Croatia decides to use next-generation EU loans

Zagreb (HINA) – Croatia will ask the European Commission for an additional 3.6 billion euros in the form of a loan under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) for projects in energy, water supply and drainage, education and reconstruction after the earthquake in 2020, the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list reported on Thursday. This information was confirmed to the daily by the Croatian Prime Minister’s special advisor for the economy and chief coordinator for the NRRP, Zvonimir Savić.

In addition to the existing 5.5 billion euros approved as grants, Croatia will have 9.1 billion euros available with the mentioned loan until the middle of 2026, when all investments and reforms must be completed. Perhaps the most strategically important of the projects that will be negotiated with the Commission and could be financed from the loan is the one related to gasification, that is, the construction of a gas pipeline from the LNG terminal on the Croatian island of Krk to Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Hungary.

About 800 million euros from the loan will also be used for existing NRRP projects. Because the GDP had grown, the grants for recovery and resilience were reduced from the originally approved 6.3 to 5.5 billion euros. (13 April)

Breton: Romania among the countries to increase production capacities in defence

Bucharest (AGERPRES) – The European Commission has identified 15 companies from 11 countries that could increase their production capacity for the defence industry. Romania is one of these countries, said European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, who visited two subsidiaries of Romania’s National Defence Company, Romarm.

“We decided, together with the Ministries of Defence and the European Commission, to launch an important tender, worth more than one billion euros, to buy the ammunition that is needed, and we want to do so with the defence industry in Europe,” Breton said in a conference at the end of the visit, noting that partnerships and joint ventures were encouraged in this context.

Breton explained that there were three pillars of support for member states and entities in relation to existing requests to supply ammunition to Ukraine, “The first is a billion euros that we are using from the European Peace Facility to reimburse member states that donate part of their own ammunition stockpile (…). The second pillar is another one billion euros with which we would like to launch a tender for European defence industry companies. The third pillar is to make sure that we can strengthen and increase the capacity of the defence industry to respond to these requests, and here I am about to finalise an instrument if we conclude that we need more financial support, including to invest in new production lines.”

The EU official added that he will, in the coming weeks, propose legislation to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with the aim of increasing the capacity to collaborate and to have a financial bolster to be able to offer grants to promising projects. (12 April)

Austrian government against “fair share” for Netflix & Co at EU level

Vienna (APA) – There has been a long-standing debate in the EU as to whether and how Netflix, Google and other internet service providers should be asked to pay more for their data-intensive business to internet service providers. In the discussion about “fair share”, Austria will in any case speak out against the introduction of a gigabit levy at European level, said the Austrian State Secretary for Digitalization Florian Tursky.

“For two reasons: Service providers could simply make their offers more expensive and consumers would then pay twice – through higher prices for services and through their internet contracts. I also see net neutrality at risk as a result of such an additional levy,” says Tursky, who received support from the Greens.

The warning did not apply to free services for end customers such as Google or YouTube, but to paid services such as Netflix, which would probably pass the additional costs on to consumers, the State Secretary said. According to the State Secretariat, consumer costs for the internet provider would not increase, but they would potentially have to bear the added passed on costs of content providers.

The EU Commission is currently issuing a public consultation on the fair share debate with a submission deadline on 19 May. There had been demands for such taxation since 2012, when the proposal was rejected as unfair and impracticable, explained Tursky. France and Spain are currently in favour of such a levy. Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Belgium, for example, are against. (8 April)

German Economic Minister: Stop trickery in sanctions against Russia

Berlin (dpa) – According to Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Habeck (Greens), the German authorities must take stronger action against companies in Germany that do business with Russia via third countries and thus circumvent EU sanctions. Since the start of the Russian war against Ukraine, a good 13 months ago, the EU has launched ten packages of sanctions against Russia, which include trade restrictions and other measures.

Habeck said that Germany could learn from Denmark, for example, in the fight against the illegal circumvention of these sanctions. Customs in that country were analysing trade flows and customs data very closely for anomalies. “If such anomalies appear, for example when a large quantity of certain goods that previously went to Russia is now suddenly to be delivered in pretty much the same quantity to another third country, that’s a reason to take a closer look.” As a next step, the Danish Customs office asks companies to explain the reason for the anomaly. “German foreign trade law also recognises such requests for information and these inspection powers. If this is used in a targeted way, we can strengthen the joint clout of our authorities,” said Habeck.

At the end of February, his ministry had proposed concrete steps to better counteract the evasion of sanctions. “We are currently discussing these in the Federal Government and with our EU partners,” Habeck said. (8 April)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.