Tuesday, 29 June 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: SDP Interpellation Won't Pass, They Must Pretend They Are Doing Something

ZAGREB, 29 June, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the Social Democratic Party's interpellation on the government's slowness in post-earthquake reconstruction would not pass, adding that in the SDP "they have to pretend they are doing something" after losing in local elections.

Speaking to the press in Petrinja, Plenković said he had not seen the interpellation but that "when someone loses so badly in local elections, when they have a 13% rating, they have to pretend they are doing something." He added that parliament would reject it.

Plenković visited Petrinja to see the demolition of buildings damaged in December's earthquake and meet with the task force dealing with its consequences.

He said that when the reconstruction law was being passed, he said he wished to incorporate in it all constructive ideas and that no prior law included so many proposals from the opposition.

He said interpellations like the SDP's one did not serve to improve something but to show distrust in the government.

In the interpellation filed today, the SDP asks for urgently amending the reconstruction law, including local government in discussions about it, and informing the public more transparently, among other things.

Asked who was responsible for the fact that 150 damaged buildings had been torn down in the Banija region since the December 2020 earthquake and only three in Zagreb since the March 2020 quake, Plenković said the goal in Zagreb had been to first provide institutions that would be in charge of the whole process, then financing, and cooperation between the state, the city and the quake-affected counties around Zagreb.

He said the processing of reconstruction applications in Zagreb was "somewhat slower" than expected but that property-rights relations in the capital were "even more complex" than in Banija. "We tasked (Construction) Minister Horvat with accelerating all processes and I expect all who should help him in that to contribute."

He said Reconstruction Fund head Damir Vanđelić must be propulsive, notably regarding the reconstruction of private houses and buildings.

Citizens should be responsible and contribute by getting vaccinated

Asked if Croatia would have to resort to COVID-19 vaccination incentives, like some countries that have announced financial rewards, Plenković asked whether that meant "bribing people to be vaccinated?"

"What will we give to the 44% who have been vaccinated? If we give HRK 100 to someone who hasn't been vaccinated but is waiting and calculating, what about the million and a half who have been vaccinated? Give them money retroactively?"

Plenković said people were "fully informed" about all key matters and that every citizen had the responsibility to contribute to society by getting vaccinated.

Recalling the number of COVID deaths, he said everything should be done to motivate people to be vaccinated, adding that Croatia had 670,000 doses available.

If they were administered, he said, "we would practically solve all problems" and stop the virus from spreading. He said it was a matter of common sense and that, perhaps, young people should be motivated to attend concerts and big events with COVID certificates.

Asked what message inconsistencies in enforcing COVID restrictions sent to those undecided on vaccination, Plenković said that "everyone who is responsible will contribute, who isn't, won't."

He said Croatia had been applying mild restrictions out of respect for its citizens, considering them smart and responsible. He said the Croatian mentality would not accept tough restrictions. "We didn't decide in vain that we would not be a country with a curfew. That wouldn't have been well-accepted and I think we did the right thing."

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

Saturday, 22 May 2021

PM Says Satisfied with Fitch Rating, Gov't Working on Creating Conditions for Growth

ZAGREB, 22 May 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković on Saturday expressed satisfaction with Fitch rating agency's having maintained Croatia's rating at BBB- with a stable outlook, saying his government was working to create conditions for economic growth so that this and next year its growth rate could be among the highest in the EU.

Fitch Ratings on Friday affirmed Croatia's rating at 'BBB-', with a stable outlook, saying that pressure on state finance linked to the pandemic should be neutralised by economic recovery on the back of tourism and EU support.

"We are very happy. The... rating confirms what we have been doing in the past 15 months," Plenković told reporters while visiting Crikvenica and Rijeka in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where he met with candidates of the local branches of his HDZ party ahead of the second round of local elections set for 30 May.

Plenković stressed that Fitch had sent a message that Croatia had maintained political stability.

"We had parliamentary elections last year, we quickly formed the government, continued working, fought against the pandemic while at the same time keeping the stability of public finances," he said, adding that owing to public finance stability it was possible to secure funding for healthcare, wages, pensions, and job-keeping support.

"The coronavirus crisis has cost us so far HRK 32 billion, the damage caused by the earthquakes in Banovina and Zagreb amounts to HRK 125 billion. But despite that, we have managed to make sure everyone continues receiving their wages, we have secured job-keeping support in the amount of HRK 10.5 billion, 680,000 workers have received wages owing to the government's political decision to compensate employers for their workers' wages, and we have introduced measures for shorter working hours, various forms of support for liquidity in numerous sectors, and the coverage of fixed costs," he said.

