Saturday, 18 March 2023

Algebra LAB: Cookie Monsters Team Wins Money Motion Student Fintech Hackathon

March the 18th, 2023 - The Algebra LAB gathered together some of the most well renowned representatives of the entrepreneurial and scientific community in the jury that evaluates the best student digital projects in the financial and insurance industries.

A sustainable fourth pension pillar through the use of the first Croatian green currency, payment by fingerprint, Tinder for investors, a biometric bracelet as insurance against deepfake – and other disruptive ideas could be heard by visitors of the Money Motion Student Hackathon, a unique event held at the Spark Event Spaces premises , at the Algebra campus in Zagreb, organized by the Algebra LAB.

The student hacking competition was held as part of Money Motion, the largest fintech conference in Croatia, which gathered as many as 700 participants. The decision on the best project was made by an expert jury consisting of entrepreneurs, members of the scientific community and professionals from the financial and insurance industries, whose members are: Hrvoje Josip Balen, member of the Algebra Board; Gordan Kožulj, director of the business consulting department, Deloitte Croatia; Ivana Vukov, special adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia; Zvonimir Oreč, CFO and member of the Management Board, Amodo; Robert Penezić, General Manager, Monri; Prof. Ph.D.Sc. Mislav Ante Omazić, EFZG; Renata Brkić, Managing Partner, Feelsgood Capital; Goran Kralj, member of the Management Board of PBZCroatia Osiguranje; Marijana Bačić, member of the Management Board and chief operating officer for business customers, Hrvatski Telekom; Ivan Šimić, Senior Manager, PwC SEE Consulting; Relja Marković, Managing Director, Digital Transformation, Addiko Bank and Ph.D. Mirko Talajić, Director of Analytical Systems Support Directorate and CDO, Hrvatska poštanska banka.

"With competitions like this one, we try to strengthen the relationship between education and the labor market and show our students how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset already during their studies. In today's time of rapid changes, it is young people who are the source of information and new knowledge about digital technologies, and at the same time their biggest consumers. In this way we encourage them to use this knowledge in an applicable way. It was an honor to be part of the jury and participate in deciding on all the inspiring ideas that we had the opportunity to hear today, and I am sure that many of them will very quickly develop into successful entrepreneurial stories," – said Hrvoje Josip Balen, a member of the Algebra Management Board.

The teams were mentored by Algebra's experts: "I am extremely pleased to see the enthusiasm of the students who approached the demanding challenges in front of them with utmost courage and professionalism. We tried to support them on this path and guide them towards the development of the idea in the direction of innovation, but also market sustainability, as a component that should not be ignored in business processes. Algebra LAB was conceived precisely as a bridge between science and entrepreneurship, a collaborative ecosystem where many successful business ideas and start-ups have matured, and with competitions like today's hackathon, we maintain the dynamism of cooperation between students and entrepreneurs", said Ph.D. Maja Brkljačić, manager of Algebra LAB.

The winner was the Cookie Monsters team, whose members Martin Majerić, Dino Pećarina and Margareta Zeko designed biometric technology applicable to devices worn on the wrist such as watches or smart bracelets, which serve as an identification factor when entering mobile banking applications and other financial digital channels which require additional user authentication, and which can serve as the first line of defense against deepfake technology.

The members of the winning team won a prize of 3,000 euros: "We decided to join the competition because it seemed like a great opportunity to learn something new and develop a good idea that might be implemented one day. We decided to take on this particular challenge because it is the area where we can bring the most innovation to the table, and we think we made the right choice. People are still not aware of the extent of the deepfake problem, every year the demand and consumption of deepfakes in the world grows by 400%, and this technology is growing especially fast in the financial industry" – emphasized Cookie Monsters team member Margareta Zeko.

The winners of today's competition can be considered all those who entered, because almost all teams achieved a certain number of points, which means that the experts liked them very much, concluded Ph.D. Mislav Ante Omazić from EFZG, who as the initiator of the hackathon and reflected on the importance of student competitions in innovation: "Communication between different professions is extremely important, and another thing is teamwork. The problems of the modern world are extremely complex and cannot be solved by the individual, especially from the perspective of competences. So it's good when they are different. Many young people will already work in teams at the beginning of their careers, however, group and team are not synonymous and it is necessary to learn a lot and work on developing collaborative skills. This type of competition pushes people out of their comfort zone, in which learning and progress is limited, from which it is important to get out and go through the zone of fear, and events like our competition make this possible."

"There is nothing more useful than encouraging young people to think in the context of entrepreneurial ideas, perhaps they are not exposed to this in schools and that is why universities that encourage this, like Algebra, are actually the right way to direct them to their further professional development. I personally got involved as a member of the jury in this project because I want to be part of successful entrepreneurial stories in Croatia, and Algebra certainly is," – said Gordan Kožulj, director of the business consulting department at Deloitte.

"Today we heard a lot of interesting ideas, and as a member of the jury, I tried to see that the idea was not only relevant, but also ambitious, because you should always reward looking outside the usual angle of things. The students are great and I believe they will achieve success in the labor market as well. Young people should be told that they should always believe in themselves and should not be afraid of innovation, everything can be improved, and success is guaranteed for those who are persistent" – said Ivana Vukov, special adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia.

