Monday, 5 December 2022

Could Croatian Companies Solve Energy Problems of Nations Like Moldova?

December the 5th, 2022 - Moldova recently spent two hours without electricity owing to the horrendous actions of the Russians in Ukraine. Could Croatian companies easily solve such issues?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jerko Zlatar writes, Croatia is very much focused on Ukraine's ongoing strife. We only need to look at the debate being had in the Croatian Parliament on the training of Ukrainians, the commendable attempts made by numerous sectors in this country to help with the integration of refugees, and the excellent work of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs at the Crimea Platform and political support for Ukraine. That said, the Republic of Croatia continues to employ a chronically lacking approach when it comes to proactivity with sending humanitarian aid abroad.

The current situation in Ukraine and recently in neighbouring Moldova illustrates the passivity and disorganisation of the process of sending aid, and the involvement of Croatian companies in that process turned out to be minimal and somewhat spontaneous. This has consequences for future exports.

Moldova is currently facing an energy crisis due to the fact that Gazprom has significantly reduced its gas supplies. To make matters worse, the lifeblood of Moldova's electricity supply from the EU is the 400 KV transmission line, which runs from Romania, through Ukraine and the separatist enclave of Transnistria.

Due to the overloading of the system in Odesa Oblast, as a result of Russian missile attacks on the Ukrainian electricity supply system, Moldova was left without electricity for two hours. According to Bloomberg last month, advisory and professional help was sent to by Lithuania and Poland, because the local Energocom employs only seventeen employees.

As for Croatian companies, which could quickly build a new transmission line with appropriate transformer stations, and whose institutes (including HEP) could help a lot in the procurement of electricity - there were no such moves to speak of. The agreement for the new transmission line was signed back in 2017, the value of the project stands at 270 million US dollars. It was also planned to be co-financed by the European Investment Bank with 80 million dollars.

Another example is France, which, in the wake of Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure last week, sent 100 generators with a power of 50 and 100 KVA. In total, 500 generators have been sent to Ukraine through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

However, among the sevetneen EU member states that have sent aid to Ukraine's electric power system, Croatia isn't among them - which produces almost everything needed in this situation, such as transformers, generators and transmission lines, and whose electricity industry has experience in staying up and running during a war.

In an interview with the Ukrainian channel Freedom TV, the head of the regional military-civilian administration of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, said that the area primarily needs water purifiers and help with demining, areas in which Croatian companies also have something to offer.

Regarding demining, help from Croatian companies has already been offered, but in the Luhansk region, literally everything is lacking, from electricity to windows and building materials. Regarding private initiatives, DOK-ING has already demonstrated its innovative demining and firefighting robots to the President of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ruslan Stefancuk, during a visit to the meeting of the Crimea Platform in Zagreb.

Above all, it is necessary to create the most effective framework for bringing together businesses and the Croatian Government, which would be able to respond in a timely manner to crisis situations across the world, and which could become one of the main promoters of Croatian exports.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce would have to be included in that body, as would other stakeholders like the Croatian Employers' Association, in order not to need to wait for EC decisions, but to react immediately and raise Croatia's reputation across the world and actively promote domestic production. 

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

Friday, 2 December 2022

Ukrainian Embassy in Zagreb Receives Gory Package

December 2, 2022 - Croatian media report and the Ukrainian embassy in Zagreb has confirmed on their social media that they are among the embassies which have received extremely gory packages today.

The first report of the threat came from Oleg Nikolenko, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign affairs. In it, he mentions that one of the packages was sent to the Ukrainian embassy in Zagreb.

The packages supposedly contained animal eyes and were soaked in a liquid of "characteristic colour" (not too difficult to determine which colour it is from the context clues, although not explicitly stated).

In addition to the embassy in Zagreb, similar packages were sent to embassies in Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, and Austria, as well as to consulates in Naples and Krakow. Additional threats to the embassy in Vatican, Kazakhstan and the USA are also being reported and are investigated.

When asked to comment, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković briefly stated that the Croatian police is in charge of keeping embassies safe.

We will update this story when further information about the events in the Zagreb Ukrainian embassy becomes available.