"With a timely entry into the domestic capital market and access to international sources of financing, clever agreements with the Croatian National Bank and the European Central Bank, we have managed to maintain our reputation with credit agencies and all international institutions," he said, adding that apart from functioning normally and heading towards the euro area, Croatia was also in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

"A budget revision will be on the agenda soon, in early June, and we will try to maintain, this year as well, the framework that will make it possible for our growth in 2021 and particularly in 2022 to be among the highest in the EU," said Plenković.

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

He put this in the context of vaccination against COVID-19, calling on Croatians to get vaccinated.

Plenković believes that as regards reputation, Croatia has a very stable position and that with vaccination it is also creating conditions for an excellent tourist season, which, he says, together with the green digital certificate and the pandemic subsiding, will enable economic growth.

"Croatia is on the right track and I am encouraged by the assessment of those who have an unbiased and very precise judgment of our performance in the current crisis, it is very encouraging in my opinion," said Plenković.

In its latest rating, Fitch has upgraded the projection for Croatia's economic growth in 2021 from 3.8% to 5.5%.

Fitch forecasts GDP growth to accelerate to 6.1% in 2022 before averaging 4% in 2023-25, driven largely by investment and notes that Croatia will receive around €6.3 billion in grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, in addition to €1 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund for earthquake reconstruction and €12.6 billion in the 2021-27 Multi-Annual Funding Facility.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Andrej Plenković (PM), Gordan Jandroković (MP) and Vili Beroš (Health Minister) Get Vaccinated with AstraZeneca

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Health Minister Vili Beroš were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine at Government House on Tuesday, and Beroš said that they had sent a message of confidence in medical science and the medical profession.

"Today we have sent a strong message of confidence in medical science, the medical profession, primarily because we were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. We will continue to work diligently on vaccinating Croatian citizens so that they could continue living and working with as little risk of infection as possible. Every vaccinated individual contributes to the protection of the population and is definitely a step towards our old normal, and a step closer to a successful tourist season," Beroš told reporters after the vaccination.

He added that there were still many challenges ahead and that it was important to think about future challenges such as new variants of the virus.

"I believe that with this message we have encouraged citizens to follow us on that path, to curb the epidemic and return to our normal life," Beroš said.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Croatia Expects Digital Green Certificates to be Ready by June, Says official

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - Croatia expects a law to be adopted and technical preparations to be completed by June to enable the introduction of a digital green certificate proving that its holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from it, or has tested negative, an official said on Tuesday.

Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, the State Secretary for Europe, today took part in an informal conference of European affairs ministers, at which she stressed the importance of ensuring a stable, predictable and faster delivery of vaccines so that the common EU goal of inoculating 70% of the EU population by summer could be achieved.

She stressed that member-states should be equal in vaccine distribution, and that it was necessary to have a balanced approach to vaccine distribution as some countries currently have a lower vaccination rate due to delays in vaccine delivery, a statement said.

Metelko-Zgombić said that Croatia welcomed the European Commission's proposal for the introduction of digital green certificates that would facilitate free and safe travel within the EU.

She said that Zagreb "expects the adoption of the relevant legislative proposal and completion of technical preparations according to plan, by June, so that certificates could start to be used as soon as possible."

PM says Pfizer vaccine delivery to be stepped up

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that work was underway on transferring the delivery of some of the vaccine supplies from the fourth to the second quarter so that the dynamic of vaccination could be stepped up before summer and that the vaccine in question was expected to be the Pfizer vaccine.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Standard & Poor's Report Confirms Stable Situation in Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - The latest assessment of Croatia by the Standard & Poor's (S&P) credit rating agency shows that Croatia is stable, and the agency's projection of Croatia's growth is similar to to our forecasts of 5% and the forecasts made by the European Commission, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's agency has affirmed its 'BBB-" credit rating on Croatia, with the stable outlook, the government stated earlier on Tuesday.

The credit agency's report says that Croatia's stable political climate and plans to enter the euro area are conducive to reform efforts. The agency projects a general government deficit of 2.9% of GDP in 2021. It also expects Croatia's debt to resume falling and go below 80% of GDP until the end of 2024.

During his visit to Varaždin County, Plenković said that he found it interesting that the credit agency, the EC and some other analyses show that they are aware how much his cabinet had done in the first stage of its term, that is before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this context he pointed to "a sound and responsible management of the public finances" and the rapid curtailment of the debt.

Plenković also underscored that last July, Croatia entered the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

Asked by the press about the latest statement from the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) that employers were not engaged in the elaboration of Croatia's National Plan for Recovery and Resilience (NPOO), Plenković said that the purpose of the plan is to make use of the 6.3 billion euros of non-repayable grants and after that an additional 3.5 billion euros will be at the disposal through loans.

