Sunday, 1 January 2023

Schengen Croatia Welcomes 2023 by Lifting the EU Ramp One Last Time

January 1, 2023 - At midnight, Schengen Croatia marked its entry into the Schengen area with the symbolic removal of the plaque at the Bregana border crossing, the lifting of the ramp, and the green light for free passage at the site of the former border control, which is now going down in history. "We opened the door to a Europe without borders," said Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović in Bregana. "Tonight, he added, we celebrate a new day, a new year, a new Europe with Croatia in Schengen."

As Index writes, at the beginning of 2023, Croatia became a new member of the Schengen zone, the largest area of free movement of goods and people in the world, which includes all the members of the European Union, except for Bulgaria and Romania, Cyprus, the Republic of Ireland and four other non-EU countries: Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

On this occasion, on New Year's Eve, special ceremonies were held at numerous border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary, including one of the largest crossings on the Croatian-Slovenian border, Bregana-Obrežje.

Borders have stood there for too long

Minister Božinović hosted Slovenian Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, while Acting Chief Director of Slovenian Police Boštjan Lindav joined Chief Police Director Nikola Milina.

"There are no more borders that stood between our neighbors and us for too long, the natural environment to which we belong both as a people and as a country," Božinović said.

He assessed that last night's act is more than the abolition of border controls: It is the final affirmation of our European identity, for which generations of Croats fought and ultimately won. He thanked the Slovenian minister and delegation for sharing moments of joy and pride. "Happy new year in Schengen to all of you!"

The Slovenian minister considered it a historical event. "Just as we symbolically set borders about 30 years ago, we are removing them now. However, this does not mean that security will decrease since we have thoroughly prepared for this moment in both countries," said Ajanović Hovnik.

After a short meeting of the ministers, at midnight, a ramp was simultaneously lifted on both sides of the border, which enabled free passage between the neighbouring countries. The lifting of the ramp on the Slovenian side was followed via a video wall.

Five minutes before midnight, the police officers at Bregana carried out the last border control, along with an appropriate gift - a teddy bear dressed in the uniform of a Croatian policeman.

In addition to the ramp, the sign with the inscription "Bergana Border Police Station" was removed, but just before that, the last report of the station chief was recorded, in which he informed the police officers to stop implementing border controls and move on to the tasks of compensatory measures.

The two countries' delegations then headed to the Slovenian side, to the area of the former Obrežje border crossing, where the chiefs of police stations and police officers thanked each other for their cooperation so far, with the symbolic removal of plaques from the police building in Obrežje. In the first 15 minutes after midnight, a dozen cars entered Slovenia without control from Croatia, greeting the assembled police officers with the sound of their horns.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Travel section.

Friday, 15 July 2022

Slovenia Starts Removing Wire Fence on Border with Croatia

ZAGREB, 15 July 2022 - A small unit of the Slovenian army on Friday started removing the anti-migrant wire fence on the Slovenian side of the border with Croatia near the small border crossing Vivodina-Krmačina and the town of Metlika.

Slovenia's Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar attended the removal of the fence, saying that it had a great symbolic meaning.

Bobnar said that the removal of anti-migrant barriers, which Prime Minister Robert Golob described as inhumane and as not serving the purpose for which they were set up, is a sign of a change in the new government's policy towards migrants and refugees, as it has committed to the highest respect for human rights and speeding up the processing of asylum requests.

She added that around 51 kilometres of razor wire currently exists on the border with Croatia, that the army can remove 150 to 200 meters per day, and estimates that it will take at least 150 working days to remove.

"Our intention is to first remove the wire fence" and then to "gradually remove" the metal panel fence, in cooperation with local communities, she said.

About €2.5 million has been allocated to have the panel fence removed, she added.

According to data recently published by Slovenia's Interior Ministry, a total of 135,372 meters of panel fence and 60,595 meters of razor wire were erected on the border with Croatia. The wire fences were installed at the end of 2015 by the then Slovenian government, led by Miro Cerar, due to fears of the migrant crisis at the time.

The expansion of the initial anti-immigrant barriers after Cerar's government continued by succeeding governments. The razor wire fence was later gradually replaced with less hazardous panel fencing.

