Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Europe's Future Depends on Kyiv's Fate, Croatian Prime Minister Says

ZAGREB, 2 March 2022 - The future of Europe depends on the fate of Kyiv, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday, once again condemning Russia's aggression in the strongest terms and commending the Ukrainian army and people for a heroic resistance.

"A quarter century after the Homeland War, a war is raging on European soil again. To the shock of the whole world, Russia's unprovoked brutal aggression on Ukraine is in its seventh day. There has been no war of such force and such extent in Europe for 77 years," he said, presenting a report on the Ukraine situation.

The "gross violation of international law" already has "far-reaching consequences for the whole world" and this crisis will most likely last a while, Plenković said.

He reiterated that Croatia "condemns the Russian aggression in the strongest terms and extends full support to the Ukrainian people who at this moment is once again dying for European values."

He congratulated Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on their courage.

Plenković said this was "a war between David and Goliath in which Russia is attacking the 28 times smaller Ukraine," adding that Russia is the aggressor and Ukraine the victim.

Croatia is sending Ukraine HRK 124 million worth of weapons, ammunition and protective gear for the infantry. The European Union (EU) has ensured €500 million for the procurement of protective and military equipment.

Ukrainians won't bow down

Plenković said that Croatia had shown, with its partners in the EU, determination, solidarity and unity, and that this war had identified the need for energy autonomy and strengthening defence capabilities.

He said Croatia had always advocated Ukraine's European perspective, recalling that he and Zelenskyy signed a Declaration on that perspective in Kyiv last December.

Plenković said the war in Ukraine revived memories of Croatia's Homeland War. "All those images revive in Croatia painful memories of the Milošević regime's Great Serbian aggression and the horrors of war that we went through."

He congratulated Croatian MPs on the unanimous condemnation of Russia and solidarity with Ukraine, saying he was pleased that the parliamentary majority and the opposition are "on the right side of justice and freedom."

Attending the parliamentary debate were Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Kyrylych and members of the Ukrainian minority. The Ukrainian flag was also displayed.

"By supporting Ukraine and respecting the courage of Ukrainians not to run away from tanks, not to give in to blackmail, not to bow down, to be inspired by love for the homeland like the Croats were in the Homeland War, let's stand with Ukraine and Ukrainians today. Glory to Ukraine," Plenković said to a round of applause.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

How Will Russian Invasion of Ukraine Affect Croatian Exporters?

March the 2nd, 2022 - With the Russian invasion of Ukraine dominating the world's headlines, harsh sanctions being imposed against Russia and inflation rising, just how will the unjustified attack on Ukraine affect Croatian exporters?

As Jutarnji/Novac/Jozo Vrdoljak writes, the alarming situation on the Russian market is changing from moment to moment as a result of sanctions imposed by many countries following the invasion of Ukraine. The only thing that is certain is that it is uncertain and unfavourable for the business of most Croatian exporters in respect to that market.

In addition, the situation was aggravated by a record devaluation of the Russian ruble, so much so that economic analysts proposed to the Croatian Government to facilitate the operations of Croatian companies and in some way compensate for the losses incurred by this unprecedented situation. At the end of last year, one euro stood at around 80 rubles, and now, according to the official exchange rate, 120 rubles should be set aside for that same amount.

Insiders have claimed that the situation is such that in Russia, banks need to set aside as much as 135 rubles for just one euro. The weakening of the Russian ruble reduces the income of companies and this will certainly affect the business results of companies operating in the Russian market, but this isn't the main problem because this can be solved to some extent by sharing the burden between manufacturers and customers. In any case, it's necessary to compensate for the negative aspects created by the weakening of the Russian ruble.

This is more or less the common opinion of Croatian exporters and others operating in the Russian market, both of those who wanted and those who didn't want to publicly comment on the situation regarding the exchange rate of the ruble. They consider the uncertainty and the situation related to the expulsion of several Russian banks from SWIFT to be a bigger problem. In any case, companies can partially protect themselves from the weakening of the exchange rate, but they must talk to the buyers of their products. They also expect the support of the Croatian Government.

Solinski AD Plastik Group has two factories in Russia and their revenue from the Russian market, depending on the situation, amounts to about 25 percent.

