Sunday, 13 September 2020

Croatian Companies are Priority in Zagreb Restoration

As Novac writes on the 12th of September, 2020, half a year after the devastating earthquake in which one person lost their life and about 25,000 houses and buildings were damaged, the major Zagreb restoration is ready to begin, which is still associated with many doubts. The only certain thing is that it will be expensive and long-lasting. Scaffolding and cranes will be a common sight on the streets of Zagreb for years to come, especially in the city centre where the damage was the greatest. For many, there will be a lot of work to be done.

"Croatian producers must have priority in the post-earthquake Zagreb restoration", emphasised the Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for Construction, Transport and Communications, Mirjana Cagalj, presenting a new project of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce under the name - Let's build Croatian. She stated that the damage done to the Croatian capital estimates range up to 86 billion kuna, and it's difficult to say with certainty how much the complete reconstruction will cost.

"It regards a lot of public money that requires transparent spending and support for the Croatian economy. It will take decades, depending on the inflow of funds. Thw Zagreb restoration project is a great opportunity. From this, the city can come out more beautiful and safer than it was before, and our construction industry and economy will become stronger. History teaches us that these unfortunate situations can be an opportunity for the future of Zagreb. After the earthquake which struck back in 1880, Zagreb became a modern Central European city, and until then it was a small town,''  noted Mirjana Cagalj, who believes that the idea that Croatian producers must have priority in the Zagreb restoration process.

"In the case of this project, we can say that there are three lines of action - towards the state, regional and local self-government and towards all professions and actors involved in construction. We have connected professions through the associations of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce with the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, the Faculty of Civil Engineering, the Croatian Chamber of Civil Engineers and Architects, HUPFAS and other institutions. The Chamber already had an online database of Croatian companies and products, our Catalog of Croatian Products, and now we've adapted it especially for renovation products in order to make the process of including Croatian products as simple as possible. We'd like to invite our clients to send out a strong and unequivocal message that they want to preserve Croatian manufacturers and jobs in the production of construction materialsm'' pointed out Cagalj, adding that the reconstruction of a city of millions is a complex job in which there is room for people from a wide array of sectors.

The lack of manpower in Croatian construction companies is often mentioned as a major problem, which is why many large construction jobs in Croatia are carried out by foreign companies.

"This problem didn't just pop up yesterday and it has its oscillations. From 2008 to 2015, the construction sector lost almost 40,000 jobs. Although the building sector began to recover in 2015, many workers left Croatia, some retrained for other occupations, and there was no quota at that time. We've been importing workers since back in 2017, but it's difficult for qualified labour from third countries to choose to come to work in Croatia. Although a large number of the largest construction companies were lost in that crisis, and now we've got a situation in which projects are being carried out by foreign companies and the Croatian ones work as subcontractors, this doesn't necessarily mean a slow down for the Zagreb restoration process. We have enough capacities for the work ahead of us. The contractors and manufacturers of materials and equipment are ready,'' claimed Mirjana Cagalj, who also provided an answer to the question of how the state or the Croatian Chamber of Commerce can give preference to Croatian companies during the Zagreb restoration process, especially if foreign companies will offer better and cheaper products and services.

"We're aware of the EU principles of the open market, but it's crucial to make the professional and general public aware that Croatian products have quality. In the law itself, we presented the possibility of implementing provisions that would enable the greater use of Croatian products through the faster implementation of tenders with the proximity and availability of products and services. Thus, the main criterion is the criterion of urgency in supply. In this way, through technical specifications, we'll provide an opportunity for Croatian resources without the need for discriminatory provisions for other EU entities,'' said the Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.

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Saturday, 12 September 2020

61 Citizens Who Lost Homes in Zagreb Quake Move to Hostel

ZAGREB, September 12, 2020 - Sixty-one Zagreb residents who were accommodated in the Cvjetno Naselje student dorm since losing their homes in the March 22 earthquake moved to the Arena hostel on Saturday, Mayor Milan Bandic's office said in a press release.

They have been accommodated in 30 rooms and have at their disposal socialising and recreation areas as well as three free meals a day.

