Thursday, 16 December 2021

European Council Points to Importance of Vaccination, Including Booster

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - EU leaders on Thursday underlined the importance of vaccination in the fight against COVID-19, including a booster shot given the worrying Omicron variant.

The vaccination of all and receiving a booster shot is crucial and urgently necessary, according to European Council conclusions on the pandemic.

EU heads of state or government said it is crucial to overcome the suspiciousness about vaccination and to fight vaccine disinformation.

As to travel restrictions, the European Council called for coordinated efforts to respond to the situation based on available scientific evidence, and for imposing travel restrictions based on objective criteria, without undermining the single market or disproportionately disrupting free movement within the EU.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told the press COVID certificates facilitated free movement this past summer and that this helped Croatia to record 90% of the numbers logged in the record tourism year 2019.

EU leaders called for the updated travel recommendations within the EU that the Commission published last month to be updated as soon as possible.

The Commission recommended a person-based approach, i.e. that a person with a valid digital COVID certificate should not be subjected to additional restrictions such as testing or quarantine.

Persons without a certificate could be required to get tested before or upon arrival.

The Commission also recommended that the certificates be valid nine months after the last vaccination.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Plenković Comments on Council Conclusions on Bosnia

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - The conclusions by the Council of the European Union concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina contain everything that is important for the Croats in that country, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday.

"Whenever the Dayton agreement is mentioned, that implies the constituent peoples. Any reference to Constitutional Court judgments implies the judgment in the Ljubić case, which concerns legitimate representation. All that is essential is in there, but one should have background knowledge and be able to decipher the conclusions, what they actually mean," Plenković told reporters in response to criticisms from President Zoran Milanović regarding the Council's conclusions on enlargement.

The prime minister said that these conclusions, adopted by EU ministers for European affairs on Tuesday, were much better for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina than those adopted at the NATO summit this summer when the Croatian delegation was headed by Milanović.

Milanović had threatened to block the adoption of the joint NATO declaration unless a reference was made to the Dayton agreement, constituent peoples, and electoral reform. Eventually, it was agreed to mention the Dayton agreement and the need for electoral reform.

Commenting on Milanović's claim that Croatia should block conclusions whenever it failed to have its views incorporated into them, Plenković said that this was done only in extreme cases. "Anyone well-versed in European topics will not do that. This is done only in extreme cases when there is no other way."

He said that Croatia knew how to protect its interests, as in the case of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that it was constructive towards its neighbor. "It is also a wise interlocutor who knows how to get what it wants through very complicated negotiations involving a lot of member states, without antagonizing all others."

Plenković said that the latest conclusions were not linked to ongoing talks on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are mediated by the United States and the European Union.

"We included everything of importance to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and sent strong messages," the PM said.

Milanović has criticized the Council's conclusions on enlargement and called out the Croatian government for supporting the conclusions because "they do not guarantee the rights of the Croats as a constituent people in Bosnia and Herzegovina," according to a press release from the President's Office.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

PM Condemns Attacks and Insults Against Healthcare Workers

ZAGREB, 15 Dec 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday condemned in the strongest terms attacks and the invective against healthcare workers, underscoring that COVID certificates were not anything special or any kind of restriction, but a tool used across Europe.

"Insulting healthcare workers is inappropriate and unacceptable... instead of expressing gratitude to them for their commitment, we can see insults that deserve to be strongly condemned."

On Tuesday evening, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković also deplored the aggressive behavior of some demonstrators at rallies against COVID certificates and vaccines.

Commenting on the latest COVID numbers in Croatia, PM Plenković said at the cabinet's meeting that although those numbers were falling, they were still high.

He reiterated his appeal for vaccination against coronavirus.

Pleković recalled that in the last two years, Croatia had implemented some of the easiest epidemiological restrictions in Europe, without long and strict lockdowns and curfews.

We conduct the struggle against the pandemic in the way we consider to be appropriate. Of course, we do not want to encroach on the human rights framework. The precondition for the protection of human rights is that citizens are well and alive, he said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Plenković: 2022 Essential Because of Accession to Schengen and Euro Area

ZAGREB, 14 Dec 2021 - Next year is very important because we expect a final decision on Croatia's accession to the Schengen and euro areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday, recalling that Croatia has access to about €25 billion from European sources for this decade.

