Monday, 18 January 2021

PM Says There's an Encouraging Downward Epidemic Curve Trend

ZAGREB, 18 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that there was an encouraging downward epidemic curve trend and that if it continued, it would give reason to hope that possible relaxation of anti-epidemic measures could be considered in consultation with experts.

"It is good that the weekly average of confirmed infections has dropped to the level of mid-October," Plenković said at a government session.

Croatia currently has the third biggest 14-day drop in new infections in the EU. The number of fatalities has been on the decline as well, the number of people on ventilators and hospitalisations has been halved compared to the peak a month ago and is now at the level of two months ago, in the first half of November. The number of hospitalisations has dropped twice compared to a month ago, he said.

"These are good indicators and mean that the measures introduced at the end of November and responsible behaviour by citizens have reversed trends. We should now keep them up. The responsibility of all is very important," the PM said.

He stressed that the change in statistics had been achieved without a curfew or a strict lockdown and that if the current trend continued, a possible easing of restrictions would be considered in consultation with experts.

The PM said one of the first signals was the start of the second school term and the return to school of primary school pupils from Grades 1 to 4 and final-year secondary school students.

The others will have to wait but I hope they, too, will return to school if the current situation continues, he said.

So far, 46,000 people have been vaccinated against coronavirus. Today a new shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived and a decision by the European Medicines Agency is being awaited on the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which would increase the number of doses, Plenković said.

"This would make it possible for us to vaccinate the groups that are most at risk as well as those most exposed to infection and thus protect them before the start of the tourist season," he said.

He noted that this week a parliamentary debate would be held on the government-sponsored amendments to the Act on the Post-Earthquake Reconstruction and that today the government would adopt a number of decisions designed to facilitate life for people in the quake-hit areas.

In that context, he singled out a conclusion on the write-off of utility bills for households. "The conclusion refers to electricity and gas," said Plenković.

Friday, 15 January 2021

PM Says Croatia Marking Anniversary of Int'l Recognition With Pride, Gratitude

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday, on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of Croatia's international recognition and the 23rd anniversary of the peaceful reintegration of its Danube region, that Croatia was marking the two anniversaries with pride and gratitude to its defenders.

"The anniversaries of Croatia's international recognition and the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region are important dates in the country's history. We are marking them feeling proud of all our accomplishments and grateful to Croatian defenders and all others who sacrificed themselves for Croatia's freedom and independence," said Plenković.

He recalled that Croatia, a UN, NATO and EU member, was today a relevant partner in many global and regional organisations.

In the first half of 2020, Croatia chaired the Council of the European Union for the first time, in what were unprecedented circumstances in Europe and the rest of the world, he said.

"By continuing to strengthen Croatia's international position, the government is committed to achieving the two remaining strategic goals - accession to the euro area and entry to the Schengen area," said the PM.

Commenting on the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating earthquake that hit Croatia at the end of 2020, Plenković said that the Croatian people had shown unity, resilience and strength in the most difficult circumstances, and he thanked the numerous countries and organisations that had sent help to earthquake victims and shown solidarity with Croatia.

"We are embarking on a new decade with the ambition, despite all challenges, to continue making progress in terms of economic and social development and reforms, making the most of our increasingly strong international position and membership of the EU to the benefit of all citizens and with the aim of fast economic recovery," Plenković said in his message.

Monday, 4 January 2021

PM for Looking Into Why Some Houses Poorly Rebuilt After War

ZAGREB, 4 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday it was necessary to look into why some houses were poorly reconstructed after the Homeland War, adding that he did not have more details.

Speaking to the press, he said "it's necessary to look into how and why that happened, who did the job, who supervised, who issued the final certificates of occupancy."

Plenkovic said that at the moment he did not have more details and that he would ask Construction Minister Darko Horvat and the state secretary in the State Reconstruction and Housing Office, Nikola Mazar.

"It's not good that there are buildings which should be stronger than they are. Everything that should, will be looked into," he said, regardless of responsibility. "The reconstruction that Croatia carried out was a big process. If some buildings were not built up to code, that should be looked into."

As for the role of incumbent Sisak-Moslavina County prefect Ivo Zinic, who was in charge of reconstruction in the area in question in 1995, Plenkovic said he was sure Zinic could provide all the necessary explanations.