The hostel has provided accommodation for 241 citizens who were staying at Cvjetno Naselje since the quake. Those who moved today were mainly families with their own cars, for which they have free parking at the hostel.

Others will be transferred on Monday on city buses.

The city was ordered by the government on Friday to provide accommodation at the Arena hostel for citizens accommodated in the student dorm since the earthquake.

Fridges have been bought and placed in their rooms at the mayor's order, following their request, and school transport has been organised for their children.


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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

PM: Vaccine Will Be Made Available As Soon As It Is Scientifically Verified

ZAGREB, Sept 9, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday that the European Union has secured 300 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus for EU citizens, adding that any vaccine will be made available to Croatia, as soon as it is scientifically verified.

"The moment a vaccine is scientifically verified as the right vaccine against the coronavirus, we will have it at our disposal, just as Germany, France, and other EU member states will," Plenkovic said in an interview with Croatian Radio.

He said that decisions made by the government benefited the Croatian citizens both in terms of healthcare and economically.

Asked if the vaccine would be paid for by the government or citizens themselves, Plenkovic said this process was ongoing. "News came in this morning that AstraZeneca is also verifying (its vaccine). When all this becomes more clear, we will try to make it as cheap as possible and even free of charge, but at this point, we have not discussed details yet. What is important is that when it becomes available, our citizens will have it at their disposal," the prime minister said.

Plenkovic expressed satisfaction with the work of the national coronavirus response team. "My support to them is clear and firm and will remain so," he said, recalling that the national team is an institution of the central government.

"The national team is a government institution. It was established by the government based on the law and regulations passed by parliament. They are here to work on protecting public health. I am pleased with their work and think that they have done a great job," he added.

Commenting on the number of coronavirus cases in Croatia, Plenkovic said he expected it to decline, stressing the importance of self-discipline.

Government likely to adopt about 30 amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction bill

Regarding the bill on the reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs after the March 22 earthquake, which will be discussed by the inner cabinet today, the prime minister said that about 30 amendments could be adopted.

Recalling that the damage was estimated at over €11 billion, Plenkovic said that the government was right in not rushing the bill. He said that the reconstruction of the central part of Zagreb was very complex and challenging and that the government had decided to take part in it by securing funds from the budget and from international sources.

He said that the government had received €89.9 million from the EU for that purpose, noting that this was the largest advance payment ever made from the EU Solidarity Fund.

"I think the total amount will surpass €500 million," Plenkovic said. He added that the government was in talks with the World Bank, the Council of Europe Development Bank, and other international financial institutions and that the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development would also have special programs for that purpose.

He said the government would like the bill to be adopted with the greatest possible consensus because the reconstruction process would take a long time and would involve the City of Zagreb and many experts.

"At the inner cabinet meeting, we will adopt any proposal we think will help make the reconstruction process effective and transparent ... regardless of which political party it comes from," Plenkovic said.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Parliamentary Opposition Critical Of Zagreb Reconstruction Bill

ZAGREB, Sept 2, 2020- Parliamentary opposition parties on Wednesday strongly criticized the Zagreb reconstruction bill and buildings' environs damaged by a March 22 earthquake. 

"The Zagreb reconstruction bill lacks ambition and cements the existing situation. It restores the situation that existed before the earthquake and does not say what Zagreb should like 10 or 20 years from now," said Pedja Grbin of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

"The bill is impracticable. It contains a lot of disputable things," said Anka Mrak Taritas of the Civic Liberal Alliance (GLAS), while Bridge's Marija Selak Raspudic said that it "creates an atmosphere of legal uncertainty" and "bypasses the existing regulations."

Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro raised the question of funding, saying that neither the government nor the City of Zagreb had enough money for the reconstruction.

On the other hand, Ivan Domagoj Milosevic of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that the bill was based on three key pillars: political inclusion, the government adopted more than 25 opposition proposals, transparency, and solidarity.

Some of the MPs protested over the epidemiological measures that were unanimously decided by the Parliament Presidency on Tuesday, under which wearing face masks are mandatory and that not more than 41 MPs can be present in the chamber at the same time.

