Monday, 28 June 2021

PM: Four Big Projects Will Be Realised, Reforms Continued in Next 3 Years

ZAGREB, 28 June 2021 - Croatia will realise four big projects in the next three years, the Pelješac Bridge, joining Schengen and the eurozone, and buying fighter jets, and will also use them for the necessary reforms, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday.

Croatia's road to independence was difficult, but the years ahead will not be easier if we don't prepare for the world that is coming, he said at a conference on Croatia's key successes, organised by Hanza Media on the occasion of Croatia's 30 years of independence.

Plenković said the government's ambition was to join the eurozone on 1 January 2023 and that the multipurpose fighter jets would arrive in early 2024.

Health reform framework in the autumn

"Reforms are key" and all that we have now are remnants of past administrations, policies, circumstances, weaknesses as well as daring, he said.

He singled out the judicial reform, resolutely stating that "the judiciary is not the HDZ's."

State administration will be strengthened because it must be more efficient, counties will not be changed but there is room to merge municipalities, which will cut costs, Plenković said.

The privatisation of the state-owned portfolio will continue while advancing corporate management, he said, also underlining the importance of education and health reform.

Healthcare has generated enormous expenses for years, but there is a concept of a solution which should be hammered out in the near future, Plenković said, adding that many laws would be amended in the autumn to make it easier to run the health system.

He said it was necessary to make progress in demography and also highlighted climate change.

"It would have been better had we solved some things faster," he said, but added that with "these three to four steps we will do in the next two and a half years, and (with) the money we ensured for the next ten years, we have indeed created prerequisites for development that we never had."

Vaccination is also an economic issue

Plenković called on citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it was also an economic and financial issue, and that the tourist season could be lost if Croatia was declared unsafe.

He said it was a matter of personal responsibility and warned about the threat of new variants and a fourth wave of coronavirus.

Croatia's road to independence was difficult and demanding

Looking back over the past 30 years, Plenković recalled that Croatia had been a victim of Greater Serbia aggression but that it managed to build an army and defend its freedom.

He said the 1991-95 war claimed many lives and caused big destruction, which cost Croatia 15 years of development because pre-war GDP was restored only in 2004. He said 15% of homes were destroyed, that the war damage amounted to 160% of the pre-war GDP, and that over 150,000 houses were rebuilt after the war.

Plenković said the second decade of Croatia's independence saw the beginning of economic transition and key steps towards the realisation of geostrategic goals, including joining NATO in 2009 and completing EU accession negotiations by the end of 2011.

Those were years of strong GDP growth, but will lots of borrowing, followed by the global crisis which lasted until 2013, when we joined the EU, a historic success, he said.

He added, however, that Croatia started utilising the benefits of EU membership only in 2016 because only 9% of the funds available had been contracted by then, as against 120% now.

Plenković said that between 2012 and 2015 Croatia fell from 61 to 60% of the EU's GDP average, while in the past five years, before COVID-19, GDP per capita was raised to 65%, falling to 64% now.

He said that in the past five years quality of living had improved, with considerably higher wages, pensions, and social and maternity allowances. The average net pay in that period went up by HRK 1,440 to 7,082 this past April, while the minimum net pay went up by HRK 904 to 3,400, he added.

Speaking of employment, Plenković said the number of pension insurees fell by 90,000 between 2009 and 2016, while going up by 134,000 to over 1.5 million in the past five years.

He said the biggest problem of his first term in office, from 2016 to 2020, was saving the Agrokor conglomerate from bankruptcy, adding that the Petrokemija company was restructured and shipyards' debts were settled during that term also.

He recalled that for the first time, Croatia had a budget surplus for three consecutive years. "Before the pandemic, we relieved the corporate sector by more than HRK 11 billion in taxes and administration, the credit rating was raised to investment level."

Strong international position

Plenković said Croatia had a strong international position and that EU funds helped to carry out strategic projects such as the LNG terminal on Krk island.

