Government to Accept All Demands Pension Referendum Initiative

By 19 September 2019

ZAGREB, September 19, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday said that the government had decided to uphold all the proposals put forward by the "67 is too much" initiative and that it would be forwarding a bill to parliament to amend the Pension Insurance Act and return the age pension eligibility to 65 and that it would propose amendments to the Labour Act that will enable people to continue working if they wish after they turn 65.

The government will send a bill to parliament for amendments to the Pension Insurance Act. We will uphold all the proposals by the referendum initiative and amend certain aspects of the Pension Insurance Act and forward it to parliament, Plenković said at the cabinet meeting on Thursday without making mention of union demands for a referendum to be held regarding their demands.

He recalled that during the spring the government was confronted with activities by the "67 is too much" civil initiative and after the signature collection campaign it was established that more than 700,000 citizens had signed the petition for a referendum on the pension act.

The government, Plenković said, heard the message by Croatian citizens even though it considers that remaining longer in the workforce and being eligible for a pension later is not an objective circumstance that is specific to Croatia but to others, it is a fact that some people wish to work after they turn 65.

That has been shown by the 13,500 pensioners who returned to the labour market and there are more of them in various branches, he underscored.

"Hence, in addition to a bill on amendments to the Pension Insurance Act and, respecting the will of citizens, we will also propose amendments to the Labour Act and other laws that regulate the status of certain categories in such a way that people who wish to work after the age of 65 can do so," he said.

That will create a balance between the fundamental objective of the civil initiative and union demands and those citizens who supported the initiative with their signatures while at the same time providing the possibility for citizens who wish to remain in the workforce to do so, Plenković believes.

"The amendments will positively impact employment and the revenue and expenditure side of the state budget and the amount of pension allowances for future beneficiaries. We will be expanding the labour market and creating new opportunities on that market and we are listening to the message of 700,000 people but also offering a chance for all those who wish to work longer and remain on the labour market," he underlined.

He recalled that his government had embarked on a comprehensive pension reform so that the pension system can be adapted to demographic challenges and changes on the labour market and economic circumstances.

After Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced on Thursday that the government had decided to uphold all the demands by the "67 is too much" union initiative and forwarded amendments to the Pension Insurance Act to parliament, MP Peđa Grbin (SDP) and Nikola Grmoja (MOST) said that the government had capitulated.

"This is the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government's capitulation because it has realised that its proposal was bad and detrimental for citizens and that it would be defeated and that it is better to give in than to bash your head against a brick wall," Grbin said.

Naturally, we are pleased that the government has done that, Grbin said, because its proposal would have been disastrous for pensioners and citizens.

Asked to comment on the unions' insistence to conduct the referendum, Grbin said that if the referendum question is "Do you want a law like that to be adopted," and if parliament adopts it in the meantime then the referendum question is pointless.

In his comment of the government's decision, Grmoja said that "this was the only possible move considering the large number of signatures - admitting defeat and accepting the union demands." He believes that it seems to him that everything is possible in an election year despite the government's claims, and that the pension system won't cave in after all.

Goran Aleksić of the SNAGA party does not think that Plenković's announcement is a pre-election trick. "Why would we go to a referendum if this is simpler. I would do that too if I were Plenković," said Aleksić.

More referendum news can be found in the Politics section.