In September last year, the government of former Prime Minister Janez Janša donated about 40 kilometres of anti-migrant barriers to Lithuania from its stockpiles so that it could more effectively protect the 508-kilometre-long land border with Belarus. At that time, Lithuania was experiencing an uncontrolled influx of refugees who were deliberately sent across the border towards the West by the regime of Belarusian President Lukashenko.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 8 July 2022

Slovenian Prime Minister Recharging Batteries in Croatia

ZAGREB, 8 July 2022 - Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob is on a brief vacation in Croatia, recharging his batteries, which he confirmed by posting several photos from Istria and writing that the sea does miracles.

Slovenian media said on Friday Golob was collecting his energy on the coast and sharing his feelings with his followers on Instagram, where he posted a photo of a sea sunset somewhere in Croatia.

When called by journalists, Golob said he was on the Brijuni archipelago off Istria and that he was on a brief vacation.

"What a miracle a few days by the sea do," Golob wrote on Instagram.

His cabinet confirmed the prime minister was in Croatia with his family on a brief vacation and that he was soon returning to Slovenia.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Milanović Discusses Euro Area, Schengen and BiH with Slovenian Foreign Minister

ZAGREB, 6 July 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Wednesday received Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister Tanja Fajon, with whom he talked about Ljubljana's support on Croatia's path towards membership of the Schengen Area and the euro area, as well as the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Milanović and Fajon talked about the possibilities of further improvement of cooperation between the two countries, as well as about Croatia's entry into the euro area and the Schengen Area, for which President Milanović expects Slovenia's support, his office said in a press release.

A topic of the meeting was also the situation in Southeast Europe, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With regard to the upcoming elections in that country, President Milanović reiterated his position that it was important and necessary to ensure the legitimate representation of all three constituent peoples in that country.

Milanović expressed satisfaction with Slovenia's support in the effort to secure Bosnia and Herzegovina the status of a European Union candidate, which he himself advocates, and the two politicians also discussed the security crisis caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

For more, check out our politics section.


Monday, 30 May 2022

Fajon: Slovenia Supports Croatia's Entry to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 30 May 2022 - Slovenia supports Croatia's entry to the Schengen Area, Slovenia's future foreign minister Tanja Fajon said on Monday but warned that a consensus o the matter would be hard to achieve in the European Union before the Schengen policy was reformed.

Slovenia supports the expansion of the Schengen Area to Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria but it will be difficult to achieve political agreement on that, Fajon said answering questions from the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

She added that the reason for this was "mistrust" between members of the Schengen Area that emerged after the migration crisis of 2015 and 2016, which was why five Schengen Area member states, including Austria, were still conducting tighter controls on the border with neighboring countries that were not in the Schengen Area.

"Until such time that we reform the Schengen treaty, I think enlargement to the three new countries is jeopardized. I think that we first need to create powerful trust between the member states," Fajon said.

In her introductory address, in which she presented the principles based on which she will conduct Slovenia's foreign policy, Fajon said that she will advocate consistent respect for the border arbitration agreement with Croatia, as stated in the coalition agreement between the three parties that will form the new Slovenian government, headed by Robert Golob.

However, she added that she sincerely advocates the strategy of the best possible relations with Croatia, noting that Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area and the OECD is in the mutual interest of Slovenia and Croatia.

"We have a lot more common interests than differences with Croatia, and all issues can be resolved if there is political will," said Fajon.

Fajon said that Slovenia will advocate for EU enlargement to Western Balkan countries and for dialogue between Belgrade and Priština and that it will participate more actively in that process both at the European level and at the forums of regional initiatives.

She criticized the outgoing government led by Janez Janša in reference to foreign policy over the past two years, notably its "deficient" respect for independent institutions and the media, as well as its closeness to "the authoritarian regimes" in Hungary and Poland.

Fajon added that Slovenia would once again turn to the "core" EU countries with strong institutions and respect for the rule of law. In that context, she singled out Germany, but she also mentioned France and Italy.

 For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Croatian Company AKD Provides Solution to Slovenian Finance Ministry

May the 12th, 2022 - The very successful Croatian company AKD is succeeding more internationally, having offered its solution to the neighbouring Slovenian Finance Ministry and been readily accepted for the job.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, for five years now, the Public Payments Administration of the Ministry of Finance has selected the Croatian company AKD and ED Solutions as the issuer of unique identification marks for unit and aggregate packaging of tobacco products as an integral part of the European Union's overall traceability system.