He said he expected the U.S. to waive visas for Croatian citizens this autumn, also because of the good political and military ties.

He said good relations had been built with China and that China helped Croatia a lot at the start of the pandemic.

Plenković went on to say that Croatia had secured another €25 billion from the EU for the next ten years, and that it was in a more difficult situation than others because of the two strong earthquakes that hit last year.

The COVID crisis has cost us HRK 34 billion, he said, adding that unlike Croatia other countries did not have HRK 128 billion in earthquake damage.

We have ensured HRK 11.1 billion for wages and 700,000 jobs have been retained in the past 15 months, he said.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan was made for green and digital transition, he said, confident that the realisation of the measures contained therein in the next two years would ensure an additional GDP growth of 1.4%.

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Sunday, 20 June 2021

Peljesac Bridge to Finally Connect Croatian Territory by End of August

June the 20th, 2021 - Peljesac bridge is a strategic project not only for Croatia but for the European Union, as both Croatian territory and the territory of the EU are set to finally be connected, avoiding a border with a third country (Bosnia and Herzegovina) when entering or leaving the extreme south of Dalmatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the situation is very good down at the Peljesac bridge construction site. The final shipment of steel structures arrived at the construction site recently and Croatian territory will finally be connected by the end of August, announced the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butkovic.

According to Butkovic, despite the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we're now "at the peak of the entire project", and after the millennial act of merging Croatian territory, the focus should be placed on preparing the pavement and asphalting, which is still going well.

An insight into the pace of the field work itself shows that the remaining phases of the project, which regards the road connection with southern Dalmatia, are also going well. On the section (for which the contractor is the Austrian Strabag) there have been no delays and the works are expected to be completed in mid-July, while on the other hand in the third and fourth phases of the works (performed by the Greek AVAX) although there were a few delays at the beginning, things have now been caught up with.

As Butkovic pointed out, the works on the tunnels are currenrtly in question, and all of the steel construction for the Prapratno viaduct and the Ston bridge is being completely made in Brodosplit. As early as next week they will head down to the construction site for their installation, so the situation is also more than favourable in that regard, too.

"The most important thing is Croatian territory finally being connected, and how the bridge will be completed by this time next year and we'll be able to put it into operation," the minister stressed.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Final Segments of Peljesac Bridge Structure Coming Together

June the 12th, 2021 - The final segments of the long awaited Peljesac bridge structure are finally being put into place following their delivery on Tuesday. The Chinese vessel "Development Way" carrying the bridge's final segments experienced issues and was late arriving, but it seems that things are back on track.

As Morski writes, the large Chinese vessel "Development Way" delivered the last parts of the Peljesac bridge structure on Tuesday this week. So far, 1,800 metres of the future bridge which will unite not only Croatian territory but that of the European Union (EU) have been installed, which is 75 percent of the total length of the bridge, and the remaining 24 segments of the steel span structure of the bridge have arrived by ship.

Although the ship's arrival was scheduled for Monday, there was, as stated, a two-day delay for Development Way on its way to the southern Croatian Port of Ploce from China.

As such, the enormous project that the extreme south of Croatia has been dreaming of for years, in which the need to cross into and back out of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Neum), is removed, has taken another significant step closer to its realisation. The total value of the investment in the Peljesac bridge structure stands at a massive 526 million euros.

If work continues at this pace, the much talked about bridge could be completed by the end of the year, with the steel structure hopefully being installed during August.

There is still quite a bit of work to be done yet, including installations, drainage facilities, electrical installations, the bridge's lighting, equipment, fences, windbreaks, the repair of corrosion protection, the installation of waterproofing and of course the final asphalt layer.

The official opening of the Peljesac bridge is still scheduled for some time in March 2022.

For much more, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Is Chinese Ship With Peljesac Bridge Segments Experiencing Malfunction?

June the 7th, 2021 - The works on Croatia's long awaited Peljesac bridge have been progressing well, but is the Chinese vessel carrying the last of the Peljesac bridge segments experiencing technical difficulties? 

