Friday, 26 November 2021

PM Says Fighter Jet Purchase Big Step Forward

ZAGREB, 26 Nov 2021- Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday the purchase of French fighter jets was a big step forward as they were state-of-the-art technology and represented French-Croatian cooperation as well as contributing to European defence and strategic autonomy at EU level.

"That's such a strong and big step forward for the Croatian Army. We can be very satisfied. I think it's a phenomenal step forward and that it's a step forward for which we waited 30 years. I haven't heard even a hint of dissatisfaction from anyone who deals with this all the time," he told the press.

As for the general comment "we could have given the money for something else," we are giving it, he added.

The aircraft will be paid for over several years without it impacting the deficit, Plenković said, adding that the process was "carefully calibrated and carried out in a way we can be proud of."

As for criticisms that the price of the jets has gone up, which President Zoran Milanović said was scandalous, Plenković said, "If yesterday he was happy and today it's a scandal, did he wait for Macron to leave before reacting? I find it a little ridiculous."

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Croatia on Wednesday and Thursday, when an agreement on the purchase of the Rafale fighter jets was signed.

Plenković said VAT was not paid on used goods but on the commercial part and that the state paid that to itself. As for price indexation in the repayment years, he said it was something normal.

As for Milanović's criticisms that no one had consulted him about a strategic defence agreement, the prime minister said he could care less.

"He met with Macron yesterday, he supported the purchase of the aircraft. The strategic partnership is a document signed by the government and the French president. He received the document, the preparation and the information. It's ridiculous that he's complaining after the meeting. He should be happy."

Plenković said everyone was looking for some media coverage, but that one should be smart about it.

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Friday, 29 October 2021

PM Tells Young People Tourism Needs Them

ZAGREB, 29 Oct 2021- Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday opened a conference on the future of Europe and young people in tourism as part of Croatian Tourism Days, telling young people the sector needed them.

Despite the demanding circumstances due to the pandemic, tourism has recorded good physical results this year to date and the value of fiscalised receipts is at 89% of the value in 2019, he said in Župa Dubrovačka.

Plenković voiced confidence that this year's tourism revenue will be close to the revenue generated in 2019. He said the government would continue to support tourism and that during the pandemic it had paid HRK 4.8 billion in aid to 36,000 employers for 190,000 employees in tourism.

As a result of that, Croatia is among the countries with the best tourism results in the Mediterranean this year, Plenković said, adding that the key part in that was played by the people working in the sector.

We need sustainable, innovative and resilient tourism, for which we have ensured HRK 2.2 billion in the National Resilience and Recovery Plan, as well as a sustainable tourism strategy. That will be part of the activities whereby we wish to stabilise the economy in the next decade, Plenković said.

Sustainable tourism development requires qualified personnel and to that end the government has invested HRK 388 million in competency centres across Croatia, he said, adding that the government will continue to increase funds for tourism scholarships.

The prime minister said the latest projections put this year's GDP growth at 9%. "We rebounded quickly," he said, "and tourism played a brilliant part in that."

Scholarships to be increased to HRK 2,000

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac said scholarships for tourism and hospitality secondary school students would be raised from HRK 1,200 to 2,000, adding that 2,000 scholarship contracts have been signed so far.

She said the promotion of jobs in tourism and hospitality would be intensified, adding that a survey of 300 persons aged 16-29 shows that 9% work in tourism or attend tourism school, and that one in 10 of those working in tourism do not plan to make a career out of it.

One-third are neutral about a career in tourism, and 60% seek additional training, Brnjac said, adding that the main incentive to work in tourism would be higher salaries, which are now below the average Croatian wage.

We want young people to stay in Croatia, and encouraging them work in tourism is a challenge in many countries because there is a labour shortage everywhere, Brnjac said.

Šuica: Young people important for EU

The European Commission vice president for demography and democracy, Dubravka Šuica, said the Conference on the Future of Europe she initiated included measures and policies for young people.

She called on young people to propose, as part of the Conference, what kind of future they want.

It would be pointless to think about and plan for the future without them, including in tourism, and it's necessary to invest in them, Šuica said, adding that this year's tourism results were better than last year's and that revenue per hotel room increased by 68%.

She said the Commission would soon propose a European pact for skills, including digital ones, for high quality service in tourism.

Fuchs: 9% of secondary school students in tourism schools

Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said only 9% of secondary school students enrolled in tourism schools this year. He added that only 30% of secondary school students enrolled in vocational schools in Croatia, as against 45% in the EU.

"That's why we are reforming the education system. Something needs to be done because hospitality and its workers are key to our economy," he said.

