Saturday, 8 May 2021

Proposal for 77 Croatian Reforms and 152 Investments Heading for Brussels

May the 8th, 2021 - The plan for many different Croatian reforms and investments, packaged as the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Plan, is on its way to the European Commission's door in the Belgian capital.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Plan, the key to an enormous 49 billion kuna intervention injection, has been completed and it is time to send it to Brussels, with a final agreement set to take another ten days. The more than 1,100 pages list 77 Croatian reforms and 152 investments that the Government, with the practical absence of public debate, envisioned as a springboard for recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the transformation of the domestic economy.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric stated that the focus was on grants and that the core of the document was Croatian reforms and both public and private investments. The plan is designed for five components and one initiative - 26.2 billion of the total amount (54 percent) should be poured into the economy, 4.36 billion (10 percent) into public administration, judiciary and state property, education, science and research should get an injection of 7 .5 billion (15 percent). Then, for the labour market and social protection, another 2.09 billion (4 percent), for the healthcare system 2.56 billion (5 percent of the amount). A large amount of these funds, 5.95 million, is intended for building renovation initiatives.

GDP growth

The effect of this Croatian plan this year should be reflected in 5.2 percent of real GDP growth, which would have stopped at 4.9 percent without it. Next year, growth is expected to reach 6.6 percent instead of what would have been 5.2 percent without such a plan, in 2023 it should reach 4.1 percent instead of 2.7 percent. In 2024, Croatia's GDP should grow by 3.4 percent instead of 2.5 percent, and in 2025 by 2.7 percent instead of 2.5. It should be noted that the predictions of the acceleration of the economic momentum are based on the (rather optimistic) assumption of a successful withdrawal of this money, although Croatia has so far withdrawn less than half of the total funds available to it.

Brussels has already warned that payments will be conditional on the fulfillment of very specific goals, if a member state fails there is a (theoretical) possibility of payment at the discretion of the EC, which, despite the offer, should not be counted on.

About two thirds of the funds will go directly to investments, and one third to desperately needed Croatian reforms. What the funds won't and cannot be used for is "patching up any holes", such as resolving debts in the healthcare sector. The government has begun work on a rebalance in that regard which is planned for early June.

"The purpose of implementing Croatian reforms is to influence the better use of factors of production, those that create added value," Maric added. In particular, education reform would improve the quality of human capital by including children in occupations where there are needs in the labour market. In the judiciary system, reforms will be aimed at greater efficiency and the faster resolution of cases in order to improve the business climate. Referring to the segment of state property, Maric pointed out that many companies are owned by the state. From his words, one can read the good news for the stock market is because “activation can directly contribute to the revival of the capital market”.

Looking ahead...

After the European Commission gives its consent over the next two months, the draft plan will be sent to the European Council, and by the autumn, Croatia could receive a six billion kuna advance (13 percent). Implementation begins at the end of the year.

Commenting on the criticism that insufficient funds are directed to the private sector, which should be the engine of recovery and job creation, Maric reiterated: ''There's no need to divide investments into the public and private sectors because public investments also mean the participation of the private sector. The greatest value of the document is looking ahead, as resilience in the long run means implementing 77 Croatian reforms.''

For more, follow our politics section.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Another Fee Abolition to Bring Relief to Croatian Business Owners

May the 8th, 2021 - Croatia is very well known for its various fees and infamous red tape, but with the recent aim of relieving Croatian business owners of these burdensome restraints, more and more fee abolitions are being reported. Another fee abolition is set to relieve Croatian business owners of as much as 600,000 kuna in total.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the Croatian Government submitted a proposal to abolish the obligation to pay administrative fees for intellectual property rights back in an urgent parliamentary procedure and within the context of the country's entry into the European exchange rate mechanism. The move was also made to come into line with the requirements of the Action Plan for the Reduction of Parafiscal Fees from back in May 2020.