"I would like to thank the Presidency for decimating the MPs and shortening the duration of speeches," Selak Raspudic said ironically.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic repeated that the Presidency's decision was unanimous and in line with the Rules of Procedure and was meant to ensure the normal functioning of Parliament and prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

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Monday, 24 August 2020

Zagreb Earthquake: Poorer Will Not Pay For Home Reconstruction

August 24, 2020 – Government proposes all reconstruction costs be borne by the state and city for the poorest homeowners in society.

In new government proposals, poorer residents of Zagreb and the two neighbouring counties most affected by this year's earthquake will pay nothing towards the cost of home reconstruction. The new proposals contained in the Law on Reconstruction of Zagreb will be officially presented in a government session on Thursday 27 August and then to parliament on September 2 or 3.

Homeowners in the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje, and Zagreb County whose residencies were damaged are those affected by the new proposals. If a homeowner or cohabiting couple earns HRK 8,000 a month or less and does not have assets of more than HRK 200,000, the state and the city will finance the entirety of their home renovations.

In the law's first reading, it was proposed that structural renovation costs be borne 60% by the state, 20% by city or regional government, and 20% by property owners and co-owners. Property owners whose income did not exceed HRK 4,000 per month in the previous year (or cohabiting couples earning less than HRK 8,000 per month), will now be exempt from any contributions towards reconstruction, provided they did not hold assets exceeding HRK 200,000 on the day of the earthquake, 22 March 2020. Assets refer to real estate, motor vehicles, and vessels, savings and shares.

For people meeting the criteria, apartment and house renovation costs will be borne 80% by the state, and 20% by city or regional government (City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje, or Zagreb County). Reconstruction costs of the homes belonging to those left disabled of the Homeland War or beneficiaries of social care who receive maintenance assistance will also be fully financed.

Damage to a dwelling on Ilica in central Zagreb © Franjo Tahy

The proposals are aimed at assisting the poorest homeowners affected, although the implications stretch much further

People who do not meet the low income/low asset criteria, who do not have a home insurance policy, must pay for 20% of their home renovation. Those who do have an insurance policy can request payment or partial payment of that 20% by their insurers.

It is possible that some unmarried couples who are living together, but not officially co-habiting, and whose income and assets exceed the set amount, could benefit before other couples who are married and legally co-habiting.

There are also potentially serious implications for those who are on a very low income, but who have inherited a property worth more than HRK 200,000 (approx €26,500).

In the final bill, there remains a provision for mortgaging real estate if the owners and co-owners cannot secure 20% of building renovation costs.

The new proposals also include the possibility of obtaining financial assistance for the repair of staircases in buildings, in addition to previously announced assistance for the repair of gable walls, elevators, chimneys, and the replacement of gas boilers.

Damage from the earthquake in Zagreb and surroundings was estimated at 86.4 billion kuna (approx €11.5 billion). The new proposals mean that a larger amount than this previous estimation will now be needed.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Students From 13 Zagreb School Buildings To Be Relocated To Other Sites This Fall

ZAGREB, Aug 19, 2020 - About 6,500 children in Zagreb will not be able to return to their own schools once the school year starts on September 7 because of the damage caused to school buildings by the March 22 earthquake, the Jutarnji List daily reported on Wednesday.

Damage caused by the quake was identified on 175 school and kindergarten buildings with 91 buildings being repaired to date.

Works are continuing on an additional 82 buildings and 69 of these should be ready for the new school year. Twelve schools, however -- five elementary and seven secondary schools -- were seriously damaged in the quake and are not safe for use hence students from those schools will have to be relocated to other schools which until now had lessons in only one shift.

Another school that was being reconstructed in any case brings the number of schools that will be relocated to thirteen.

Some elementary school pupils will have to attend schools in other suburbs and the city authorities have organised transport for 1,923 pupils, however, a decision has not been delivered on seating arrangements in school buses, considering the epidemiological situation, the Jutranji List reported.