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Friday, 29 October 2021

Sabor Adopts Prime Minister's Annual Report

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

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

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

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

Plenković also presented optimistic economic indicators.

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

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

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Friday, 22 October 2021

PM: Decision Making on Croatia's Schengen Bid Going According to Plan

ZAGREB, 22 Oct (Hina) - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Friday he expected the decision making process on Croatia's accession to the Schengen area to proceed according to plan.

"I have discussed this matter at all levels, with all governments. I think the momentum is slowly gathering for a decision at the level of the Council of the EU," Plenković told reporters on arrival for the continuation of the two-day EU summit.

Plenković said that ongoing talks during the Slovenian EU presidency and the next French presidency would be "crucial for achieving Croatia's strategic goal - to become a member of the Schengen area."

Among the topics to be discussed at the summit will be protection of the EU's external borders against illegal migration.

Plenković said that also discussed would be several action plans with non-EU countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to help them improve migration management.

He said that during discussion on foreign policy matters on Thursday evening he had drawn attention to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably to the existing tension and statements by the Serb member of the state presidency, Milorad Dodik, which destabilise the country.

"Croatia supports a single Bosnia and Herzegovina, its independence, sovereignty and good functioning. I also made it clear that the EU should help, together with our partners, first of all the United States, to achieve a timely agreement on electoral legislation so that at next year's elections the Croats, as one of the three constituent peoples, can be legitimately and equally represented in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Plenković said.

He said he was pleased with the quality of the discussion on this matter, adding that several leaders had taken part in it.

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Thursday, 21 October 2021

PM Warns of Growing Number of Coronavirus Cases in Croatia

ZAGREB, 21 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday warned of the growing number of coronavirus cases in Croatia, saying that the death toll would soon exceed 9,000 and stressing the importance of vaccination and compliance with epidemiological measures.

"We must comply with the basic protection measures - wearing a face mask, keeping a distance, airing the premises, and maintaining hand hygiene," Plenković said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

He stressed the importance and necessity of vaccination, especially for elderly people, noting that the elderly are at greater risk if they contract COVID-19. "One in four elderly persons aged 65 and over have not been vaccinated yet, and we are talking about 238,000 persons or about 25-27 percent."

Plenković warned that the COVID-19 death toll will soon exceed 9,000. "This is a high price we are paying as a nation and society. But now we have vaccines, and there is no reason for this number to be so high," the prime minister said, adding that the vaccines also effectively protect against serious forms of the disease.

He appealed to people who have still not been vaccinated to get vaccinated, citing the views of medical professionals and the government's Scientific Council as well as statistics.

74 percent of hospitalized COVID patients not vaccinated

Plenković said that 74 percent of infected people who have been hospitalized this month were not vaccinated, which is three in four patients, while 80 percent of patients who were or still are on ventilators were not vaccinated, which is four in five.

"These are very clear and convincing figures," Plenković said, noting that 93 percent of the people who died from coronavirus were above the age of 60 and 98 percent were above the age of 50.

He said that the Scientific Council, which met two days ago, stressed the importance of vaccination, especially for the elderly.

"We all agree with the view of the Croatian Public Health Institute on a third dose, that it should be administered to immunocompromised persons and to health and welfare workers because it will help in the fight against the epidemic," the prime minister said.

He said that the situation in Croatia is similar to the rest of the world. "The unvaccinated people represent a pool where the virus spreads the most and where mutations occur the most. It's a fact that vaccinated people can also transmit the virus, but that is less likely than among the unvaccinated, and in the case of infection the disease is much milder."

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

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Plenković, Sánchez Announce Stronger Croatian-Spanish Cooperation

ZAGREB, 6 Oct 2021 - Croatia and Spain cooperate well in many areas, with €1 billion in trade, but the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted that process, so Prime Ministers Andrej Plenković and Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday they would work on intensifying cooperation.

"Croatian-Spanish trade is about €1 billion. We believe that's good. However, we've had certain oscillations during the COVID crisis. Today we talked about how to advance cooperation, how to make our private sectors cooperate as well as possible, notably by utilizing funds from the NextGenerationEU instrument," Plenković told the press after meeting with his Spanish counterpart.

Sánchez, the first Spanish prime minister visiting Croatia, said the two countries were trying to advance their relations, the development of which was stopped by the pandemic last year, stressing that EU funds could help them revive their economies.

"A few weeks ago, Croatia joined the cooperation within MED9, nine European Union members states on the Mediterranean, and this forum will serve as a dialogue for Mediterranean countries to advance cooperation in many areas, notably all those key global issues we are faced with, from the fight against illegal migration to climate change, which are especially important for all Mediterranean countries, as well as in many other security and development topics that are important both for north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean," said Plenković.