Addressing a launch conference for the Croatian-language special annual edition of the global magazine The Economist, Plenković said that Croatia has about €25 billion at its disposal for this decade, including regular funds from the seven-year European budget, funds from the NextGenerationEU, and about one billion euro for reconstruction following last year's devastating earthquakes.

"That is more than we have ever had....and these are mostly grants," he underscored.

This year's conference dealt with the transformation of the Croatian economy through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) 2021-2026 as the basis for the absorption of funds from the NextGenerationEU mechanism, under which Croatia has access to €6.3 billion in grants and another €3.6 billion in favorable loans.

The NPOO has been approved by the European Commission and Council, Croatia has already received an advance payment of HRK 6.14 billion, and in the first half of 2022 it will receive a new tranche, Plenković said, adding that there are some EU countries that have not yet even delivered their national plans.

The NPOO is the reform basis and financing basis for economic growth and is forecast to increase Croatia's GDP in 2022 and 2023 by 1.4 percentage points.

Economy proved to be exceptionally tough

Plenković said that the national economy showed exceptional strength, agility, and resilience, particularly since the tourism season was beyond all expectations. He also mentioned growth in personal consumption and economic growth which is expected to exceed nine percent, which is more than the eight percent drop in GDP last year.

The most important thing is that Croatia has maintained its image among international organizations, financial institutions, markets, and credit rating agencies, he noted.

"Anyone who is following us sees our credibility and the direction of our actions," said Plenković and highlighted that the direction is based on a speedy return on the path to decreasing public debt and a balanced budget, which cannot be expected this year or next.

He recalled that the Fitch agency has upgraded Croatia's credit rating to its highest level since rating agencies have appraised Croatia.

"This is the framework with which Croatia is entering 2022, which should be very significant institutionally because we expect a final decision on accession to the Schengen and euro areas," said Plenković.

He emphasized the importance of political stability, noting that the period from 2021 to 2028 will have just one intensive period of about 12 months of electioneering.

Government faced unbelievable challenges last year

Speaking of last year, Plenković said that all governments faced an unbelievable challenge as a consequence of coronavirus and had to find solutions to enable normal functioning and economic trends.

That led to a decline in all trends and weaker economic activities, but the government managed to overcome that and it does not regret the expenditure due to the coronavirus crisis which has exceeded HRK 40 billion.

"We have no regrets because we did not see any mass layoffs or bankruptcies," the PM underscored, recalling government support for wages in the private sector among other measures.

Challenges of climate change and demographic revitalization

Globally, the pandemic is still continuing and no one can know when it will end and what new variants we will meet, or what measures we will have to take. However, we will do everything we can to protect the health of citizens while ensuring economic, financial, and social flows, he said.

Everyone has had to learn how to balance - governments, companies, educational institutions, and international institutions, he said.

In the global context, Plenković reflected on relations between the USA and China, the need to strengthen the EU's strategic autonomy in all possible aspects, relations with Russia in the context of Europe's stability, and the issues of migration, climate change, and demographic revitalization.

Polarisation in society during the coronavirus crisis

Plenković said that the coronavirus crisis has led to an exceptional polarisation in the social and political environment, both in Croatia and in the world.

He highlighted the impact of the Internet, social networks, and false information that deceives people, which is why they do not trust institutions, public health, and science.

The latest edition of The Economist was presented by Ivan Vrdoljak from the Livit company. The edition is published in Croatian and provides analyses and forecasts for next year.

Vrdoljak said that The Economist was wrong in its projection of Croatian growth for this year due to unexpectedly fast recovery.

The Economist has forecast growth of 4.7% whereas the government expects growth of about 9%. The Economist projected next year's Croatian GDP growth at 4.1% and inflation at 1.7%, added  Vrdoljak.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Catholic and Islamic Dignitaries Thank Croatian PM for Help to BiH

ZAGREB, 13 Dec 2021 - The Catholic Archbishop of Sarajevo, Vinko Puljić, and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia's Islamic community, Husein Kavazović, thanked on Monday Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for the help his government had provided to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Croatian prime minister, who is on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, after a meeting with the country's executive and legislative authorities' officials, also met separately, behind closed doors, with the leaders of three major religious communities, including Cardinal Puljić, Reis Kavazović and the Bosnian prelate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Hrizostom Jević.

