Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Plenkovic on CNN: Reopening to Tourists Was Calculated Risk

ZAGREB, September 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told CNN on Monday that the decision to reopen Croatia to foreign tourists was a calculated risk.

This summer, an estimated seven million guests arrived in Croatia and the overnights are around 50 percent of the results in 2019, which was the record breaking year for the country's tourism sector, which makes up a fifth of the national GDP.

During his interview with the CNN Anchorman Richard Quest, Plenkovic was asked whether Croatia was now paying a price for its decision to reopen to holiday-makers, since there was now a spike in new COVID-19 numbers.

Plenkovic explained that at the onset of the coronaviorus pandemic, Croatia imposed a lockdown in order to protect its citizens, and later it started to gradually open to attract tourists.

"Naturally, it was a bit of calculated risk" the premier said admitting that the number of those who are infected have risen over the last couple of weeks, and a good thing is that Croatia still has a very low mortality rate, only 5-to-100,000 ratio, which is "much much much lower than in any other country in Europe, especially in western Europe."

"So, we have managed to combine both the health of our citizens, and the income coming from one of the most important branches of our economy, and that is tourism."

Plenkovic believes that some of Croatia's neighbours that decided to put his country on the red list should take into account the differentiated state of affairs considering the COVID epidemic broken down by counties and cities, rather than treating the entire Croatia as a high-risk place.

What we advocated to our neighbouring countries was to look at Croatia at the sub-national level, meaning that if there is a county or a particular city where we do have a certain outbreak, then the measures should be targeted towards people who were in that region. And this is what I was saying to our Slovenian colleagues, Hungarian, Austrian, or German, the Croatian PM said.

Plenkovic called for concerted action and measures at the European Union's level in response to the COVID pandemic.

"The pandemic has shown a crucial role of states," he said explaining that it was states and not some other actors that could have assisted citizens to be protected from this pandemic.


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Sunday, 30 August 2020

PM Says Blueprint of Recovery Plan to be Ready in October

ZAGREB, August 30, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Sunday, that a blueprint of the plan for the recovery from the corona crisis could be expected in October, and added that the 15.1-percent contraction of Croatia's Gross Domestic Product in Q2 was within expectations.

The government is due to have the basic outlines of the recovery plan until 15 October, Plenkovic informed the press after a conference on the occasion of International Day of the Disappeared.

"It is our idea that we have the outlines of that plan drawn up until 15 October. After that we will fine-tune the document in communication with the European Commission, just as all other countries. The adoption of those documents is expected at the beginning of the next year," said the Croatian premier.

The recovery plan is being adjusted to the targets from our National Reforms Programmes, the Convergence Programme and the agenda of this cabinet, he added.

The sum of 22 billion euro which is put at disposal to Croatia in seven years is an excellent lever for the start of a robust economic recovery in 2021, he recalled.

Commenting on the 15.1% decline in Q2 GDP,  Plenkovic said that it was within expectations considering the COVID-19 lockdown in that period. He recalled that Q1 saw some growth and that one should wait for results in Q3 and Q4.

"This is a specific year, and globally, this (fall) is within the average of EU member-states," Plenkovic said adding that the H1 GDP was actually at -7.5%.


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Sunday, 16 August 2020

PM Calls For Heightened Alert Over Coronavirus In Autumn

ZAGREB, Aug 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday that Croatia won the first halftime of the struggle against coronavirus and called for heightened alert in the autumn. 

Asked by the press about the current topics, including the developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Plenkovic said that Croatia could be satisfied with the tourist season given the circumstances.

He went on to say that the country won the first halftime of the match against COVID-19, and "we must be on high alert in the autumn."

Commenting on the outcome of the current tourist season, Plenkovic said that the results seemed better than expected, considering the projections made a few months ago.

 As for a resurgence of new cases over the recent weeks, Plenkovic said that it could have been expected in a certain sense, given a higher number of people staying now in Croatia.

"We have appealed all the time, for responsible behaviour, particularly among young people, and for keeping a distance. This obviously has not been observed in nightclubs," the premier said in his comment on indications that a majority of the newly diagnosed patients are young people.

Asked how all that could impact the remainder of the tourist season due to warnings from Austria and Slovenia concerning the arrivals from Croatia, Plenkovic said he had talked with his counterparts from those countries about that topic.

Those countries look at the issue through their statistical figures, they have their scales, they count how many of those who have returned from holidays abroad are infected. Having in mind the fact that their school year starts on 1 September, they are afraid of the spread of the infection in schools, the premier said.

He expects the Croatian diplomatic network, the ministries of tourism and health to communicate the epidemiological picture in greater detail, broken down by counties.

