Since its adoption, the Act on Nullity has caused controversy, with some Croatian scholars and judges expressing their concern about (for example) its constitutionality and contravention of EU law. While most judicial decisions made after the act's enactment have declared loan agreements which fall within the act's scope null and void, some Croatian courts have interpreted the act differently due to its ambiguity.
Four new exploration blocks in the Dinarides have been offered in the third licensing round for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Croatia. This recent licensing round of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency focuses on the central and southern regions. The deadline for the submission of bids is 10 September 2019 and the licences are tentatively scheduled to be announced in December 2019.
The Croatian Tax Authority has issued several relevant opinions regarding the taxation of virtual currencies. Since 2015 the Croatian Tax Authority, in line with the European Court of Justice's Skatteverket decision, has exempted virtual currency exchange services from value added tax, established relevant tax treatments for the mining and trading of virtual currencies and provided its opinion on payments in virtual currencies.
Virtual currencies and attempts to categorise them have attracted widespread attention. For virtual currencies to be considered electronic money under the Electronic Money Act, they must follow certain rules, including being stored electronically, representing a monetary value and being issued on receipt of funds. However, the Croatian National Bank has warned that trading and paying in virtual currencies cannot be considered payment services under the Payment System Act.
The current Act on Preventing Anti-money Laundering (AML) and Financing Terrorism does not regulate crypto-assets. However, the proposed new bill on Preventing AML and Financing Terrorism intends to regulate crypto-assets and require legal and natural persons providing exchange services for virtual and fiduciary currencies or wallet custodial services to comply therewith.
The second of three planned onshore licencing rounds for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Croatia is currently underway. Seven exploration blocks in southwest and central Croatia and central Slavonia have been offered in this bidding round. After the tender procedure has been completed and the most successful bidder has been selected, the Croatian government will issue a decision on awarding an onshore exploration and exploitation licence for each of the seven blocks.
The government recently adopted a number of amendments to the Act on Renewable Energy Sources and High-Efficiency Cogeneration. According to the government, the amendments aim to harmonise national law with the EU legal framework, introduce an integration process for eligible producers of renewable electricity and high-efficiency cogeneration on the electricity market and reduce the obligation on suppliers to purchase renewables at a regulated price that is higher than the market price.
The Act on Nullity of Loans with an International Element Concluded in the Republic of Croatia was created following a period of time wherein certain foreign credit unions continually granted loans to Croatian borrowers. As a result, some consumer organisations pushed to have such loans annulled in order to stop the ongoing enforcement procedures over Croatian borrowers' assets. However, concerns over the act have been raised, including the fact that it is unconstitutional and contravenes EU law.
The EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2) aims to enhance competition in otherwise traditional and closed industries. A draft of the new Payment System Act, transposing PSD2, was recently released for public consultation. The draft defines the information that banks must forward to third parties for each category of payment services and sets limits on forwarding more information than is expressly requested from a bank.
The European Commission's recent communication shows that only two member states have adopted the national legislation required to implement the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Others, Croatia included, are at different stages of the process. To meet the May 25 2018 deadline, Croatia should promptly address its national approach to open issues – in particular, its policies surrounding administrative fines.
Over the past few years, European and national institutions have warned about the negative effects of unfair trading practices in the supply chain. In order to tackle these and regulate the risk of abuse, several countries have enacted distinct trade laws. Croatia recently followed suit by adopting a new Act on the Prohibition of Unfair Trading Practices in the Business-to-Business Food Supply Chain. The act defines the concept of 'significant buyer power', as well as different types of illegal behaviour.
The Krk liquefied natural gas terminal project changed course when the government decided to construct a floating terminal instead of the initially planned land-based terminal. The reason for this decision was to make the terminal operationally faster and reduce costs, since it was clear that the deadlines for making the land-based terminal operation were unattainable. Since the deadlines for building the terminal are short, LNG Croatia is simultaneously undertaking several activities in order to meet them.
As part of its goals, the Act on Amendments to the Gas Market Act sets out a new gas market model. Under the new gas model, on receiving a proposal from the ministry and following approval from the Gas Regulatory Agency, the government will set the maximum price for gas, according to which the wholesale supplier must sell gas to retail suppliers for households. It remains to be seen how this new gas market model will affect consumers, the economy and the overall gas market.
The relationship between INA (the national oil and gas company) and MOL (Hungarian Oil and Gas Plc) goes back to 2003, when INA was privatised through a public procurement process. However, the Croatian government and MOL are in two international disputes over INA. Following a recent decision, the prime minister announced that the government will initiate the process to buy-out MOL's shares in INA.
Recent initiatives in the Croatian energy sector include the construction of the largest solar-powered irrigation system in Europe, which is already proving to be an ideal solution to water management in agriculture. Further, the government recently announced its plan to increase the renewable energy sources incentive fee. As a countermeasure, the government lowered the value added tax rate for electricity supply from 25% to 13%.
Participating countries at the recent Dubrovnik forum signed the Statement on the Three Seas Initiative, with the aim of connecting the north-south gas corridor, reviving cooperation between Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea countries and unifying the European energy market. One of the initiative's key projects is the liquefied natural gas terminal on Krk Island in Croatia, which will be the backbone of the new gas corridor to the Baltics.
In July 2015 the Competition Agency received an initiative to initiate proceedings against Ytong porobeton (YP) for alleged abuse of its dominant position. YP rejected all of the assertions against it, arguing that the relevant market had been incorrectly determined. Based on expert opinions, the agency concluded that YP was not dominant on the relevant market and thus that it had not abused its dominant position.
Key decisions affecting the Croatian energy sector were rendered in a recent government session, including the expedition of the first of four phases of the floating liquefied natural gas terminal on the island of Krk, and the approval of production-sharing agreements for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons for six onshore blocks in northwest Slavonia. The decisions were issued during one of Croatia's most turbulent political periods.
The Renewable Energy and High Efficient Cogeneration Act recently came into force, replacing a confusing and complicated legal framework which was discouraging to investors. The act is a huge step forward for renewable energy projects in Croatia. In addition, Croatia is implementing its EU objectives successfully and is following the global trend of switching to a clean energy economy.
In January 2016 non-partisan Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic formed a new right-wing government. As 2015 was an election year, almost all major projects – most of which had been initiated by the former left-wing government – were halted and related decisions postponed until after the elections. It remains to be seen which energy projects will be supported by the new government.