Monday, 25 January 2021

PM: Calls for Reporting Quake Damage to Public Buildings This Week

ZAGREB, 25 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday calls would be advertised this week for reporting damage caused to public buildings in the City of Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje and Zagreb counties from the March 2020 earthquake, for which Croatia has €683 million from the EU Solidarity Fund at its disposal.

He was speaking to the press after a meeting of the interdepartmental working group monitoring the execution of EU Solidarity Fund grants earmarked for post-earthquake reconstruction.

The ministries of culture, science and education, and health as well as the City of Zagreb have prepared the public calls, which will be verified by the Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Ministry in the next two days.

"They will be advertised this week so that concrete applications for documentation can be prepared for projects and the final absorption of the €683 million at our disposal," said Plenković.

The calls pertain to damage sustained by cultural heritage buildings and, in the City of Zagreb, to the road and water-supply infrastructure, schools and hospitals.

The same will apply to Krapina-Zagorje and Zagreb counties, Plenković said, adding that the public calls would not pertain to damage caused by the 29 December earthquake that struck central Croatia.

He said "a new damage estimate is being done" for Sisak-Moslavina, Karlovac and Zagreb counties following the December quake. "A new application will be made and there will be new funds."

EU funds available until June 2020

Plenković said Croatia was not late in absorbing EU funds and that he hoped "there will be that many applications that the funds will be overbooked."

"€683 million certainly isn't enough for all the buildings and projects that will be submitted and it is the job of the administration and all those who are participating to spend the money," he said, adding that he was confident all the funds at Croatia's disposal until June 2022 would be absorbed.

"I as prime minister issue orders that all done be done. And we will make sure that it is."

As for the people complaining they have been waiting for post-quake reconstruction for ten months now, Plenković said he did not think reconstruction was late.

"I think we put everything into legislative frameworks as should be, all procedures and institutions. We have always said the process will take a long time. A ten-second earthquake is a minimum ten years of reconstruction... Everything must be in line with the rules and transparent."

Plenković said the Construction Ministry had drawn up, in cooperation with other departments, a sort of guide to simplify the procedure for applying for reconstruction.

He said more than HRK 74 million had been paid to date into a fund for helping the City of Petrinja after the December earthquake. "The Finance Ministry and the Construction Ministry have the job of regulating that so that spending that money is useful, quick, transparent and effective for those who need it the most."

Monday, 18 January 2021

Minister Says Housing Reconstruction Could Start in Early Summer

ZAGREB, 18 January, 2021 - Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Nataša Tramišak said on Monday that the reconstruction of the quake-struck Sisak-Moslavina County could start in the second half of the year, in early summer.

"We will primarily seek funding available under EU programmes. We are speaking about €111 million to be used for housing reconstruction, that is, construction or renovation of the housing stock... to provide for the elderly, the feeble, the disabled, marginalised groups, members of ethnic minorities, etc," the minister told reporters before a government session.

She explained that the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion was being amended and that measures were being awaited that would define reconstruction models.

"The funds are already available, we are now waiting for the programme to be finalised," Tramišak said, adding that an informal dialogue with the European Commission had already started.

The EC is willing to change operational programmes and implementation could start this year, she said.

Asked when the first houses could be rebuilt, she said that their construction could start in the second half of the year, possibly in spring or summer.

"It all depends on how quickly we will design the model house and interview people interested in that type of housing construction. We are talking about the construction of new sections of settlements and about state-owned flats and houses, similar to how the Central State Office for Housing has done so far, giving every year a certain number of state-owned houses and flats for use to families in need," she explained.

Asked how much of an obstacle unclear property-rights relations could be, she said that she was talking about the construction of entire sections of settlements or the renovation of existing state-owned housing units, where there were no unclear property-rights relations.

As for the EU Solidarity Fund, she said that a full appraisal of the damage caused by the 29 December 2020 earthquake was being awaited, after which it would be sent to the Fund.

She explained that money from the Solidarity Fund, unlike the funding the state already has for family houses, was intended for the reconstruction of public infrastructure and buildings.