Plenkovic, who was on a visit to the Marian shrine of Trsat in Rijeka, on the Feast of the Assumption, said that the situation in that Primorje-Gorski Kotar County as well as in Istria and Lika was satisfactory.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

PM: We Are Sending a New Message about Relations between Croats, Serb Minority

ZAGREB, Aug 4, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday that it was of crucial importance that 25 years after Operation Storm a new massage was being sent about relations between Croats and the ethnic Serb minority, between Serbia and Croatia, and about what kind of country Croatians are building.  

Commenting on the planned attendance of Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic at the central commemoration of Operation Storm in Knin, Plenkovic said that the attendance of a political representative of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) at the commemoration was an important signal.

Minorities are an integral part of the Croatian society and their representatives are our legal and political legacy of the past 30 years, Plenkovic said.

As for reports that members of the wartime Croatian Defence Force (HOS) were planning to attend the commemoration wearing T-shirts with the inscription For the Homeland Ready, Plenkovic said the government had been informed of such plans.

"I expect those who are part of the official protocol to wear T-shirts that identify their units that fought in the Homeland War or official T-shirts provided by the War Veterans Ministry," he said.

Asked if Milosevic's participation in the Knin commemoration would lead to a policy of better social integration for ethnic Serbs, Plenkovic said that minority representatives, including those of the Serb minority, had been part of the parliamentary majority in the last parliament and that their participation now had been raised to a higher level.

"Based on our mutual trust we will work, as we did in the last term in office, on promoting the equality of all citizens and on making it possible for everyone to live in dignity in line with 21st century standards. Specifically, that means electricity and water supply in isolated communities," Plenkovic stressed.

Minister Medved's visit to Grubori, Serb villages not political tradeoff

As for War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved's visit to Grubori, where a group of Serb civilians were killed in the aftermath of Operation Storm, and to Serb villages without electricity and water supply, Plenkovic said that it was not a political tradeoff.

"That is an important political and civilisational gesture by the government, showing respect for all victims. We are aware of the faults and crimes that happened in the aftermath of Operation Storm and we believe that it is good to pay tribute also to the Serb victims," he said.

Asked how much mutual relations were burdened by reactions on the Serb side and by the Serbian president, Plenkovic said that what his government was doing was Croatia's internal matter.

"We are talking about relations between the government and our coalition partner, the political representative of the Serb minority. We make our decisions for ourselves, for Croatia, and as I have said, they send out the message that 25 years after the war we have achieved all our strategic goals, that Croatia is a democratic country, that it has its institutions and legal order and that it is integrated in the EU and NATO," Plenkovic said.

A Croatia that is dealing with economic, health, financial and security challenges has the strength to send messages like this one, he said.

"What someone has to say about it is not a top priority for us. What matters to us is what we do for the sake of relations in the Croatian society," the PM said.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

PM Plenkovic Lays Wreaths at Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, Aug 4, 2020 - On the eve of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day and the central commemoration in Knin, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic laid wreaths at Zagreb's central Mirogoj cemetery with the message that the government is paying tribute to all who gave the most for the country's freedom.

PM Plenkovic, Deputy Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner and the head of the prime minister's office, Zvonimir Frka-Petesic, laid wreaths at the Wall of Pain monument, the Central Cross in the Alley of Fallen Croatian Homeland War Defenders, the grave of Croatia's first president Franjo Tudjman, and at the common grave of unidentified victims of the 1991-95 war.

Plenkovic said the government especially remembered the operation that enabled the liberation of the then occupied areas and helped create conditions for the subsequent reintegration of the Croatian Danube River region and restoration of Croatia's territorial integrity.

"That is why I'm glad that tomorrow we will all be in Knin to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm," he said.

Friday, 24 July 2020

PM Says Expects Ministers to Cooperate Closely for Tourist Season's Sake

ZAGREB, July 24, 2020 - The new, 15th cabinet held its first meeting on Friday, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic saying the main item on the agenda was a bill on the reconstruction of buildings damaged in the Zagreb area in the March earthquake.

"As we promised, the bill is on the agenda of the first government session after the election," he said.

Plenkovic said he expected Health Minister Vili Beros, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman and Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac "to cooperate closely in the days ahead so that we can conduct consultations to combine what we do with our ambition to achieve the best possible tourist season and communication with many other states which follow the epidemiological situation in all other states, including in Croatia."

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Plenkovic Satisfied with Experience from His First Cabinet's Term

ZAGREB, July 21, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday the outgoing government dealt successfully with many crises and fulfilled its goals, and that the new government would reduce divisions in society and do more for poorer citizens.