In the period between those two steps we will focus on the preparation of the new multi-annual financial framework where 12.7 billion euros awaits us, Plenković said, adding that in the end a sum f 30 billion euros wll be available in the next ten years.

Commenting on all those amounts, Plenković said that "this is a true lever for the economic growth and investments as well as for making the economy more resilient."

When it comes to the structure and speculations about how much could be funnelled to the private sector, Plenković said that about 95% of those 6.3 billion euros would end up in the private sector either directly or indirectly.

We are working on the national recovery and resilience plan that has to satisfy three components: 37% of green transition, 20% of digital transition and to make sure that those projects will not be detrimental to some other criteria of the Green Deal, the premier said and announced the presentation of the draft plan for next week.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Plenković: Government Taking Steps to Provide €3.8bn for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalisation in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering - 1CroCEE.

The conference was organised by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.

Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.

For that expensive and long process of the reconstruction to be implemented it is essential to secure the necessary funds, particularly from European and international sources, said Plenković.

The government has to date taken intensive activities at all levels for reconstruction and revitalisation of affected areas  so as to secure €3.8 billion or about HRK 28.5 billion, which is 22% of the funds required.

Of that amount, almost €1.4 billion is from European sources and €2.4 billion through international financing institutions.

The European funds include €684 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Zagreb's reconstruction and almost €600 million is planned through the Recover and Resilience Mechanism, while €111 million will be reallocated from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), he said.

In addition, we will endeavour to secure funds from the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework  which is currently being programmed and financing reconstruction will be treated as a specific item, said Plenković.

When it comes to international financing institutions, in addition to an already contracted loan of €184 million from the World Bank, talks will be conducted for an additional €1 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB), €900 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and €300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

An additional €319.2 million needs to be added to all that which Croatia requested from the European Solidarity Fund for the removal of damage caused by the earthquake in the Banovina region, he added.

Plenković added that constant talks were being held with a series of development and commercial banks to come up with solutions that will provide credit lines with favourable interest rates for individuals. That primarily refers to the 20% of the costs they need to cover reconstruction, to finance the difference between structural repairs and complete reconstruction, to finance the reconstruction of apartment buildings and also to fund the reconstruction of public buildings by the state.

"We are about to enter the phase of organised structural repairs and comprehensive reconstruction, not just in Zagreb but in neighbouring counties," said Plenković.

He underscored that reconstruction should boost a new large development cycle for Zagreb and neighbouring counties as well as trigger the revitalising of the Banovina region.

World Bank director for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, said that the estimated quake damage was equal to reached 30% of Croatia's GDP.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Croatia Continues to Administer AstraZeneca"

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that Croatia would continue to administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine despite the fact that some 20 countries have suspended vaccination due to blood clotting in some patients.

Although more and more countries are suspending the use of AstraZeneca, Croatia will wait for the opinion of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

"The stand of professionals on this matter is that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any risks known to them at the moment," Plenković told the press in Daruvar. "None of them has pointed to us any risks which would lead to the conclusion that vaccination should stop."

Today Plenković took part in an online meeting with prime ministers Sebastian Kurz of Austria, Janez Janša of Slovenia, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria, Andrej Babiš of the Czech Republic, and Arturs Karinš of Latvia.

The six EU member states will demand a corrective mechanism for vaccine distribution, Plenković said afterwards. "We agreed to jointly appeal for the creation of a corrective mechanism."

Thereby, he added, they wish to "compensate for the delay some countries have experienced due to the slower distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine."

EMA will meet on Thursday to discuss the information gathered and decide if said vaccine has contributed to thromboembolism in people who have received it.

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

 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: EMA's Stance on AstraZeneca Vaccine to be Known Tomorrow

ZAGREB, 15 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that a coordinated stance by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine should be known tomorrow, after several countries have temporarily suspended administering the vaccine due to the emergence of certain side effects.

"Our stance is that a sound test has to be conducted to determine if there are any reasons, based on the findings so far, for Croatia also to go in that direction. From what the experts are telling me, there are no such indications for the time being. Tomorrow, we will probably see a coordinated stance by EMA, which as far as I understand, will proceed cautiously, that is, continue testing the vaccine itself and continue with consultations with the company regarding any possible consequences of the vaccination," Plenković said ahead of a joint meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Presidency and National Council.

He added that the director of Croatia's HALMED drug regulator, Siniša Tomić, today participated in EMA meetings which discussed what to do next considering the emergence of several side effects that have been reported throughout Europe.

In reference to the procurement of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, Plenković said that Croatia would wait for it to be approved and that the EMA had launched the relevant procedure. In the meantime, we will obtain additional information and test the vaccine, he added.

Asked who made the decision on how many doses of a vaccine Croatia would order, Plenković said that the procurement of vaccines was launched in the summer before reports that AstraZeneca had had certain problems with clinical trials.

