Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Might Krapinske Toplice's Toplice Hotel Finally Get a New Buyer?

January the 26th, 2022 - The Toplice Hotel in Krapinske Toplice has been through the ringer and waiting a very long time for a buyer. Could it finally have a new one? Maybe.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, after the long-term plans for the Chinese investor to implement the announced project of re-doing the Toplice Hotel in Krapinske Toplice failed, this hotel in continental Croatia could finally get a new buyer.

As Poslovni dnevnik has learned, the sales process with a broad and public marketing campaign back in September 2021 was started by Colliers. As is already more than well known, the Spa Hotel is owned by the Spring spa Hotel, whose founders are a Chinese company representing Yongdong Wu and CSEBA, a business association that connects China with the countries of Southeastern Europe, including the Republic of Croatia.

In addition to the public media campaign, Colliers also advertised the sale of the Toplice Hotel on its website, sending the Colliers Newsletter out to more than 3,000 companies as well as directly contacting the target list of potential buyers.

“We've received offers from several interested buyers. The hotel has not been sold yet, but we're in an advanced stage. Krapinske Toplice is a well-known thermal spa and one of the most beautiful corners of Hrvatsko Zagorje. It is interesting to note that Krapinske Toplice has a less pronounced seasonality of arrivals and overnight stays than destinations on the coast. The Toplice Hotel has great potential primarily due to its location in Krapinske Toplice but also because of the spatial plan that allows for an increase in its capacity. After the renovation and market repositioning, we believe that the hotel can do great business,'' they said from Colliers.

In addition to the above, they see Croatia's entry into the Eurozone and Schengen as an advantage, which will have a positive effect on the future business of the hotel as well as on the entire health tourism sector.

In addition, investing in real assets is an excellent shield against inflation, they pointed out, but so far they cannot reveal who the interested buyers for the Toplice Hotel currently are, or whether the right one has already been chosen.

For more, check out our business section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Croatian 2022 Nautical Tourism: Record Charter Season Ahead?

January the 26th, 2022 - Could Croatian 2022 nautical tourism be excellent this summer season? It seems as if Croatian charter companies have good reason to expect a record season, despite the pandemic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, judging by the last tourist season and the current state of reservations, Croatian 2022 nautical tourism could result in record traffic, but not without some accompanying challenges.

One of the challenges will certainly be disrupted supply chains due to which there will be no new vessels, but Croatia has a comparative advantage because it has a relatively young fleet. Taking everything into account, charterers should finally try to come to their senses and stop lowering their prices to the limits of profitability, especially in the post-season, which is currently filling up rather well indeed in terms of bookings.

This is the message of Selma Cmelnik, the director of the Charter.hr portal, on the occasion of the publication of the analysis of the charter market in 2021, a year which, despite pandemic-induced conditions, was extremely successful for the Croatian nautical tourism segment.

Although there's somewhat more caution in the pre-season, trends still provide a sense of hope and optimism, but the charter still lacks better strategic planning and unified statistics, believes Cmelnik.

"Boat rental reservations in Croatia for the summer are going very well at the minute, so far everything indicates that Croatian 2022 nautical tourism could hit the records. Currently, the months of July and September appear to be the best, and September has traditionally become a very popular month for sailing, and there are more and more guests.

During the coronavirus pandemic, this segment has proven to be very resilient and desirable to guests, and it’s time to sort out that market, introduce some digital tools, and start thinking in line with trends.

An example is the month of September, a month in which prices are significantly lower than they are in the month before, which is one legacy of the past that is slowly changing in the charter segment, and so profitability is falling. With the increase in supply over recent years, the dumping of prices has appeared in nautical tourism, which should now stop, because the demand is strong,'' pointed out Cmelnik.

This was shown last year as well, as stated in the analysis of the Charter.hr portal. Although it started relatively late in early May, the charter season last year achieved some truly outstanding results, with high occupancy of accommodation from June all the way to the end of October 2021.

In the charter season of 2021, 3.1 million overnight stays were realised, equal to about 90 percent of the arrivals recorded back in pre-pandemic 2019, with a reduced fleet of about 500 vessels when compared to the pre-pandemic year. Therefore, with the increased demand, the capacity was also quickly filled up.