The Archdiocese of Sarajevo said in a press release that Cardinal Puljić informed Plenković and the ministers accompanying him of the state of affairs in the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina and underscored that after the last war, it was necessary to rebuild about 60 churches destroyed during the 1992-1995 the war. Croatia has significantly helped in the reconstruction and in many other projects.

Cardinal Puljić said that the help was valuable, and Plenković promised the continuation of support to the Archdiocese through the State Office for Croats Abroad.

He thanked the Cardinal for his reassuring messages so far, underscoring that his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina also aimed at alleviating tensions in that country. Plenković confirmed that as a member of the European Union and of NATO, Croatia was prepared to provide clear support to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the talks between Kavazović and the Croatian prime minister, the Riyaset of the Islamic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina said in a press release Kavazović thanked for the support the Croatian government was providing to Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the period of the current political crisis.

Kavazović recalled that the Islamic community in Croatia, led by Aziz Hasanović, who also took part in the meeting in Sarajevo, had a significant role in building good relations between the two countries.

Plenković thanked Mufti Hasanović for everything the Islamic community in Croatia was doing, promising the continuation of cooperation and assistance the country was providing to the Meshihat in Zagreb.

Participants of the talks agreed that the relations between the two countries, as well as the relations between Bosniaks and Croats, had to improve further.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Croatia PM: BiH Crisis Should Be Solved Through Agreement, Starting With Election Law

ZAGREB, 13 Dec 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday the crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be solved through talks and agreements based on the Dayton peace agreement which, he added, would defuse tensions and ensure equal rights for all its inhabitants.

He was speaking to the press in Sarajevo after meeting with the leaders of both houses of the BiH Parliament, including HDZ BiH party president Dragan Čović and SDA president Bakir Izetbegović.

Plenković said that as a friendly country with great respect for BiH, Croatia wants to advance cooperation through political dialogue in order to support reforms leading to EU membership and to help BiH catch up with its neighbors on the EU journey.

He said Croatia would like electoral law changes to satisfy all three constituent peoples and for Croats, as the smallest people, to be equal.

If such changes were made, Plenković said, the relations within the Federation entity would relax, and "the gentlemen's agreement between Bosniaks and Croats" would contribute to better relations with the Serbis and all government bodies would start functioning.

The European reform processes could resume as soon as the current crisis ended, he added.

Responsibility for such an agreement is solely on the political parties in BiH and its institutions, he said, adding that it is necessary to have a feeling for nuance and reality.

"Izetbegović understands that too. There are different models and solutions, but it's important to keep the letter and spirit of Dayton which, until 2006, was never in question," Plenković said, implying that the election of Željko Komšić to the BiH Presidency has undermined the substance of the peace agreement.

Responding to questions from the press, Plenković said that as far as he knew, EU bodies were not preparing to deploy European troops in BiH and that this was rather the stand of some MEPs.

The stand-in the EU is to condemn all actions leading to new tensions in BiH and that the Dayton agreement must be honored, he added.

It was Greens MEP Thomas Waitz who said in Sarajevo that the EU stood ready to deploy up to 6,000 troops in case the crisis escalated.

His colleague Romeo Franz, head of the European Parliament delegation on relations with BiH, said today this body was following with great concern the secessionist threats coming from the Bosnian Serb entity.

That poses a big danger to peace in BiH as well as all of Europe, he told the press after meeting with BiH MPs which was not attended by those from the Serb entity, who refuse to communicate with Greens representatives.

Franz said their group expects High Representative Christian Schmidt to react if necessary by using his broad powers, adding that he will insist in the European Parliament on urgent sanctions against all those in BiH who jeopardize its peace and stability.

After talks with representatives of the executive and legislative branches, the Croatian prime minister laid a wreath at the monument to the first victims of the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-1995 war.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Plenković: Bosnia and Herzegovina Has No Greater Friend Than Croatia

ZAGREB, 13 Dec 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said during a visit to Sarajevo on Monday that the bonds between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are unbreakable and that Croatia remains Bosnia and Herzegovina's greatest friend and its advocate in the European Union.