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Thursday, 13 August 2020

We Can! Calls for Central Institution to Lead Zagreb Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, Aug 13, 2020 - The We Can! the political platform said on Thursday that they would request that the law on Zagreb area post-quake reconstruction should provide for the establishment of a single, central institution to lead the reconstruction process, instead of six currently envisaged, so as not to diffuse responsibility.

MP and head of the We Can! platform Tomislav Tomasevic told a press conference in front of the government's building that members of the platform had been to Dubrovnik last week to see how that city had been and still was being reconstructed.

The conversations held in Dubrovnik made them realise that it would be best to have one central institution in charge of Zagreb's post-quake reconstruction, he said.

"... in our opinion, that should be an institute for the reconstruction of Zagreb and the surrounding area. Otherwise, the responsibility is diffused so everyone is responsible and in the end no one is actually responsible for the reconstruction," Tomasevic said.

He reiterated that the bill that had passed the first reading envisaged six institutions that would deal with the reconstruction. According to him, a central institution should be jointly established by the state, the city and other counties, and all state and local institutions should send their best people to it.

Tomasevic thinks that the law on the reconstruction was "more or less" going in the right direction, but he underscored that the first reading had shown that there were many things to be improved, especially concerning social criteria, liens and the unclear status of people who had been paying for earthquake insurance.

He said that the platform had sent a written request to Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic that the holidays should end on August 19 so that work on the second reading of the bill on Zagreb's post-quake reconstruction could start, but the parliament will start work after the summer recess on September 2.

Since they believe three weeks are enough to prepare the final bill, they call on the government to forward the final bill to the parliament for its second reading, at its first physical session.

"That way, we would have enough time to study the final bill, discuss it with professional associations, prepare amendments to improve it and have a quality law as soon as possible," Tomasevic said.

The We Can! political platform expects that the status of people accommodated in a Zagreb student dorm will also be finally resolved, as well as that of people whose homes were marked with a yellow label and who are not entitled to subsidised rent.

MP Sandra Bencic (We Can) announced that they would request that the reconstruction institute should become the central institution to coordinate the entire process and that it should consist of members of different professions, as well as that it should be appointed by the parliament, not the government.

They will request that reconstruction-related measures be adopted by that institute instead of the government and that it propose the budget.

As for budget control, Bencic underscored that it was crucial to prevent corruption risks. Therefore, they will request that the law should provide for an independent supervisory body that would release, in real time, data on sources of funds, public procurement, tenders received, the number of tenders, concluded contracts and payments.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

HDZ Whip: Zagreb Post-Quake Reconstruction Law Must Stand Test of Time

ZAGREB, July 28 (Hina) - HDZ whip Branko Bacic said on Tuesday the bill on the post-earthquake reconstruction of the Zagreb area was good and that the goal was for the law to stand the test of time.

"Our goal is for the law to stand the test of time... and given the length of the reconstruction, to fulfill its purpose," he told reporters ahead of parliamentary debate on the bill.

Bacic said opposition MPs too had backed the bill, that it had passed regular procedure, and that it included numerous remarks from citizens and institutions.

He said the parliamentary majority was willing to accept good proposals from the opposition but added that concrete proposals would be visible only during the second reading of the bill when amendments were submitted.

Capak is doing an excellent job

Speaking of Krunoslav Capak, head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), whose epidemiological recommendations are being strongly criticised by the opposition, Bacic said the parliamentary majority and the government "fully support" him.

Capak is doing an excellent job as the HZJZ director and the coronavirus numbers over the past five months show that he, the HZJZ and the whole national COVID response team are doing a very good job, he added.

Monday, 27 July 2020

After Floods, Earthquake, COVID-19, The City Is Not Broken: This Is Zagreb!

July 27, 2020 – OPINION: Marc Rowlands downplays the doom and gloom, claiming it will take even more than 2020's disasters to permanently damage Zagreb

International readers must think the city has fallen. After the triple hit of COVID-19, the strongest earthquake in a century, and last weekend's floods, they must imagine the people of Zagreb to be largely underwater, the tips of their toes resting on rubble, struggling to breathe above the waves through their surgical masks.