As Morski writes, for two days in a row now, the Chinese "Development Way" cargo ship which is carrying the final Peljesac bridge segments has not been moving a great deal at all. The vessel sails under the Panamanian flag and has been strangely floating around the Strait of Otranto, more specifically at the entrance to the Adriatic sea.

The Chinese ship's current position can be seen on the site, and the limited maneuverability of the ship is stated as the reasons for its two days spent floating in the middle of the open sea, which means that it is currently experiencing malfunctions and is out of order.

Development Way was otherwise built back in 1983 and is intended for the transport of heavy loads. Its destination is the port of Ploce in southern Dalmatia, and according to Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads), it is currently engaged in the transport of the very last 24 of the Peljesac bridge segments, more precisely of its steel span structure.

It's worth noting that the "Development Way" vessel initially started its long journey from China to Croatia back at the end of April, which means that the production of parts for the Peljesac Bridge in Chinese plants has now been completed and that the bridge that will finally connect the two parts of Croatia, removing the Bosnian border crossing from the equation, is finished at long last.

These final Peljesac bridge segments currently floating around in the Strait of Otranto will connect the country's territory, and as such the EU's territory, from one coast to the other, spanning a total length of 2440 metres.

According to the latest information available about the Chinese ship, the ship's entry into the port of Ploce confirmed for Tuesday, June the 8th instead of Monday the 7th.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

New Appeals Complicate Situation Surrounding Peljesac Bridge Construction

May the 8th, 2021 - New complaints are set to further complicate the already lengthy saga surrounding the Peljesac bridge construction process, despite the fact that the building of the bridge itself has been going to plan even with the coronavirus pandemic having an influence.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Austrian company Strabag and the Italian company Astaldi not only appealed to the State Commission for the Control of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM) but also sued the Administrative Court for rejecting their respective appeals. The public tender for the supervision of the works on the Peljesac Bridge construction process was slowed down by numerous complaints and appeals. Dalekovod and Strabag both issued appeals, writes Vecernji list.

Then came the tenders for the construction of the bridge's access roads. For these two jobs, the Duboka - Sparagovici section and the Ston bypass, as well as the Spragovici - Papratno - Doli section, a fierce battle was fought with appeals and complaints being issued between Strabag and the Greek company Avax. In the end, each won one of these tenders.

This isn't the end of the saga of appeals being lodged regarding tenders for the implementation of the road connection project in the extreme south of Croatia. Last week, DKOM received two new complaints related to the wider Peljesac bridge construction project, related to tenders for equipping access roads to Peljesac bridge itself as well as to the Ston bypass. Bids in this tender with an estimated value of works of 83.1 million kuna excluding VAT were opened up back in December 2020, and Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads) decided to award the job to Telur in April, whose bid of 72.2 million kuna was deemed the most favourable.

Other bidders weren't satisfied with the decision, therefore, Dalekovod and Strabag both filed complaints with DKOM last week. Dalekovod's offer was worth 79 million kuna, and Strabag's came with a price tag of 82.9 million kuna. The Spanish company Comsa, on the other hand, offered to equip the access roads to Peljesac bridge for 107 million kuna, and its offer was rejected because it offered an equivalent but different lighting system for all tunnels on the access roads instead of the previously designed system.

Back at the end of 2019, Hrvatske ceste announced a tender for the supply and equipping of access roads to both Peljesac bridge and the Ston bypass, which was divided into two groups - group A referred to power supply, and B to equipping. However, in regard to that tender, the contractor was selected only for the power supply, and the job was won by a consortium of companies - Valard, Elektrocentar Petek, Tehno-Elektro and Dalekovod. The value of their joint bid is 69.4 million kuna, while the estimated value of works for this group was actually 52.1 million kuna.

The only bid received for the equipping of Dalekovod and Elektrocentar Petek amounted to 99.8 million kuna, while the estimated value of those works for this group was 42.3 million kuna. As it was 135 percent higher than the estimated value of the works, the bid was of course rejected, but also declared unsuitable because different equipment was offered than the type specifically required in the tender documentation.