"The students showed enviable knowledge, they showed good preparation, the amount of topics and innovations was great and I want to congratulate everyone once again for their courage in participating. Amodo as a company is present in the field of fintech and it is an integral part of our DNA" – said Zvonimir Oreč, CFO and member of the Management Board, Amodo.

"It was an honor to participate in this kind of competition, I'm glad to see young people with creative ideas, and I hope that we will organize more similar events in the future" – concluded Robert Perezić, General Manager, Monri.

The competition was intended for all students interested in learning how digital technologies are revolutionizing the financial industry and who are ready to demonstrate their knowledge in the field of application of new information technologies, fintech, artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain and other innovations in existing financial systems.

For more, check out our news section.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Despite the crisis, Croatian start-ups are recording constant growth with the support of investors and Algebra's incubator

March the 18th, 2023 - Algebra LAB, one of the oldest startup incubators in Croatia, provides young innovators with a symbiotic ecosystem in which business ideas are continuously maturing for the 11th year in a row.

Despite investors' caution towards risky investments, as much as 958.3 million dollars were invested in domestic start-ups in the first three quarters of last year alone – it was concluded at the Algebra startup meetup, which was held at Algebra's Zagreb campus, in the Algebra Spark Event Space.

Algebra LAB, as one of the oldest startup incubators in Croatia, has had an uninterrupted series of incubator generations since 2012, thanks to the systematic support available to them in the innovation ecosystem that combines higher education with entrepreneurship: 

“At Algebra LAB, we try to ensure that both sides profit symbiotically in development - our students from the fact that their incubator is located in the building where they study and listen to lectures every day, and that they can find themselves in the world of entrepreneurship in a short period of time, and our start-ups from the fact that some of their mentors and lecturers work in the higher education system, which means that they are constantly at the source of new knowledge and information. In such a collaborative system that combines cutting-edge innovation and science with entrepreneurship, we see the key to getting out of every crisis, of which there has been no shortage in the last ten years. Algebra LAB has spawned many successful entrepreneurial stories today – Farseer, Velebit AI, Sport React. We invite all those who are thinking about starting their own business and need support on the way to the realization of an innovative idea to join the new incubator generation for which the enrollment cycle starts at the end of the year," said Maja Brkljačić, head of Algebra LAB.

Startup Report magazine was also presented at the event. "The appearance of unicorns, Infobip and Rimac, as well as big exits such as Nanobit and Gamepires, and now Photomath, encourage the growth of investors' interest in Croatian startups, so last year a record number of startups received investments. However, due to the war in Ukraine and the hectic exit from the pandemic, investments are less than before, although the situation in Croatia is still very good. It was the second best year so far," said Bernard Ivezić, editor of the magazine.

Four new venture capital funds are coming to the Croatian market. In the next five years, the amount of money that will be available for start-ups will be 10 times higher than it was in the past period – about 300 million euros. A lot of money also means big problems for funds that have to start competing for start-ups, which makes the entire ecosystem quite dynamic and competitive, especially in an environment of crisis and economic uncertainty.

The impact of the economic crisis and the crisis caused by Russia's aggression against Ukraine on the investment climate is not negligible, which was discussed at the panel discussion, along with Maja Brkljačić, by Matija Nakić, the founder of the Croatian fintech Farseer, which flourished in Algebra LAB, Miryana Joksović, co-founder of Arcion Labs and member of the ACAP Board, and veteran of the Croatian startup investment community Vedran Blagus, principal of the oldest Croatian VC fund, South Central Ventures. Representatives of the start-up scene had the opportunity to hear first-hand useful tips for surviving a turbulent social and economic environment, as well as the importance of leadership from experienced start-up founders:

„In a crisis, it is important to always lead by example, and this is what the leaders of every start-up should focus on. Investors expect this period to last 24 to 36 months. It is the most difficult for seed stage startups that are not in the portfolio, because for them the risks are the greatest, as well as the dependence on investors. This is precisely why good networking with potential investors is most important – my advice is not only to look at them, but also at their portfolio companies and the companies they are connected to, because building that network of acquaintances is the key to future success," said Miryana Joksović from Arcion Labs and referred to the recent layoffs in the tech community: "Most of those who were previously employed in large companies can hardly adapt to the start-up culture, so the question is how to connect these talents to the start-up ecosystem because they are used to different work standards atypical for the dynamics of small entrepreneurs who are just starting to build their companies.

 The fact that every crisis, including this one, can be an opportunity was seen by Matija Nakić, the founder of Farseer, on her own example: "Our process of getting the investment was not dramatic and we managed quickly. Investments have slowed down if we look at the environment, while in the last two years there has been a lot of capital and there has been a significant jump in employment and funding in IT companies. I love crises and I think they are a good opportunity to rethink yourself and your business model. People who left large IT companies like Google will surely find a job quickly because they have excellent knowledge and will return to the ecosystem and bring this new knowledge to young companies. I believe that we have an interesting couple of years ahead of us, especially with the growing influence of AI."

"In 2021 and 2022, capital was cheap not only for start-ups but also for funds. In the last quarter of 2022, there was a significant drop in investment. There is money, the investments have been shaken, but they have not stopped" – emphasized Vedran Blagus from South Central Ventures.

