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 Austria has in the meantime withdrawn from this organisation, which now has 17 members.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 worldometers.info 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, 7 October 2021

Plenković, Sánchez Announce Stronger Croatian-Spanish Cooperation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sánchez too welcomed the experimental program for preserving the environment.

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

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

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

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

Sánchez also invited Plenković to visit Madrid.

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

Thursday, 23 September 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 September 2021

Prime Minister Confident Croatia Will Be Ready to Join Euro Area on January 1st, 2023

ZAGREB, 13 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday he was confident Croatia would be ready to enter the euro area on 1 January 2023.

Speaking at the 11th meeting of the national council for the introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency, Plenković said Croatia had the full support of the European Commission and the European Central Bank to join the euro area.

"We approached this process in a very structured way, carefully. We believe we will fulfill in time all the commitments we undertook by entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism."

He said the government regularly discussed reform implementation in money laundering prevention, the business environment, public administration management, and the justice system, adding that he was confident all the ministries involved would fulfill what had been agreed.

Highly euroized economy

Plenković reiterated that over 60% of Croatia's export was to EU member states, over 60% of tourists in Croatia came from the euro area, over two-thirds of savings and half the loans in Croatia were in euros and that Croatia was already a highly euroized economy.

The experience of the countries which joined the euro area shows that it benefitted both their citizens and economies. Entering the euro area will eliminate the currency risk and exchange costs, reduce interest rates, boost foreign investment, and increase the possibility of financing on the capital market, which we are sure will have an additional effect on our credit rating, Plenković said.

That will also facilitate exports and tourist arrivals, he added.

By comparing pay and price trends in new member states, one can conclude that gross wages increased considerably in relation to price growth, he said. "Living standards increased considerably after the introduction of the euro."

Plenković reiterated that Croatia would have €25 billion in EU funds at its disposal in the years ahead.

"We expect an advance of €818 million could arrive in Croatia in the weeks ahead and, with the GDP growth we saw in the second quarter and which, after such a successful tourism season, will certainly be such in the third quarter as well, to embark on strong economic recovery, strengthening the resilience of the Croatian economy, quality of life, and raising the standard of our fellow citizens."

Dombrovskis: EC strongly supports Croatia's work and ambition to join the euro area

The European Commission Executive Vice President of for an Economy that Works for People Valdis Dombrovskis said at the meeting the Croatian government had shown a strong political will and set ambitious goals.

The Commission strongly supports the work and ambitions of the government and other Croatian institutions to join the euro area, which requires meeting all Maastricht criteria, he added.

Your economy is recovering well and will receive support via the recovery and resilience plan. Croatia is the biggest recipient of EU funds. 11.6% of GDP has been allocated to Croatia in grants, he said.

Dombrovskis said taking the euro path was worth it as it would lead to a more prosperous economy.

Asked by the press about the current inflationary pressures and if prices would go up once Croatia joined the euro area, the Commissioner said one should carefully monitor the impact of introducing the euro on prices also while preparing to introduce it in order to prevent significant price growth.

He said that when the euro was being introduced, product prices were being monitored in two currencies, among other things so that citizens could get used to prices in euros.

The relevant authorities will also have to monitor prices. Latvia, for example, where Dombrovskis was prime minister, conducted a campaign for a fair and equitable introduction of the euro.

Everything that was necessary was done to prevent the introduction of the euro from being used to raise prices, and even retail chains took part in the campaign, he said.

He added that no significant price increase was registered in the Baltic countries that entered the euro area last.

Plenković told the press there was no need for a referendum on euro adoption, explaining that during its referendum on its European Union's admission, Croatia also assumed the obligation to enter the euro area.

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

Thursday, 9 September 2021

PM: Croatia's Turning Red on ECDC Map as Expected

ZAGREB, 9 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a government session on Thursday that Croatia's turning red on the epidemiological map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was as expected given the spread of the much more contagious Delta coronavirus variant. 

"After it was orange and green on the ECDC map the whole summer, Croatia has now turned red, which is as expected considering the rise in the number of infections," he said.

"We are faced with the much more contagious Delta variant, which is more aggressive and spreads faster, and Croatia is already seeing an increase in the number of infections. We continue to insist that vaccination is the best and most efficient way to protect ourselves," he stressed, noting that so far close to 52% of the adult population had been vaccinated.

He recalled the basic epidemiological measures, such as room airing, physical distancing, mask-wearing, and personal hygiene, warning citizens against relaxing entirely.

The epidemiological restrictions applied in Croatia were appropriate to our mentality, health protection, and economic and financial trends, Plenković said, adding that compared to other countries, they had enabled a very good quality of life for Croatian citizens.

