sector - for digitising public services (HRK 14 million), for smart agriculture (HRK 50 million), and for launching the field-to-table project (HRK 13 million).

Vučković pointed out the ageing structure of family farms and that it is necessary to motivate young people to take over family farms. Digitisation can also compensate for the labour shortage in certain areas, she said.

"We will have the funds, and living in rural communities, with the help of investments in the local and entrepreneurial infrastructure, will be such that there will not be any gap between the quality of life in rural or urban communities," underscored Vučković.

The state-secretary in the ministry, Zdravko Tušek, said that digitisation will contribute to producing high-quality food at competitive prices, among other things.

Efficient agriculture and its competitiveness depend on digital solutions

The transformation and survival of rural communities depend on digital solutions, which already provide support and better efficiency, Danijel Koletić of the conference's organising committee said.

Smart villages are a new concept and it is necessary to educate and inform stakeholders so Croatia's agriculture can be more competitive in the future, he added.

Unfortunately, in Croatia there is not one university that offers a course in digital agriculture, he said.

It is necessary to educate all stakeholders in rural communities to start learning about digital farming because without that Croatia's agriculture cannot be competitive, Koletić added.

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Thursday, 7 October 2021

Croatian Recovery Plan Foresees 9.5 Billion Kuna for Digital Transformation

October the 7th, 2021 - The Croatian Recovery Plan, more precisely the Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) has been talked about at length recently. In the challenging post-coronavirus age, at a time when global economies are still reeling from the unprecedented and utterly devastating impact of the global pandemic, few things are more important to Croatia than this massive EU payout.

The Croatian Recovery Plan envisages as much as 9.5 billion kuna going directly to the country's much needed digital transformation, which should force Croatia well and truly into modern times and away from excessive paperwork, standing in lines and wasting time.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, in this day and age, smart industries represent the wheel of development of the Croatian economy and society, and the precondition for this doesn't lie solely in digital transformation, but also in the cooperation of the Croatian Government, the domestic economy and the academic community.

Recognising the importance of education about the Smart Industry model in Croatia, Poslovni dnevnik organised a conference entitled Smart Industry 2021, during which, State Secretary of the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society, Bernard Grsic, spoke about smart industries in the focus of national plans, more precisely the Croatian Recovery Plan.

''Digital transformation is a change from one thing to another, and first we need the awareness that we can and do actually want to do it. Man is at the centre of these events and we mustn't simply allow technology to do everything itself. Priorities for implementing this policy in the field of the digital transition of the economy relate to encouraging digital transformation and the application of advanced technologies in the economy and in society, strengthening strategic digital capacities and increasing the level of digital maturity of enterprises, establishing standardised platforms for connection and business, and the proper development of state information infrastructure.

The Smart Industry seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of a particular industry, which means not only an industrial transition but also social transformation, openness and cooperation from the government, as well as from the economy and from universities. In the Croatian Recovery Plan, the contribution to digital transformation stands at 20.4 percent, this is equal to more than 9.5 billion kuna, which is to be distributed across all segments of society.

The goal is to seize this opportunity and accelerate the digital transformation in the Republic of Croatia, create high-paying jobs in the domestic economy for the implementation of the Croatian Recovery Plan and ensure fast and efficient public administration, as well as position Croatia above the EU average on the DESI index,'' concluded Grsic.

For more on the Croatian Recovery Plan (NPOO), make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić: Only Those That Meet All Criteria Will Get Money From NPOO

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić told a press conference on Wednesday that the money from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) would be granted only to those that met all the criteria.

The European Commission on Tuesday disbursed €818 million to Croatia in a pre-financing payment under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RFF), which is equivalent to 13% of the country's total financial allocation under the RRF.

Marić said that the government had agreed the pace of expenditure and implementation of reform and investment measures. He said he expected at least 50 projects to be prepared by the end of the year, adding that they concerned digital transformation and the transition to green transformation in the industrial sector. 

"Who will get these funds will depend on tenders and fulfilment of the criteria," the finance minister said.

He announced tenders for the construction of kindergartens and schools, and said that individual projects, such as development of autonomous vehicles by the Rimac company, were also important.

Before the end of this year or early next year, there will be additional tenders for the award of grants for energy efficiency and further green transformation, and some of the funds will also go towards post-earthquake reconstruction, he said.

Asked about the possibility of Croatia losing some of the money because of problems with public procurement, Marić said that public procurement must be efficient because "projects are subject to deadlines, and speed and efficiency are the key."

He noted that the Croatian public procurement law is the most complicated in the EU and needs amending.

Asked who can apply for NPOO funding, Marić said that in the context of the manufacturing industry those would be small and medium-sized businesses, notably those that would contribute to green and digital transformation.

"Funds will be disbursed to all those that fulfil the criteria and requirements," he said, adding that funds would also go towards development of the telecommunications network.

"This 13 percent of the allocation has now been paid, the next €700 million will be paid by the middle of next year and a further 700 million by the end of next year. We need to carry out 34 measures until the end of this year. Some have already been implemented, while some have certain risks," Marić said.