At the beginning of 2019, Hrvatske ceste announced a tender for the supply and equipping of only the Duboka - Sparagovici section (38.2 million kuna), but the amounts in all bids received for this tender were too high, so the tender was cancelled. After that, in order to speed up the process, Hrvatske ceste decided to go with one tender for the supply and equipping of all of the sub-sections of access roads to Peljesac bridge.

For more on the ongoing Peljesac bridge construction works, make sure to follow our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Peljesac Bridge Works Continuing as Planned, Plenkovic Visits Site

April the 29th, 2021 - The Peljesac bridge works are continuing according to deadlines and plans, and the long anticipated bridge which will finally connect the extreme south of Dalmatia to the rest of country, avoiding crossing into and back out of neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, is well on its way to completion.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, on Tuesday in Komarna, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic visited the Peljesac bridge works on site, emphasising that the bridge will be connected with its span structure elements by October this year, and that it will achieve a key goal - the physical integrity of Croatian territory.

The Prime Minister also walked along Peljesac bridge, and crossed the 300-metre-long section accompanied by the Minister of Transport, Oleg Butkovic, and the director of Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads), Josip Skoric, who introduced him to the dynamics of the Peljesac bridge works and what is currently being done.

"Today, for the first time, we had the opportunity to walk along Peljesac bridge, along these elements of the span structure. There are only 24 span structures left to come from China, and that will happen during May,'' Plenkovic told reporters.

Prime Minister Plenkovic also pointed out that at that moment we'll finally achieve our key goal - not only connecting the southern part of Dubrovnik-Neretva County with the other part of the county, but we'll achieve the physical territorial integrity of Croatian territory, which is strategic not only for the country but for the EU.

"This is, in the long run, the biggest achievement of this project worth 526 million euros, which is being financed by European Union funds," Plenkovic said, congratulating all of the contractors.

Emphasising that Peljesac bridge has a symbolic and special significance, the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butkovic said that the dynamics of construction are all going well despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as there were no major construction delays.

He expects that the entire span structure will be connected by the end of September, and at the beginning of next year, everything will be ready for the technical inspection of the bridge. Butkovic also emphasised that in June next year, they expect traffic on Peljesac bridge and the completion of its access roads.

The President of the Management Board of Hrvatske ceste, Josip Skoric, said that the Peljesac bridge works were progressing with good intensity and expected that by the end of September, the complete span construction will be finished, followed by the tying up of loose ends. He also pointed out that the works around the access roads are going very well.

Regarding the bypass around Ston, Skoric also reported that the works, after some initial difficulties, are now progressing. "We can be satisfied with the current dynamics," he said.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Connecting Croatia: All Peljesac Bridge Segments Soon to be Constructed

March the 23rd, 2021 - Connecting Croatia is continuing to progress down in Dalmatia as Peljesac bridge is coming together, removing the need for a border crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina via Neum.

As Vecernji list/Josip Bohutinski writes, by the end of February, 49 out of a total of 165 segments of the steel span structure had been installed on the Peljesac bridge construction site. Back in mid-February, a segment with a total length of 52 metres and weighing 581 tonnes was placed between the sea pillar S3 and the land pillar S2. By the end of last month, according to Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads), all of the steel pillars on Peljesac bridge had been driven in and concreted, and all work on the construction columns, pylons and the like had been completed.

The pillars are 38 to 54 metres high, and the pylons on the six central pillars are 40 metres high. On the bridge itself, the assembly and welding of segments of the steel span structure, the installation of oblique tensions, and earthworks on the access road to the bridge are currently in progress in the huge, strategic connecting Croatia project.

It has since been learned that, according to the dynamic plan of the contractor, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the completion of the last segment is scheduled for early October this year. And that means that Croatia will finally be connected in a little over half a year. The works on the bridge won't all be finished then, the final works will go on until the end of the year.