Despite the data on the reduced investment wave as a result of global economic events, the panelists agreed that the challenging period facing the domestic and global start-up scene is only a prelude to the continuation of the prosperous period. Namely, start-ups now face new challenges in the form of investments in research and development, as the basis of new innovations that can help overcome the crisis:

"As far as the activities and interests of start-ups are concerned – there has been no reduction, in fact there are more of them than ever before. There is a large number of applicants and those interested in our Lab, and the so-called scene or material fatigue does not exist, according to what we see – and that is the reaction to the events and the applications themselves, you can see the liveliness of the scene. In Croatia, there are more and more investment funds that heal the wound of the lack of early capital, such as Fil Rouge Capital and South Central Ventures, which enable start-ups not to think about money, but about their product or service they are developing. I see no reason for concern for the Croatian start-up scene, except for the caution required when hiring new people – especially when changing culture and moving to scale-up" – said Maja Brkljačić, head of Algebra LAB, adding that the number of 500-600 of startups from the beginning of last year, according to some estimates, rose to as many as 900 as estimated at the end of 2022, thus signaling that the start-up scene is growing despite unfavorable circumstances.

At the event, two start-ups from Algebra's LAB (EcoWashers and TablePop) presented their innovative ideas to the public through five-minute pitches. EcoWashers allows the user to order a vehicle wash on a smartphone in a few steps, and through the dry ecological washing system, it uses a unique nano-technology that is safe for the environment and a minimum amount of water. TablePop is a platform that allows guests to order and pay contactless in restaurants by simply scanning a QR code. In addition to them, the start-up IoTaaP presented its innovations and experienced member of the start-up and technology community Ivo Spigel presented his new fintech project Pontyx to the attendees.

Algebra Spark Event Space and Algebra Spark Coworking, an innovative and unique space in the western part of the city, was introduced to the audience by Hrvoje Josip Balen, a member of the Board: "Unlike other similar co-working spaces, Algebra's rooms are specially designed and focused on business development and the creation of an entrepreneurial microclimate suitable for serious companies that focus on business growth. Algebra's innovative space enables companies to organize larger or smaller business events, lectures, workshops, as well as a number of other private or commercial events with all the necessary infrastructure. Interested companies and individuals can also rent additional space of over 12,000 m2 within Algebra Rent Space, which includes top equipment and technology with the aim of achieving the maximum level of functionality - through the synergy of office spaces with Algebra LAB, as a scientific research center intended for small and start-up companies."

Algebra's Spark Coworking Space is also used by Matija Matija, a young start-up who designed the Lanke website, which shows all available new real estate projects in one place. Matija reflected on his stay in Algebra's offices: "I was most impressed by the location, which suits me because I myself am in the western part of the city, and on the other hand, the quality and equipment of the office, which contains everything I need in one place. Last, but not least – I appreciate the peace that the office space offers, which I need to focus on work, which I'm not sure I would find in other similar coworking spaces in Zagreb."

Due to their focus on innovation in business, start-ups are one of the segments of the economy that will significantly influence the future development of the entire society, and their role is not only in their own progress, but also have the potential to significantly accelerate the growth of other economic branches. Today, start-ups are not limited only to the IT sector, but also appear in agriculture, hospitality industry, and banking, where they help accelerate the growth of entire ecosystems, and their incidence in Croatia is growing year by year, which, in addition to private investors, is mostly contributed by incubators such as Algebra LAB -a, who provide them with support in the early stages and beginnings of business ideas.

For more, check out our news section.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Zagreb Police Learning English for Smooth Communication with Tourists

March 18, 2023 - On Friday, the Zagreb police, in cooperation with the city's tourist board, presented an English language manual, as part of a project aimed at improving foreign languages and knowledge of the city of police officers who encounter tourists in their work.

As 24Sata writes, the project aims to improve foreign language competency related to police work, but also to the city of Zagreb and its historical, cultural sights, gastronomic offer, traffic and general information, so that the police officers can communicate with foreign tourists and help them feel good in Croatia's capital.

The project has been carried out continuously since 2018 as a form of partnership between the Police Administration and the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb, with previous successful partnerships for the "Advent" and "Safe Tourist Destination" projects, in which Croatian police officers conducted joint police patrols with foreign colleagues.

The final product of the project is a manual that was presented on Friday, called "Excuse me, officer, how do I get to St. Mark's square?", signed by Dora Fila Petković and Patrick Burton.

"This project is a true model of successful and fruitful cooperation for the benefit of the citizens and visitors of Zagreb, but at the same time an example of good practice and partnership between the police and the tourism sector for other cities that can apply this proven model in their area as well", said the State Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior affairs, Irena Petrijevčanin.

The State Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports Josip Pavić, congratulating all participants and attendees of the course, emphasized that it is a commendable project that will increase the sense of security for tourists in Croatia and provide added value to tourism in the country.

"We see on the ground that the relationship, communication and coordination with tourists by the officers of the Zagreb Police Department is at an enviable level and we hope that this project will be recognized by other counties as well2, said the director of the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb, Martina Bienenfeld.

Cooperation between the Zagreb police and the tourist board will continue in the coming period with the implementation of new courses in English, with a German course and the creation of a manual for that language following.