Mazar said more than 156,000 family houses were reconstructed after the Homeland War, with works lasting from 1995 to 2000 and over 150 companies involved.

"Everything was done under the Reconstruction Act, the Building Act. There are documents on contractors, supervisors, architects, owners, users... There were certain guarantees and deadlines," he said.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Mayor Says PM Reassured Him That More Money Would be Awarded to Petrinja

ZAGREB, 2 January, 2021 - The mayor of Petrinja, Darinko Dumbovic, said on Saturday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had reassured him that there would be more money earmarked for this city which sustained extensive damage in the 29 December quake.

Dumbovic's latest statement ensued after he earlier said that he would not take the allocation for Petrinja in the amount of 30 million kuna, claiming that that relief was being distributed along party lines.

"We are human beings, we are not a stone. We must also react emotionally," Dumbovic, an official of the Reformists party, said adding that he had talked with Prime Minister Plenkovic in the meantime.

I have made it clear to the premier that we must have stronger communication, the mayor said.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Milanovic and Plenkovic Visit Sisak and Petrinja After Earthquake

December 28, 2020 – President Zoran Milanovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited Sisak and Petrinja after a series of earthquakes hit the area this morning.

This morning, around 6.28 am, the area of Sisak and Petrinja was hit by a 5,2 magnitude earthquake. After a few weaker tremors, just before 8 am, two stronger blows followed, with magnitudes of 4.7 and 4.1 on the Richter scale.

President Zoran Milanović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković came to Sisak and Petrinja to support their fellow citizens. Prefect of Sisak-Moslavina County Ivo Žinić and Mayor of Sisak Kristina Ikić Baniček informed them of the situation in Sisak.

They were accompanied by Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers Davor Božinović and Tomo Medved, as well as Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Darko Horvat and Minister of Health Vili Beroš.

'No house in the villages that are not damaged'

Žinić said there are no casualties.

"No one was injured, there is no damage to industrial plants, but the Gavrilović factory has a large amount of ammonia, and it will have to be checked in detail. The damage is in the center of Sisak on buildings. Plaster has fallen off, bricks have fallen on some buildings. The second earthquake did more damage. The first one seems to have moved some things a bit, and there is no house in the villages that are not damaged. The damage is not even close to the damage that was in Zagreb, but it is the roofs where people live," said Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivo Žinić.

Mayor Ikić Baniček said there had been over 100 firefighter interventions since the morning. They had one situation where they had to place one family in another facility because their apartment was damaged.

Prime Minister Plenković emphasized that all services will be available to the citizens and said that luckily the earthquake did not leave any major damage.

"I am glad that we are here. We came to support our fellow citizens. As the year was, so it ended. Here is the Civil Protection, the Croatian army, and they will help. I also spoke to the Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić. We already have experience. We will try to list the damages and help everyone to repair those damages," said the Prime Minister.

'We are here to help'

Milanović and Plenković toured Sisak and Petrinja together.

"The damage is significant in the buildings we visited, but the most important thing is that no one was injured. This was a pretty strong earthquake, and it's good that the aftershocks were less intense," said Plenković after visiting Petrinja.

He promised to create a legal framework to help the affected areas.

"We hope that it will be better next year. The state will react, of course. We are here to help," Plenković said.

President Milanović was not in the mood for statements.

"It was uncomfortable in Zagreb. It is human to be afraid. Fear is the biggest blow to people. And what was destroyed will be rebuilt. It is a smaller problem," Milanović said.

The Mayor of Petrinja, Darinko Dumbović, told them that he expects help from the state in repairing the damage, namely the "millions in his account tomorrow. "

Plenković said they would try to help Sisak, Petrinja, and other municipalities in Sisak-Moslavina County affected by the earthquake with all aid services.

"I hope that it will be better next year. I guess everything that should have happened badly happened in 2020," the Prime Minister concluded and expressed his condolences to all those whose houses were damaged.

Sources: Večernji.hr, Jutarnji.hr, Dnevnik.hr

To read more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

PM Sure That Vast Majority of Croatians Will Be Vaccinated

ZAGREB, Dec 27, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Sunday that he was sure that a vast majority of Croatians would be inoculated against coronavirus in the next months, reiterating that first 9,750 doses of COVID-19 vaccine would be administered to citizens at the highest risk and front-line professionals.

