Friday, 27 August 2021

PM Says Croatia's Economy Recovering Faster than Expected

ZAGREB, 27 Aug 2021 - Croatia's GDP growth of more than 16% in Q2 2021 shows that the country's economy is recovering faster than expected, and that confirms that the government has responded strongly to the crisis, ensuring economic stability in the current pandemic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday.

The Croatian Bureau of Statistics (DZS) on Friday published its preliminary estimate showing that GDP in Q2 grew by 16.1% from the same period of 2020.

This is the first time the country's GDP has grown after going down for four consecutive quarters and it has grown at the highest rate since 1996, when the national statistical office started collecting those data. In 2020 economic activity contracted by 8%.

The government said in a statement that Croatia's GDP growth was significant also in relation to current Eurostat data, the fifth highest in the EU, after Spain, France, Hungary and Italy. Together with Hungary, Croatia also has the fifth fastest growth among countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

"The fact that Croatia now has more employed persons than before the COVID-19 crisis proves that we have switched from the job-retention phase to job creation. Croatia's approach to balancing measures for public health protection and the economic sector has proven effective, as evidenced also by results of the tourist season, which are beyond expectations. The government is committed to reforms and investments envisaged by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan as well as to the reconstruction of earthquake-struck areas. Close to €25 billion that has secured from the EU for the next decade will be a strong lever of Croatia's economic development," Plenković said.

Economic growth in Q2 2021 is owing to the growth of all GDP components, mostly personal consumption as its biggest component. DZS data show that household spending in Q2 grew by 18.4% from Q2 2020, after going down by 0.3% in Q1. The export of goods and services rose by 40.9%, owing to the significant recovery of tourism-related services.

The government has contributed to the economic recovery and large increase in personal consumption with its job-keeping policy, which has kept the labour market stable, and by continuing the tax reform, which has enabled a further growth of the average wage, the government said.

Croatia's GDP growth in Q2 is higher than the EU average, which stands at 13.2%. In the first half of 2020, the country's GDP grew by 7.7% from the same period of 2020, the government said in its statement.

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Thursday, 26 August 2021

Prime Minister Rules Out Tight Lockdown

ZAGREB, 26 August 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that there would be no tight lockdown and called on citizens to show personal responsibility and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is crystal clear that Croatia will not opt for a tight lockdown, the PM said after a government meeting.

He said that the government had secured sufficient amounts of vaccines against coronavirus.

"The threat (of the spread of the disease) will be considerably lower, provided that people get vaccinated, comply with basic measures: wearing masks, keeping a social distance, and airing rooms," Plenković said when asked by the press to comment on President Zoran Milanović's statement that the current anti-epidemic rules no longer made sense and that Croatia should follow the example of Sweden in managing the epidemic.

Urging citizens to behave responsibly, Plenković said that no rewards would be given to those who decided to get a jab.

"I firmly believe in common sense, prudence, and benevolence of our people and in them being well informed," Plenković said when asked about the possible imposition of more stringent rules.

"We do not have the luxury of being populists, demagogues, speculators, or provocateurs. We must be responsible and make decisions to the benefit of all," the premier said.

He added that the lifting of restrictions would mean that there would be no more COVID grants to businesses.

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

Thursday, 26 August 2021

PM Says Croatia's Status in Foreign Affairs Strongest Ever

ZAGREB, 26 Aug 2021 - Croatia now has the strongest position in foreign affairs since it gained independence, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told reporters on the sidelines of a conference of Croatian diplomats in Zagreb on Thursday.

Pointing out the country's strongest status on the foreign policy front since its international recognition, the premier recalled that Zagreb's main foreign policy priorities were now admission to the Schengen area and to the euro area.

As for the current challenges, Plenković cited economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis and the developments in Afghanistan and potential migrant waves, while Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković cited the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery, climate change, the developments in the Middle East, the crisis in Afghanistan and a possible migrant wave.

"Our main goal is to enter the Schengen area as soon as possible considering the developments in Afghanistan. Regarding finance and economy, it is essential to enter the euro area," Jandroković said.

