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Commission approves Croatian plans enabling €197 million of investments to extend #IstrianY motorway



The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a Croatian plan to prolong the Istrian Y motorway concession agreement between Croatia and the company Bina-Istra. This will allow €197 million of new investments by the concession operator to go ahead, while limiting distortions of competition.

The Istrian Y motorway is a 145-kilometre long motorway linking the Istrian region with the rest of Croatia. The motorway is operated under a concession agreement from 1995, which was awarded to the company Bina-Istra until 2034. In June 2020, Croatia notified to the Commission a prolongation of the concession agreement until 2039. The prolongation will allow Bina-Istra to finance the construction of a second carriageway (one more lane in each direction) between Vranja Interchange and the Učka tunnel/Kvarner portal - an 8km stretch on the north-eastern side of the motorway.

The aid takes the form of a prolongation of the concession. This will allow the €197m investment, which will mainly be used to construct a new 5.63 km-long second tube to the Učka tunnel, which is necessary to meet the minimum safety requirements, as well as several new viaducts, underpasses and overpasses. Bina-Istra will also renew the Kvarner rest area.  The Commission examined the measure under EU state aid rules on services of general economic interest (SGEI) and EU public procurement rules, notably the EU Directive on the award of concession contracts (Directive 2014/23/EU), according to which companies can be compensated for the extra cost of providing a public service on certain conditions.

The Commission found that, under the Croatian plan to extend the Istrian Y motorway concession agreement, all compatibility conditions are fulfilled. The prolongation of the concession is proportionate to the amount needed to finance the required works and Bina-Istra is not overcompensated. The Commission concluded that the measure will promote growth and unlock investment, without unduly distorting competition and trade between member states in line with EU state aid and public procurement rules.

On this basis, the Commission approved under EU State aid rules the Croatian support through the prolongation of the Istrian Y motorway concession. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.56832 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.


#Coronavirus response: €135 million of Cohesion policy to strengthen the health sector and support the economy in Croatia



The Commission has approved the modification of the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion in Croatia redirecting almost €135 million of Cohesion policy funding to help the country tackle the effects of the coronavirus crisis. In particular, €50m of EU funds will serve to purchase medical and protective equipment for over 1200 hospitals, other health institutions and elderly homes, while Croatian SMEs will benefit from almost €85m for continuing their operations and saving employment.

In addition, the programme will temporarily benefit from 100% co-financing from the EU budget. Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira said: “Cohesion policy is playing an important role in the response to the pandemic and prompting a sustainable way to recovery. Thanks to the joint and swift efforts of the Croatian authorities and the Commission, these resources are providing much needed relief and support to the country's health sector and economy.”

The modifications are possible thanks to the exceptional flexibility under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+), which allow member states to use Cohesion policy funding to support the sectors most exposed to the pandemic and its economic consequences, such as health care, SMEs and labour markets. More information is available here.

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MEP protests with Croatian farmers



Ivan Vilibor Sinčić MEP held a protest with Croatian farmers in front of the Government building today (10 SEptember) Sinčić and his sympathizers brought a van full of watermelons in front of the government building, which they threw in front of the entrance to the building. We remind you that farmers decided to protest due to, as they say, the unequal position of Croatian farmers on the market.

Sincic, who climbed on the roof of the van, warned that the broken watermelons represent "hundreds of thousands of other watermelons and other fruits and vegetables that will be plowed or destroyed this year" because imported products, often of lower quality, have flooded the Croatian market and systematically destroyed domestic production.

"Fairy tales that we hear on television from the Minister of Agriculture and earlier from the former Minister of Agriculture and various other ministers do not work in practice," Sincic said.

The protest could not be avoided even by the ministers who started arriving before the government session.

"We call you to urge for us farmers. Only Croatia is doing nothing, all other countries are protecting their producers," protester Marina Galovic told Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.

She offered the minister a watermelon, but Maric refused.

"The minister did not want to take the watermelon. Taxes and contributions were paid on that watermelon. I guess out of humiliation. You eat what we produce and you humiliate us. It's not just us, it applies to all industries," the indignant protester said after the meeting with the minister.




Best regards,

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#Coronavirus - Germany issues travel warning for parts of Croatia




Germany issued a warning against travel to parts of Croatia on Thursday (20 August) as Europe’s largest economy battles to contain a rising number of coronavirus cases during the summer season, write Caroline Copley, Michael Nienaber and Andreas Rinke in Berlin.

The German foreign ministry advised against travel to the regions of Sibenik-Knin and Split Dalmatia, which are popular with tourists, after the public health agency declared them coronavirus risk regions, making tests for returnees mandatory.

The number of new cases in Germany has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks. On Thursday, the number of confirmed cases climbed by 1,707 to 228,621, marking their biggest daily increase since April 26.

Imported cases of the coronavirus have risen to 39% of overall new infections in Germany this week, up from around 30% last week.

Croatia is the source of the third-highest number of infections among people returning to Germany, after Kosovo and Turkey, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Concern is growing that people may be getting infected while visiting family members in those countries.

Davor Bozinovic, Croatia’s interior minister, said a ban on nightclubs staying open beyond midnight would likely be extended and added: “Less than 1% of tourists got infected (in Croatia).”

Statistics from the health ministry in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and hit relatively hard by the pandemic, found more than a third of returnees who tested positive for coronavirus between July 1 and Aug. 16 came from Kosovo, with Turkey in second place at almost 20%.

Those returning from more traditional holiday countries, such as Spain and Greece, made up just 2.5% and 0.5% of positive cases in the state, respectively.

Germany also urged people not to travel to the Valcea region of Romania, but removed a warning for the regions of Ialomita, Mehedinti and Timis. It also lifted a travel warning for Luxembourg.

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