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.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Plenkovic Says will Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

ZAGREB, December 4, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is ready to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in public and fully supports the campaign of promoting COVID-19 vaccination, the government's spokesman Marko Milic said on Friday.

The spokesman explained that PM Plenkovic has contracted the coronavirus virus and is currently in isolation, which is why he will hold the necessary consultations with doctors on the appropriate time for him to be vaccinated.

Since the very beginning Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has fully and publicly supported vaccination as the method to immunise people against the COVID-19 disease. Having in mind that in the period when the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses will start, Plenkovic will be one of those who have recovered from that disease and he will hold the necessary consultations with doctors on the appropriate time for his vaccination, as suggested by Health Minister Vili Beros earlier in the day, Milic said in his answer to Hina's inquiries.

Milic reiterated that medical professionals, retirement home staff and residents as well as old-age citizens and patients suffering from chronic diseases will be the first to get the COVID-jabs.

Croatia has pre-orders 5.6 million doses of vaccine, Pfizer's expected to arrive first

Croatia has pre-ordered 5.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, and the vaccination could start with the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to arrive first in 125,000 doses, Croatian Public Health Institute director Krunoslav Capak said earlier today.

Capak said that the European Union had entered into negotiations with six manufacturers, and the first agreement presented to Croatia was the one with AstraZeneca.

Croatia has pre-ordered 3.6 million doses of vaccine from that manufacturer but was allocated 2.7 million because of the huge interest of other EU member states, so it has pre-ordered 900,000 doses from Johnson & Johnson. After that, a million doses have been pre-ordered from Pfizer and Moderna each, and 300,000 doses from CureVac.

"Croatia has pre-ordered 5.6 million doses of vaccine from different manufacturers, and we have also received an offer from a company that will register its vaccine towards the end of 2021. We will order smaller quantities from it in case this is a seasonal vaccine," Capak said.

The Pfizer vaccine could be registered by December 29, Moderna expects to have its vaccine registered early in January, so it is likely that these two vaccines will be the first to be used in Croatia, given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be registered slightly later in the first quarter of next year, Capak said.

The government says that all information about its activities in the preparations for administering COVID-19 jabs is available on

President Zoran Milanovic and several senior officials as well as leading epidemiologists have in the meantime expressed readiness to get vaccinated.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Contract for €70 mn Project Signed at Rudjer Boskovic Institute

ZAGREB, November 16, 2020 - A signing ceremony for a €70 million contract for the establishment of scientific infrastructure and procurement at the Croatian Rudjer Boskovic Institute (RBI) took place in Zagreb on Monday, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic attending the event.

The O-ZIP project (Open Scientific Infrastructural Platforms for Innovative Applications in the Economy and Society) is a key part of the Institute's development strategy and is based on strengthening the IRB's most competitive parts with the aim of a closer cooperation with the industrial sector, and it is the largest investment in research infrastructure in Croatia in the last 30 years, it was said.

Plenkovic said that the government's goal is to increase funding for research and science to 2.5% of GDP. Our ambition by 2030 is 3% of GDP, and we want a real connection between science and the economy, he said, recalling that in the past three years investments increased from 0.85% in 2017 to 1.11% of GDP in 2019.

All of this is part of a policy enabling scientists to contribute to the development of the country and young people to get quality education and become more competitive on the labour market, the Prime Minister said.

Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said that this was the largest project in the field of science in Croatia. It will provide the Rudjer Boskovic Institute with excellent infrastructure, the lack of which has been an obstacle to its development for the last 15 years, he said.

RBI director David M. Smith thanked all those who had worked on preparing the project, as well as the authorities for their support. Since 2012, when this project was launched, this is the fourth government and the seventh minister, he said.

The project will turn the Rudjer Boskovic Institute into a contemporary science institute that will be able to compete with others in the field, Smith said, adding that the RBI employs excellent scientists, five percent of whom are foreign nationals, and that it accounts for more than a half of Croatian science in leading scientific databases.