The parliament speaker warned of the strengthening positions of China, India, and Brazil, and said that only concerted action by the European Union member states could render the EU a power player, notably on the global market.

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman told the press that the global order would be tested in Kabul.

"The world has become vulnerable, international law is being violated," the minister said.

Former British PM Blair special guest of the conference

During the first day of the conference, a former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, addressed the event, and on Wednesday he was received by Prime Minister Plenković.

Blair told the press today that his talks with the Croatian PM revolved around the importance of the success of the vaccination rollout globally.

That is the only way for us to overcome the crisis, the former British PM said.

The Plenković-Blair talks also focused on the global situation and challenges lying ahead of Croatia and the future cooperation.

Blair said that it was important for Europe to stay strong and for NATO to redefine its purpose in the present-day world.

He agrees that one of the challenges is the situation in the Middle East.

I believe that peace and stability will eventually come when good governance is established there, and when societies become open-minded and develop religious tolerance, and when people make use of the possibilities of the digital economy, he added.

Plenković said that the purpose of Blair's visit to Zagreb was establishing "potential cooperation" between Croatia and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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

Thursday, 22 July 2021

PM: Marked Rise in New COVID Cases, Restrictions to Be Introduced in Adriatic Region

ZAGREB, 22 July 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that after a period of decrease and stagnation, the past week saw a marked increase in the number of new cases of the coronavirus infection, and he called for caution, adding that additional restrictions are being introduced in the Adriatic region.

The largest number of cases were registered in four Dalmatian counties which are all tourist destinations, so the national COVID-19 crisis management team will introduce additional epidemiological measures in that area to limit the possibility of the infection spreading, to control events with a greater number of participants, to avoid risks and to make tourist season possible, Plenković announced at his cabinet's session.

He added that the government took into account the health aspect, but also the tourist, economic, financial, and social aspects.

As for vaccination, he said that as of yesterday Croatia passed the number of 1.6 million people vaccinated with the first dose against coronavirus.

"That's very good, we're getting closer to the number of 48% of the vaccinated adult population. I still call on everyone, especially those in two minds or in fear, to get informed, to have confidence in the profession, medicine, all those who want to protect as many citizens as possible, and to decide to get vaccinated themselves," the prime minister said.

94% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients not vaccinated against this infection

He said that there was "an abundance" of vaccines and recalled last week's decision to enable all Croatian citizens without mandatory health insurance and Croatia from all over the world, as well as all other foreign nationals, to get vaccinated, so, for instance, someone from Mostar going on holiday to Makarska can get vaccinated for free there.

"I would like us to contribute to the protection against COVID beyond our borders also in that way because this is a global game, and with our action, we want to make that contribution," Plenković said, inviting people to use this opportunity.

He also underlined that 94% of hospitalized COVID patients had not been fully inoculated against that infection.

Ministers: Numbers growing, a new package of measures to be introduced

Health Minister Vili Beroš said at the government session that the number of COVID cases was unfortunately rising and that the epidemiological situation in some counties called for caution, while Interior Minister Davor Božinović announced the introduction of a new set of measures.

In the two-week period from 5 to 18 July, Zadar, Split-Dalmatia, Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties and the City of Zagreb registered the largest number of new cases, Beroš said.

"The numbers are unfortunately still growing, the increase in positive cases over the past seven days is 46.1%, the situation in some counties calls for caution, so it requires increased monitoring and caution," said Beroš, warning of the easy spread of the new variant of the virus and of several smaller hotspots.

He said the situation in hospitals was generally favorable, with the exception of some hospitals in Dalmatia, which are recording a slight increase in the number of hospitalized patients. There are currently 122 patients in hospitals, 13 of whom are on ventilators, he said, reiterating that 94% of hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A total of 2.9 million doses have been administered, and the minister announced pharmacies would join the vaccination process and issue COVID certificates.

On the 514th day since the outbreak of coronavirus in Croatia, 179 new cases have been registered, the percentage of positive tests over the past 24 hours is 4.56%, and Croatia's 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 35.9, the health minister said.