Friday, 18 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Taxes on Taxes, Drones and Spanish Royalty

This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from Spanish royalty visiting the country for the very first time to Milanovic insulting the foreign minister, missiles hitting Poland, complaints about taxes being put on taxes and still not actually knowing who dropped a drone on Zagreb back in March.

PM Andrej Plenkovic meets the Spanish king

Andrej Plenkovic met with the Spanish king during the very first visit of the Spanish royals to the Republic of Croatia this week. King Felipe VI of Spain and Plenkovic sat down to discuss economic cooperation, the ongoing energy crisis, migrant policies and Croatia's imminent entry into the Schengen area.

As stated, this was the Spanish royal couple's very first official visit to Croatia, and Plenkovic pointed out that the visit is "a pledge to further strengthen bilateral relations with Spain at all levels, with a special emphasis placed on on cultural, educational and scientific exchange".

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation on cooperation in the creation of the DONES Programme, which envisages a partnership between Croatia and Spain in fusion research.

"Projects like this are an opportunity for further cooperation between Croatian and Spanish companies in the high-tech and scientific sphere, they also represent the improvement of economic relations," the press release on the matter stated. Plenkovic was quick to thank King Felipe for Spain's ongoing support in Croatia's entry into Schengen, which is set to occur on the 1st of January, 2023, the same date on which Croatia will officially adopt the euro as its currency.

The pair also discussed current challenges such as the energy crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine and the bloc's migrant policy, which requires a unique European response, as well as the role of the EU in Latin America and in the Western Balkans.

The Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) claims the new tax which was proposed recently will further discriminate against certain companies and work to punish the most successful

''We're shocked by the government's proposal for a new profit tax because it's discriminatory and puts the most successful companies in Croatia at a disadvantage. This is actually the dishing out of a punishment to the most successful companies in this country, the companies that fill the state budget the most, employ the most people, pay the highest salaries and invest the most," said the Croatian Association of Employers, reacting to the introduction of the new profit tax.

"Companies operating here in Croatia don't have extra earnings, this year's profit barely covers losses from previous years, and it's completely unclear as to why the government is doing this. Ahead of us lies a crisis and recession, the depth of which we don't yet know. What we know is that Croatian companies are cancelling orders left, right and centre and that now we need the strength to survive the recession and let people keep their jobs," they warned from HUP.

"This is a proposal to introduce a tax on taxes, which will certainly stop investment in development, which means that there will be no new jobs or salary growth, and we're once again becoming an unsafe country for business and looking unattractive to investors. Along with Hungary, we're the only country that spreads the tax across the entire economy instead of, as prescribed by the European Commission Regulation, keeping it exclusively to the energy sector, which made an unexpected profit thanks to market disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine," announced HUP.

"HUP cannot support the unjustified discrimination of large companies that this proposal brings. On top of that, this tax cannot be introduced retroactively for the year 2022, when investment and employment plans have already been implemented. This proposal will unjustifiably penalise the most successful Croatian companies, the best employers and the largest investors who and they pay the most into the state budget," said Irena Weber, CEO of HUP.

Instead of introducing yet more new taxes, HUP very concretely advocates a full tax reform and stronger work relief through an increase in the personal tax deduction and a reduction in income tax rates. This is the way to strengthen the economy, attract new investments, increase wages and create new jobs, according to them.

Milanovic and King Felipe talk politics while their wives talk healthcare and the prevention of obesity in children

King Felipe VI of Spain and Croatian President Zoran Milanovic are both satisfied with the bilateral relations between the two European countries, while their wives emphasised the importance of preventing obesity in children for preserving the health of the entire population, according to the press releases published after their meetings in Pantovcak.

The Spanish king was on a two-day official visit to the Republic of Croatia together with Queen Letizia, and after the ceremonial reception at Pantovcak, President Milanovic and his wife Sanja Music Milanovic spoke with the royal pair. The Spanish king and the Croatian president both stated that they are satisfied with the bilateral relations between Croatia and Spain, which are two friendly and allied countries, members of the European Union and NATO.

King Felipe and Milanovic also referred to the close scientific cooperation between the two countries, which is particularly marked by the joint partnership in the aforementioned DONES programme, which the Spanish king also discussed at length with Plenkovic.

The meeting also discussed current European and global topics, including the security crisis in Eastern Europe caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine, while their wives discussed the importance of preventing obesity in children.