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

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Zagreb Protest for Croatian Doctors - What You Need to Know

March 18, 2023 - Today's Zagreb protest has been organized by the Croatian Medical Chamber, the Croatian Medical Union, the Croatian Association of Hospital Doctors, the Coordination of Croatian Family Medicine and the Initiative of Young Doctors after a survey showed the great dissatisfaction of doctors in public health, and their readiness to go on strike.

As 24Sata writes, Croatian doctors are dissatisfied because the Ministry of Health has not met their demands and is not solving the accumulated problems in the system.

Zagreb protest should be kicking off at Dr. Franjo Tuđman Square at 10:45 a.m. with a march along Ilica to Ban Jelačić Square, then St. Mark's Square. The planned arrival at St. Mark's Square is at 11:30 a.m., where the main part of the protest will begin at 12:05 p.m.

The organizers announced the largest protest of medical staff so far, expecting a large turnout from all parts of the country.

"The protest is not directed against anyone, it is a protest for better conditions for doctors, for a better health system and ultimately for patients. We invite the officials of the political parties not to come to Mark's Square tomorrow so that the protest is not politicized", said the president of the Croatian Medical Chamber Krešimir Luetić.

The protesters are asking the Prime Minister and the Government to urgently equalize the coefficients of the complexity of the jobs of specialists with narrow specialists, doctors in primary health care with hospital doctors, as well as to increase the coefficients for specialists by at least 10 percent.

They are also asking for the adoption of a law on the labor-legal status of doctors by the end of the spring session of the Parliament, harmonization of the work of doctors at all levels of health care with time-staff norms, and the abolition of "employee" contracts for doctor specializations.

They state that every third young doctor leaves the country, more than 50 municipalities have no primary care doctors, and the health system currently lacks 2,000 doctors and 4,000 nurses. Every third doctor in the system is over 50 years old, and patients have to wait up to 600 days for individual examinations.

Dissatisfied doctors emphasize overload and poor working conditions, inefficient management in the system, devastation of primary health care, non-existent health care reform and continuous ignoring of their requests.

They believe that their requests have exceeded the level of the relevant ministry, so they will send them directly to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the Government. The protest is taking place only a day after the key health laws were passed in the Parliament, which, according to the announcements of Minister Vili Beroš, will initiate a structural reform of the system.

In recent days, Beroš has repeated several times that the protest is legitimate, but it is not the way to solve the problem.

He said that doctors are protesting for their material rights even though, in the opinion of many citizens, they "live very well", that their incomes have increased by 43 percent since 2016, and more than 2,000 doctors have a higher salary than the prime minister.

He added that he does not deny that there are problems in the system, but, he says, they should be discussed.

"Good will is needed for an agreement, not a conversation with hidden intents, it is necessary to offer sustainable solutions", he said, warning of a sincere lack of desire and will to resolve things through negotiations and discussion.

Beroš was previously supported by the Croatian Medical Association, the Croatian Association of Family Physicians and the Association of Healthcare Employers (UPUZ). The director of UPUZ, Dražen Jurković, called the protest a "putschist method", and specifically questioned the appropriateness of the participation of certain associations that have public powers, alluding to the Medical Chamber.

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

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Croatia Inflation Rate for February Still in Double Digits

March 18, 2023 - Inflation in the Eurozone weakened slightly in February, the European Statistical Office confirmed on Friday, and price increases saw a slight slowdown in the European Union as well. The Croatia inflation rate for February, though, still placed the country among the Eurozone countries with a double-digit rate.

As Index writes, Eurostat confirmed the estimate of 8.5 percent growth in consumer prices in the eurozone in February, expressed by the harmonized index of consumer prices (HICP). In January, they increased by 8.6 percent.

Rising food and energy prices have been the main drivers of price growth

At the monthly level, consumer prices increased by 0.8 percent compared to January, when there was a decrease of 0.2 percent, Eurostat confirmed.

The main driver of price growth was the increase in food and energy prices. At the EU level, the harmonized index of consumer prices showed their growth in February of 9.9 percent compared to the same month last year, after a 10 percent increase in January.

On a monthly basis, prices rose by 0.8 percent in February, after a 0.2 percent increase in the first month of this year.

Croatia in the group of Eurozone countries with a double-digit inflation rate in February

Among EU countries that are not members of the eurozone, prices in Hungary increased by far the most on an annual basis, by 25.8 percent compared to last year's February. In Poland, the largest economy in that group, the prices increased by 17.2 percent according to preliminary data.

Among the eurozone members, the highest inflation rates were recorded by the Baltic countries, so in Latvia it was 20.1 percent, and in Estonia and Lithuania 17.8 and 17.2 percent, respectively.

Croatia is also in the group of eurozone countries with a double-digit inflation rate in February, at 11.7 percent, as indicated by the harmonized consumer price index.

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

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Vjekoslav Majetic of DOK-ING Named EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Croatia

March 18, 2023 - An evening of huge positivity at Lauba in Zagreb on Thursday, as Vjekoslav Majetic, CEO of DOK-ING, wins the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Croatia. 

About 5 years ago, soon after we moved to Varazdin, I got a phone call from Nenad Bakic, the serial entrepreneur who at the time was trying to resurrect the fortunes of the Varteks clothing company in the city. We met for a coffee, and after paying some very generous compliments about TCN, he asked how he could help with advice to grow my business. It was a very stimulating chat, and I appreciated all he suggested. He is a much smarter man than me. 