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

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: SDP Interpellation Won't Pass, They Must Pretend They Are Doing Something

ZAGREB, 29 June, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the Social Democratic Party's interpellation on the government's slowness in post-earthquake reconstruction would not pass, adding that in the SDP "they have to pretend they are doing something" after losing in local elections.

Speaking to the press in Petrinja, Plenković said he had not seen the interpellation but that "when someone loses so badly in local elections, when they have a 13% rating, they have to pretend they are doing something." He added that parliament would reject it.

Plenković visited Petrinja to see the demolition of buildings damaged in December's earthquake and meet with the task force dealing with its consequences.

He said that when the reconstruction law was being passed, he said he wished to incorporate in it all constructive ideas and that no prior law included so many proposals from the opposition.

He said interpellations like the SDP's one did not serve to improve something but to show distrust in the government.

In the interpellation filed today, the SDP asks for urgently amending the reconstruction law, including local government in discussions about it, and informing the public more transparently, among other things.

Asked who was responsible for the fact that 150 damaged buildings had been torn down in the Banija region since the December 2020 earthquake and only three in Zagreb since the March 2020 quake, Plenković said the goal in Zagreb had been to first provide institutions that would be in charge of the whole process, then financing, and cooperation between the state, the city and the quake-affected counties around Zagreb.

He said the processing of reconstruction applications in Zagreb was "somewhat slower" than expected but that property-rights relations in the capital were "even more complex" than in Banija. "We tasked (Construction) Minister Horvat with accelerating all processes and I expect all who should help him in that to contribute."

He said Reconstruction Fund head Damir Vanđelić must be propulsive, notably regarding the reconstruction of private houses and buildings.

Citizens should be responsible and contribute by getting vaccinated

Asked if Croatia would have to resort to COVID-19 vaccination incentives, like some countries that have announced financial rewards, Plenković asked whether that meant "bribing people to be vaccinated?"

"What will we give to the 44% who have been vaccinated? If we give HRK 100 to someone who hasn't been vaccinated but is waiting and calculating, what about the million and a half who have been vaccinated? Give them money retroactively?"

Plenković said people were "fully informed" about all key matters and that every citizen had the responsibility to contribute to society by getting vaccinated.

Recalling the number of COVID deaths, he said everything should be done to motivate people to be vaccinated, adding that Croatia had 670,000 doses available.

If they were administered, he said, "we would practically solve all problems" and stop the virus from spreading. He said it was a matter of common sense and that, perhaps, young people should be motivated to attend concerts and big events with COVID certificates.

Asked what message inconsistencies in enforcing COVID restrictions sent to those undecided on vaccination, Plenković said that "everyone who is responsible will contribute, who isn't, won't."

He said Croatia had been applying mild restrictions out of respect for its citizens, considering them smart and responsible. He said the Croatian mentality would not accept tough restrictions. "We didn't decide in vain that we would not be a country with a curfew. That wouldn't have been well-accepted and I think we did the right thing."

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

Saturday, 22 May 2021

PM Says Satisfied with Fitch Rating, Gov't Working on Creating Conditions for Growth

ZAGREB, 22 May 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković on Saturday expressed satisfaction with Fitch rating agency's having maintained Croatia's rating at BBB- with a stable outlook, saying his government was working to create conditions for economic growth so that this and next year its growth rate could be among the highest in the EU.

Fitch Ratings on Friday affirmed Croatia's rating at 'BBB-', with a stable outlook, saying that pressure on state finance linked to the pandemic should be neutralised by economic recovery on the back of tourism and EU support.

"We are very happy. The... rating confirms what we have been doing in the past 15 months," Plenković told reporters while visiting Crikvenica and Rijeka in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where he met with candidates of the local branches of his HDZ party ahead of the second round of local elections set for 30 May.

Plenković stressed that Fitch had sent a message that Croatia had maintained political stability.