''The arrival numbers of guests from certain markets have doubled compared to 2020. The traditional markets of Germany, Austria and Slovenia continued to show their loyalty in arrivals, as did the Czechs and the Slovaks. That said, last year also saw the largest number of guests from the United States to date. We can rightly speak of a kind of discovery of Croatia as a nautical destination for guests from America,'' noted Cmelnik.

It is predicted that charters and nautical tourism will be on the rise across all spheres precisely because of the easily sustainable safety and privacy parameters. Looking at the bigger picture, nautical tourism saw its opportunity, both because of the delayed bookings in 2020 that shifted to last year, and because of the flexibility that charter companies have shown. The biggest change that stood out were inquiries for longer-term rentals, ie the amount of time that guests wanted to spend on board increased.

There are many parameters that the current charter statistics don't actually record, in addition to being partially unavailable, warned Selma Cmelnik, who is looking forward to the opening of new databases announced by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure for this year.

“The eCrew system, which is integrated with the eVisitor system, published by the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ), gives us data only when guests are actually in Croatia. Charter companies need to review the trends before guests do arrive so that they can more easily plan their sales and marketing strategies for the season and during the season,'' believes Cmelnik, who is actively working on the availability of this data so that the market can be better researched and monitored.

For more, check out our travel section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Value of Bills and Receipts Issued in Croatian Tourism Sector 219% Higher

January the 26th, 2022 - The value of bills and other receipts issued in the Croatian tourism sector for 2022's maiden month of January seems to promise a good year ahead.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, across all economic activities registered in the fiscalisation system last week, the value of fiscalised bills and receipts increased by 16 percent compared to the same comparable week back in 2021, and by eight percent compared to the same period in 2020, according to data from the Tax Administration which was published on Monday.

From the 17th to the 23rd of January, 2022, the total value of fiscalised accounts across all industries reached 3.3 billion kuna, which is 16 percent more than was recorded back in the same period last year. At the same time, the number of bills issued in general increased by 20 percent.

The number of bills and receipts issued in the most important activity in the fiscalisation system jumped by as much as seven percent - wholesale and retail trade, the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, while their value was higher by 8 percent. Last week, 23.5 million bills/receipts were fiscalised in trade, reaching a grand total of 2.3 billion kuna.

When it comes to the Croatian tourism sector, more precisely the umbrella covering the fields of both catering/hospitality and tourism - activities which include the providing of accommodation and the preparing and serving of food, fiscalised bills/receipts stood at 341 percent more, with 4.8 million of them issued, and their value increased by a very encouraging 219 percent, reaching a massive 216.9 million kuna in total.

It's worth noting that in the same sense regarding the Croatian tourism sector, from the end of November 2020 and throughout January 2021, due to the severely unfavourable epidemiological situation, stricter measures were in force, including the suspension of the work of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants.

This recent announcement from the Tax Administration also compared last week this year with the same week back in 2020, which is a month or so before the pandemic hit Croatia, 4 percent fewer bills/receipts were issued, but their value was 8 percent higher.

For more, follow our business section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

OLT Osijek to Transform: Museums, Sport Incubator, Olympic Swimming Pool

January the 26th, 2022 - Eastern Croatia is often (very wrongly) overlooked, and the City of Osijek is one town that is making a stand in several ways when it comes to turning its image around. The old OLT Osijek is set to undergo a transformation, with a unique sport incubator, museums and even an Olympic swimming pool thrown in.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the praiseworthy revitalisation project of the OLT Osijek area, one of the largest projects being implemented in Osijek-Baranja County and in the City of Osijek, is still waiting for its visible construction phase to begin. It will most likely two more years before a large area in the very heart of Osijek is turned into a large construction site.

Therefore, the focus is on key activities that will enable this in connection with the development of the Urban Development Plan, which will be a prerequisite for defining the content in this area, which is the responsibility of the City of Osijek.

As part of the project entitled "The preparatory documentation for the strategic project for the revitalisation of the brownfield OLT Osijek area" in the amount of 2,777,500 kuna, and co-financed by the European Union (EU), conservation documentation also needs to be prepared.