The placement of the last segment will have a symbolic meaning for connecting Croatia as a strategic project for the entire country. The merging of the two parts of the Croatian mainland should have happened a few months before, but due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the dynamics of work on the construction site was quite significantly disrupted. However, the Chinese have so far done 65 percent of the work on the much anticipated bridge, and the current realisation on that project amounts to 1.3 billion kuna, out of a total of 2.08 billion as previously contracted. According to Croatian roads data, the last two ships with segments from China should arrive at the construction site on April the 21st and May the 17th, approximately.

According to Croatian roads, the production of segments of the Dalmatian bridge has continued in the plants over in China. After the arrival of the first and second shipments of steel segments, the third shipment was divided into two shipments. The first shipment, carrying a total of 16 segments of the span structure, arrived at the construction site on January the 8th this year. The total weight of these segments is about 3952 tonnes. The second shipment brought a total of 29 segments back during the middle of this month.

While new parts for the bridge are coming to the construction site, specialised welders from China are also continuing work on enlarging the segments of the span assembly. There are currently 543 workers on the construction site, of which 144 workers are technical and support staff, and the rest are engineers and sailors on the ships.

As for the access roads, along the section Duboka - Zaradeze, which is 12 kilometres long and is being built by Strabag, and the 2.4-kilometre-long Debeli Brijeg tunnel was ahead of schedule. The contracted value of works on that section is 478.3 million kuna. In addition to the route itself, this very demanding section includes the construction of two tunnels, one viaduct and two bridges.

According to current data, last month, the contractor on that section continued the excavation of the route, the construction of embankments and external drainage, and works on facilities - including the underpass on DC8, the Dumanja ravine I and II bridges and the Kamenica and Debeli brijeg tunnels. As such, on a part of the route on the Peljesac peninsula, work was done on the wide excavation of the route and the construction of embankments and external drainage all the way to the Kamenica tunnel where blasting is being carried out.

The Greek company Avax is building the Ston bypass, the Zaradeze - Prapratno and Prapratno - Doli sub-sections, covering a total length of 18.1 kilometres. There are also very demanding facilities on this route - two tunnels and one viaduct and one bridge. The value of this contract is 511.6 million kuna. All the foundations of the pillars and abutments were completed on that route near the Prapratno viaduct.

For more on strategic projects connecting Croatia, follow our lifestyle page.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

VIDEO Peljesac Bridge Makes Giant Progress Leap With Land Connection

February 16, 2021 – The future of Croatian travel is almost here! In this brand new video Peljesac Bridge's gigantic horizontal sections are installed, joining the land to colossal sea pillars and bringing to life a project so mammoth it was previously difficult to visualise

The Peljesac Bridge project is so huge, it hasn't been easy to imagine just how it will look. Even after seeing all the plans, maps, computer-generated graphics and the imported parts arriving the bridge will be so vast, so important, so revolutionary for Croatia, visualisation of how life will look on the other side has been hard. Until now.

In this brand new video Peljesac Bridge's gigantic horizontal sections are installed, joining the land to colossal pillars standing steadfast within the brilliant blue of the Adriatic sea. We can finally see in the video Peljesac Bridge coming to life, taking shape and how connectivity to southern Dalmatia and its islands will be changed forever.

Explaining Peljesac Bridge's significance and life-changing promise to those not from Croatia can be difficult. Sure, rising 55 metres above the sea and stretching over 2400 metres in length, this is a big bridge. After reeling off the figures, anyone would be sure to agree. But, there are many, much bigger bridges out there.

