Government approves 120 million HRK aid for areas hit by earthquakes

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Wednesday HRK 120 million would be paid today to the areas struck by yesterday's earthquake, adding that EU aid was also expected in dealing with the damage and urging people to donate money via official channels due to the appearance of fake accounts.

"Reallocations were made in the budget yesterday," he told Croatian Radio, adding that HRK 110 million would come from the state budget and HRK 10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund.

"We'll work on finding additional sources of financing from European funds, the Solidarity Fund, via international financial institutions."

Maric said the arrival of the European crisis management commissioner today meant that Croatia would most likely receive another tranche from the European fund envisaged for situations like these.

He recalled that after the Zagreb earthquake in March, the EU stood by Croatia, with €684 million paid from the Solidarity Fund.

Maric said he still did not know if the reconstruction of the Sisak area after yesterday's 6.2 tremor would be covered by the Zagreb post-quake reconstruction law or if a new one would be drawn up.

He said the government today would open a State Treasury account for donations. He warned that some people were opening fake donation accounts and that he hoped the authorities would prevent that.

335 patients and social welfare institutions' residents evacuated

Beros expressed his condolences to the families of those killed in the earthquake and thanked all health workers and other services for everything they are doing for citizens of Petrinja, Sisak, Glina and other affected towns and municipalities.

The hospitals in Sisak and Petrinja which sustained heavy damage have the full support of the Health Ministry, and nearly all patients have been transferred to hospitals in Zagreb, the minister said.

He said that a plan for providing healthcare to the inhabitants of Sisak-Moslavina County was being drafted given the situation in hospitals there.

As for the coronavirus situation, Beros said that in the past week Croatia had again registered a significant drop in the number of new infections and active cases, which has halved compared to the week before.

We are also seeing a slight drop in the number of hospitalised patients, and the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine as a powerful weapon against the pandemic is a bright moment, he said.

"Every week 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are arriving, which enables the vaccination of approximately 2,507 people per day," Beros added.

The first batch of the Pfizer vaccine had 9,750 doses, and 7,864 people were vaccinated in the first three days, including 5,780 residents of retirement and nursing homes and 1,633 health workers.

The second batch of 7,800 doses arrived on Tuesday, and the vaccine was sent to five counties -- Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Zadar, Osijek-Baranja, Split-Dalmatia and Dubrovnik-Neretva.

Beros also said that the third week of collective testing with rapid antigen tests in retirement homes had ended.

There is a total of 7,973 staff members and 22,422 beneficiaries in care homes, and of the 5,492 (69%) members of staff that were tested, 247 or 4% were positive, while of the 4,304 (19%) tested residents, 498 or 12% were positive to coronavirus.

Minister Beros thanked all health workers and all those who have in any way helped health staff in the difficult moments of the fight against the epidemic.

He called on citizens to continue complying with the epidemiological measures and recalled that psychological help was available to citizens 24 hours a day by telephone.

EU-UK deal

"We can be pleased with the outcome in the given circumstances, and the three agreements provide the basis for further good cooperation with the United Kingdom," Grlic Radman said at a cabinet meeting, referring to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the Security of Classified Information Agreement and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

"Croatia retains the possibility of concluding any bilateral agreements with the UK in areas of interest while complying with EU law and the existing arrangements between the EU and UK," he added.

European Commission President  Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the agreements on Wednesday morning, while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to do so in the afternoon.

The UK Parliament is expected to vote on the agreements on Wednesday, while the European Parliament will do so in January or February. EU member states have approved the provisional application of the agreements.

The agreements come into force on 1 January 2021, and Grlic Radman will inform the Croatian Parliament of the deal at its next session.

New regulation on special tax on motor vehicles, prices expected to fall

The government adopted two regulations concerning excise taxes - one on the amount of excise tax on energy products and electricity and the other setting out the method of calculating special tax on motor vehicles.

The regulation on excise taxes on energy products and electricity remained unchanged and was only formally aligned with the excise taxes law that entered into force two years ago.

The regulation on the calculation of special tax on motor vehicles changed the exhaust gas measurement system, under which the value component of this tax was changed.

"The purpose of the new regulation is to rejuvenate the vehicle fleet and stimulate the purchase of new, safer and environmentally friendlier vehicles with lower CO2 emissions," Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said.

He noted that the average age of passenger cars in Croatia was 12.5 years, the average age of the entire vehicle fleet, including trucks and buses, was 13.8 years, while the average age of used cars was 7.1 years.

The new regulation will reduce the overall tax burden, as a result of which government revenues from special tax on motor vehicles will decrease by HRK 160 million. Vehicles worth up to HRK 200,000, which account for 75% all motor vehicles in the country, will be exempt from special tax based on the value criterion. The present value limit for exemption is HRK 150,000, applying to about 52% of new vehicles.

This is a second change to the special tax on motor vehicles. The first change was introduced in 2018 when the tax burden was cut by 32%, while this time it was reduced by between 15 and 27%, Maric said.

Text: Hina