"I and my Cabinet are very happy that the vaccine rollout has started in Croatia. We have made the vaccination plan which the government adopted. The plan was prepared by the Croatian Institute of Public Health, to roll out vaccines throughout all the counties," the premier said after the first person in Croatia, an 81-year-old Branka Anicic, a resident of a retirement home in Zagreb, was given a Pfizer jab on Sunday morning.

Plenkovic underscored that the first 9,750 doses would be given to citizens at the highest risk of contracting the disease and to frontline workers.

The Croatian PM expects the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to certify the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna on 6 January.

Asked by the press why Croatia's state leaders were not among the first to receive the vaccine, Plenkovic explained that the first doses should be distributed to residents in old-age care homes who are high-risk groups of citizens and to front-line physicians who care for them.

There will be enough time for the demonstration of giving vaccines to (officials) that should encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated, said Plenkovic, who recently recovered from COVID-19.

He expressed his belief in the common sense of most citizens who will get vaccinated.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

PM: Arrival of Vaccine Gives Rise to Hope Life Will Return to Normal in 2021

ZAGREB, Dec 27, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in a Twitter post on Saturday that the arrival of the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine gave rise to the hope that life would return to normal during 2021.

"The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Croatia this morning. The main priority is protection of the most vulnerable and most exposed groups - the elderly and infirm and medical workers and employees of welfare institutions. The arrival of the vaccine is an encouraging message that gives rise to the hope that life will return to normal in 2021," Plenkovic said.

Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) director Krunoslav Capak and vaccine distribution coordinators early this morning took over the first 9,750 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that had arrived in the country.

The vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius and its distribution across the country will start on Sunday.

The first batch of the vaccine is a symbolic one, delivered to all EU member-states to mark the start of European vaccinations on December 27, 28 and 29. After that, new batches will be arriving in Croatia on a weekly basis, in line with the vaccination schedule.

The HZJZ has called on citizens to respond to the vaccination campaign in line with its slogan - "Think of others - get vaccinated".

Friday, 18 December 2020

PM Says Salaries, Pensions Won't Come Into Question

ZAGREB, Dec 18, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that regardless of the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, salaries and pensions would not come into question and that job-retention measures would remain in force as long as necessary.

He was asked by the press how long the current lockdown could last without salaries and pensions coming into questions. "They haven't this year, they won't the next either. Salaries will be here, pensions will be here, we'll retain jobs."

Plenkovic said they would do everything that a responsible government and state should do, and which proved to be good, in these particular circumstances.

"The next six months are key. If we look at the experience from last spring, when the weather gets a little warmer, the epidemic likely won't be as strong as it is today. Secondly, the vaccine will come and we will vaccinate our citizens, showing resilience to the further spread of the infection."

He said the government would find the money for job-retention measures as long as they were necessary, while at the same time working on economic recovery and resilience as well as investment.

The government will use this opportunity to reset Croatia for a digital and green transition and to invest in the fourth industrial revolution, while at the same time preventing deep inequality in society and other crises, Plenkovic said. "That's the responsibility of the government and the state, and we will stand behind that. Everything we have done so far has been in line with that."

Commenting on central bank forecasts, he said this time of holiday shopping was important for the functioning of the state, adding that the COVID-19 measures were balanced.

The central bank estimated yesterday that real GDP could drop by 8.9% this year, up from the 8% drop estimated in mid-October, and rebound by 5% in 2021, down from the estimated 5.2%.

The central bank does not expect GDP to reach the pre-crisis level next year but in 2022. If the COVID situation is not put under control by the end of March 2021 and some parts of the economy need to remain locked, the estimate is that the pre-crisis level could be achieved only in 2023.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

PM: Decision on Declaring Exclusive Economic Zone in Adriatic to be Adopted Monday

ZAGREB, Dec 12, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday that on Monday his government would adopt a draft decision to declare an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic.

Plenkovic said on Twitter that he had "consultations with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte regarding the declaration of a Croatian exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic" and that "the Croatian government will adopt a report on the process of consultations and a draft decision on the declaration of an exclusive economic zone on Monday."