"The vaccine that at the time was way ahead in terms of testing and the fact that it could be finished and its approval sought was AstraZeneca's and we, like the majority of other countries, immediately ordered the largest quantity of that vaccine. Then we ordered the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Croatia ordered a total of 8.7 million doses," said Plenković, adding that no one could have known that problems would emerge in vaccine production when the initial orders were made.

Asked whether anyone would be held responsible for the poor estimate in procuring vaccines, he said that for the entire time the aim had been to protect citizens, which was why more doses had been ordered than Croatia needed.

"The problem has emerged because one company, from which we ordered the biggest quantity... now has a problem in delivering the vaccine to the entire European Union. If that problem didn't exist, the rate of inoculation in Croatia would be very high," he explained.

Asked why Croatia didn't order the largest quantity of the Pfizer vaccine, which was the option many countries used, he said that only a few countries did that and that Croatia's decision was based on an expert opinion at the time.

"Croatia has a population of four million people and can immunise a maximum 3.4 million, and how could it justify buying 20 million doses?" "We did everything that was logical and correct based on the information that was available at the time and as time is moving on, we are looking for other solutions, just like everyone else," he said.

He added that it was necessary to find a corrective mechanism to redistribute the vaccines.

As far as continuing inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Croatia is concerned, Plenković said that the experts would decide on that. "As far as I understand, EMA's stance is that when the risk and benefits are taken into account, at the moment it is better to be vaccinated," said Plenković.

With regard to the European initiative for a vaccination certificate, Plenković said that the European Commission would release its proposal on Wednesday and that that would enable free movement and the tourism season.

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

Thursday, 11 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Croatia to Make its Contribution to Conference on the Future of Europe

ZAGREB, 11 March, 2021 - Croatia is ready to make its contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, in which Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica will have one of the leading roles, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday.

Croatia will make its contribution to the discussion on how to respond to global challenges together and how this Conference can improve the responses of the EU and its institutions to citizens' expectations and to numerous issues in the world which are now substantially different than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, Plenković told reporters after meeting European Parliament President David Sassoli.

The leaders of the three EU institutions on Wednesday signed a joint declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is conceived as a public forum where citizens will over the next year be able to say what sort of Union they want.

The  Conference is expected to open on 9 May, Europe Day. It should have been launched on 9 May last year but had to be postponed, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, but mostly because the leaders of the EU institutions were unable to agree on who would chair the Conference.

The Conference will be chaired by a three-member presidency consisting of the Commission President, the Parliament President and the Prime Minister of the country holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

In addition to the collective presidency, there will also be an executive committee which will be responsible for the organisation and oversight of the Conference's work. Each of the three main institutions will have three members on the executive committee, while the representatives of national parliaments will have observer status. Croatia's Dubravka Šuica will be on the executive committee on behalf of the Commission.

Sassoli said that the Conference should result in the better functioning of the Union, which is expected to be given new competences.

Plenković and Sassoli also talked about problems with COVID-19 vaccines in the EU, EU membership prospects of the Western Balkans, and Croatia's efforts to join the Schengen zone and euro area.

Plenković said that Croatia supports the EU integration of southeast European countries, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina with which it shares the longest border and where Croats live as the smallest constituent ethnic group.

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković, Women's Room NGO Talk Measures Against Violence

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday met with a delegation of the Women's Room NGO to discuss measures to curb violence against women and they agreed on the preparation of a national strategy to combat sexual violence.

Maja Mamula and Anamarija Drožđan-Kranjčec from the Women's Room informed the Prime Minister of the activities of their organisation, which includes the Centre for Victims of Sexual Violence which provides direct help and support to victims of sexual violence.

The talks underlined the need for raising public awareness of the problem of sexual violence, strengthening prevention and implementing education about that problem at all levels.

The two sides agreed on drafting a national strategy for the prevention of sexual violence, which will involve all relevant departments and civil society organisations.

There was also talk of amendments to the Criminal Code regarding the combatting of sexual violence, which have been prepared and should soon be put to public consultation.

The main amendments concern redefining the prosecution of sexual harassment to enable its ex-officio prosecution, which is something the government has already announced.

Under the amendments, there will be no statute of limitations on child abuse.

The meeting also discussed activities implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy in order to establish shelters for victims of violence in all counties, the related media campaign and cooperation with civil society organisations.

The Women's Room delegation welcomed the fact that the need for a strategic document to combat sexual violence had been recognised as well as the announced legislative amendments.

Prime Minister Plenković thanked the delegation for their cooperation and work on raising awareness of the problem of violence, notably their activities in providing support to victims of sexual violence.

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

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