Visiting Croatia from June 14-16, 2021, the World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, Ms. Anna Bjerde, had high-level meetings to discuss development priorities in Croatia, actions for addressing the COVID -19 economic and health crisis, and plans for supporting a green, resilient and inclusive recovery.
“The Government of the Republic of Croatia must be commended for its management of the triple shock that has affected the country: the health and economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the extensive structural and social damage caused by the March and December 2020 earthquakes,” said Ms. Bjerde. “The Croatian people need to be commended as well for coming together to help each other after the earthquakes and their ability to endure and respond in a time of crisis.”
Ms. Bjerde met with the President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Zdravko Marić, key representatives of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, and the Governor of the Croatian National Bank, Boris Vujčić.
Ms. Bjerde also used the meetings as an opportunity to introduce key staff to the government counterparts, Ms. Gallina Andronova Vincelette, the Regional Director for the European Union (EU) countries since May 2020, and Mr. Jehan Arulpragasam, the incoming Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia.
The COVID-19 crisis caused a sharp decline in the economic activity in Croatia, and has had a profound effect on health, jobs and livelihoods. In addition, the damages and losses of the two devastating earthquakes that struck the country in March and December 2020 have been estimated at EUR16 billion, totaling around 30 percent of the country’s GDP.
The parties discussed progress achieved on key parts of the crisis response package for the COVID-19 pandemic and the two devastating earthquakes. The Croatia Crisis Response and Recovery Program and Earthquake Recovery and Public Health Preparedness Project – together worth US$ 500 million, are aimed at mitigating the effects of the economic shock, advancing recovery, facilitating earthquake reconstruction and strengthening national systems for public health preparedness for pandemic outbreaks. The recently approved EUR 200 million, Helping Enterprises Access Liquidity Project (HEAL Croatia) will help preserve jobs and support household livelihoods through direct support to approximately 150 firms employing around 25,000 people. During the last 18 months, the Bank also prepared two Rapid Damage and Needs Assessments for both earthquakes to help quantify their impact and access EU Solidarity Fund.
An important component of this week’s discussions centered on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) recently adopted by the Government, which includes a bold, six-year agenda designed to close reform and investment gaps.
“Speedy and efficient implementation of the NRRP would enable Croatia to speed up its convergence to the EU, create better foundations for long term growth, and lead to a more resilient, greener, and equal society,” said Ms. Bjerde. “The World Bank is committed to continuing to support Croatia in the achievement of these goals.”
This is Anna Bjerde‘s first visit to Croatia. A Swedish national, Ms. Bjerde became the new World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia on May 1, 2020. In this position, she leads the World Bank’s strategic, analytical, operational and knowledge work in the region.
The World Bank has been a partner to Croatia for over 27 years. During this period, the Bank has supported more than 50 projects, worth almost US$5 billion, produced numerous studies, and provided technical assistance to help strengthen institutions and support the design of policies and strategies. The Bank’s current program focuses on mitigating the economic and social impact of COVID-19, post-earthquake reconstruction, transport, justice, innovation, business environment, land administration, science and technology, and economic development of the Pannonian region.