"We have been faced with many crises. I think we have overcome and managed them well. And I'm pleased that we won the confidence of a huge majority of voters in the (parliamentary) election, that practically a couple of hours after the results we ensured a parliamentary majority with our former partners, ethnic minority representatives, the HNS and Reformists," he told the press after the last meeting of the outgoing cabinet.

He said they tried, as well as they could, to contribute to citizens' well-being and Croatia's development, to realise their platform and stick to four goals - political stability, legal certainty, economic growth and social solidarity.

Skeletons from transition closet

Asked about the biggest omission or failure over the past four years, Plenkovic said they had too little time to work on what they wanted in peace.

"Many skeletons from Croatia's transition closet, society and economy were coming to the table. We were at a speed called crisis management. It was practically non-stop. I don't know which other crisis could have happened that didn't happen in this term," he said.

"My ambition was to reduce tensions back in 2016. Then I said we were embarking on a transformation of the HDZ so that we could proceed with the transformation of relations in society."

He said they transformed the ruling HDZ party gradually and retained all the fundamental values, firmly setting the anchor on the center-right, and that both members and citizens supported that.

"The HDZ, when it ran in the election with its partners, was attractive to a large number of Croatian voters. That's my fundamental goal in politics. I think what people want most is security, serious and responsible people who will stick to to their values, while respecting others."

We will reduce divisions in society

The new government will reduce divisions in society and do more for the fellow citizens, notably those living on the brink of poverty, pensioners and those with the lowest wages, Plenkovic said.

"We will make an effort to gradually raise all that and for the situation to be better for them on the micro-level. If macro-successes with big numbers stay abstract too long and aren't visible on the micro-level, we won't be able to connect the really big steps forward and the everyday reality of our fellow citizens."

Plenkovic went on to say that he did not consider the ministers who had to step down a mistake of his because what was later on possibly problematic was not evident, nor could he have known about it, when they were forming the outgoing government.

Asked if he had asked the new ministers whether there was something he should know and if he feared that some scandals might surface, he said they were all serious and responsible as well as rational enough to talk transparently. "From what I heard talking with them, everything should be OK."

Speaking of structural reforms, he said they must use the enthusiasm from the success at the European Council and the drive of all the new government members to get to work in every sector - healthcare, justice, administration, the labour market, the economy, tax and administrative relief and reducing non-tax levies.

"We must constantly see to it that everything we do is seen, heard, explained, and understood, and that it gets certain support. That's the key."

As for a national development strategy, he said it was done, that they did not want to adopt it during the election, that it was adjusted due to the coronavirus and that it would take into account the new circumstances.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Plenkovic: Croatia Now Has Excellent Lever for Development and Economic Recovery

ZAGREB, July 21, 2020 - The agreement reached by EU leaders on the pandemic recovery plan and seven-year budget is a good compromise and Croatia can be very pleased because with over €22 billion it will have an excellent lever for the implementation of reforms and economic recovery, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Brussels on Tuesday.

"I think that we all, as heads of state or government, can be satisfied that a compromise has been reached. It is a good compromise because everyone benefited and the process of economic recovery in the member states will benefit the most," Plenkovic said after a marathon summit that lasted five days.

Croatia will have access to slightly over €12.6 billion in the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and €9.4 billion in the new instrument, Next Generation EU (NGEU). Of the €9.4 billion, 5.9 billion will be made available in grants and 2.35 billion in loans.

"This is an unprecedented achievement. We have received twice as much as in the first seven years of membership," Plenkovic said. The national envelope for Croatia in the 2014-2020 MFF is €10.7 billion.

"I think that in this way we will have an excellent and firm lever for the implementation of reforms and projects, for investment, and most importantly for a speedy economic recovery," the Croatian PM said.

An additional €400m for Croatia

Plenkovic said that through successful lobbying he had managed to obtain an additional €400 million arguing that Croatia was the only member state that had used only one MFF plus €100 million for rural development.

The earlier proposal had provided for €300 million and the amount has now been increased to 400 million.

"This 400 million in additional cohesion funds will be used for our regions that need an additional investment cycle, and another 100 million for rural development. I can say that we have done a pretty good job here," the prime minister said.

Plenkovic said that he backed up his argument by saying that Croatia was the only member state that had so far used only one seven-year budget, unlike other central and eastern European countries that joined the EU much earlier. This comparison shows that these countries attracted huge investments thanks to the redistribution power of the EU budget that stimulated their economic development.

"With these arguments, we won over our colleagues to get these funds. I am glad that we received support from European Council President Charles Michel, who became popular in our election campaign, and now it has turned out that it is not bad to be on good terms with him. We also had the support of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has been sympathetic to Croatia for years. As a German defence minister, she had very good relations with our minister Krsticevic, and Croatia is one of the countries that helped her become Commission President," Plenkovic said.