"We had parliamentary elections last year, we quickly formed the government, continued working, fought against the pandemic while at the same time keeping the stability of public finances," he said, adding that owing to public finance stability it was possible to secure funding for healthcare, wages, pensions, and job-keeping support.

"The coronavirus crisis has cost us so far HRK 32 billion, the damage caused by the earthquakes in Banovina and Zagreb amounts to HRK 125 billion. But despite that, we have managed to make sure everyone continues receiving their wages, we have secured job-keeping support in the amount of HRK 10.5 billion, 680,000 workers have received wages owing to the government's political decision to compensate employers for their workers' wages, and we have introduced measures for shorter working hours, various forms of support for liquidity in numerous sectors, and the coverage of fixed costs," he said.

"With a timely entry into the domestic capital market and access to international sources of financing, clever agreements with the Croatian National Bank and the European Central Bank, we have managed to maintain our reputation with credit agencies and all international institutions," he said, adding that apart from functioning normally and heading towards the euro area, Croatia was also in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

"A budget revision will be on the agenda soon, in early June, and we will try to maintain, this year as well, the framework that will make it possible for our growth in 2021 and particularly in 2022 to be among the highest in the EU," said Plenković.

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

He put this in the context of vaccination against COVID-19, calling on Croatians to get vaccinated.

Plenković believes that as regards reputation, Croatia has a very stable position and that with vaccination it is also creating conditions for an excellent tourist season, which, he says, together with the green digital certificate and the pandemic subsiding, will enable economic growth.

"Croatia is on the right track and I am encouraged by the assessment of those who have an unbiased and very precise judgment of our performance in the current crisis, it is very encouraging in my opinion," said Plenković.

In its latest rating, Fitch has upgraded the projection for Croatia's economic growth in 2021 from 3.8% to 5.5%.

Fitch forecasts GDP growth to accelerate to 6.1% in 2022 before averaging 4% in 2023-25, driven largely by investment and notes that Croatia will receive around €6.3 billion in grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, in addition to €1 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund for earthquake reconstruction and €12.6 billion in the 2021-27 Multi-Annual Funding Facility.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Andrej Plenković (PM), Gordan Jandroković (MP) and Vili Beroš (Health Minister) Get Vaccinated with AstraZeneca

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Health Minister Vili Beroš were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine at Government House on Tuesday, and Beroš said that they had sent a message of confidence in medical science and the medical profession.

"Today we have sent a strong message of confidence in medical science, the medical profession, primarily because we were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. We will continue to work diligently on vaccinating Croatian citizens so that they could continue living and working with as little risk of infection as possible. Every vaccinated individual contributes to the protection of the population and is definitely a step towards our old normal, and a step closer to a successful tourist season," Beroš told reporters after the vaccination.

He added that there were still many challenges ahead and that it was important to think about future challenges such as new variants of the virus.

"I believe that with this message we have encouraged citizens to follow us on that path, to curb the epidemic and return to our normal life," Beroš said.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Croatia Expects Digital Green Certificates to be Ready by June, Says official

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - Croatia expects a law to be adopted and technical preparations to be completed by June to enable the introduction of a digital green certificate proving that its holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from it, or has tested negative, an official said on Tuesday.

Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, the State Secretary for Europe, today took part in an informal conference of European affairs ministers, at which she stressed the importance of ensuring a stable, predictable and faster delivery of vaccines so that the common EU goal of inoculating 70% of the EU population by summer could be achieved.

She stressed that member-states should be equal in vaccine distribution, and that it was necessary to have a balanced approach to vaccine distribution as some countries currently have a lower vaccination rate due to delays in vaccine delivery, a statement said.

Metelko-Zgombić said that Croatia welcomed the European Commission's proposal for the introduction of digital green certificates that would facilitate free and safe travel within the EU.

She said that Zagreb "expects the adoption of the relevant legislative proposal and completion of technical preparations according to plan, by June, so that certificates could start to be used as soon as possible."