He also said that Croatia and Spain could exchange experiences in tourism, "this important industry", and see how, "after this brilliant season that we had", to prepare for the next one as well as possible.

"Croatia is very active in the World Tourism Organization, which is based in Madrid. We are looking forward to cooperation in that area," Plenković said.

He noted that cooperation in defense and security as well as many operations, notably in the Mediterranean, was also important for the two countries, adding that next year Spain will host a NATO summit.

The two prime ministers also mentioned cooperation on the DONES (DEMO-Oriented Neutron Source) project which, they said, is very important for the future of energy and for reducing greenhouse gases.

"That's a Croatian-Spanish partnership in nuclear fusion in which the Ruđer Bošković Institute is participating. It's an important, strategic project financed with European funds so that we can have inexhaustible and clean energy sources," said Plenković.

Sánchez too welcomed the experimental program for preserving the environment.

Following a summit with Western Balkan countries in Slovenia over the past two days, the two prime ministers also talked about the situation in Southeast Europe and EU enlargement.

Plenković said Sanchez was exceptionally familiar with the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other countries in the region.

"We took this opportunity to talk about how to make it possible for enlargement to go on, how to have, first of all, a stable BiH. For us it's especially important to ensure, through changes to the electoral law, the legitimate representation of Croats as the smallest constituent people in BiH's highest bodies," Plenković said.

According to the Spanish premier, the Western Balkans "should be given the place to which it belongs". He again called for EU enlargement.

Sánchez also invited Plenković to visit Madrid.

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

Friday, 1 October 2021

PM: We Didn't Join EU to Take as Much Money as Possible, EU Values Important

ZAGREB, 30 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Croatia had been an EU member for eight years, that it had experience and was respected, and that getting as much money as possible was not the reason it joined the EU but that the values and principles on which the EU was founded were more important.

The EU is founded on democracy, human rights protection, rule of law, market economy and, most importantly, the Christian principle of solidarity, which imbues all EU policies, he stressed.

Plenković was speaking at the opening of a two-day hybrid conference called "Days of regional development and EU funds - New opportunities" in Opatija, at which the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, project results and new challenges will be presented.

Croatia got HRK 50bn more from EU budget than it paid 

Plenković said that Croatia had obtained around HRK 50 billion more from the EU budget than it had paid into it, citing as an example the COVID-19 crisis, when EU member-countries joined forces and invested in protective equipment, control and research that enabled the vaccine and gradual restoration of life to normalcy.

He noted that central and eastern European countries in transition had been part of undemocratic systems and that their main preoccupation was how to catch up with those that had developed in democratic systems and were more developed, estimating that Croatia would catch up with those countries around 2030.

He recalled that the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was HRK 35 billion, while damage caused by two destructive earthquakes amounted to HRK 129 billion, stressing that €25 billion had been secured from the EU for Croatia's development in the coming period.

Plenković underlined the importance of informing citizens about the additional benefits of Croatia's EU membership.

"That framework is important to us now that we have political peace, local elections have just been held and we have a government that has three years until the next parliamentary elections, which is almost a unique case," he said.

He added that the parliamentary majority was strong and stable, based on trust between the HDZ, minority deputies and liberal parties, and that it would remain stable for the next three years.

Five goals of economic development

He said that Croatia had weathered the crisis without major problems and lay-offs, that the 2020 tourist season reflected the circumstances, while this year's season was beyond expectations.

Plenković noted that economic growth would exceed projections and underlined five goals - greater convergence with more developed countries, using EU funds for even regional development, green and digital transition, using EU funds for local development and improving the standard of living.

He said that the incumbent government wanted entry to the Schengen area and the euro area to be its legacy, underlining the responsibility of all political parties in contributing to efforts to explain to citizens the benefits of membership of the two areas.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan is a new instrument that will require expediency, with deadlines being shorter, he said, calling on everyone to cooperate and make sure projects were good.

Minister: Croatia must be able to introduce euro in 2023

Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak said the past year had been very successful in terms of absorption of EU funds.

We have adopted a number of important regulations, created a new framework for regional development and EU funds, and we are entering a period in which funds made available to us have never been higher, she said.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said that one of the government's strategic goals at the start of its term was the consolidation of public finances, noting that the introduction of the euro depended on meeting a number of criteria.

We must do our best to make Croatia able to introduce the euro in 2023, he said.

The conference in Opatija was organised by the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry as an opportunity to exchange experience, network and strengthen cooperation to more efficiently implement projects in the new financing period in which Croatia will have around €25 billion at its disposal, to be used as part of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 24 September 2021

PM Meets International Judo Federation President

ZAGREB, 24 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday received for talks representatives of the International Judo Federation (IJF) and the Croatian Judo Federation, on the occasion of the IJF World Judo Tour - Zagreb Grand Prix 2021.