Sanja Music Milanovic and Queen Letizia of Spain separately discussed innovative approaches to obesity prevention in children in Croatia, Spain and the entire continent. The importance of obesity prevention in children for preserving the health of the entire population was emphasised and the importance of a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention through a multisectoral set of interventions aimed at all periods of life was emphasised, the press release on the topic stated.

Music Milanovic presented the professional and scientific activities she carries out in this area in Croatia and Europe and announced the upcoming inaugural summit of the spouses of European leaders on the topic of childhood obesity prevention across Europe, which she will jointly organise with the European Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The King and Queen of Spain were, as stated, on their very first official visit to Croatia during the year which marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Croatia and Spain, all with the aim of confirming exceptionally good bilateral relations and providing incentives for their further development.

Croatian authorities still don't know who launched the six-tonne drone which hit Zagreb eight months ago

As news broke about an alleged Russian missile having crossed over into Polish territory, killing two people, our memories return to the drone which struck Zagreb eight months ago. It turns out that the powers that be still have no idea who launched the mysterious drone which crash landed and ended up in pieces. 

The Russians are still claiming that the drone which struck Poland had nothing to do with them, saying all those who are claiming it to be Russian are just trying to provoke. Still, we were all shocked and we went from speculating about a Russian attack on Poland, a NATO country, to thinking about the possibility of a third world war to, what is now increasingly likely, finding out that the missile was in fact Ukrainian.

As a reminder, two people were killed after, as Polish authorities then said, a "Russian-made projectile" fell near the village of Przewodow, about 6.4 kilometres west of the Polish-Ukrainian border, around the same time that Moscow forces launched their largest wave of missile attacks on multiple Ukrainian cities in more than a month.

The circumstances of the incident, including information about who fired the missile and from where it was fired, were unknown, which caused possible speculation about Russian involvement in the event and expectations of NATO's next step following the apparent striking of Poland, a NATO member state. But according to US officials, initial findings suggest that the missile that hit Poland was actually fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile.

Three officials told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that the Ukrainians were trying to defend themselves against Russian fire aimed at their electrical infrastructure. This is the event that reminded us of the incident that happened on March the 10th right here in Zagreb, just two weeks after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Then, a strange Soviet-made Tu-141 unmanned aircraft crashed in Zagreb near the "Stjepan Radic" student dormitory. During the fall, the unmanned aircraft crashed into the ground, leaving a crater behind it.

The circumstances behind it all are still unclear, so Index asked DORH recently if it had ever actually been established who had sent that drone into Croatian territory.

"On April the 13th, 2022, the County State Attorney's Office (DORH) in Zagreb, in the presence of experts, held a press conference where they reported on the results of the investigation related to the crash of the drone.

''At the aforementioned press conference, it was stated that the answers to the questions about where the [unmanned] aircraft came from and whose aircraft it was are under the jurisdiction of other bodies, and not under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney's Office," the answer reads. As for the press conference that DORH mentions in the answer, it was said that the drone had Ukrainian colours on it, but also that it was carrying a bomb. "It was undoubtedly established that it was fragments of an OFAB 100-120 aerial bomb," Major Mile Tomic said in a DORH press release back in April, adding that a lighter was also found.

"During the impact, an explosive device did explode, as was evidenced by the creation of a large crater, the scattering of earth and stones, the ejection of fragments from the crater, as well as traces of tearing and hardening of the metal parts of the bomb," said Ivana Bacic, a chief fire and explosion expert.

"The original aerial bomb should contain 40 to 46 kilos of TNT military explosive, which would be characterised by blackening," Bacic noted.

The Zagreb drone incident could therefore have had horrendous consequences, and yet it seems we're none the wiser. By sheer luck, a real tragedy was avoided. When people say the word 'drone', to many people it sounds like a plastic toy or indeed a type of worker bee, but in this case we're dealing with something that weighs six tonnes and was carrying an explosive on it. It fell in the immediate vicinity of the student dormitory and what could have happened doesn't bear thinking about. In spite of all of that, it is still not known who the drone belonged to, how it was launched, or and why.

Back at that time, the drone event stimulated two debates. First, the question arose as to how much protection NATO provides to Croatia in general.