The urban plan

This is the basis for the preparation of the urban-conservation base, which should be incorporated into the necessary spatial planning documentation. Conservation documentation, in addition to the catalog of all buildings, also includes various studies of research works and recordings of the existing condition for the buildings - these are the foundry with a lathe, an office, an administrative building, a tool shop and a water tower.

According to a request from Osijek-Baranja County, after the Urban Development Plan is drawn up and made, the project documentation will need to be prepared, and according to county prefect Ivan Anusic, they want to revive the OLT Osijek space which is located almost right in the city centre.

"In the immediate vicinity of the University Campus, OLT Osijek will receive additional support in terms of the scientific work needing to be done because our plan is to create a Science Research Centre, then a sports incubator where experts will work with children from an early age to guide them to the sport that suits them best, both according to their individual physical predispositions and according to their personal affinities.

There will also be support for the families of young athletes, as we've repeatedly witnessed that the top athletes we can truly be proud of in this county are the product of our own efforts and work, as well as family sacrifice. Our goal is to institutionalise this type of support,'' Anusic pointed out.

According to him, the construction of an Olympic swimming pool, which the City of Osijek currently lacks, is planned along with a number of halls, while the sport incubator will be the first of its kind in the wider area, so the new purpose of OLT Osijek will be of great importance for all of Eastern Croatia.

"It's also known that Osijek has a long tradition on the cultural scene, but in recent years there has been a lack of space for the development of alternative types of art. The plan also includes museums, an amphitheatre and various other content that will be generated in the time ahead as something which is necessary to improve the economic, scientific, social and cultural development of the city and the wider county,'' said County Prefect Anusic.

One of the basic preconditions for the realisation of all of this is the gift contract concluded last week between the state and this county for very valuable property that previously became the property of the state through their purchase in the bankruptcy of Osijek's failed metal company.

This is an area which boasts an ​​abandoned and unused industrial complex, spanning a total area of ​​59,046 m2, and the plan is to be implemented over several phases of design and construction. The first stage of project implementation refers to the economic content, which consists of several components, while the second stage of the project is related to incentive housing for 1,600 inhabitants, or 380 apartments in total.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Blue vs. Red: Should Croatia Finally Change its Passport Colour?

January 26, 2022 - TCN intern Jacob Rukavina explores why Croatia should change its passport colour from blue to red. 

In August, I left my home in Vancouver to begin two years of graduate studies in Sweden. While the program itself was enticing, it was not the primary reason I moved to the land of IKEA and pickled herring. For those who may be unfamiliar, university studies in Sweden are free. Any citizen of the EU/EEA is entitled to fully state-funded education. Luckily for me, I had just received my first Croatian passport a few months earlier after a long and complicated application process. So, passport in hand, I packed my bags and got ready for a new life in Scandinavia. 

The day I arrived at Arlanda International (Sweden's largest airport), I was brimming with excitement. After almost two years of lockdowns, quarantines, and travel bans, words cannot describe how ready I was to be out in the world again. Except now, as a proud EU national, I was free to move around Europe at my leisure. Growing up, I was always jealous of the privileges that most EU citizens still take for granted. Faster security checks, shorter queues, and the right setup shop on a whim in some of the world's most famous cities, an EU passport carries more privilege than most other travel documents. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, after years of paperwork and red tape, I felt like I was finally living out my dreams. And for a short 16-hour flight, I was. Unfortunately, reality cleared the stars from my eyes before I even made it to baggage claim. 

After collecting my things and making my way to passport control, I was surprised to see the confusion on the officer's face as I approached her booth. "This line is for EU/EEA citizens." She explained. Equally confused, I held up my travel document so she could see the words "Europska Unija" written in silver foil letters across the cover. She quickly realized her mistake. "Ah yes, Croatian passports are blue." And after a quick glance at the picture page, she waved me through with no further hassle. It was a far cry from the glamourous entrance I had pictured in my mind, but hey, I'd made it into Sweden. No harm, no foul. 

