Telecoms operating in Croatia outraged by 6-pct fee

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Three companies offering services in mobile telephony in Croatia -- Croatian Telecom (HT), Vipnet and Tele2 Croatia -- have expressed shock and disappointment at the government's decision to extend the payment of a six-percent fee on services in mobile telephony until Croatia's entry into the EU, set for 1 July 2013.

The three companies issued separate statements in which they warned that the reintroduction of the fee, which had been annulled by the previous government, would affect the investment potential of the telecommunications sector with indirect repercussions on the country's Gross Domestic Product.

They said that the connections between economic development, society and developed telecommunications were the reason why the European Commission opted against additional taxes on the telecom sector.

Vipnet said that it was shocked by the current government's decision to reintroduce the six-percent fee, a measure which had been seriously criticised by Europe when the previous government enacted it.

The government led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic on Thursday moved a draft law stipulating that mobile telephony operators would continue paying a six-percent fee for services until 1 July 2013. First Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic said that the revenues from those fees would be HRK 300 million annually. Cacic said that mobile telephony companies operating in Croatia posted profits between HRK 13 and 15 billion, but they decided not to apply the European Commission's order on equalising roaming charges and charges for roaming in Croatia were three to four times higher.

The six-percent fee had been imposed by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government in August 2009 as one of the anti-recession measures. The HDZ later decided to annul that measure as of 1 January 2012.