''Our Russian factories produce exclusively for the Russian market and for now we're working according to plan, but there's a lot of uncertainty. Currently, our business is most affected by the weakening of the ruble, but we're trying to manage the situation to minimise the consequences. Unfortunately, we're in a situation over which we don't really have much influence,'' said Marinko Dosen, President of the Management Board of AD Plastik Group.

The Split-based Adria Winch has well protected itself in terms of exchange rates and the collection of completed transactions on the Russian market.

''All of our contracts with Russian partners use euros, we also did something else to protect both us and our partner. We took very high advances for contracted jobs. They amount to about 70 percent. However, the devaluation of the ruble puts our partners in the Russian market at a disadvantage. The question is how they will bridge it. Such a situation cannot make anyone happy,'' explained Milivoj Peruzovic, board member and owner of Adria Winch.

This year, Postirska Sardina was supposed to place about 500,000 cans of its fish over on the Russian market. Davor Gabela, sales director and co-owner of that company, says that the interests of Croatian exporters in the Russian market should be protected, including proper compensation for losses caused by the weakening of the ruble.

''After the New Year, we exported one truck to the Russian market, and I can't say at this moment in time what will happen to the rest of our planned exports. The weakening of the ruble's exchange rate is such that the question is whether our distributor will even accept the conditions imposed by this circumstance. It's always worth exporting if the importer agrees to import because the devaluation of the ruble increases its price due to exchange rate differences. The Ukrainian market is much more important to us because we export more there. This week we were supposed to have a delivery that was stopped because it's almost impossible to deliver the goods to Kyiv. We're going send humanitarian aid there in the coming days,'' Davor Gabela assured.

Gordan Pesic, head of development and business at the well known company Dok Ing from Zagreb, says that for their company, the Russian market is just one of many where they market their products and that it likely won't have much of an effect on their business.

''I agree that the Croatian Government should help Croatian exporters to maintain their positions on the Russian market and compensate them for the losses caused by the devaluation of the ruble,'' said Pesic.

President of the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies, Tomislav Fain, also says that in this situation when air connections with Russia are cut off and Russian planes are banned, it is difficult to think about the arrival of Russian guests and all the accompanying unfavourable circumstances such as the devaluation of the ruble.

''We expect that the war conflicts will stop as soon as possible and that the situation in that region will not affect other markets,'' he said, adding that the most important thing above all is that the war ends. In terms of the the total number of passengers in 2021, Russian and Ukrainian tourists accounted for about four percent of the traffic of Dubrovnik Airport passengers.

''The war going on in Ukraine will certainly have an impact on tourist traffic, but what kind of impact that will is currently very difficult to assess. We, as Dubrovnik Airport, aren't able to do that now. The impact on air traffic across Europe already exists, as parts of the airspace in Ukraine are closed, as is traffic between Russia and the EU. We aren't able to to provide an answer as to how long these restrictions will last,'' said Frano Luetic, the director of Dubrovnik Airport.

For more on Croatian exporters, check out our business section.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Might SWIFT Exclusion of Russians Also Harm Some Croatian Enterprises?

February the 28th, 2022 - The European Union and powerful non-EU European countries such as the United Kingdom have imposed some of the harshest possible sanctions on Russia following its unjustified invasion of Ukraine just a few days ago. The exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT system is among the harshest, but could it have negative effects for Croatian enterprises as well?

As Jutarnji/Novac/Vedran Marjanovic writes, Croatian consultant Goran Saravanja explained that Russia's exclusion from SWIFT is primarily aimed at financially depleting the Russian Federation, hindering the international trade of the Russian economy, its exports, but also the import of what it lacks. Economist Drago Jakovcevic, however, warned that Croatian enterprises will also suffer as a result of the move, for example, in the form of the collection of goods delivered to Russia.

How the expected expulsion of Russia from the international SWIFT system for financial transactions will be seen in practice remains to be seen, but the consequences will certainly be borne by Croatian enterprises which have to charge for their exported goods to Russia.

''The exclusion of Russia from SWIFT is certainly a fair measure towards Russia, because such aggression against one country, as Russia has undertaken against Ukraine, has not been seen since World War II. This is the least that can be done out of solidarity with Ukraine,'' Jakovcevic said in reference to the decision of the United States and its allies here in Europe to expel Russia from the SWIFT system.