The RBI, which this year marks its 70th anniversary, employs a total of 956 people, 738 of whom work in science. The RBI staff lead 34 projects financed from the European Structural and Investment Funds and 102 projects financed by the Croatian Science Foundation.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Plenkovic: COVID Vaccines to Arrive in Croatia as Soon as They are Registered

ZAGREB, November 14, 2020 - Croatia, in cooperation with the European Union, has ordered COVID vaccines from several companies, and the delivery of the reserved doses can be expected in the country as soon as the vaccinations are registered, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a news conference in Zagreb on Saturday.

Croatia, in agreement with the EU, has concluded several Advance Purchase Agreements.

For instance, the European Commission and AstraZeneca have concluded such agreement on the delivery on 300 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for the whole EU, and Croatia has ordered 2.7 million doses from that company.

Sanofi is supposed to provide the EU with 300 million doses, and the distribution of its vaccines across the EU member-states will be defined in December, Plenkovic told the news conference.

The EU is going to purchase 200 million doses from Janssen Pharmaceutica owned by Johnson & Johnson, and Croatia has booked 900,000 doses.

Finally, 200 million doses of the vaccine developed by the Pfizer & BioNTech have been booked for the EU plus an additional 100 million doses, and Croatia has reserved a million doses of this vaccine.

Commenting on the healthcare system in the country and struggle to contain the novel coronavirus, Plenkovic underscored that on Friday, his cabinet allocated HRK 1.34 billion to hospitals for the repayment of a part of the debt to drug wholesalers through a revision of the state budget.

He underscored the government's decision to approve state aid in the amount of HRK 88.5 million for Croatia Airlines to help it deal with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Job retention measures, rise in basic and minimum wages by €127 and €120 respectively 

Considering the job-retention measures, the government will have paid more than eight billion kuna for that purpose, he recalled.

He also underscored Friday's agreement between the government and public sector unions on a HRK 1,500 Christmas bonus and a previously agreed 4% base pay rise.

Thus, the government has reached the target of its four-year policy to have the wages raised by 18.3%.

The basic wage has increased by 952 kuna, and the minimum wage has increased by 904 kuna over that period of four years, he said.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Friday, 13 November 2020

PM: Again More Than 3,000 New Infections, Compliance with Restrictions Necessary

ZAGREB, November 13, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that Croatia would today again have more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases, appealing to citizens to comply with epidemiological measures so as to avoid the introduction of more restrictions and noting that the situation is currently under control.

"The current situation is definitely the most difficult since the onset of the epidemic and we all must behave in such a way to help reduce those high numbers as soon as possible," Plenkovic said at a government session.

He said that the measures adopted two weeks ago had significantly slowed down the spreading of the epidemic and that the situation in Croatia was not as bad as in some other countries but that it was serious.

In five counties epidemiological measures are in force that are stricter than those at the national level.

"If we want to avoid stricter measures, personal responsibility is crucial. We believe this can be achieved with joint effort, with measures currently in force and with responsible behavior," he said, calling for physical distancing, wearing of masks and social distancing, with less contact with friends and relatives and less unnecessary contact.

Sufficient hospital capacity, sufficient number of beds, ventilators

The situation is currently under control even though the number of hospitalised patients is growing, which is due to an increase in the number of infections of about ten days ago, but the increase has been slowing down. The health system is under strain but it is not on the verge of collapse, Plenkovic said.

He noted that in Zagreb's KB Dubrava hospital alone, there were more than 500 available beds.

The hospital has been converted into a COVID hospital.

"Even though tests cannot discover all new cases, the slowing down of the number of new hospitalisations confirms that the situation with the epidemic is not getting out of control in relation to the measures in force and the capacity of the health system," he said.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Plenkovic Unveils National Development Strategy Until 2030

ZAGREB, November 12, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday unveiled a proposal for the national development strategy until 2030, saying that ten years from now he saw Croatia as a competitive, innovative and stable country of recognisable identity and culture, with preserved resources, good living standards and equal opportunities for all.

In circumstances of globalisation, over the next decade Croatia must use its competitive advantages and focus on sustainable economy and society, on increasing resilience to crises, on a green and digital transition, and balanced regional development, the prime minister said.

The goals include realising the potential for development, mitigating the consequences of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, promoting sustainable and stable development, improving living standards and ensuring equal opportunities for all people.