The Solidarity Fund is notified about the amount of total direct damage caused to public buildings, business facilities and family houses, and that amount must exceed HRK 2.3 billion, which is already turning out to be the case, the minister said, adding that the EC then approved aid in the amount of six percent at the most.

Aid in the amount of between 2 to 3% of the estimated damage will be used for public infrastructure, she said. 

Significant budget funds will be required as well, and significant funding can also be sought under the new programming period 2021-2027 that is being worked on, Tramišak said.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

EP to Call For Swift, Sustainable Post-Earthquake Reconstruction in Croatia

ZAGREB, 17 January, 2021 - Members of the European Parliament will vote next week on the reconstruction of earthquake-hit Croatia and call on the Commission to define, in cooperation with European and Croatian institutions, how to quickly distribute the necessary financial and other aid for a swift recovery of the areas affected.

At a plenary on Thursday, the European Parliament will also debate and vote on a resolution on alleviating the aftermath of the two quakes that struck Croatia last year - the one on 22 March in Zagreb and parts of Krapina-Zagorje County which damaged over 26,000 buildings, and the one on 29 December which devastated Petrinja, Sisak, Glina, Hrvatska Kostajnica, Majske Poljane and other villages, killing seven, injuring 26 and demolishing over 30,000 buildings.

Croatian MEPs from all parliamentary groups took part in drafting the resolution.

The draft resolution calls on the Commission to define, in cooperation with European and Croatian institutions, how to quickly distribute the necessary financial and other aid for a swift recovery of the areas affected.

The Commission is also called upon, in approving financial aid, to take account of the fact that Croatia is also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and a series of aftershocks.

Croatia is called upon to prioritise in its recovery and resilience plan, a key document for drawing funds from the Next Generation EU instrument, the reconstruction of houses and buildings, seeing to it that they are earthquake-resistant

The Croatian authorities are called upon to closely supervise post-earthquake reconstruction so that the highest seismic standards are ensured for all buildings and infrastructure.

The draft resolution says the reconstruction and construction process should be carried out as quickly as possible, transparently and under expert supervision, and that it should take account of the demographic aspect so that the area affected could have development prospects.

The document recommends paying special attention to building the infrastructure that was missing even before the earthquake and to making sure that all the basic needs are met and services provided in every part of the area affected.

The Commission is called upon to extend the 18-month deadline for utilising funds from the European Solidarity Fund in the event of a devastating earthquake.

The draft resolution praises the efforts of the rescue forces, Civil Protection, the Croatian army, volunteers, civil society organisations, international organisations as well as the local, regional and national authorities in saving lives and alleviating the effects of the tremor.

The text also recommends giving priority in COVID-19 vaccination to the quake-hit area and encourages the government to carry out its announcement that it will direct a significant number of doses to Sisak-Moslavina County.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Horvat: State Will Fully Finance Post-Quake Reconstruction in Assisted Areas

ZAGREB, 17 January, 2021 - The state will fully finance the reconstruction or construction of buildings in assisted areas affected by the earthquake, Construction Minister Darko Horvat said on Sunday, adding that whether citizens would cover 20% of the costs would depend on their income threshold.

Horvat told the press a bill on post-quake reconstruction said that Sisak-Moslavina County would co-finance 20% of those costs. If the county will not be able to pay that amount, the state will do so, he added.

As for buildings and houses that have been demolished and will not be reconstructed, the state will fully finance the construction of new ones, he said.

On Thursday, the government sent to parliament a bill of amendments to the law on the reconstruction of buildings in the City of Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje and Zagreb counties damaged in a March 2020 earthquake, proposing that the law also apply to Sisak-Moslavina and Karlovac counties, which were struck by a devastating quake in December.

Under the bill, those counties will set aside 20% in their budgets for reconstruction, as will property owners. In assisted areas where a state of disaster was declared, the entire cost will be covered by the state, in line with a special regulation.