"And I want to show you a snapshot of Croatia that you have not seen, and one you will like and that will inspire you," he concluded. "I will arrange for you to come to the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in Lauba in Zagreb. "There you will see the future of Croatia, a room full of positivity, of entrepreneurs working for a better Croatia."

And so it was that I entered a room filled with 300 of the most successful people in Croatia, coming together for a gala dinner to celebrate the best of their own. That year, some chap called Mate Rimac won the award for Entrepreneur of the Year. The year after, Infobip. And soon after they became the first two Croatian unicorns. 


EY kindly invited me again this year for an outstanding event, as well as two other foreign entrepreneurs (both way more successful than me) - Polish EU funds specialist Natalia Zielinska from Ogulin, and some Dutch wannabe tomato grower from Split, Jan de Jong. 

As he does on occasions like these, young Rimac came over to greet in his words 'my favourite fat Brit' before telling me that not only has he ordered our book, Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners but that he sleeps next to it but has not had time to read it. Which prompted Ms. Zielenska to come up with the above quip, which tickled Mate enough to share it. 

But the night belonged to Vjekoslac Matejic, the pioneering CEO of DOK-ING. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are more details in the press release below. Many thanks to Bero Horvat and all the EY team for such as exceptional event once again. Hope for Hrvatska 2.0. Below, the moment Vjekoslav Matejic was pronounced the winner. 

Zagreb, March 17th, 2023. – Innovator, founder and owner of the DOK-ING company, Vjekoslav Majetić, won the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 award last night in Zagreb.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year celebrates unstoppable and daring visionaries whose success inspires others, creates new jobs, drives progress and redefines the way we live and work. DOK-ING, headed by the owner Majetić, has been saving human lives in dangerous environments around the world for more than 31 years with its innovations and new technologies. The company is present in 40 countries around the world and is a pioneer in the production of robotic and autonomous systems and equipment for special purposes. Vjekoslav Majetić, with a strong vision and indescribable will, designed and innovated the world’s most famous demining machine, which today dominates with 80% of the global market share.

Vjekoslav Majetić, innovator, owner and founder of the DOK-ING company, when receiving the prestigious awards said:

“It’s hard to get to the top, and believe me, it’s even harder to stay. I thank everyone who understands that we are part of the world scene, and that we are not just part of Croatia. Thank you to those who share with us the opinion that we must live in a more beautiful, safer and better world.”


In the company production hall, the so-called labyrinth of innovations and ideas, which is located in Zagreb’s Žitnjak, has produced numerous remotely controlled machines, some of which are electric, and behind which is a team of top engineers. In more than 30 years of business, the company has been recognized for changing the industrial landscape with an innovative approach and has won more than a hundred international awards in the fields of business, innovation and technology. The company’s agility has also been proven in numerous collaborations with business partners whose needs and wishes the company has responded to with tailor-made products. In the last few years, DOK-ING has launched an internal technological start-up that is working on the development of a new waste disposal facility in a very environmentally friendly way. At the same time, it is also economically profitable, considering the products it generates, which can be further used.

You can visit the DOK-ING website here.


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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

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Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.


Friday, 17 March 2023

Annual Medvednica Clean-up Campaign to Take Place this Saturday

March 17, 2023 - Are you looking for ideas on how to spend your early spring weekend in Zagreb? Shopping malls and restaurants might seem like a waste of time for the lovely, sunny days ahead. Ideally, you would spend some time in nature, physically active and enjoying the fresh air. What better way to do that than some hiking, and what better location than Zagreb's own Medvednica? And with the clean-up campaign that is going to take place there, volunteers and associations are making sure that it's nicer, healthier, and more enjoyable for us all.

As 24Sata writes, the spring clean-up campaign on Medvednica will take place on Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm in several locations, and a large number of hikers and associations will participate, it was announced on Thursday at the Medvednica Nature Park Public Institution.

The campaign will take place in four locations - Talani, Vila Rebar, Zelena magistrala (Ramp for Sopot Waterfall, Ponikve), and Sveti Matej in the Park area in Krapina-Zagorje County.

"By removing and disposing of waste, we will contribute to raising awareness and a positive attitude towards our Park, as we have been doing continuously for many years. Together, we can contribute to a more beautiful and cleaner environment, to the preservation of biodiversity, and to greater satisfaction of all visitors to Medvednica", said the director of the institution, Marina Popijač.

This week, in cooperation with Croatian Forests (Hrvatske šume), several locations were cleaned to prepare them for more efficient waste removal, including Vejalnica, the area near Pustakova street, Gornje Vrapče, the entrance to the trail to Ferendol and Mali potok.

The Medvednica cleaning campaign takes place every spring in partnership with Croatian Forests, the Croatian Forest Society, the City of Zagreb, the company Čistoća, and the Municipality of Gornja Stubica.

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

Friday, 17 March 2023

Wine Enthusiast Rates Croatian Wine as World Top with 99/100 Points

March 17, 2023 - Last year, one of the most influential wine magazines in the USA, Wine Enthusiast, rated the Croatian wine Ernest Tolj Dingač of the Saints Hills winery with a high 97 points, but this year's 99 out of 100 points put it at the very top of the world, joining the elite club.