Before entering Croatian territory, the drone flew over two NATO member states, Hungary and Romania, only to crash in the third NATO member state, Croatia, after seven minutes of flight. In those seven minutes, no one reacted, neither the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia nor the Directorate of Civil Protection. NATO did nothing either, and all that lack of action in the then very fresh situation of the shocking Russian invasion of Ukraine and the outbreak of war here in Europe once again.

"NATO's integrated air and anti-missile defense followed the flight path of the object that subsequently crashed in Zagreb. The Croatian authorities have announced that they are investigating this incident," said a NATO official at the time.

Second, in parallel with the investigation, there was a debate about whether the drone really had a bomb on it or not. Defense Minister Mario Banozic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic claimed that there was an explosive device in the drone, while a number of experts disputed this. President Zoran Milanovic was also skeptical about the presence of a bomb in the drone, and he was quick to reproach Plenkovic and Banozic for stoking fears.

Even NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg entered the discussion about the explosive device on the drone, and he stated at a press conference that the drone was unarmed. After that, another press conference was called by Prime Minister Plenkovic, who denied his claim, along the way showing photos of parts of the drone that he said belonged to the bomb.

As stated, despite the severity of this incident and all of the potential reasons behind it which are extremely concerning to think about given Russia's actions and the ongoing war over in Ukraine, nobody seems much more in the know then they were back on March the 10th.

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman says that we will not be training Ukrainian soldiers on Croatian territory

If you recall, Zoran Milanovic was among the loudest in his opposition to this idea, and it seems he is far from alone in his thoughts that supporting Ukraine should be as far as Croatia goes, as we don't want to bring the war to our doorstep. 

"I'm absolutely not going to give my consent. Grlic Radman went to Brussels without my prior consent. There are enough of Plenkovic's mini ministers going up to Brussels without the prior consent of the commander-in-chief, and it isn't going to carry on that way. Grlic Radman is nobody and nothing, Plenkovic is actually important here, but he went and pushed himself to the front row like a dumb nerd,"  Milanovic said about the Minister of Foreign Affairs, once again using another opportunity to sling mud and throw insults around.

Grlic Radman also said later today that there will be no training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, and he remained polite and professional in his wording.

"What Croatia can offer, it will offer. Is it the training of Ukrainian soldiers on our territory? No, no it isn't, it will be on the territory of some other EU member states that have offered. However, the countries in which that might take place still haven't been determined,'' Grlic Radman said in an interview with RTL Danas/Today.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and keep your eyes peeled for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Croatian Cannons Used in Homeland War Now Defending Ukraine

September the 21st, 2022 - Croatian cannons and other weaponry which were used to defend the likes of Zadar, Sukosan and Sibenik from Serbian onslaught are now being used once again to help defend Ukraine from Russian aggression.

Croatia's more recent experience with war than any other European country puts it in a better position to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia than most other nations, and to know that the weapons used during the Homeland War which saw Croatia become an independent state and fend off Serbian aggression are now aiding Ukraine in its mission to send the Russians packing is one of those full circle stories.

As Morski/Jurica Gaspar writes, the recently delivered Croatian cannons (M-46, 130 mm caliber) are already being used on the front lines in Ukraine, and these weapons are precisely those cannons which once defended Sukosan, Zadar and Sibenik, and were also an important factor in the Maslenica liberation operation.

''The Ukrainian Army is already using them on the front lines in the Donetsk region. In addition to the M-46 cannons, the Ukrainian Army received a significant amount of ammunition,'' it was announced on the Ukraine Weapons Tracker Twitter page.

''Those Croatian cannons were also with us in Zadar. More precisely in Sukosan,'' explained Zadar Weekly journalist Sinisa Klarica, who himself participated in the Homeland War in the 112th brigade of the ZNG and the 159th brigade of the Croatian Army.

''I saw them when I went to intervene in Debeljak in the 159th brigade. They were right next to the cemetery in Sukosan. At that time, we camouflaged the cannons well, so I'm not sure how many of them there were.

The Croatian cannons that defended Sibenik and were also key in the Maslenica liberation operation, and they're now doing the same job over in Ukraine in some of the areas of the country where the fighting is most intense.