This is a continuation of successful cooperation because the system was first established back in May 2019, and neighbouring Slovenia then implemented the appropriate regulation (EU) 2018/574 on technical standards for the establishment and operation of traceability systems for tobacco products.

The greatest value of this system is in the information it makes available to bodies working to combat the operations of the black market, but the benefits are also reflected in the healthcare system - ensuring the easy verification of product origin, which allows for the swift removal of non-compliant products from the market.

It's worth noting that the Croatian company AKD was a leader in development processes in the European Union as a Croatian issuer, thanks to which the Republic of Croatia was the first member state to publish the official version of the system back in April 2019 and start registering business entities.

In addition, this Croatian company has established a traceability system for customs seals, alcoholic beverages, and will incorporate its knowledge and expertise and positive practices gained through successful projects to establish a traceability system for the production and distribution chain into new services in various sectors.

In the near future, the European Commission envisages the introduction of digital product passports, which will enable product labeling, identification and linking to various sources of information relevant to the circular economy and sustainability. According to CEO Jure Sertic, AKD is ready for new European Commission requirements regarding EU digital product passports which will enable end-users and customers to make better-informed decisions, increase transparency and assist national authorities in quality control and supervision.

For more, check out our business section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Future Slovenian PM Wants Good Relations With Croatia

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - In his first media interview after winning Slovenia's parliamentary election on Sunday, prime minister-elect Robert Golob said on Wednesday that the new government will strive to develop good neighbourly relations with everyone including Croatia.

In the interview with RTV Slovenia televised late on Tuesday night, Golob said that there is no need for any uneasiness following the election with regard to outstanding issues with Croatia. He reiterated that the arbitration agreement is certainly "an anchor" from which not one Slovenian government "can back out of and we too do not have that intention."

"I do not think there is any reason for uneasiness. Naturally, we will try to foster good neighbourly relations with everyone, including Croatia. However, our policy will be a little more involved in seeking a consensus and less on solo opinions of any individual," said Golob who accused outgoing prime minister Janez Janša of going it alone with regard to the EU's common foreign policy and on the international front.

Golob said that he expects the new government to start working in June and as he said, the new government will include a wide circle of experts regardless of their party affiliation.

With regard to removing the wire fence on the border with Croatia, Golob said that the first thing to do is to form a government "because the wire fence was erected by a government decision and it will be up to the government to remove it."

"I am counting on the possibility of removing it during the summer, however, some procedures take longer than we would like. In any case, I'm an optimist and believe that that will be one of the first concrete steps we will face during the summer," said Golob.

With regard to the national plan, his government intends to embark on preparing measures and reforms needed to deal with the energy crisis that could emerge in the autumn and also to prepare measures related to healthcare in case of a new wave of the COVID pandemic.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

LNG Terminal "Star" of 2021's Exports, Slovenia Main Market for First Time

March the 15th, 2022 - Krk's LNG terminal contributed enormously to Croatia's export ''cake'' last year, with neighbouring Slovenia becoming the main market for the very first time.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, double-digit export growth rates, published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) for the first month of this year (44 percent) and last year (28 percent), used to be just a pope dream, and although there are reasons for joy and many good developments, there isn't much space for any euphoria quite yet.

Such a percentage jump was largely due to the low comparative base, due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the first part of 2020 and tumbling oil and gas prices, ie the recovery of the global economy and the price jump in terms of energy costs last year.

However, the manufacturing industry has "accumulated" a record 15.4 billion euros in revenue from foreign markets and there is almost no activity that isn't now growing, and there is some good news for export statistics, too. Two events definitely marked last year, when it comes to exports - the role of LNG Croatia (the LNG terminal on Krk) and the first time in which Slovenia rose to the position of the top Croatian export market.

State statistics have recorded a real explosion when it comes to both electricity and gas exports - in just one single year the jump was as much as 421 percent, and in absolute numbers, more than a billion euros worth of the above commodities were exported.