As Punkufer writes, this recognition for this Croatian wine is all the greater because it is a local variety, Plavac Mali, which is increasingly recognized and appreciated globally. Small yields, great steepness, triple insolation (from the sun, sea, and stone), pure manual processing, and, along with limestone and red earth, an abundance of quartz are just some of the specifics of the unique terroir to which this wine owes its qualities. Special efforts are invested in the production as well. After the manual selection of the grapes, fermentation in barrique is followed by two years in oak barrels so that the tannins would further round out and soften. Then comes aging in special dark glass bottles decorated with the winery's motifs.

Ernest Tolj Dingač 2019 is a limited series of humanitarian wines, and the Saints Hills winery donates all the money from the sales to children in need. It was founded in 2006, and the vineyards in Dalmatia and Istria are named after the children of the owners Ivana and Ernest Tolj.

Adding to them the prefix of saints, the vineyard of St. Lucia in the Dingač region, the vineyard of St. Ante in western Istria, and St. Roko in Komarna are actual proof that this family shapes the gifts of the land in the best possible way - providing true wine lovers with unique tastes.

"Our hearts are full that every year, through our Saints Hills for Kids foundation, we can help those who need help the most. With great enthusiasm, we pick every grape of Plavac Mali to become humanitarian wine ET Dingač. A limited series of only a few hundred bottles are available to wine lovers every year with the same noble mission: to make the world a better place," said Ivana and Ernest Tolj, owners of the Saints Hills winery, and add:

"Just as we try to be an example to our children and help them on their life paths, we want to do the same for those children who do not have adequate care, protection, and love. That is why every drop of Ernest Tolj Dingač is woven with the greatest emotion every human needs - from the youngest to the oldest."

On the Saints Hills winery website, 99 of the total 800 bottles of Ernest Tolj Dingač 2019 are available for sale, and delivery is expected in June. All proceeds from this top Croatian wine are intended for the most vulnerable groups through the Saints Hills for Kids Foundation, just as in previous years.

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

Friday, 17 March 2023

Privileged Entry to US for Croatians with Global Entry Requirements Met

March 17, 2023 - This partnership allows low-risk Croatian nationals with prior approval to apply for membership in the Global Entry program and thus become trusted travelers to ensure faster entry into the US.

As 24Sata writes, Croatia has successfully completed all the necessary prerequisites to become a full partner in the Global Entry program, thus joining the growing list of 14 other partner countries in the Global Entry program, which includes the Republic of Argentina, the Republic of Colombia, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of India, the United Mexico States, the Netherlands, the Republic of Panama, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Singapore, the Swiss Confederation, Taiwan, the Federal Republic of Brazil, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Ministry of the Interior announced.

The full partnership of the Republic of Croatia in the Global Entry program followed shortly after the fulfillment of all political and security requirements for joining the American visa exemption program, of which the Republic of Croatia became a member in October 2021 after several years of joint preparations.

This partnership allows low-risk Croatian nationals with prior approval to apply for membership in the Global Entry program and thus become trusted travelers for faster entry into the United States for tourism or business purposes. Thus, citizens of the Republic of Croatia can start submitting requests to join the Global Entry program from March 16, 2023.

This announcement is another proof of the continued commitment of the Republic of Croatia and the United States of America to the further development of already excellent relations between the two countries by providing benefits to their citizens in a way that facilitates travel and trade while simultaneously strengthening the security of both countries, according to the Croatian Ministry of Interior.

The Global Entry program is one of the four branches of the Trusted Traveler program, which allows low-risk, pre-approved travelers to be screened more quickly when arriving at airports in the United States. Users enter the United States through automated kiosks located at numerous airports within the United States and at screening locations around the world.

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

Friday, 17 March 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Drink Driving, Austrian Brothels and Reforms

March the 17th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had an HDZ politician accused of drink driving, causing an accident, defrauding an insurance company and also seeing three police officers arrested alongside himself. On top of that, we've had more talk about healthcare reforms, resignations, and freedom for the Murter mayor who spent municipal funds in an Austrian brothel. It's been a busy week.


Goran Jandrokovic says the ''institutions are doing their job'' after an HDZ prefect was accused of driving under the influence, causing an accident, faking the circumstances of said accident and then defrauding the involved insurance company for over 13,000 euros

Another day, another very uncomfortable scandal to deal with for HDZ. On the basis of the criminal complaint filed by PNUSKOK, USKOK has issued a decision on conducting an investigation against six Croatian citizens (born in 1970, 1976, 1985, 1968, 1989, and 1970 respectively) due to well-founded suspicion of criminal offenses of influence peddling, the abuse of positions of authority and assisting in the abuse of positions of authority.

The police, as well as USKOK, published a statement about HDZ's Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect Damir Dekanic.

''In addition to faking the circumstances of a traffic accident in which he was involved in order to avoid attracting any negative publicity, he also caused damage to an insurance company and obtained an improper financial benefit for himself,'' they wrote, adding that he was over the limit (under the influence of alcohol) and that he was driving 87.9 km/h when the traffic accident occurred.

"The criminal investigation established the suspicion that the 53-year-old county prefect in question was driving the county's official car under the influence of alcohol (1.44g/kg) at an illegal and unadjusted speed of 87.9 km/h in the area of Zupanja and Cerna, shortly after midnight on April the 17th, 2022. As a result of the above, he lost control of the steering wheel in Cerna and the vehicle went off the road and hit the front end of a car which had county registration plates owned by a 47-year-old woman, parked in front of a house, and then into the fence of the said house," the police wrote.