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

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Young Croatian Humanitarian Andro Fabijanic Dies in Ukraine

September the 17th, 2022 - Young Croatian Andro Fabijanic, a selfless 29-year-old from Zagreb, who actively helped Ukrainian families and veterans with humanitarian work, died in Ukraine in an anti-tank mine explosion on Tuesday while delivering aid.

Ukrainian suffering caused by the Russian invasion which shockingly took place back in February of this year has been horrendous, but it has shown us just how many selfless individuals from across Europe have been ready to step in and help in any way possible.

The Republic of Croatia, with its relatively recent experience of invasion and bloody war has been praiseworthy in its efforts to help Ukrainian refugees, with the government quickly amending laws to allow refugees to stay and work here, and individuals offering up their homes to displaced Ukrainian families free of charge all over the country. Croatian humanitarian Andro Fabijanic is one such person who left the comfort of his peaceful country to head over to Ukraine to help directly.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the tragic news that Andro had lost his life quickly spread on social media and was later also confirmed by friends of the bereaved Fabijanic family. This altruistic young man from Zagreb, known to local athletes and recreationists as a personal fitness trainer, died in a delivery vehicle transporting sanitary materials to Ukrainian fighters.

The vehicle ran into a mine on the road and several of his Ukrainian colleagues were wounded. Unfortunately, there was no escape for Andro Fabijanic, who was supposed to leave for the safety of Croatia just one day later, writes Novi list.

He had bought a ticket home and otherwise worked for an association from Dnipropetrovsk that delivered bandages and other medical aid to Ukrainian veterans fighting against Russian aggression in their war-torn homeland.

For more on Croatian efforts during the ongoing Ukraine war, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 5 September 2022

Art Camp, Workshops for Ukrainian Teachers and Artists Held on Mali Brijun

September the 5th, 2022 - The gorgeous Mali Brijun has been playing host to Ukrainian artists and teachers who will use what they learned here in helping Ukrainian children cope with the terrible trauma of war upon return to their ravaged homeland.

As Morski writes, about thirty Ukrainians, mostly artists, teachers and pedagogues, arrived at Mali Brijun recently. By attending various music and movement workshops, they learned how to deal with war trauma of their own, and they will also apply their newly acquired skills when working with Ukrainian children when they return home to their country.

Everyday alarms were replaced by music, and art in general has become a refuge for Ukrainian children and their parents.

''This was an incredible experience for us, we had the opportunity to learn not only from a mentor but also from each other, to be here on Mali Brijun together, we'll take the energy from this place back home with us,'' said Svetlana Bazanova, a Ukrainian drama teacher.

''It's nice that we could come and be here, it's also important to me professionally as this experience will connect me with the whole community,'' emphasised Jana Zelenska, another drama pedagogue. Most of the Ukrainian families who have arrived in Istria are from war-torn Kharkiv. In a few days, they will return to their homeland and pass on the knowledge they have learned while spending time on beautiful Mali Brijun to their colleagues.

''Through art therapy, we learn how to deal with emotions, how to help ourselves to deal with fear and trauma, and how to help others, especially children,'' emphasised Veronika Skolarova, the project manager.

''It took us some time to build trust, a safe circle inside, but as the days progressed, people relaxed more and more and we all did more and more,'' said Irena Magas, a music therapist. This praiseworthy project was conceived by Lenka Udovicki and Nigel Osbourne from the Ulysses Theatre.

''We can do some simple things through art. Music and movement can regulate breathing, singing and emotions,'' pointed out Nigel Osbourne, who is a composer and a music therapist. After the workshops held on Mali Brijun, art therapy education is set to continue back home in Ukraine, HRT Magazin reports.

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

Saturday, 3 September 2022

Ukrainian Capital Market Reformists Seek Croatian Experience

September the 3rd, 2022 - The war in Ukraine is still raging on following the horrendous Russian invasion which began back in February this year. Hope, however, is still being found in this tragedy, and some Ukrainian capital market reformists are keen to hear the post-war Croatian experience of the late 90s and early 2000's.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, now having an official status of a candidate for membership in the European Union (EU), Ukraine is slowly starting to align its legal acquis with the common European one, despite the ongoing war. The country is roughly where Croatia was back in 2004 in this sense, although it is impossible to predict the political will in the European Union to truly open negotiations with Kiev. Regardless of the circumstances, Ukraine isn't wasting any time, and representatives of the Ukrainian capital market regulator, the National Securities and Exchange Commission, paid a study visit to the Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (Hanfa) this week.