According to the estimate presented to the Croatian Government by the Minister of Science and Education, Radovan Fuchs, this would result in a relief for Croatian business owners worth 600,000 kuna annually. While the fees for individual Croatian business owners of course vary, it was concluded that the fee represents an administrative burden to all, regardless of their respective company fees, and that its abolition will achieve a significant simplification of business conditions across Croatia which is something that has been and continues to be very desperately needed.

In addition to the abolition of administrative fees for intellectual property, Croatian business owners also have to pay compensation for costs in the field of intellectual property protection, which, despite this very welcome move, they will have to continue to pay. The explanation of the move also states that the proposed law doesn't substantially change the valid legal regulation regarding fees in the field of intellectual property rights, but is merely a formal and technical change of those regulations.

Therefore, while being a step in the right direction, this measure doesn't have a significant effect on the Croatian state budget either, and the visible effect in the government is that by abolishing this fee, it will achieve the increased interest of micro and small Croatian business owners to use the system of protection of industrial property rights when conducting business.

For more, follow our dedicated business section.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Zagreb Brewery Releases Hidra UP on Croatian Drinks Market

May the 8th, 2021 - The Zagreb Brewery (Zagrebacka Pivovara) has released another of its creations onto the Croatian drinks market - meet Hidra UP.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the well known Zagreb Brewery has launched yet another brand new non-alcoholic drink onto the Croatian drinks market, Hidra UP. It is a refreshing drink made from orange, lemon and lime fruit juice and barley malt with very few calories, which quickly restores a person's consumed energy reserves. In addition to natural ingredients, Hidrs UP contains minerals (Mg) and vitamins (C, B6, B5, B3) that help reduce fatigue and exhaustion.

Given the ever-increasing pace of life and daily responsibilities, people rushing around trying to juggle the varying stresses of life often don't have enough time to ensure that they have a varied diet and the necessary rest. In these situations, they use every opportunity to make up for lost time. For business people, students, travellers, professional drivers and everyone else who lives the fast pace of life, the new kid on the block, or more specifically the Croatian drinks market restores their lost energy.

The Zagreb Brewery, which has become more and more well known on both the Croatian and the international scenes of late and is the leading brewery on the Croatian drinks market, continuously monitors trends and launches new products depending on the wishes and needs of consumers. After the launch of the isotonic drink Hidra ISO, the company is once again making a breakthrough on the Croatian drinks market with this new addition.

"After isotonic drinks found their consumers in the sports community, we wanted to offer a wider audience something new, something that will make their day easier and aid them in maintaining the necessary concentration. We believe that our audience will recognise the quality of this drink and that Hidra UP will soon become a favourite additional source of energy for all who need it in the dynamic pace of life,'' said Ana Sebih Pinjuh, the Zagreb Brewery's marketing director.

For more on Croatian drinks and everything else created in this country, follow Made in Croatia.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

New Appeals Complicate Situation Surrounding Peljesac Bridge Construction

May the 8th, 2021 - New complaints are set to further complicate the already lengthy saga surrounding the Peljesac bridge construction process, despite the fact that the building of the bridge itself has been going to plan even with the coronavirus pandemic having an influence.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Austrian company Strabag and the Italian company Astaldi not only appealed to the State Commission for the Control of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM) but also sued the Administrative Court for rejecting their respective appeals. The public tender for the supervision of the works on the Peljesac Bridge construction process was slowed down by numerous complaints and appeals. Dalekovod and Strabag both issued appeals, writes Vecernji list.

Then came the tenders for the construction of the bridge's access roads. For these two jobs, the Duboka - Sparagovici section and the Ston bypass, as well as the Spragovici - Papratno - Doli section, a fierce battle was fought with appeals and complaints being issued between Strabag and the Greek company Avax. In the end, each won one of these tenders.

This isn't the end of the saga of appeals being lodged regarding tenders for the implementation of the road connection project in the extreme south of Croatia. Last week, DKOM received two new complaints related to the wider Peljesac bridge construction project, related to tenders for equipping access roads to Peljesac bridge itself as well as to the Ston bypass. Bids in this tender with an estimated value of works of 83.1 million kuna excluding VAT were opened up back in December 2020, and Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads) decided to award the job to Telur in April, whose bid of 72.2 million kuna was deemed the most favourable.