Plenkovic said that ambitious and realistic indicators were developed for all these components.

The proposed national development strategy will be put to public consultation over the next 30 days, after which it goes before the government and parliament. 

Plenkovic expressed hope that the strategy would be adopted with a broad consensus and support.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Plenkovic Calls on Croatians to Comply with Anti-COVID Rules

ZAGREB, November 12, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that Croatia was now at the most difficult stage of the coronavirus epidemic and called on citizens to abide by epidemiological rules to avoid the imposition of tougher restrictions.

Over the past 24 hours, Croatia has registered a record 3,082 new cases of the coronavirus infection and 32 related deaths, the national COVID-19 response team said in the morninmg.

The number of active cases in Croatia stands at 16,348, there are 1,598 COVID patients in hospitals, and 178 of them are on ventilators.

Since start of epidemic 75,922 have caught virus, 58,649 have recovered

Since February 25, when Croatia registered its first coronavirus infection, a total of 75,922 people have contracted the novel coronavirus, 925 of them have died, and 58,649 have recovered, including 2,215 in the last 24 hours. There are currently 35,690 people in self-isolation.

To date, 592,326 people have been tested for coronavirus, including 10,156 in the last 24 hours.

Commenting on the latest coronavirus numbers, the PM told the government that the country was passing through the hardest period of the epidemic.

"It is therefore important to call on every citizen to comply with the measures adopted by the national COVID-19 crisis management team. Those are serious and well-thought-out measureas which bring results."

He said that in the last seven days the number of new infections had risen by 5.5% compared to the previous week.

This indicates stagnation in the number of new infections and this is what we talked about when we said that the latest measures would decelerate the rise in new infections, the premier said.

However, we must be on high alert, primarily due to hospitalisation numbers and data on patients in intensive care wards, he said.

Plenkovic reiterated the necessary activities essential for efforts to curb the virus: keeping a physical distance, hand-washing, and regular airing of rooms, and he underscored that such measures were especially important at private gatherings.

1,213 COVID patients admitted to hospitals, 744 discharged in last 7 days

Health Minister Vili Beros did not attend today's meeting of the government as he underwent testing for the virus, and it was later stated that he was negative.

The health ministry's State Secretary, Zeljko Plazonic, told the government that in the last  seven days, 1,213 COVID patients had been admitted to hospitals, whereas 744 had been discharged.

Commenting on the incidence rate, Plazonic said that even though it was registering a mild increase in the number of active cases, Croatia had a rather low number of active cases compared to neighouring countries.

Commenting on the occurrence of the disease among medical professionals, he said that about 1,400 healthcare workers were now diagnosed with the infection, and an additional 913 were self-isolating.

The Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) has prepared a plan for the implementation of mass vaccination against coronavirus, which includes the monitoring of the process and detection of contraindications.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Croatia is One Step Closer to Introducing Digital Nomad Visa

November 11, 2020 – Last week, the Croatian government took the first step to introducing a digital nomad visa. In his statement, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković pointed out that the Law on Foreigners, under which the digital nomad visa is regulated, is an important law.

As Lider Media / Nikolina Oršulić reports, the first concrete regulatory steps have been taken to legalize the residence and work of digital nomads in Croatia. Namely, on Thursday, November 5, 2020, at the Government session, the final proposal of the Law on Foreigners was adopted, which will be sent to the Croatian Parliament.

"I think this is an important law. We are among the first countries to legally regulate the issue of digital nomads, and this will be accompanied by appropriate changes to the law in the tax domain, as well as in the health insurance domain," said Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, announcing further legislative steps.

The idea of launching digital nomad visas was first presented in Croatia by Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong, who has been building new business opportunities in Croatia for more than a decade.

"I can say that I am satisfied with the pace at which we are working to bring the legislative package needed to attract digital nomads to Croatia. We are currently making great steps forward in answering health insurance questions. With the Prime Minister's statement, we have an official obligation from the highest political level to continue to make extraordinary efforts to adapt the laws regarding taxation and health insurance. I am happy that Croatia will become the leading country in the world in attracting digital nomads," said the entrepreneur for Lider Media.