A technical exchange of knowledge

The visit of the two commissioners, Maksym Libanov and Yurii Boik, is a continuation of the technical cooperation started back in 2019, and the first topics on the table were UCITS and alternative investment funds. As part of the visit, an Agreement on technical cooperation between the two regulators was signed.

"We've been in contact with Hanfa for three years now, and since Ukraine received its status as a candidate member state of the EU, we decided to deepen cooperation with European regulators," Maksym Libanov, whose area of expertise covers corporate management, securities, depository, investments and pension funds, explained. With special permits to leave the country, they arrived in the City of Zagreb. "We were guided by the logic that the Croatian experience, as the youngest EU member state, is very important to us. At the moment, our talks cover the technical exchange of knowledge and experience in the process," said Libanov, adding that they also met with representatives of ZB Invest and Maverick Wealth Management.

Ukraine has been in a state of emergency since the Russian invasion began back at the end of February, and the UNHCR estimates that nearly seven million people have fled the country. Economic activity is practically devastated, trading on the Ukrainian Stock Exchange was halted on February the 24th (being relaunched only one month with restrictions), and financing depends on injections from the West. Before the war broke out, the Ukrainian economy relied on metallurgy, mining and ore processing in the east and southeast, the territory now under Russian occupation, from where devastating images of Mariupol, the Azovstal iron and steel works being turned into a shelter for civilians and the area of the last stronghold of the Ukrainian Army horrified the world.

Around a third of Ukraine's GDP was created by agriculture, leading to Ukraine often being called the world's breadbasket. Back in 2021, Libanov says, about 95 million tonnes of grain, such as wheat and sunflowers, were produced in Ukraine, two-thirds of which went to export markets. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 16 percent of the world's corn production and more than 40 percent of sunflower oil come directly from Ukraine. Moldova alone, for example, gets more than 90 percent of its wheat from nearby Ukrainian fields. Russia's invasion, in addition to terrorising Ukrainian citizens and seeking to destroy the Ukrainian nationality, also disrupted the world's grain supply chains and sent food prices sky high.

Despite long-standing political tensions with Russia, the occupation of Crimea back in 2014 and the invasion of Ukraine in February, Ukraine struggled with accumulated economic and social problems. The grey economy, an extremely disordered market, a lot of corruption, the generally low living standards of workers which were even worse for pensioners - this series of events is very well known to other transition countries.

From about 42 to 44 million inhabitants, and this is an estimate because the last census was done in 2001, 20 million Ukrainians are of working age. Among them, only 13 million pay pension contributions, the rest are in the grey echelons of economic activity or outside the labour market, while there are also about 11 million pensioners. With these ratios of employees and dependents, the Ukrainian pension system and the labor market have always been very hot topics. This has especially been the case since the imagined pension system which would have had three pillars never came to fruition. The first pillar of generational solidarity is the only functional one, and the second should have been put into function 2023 if there had been no invasion and no war.

The third pillar, based on voluntary payments, had about 50 funds before the war broke out, but the total assets amounted to only around 150 billion euros, they say. "

This Ukrainian pension system is young and still developing. The average pension is around 2,800 hryvnias, so about 100 euros. The problem is that the average pension is very close to the minimum because many people don't have documentation about their work before 2004, and there's no central register," explained Libanov. His parents' situation reflects these disparities; the father's pension is about 3500 hryvnias, while the mother's is five times higher thanks to her working life spent at the Ukrainian Academy of Science. However, they add that this problem has been present for 30 years now and that a lot has been achieved through digitisation, but the consensus is that the reform of the pension system is an absolute necessity. Croatian experience, as the newest EU member state and a country which was at war just 30 years ago, is invaluable in this regard.

According to a survey conducted among company directors, as many as 39 percent have stopped doing business entirely since the beginning of the Russian invasion, and just 11 percent continued to do business as they did before or increased their activities, stated Yurii Boiko, commissioner for the area of ​​investments, communications and project management. He pointed out that, judging by that survey, we should praise how businesses are coping with the war, illustrating that about two-thirds of people are voluntarily involved in the fighting in some way.