Other bidders weren't satisfied with the decision, therefore, Dalekovod and Strabag both filed complaints with DKOM last week. Dalekovod's offer was worth 79 million kuna, and Strabag's came with a price tag of 82.9 million kuna. The Spanish company Comsa, on the other hand, offered to equip the access roads to Peljesac bridge for 107 million kuna, and its offer was rejected because it offered an equivalent but different lighting system for all tunnels on the access roads instead of the previously designed system.

Back at the end of 2019, Hrvatske ceste announced a tender for the supply and equipping of access roads to both Peljesac bridge and the Ston bypass, which was divided into two groups - group A referred to power supply, and B to equipping. However, in regard to that tender, the contractor was selected only for the power supply, and the job was won by a consortium of companies - Valard, Elektrocentar Petek, Tehno-Elektro and Dalekovod. The value of their joint bid is 69.4 million kuna, while the estimated value of works for this group was actually 52.1 million kuna.

The only bid received for the equipping of Dalekovod and Elektrocentar Petek amounted to 99.8 million kuna, while the estimated value of those works for this group was 42.3 million kuna. As it was 135 percent higher than the estimated value of the works, the bid was of course rejected, but also declared unsuitable because different equipment was offered than the type specifically required in the tender documentation.

At the beginning of 2019, Hrvatske ceste announced a tender for the supply and equipping of only the Duboka - Sparagovici section (38.2 million kuna), but the amounts in all bids received for this tender were too high, so the tender was cancelled. After that, in order to speed up the process, Hrvatske ceste decided to go with one tender for the supply and equipping of all of the sub-sections of access roads to Peljesac bridge.

For more on the ongoing Peljesac bridge construction works, make sure to follow our lifestyle section.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Oleg Butković Presents Reforms And Investments For Transport Sector

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021 - A part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) refers to developing a competitive, energy sustainable and efficient transport system, and it is valued at HRK 5.5 billion, Minister of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković said on Friday.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan totals HRK 47 billion and comprises five components, with the economy component valued at HRK 26.2 billion. That component includes a sub-component on developing a competitive, energy sustainable and efficient transport system, with investments worth HRK 5.5 billion, recalled Butković.

The plan, he said, foresees the continuation of significant investments in modernising transport infrastructure with the aim of developing a sustainable transport system and stimulating the development of smart solutions as well as  reforming rail, road and air transport as well as maritime and inland navigation.

We are prepared to make these reforms and that is an opportunity to continue the current strong investment cycle in transport infrastructure, which amounts to more than HRK 25 billion. With the resilience programme we are continuing that investment cycle which will amount to more than HRK 30 billion by 2030, particularly in railway projects as well as all the other projects, said Butković.

He announced that reforms would include amendment of the Roads Act by 2026 to create conditions for the interoperability of electronic road toll systems and improve road safety.

Answering reporters' questions, Butković said that the Hrvatske Autoceste road management company is well on its way to advertising a tender for a new contactless toll system at all motorways in the country.

He estimates that the tender could be advertised in September or October and that the new system will most likely mean the introduction of a digital vignette.

The plan also foresees the adoption of new laws on maritime zones and sea ports, on inland waterway transport and ports, and on regular and occasional sea transport to ensure uniform implementation of regulations on public port management.

The plan also includes the construction and reconstruction of railway infrastructure, the modernisation of sea ports, the procurement of three passenger ships and three catamarans, new ferry boats, trams, buses, a new photovoltaic power station, and the construction of a new Level 5 autonomous vehicle, said Butković.

According to Butković, HRK 2.8 billion of the HRK 5.5 billion planned to be invested in the transport system would be allocated to the private sector.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Friday, 7 May 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Says Gov't to Continue With Active Employment Policy

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who is taking part in the Social Summit in Porto, said on Friday that his government would continue with its active policy towards workers because it considered workers to be important.