The full name of the SWIFT system is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and it serves commercial banks and other financial service providers as a communication platform and not, as can often be heard, as an international payment system. The expulsion of Russia from SWIFT means that for all those who do business with Russia, business operations will be much more difficult, expensive and uncertain. This includes a list of Croatian enterprises which are now in difficult circumstances.

''The announced exclusion of Russian banks from the SWIFT system is part of a package of sanctions that the EU, the UK and the US have already imposed or intend to impose on Russia, so the decision in relation to SWIFT should be viewed in this context,'' commented consultant Goran Saravanja, adding that that context is the financial depletion of Russia.

''We can see that energy and food are currently excluded from Russia's sanctions, as resources that can be imported from that country. If we talk about the effects of excluding a country from the SWIFT system, we should take into account the fact that Russia isn't actually the first country to have this happen to them, one other example is Iran. And as we know, even after being expelled from SWIFT, Iran continued, for example, to export oil, recording, however, a significant drop in revenue,'' Saravanja noted.

Drago Jakovcevic pointed out that the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT, which is imminent, will not only affect Russian banks, but also companies and regular residents of that enormous country.

''Pulling Russia out of SWIFT has the function of discouraging it, making it more expensive and making doing any business with Russia much more difficult. Apart from Russia's economic and financial isolation, its exclusion from the SWIFT system has the function of preventing those in the rest of the world who are now preparing to make money from the devaluation of the ruble from doing so,'' Jakovcevic pointed out.

In support of the statement is the statement of former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin that the expulsion from SWIFT could cost Russia a drop in its GDP by five percent a year. Kudrin made the statement during one of the previous announcements of the USA and its allies that Russia would be expelled from SWIFT, but that the move was very appropriate for the current moment since the SWIFT blockade is just one form of the latest portion of sanctions against Moscow for attacking Ukraine.

For more on Croatian enterprises, check out our business section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Plenković: Croatia on Right Side of History

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - By supporting the attacked Ukraine, Croatia is "on the right side of history" and "on the right side of values," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday.

"Croatia is on the right side of history, on the right side of values, on the right side of international law, on the right side of humanity. It's very important that at this moment such a clear message prevails also in the Croatian public," he told the press.

Plenković said that he, the cabinet and his HDZ party had a "consistent line" on this issue, adding "not everyone has been... so clear."

"We see that we were right the whole time, while some others were wrong. It's very important that this be viewed in the political context... Things should be viewed a little more clearly, with a little more perspective and experience. Not everyone sees that."

Plenković was likely referring to President Zoran Milanović's calling him "an Ukrainian agent."

He said that at the moment Croatian-Russian relations, "to put it mildly," were not good.

As for the impact of the sanctions against Russia on energy supply, Plenković said Croatia's gas supply was not in jeopardy as it does not depend on import from Russia like other EU member states because it built an LNG terminal in the northern Adriatic.

He reiterated that Russia carried out a "cold, brutal invasion" of Ukraine which has "huge repercussions on the foundations of the international order."

"Like other countries, we have to make decisions so as to oppose such behaviour which is not only totally unprovoked, but violates every foundation of the security order in Europe as well as the world."

Plenković said the government would set up a task force for the reception of Ukrainian refugees.

He added that between 35 and 60 Croatian nationals are currently in Ukraine.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Civil Protection Director: Croatia Opening Third Reception Point for Refugees

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - Civil Protection director Damir Trut said on Sunday that 63 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Croatia and that a third reception point would be opened today on the Hungarian border after the two organised in Osijek and Zagreb.

About 2,000 beds have been prepared, which is enough for now, he said while visiting the Zagreb reception point at Plitvice Motel.

At the reception points, members of the Red Cross register the refugees and give them refugee cards before sending them to the accommodation destinations, Trut said.

"Of the 63 who have entered Croatia, most are being accommodated (at) their friends, their families or their properties," he added.

Trut said Croatia had sufficient accommodation facilities for refugees. "As the need increases, we'll open more. We are a tourist country, we have hotels, campsites, homes, resorts."

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Ukraine Academy of Sciences Thanks Croatian Academy for Solidarity

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine president Anatoliy Zahorodniy on Sunday thanked Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) president Velimi Neidhardt for the solidarity and support expressed over Russia's aggression against Ukraine, HAZU said.