"The next tranche will depend on how many measures have been fulfilled. If we fulfil all 34 measures, €700 million will come in, and if we don't, there will be a certain correction to this amount," Marić concluded.

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

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Parliament Building to Undergo Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 19 Sept, 2021 - The Croatian parliament's building, a heritage building in St. Mark's Square in downtown Zagreb, will undergo reconstruction due to the significant damage sustained in the March 2020 earthquake, a parliament source has told Hina.

Due to the procedures that need to be undertaken before the reconstruction, they could not specify how long reconstruction will last.

The source said that after the Zagreb earthquake, parliament applied for EU Solidarity Fund money intended for the reconstruction of the cultural heritage and was approved a HRK 87.6 million grant.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan envisages financing the whole reconstruction, including making the building more energy-efficient, from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility.

After the project documentation is prepared, there will be a public consultation, followed by public procurement.

Last December's Petrinja earthquake, which was strongly felt in Zagreb, only confirmed that the parliament building, which has not undergone major renovations in years, needs to be reconstructed.

The early 18th century two-storey building spreads over 1,900 square metres and has 41 rooms.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Investment Rating Confirmation of Good Gov’t Policy, Says PM

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday the affirmation of Croatia's investment rating and forecast of a 6.5% economic growth this year were a confirmation of the government's good policy, which retained Croatia's economic and financial stability during the pandemic.

"The Standard & Poor's agency has affirmed Croatia's investment rating with a stable outlook and raised the economic growth estimate in 2021 to 6.5%! This is another confirmation that Croatia has retained economic and social stability as well as jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic with the government's measures for the private sector," the prime minister tweeted.

With a successful tourism season behind and the implementation of reforms and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan thanks to European funds, Croatia is on the path of a strong and fast recovery, he wrote.

"Another priority is to go back to the policy of public debt reduction and budgetary stability. Entry to the eurozone will contribute to the further strengthening of the credit rating," he added.

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Tuesday, 31 August 2021

320 Projects Awarded Funding for Investments in Digital and Green Transition

ZAGREB, 31 Aug, 2021 - A total of 842 project applications have been submitted to the public call "Strengthening the competitiveness of companies by investing in the digital and green transition", worth HRK 1.14 billion, and about 320 of them will receive funding, launching an investment cycle worth over HRK 3.6 billion.

At a press conference at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, Minister Tomislav Ćorić recalled that the public call was open from 30 April to 31 May this year.

The call is intended for small and medium-sized enterprises in the manufacturing and processing industries, with the aim of strengthening their production capacities, and Ćorić pointed out that the source of funding was the REACT-EU instrument (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe).

A number of project applications are from Sisak-Moslavina County, and according to preliminary data, 12 such project applications are worth over HRK 37 million.

The president of the HAMAG-BICRO agency, Vjeran Vrbanec, said that the total value of funding requested by entrepreneurs amounted to HRK 2.5 billion.

Ćorić: Similar calls to be published in coming period

Ćorić said that similar calls would be published in the coming period.

Such calls with a digital or green component will open up a large and necessary space for further strengthening the capacity and competitiveness of the domestic manufacturing and processing industries, he said.

He stressed that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) implied continuous monitoring of new projects and support for new investments by Croatian entrepreneurs.

Direct grants from the NPOO to companies for transition to an energy and resource efficient economy will amount to HRK 1.9 billion in the coming period. In addition to that, HRK 960 million will be directed at innovation and digitisation, and HRK 1.1 billion at encouraging investments that are a prerequisite for a circular economy.

Also, financial instruments in the amount of HRK 2.3 billion aimed at investments and strengthening competitiveness will be available through HAMAG-BICRO and the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR).

"So, this is what can be expected in 2022 and 2023," the minister announced.

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Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Von der Leyen to Visit Zagreb Thursday after European Commision Okays Croatia's Recovery Plan

ZAGREB, 6 July, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the European Commission's President Ursula Von der Leyen would arrive in Zagreb on Thursday after the European Commission approved Croatia's national recovery and resilience plan.

President von der Leyen has decided to personally deliver the national recovery and resilience plan to each of the 27 member states.

PM Plenković said that the green-light to Croatia's €6.3 billion recovery plan was an important encouragement.

"We are satisfied with the finalisation of the process before we expected," Plenković said on Monday evening.

In early June, Croatia and another four EU member-states -- Slovenia, Poland, Sweden and Romania -- asked the European Commission to extend a deadline for the assessment of their national recovery and resilience plans.

The EC had two months to assess these plans that set out the reforms and public investment projects that each Member State plans to implement with the support of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The rules envisage that member-states can request a reasonable extension of time for the assessment of national recovery and resilience plans after the documents are submitted.

The Commission received Croatia's plan on 15 May, and Zagreb "has requested a total of almost €6.4 billion in grants under the RRF", the EC says on its website.

The Croatian plan is structured around five components: green and digital economy, public administration and judiciary, education, science and research, labour market and social protection, healthcare. It also encompasses one initiative on building renovation.

The plan includes measures to improve business environment, education, research and development, energy-efficiency in buildings, zero-emission transport and the development of renewable energy sources.

Projects in the plan cover the entire lifetime of the RRF until 2026. The plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas, the EC added.

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

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