It seems that the Krk LNG terminal contributed the most, whose imported gas quantities remained here in Croatia, and this released significant quantities of gas from other sources, primarily from Russia, which were then exported to other countries. It isn't clear from the CBS data to which countries these quantities were placed, but a visible trace of their origin is left on the import data, due to the strong growth of imports from the USA, Nigeria and Egypt.

Neighbouring Slovenia, on the other hand, ascended the export throne in the last month of last year, and judging by earlier estimates from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), the previous item from the statistical records is also crucial for such a result. In total, goods worth 2.43 billion euros were exported to Slovenia from Croatia, which is an increase of 58 percent when compared to the previous year. Just one year earlier, exports to the Slovenes weakened compared to pre-pandemic 2019 by 5.6 percent.

The neighbouring countries of Slovenia and Croatia are very focused on each other and are, as a rule, each other's third export market, but Slovenian figures are still enviable for Croatia, despite the fact that last year they had weaker export growth and significantly higher import growth than Croatia did. Last year, Slovenian exports increased by almost 20 percent and exceeded 39 billion euros, while imports, with almost 31 percent growth, amounted to 42 billion euros. Croatia was Slovenia's fourth export market, but even with high export growth, it wasn't among the top five markets from which it imports goods.

According to the SBS, Slovenia mostly imports from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, China and Austria, and their main export markets are Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and along with Croatia, Austria. Croatia's five main customers, along with Slovenia, are Italy, which just last year began to return to the first position, which it briefly handed over to Germany in 2020, and in both exports exceed 2 billion euros, while Hungary is in fourth position, with Bosnia and Herzegovina coming in fifth.

Croatia also exports more than a billion euros to nearby Austria, and a record result has been achieved on the markets of neighbouring Serbia and across the Atlantic over in the United States. Trade is also growing with Turkey, and it is interesting to note that, contrary to earlier data, the year ended with an increase in exports to China, but also a decline in imports on an annual basis. It's worth noting that the Republic of Croatia imports the most from Germany, out of a total of 28.3 billion euros, 4.2 billion came from that country, followed by Italy, Slovenia, Austria and then by China.

In the currently two most sensitive markets, Russia and Ukraine, Croatia ended the year before the crisis with 204 million euros of exports to Russia and 58 million to Ukraine, with exports to Russia growing and being the largest in six years, while in Ukraine the placement of goods was by 0.9 percent below the level recorded back during the previous year, and those two years were record years for Croatian exports to Ukraine.

Given the events of the current war and harsh sanctions against Russia, it is certain that the figures on the import side with these warring countries will remain high for Croatia; Last year, 463 million euros worth of goods entered Croatia from Russia, and 44 million came from Ukraine.

For more, check out our business section.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Croatian Exports to Slovenia Blow Up, 2019 Record Exceeded by 25%

January the 16th, 2022 - Croatian exports have done well despite the circumstances posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and exports to neighbouring Slovenia have exceeded pre-pandemic 2019's record by an impressive 25%.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, statistically speaking, ''last year'' isn't quite over yet, but it is already clear that 2021 was a record year in economic relations with Croatia's most important foreign trade partners, in which Italy returned to first place on the list of the main Croatian export markets.

Last year will also be recorded as a time when perhaps the strongest shift was achieved in relations with neighbouring Slovenia, especially when it comes to Croatian exports.

Economic relations between the two neighbouring nations are traditionally good, but in the first ten months of 2021, the Central Bureau of Statistics recorded that trade increased sharply and in absolute terms greatly exceeded the level of the pre-pandemic year of 2019, and if the trend did continue in November and December 2021 (which is yet to be confirmed), it is likely that the total exchange will exceed the results of the record year of 2019. In the case of Croatian exports, this has already happened.

From January to October 2021, as much as 1.808 billion euros worth of goods from Croatia were exported to Slovenia, 171 million euros more than during the whole of 2019, which was a record, and if you look at the same period in that year, the result is better by as much as 452 million euros.

Speaking in percentages, back in 2020, in the conditions of the then very slow and unstable economic life, Croatian exports to Slovenia stopped their growth for the first time in more than a decade and had a deficit on an annual basis (of about 6%), but last year, in that 10 month period, it grew by 42% on an annual basis), largely making up for lost time, so compared to the same period, Croatian exports to Slovenia were higher by 25%.

