ZAGREB, Dec 31, 2020 – Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday he was looking at 2021 with hope and optimism, saying the discovery of the COVID-19 vaccine should make it unlike 2020 and that he expected Croatia’s economy to grow 5% in 2021.
Speaking to the press, Plenkovic said there was “a global consensus and everyone is crying out for a year like 2020 never to happen again.” He cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said 2020 was the most difficult year in her 15 years in office.
“Then we, who also had an earthquake, can say that it wasn’t the simplest for us either,” Plenkovic said. “I think we have shown toughness, resilience, a desire to overcome all crises and help every Croatian citizen and do all we can for the whole system to function while dealing with what’s happened to us.”
Plenkovic highlighted dealing with the health crisis, ensuring financial stability, jobs and the functioning of the economy, and keeping a relatively normal way of life. “I think we have succeeded in that.”
The prime minister said he was looking at 2021 with hope and optimism. “I think we need that.”
The vaccine has turned a new leaf in the fight against COVID-19 because we will no longer deal with the disease by utilising so-called anti-epidemic measures and variants of the 14th century quarantine, he said.
“Now that we have a vaccine, the situation seems different,” he said, adding that the most important thing was to make it through the winter months when the virus was at its deadliest.
By spring, he said, if we are disciplined and keep the declining infection trend, the arrival of larger quantities of the vaccine will decrease the pace of the disease. “And then we’ll have a situation in which 2021 certainly shouldn’t be like 2020.”
Plenkovic said he expected the economy to grow 5% next year, the start of all activities related to the National Recovery and Resilience Programme, the absorption of EU funds, reforms and new projects.
He said the money ensured (over €24 billion, €6 billion in grants from the Next Generation EU instrument) would be “invested in expenses, programmes, projects and development, the green transition, the digital transition” to “kickstart reforms and invest in the economy.”
He said a large portion of money from the National Recovery and Resilience Programme would go to the private sector.
There are four complementary documents – the government programme, the National Reform Programme, the National Development Strategy and the National Recovery Programme, Plenkovic said, adding that funds had been ensured for the next decade “in an extraordinary measure.”
Over the next three years Croatia is also absorbing funds from the 2014-20 EU budget, he said.
A journalist remarked that all this was ambitious. “What else should we be but ambitious? We didn’t run in the election to do nothing,” countered the prime minister.
He noted that after the May 2021 local elections, Croatia would not have another vote for three years. “So, we have stability, a strong parliamentary majority which is functioning excellently, and we expect everything to be done that is key after such a crisis. This is a chance for a new approach, a new outlook and a different Croatia in the fourth decade of its democracy. A better one.”