"Undoubtedly, the war affected Ukrainian businesses and the way the economy works. There was a wave of layoffs and 1.28 million people lost their jobs in small and medium-sized companies," says Boiko.

With a surprising number of parallels that can be drawn between Croatia and Ukraine, we need to look at what reforms are the most desperately needed. Both Ukrainians said that judicial reforms are needed right now. They explained that a number of steps must be taken in the long term for the country to be competitive, attract capital and investors, build infrastructure, but everything is secondary to the functional rule of law. We know very well how true this is in Croatia, which still suffers tremendous problems in this sense to this very day.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business and politics sections.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Kids of Ukrainian Soldiers Holidaying in Novi Vinodolski

August the 30th, 2022 - The children of Ukrainian soldiers, police officers and firefighters have been holidaying in Novi Vinodolski this summer thanks to the praiseworthy and selfless efforts of the ''Croatia helps/Hrvatska pomaze'' Association.

As Morski writes, the children of brave Ukrainian soldiers, police officers and firefighters have been enjoying some very well deserved summer holidays in Novi Vinodolski. In this way, the "Croatia helps" Association has been providing the most innocent victims of the Russian invasion of all, children, some play and fun and time to be children. The City of Bjelovar and the host town of Novi Vinodolski helped the most. Thirty-six Ukrainian children between the ages of 9 and 14 were also visited and given gifts by the Croatian ambassador to Ukraine, Anica Djamic, on Sunday.

Ten beautiful days of summer were made better for the children of Ukrainian soldiers, firefighters and police officers, who have gone through what absolutely no child should ever have to.

''The children came from different regions of Ukraine, more precisely from the occupied territories. There are children of Ukrainian soldiers and other veterans, and also children whose parents have been killed. We're very grateful to Croatia and the "Croatia helps" Association for organising this, it's very important for the children that this was done. They got to relax and enjoy the sunshine and sea in Novi Vinodolski,'' said Olesja Cuboha, Head of the Department for Youth and Prevention of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

All of this was done in order to help them forget, if just for a single moment, about the horrors which are still tragically unfolding over in their homeland.

''The children really had a great time and had an active holiday. They were accompanied by social workers, animators and volunteers. They really felt good there and say that they returned feeling better,'' said Djurdja Adlesic Association "Croatia helps".

This is the second group of a total of 86 children from Ukraine who stayed on the Crikvenica-Vinodol riviera, and a visit was organised for them to several locations in the City of Zagreb as well, writes HRT.

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

Friday, 26 August 2022

Ukrainian IT Company Eleks Opens Croatian Office in Split

August the 26th, 2022 - The Ukrainian IT company Eleks has now opened its brand new Split office, exactly half a year after the beginning of Putin's Russia's horrific and unjustified aggression against Ukraine.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the Ukrainian IT company Eleks is a global software engineering company with around 2,500 employees based across Europe and the USA, which, even before the attack on their homeland, began to expand and chose Croatia as one of its locations in Europe.

At the beginning of the year, more precisely at the end of January, it was registered as a company in the court register, but the preparation process itself began months earlier.

Partners to the world leaders

The events of the horrendous war in Ukraine following Russian invasion only accelerated these activities, but even before the first shelling took place, 20 families of Eleks employees had arrived in Croatia from Ukraine. Offices have since been opened in Zagreb and now in Split. According to Marko Modrusan, head of the Croatian branch of the Ukrainian IT company Eleks, most of the employees are Ukrainian nationals, numbering around one hundred. They're mostly from the areas most affected by the war's unfolding events and engaging in their work there is impossible.

The remaining 30 members of Eleks' team are Croats. Since the City of Split was chosen as the business base here in Croatia, the largest number of them are of course located in Split, where there are 85 employees. There are also 25 in Zagreb, and they also have 20 employees in other cities spanning Croatia.

Eleks has otherwise been operating for 31 years, providing ICT solutions and consulting services. The founders are Oleksij Skripnik and Ihor Skripnik, and in the meantime managers have joined the ownership structure. Last year, the company achieved a revenue of 62 million euros, it is recording continuous growth and is also expanding on the international market.

They cover market niches from custom software development for client needs to product design and technology consulting. Thanks to such a wide and varied spectrum of activities, they say they are partners with many of the world's leading companies, as well as technology startups.