A property owner is exempt from covering 20% of the reconstruction costs if their household income in the previous and the current year does not exceed the non-taxable income amount, if they had no other assets on 22 March 2020 whose value exceeded HRK 200,000, and if they receive welfare benefits.

Horvat said the bill was clear and that it included the income threshold, so pensioners and people out of work need not fear.

He said that in assisted areas where a state of disaster was declared, the government would fully cover the construction of new homes.

Everything in the bill also applies to the City of Sisak, Horvat said, commenting on Mayor Kristina Ikić Baniček's statement yesterday that "Sisak will be reconstructed under the same model as Zagreb" which, she added, her city could not afford.

Horvat said that under the bill, Sisak would not have to pay anything for the reconstruction, adding that 80% of the reconstruction amount had already been ensured without the city paying anything.

He said the residents of Sisak who had a second or third property outside the city "whose value exceeds certain amounts" would have to pay for 20% of any reconstruction costs.

"The government has not nor will it leave anyone in the lurch," Horvat said, adding that the state would fully cover a replacement home for all people whose homes have been demolished and which will not be livable.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Petrinja Mayor Satisfied With Legislative Solutions for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - Petrinja Mayor Darinko Dumbović said on Friday that he was satisfied with the proposed legislative regulations for the reconstruction of damaged houses in the quake-hit areas of Sisak-Moslavina County, which will entirely be financed from the state budget.

Asked by reporters if he was satisfied with the legislative regulation on reconstruction, Dumbović said that any law that will be quickly implemented was good.

He elaborated that he was satisfied that the 60:20:20 formula for financing the post-quake reconstruction, which will be applied in Zagreb, had been amended for the quake-affected areas  in Sisak and Karlovac Counties so the rebuilding of the damaged houses in that region should be entirely covered from the state budget.

On Thursday, the government sent to the parliament draft amendments to the law on the post-quake reconstruction of the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje and Zagreb Counties to include the regulation of the reconstruction of Sisak-Moslavina and Karlovac Counties, hit by the 29 December 6.2 magnitude quake.

The state will provide full funding for the reconstruction of the property in which the owner lives in these two counties (Sisak and Karlovac) since they are underdeveloped, according to the explanation provided by Construction Minister Darko Horvat on Thursday.

The law on Zagreb's post-earthquake reconstruction envisages that 60% of the reconstruction cost will be financed by the government, 20% by the local authorities and 20% by property owners.

During his visit to Petrinja, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević today underscored the importance of good cooperation with local government without which results would be absent.

"NGOs are an added value and we have to act together as a team. Any donation helps the people and we have to be grateful for them. It is important that everyone is in warmth and that they have a hot meal," said Milošević.

A delegation of the Serb National Council (SNV) visited Gornja Bačuga where it donated five stoves to vulnerable families and presented a donation from the Red Cross consisting of 500 pairs of rubber boots, adding that another 1,000 pairs are expected to arrive soon.

Friday, 15 January 2021

No Reconstruction Possible Without Imported Workers, Says Daily

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - Reconstruction in areas hit by the devastating earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County will not be possible without importing workers from Asia or Ukraine, the Večernji List daily said in an article on Friday, noting that contractors in Croatia are warning of a critical labour shortage. 

The construction sector is one of the few sectors in which the number of workers increased last year, by about 7,000 from the same period in 2019.

Currently there are about 124,000 workers in the construction sector, the third largest in the country, after the manufacturing industry and retail. However, all stakeholders in that sector say that manpower will be the main obstacle to reconstruction in the earthquake-hit areas.

Even prior to the latest earthquake companies in the sector had up to 5,000 vacancies that they could not fill even with workers from foreign markets. In 2020 contractors employed about 23,000 foreign workers while Mirjana Čagalj, the vice president of the construction sector in the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), expects they will all remain and that contractors will have to hire another 10,000 imported workers.

Recently channels were opened to hire workers from India and other Asian countries as well as Ukraine.

The Employment Service has decided to enhance its programme to hire the long-term unemployed for public works in Sisak-Moslavina County, its initial plan being to employ about 500 people. Should there be further interest or need, that number can be increased.