The belief is that, in order to avoid misdemeanor liability and thus the negative publicity that this event would have for him as a county prefect, Dekanic asked the owner of the damaged vehicle not to call the police and that she'd be compensated for the damage caused. Dekanic also allegedly called his cousin to arrange with him to lie to the police. Then three police officers were also arrested related to the accident.

The accident took place near Cerna last year and the saga goes on, and there's little point in rehashing the entire thing in this article, but the story has ruffled feathers within HDZ and within Croatian politics in general, with Milanovic and Plenkovic of course butting heads over it. Parliament Speaker Goran Jandrokovic has also thrown in some of the most famous last words in Croatian politics - that the ''institutions are doing their job''.

This line has been made the brunt of many a joke, because it appears to be code for ''nothing will ever be done about it, but please stop asking about it''.  Jandrokovic's recent comments on the arrest of Vukovar-Srijem prefect Damir Dekanic were that he ''couldn't say anything new about it'' and that ''the institutions are doing their job,'' adding that ''the investigation will show what exactly happened. The barty bodies will make the decisions. We'll see what happens next.'' Rather vague, one might say.

"It's important that the state bodies can work freely without any pressure and they'll come to adecision in accordance with the law, and if there's been a violation of the law, he will be sanctioned," he added, reported N1. He says that he himself did not ask the prefect about the traffic accident in question. "I didn't ask him about it, but I heard from other officials that he said he wasn't driving."

Marin Miletic steps down as the vice president of Most/Bridge

Croatian Parliamentarian Marin Miletic has stepped down as the vice president of Most, claiming that he is resigning irrevocably from the position. He stated that he decided on this move as a sign of "personal responsibility for the complete failure in the elections for local committees in Rijeka". Here's his statement translated in its entirety:

Dear all, I entered politics with a clean face and with a sense of great responsibility towards my voters. My Istrian and Rijeka people, the inhabitants of Kvarner, elected me to the Croatian Parliament to fight for the freedom of every single person and for the dignity of every human being. I've done this since the first day of my representation and will continue to do so until my last day. My fellow citizens of Rijeka also trusted me in the local elections by almost 12%, and Most had more than 10% of the support of the people of Rijeka. In the city council, we've been working with both dedication and strength.

Because I personally believe in political responsibility, in the importance of taking personal responsibility - I'm hereby informing the public and my fellow citizens of Rijeka that I am resigning irrevocably from the position of vice president of Most due to a complete failure in the elections for the local committees in Rijeka. I'll continue to humbly work in the Croatian Parliament, in Kvarner, in my beautiful Rijeka and wherever the party wants me tobe, to build a more beautiful and just Croatia. However, I can't demand high standards of morality from other people if I don't behave like that myself. That ' why I'm irrevocably resigning from the position of vice president of Most.

Keep me in your prayers," Miletic posted on Facebook.

Murter Mayor Tonci Turcinov is enjoying freedom once again after having spent municipality cash in an Austrian brothel

Yes, you did read that correctly. Whoever said Croatian politics was boring?

Murter's mayor Tonci Turcinov was released from custody this past week and photographed in Murter, standing in front of the municipality building. Several days ago, his lawyer Fran Olujic confirmed for Index that he was then due for release, after spending almost a month in pre-trial detention due to possible influence on witnesses.

Turcinov was released from custody one day before the deadline because the investigating judge had already questioned all twenty witnesses. Pixsell photographers snapped Turcinov while he was throwing some rubbish away and was standing in front of the Murter-Kornati municipality building. The proceedings against Turcinov continue and he will await his final verdict in freedom.

After receiving an initial police report, USKOK launched an investigation and requested detention for Turcinov, who was arrested for alleged illegalities with which he damaged the Municipality of Murter-Kornati for at least 60,000 euros. The prosecutor's office previously reported that it suspected that Turcinov had used municipal money for private purposes from the beginning of 2018 all the way until the middle of 2022, that is, to pay for travel expenses and other services and expenses in Croatia and abroad. In April 2019, Turcinov paid with said municipality money in a brothel in Austria. He even allegedly shamelessly used the official card of the Municipality of Murter, Telegram revealed. He spent 1,560 budgeted euros in the Austrian La Cocotte club.

He claimed that he used the card in the club by mistake because it was similar to his private card and that he then personally covered the cost of the municipal delegation's accommodation in the Schlosswirt Ebenthal hotel in Klagenfurt in order to indemnify the municipality. The hotel disputed the authenticity of the invoice to Telegram, so the portal announced that Turcinov had falsified an invoice for the expenses at the hotel in order to cover up the expenses of the Austrian brothel.

After the affair broke out in the media, he announced that he was resigning from his position of councilor in the county assembly, but also that, with the support of his associates and fellow residents, he would continue working on the projects he had started in the Municipality of Murter-Kornati. In other words, he remained the boss despite the lurid accusations against him.

Finance Minister Marko Primorac says Croatia doesn't need to worry about its banking system

Minister of Finance Marko Primorac recently spoke about the new package of government measures and other topics as a guest on HRT's Dnevnik. Following the deeply concerning cases of Credit Suisse and the collapse of the American bank Silicon Valley, he said that we here in Croatia need not worry about the situation with the banking system.