The legislative story has heated up, so the initiator of introducing a digital nomad visa is already working on the next step – the establishment of a kind of central point to support digital nomads.

"Since we are going in the right direction, I am working on establishing the Croatian Association for Digital Nomads (Digital Nomad Association Croatia - DNA Croatia) whose mission will be to connect digital nomads in Croatia and support them. We are currently in the process of founding this association," said de Jong, who is entering the project with Tanja Polegubić, a returnee from Australia who runs Saltwater Nomads - remote work and lifestyle services for digital nomads in Split, and Karmela Tancabel, a member of the Ilok Cellars (Iločki podrumi) Marketing and Export Board.

The plan is to complete the legislative part to introduce a digital nomad visa by the end of the year, and visas should be available in the first quarter of 2021. In addition to the legal regulation of the status of digital nomads, the draft of the Law on Foreigners brings some other changes.

"The most important novelty is prescribing a new model of employment of foreigners, according to which the employer must first request the implementation of the labor market test from the Employment Bureau to find labor on the domestic market. If there are no unemployed in Croatia, then a request is sent to the Ministry of the Interior seeking an opinion from the Croatian Employment Service. Exceptions to this test are for deficit professions that are usually used during the season," said Interior Minister Davor Božinović at the Government session.

In the draft of the Law on Foreigners, a digital nomad is defined as a third-country national who is employed or performs business through communication technology for a company or own company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and does not perform work or provide services to employers in the Republic of Croatia.

For the latest about the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN news section.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

PM: Existing Measures to be Extended, Additional Ones Being Considered

ZAGREB, November 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said after meeting with the national coronavirus response team on Sunday that the epidemiological measures in place would be extended and additional ones would be considered.

"The response team have announced that they will be extending all the existing measures as of tomorrow. They are considering possible additional measures in consultation with the minister of science and education regarding online classes at universities and the possibility of working from home," Plenkovic told the press after the meeting.

He said that the national response team would hold press conferences three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, starting from Monday at 11 am.

The prime minister warned that the situation was still serious, but that the healthcare system was capable of withstanding the pressure of the epidemic.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Council: Anti-COVID Measures Appropriate and Proportional to Threat

ZAGREB, November 6, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that the government's scientific council had assessed that the current measures  were proportionate to the threat of the spread of coronavirus.

"We have ascertained that there is a very clear common denominator that the measures we are taking are appropriate and proportional to the threat that the epidemic currently represents to the health of our citizens," Plenkovic told reporters after a meeting of the scientific council in the government.

He underscored that if necessary, the council would recommend further measures while the National Civil Protection Authority, that is the COVID-19 crisis management team, would ramp up the current measures.

Council's common stance: No lockdown or curfew

Plenkovic said that it was the common stance both of the government and the scientific council that a complete lockdown will not be introduced nor a curfew, reiterating that that "was never on the cards."

"We assessed that the overall fight against Covid-19 until now was good. It is good that we can see that the dynamics of the infection over the past few days has decreased significantly compared to the preceding weeks," said Plenkovic.

Asked whether anyone in the scientific council had suggested more stringent measures, the prime minister said that a margin existed to further sharpen measures and that the government was open to anything that could slow down the spread rate 0f COVID-19.

In response to reporters' claims that oncology patients in some hospitals will not be receiving their medication due to the debt to drug wholesalers, Plenkovic said that the budget revision is in the parliament and as soon as it is adopted certain funds will be paid to wholesalers but also that he has instructed Health Minister Vili Beros to investigate the situation.

"He has been in contact with the relevant health institutions today. I don't believe that that will be reflected in the broader context. If a shortage of a certain medication has occurred, I think that is more an exception than the rule in the health system," he said.

Referring to claims that numerous doctors are sending dramatic messages and that the health system seems on the verge of caving in to the epidemic pressure, the prime minister said that Minister Beros was talking with doctors right at this moment and that everything was being done to improve the quality and preparedness of the entire health system.

"The thing that is good and we spoke about that - is that a series of professions within the public healthcare system will additionally be engaged with a strong motivation to care for the health and welfare of our citizens," added Plenkovic.

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