Plenković is leading a government delegation on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. On arriving in Sarajevo on Monday morning, he met with his counterpart, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija, and his ministers.

The visit comes at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing the biggest internal crisis since the 1992-1995 war caused by the attempts of the Bosnian Serb authorities to separate the Republika Srpska entity from the country's constitutional and legal system.

Speaking to the press after the meeting between the two government delegations, Plenković said that Croatia is closely following developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that his message is that Croatia is a friend and partner seeking to promote cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and support its territorial integrity and the equality of its two entities and three constituent peoples.

"We would like the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be functioning," Plenković said.

Commenting on last week's conclusions by the Republika Srpska parliament that laid the ground for repealing some of the important state-level laws, the Croatian prime minister said it is yet to be seen to what extent this is a maneuver and to what extent it is the actual wish of the Bosnian Serb authorities to endanger the existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Plenković said that Croatia by no means wants to see any separatist tendencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and expects full compliance with the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the country's 1992-1995 war. He noted that Croatia is one of its signatories and that its late president Franjo Tuđman was one of its authors.

The Croatian PM added that it is very important for Croatia to see that the Croats, as the smallest of the three constituent peoples, have all their rights guaranteed, including a new election law that should be the result of an internal agreement. He said that he expects this to happen no later than May next year when a general election is to be called.

"We are not pleased with the practice that has existed since 2006 and that represents an obstacle to institutional cooperation between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina," Plenković said, alluding to the fact that there have been no high-level meetings between the two countries for years because Croatia does not recognize the legitimacy of Željko Komšić as the Croat member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency.

Asked whether he has come to "iron out" the relationship between the countries following reactions to statements by Croatian President Zoran Milanović, including one in which he downplayed the Srebrenica genocide, Plenković said there is no need for such an intervention because the two countries have a good relationship and Croatia's position on the Srebrenica genocide was and remains clear.

The Croatian PM reaffirmed Croatia's readiness to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in Euro-Atlantic integration, improve economic cooperation, and work on improving infrastructure and energy connectivity.

He noted the importance of the construction of the motorway along the pan-European corridor Vc and the connection of the two countries' natural gas networks via Zagvozd to Posušje in the south. He added that diversification of supply sources has become very important and that this will pave the way for gas delivery from the LNG terminal on the northern Adriatic island of Krk.

Plenković estimated this year's trade between the two countries at over €2 billion.

Tegeltija said he shared Plenković's view that the constituent peoples should have their legitimate representatives in government, adding that "someone is now trying to shirk the agreement in principle that was reached" during negotiations on new election rules for the southern city of Mostar. He said it would not be good for next year's election to be held according to the present rules.

Tegeltija said that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have good economic and political relations "despite attempts by individuals to portray them differently."

Speaking of unresolved issues, he cited the status of property owned by citizens of the two countries, arbitration over the Gacko thermal power plant, the agreement on borders, and Croatia's plan to build a radioactive waste disposal facility on Mount Trgovska Gora near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tegeltija said his personal opinion is that Croatia should look for another location for radioactive waste disposal, while Plenković said that there is continued dialogue on the matter and that there is no reason for safety concerns about the Trgovska Gora site.

Plenković continued his visit to Sarajevo by meeting with the speakers of both chambers of the state parliament, after which he is scheduled to lay a wreath at the monument to the first victims of the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-1995 war. Before traveling to Mostar, he is due to meet separately with the leaders of the three largest religious communities in the country.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Croatian PM Congratulates New German Chancellor

ZAGREB, 10 Dec 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday congratulated the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on his appointment, thanking Germany for its support to Croatia in its bid to join the Schengen area of passport-free travel and the euro area, the government said.

"My most heartfelt congratulations on your appointment as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and best wishes for a successful term in office. I look forward to cooperation in further deepening relations between our two countries as well as on topics of importance for the future of the European Union," PM Plenković said in his message.

He also expressed gratitude for Germany's support to Croatia's efforts to accomplish its strategic priorities - membership of the Schengen area and of the euro area, underlining the importance of a common contribution to the stability and EU membership prospects of Southeast Europe.