IJF president Marius Vizer, Croatian Judo Federation president Sandra Čorak, Croatian Judo Federation honorary president Tomislav Čuljak, and Hrvoje Lindi, secretary general of the Croatian Judo Federation attended the meeting. The prime minister was accompanied by Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac.

They discussed the upcoming Grand Prix in Zagreb, a competition important for promoting judo and Croatia in the world, which PM Plenković will officially open today.

PM Plenković congratulated the International Judo Federation and the Croatian Judo Federation on their many activities and expressed the government's continued support for developing sports and encouraging sport activities for a healthier and more active life, especially among young people. Also, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports provides continuous financial support to the activities of the Croatian Judo Federation.

The meeting underscored the importance of popularising judo among young people and its participants mentioned Croatian judoka Barbara Matić's success and her gold medal at the World Judo Championship in Budapest.

For more on sport, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Plenković: I Will Not Accept Theory of Media Freedom Being Stifled in Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that he will not accept the theory of media freedom being stifled in Croatia, referring to a comment by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Mirela Ahmetović's assessment that banning someone from writing is unprecedented pressure on the media.

"It's not normal and it isn't possible to accuse the government because of a ruling by one judge on a temporary measure in one case. The government, the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), none of us has anything to do with the judge's decision on that temporary measure... I reject such insinuations, even about influence on the State Attorney's Office, let alone such an influence on the courts, that there is some intention to stifle media freedom," Plenković said after meeting with the generals, commanders, and officers from the Flash military-police operation.

After the nonprofit portal H-alter in the past few weeks ran a series of articles by reporter Jelena Jindra problematizing the work of a Zagreb center for the protection of children and its head Gordana Buljan Flander, Zagreb Municipal Court judge Andrija Krivak issued an injunction ordering H-alter to stop publishing articles about Buljan Flander.

Plenković said that Minister of Culture and Media Nina Obuljen Koržinek had given a brilliant statement about the court's decision and that he supports her in that.

The government advocates full media freedom, there are legal means to counter the temporary injunction, he said.

"I won't even go into the essence nor the decision, let alone accepts theories that media freedom is being stifled in Croatia. That is out of the question. That is not true," he added.

Asked whether the court's decision was stifling media freedom, Plenković said the Zagreb Municipal Court needs to be asked that.

"What has that got to do with us? It is a temporary injunction issued by a court. It is not a political decision by anyone here," he said and added that Minister Obuljen Koržinek said everything that had to be said about that.

Asked whether this could mean that anyone could seek the courts to ban someone from writing about them, he said that he doesn't think that is the case nor practice.

"I believe that media freedom in Croatia is such that everyone breathes freely," he said.

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

Friday, 17 September 2021

Croatia Soon to Receive €800m for Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 17 Sept 2021 - Croatia will soon receive over €800 million to start implementing projects from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Athens on Friday after meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"We expect in the days ahead a concrete decision on the payment of an advance of more than €800 million to start implementing the projects we submitted," he said.

In July, the Commission approved Croatia's €6.3 billion National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which could increase GDP by 2.9% and create 21,000 jobs by 2026.

"That programme should facilitate a faster economic recovery and a clear development course, the so-called double transition, both digital and green," said the prime minister.

He and von der Leyen also talked about COVID-19, post-earthquake reconstruction, the introduction of the euro in Croatia and Croatia's Schengen membership bid.

Plenković said she "confirmed that the European Commission stands strongly by Croatia's ambition to introduce the euro as its currency at the beginning of 2023."

He reiterated that Croatia had met all the Schengen entry requirements and expected to join the area in 2022. "The Commission supports us. We want to get the consensus of the other member states as well, so that we achieve this second goal of deeper integration within the EU next year."

Plenković, Mitsotakis talk economic cooperation

Ahead of an EU MED9 summit, the Croatian prime minister met with the host, his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek-Croatian trade is increasing and now stands at €300 million. Plenković said there was room for increasing it. "We are pleased that the Greek company Avax is among those building the access roads to Pelješac Bridge. Trust between economic operators increases that way."

He said talks on the Greek airline Aegean's interest in a strategic partnership with Croatia Airlines were expected to be "renewed" in the months ahead.

Croatia is grateful for Greece's help after the December earthquake and Greece appreciates that Croatia sent planes and backup to fight the wildfires this summer, Plenković said. "Our team was there seven days. They appreciate that very much, it was the biggest wildfire they had in recent years."

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