Workers in these jobs are earning a minimum wage which amounts to HRK 3,400 net a month, in addition to travel allowance. Social Democrat MP Davorko Vidović, who is from Sisak and has for years been working with the HGK on issues related to the labour market, is confident that that programme could provide a social component but that it will not resolve the problem of labour shortage in the construction sector, the daily says.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Minister Says HRK 12 bn Secured for Post-Earthquake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - Construction Minister Darko Horvat said on Thursday that around HRK 12 billion had been secured through the EU Solidarity Fund, World Bank loans and the state budget for the reconstruction of areas hit by last year's earthquakes.

Speaking in an interview with the HTV public broadcaster, Horvat said that clear rules on how to organise reconstruction would be published in the Official Gazette within a month from the earthquake that hit Sisak-Moslavina County on 29 December.

He added that the government still did not have a complete financial framework for reconstruction but that so far HRK 12 billion (€1.6 billion) had been secured.

"Some sources are known and some we are still trying to secure. Around HRK 12 billion has been secured - through the Solidarity Fund, World Bank loans, the budget. As part of the National Recovery Plan we will also seek.... grants as well as loans," the minister said.

The Croatian government earlier on Thursday formulated amendments to the Act on Post-Earthquake Reconstruction, originally intended for the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje counties, hit by a 5.2 magnitude quake on 22 March 2020, to make the law refer also to the post-earthquake reconstruction of Sisak-Moslavina and Karlovac counties.

The reconstruction of buildings destroyed in the 29 December earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina and Karlovac counties will be fully financed by the state.

Bosnian Croats to finance reconstruction of one institution, houses

Leaders of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina said on Thursday they would finance the reconstruction of one state institution as well as build family houses in the quake-hit areas of Croatia.

This was agreed at a meeting in Mostar between the leader of the HDZ BiH party, Dragan Čović, and local officials from a number of towns and municipalities in the neighbouring country and visiting Croatian state secretaries Zvonko Milas and Nikola Mažar.

Solidarna foundation raises HRK 8.4 mn for quake-hit area

The Zagreb-based Solidarna foundation earlier this week reported that it had raised more than HRK 8.4 million (€1.12 million) for Sisak-Moslavina County.

Some of the donations paid into the foundation's 5.5 Fund have already been used to buy consumables for people affected by the earthquake and the foundation also plans to participate in the long-term reconstruction and recovery of the quake-hit county.

The 5.5 Fund was established by the Zagreb Earthquake Relief civic initiative and the Solidarna foundation after the 22 March 2020 earthquake in Zagreb. At the time, the foundation raised HRK 1.5 million for earthquake victims. It reactivated its fund after the earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County and its fund-raising campaign is still underway.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Construction Minister: Prefab Homes as Lasting Solution in Quake-Hit Area

ZAGREB, 4 January, 2021 - Physical Planning and Construction Minister Darko Horvat said on Monday some houses destroyed in last week's earthquake would be permanently replaced with prefabricated homes, and that those responsible for the collapse of houses built after the 1990s war would be held to account.

Asked by the press if the reconstruction of Sisak-Moslavina County would be incorporated into the law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb, Horvat said a decree to that effect was being finalised and that the government would address it on Thursday.

The decree will make it possible for the Zagreb reconstruction law to apply to Karlovac and Sisak-Moslavina counties, and also to submit applications and define decisions on those entitled to reconstruction without losing any time, he added.

"Most importantly, it will enable regulating the payment of temporary accommodation for those who will be entitled to it."

Asked when the reconstruction of houses would begin, Horvat said some documents were commissioned today, including data on how buildings react during an earthquake.

He announced for tomorrow a meeting with Croatian manufacturers who could participate in making prefab homes as a lasting solution in the area struck by a magnitude 6.2 tremor last Tuesday.

Experts from the faculties of civil engineering, geodesy and architecture have to make a project so that replacement homes can be commissioned, Horvat said, adding that regardless of dimensions, all must have the same earthquake-resistant foundation.