"After four years we are again focusing on social rights, workers' protection, social inclusion and dialogue, equal opportunities, the possibility to help our workers across the EU through the principle of European solidarity and to save jobs through cooperation," Plenković told reporters upon arrival in Porto, Portugal, where the summit is taking place.

Portugal, which has been chairing the EU since January, is hosting the summit at which the leaders of the EU's 27 member states will try to put into practice a document called "The European Pillar of Social Rights", agreed to four years ago.

Among the 20 principles stated in the document, are training and lifelong learning, gender equality, fair pay and workers' participation in talks on forms and conditions of work.

"In that regard, Croatia has done quite a lot in the past 15 months," said Plenković.

"We have saved jobs, supported workers, as well as employers. Numbers speak for themselves, today we have more insurees than we had last year, and what is more important, we have more than we did in 2019," he said.

"We have invested more than €10 billion in workers' wages, secured funds for those who had to work shorter hours, as well as for fixed costs, making it possible for more than 120,000 employers to keep their workers and pay wages," he said.

Croatians, just like citizens of other EU countries, have felt the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Thousands of workers have lost jobs and many fear poverty.

According to figures form the Croatian Employment Service, the unemployment rate in Croatia is 9.3%.

"The state has exempted many from paying both taxes and contributions. We will continue with an active employment policy," Plenković said.

Portugal's Socialist government in January set strengthening social rights in Europe as on of its priorities during its EU presidency, which ends in June.

The European Commission in March presented a plan under which the number of poor people in the EU would be reduced by 15 million by the end of 2030.

The forum in Porto focuses on that plan and PM Plenković is expected to participate in a panel discussion on that topic later in the day.

The Porto summit is taking place one week after International Workers' Day, when workers across Europe once again pointed out their difficult situation.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Friday, 7 May 2021

Zagreb Stock Exchange: Indices Close Day in Opposite Directions, Stronger on The Week

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021 - The main Zagreb Stock Exchange indices closed the day in opposite directions on Friday compared to the previous day, while on the week they recorded a strong growth of 2.2%.

The Crobex index increased by 0.25% to 1,935.53 points, which is its highest level since 21 February 2020.

The Crobex10, however, dropped by 0.18% from Thursday to 1,194.07 points.

Thanks to increasing for five straight days, the Crobex ended 2.22% higher on the week.

The Crobex10 increased by 1.37% on the week.

Regular turnover amounted to HRK 9.5 million, about HRK 300,000 more than on Thursday.

The highest turnover of HRK 4.4 million was generated by the Atlantska Plovidba shipping company. The price of its shares closed at HRK 338, up 6.62% from Thursday. Atlantska Plividba has been among the most traded  stocks for several weeks, marking a strong increase in price. At the start of this week, its price jumped by 12% and then increased at a rate of more than 6% for three days, rising by more than 30% on the week.

The Podravka food manufacturer generated a turnover of HRK 1.3 million, with the price of its shares increasing by 0.34% to HRK 588.

The Riviera Valamar hotel group's stock also crossed the million kuna mark with a turnover of HRK 1.2 million. Its price also increased, going up by 0.35% to close at HRK 29.

A total of 45 stocks traded today, with 20 of them registering price increases, 12 recording price decreases and 13 stagnating.

(€1 = HRK 7.532309)

For more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić Says Croatia Trying To Humiliate Serbia With Participation in Kosovo Force

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021- Serbia wants to have good and fair relations with all neighbouring countries but Croatia's actions and statements by its officials are not expressions of respect for Serbia but an attempt to humiliate it, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Friday.

In a comment on the statement by Croatia's foreign minister that Croatia would increase the number of its troops in the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) because that was important for maintaining peace in the region and on disputes triggered by Serbian Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin's statements, Vučić said that Croatia could have refused to serve in KFOR but opted to do the contrary "in order to additionally humiliate Serbia."

Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated earlier in the day that Serbia's strong reaction to the planned deployment of a greater number of Croatian troops in Kosovo was "a hysterical speculation" intended to divert attention from the introduction of the Bunjevci dialect as an official language in the northern Serbian town of Subotica, which it considers an attempt to fragment the Croat community in Serbia.

The Serbian president today wondered "why anyone would need to participate in the KFOR mission or brag about it", alluding to Croatia's involvement in the international peace mission.

"They could have refused to take part in KFOR, but they intentionally made that decision to additionally humiliate Serbia. We get the message," Vučić told Serbian reporters during a visit to Obrenovac.

In a message to Serbs in Kosovo, he said that they "should not worry" and that he would soon talk with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, stressing Serbia's commitment to avoid conflicts and maintain peace.

"My message to all those who think that there will be new Storms, new pogroms and expulsions - I guarantee that that will not happen," Vučić said in reference to the 1995 Croatian military and police operation that liberated areas previously held by local Serbs who rebelled against the Croatian authorities.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek: Concept of HRT Management Inaugurated During Zoran Milanović's Premiership

ZAGREB, 7 May (Hina) - Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said on Friday that she was shocked by President Zoran Milanović's attack on the HRT public broadcaster, adding that she had always stood up for press freedom.

"The government has no ambition whatsoever to influence any media outlet in Croatia. Quite the contrary, I believe that we strengthen democracy and all the values in society if we try to ensure conditions for reporters to do their job professionally and without any pressure," Obuljen Koržinek said after a ceremony of opening a library in the town of Delnice.

She condemned Milanović's statements in which he attacked an HRT correspondent in Split, refusing to answer her questions and saying that the HRT was not a public broadcaster but was serving the interests of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

"I think that Milanović is the last person who can call out anybody," Obuljen Koržinek said, stressing that the concept and legislative framework for the HRT management had been inaugurated during his term as prime minister.

She went on to say that in her capacity as the minister of culture and media, she had always stood up for the autonomy of the media, notably reporters.

Union leader: Milanović attacks journalists who are not responsible for HRT's policy

Croatian Journalists' Union leader and HRT reporter Maja Sever said on Thursday that the reporters whom Milanović verbally attacked earlier in the day were not responsible for the public broadcaster's editorial policy and that he was among those who had failed to ensure HRT's autonomy. 

Also on Thursday, the Journalists' Union and the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) branch at the HRT condemned Milanović's statements, but also noted that the HRT under current director Kazimir Bačić was not an independent public service and that the government led by PM Andrej Plenković was responsible for that.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

 

Friday, 7 May 2021

GONG Criticises Parliament For Not Publishing Information On Voting

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021 - The Croatian Parliament is the only parliament in the European Union that, on the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic, has not been publishing reports on the voting of MPs for a year, the non-governmental organisation GONG said on Friday, considering this to be an attack on democracy.

"The epidemic has seriously affected the democratic standards in the work of the Croatian Parliament. It is unacceptable that since March 2020 and the declaration of the state of the pandemic, the Sabor has denied the public key information on the work of lawmakers, hiding behind the epidemiological measures and the shortcomings of the electronic voting system, which is designed for use only in the main chamber," GONG said in a statement.

The governing parties are relying on a slim majority of 76 MPs in the 151-seat Parliament, and the information on how each lawmaker voted on a bill is of great interest to the public, it noted.

GONG said that Parliament has been neglecting the basic democratic standards in adapting to the epidemiological measures, recalling that the Constitutional Court had found the provisions of Parliament's Rules of Procedure limiting the number of MPs at plenary sessions to be unconstitutional.

It said that after the Constitutional Court ruling Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković had announced a possibility of forming a task force to draw up amendments to the Rules of Procedure, but that six months have gone by since then and there has been no mention of amendments any more.

GONG appealed to Parliament to start looking for a way to regain the public confidence it has lost and urged MPs to demand greater accountability from Parliament.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

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