The ruling HDZ party caucus said earlier this month that the parliament would declare an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic by the end of the month.

The foreign ministers of Croatia and Italy, Gordan Grlic Radman and Luigi Di Maio, held talks in Zagreb in late November and agreed on declaring exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic together.

Back in 2003, Croatia declared an ecological and fisheries protection zone (EFPZ) which included 99 percent of elements of an exclusive economic zone, excluding the possibility of building artificial islands and exploiting wind and sea power.

It was determined by subsequent decisions in 2004, 2006 and 2008 that the EFPZ would not apply to EU member-states until a common agreement was reached in a European spirit.

After Croatia joined the EU, the EFPZ, just like all exclusive economic zones and fisheries and ecological zones of other EU member-states, became part of the EU's waters, where rules of the common fisheries policy are in force and where EU member-states cooperate in protecting the marine environment, the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said after the talks between the Croatian and Italian foreign ministers.

The long-standing cooperation with Italy in the implementation of the common fisheries policy as well as cooperation in the protection of the marine environment have resulted in an agreement on a harmonised declaration of exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic, the ministry said at the time.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Anze Logar earlier this week held talks with Di Maio on relations between the two countries and they called for a trilateral meeting at the level of foreign ministers with Croatia on the decision of the Italian and Croatian governments to declare exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said.

It noted that Di Maio and Logar had agreed that the Italian side should keep Slovenia informed of the state of the legislative procedure on the declaration of the exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic.

The Italian side guaranteed that the declaration of the exclusive economic zone would be conducted in line with the principles of international law of the sea and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and with full participation by Slovenia and Croatia, with the aim of ensuring the highest possible degree of protection of the Adriatic Sea, the Slovenian ministry said.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

PM: Affirmation of Croatia's Credit Rating Proves Gov't Responded Well to Crisis

ZAGREB, December 5, 2020 - Croatia's having kept its investment grade credit rating proves that the government's response to the crisis has been good, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday in reference to a report by Fitch Ratings, which affirmed the country's investment grade rating for the third time this year.

Fitch Ratings has for the third time this year affirmed the country's investment grade rating, which is owing to an expected gradual recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the government's strong aid measures, accession to the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II), and fiscal consolidation having been maintained, Plenkovic stressed in a statement.

The latest decision by Fitch Ratings also confirms the stable outlook for future trends. The agency underlines the importance of political stability and fast government formation following the HDZ party's victory in the July 2020 parliamentary election, as well as the adoption of the budget for 2021 and the fifth round of the tax reform.

"The fact that our credit rating has been kept in the investment category confirms that during the coronavirus pandemic we have managed to maintain economic stability without major imbalances, made progress on the journey to the euro area and joined the ERM II and that we have provided high amounts of aid to the private sector to preserve jobs. We are continuing to pursue a prudent fiscal policy, focusing on further reforms and reduction of the tax and administrative burden so as to improve the business climate and boost investment," Plenkovic said in the statement.

He noted that quality crisis management had shown that Croatia was able not only to have its rating kept in the investment category with Fitch and Standard&Poor's but also to make progress with Moody's as the most conservative credit rating agency.

Fitch expects Croatia's GDP to drop by 9% in 2020 as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021 it expects a moderate growth at a rate of 3.8% and in 2022 it forecasts that growth will pick up to 6%, which will also be owing to EU funds, whose contribution is estimated to account for two percentage points of economic growth in 2022.

Fitch believes that Croatia's entry to ERM II in July this year has contributed to the rating having stayed in the investment category and says that it could upgrade it by two notches between admission to the ERM II and joining the euro area.

In 2020 Fitch expects an 8% budget deficit. The budget deficit is expected to go down to 3.5% of GDP in 2021 and further to 2.2% in 2022. This confirms that the government has continued to implement a stable fiscal policy for which Fitch says that it has been yielding results above fiscal targets since 2016.

Fitch's decision to affirm the country's credit rating is also owing to more than €24 billion having been made available to Croatia from the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework and Recovery Plan in the coming decade.

The government recalls in its statement that Fitch had kept Croatia's credit rating outside the investment category from August 2014 to June 2019, when it was returned to the investment category where it has stayed since.

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