"Now it is important that the figures that are relevant at the moment - the number of hospitalizations, the number of patients in serious condition and the number of fatalities - be kept as low as possible," he said, adding that of the ten latest fatalities, only two had been vaccinated.

Most important part of tourist season without alarming situations

He expressed satisfaction with the tourist season, noting that there had been no alarming situations during the peak season.

Commenting on the coming census, he said that for the first time citizens would be able to self-enumerate via the e-Citizens (e-Građani) system.

The census will be conducted digitally from 13 to 26 September, after which data will be collected by around 8,000 census-takers, who will be in the field until 17 October, Plenković said.

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

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Croatian PM Sends Condolences Over N. Macedonia COVID Hospital Fire

ZAGREB, 9 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday sent a letter of condolence to North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and to the families of the victims who lost their lives in a fire that broke out in a COVID hospital in the western city of Tetovo on Wednesday evening.

We are very saddened by the news about the violent fire in the COVID-19 hospital in Tetovo in which many people lost their lives, Plenković wrote on his Twitter account.

"We are in our thoughts with North Macedonia and the families of victims," Plenković added.

At least 14 people died and many more were injured in that hospital fire in North Macedonia, health officials said.

The fire erupted after an explosion at about 2100 hrs Wednesday. Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze for an hour before they managed to bring it under control.

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

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Plenković: We Could Exceed 70% of 2019 Tourism Results

ZAGREB, 2 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday commented on the latest ECDC map on which Croatia's coast has stayed orange, saying that foreign tourists had recognized Croatia as a safe destination and that this year's tourism results could exceed 70% of tourism results in the pre-crisis year 2019.

"According to the new ECDC map, the Croatian coast has stayed orange into September. Foreign tourists have recognized Croatia as a safe destination and we could exceed 70% of the tourism results from the pre-crisis year 2019," Plenković said on his Twitter account.

He concluded that with responsible conduct and vaccination public health and the national economy were being protected.

According to the latest European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control map, released on Thursday, eastern and central Croatia have turned red while the coast and northern Croatia have stayed orange.

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

Thursday, 2 September 2021

PM Announces Possible Legislative Changes for Tacitly Agreed Overdrafts

ZAGREB, 2 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday at the beginning of his cabinet's meeting that amendments to the relevant legislation could be made regarding tacitly accepted overdrafts of consumers.

Earlier on Thursday, Plenković met with Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić, and he informed his cabinet that they had agreed that the HNB would provide the Ministry of Finance with a thorough analysis of this topic that has made headlines recently.

The government is seeking the best solutions, and if necessary, we will change the law, he added.

The premier mentioned a possibility of reducing the effective interest rate, which would also include the fee, in the way that it would not adversely affect clients who use the instrument of tacitly agreed overdraft.

The solution must enable better dissemination of information and a lower interest rate, according to Plenković.

On Monday, the HNB recommended that until regulations on tacitly accepted overdrafts were amended, commercial banks should apply the effective interest rate and make it possible for their clients to cover those overdrafts through installment payments or reduce overdrafts. The central bank also noted that reports about mass-scale cancellation of overdrafts by banks were not true.

This issue as well as the HNB's initiative to amend the relevant regulations in order to set the maximum interest charged on tacitly accepted overdrafts have stirred up a lot of discussion in the public.

Plenković said that the government was committed to the protection of consumers and added that he convened a meeting for the next week with representatives of the commercial banks that offer tacitly agreed overdrafts to their clients.

He went on to say that according to the information presented by Vujčić, the range of interest rates on overdrafts in Croatia were practically within the average in the EU and that the amount in overdrafts decreased by two billion kunas in the nominal terms in the last years.

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

Thursday, 2 September 2021

PM: We Will Do Everything to Accelerate Post-Earthquake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 2 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government would do everything to accelerate the process of post-earthquake reconstruction, and recalled that new tenders for about 4,000 houses in Banovina would be advertised already today and tomorrow.

"We will make every effort to speed up that process... and the Ministry of Construction and State Assets will present a comprehensive proposal of measures and possible legal changes which should make the entire reconstruction process more efficient and faster," Plenković said at the beginning of a government session.

As for the beginning of the new school year, the prime minister expressed satisfaction with the increase in the number of vaccinated persons in the school system.

"They set a good example and motive to those that haven't done that yet," he said.

Currently, 57.5% of the teaching staff in primary and secondary schools have been given at least one shot against COVID-19 and in tertiary education, this percentage is higher, 64.5%,  Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Wednesday.

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

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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.

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