"We've been continuously pointing out that the measures that end up being adopted must be targeted, short-term, aimed at those who need help the most, and this is how we've structured all of our packages of measures so far. The total amount of this package of measures, which is comprehensive and targeted at people who need help the most, as well as at business owners, stands at one billion and 700 million euros. In addition to ensuring the continuity of our energy supply and acceptable energy prices, it will also ensure a more peaceful life for our business owners and for people in general,'' Primorac assured.

''Income support, first of all for groups that need this help, pensioners, people who only receive the minimum guaranteed help, child benefit, long-term unemployment, vulnerable groups who need help... rest assured that we'll provide it,'' he pointed out.

"HEP has borne a significant burden of this crisis. Of course, we're going to do everything, not only to keep HEP on its feet, but also to ensure the continuity of the healthy and stable operations of HEP. This isn't in dispute, the funds are being provided for this in the budget but the mechanism by which we will do this it depends on several factors that we are now discussing,'' he said, adding that he is also discussing this with the EC.

''We will not allow HEP's operations to be jeopardised in any way, and its projects such as GoGreen or solar power plants will have the total support of the government,'' he emphasised.

He said that the condition of the state treasury is standard. "Revenues are of course growing, financial appetites - expenditures, state costs are growing, aid packages are also costing. The state's finances are stable. We've been monitoring the developments within the tax system and designing the tax policy, and we will continue to do so. Our tax system is consumption-oriented, which is why it's dominantly related to the collection of value-added tax revenue," he said.

"Income tax is first and foremost the income of local units. I'd like the questions to be directed towards them a little bit more. Opposition MPs should talk to their mayors, if they're ready to bear that burden, let them, for example, reduce the surtax to the minimum level. If they're able to do that, then we'll consider some further measures in the context of income tax relief," he said.

Minister Primorac also commented on whether we here in Croatia should be worried about the situation with banks - referring to the cases of Credit Suisse and the collapse of the American bank Silicon Valley from California.

"What happened in America was due to highly specific circumstances. The Croatian banking system is adequately capitalised - compliant with Basel standards, for example, this wasn't the case in America. In the context of the discussions we held at the Council of EkoFin and the Eurogroup, of course it was an issue that worried us. According to the reports of the European Central Bank and all relevant stakeholders, we can all remain calm for now," he concluded.

Health Minister Vili Beros claims that 2400 Croatian doctors take home a higher monthly wage than Plenkovic

As they should.

Health Minister Vili Beros was a recent guest of Croatian Radio's Interview of the Week. It was during that appearance that he pointed out that the goal of this government is to reform the healthcare system. He then explained the steps of the reforms that are currently being planned. He announced the presentation of new preventive health examinations for next Friday, after the first amended laws are submitted to the parliamentary procedure.

He said that he isn't at all interested in his level of popularity as a minister and that he's only interested in his efficiency and what he does for the betterment of the healthcare system. "I'm interested in my efficiency and functionality in relation to the healthcare system, primarily in regard to patients, and then for all other parts of the healthcare system," said the minister.

A lot of remarks are coming in about the inefficiency and problems within the healthcare system, which the minister himself says. He recalled that on the first day after he was appointed minister, he was a guest on the Croatian Radio programme and spoke about the healthcare system, which is flawed.

"However, the coronavirus pandemic came and we lost a year and a half defending ourselves against the coronavirus. During that period, and even after that, we also found strength, opportunities, and the will to establish a certain reform. The reform that is being planned, which is founded and which has its own content and meaning, is precisely there to eliminate all these allegations. There are also a number of complaints about it, but I can say that we've also received praise for the functioning of the healthcare system," he added.

When asked whether he would continue his mandate, Minister Vili Beros replied that it was a difficult question to answer, but that he would do his best to implement the elements of the reform.

"I'll do my best to implement these elements in the context of our reform that we set as a task. I will tell you this - strengthening public health is our priority," said Beros. The minister added that the next Friday will be the presentation of new preventive health examinations, and he also referred to health literacy.

"We're talking about the development of health literacy, we already have some concrete results, an agreement with the Ministry of Education on that path. We need to develop health literacy from a young age," said Beros, adding that national preventive examinations for the early detection of numerous tumors are all that we really do in the context of prevention.

Considering that this is a pre-election year, Beros was asked whether or not it was a bit late for any reforms, to which the minister replied that such thoughts are calculative.

"I don't have the time or ability, nor am I the kind of person to calculate. I really want to establish those changes in the healthcare system that will be positive for everyone, especially for patients. My personal mission is to bring the patient back into focus," he explained, adding that government determination on this issue is strong.

"Things can always be better, let's not forget that I'm a doctor myself, and of course I understand their fight for higher salaries. But you have to look at the broader context, we're in the post-pandemic era. Since 2016, their incomes have grown by 43 percent. I will clearly answer their requests and listen to all of their objections," he said, adding that he suspects that there are other motives in the whole story.

"I wouldn't go to a protest, that's not the way to solve this problem... In the end, there are over 2,400 doctors in Croatia who have a higher salary than the prime minister. And I won't even tell you how many of them earn more than me, which doesn't even matter. I'm only saying it in the context of talking about the material rights of doctors," he said.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section. Our Week in Croatian Politics articles are published every Friday.

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