Their suspicions would only be justified if they're reading the comments sections of the coverage. “Oh, whatever next?”, “What will become of us?”, “May God save us!”, “First an earthquake, now snow! It's the end of the world!”, “It's because of global warming, I told you years ago. Now, not even my bitterness can save us”. Jadni smo (poor us).

That's because there are two types of people in this world; the doom-mongers - useless pessimists who sigh, tut, and briefly sympathise while reading the news, and then there are the positive thinkers who actually get up off their ass and help out. Sadly, the internet is full of the former. Thankfully, Zagreb is full of the latter.

Take for example Mirna Mrčela, who rescued a man from a sinking car on Friday night. Did she stop to worry about the implications for her or for the sunken city before diving into waters on Miramarska street to save him? She did not.

What about the young Zagreb residents who gave up their free time to help rebuild people's homes following this year's earthquakes? Or those who volunteered to help move children from the damaged wards of a hospital? What about the thousands of Croats who thought of innovative or compassionate schemes to raise money for those affected? Or the many more who donated? Or those who used their own drones to help assess damage to buildings? Was their assistance delayed by worry and self-pity? No.

Thousands of young people have been gathering outside the Croatian National Theatre at weekends. The real picture in Zagreb © Marc Rowlands

Even aside those who actually helped out, the story of Zagreb in the wake of both the earthquake and the floods has been one of irrepressible resilience, optimism, and joy. Thousands of young people have gathered outside the Croatian National Theatre at weekends simply enjoying to be, and each other. In recent weeks, Ribnjak Park, Zrinjevac Park, and Strossmayer Promenade in the city have come alive with gastronomic events, music, and people enjoying themselves.

On Monday 27 July, as the sun shines brightly above Zagreb, the last remnants of the flood are all but gone. People are at work, as usual, and some tourists can be seen taking tours around Tkalčićeva and the cathedral. No matter what news story comment sections might tell you, this city is open for business. Zagreb has seen much worse than this. And it will take a lot more than rain, earthquakes or, yes, even snow to dampen its spirits.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Gov't to Pay for 60% of Zagreb's Post-Earthquake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, July 24, 2020 - The government on Friday sent to parliament a bill on the reconstruction of the Zagreb area after the March earthquake under which, as Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said, the government will cover 60% of the costs and local governments and owners 20% each.

A reconstruction fund will be established to oversee the works, raise money for the reconstruction and serve as a one stop shop for all citizens affected by the quake, he added.

The prime minister recalled that HRK 100 billion had already been ensured for emergency repairs by revising the 2020 budget and from the Environmental Protection Fund, that HRK 41 million had been allocated from the Condensing Boiler Fund, and that the government had paid for the accommodation of people who lost their homes in the quake in a Zagreb student dorm.

A US$ 200 million loan has been agreed with the World Bank, talks are under way on a Council of Europe Development Bank loan, and an application has been submitted to the European Solidarity Fund, said Plenkovic.

Earthquake damage estimated at €11.5 billion

"The earthquake damage is estimated at €11.5 billion, the number of damaged buildings is 25,000, the extent of the earthquake was big, ten seconds of earthquake will no doubt bring ten years of work," he added.

The law is expected to ensure the principles of organised reconstruction under professional regulations so as to preserve Zagreb's historical and artistic value. All interested stakeholders, builders, architects, art historians, conservationists and others were consulted in drafting the bill, which was also put to public consultation, resulting in 400 comments, some of which were incorporated into the bill.

Plenkovic said he wanted the widest possible consensus on the law and for it to be clear, transparent and implementable.

Construction and Physical Planning Minister Darko Horvat said the reconstruction would be a big financial challenge and that the bulk of the expenses would be covered by the state. A detailed programme of measures will be made for the pace of reconstruction, depending on financing.

As for public buildings, he said their reconstruction would be fully covered by the founders.

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek said the reconstruction would envisage state-of-the-art technology to increase the value of Zagreb's buildings and preserve the cultural and historical aspects.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said he hoped the reconstruction would contribute to economic activity in Croatia.

Parliament will debate the bill next week.

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