"We are touched by your letter of support which condemns Russia's aggression against Ukraine," Zahorodniy said, adding that the Ukrainian academy "is deeply grateful for the support and solidarity."

He said it was very important to them to know that the war against Ukraine started by Russia was eliciting an adequate response from the scientific community, and that the civilised world must stop the aggressor.

"Your support reinforces our faith in victory. We are proud of the Ukrainian people. We are proud of our armed forces and of our defenders... And we will win," Zahorodniy said.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Hauliers Association Offers Buses for Refugees From Ukraine

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - The Croatian Bus Hauliers Association said on Sunday it put its buses and manpower at the government's disposal for the transport of refugees from Ukraine.

"We wish to contribute... because that's our responsibility, and it's also the only way in which refugees can be transported in an organised and effective way from the Ukrainian border to envisaged locations in Croatia," Dražen Divjak, director general of the Arriva bus company, said on the association's behalf.

The association comprises big and small private hauliers with thousands of buses and more than 8,000 workers.

"It's a system which has strategic importance for Croatia and which would hardly have survived during the pandemic had the government not protected it with its measures in the last two years," the association said.

Divjak called on the many counties in Croatia which have said that they have prepared accommodation for refugees to contact them, in coordination with the Civil Protection, so that they can transport a larger number of refugees.

He said the bus hauliers were at the government's disposal "for anything else that is necessary to solve this crisis."

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Ukrainian Refugee Reception Centre Set up in Osijek

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - A reception centre for Ukrainian refugees has been set up in a sports hall in Osijek which can provide temporary accommodation for 300 persons, local Civil Protection services said.

The centre is intended for refugees arriving in the five Slavonia counties, Osijek-Baranja County deputy prefect Mato Lukić said on Sunday, adding that beds were set up in the sports hall and that meals will be provided today if necessary.

He said talks were under way with hotels and motels in the Osijek area for the provision of more permanent accommodation.

Lukić said one Ukrainian family arrived at the reception centre this morning to apply for refugee status, after which it found private accommodation in Vukovar-Srijem County.

Osijek Deputy Mayor Dragan Vulin said that, if necessary, buses would go to the Hungarian and Serbian borders to bring Ukrainian refugees to the reception centre in Osijek.

The director of the Osijek city branch of the Red Cross, Martina Hećimović, said search teams were ready for the registration of refugees as were psychosocial assistance teams.

She said many citizens were contacting the Red Cross to express their willingness to accommodate refugees.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Croatian Red Cross Receives First Ukrainian Refugees

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - The Croatian Red Cross (HCK) said on Saturday it received the first Ukrainian refugees, with spokeswoman Katarina Zorić confirming they were five persons - a mother with two children and a married couple.

Speaking to Hina, she said the mother and children were brought to the reception location by police, while the married couple arrived alone.

"We expect more arrivals," Zorić said, although she could not confirm the location. According to unofficial reports, the refugees were received at Plitvice Motel near Zagreb.

The HCK said the refugees were given humanitarian aid and that teams for psychosocial support were ready.

Earlier on Saturday, the HCK said on Facebook their teams were prepared for receiving Ukrainian refugees.

The HCK is in contact with its colleagues in Ukraine who are helping people find accommodation and giving them water, clothes and hygienic supplies.

"We are following the instructions of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is running the operation on the ground and responding to the needs of people from areas affected by the war conflict. The goal is clear, to ease the suffering of every person," the HCK said.

First Ukrainian refugee family arrives in Vukovar-Srijem County

A young Ukrainian refugee family with a ten-year-old child arrived in Vukovar-Srijem County on Saturday after travelling five days from Odessa, county head Damir Dekanić said.

An eastern Croatia reception centre for Ukrainian refugees has been set up in a sports hall in Osijek, he added.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Plenković: Ukraine is Independent, Sovereign State

ZAGREB, 26 Feb 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday extended solidarity with and support to the people of Ukraine, saying that it is an independent and sovereign state.

"Solidarity with and support to the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is an independent and sovereign state. Croatia is with you!" he said on Twitter, tagging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime minister Denys Shmyhal.

Earlier today Plenković met with members of the government, Civil Protection and the Red Cross in order to raise the level of preparedness regarding the reception of refugees from Ukraine.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

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