The Ukrainian IT company Eleks has its 17 offices in 13 countries spanning three continents, of which in the area of ​​European countries, in addition to Croatia, there are offices in Poland, Estonia and Germany, and Great Britain. They already have offices across the pond in the USA, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, and after Croatia, the intensification of their business will follow in their already opened office over in Tokyo.

"The decision to expand in Croatia was a logical step in our business growth strategy," explained Andrij Krupa, the president of Eleks. "We plan to further expand our team and develop ICT solutions, professional services, customer support and increase the possibilities of providing services to current and future markets," added Krupa.

When asked why the choice for the central office in Croatia fell on Split, Modrusan explained that as part of the consideration and search for the best location, care was taken to ensure that it would be a location in Croatia that would be suitable for the application of the "work and holiday" working model. This means that Eleks employees from any of their branches in other countries will be able to come to Croatia, work for a few weeks, and then use the opportunity for an annual holiday in Croatia.

Due to its location, the City of Split is rated as ideal, because the nearby islands, the southern and northern coasts and excellent traffic connections are within reach, and the city is large enough to provide the necessary comfort and amenities to their employees.

Vladimir Putin's attack increased their workload

When asked how Eleks will function here in Croatia and who their clients will be, Modrusan says that Eleks has a delivery centre in Croatia, and most of the partners will be from European countries and from the USA.

However, it is also expected that the new centre for the realisation of projects in Split will work to strengthen the regional presence and strengthen the partnership with new clients in Southeastern Europe.

"We're excited to contribute our experience and expertise to the quality of software development and also to meet the growing demand for software development and digital transformation in the region. We're looking forward to being a part of the local IT community where we will certainly participate in its construction,'' pointed out Modrusan, inviting Croatian software experts to join the Eleks team, as they are planning further expansion.

Despite the attacks of the Russian army on Ukraine, Eleks didn't stop working, quite on the contrary, they received increased requests for jobs, which is why the need for new employees is growing.

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

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Availability of Books Helps Integration of Ukrainian Refugees Says Minister

ZAGREB, 19 July 2022 - During the handover of books by Ukrainian authors to the National and University Library (NSK) on Tuesday, Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said that their availability in Croatian libraries can help refugees from Ukraine to integrate more easily into their new environment.

The handover was held as part of the "Ukrainian books on the shelves of the world's libraries" project, launched at the initiative of the wife of the Ukrainian president, Olena Zelensky.

"This is our contribution to efforts to make the Croatian and Ukrainian people closer to each other in these difficult times and our contribution to help the refugees integrate as easily as possible during their stay in Croatia and to help them with the availability of books," Obuljen Koržinek said.

NSK Director-General Ivanka Stričević said that the books, which were donated to them by the Ukrainian Embassy in Croatia, represent a wealth that will be passed on in future times when the war in Ukraine ends.

"We want to help our libraries respond in the best way to the needs of their users, Ukrainian citizens who find themselves in their environment, and to create the foundations for future cooperation," said the director.

As a sign of solidarity and support for Ukraine, NSK launched a series of activities, including free admission to the Library for Ukrainian refugees over the age of 16 and the publication of three special bibliographies and thematic collections "War in Ukraine."

The purchase and distribution of books by Ukrainian authors in Croatian libraries was initiated jointly by the AidHub foundation together with Croatia's Ministry of Culture and Media in order to help publishers who have found themselves in a difficult situation.

"Our goal is to acquire books by Ukrainian publishers who suffered greatly in these war circumstances. We are also working on an initiative for every Croatian publisher to print at least one book in Ukraine in order to at least help save jobs in that country," said Mišo Nejašmić from AidHub.

In addition to the purchase of books for Ukrainian citizens who took refuge in Croatia AidHub is working on the organisation of a summer camp, where 700 children of different ages will stay, most of whom will be high school graduates. They will spend time in the camp learning the Croatian language.

Ukrainian books are already available in more than 200 libraries, said Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Kyrylych.

"The Ukrainian book is aimed at Ukrainians who have the urge to read. The book is the depth of the sea, it is alive if it is read," said the ambassador.

This is not the first such donation in Croatia, as books by Ukrainian authors were donated to public libraries across the country at the end of June.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

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