He said everything must be ready as soon as possible for construction to begin, adding that part of his ministry would be relocated to Sisak or Petrinja.

Horvat said the decree the government would adopt on Thursday would make it possible to include Sisak-Moslavina and Karlovac counties in the contracting of works for the reconstruction of schools, hospitals and other public buildings.

Asked to comment on the dissatisfaction of the mayors of Petrinja and Sisak with the distribution of HRK 120 million worth of emergency aid, he said the money was allocated after the first damage estimates.

He said almost 700 structural engineers were currently on the ground and that the next amounts would be distributed based on more detailed damage estimates.

Horvat dismissed "any suspicion" that the damage was estimated "with partisan or political connotations. "The damage was estimated on the ground by the only people who can do it."

As for assistance from international institutions and the EU, he said applications for money from the European Solidarity Fund should be prepared in the next 12 weeks, after the total damage was estimated.

In the meantime, he added, the government has managed to communicate that the 5.1 billion received after the Zagreb quake may be utilised to deal with the damage in Sisak-Moslavina County.

Investigations into poorly rebuilt houses

Asked if anyone would be held to account for the fact that the earthquake demolished houses in Sisak-Moslavina County which were rebuilt after the war, Horvat said there would be investigations after talks were held with all those responsible from that time.

He said the central state office for reconstruction had reliable data and that it was pointless to accuse anyone "until we are 100% sure of what happened and who the stakeholders were."

Monday, 4 January 2021

PM for Looking Into Why Some Houses Poorly Rebuilt After War

ZAGREB, 4 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday it was necessary to look into why some houses were poorly reconstructed after the Homeland War, adding that he did not have more details.

Speaking to the press, he said "it's necessary to look into how and why that happened, who did the job, who supervised, who issued the final certificates of occupancy."

Plenkovic said that at the moment he did not have more details and that he would ask Construction Minister Darko Horvat and the state secretary in the State Reconstruction and Housing Office, Nikola Mazar.

"It's not good that there are buildings which should be stronger than they are. Everything that should, will be looked into," he said, regardless of responsibility. "The reconstruction that Croatia carried out was a big process. If some buildings were not built up to code, that should be looked into."

As for the role of incumbent Sisak-Moslavina County prefect Ivo Zinic, who was in charge of reconstruction in the area in question in 1995, Plenkovic said he was sure Zinic could provide all the necessary explanations.

Mazar said more than 156,000 family houses were reconstructed after the Homeland War, with works lasting from 1995 to 2000 and over 150 companies involved.

"Everything was done under the Reconstruction Act, the Building Act. There are documents on contractors, supervisors, architects, owners, users... There were certain guarantees and deadlines," he said.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Zagreb Archbishop for Organised Approach to Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 3 January, 2021 - The Archbishop of Zagreb called on all those responsible on Saturday to approach post-earthquake reconstruction in an organised fashion, saying it requires speed, perseverance and effective oversight so that those affected are protected from those always ready to exploit the misfortune of others.

Cardinal Josip Bozanic was speaking at a mass held on the day of mourning for those killed and injured in the 6.2 earthquake that rocked Sisak-Moslavina County on Tuesday.

"Tonight, in spirit, we wish to be close to all who are anxious and scared, who are suffering because of what they are going through."

He prayed for the speedy recovery of those injured and for everyone to find the courage to strengthen hope and not give in to despondency.

"Let's pray for those killed and wounded," Bozanic said, for all those who lost their homes, churches, schools and buildings housing social, administrative and cultural institutions.

The cardinal especially prayed for peace and deliverance from fear, and called for solidarity and assistance, which he said had already manifested itself.

He underlined the young in Croatia and the neighbouring countries, saying they had come to help the people in need without being called on to do so.

"This amazing voice of solidarity has shown once again how much good we carry inside," he said, mentioning all the services on the ground in the quake-hit area, including firefighters and police.

Among those present at the service was Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman.

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