Vividly illustrating its importance, in this video Peljesac Bridge is seen joining two parts of the Croatian mainland over a vast stretch of sea. On a bright and sunny day there is no interruption of the light glaring down on the project. Within a beautiful backdrop of pristine blue waters and clear, cloudless skies – a sight that will be familiar to all who have visited Croatia – in the video Peljesac Bridge can be seen traversing a topography littered with islands and peninsulas. And, in the background, lies another country altogether – Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The never-ending tailbacks, time-consuming, business-retarding and visitor-annoying border controls required for travel across the thin section of Bosnia and Herzegovina are absent from these February scenes. But, not only are they absent from this video Peljesac Bridge will eliminate them forever. Following the bridge's completion, south Dalmatia, Dubrovnik and its islands, will be just as accessible by road as Split or Makarska. Brought to life by this video Peljesac Bridge progress is more than just taking shape – the future is almost upon us.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Good Progression for Peljesac Bridge Construction, Finished by End of Year?

February the 15th, 2021 - What with coronavirus, a few political scandals and protests being held by those who were unable to work due to the country's current epidemiological measures, it's been easy to forget about what was once a top theme in the news and media - the Peljesac bridge construction process down in southern Dalmatia.

The Peljesac bridge construction wasn't immune to the coronavirus crisis either, with parts and even Chinese workers unable to get into the country for some time a while ago before proper measures could be thought up and introduced in a timely manner, leading many to wonder if this will be yet another stragetic Croatian project that fails to meet the deadline. This fate for the bridge, however, seems to have been averted, at least for now.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, today, the Peljesac bridge construction is set to take another important step to its much anticipated final realisation as it will finally connect with the mainland, that is, the first pillar that rises up out of the sparkling Adriatic sea below will connect with the pillar from the mainland, marking a significant leap in progress.

Davor Peric, a civil engineer from Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads), explained that the two parts would be connected by an element 52 which is 52 metres long and weighs as much as 587 tonnes in total.

Given the fact that Chinese hands working for a Chinese enterprise are the ones building the massive structure, the Chinese New Year was also celebrated in Komarna, the location of the Peljesac bridge construction site, and the workers were all on a two-day break.

''The celebration was well felt,'' said Ivo Jerkovic, the owner of the facility where the Chinese workers are accommodated for RTL Danas/Today, adding that they also prepared gifts for the workers, including homemade wine, olive oil and other traditional gifts which are given at this time of year in that culture.

The Peljesac bridge construction process, at this rate, could even be completed by the end of the year despite all of the obstacles it has faced, both long before and during the pandemic.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Butkovic: Peljesac Bridge Expected to be Finished in November 2021

ZAGREB, Dec 23, 2020 - The bridge connecting the southern Peljesac peninsula to the mainland should be completed in November 2021, Minister of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure  Oleg Butkovic announced on Tuesday evening.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, not all large infrastructure projects have been slowed down or paused. The construction of the Peljesac bridge, which includes the construction of 30 kilometres of access roads, is going very well. The bridge should be finished sometime in November 2021, Butkovic said in an interview with the HTV public television service.

Speaking of access roads, Butkovic said that a 2.5-km-long tunnel had been drilled last week, 74 days before schedule, adding that the whole project, including the access roads, should be completed before the 2022 tourist season.

Commenting on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the transport sector, Butkovic said that following the discovery of a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, the temporary suspension of flights to that country had been prolonged until December 31.

He said that 160 Croatian citizens would be flown to Croatia by Croatia Airlines on Wednesday. They would all have to present a negative PCR test, otherwise they would have to self-isolate and get tested.

Speaking of the national carrier Croatia Airlines, Butkovic said that the pandemic had had a disastrous impact on the  aviation industry globally.

In the year to September, all Croatian airports recorded 19% of their results in 2019. Croatia Airlines reported year-on-year declines of 90% in April and May, of 80% in June and of 70% in July and August during the summer tourist season, he said.  

The minister confirmed that the national carrier wasn't doing great regardless of the pandemic and the government had launched a search for a strategic partner, which has been suspended.

"Who will buy Croatia Airlines when everything has come to a standstill?" Butkovic said, adding that with the consent of the European Commission an arrangement had been made to help Croatia Airlines back on its feet. He expressed hope that the industry would recover over the next three years and announced that the search for a strategic partner would continue.

Butkovic also announced an additional HRK 400 million in aid to the transport sector to help it weather the crisis.

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