PM says Pfizer vaccine delivery to be stepped up

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that work was underway on transferring the delivery of some of the vaccine supplies from the fourth to the second quarter so that the dynamic of vaccination could be stepped up before summer and that the vaccine in question was expected to be the Pfizer vaccine.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Standard & Poor's Report Confirms Stable Situation in Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - The latest assessment of Croatia by the Standard & Poor's (S&P) credit rating agency shows that Croatia is stable, and the agency's projection of Croatia's growth is similar to to our forecasts of 5% and the forecasts made by the European Commission, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's agency has affirmed its 'BBB-" credit rating on Croatia, with the stable outlook, the government stated earlier on Tuesday.

The credit agency's report says that Croatia's stable political climate and plans to enter the euro area are conducive to reform efforts. The agency projects a general government deficit of 2.9% of GDP in 2021. It also expects Croatia's debt to resume falling and go below 80% of GDP until the end of 2024.

During his visit to Varaždin County, Plenković said that he found it interesting that the credit agency, the EC and some other analyses show that they are aware how much his cabinet had done in the first stage of its term, that is before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this context he pointed to "a sound and responsible management of the public finances" and the rapid curtailment of the debt.

Plenković also underscored that last July, Croatia entered the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

Asked by the press about the latest statement from the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) that employers were not engaged in the elaboration of Croatia's National Plan for Recovery and Resilience (NPOO), Plenković said that the purpose of the plan is to make use of the 6.3 billion euros of non-repayable grants and after that an additional 3.5 billion euros will be at the disposal through loans.

In the period between those two steps we will focus on the preparation of the new multi-annual financial framework where 12.7 billion euros awaits us, Plenković said, adding that in the end a sum f 30 billion euros wll be available in the next ten years.

Commenting on all those amounts, Plenković said that "this is a true lever for the economic growth and investments as well as for making the economy more resilient."

When it comes to the structure and speculations about how much could be funnelled to the private sector, Plenković said that about 95% of those 6.3 billion euros would end up in the private sector either directly or indirectly.

We are working on the national recovery and resilience plan that has to satisfy three components: 37% of green transition, 20% of digital transition and to make sure that those projects will not be detrimental to some other criteria of the Green Deal, the premier said and announced the presentation of the draft plan for next week.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Plenković: Government Taking Steps to Provide €3.8bn for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalisation in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering - 1CroCEE.

The conference was organised by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.

Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.

For that expensive and long process of the reconstruction to be implemented it is essential to secure the necessary funds, particularly from European and international sources, said Plenković.

The government has to date taken intensive activities at all levels for reconstruction and revitalisation of affected areas  so as to secure €3.8 billion or about HRK 28.5 billion, which is 22% of the funds required.

Of that amount, almost €1.4 billion is from European sources and €2.4 billion through international financing institutions.

The European funds include €684 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Zagreb's reconstruction and almost €600 million is planned through the Recover and Resilience Mechanism, while €111 million will be reallocated from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), he said.

In addition, we will endeavour to secure funds from the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework  which is currently being programmed and financing reconstruction will be treated as a specific item, said Plenković.

When it comes to international financing institutions, in addition to an already contracted loan of €184 million from the World Bank, talks will be conducted for an additional €1 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB), €900 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and €300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

An additional €319.2 million needs to be added to all that which Croatia requested from the European Solidarity Fund for the removal of damage caused by the earthquake in the Banovina region, he added.

Plenković added that constant talks were being held with a series of development and commercial banks to come up with solutions that will provide credit lines with favourable interest rates for individuals. That primarily refers to the 20% of the costs they need to cover reconstruction, to finance the difference between structural repairs and complete reconstruction, to finance the reconstruction of apartment buildings and also to fund the reconstruction of public buildings by the state.

"We are about to enter the phase of organised structural repairs and comprehensive reconstruction, not just in Zagreb but in neighbouring counties," said Plenković.

He underscored that reconstruction should boost a new large development cycle for Zagreb and neighbouring counties as well as trigger the revitalising of the Banovina region.

World Bank director for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, said that the estimated quake damage was equal to reached 30% of Croatia's GDP.

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