"The 30th anniversary of our bilateral relations next year is a symbolic opportunity to additionally strengthening our partnership and cooperation on the political, economic, scientific and cultural fronts, as well as in a number of other important areas," Plenković said in his message.

Scholz was sworn in as Chancellor on Wednesday. He is Germany's ninth post-war chancellor and successor to Angela Merkel, who held the post since 2005.

Germany's new Social Democrat-Green-Liberal government, headed by Scholz, has 416 deputies in the 736-member 20th Bundestag.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Croatian PM Arrives in Montenegro for CEI Summit

ZAGREB, 3 Dec 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković arrived in Montenegro on Friday for a one-day visit during which he will attend a Central European Initiative (CEI) summit and meet with representatives of the Croatian community.

The CEI was launched in Budapest in 1989, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the aim of assisting central and eastern European countries in joining the European Union.

The initial four members were Austria, Hungary, Italy and Yugoslavia. Austria has in the meantime withdrawn from this organisation, which now has 17 members. Apart from the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the members are: Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Nine CEI countries are now members of the European Union.

Today's meeting in the coastal town of Budva will mark the end of Montenegro's chairmanship of the CEI. Croatia held the chairmanship in 2018 and handed it over to Italy in 2019, when the organisation marked its 30th anniversary in Rome.

The Montenegrin government has announced the attendance of the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia. The Croatian delegation includes Interior Minister Davor Božinović and the Secretary of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, Zvonko Milas.

The summit is expected to adopt a joint statement on further cooperation, with emphasis on development and European integration, and a road map for health and well-being in the Western Balkans until 2025.

The countries in the region are among the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in the world. According to the website, which gathers official information on COVID-19, the country with the highest death toll in relation to its population size is Peru, which is followed by Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia. Romania ranks ninth and Croatia 13th. The World Health Organisation's Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, will also attend today's summit.

Meeting with the Croatian community

After the CEI summit, the Croatian delegation is scheduled to meet with Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Kirvokapić and visit the Croatian Consulate-General in Kotor, where Prime Minister Plenković will meet with Bishop Ivan Štironja and visit the 12th century Cathedral of St. Tryphon.

After that, the Croatian delegation is due to meet with representatives of the Croatian community in the nearby small town of Donja Lastva.

Local Croats have been complaining about the unresolved legal status of the Croatian Hall in Donja Lastva, the centre of activity of the Croatian National Council in the area.

The 2011 census shows that 6,021 ethnic Croats live in Montenegro, while church records put their number at about 10,000. They are recognised as an ethnic minority, and under the Montenegrin constitution the Croatian language is in official use, according to the Central State Office for Croats Abroad.c

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Gov't Continues to Strongly Support Slavonia, Says PM

ZAGREB, 2 Dec 2021 - The eastern city of Osijek marked its day on Thursday with a special City Council session at which Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said the government would continue to strongly support the region of Slavonia, Baranja, and Srijem through the policy launched five years ago.

He said that five years ago the government concluded that it was necessary to immediately do the utmost for the region's welfare and that that was the backbone of the policy for a region that was devastated by the Greater Serbia military aggression and which suffered major economic and population problems.

"We felt it was time to offer a strong hand of support to Osijek and Slavonia from the national level, and after five years of that policy, the results can be seen. It's visible that that policy was the right one and useful for citizens in all Slavonia counties, notably in Osijek-Baranja County, which is the engine of the modern development of all Slavonia."

Plenković recalled the many investment projects financed by the government and the EU.

They are all messages that we wish to make Osijek a real regional center of eastern Slavonia, a center of the academic community, culture, the economy, and modern technologies which will attract young people, he said.

He recalled that during the pandemic, government measures helped to save 17,000 jobs in Osijek, with 2,800 companies receiving HRK 242.3 million for wages in the private sector.

Plenković also said that Croatia's entry into the euro area would bring further investment.

Mayor: Biggest budget ever for the continuation of economic growth

Osijek Mayor Ivan Radić (HDZ) said the City Council recently adopted the biggest budget in the city's history, HRK 1.08 billion, and that it would facilitate the continuation of economic growth and development, the strengthening of the pre-school and school education system, the maintenance of the local infrastructure, and care for the most vulnerable groups.

He said a good absorption of national and EU funds was a priority for the realization of city projects, adding that funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan would also be tapped.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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