This result gains even more strength and weight if compare it with Croatian exports to Germany, the second market for domestic products, which in those first 10 months of 2021 amounted to only slightly more. The reason for the convergence of sales values ​​to these two markets should not be sought in the negative trend with Germany, since Croatian exports had a better performance here as well.

What was the generator of accelerated growth of foreign trade between Croatia and Slovenia, you may ask? The Croatian Chamber of Commerce assesses that the step forward in trade relations at the general level, and thus in relations with Slovenia, was greatly contributed to by the increasingly pronounced trend of rising global prices.

"According to the analysis of the structure of Croatian exports to Slovenia, the causes of this growth can be mostly attributed to the increased value of the exports of petroleum oils and oils derived from bituminous minerals and electricity, which is due to a significant increase in energy prices on the global market last year."

The CBS states that electricity worth 45.7 million euros was exported to Slovenia in 2019, as were petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, worth 15.5 million euros. In the first nine months of 2021, electricity was exported in the amount of 183.3 million euros, and petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals were exported in the amount of 67 million euros.

A different structure of exports

At the same time, there was a smaller increase in Croatian exports of aluminum products, various plates, sheets and strips, despite the strong rise in metal prices. They illustrate this with the fact that in the observed period of 2021, these goods were exported worth 118 million euros, while in the conditions of much lower prices back in 2019, the result is only slightly weaker, 110 million euros.

The value of Croatian exports of parts and accessories for motor vehicles, as well as glass products, they say, is declining. It's worth mentioning that in the structure of products in 2021, according to available data, electricity had the largest share (11.8%), and compared to the data on the structure from the previous year, in which it was not among the main export products, it exceeded the traditional main export products - aluminum plates and sheets (7.6%), and parts and accessories for motor vehicles (4.8%), and medicines and chocolates, which last year were not even among the top five products for the Slovenian market.

The automotive industry was going through a turbulent period last year, so Croatian manufacturers, the largest of which is AD Plastik, which cooperates with Revoz, slowed down its sales.

New jobs are now growing, especially in the services segment. Sasa Muminovic, President of the SLO-CRO Business Club, and a member of the Management Board of AquafilSLO and President of the Management Board of AquafilCRO in Oroslavje, a member company of the Italian group Aquafil, says the same. A survey conducted by this association among Slovenian and Croatian businessmen at the end of 2021 reveals a number of interesting things about how they see each other.

The characteristics of their neighbourly relationship

What characterises these relations is that Croatia is Slovenia's first country when they decide to enter foreign markets, and not, for example, Italy or Austria. Moore than half of the respondents estimated that they don't really see a difference in the business climate between these two countries, and as many as 62% of Slovenian businessmen believe that there are no obstacles to doing business in Croatia, while 26% find those obstacles in the country's infamous administration.

The answers are similar on the Croatian side, but both sides, which Muminovic points out are important, believe that economic relations are not disturbed by politics (only 6.7% of Slovenian and 2.6% of Croatian businessmen think differently).

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

France Takes Over Presidency of Council of EU from Slovenia

ZAGREB, 1 Jan 2021 - France took the six-month rotating EU presidency from Slovenia on Saturday.

The French chairmanship comes during a key period for French President Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to run for reelection in April. Recently, Macron unveiled Paris' priorities for the French EU presidency: sovereignty, the defense policy, the Western Balkans, economic growth. The EU presidential trio led by France includes also the Czech Republic that will preside over the EU in the second half of 2022, and Sweden in the first half of 2023.

Slovenia's achievements

A few days ago, just before the completion of Slovenia's chairmanship, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said that the agreed conclusion of all EU member states that Croatia is ready to join the Schengen zone was one of the two biggest achievements of his country's presidency of the Council of the EU.

Speaking at a press conference about the results of the Slovenian presidency of the EU, Hojs said that the second important achievement was the adoption of a joint statement on Afghanistan after the Taliban again took power in that country.

The statement reaffirmed Slovenia's position that another mass wave of migrants into Europe, similar to one that followed the outbreak of war in Syria, must not be allowed again, that the migration problem should be tackled in countries adjacent to Afghanistan, and that the families of Afghans who had cooperated with the EU and its institutions should be transferred to Europe.

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

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