EU leaders reached the agreement at 5.30 am on Tuesday after four days of exhausting negotiations on the new Multiannual Financial Framework and the new instrument, Next Generation EU, as a response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The package agreed is worth a total of €1.824 trillion, including the €1.074tn 2021-2017 MFF and the €750bn NGEU plan. Of the €750 billion, 390 billion will be allocated in grants and 360 billion in loans.

Croatia and the other member states now have until mid-October to prepare their national recovery plans on the basis of which they will be able to use money from the NGEU.

"Our recovery plan will rely on the government program, which I will present in the Croatian parliament on Thursday, on the national reform programme, the convergence programme and our activities in the process of accession to the euro zone. We will prepare numerous projects and reform activities," Plenkovic said.

In conclusion, Plenkovic said that this showed how important EU membership was for Croatia and that the full effect of membership would be seen only after two MFFs had been used.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Plenkovic: Most Member States Want Deal to Be Reached on Saturday or Sunday

ZAGREB, July 18, 2020 - Most of the EU member states want a deal on the next seven-year budget and a coronavirus recovery plan to be reached on Saturday or Sunday, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters during the EU summit in Brussels on Friday evening.

The leaders of the 27 member states gathered for their first physical meeting after five months to reach an agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework and the plan for a recovery from the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting started at 10 am on Friday and showed great differences among the member states, as well as the readiness of the majority to compromise.

"As far as I can feel the atmosphere, the majority of colleagues would want a deal to be reached tomorrow or on Sunday," Plenkovic said during a break in the summit. "Most of the members, including big ones such as Germany and France, are ready to support a compromise," he added.

Among the major obstacles to reaching a deal on the whole package are efforts by the Netherlands to ensure that approval of national projects and payouts from the recovery fund is decided by all member states unanimously.

Plenkovic said that most of the member states were against this and that the proposal did not make sense. "That would mean that a small country can tell Germany or France 'we don't like this in your programme and we wouldn't want it to pass,'" Plenkovic said, adding that in his opinion this job should be done by the European Commission.

The PM said that any delay of an agreement would only put this whole business on a tight schedule. "For Croatia, it would be ideal if an agreement was reached now so that we can have a clear situation at the start of the work of the new government and that know what we can count on."

Croatia is trying to secure more than €20 billion in the EU budget and the recovery plan, twice as much as in the first seven years of its membership.

Plenkovic said that his new government, which will be formed next week, wanted to use EU funding for the necessary reforms.

"These seven years ahead of us are crucial for our speedy economic development, transformation, balanced regional development and rural development in all parts of Croatia affected by the problem of depopulation, the problem of job creation," Plenkovic said.

Summit to resume on Saturday

The first day of the summit ended inconclusively as the Netherlands continued to insist that payouts from the recovery fund be decided unanimously.

European Council President Charles Michel proposed that decisions on the approval of national plans be taken by a qualified majority, while decisions on payouts would be made by the Commission taking into account the opinions of the member states.

Even some countries from the group of nations known as the Frugal Four considered the Dutch position unacceptable.

The Netherlands and the other "frugal" countries also demand that the proposed amount for grants be reduced from €500 billion to at least 300 billion.

After Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte rejected the somewhat modified proposal, Michel adjourned the summit until 11am on Saturday.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Plenkovic Says MFF Talks Crucial for EU in Next 7 Years, Calls for Political Maturity

ZAGREB, July 17, 2020 - The negotiations on the  Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2017 and the recovery package are politically most important for the development of the EU in the next seven years and require a high level of political maturity, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Brussels on Friday.

"We will advocate Croatia's interest and seek possibilities of funding our national programme for recovery, including projects that will make sure that Croatia has a balanced regional development. the development of agriculture and also investments in the digital and green economy and all other things in connection with the future and catching up with the 4.0 industrial revolution," Plenkovic said just before the start of the first face-to-face summit meeting in Brussels after several months of virtual conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 10 July, European Council President Charles Michel presented his new proposal for the long-term EU budget and the recovery package, the so-called negobox.

This proposal serves as a basis for the leaders’ discussions at the ongoing Special European Council. 

President Michel has proposed €1 074 billion to fulfill the long-term objectives of the EU and to preserve the full capacity of the recovery plan. This proposal is largely based on the February proposal, which reflected two years of discussions between member states. As for the size of the recovery fund, the Commission would be empowered to borrow up to €750 billion through an own-resource decision. Of that amount, 500 billion would be in the form of non-repayable grants and 250 billion as loans.

"A deal is essential. Now is the time," says Michel in his invitation letter for the special summit.

The Croatian premiere is hopeful that all leaders of the EU bloc's member-states will show a high level of political maturity "so that we can send a key message to all our citizens, to all members of the EU."

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