This experience got me thinking. Despite nearly a decade of EU membership and countless opportunities to join the burgundy family, why is the Croatian passport still blue? I had never really thought about it before. Surely, it would be easier for Croatians to be quickly recognized at border crossing like our Finnish or Luxembourgish counterparts.

So, I did some research. As it turns out, this choice was intentional. As reported in a previous article, in 2015, the government chose not to change the passport colour for fear that it would be associated with the old Yugoslav travel document, opting to include only the ‘European Union’ banner on the cover. Ok, case closed, right? The history is too complicated, and Croatian passports shall forever remain lone specks of blue in a sea of red. 

Well, in my opinion, I hope not, and here’s why.

Despite the symbolic ties between communism and the colour red, all other formerly communist EU members have changed their passport booklets to fit within the Union’s standard design. Even Slovenia, a country that also suffered under Titoist Yugoslavia opted to keep with the colour scheme. Moreover, the dictators of old do not hold a monopoly over an entire palate. As one of Croatia’s national colours, red is immensely emblematic of Croatian national pride and heritage. Anyone who pays attention during the World Cup or the Euro knows just how proud Croatians are to wear red, especially when it comes in the form of the šahovnica, the infamous checkerboard that adorns every jersey in the country.

In the thirty years since independence, Croatia has undergone a significant transformation. The government has successfully rebranded the country, earning this Adriatic paradise a position amongst Europe's most desirable destinations. Even more recently, Croatia has made considerable leaps in foreign policy. In the past several months, Croatian citizens have gained total freedom of movement in Switzerland and access to the United States visa waiver program. No simple feat on either front. With eurozone and Schengen membership expected by the beginning of 2023, Croatia has completely redefined its position on the world stage. Updating the passport would serve as an appropriate way to mark a complete transition into Europe’s innermost circle.

This is not to say we should ignore history. Any new design proposals should not hark back any semblance to the documents issued by the previous regime. Instead, new booklets should incorporate features that reflect Croatia's natural beauty, culture, and rich history. A passport should embody the people who carry it. Perhaps the government could follow in Norway's footsteps, opening a design competition for locals to submit ideas and concept art. Many modern passports include artistry between the pages as an improved security measure, making fakes harder to duplicate. Plitvice, Šahovnica, Pula Arena, there is no shortage of culturally significant locations and figures to draw upon for inspiration. The creative possibilities are limitless, leaving plenty of room to ensure that any new design represents the strong and independent nation that Croatians have worked so hard for.

Switching the passport to red may seem insignificant and unnecessary to some. But in the wake of increasing political instability, this simple demonstration of pro-European leadership would be an important show of support. Despite the recent shift of many governments towards more Eurosceptic parties, Croatia has stood out as a balanced and steadfast advocate for the EU. Aligning the passport is naturally the next step as Croatia enter's Europe's inner core. There is no better expression of national pride than showing solidarity with your closest allies.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Two Hours Apart, Or Is It? How COVID Put Distance Between London and Croatia

January 25, 2022 - During the Croatian Homeland War, there was a very poignant documentary in the UK about Croatia, titled Two Hours From London, addressing the humanitarian and cultural atrocities happening only two hours flying time from London. Without delving into the topic of human tragedy, I'm using this example to highlight that the authors of the documentary wanted to convey a message that London and Croatia were indeed so close. That happened nearly 30 years ago. 

Today, it seems to me that London and Croatia are further away than those two aforementioned hours. I am a British-born Croatian who grew up in Croatia and is now settled back in the UK. As a student, I envisioned flying back and forth between Zagreb and London a lot. Until COVID changed that. Travelling these days between the two destinations requires multiple steps in preparation pre-and post-flight. And that's only if we're lucky that our flight doesn't get cancelled or rescheduled. A passenger between the two destinations must continuously be checking complex rules written on respective governments' web pages in order to be fit-to-fly.

Moreover, travel expenses go beyond the ticket price. To enter Croatia, one is allowed to enter so long as they possess one of the following: proof of vaccination (no older than 365 days), a negative COVID antigen or PCR test result (no older than 48 or 72 hours respectively), or a doctor's certificate of recovery from COVID. Of course, all passengers have to fill in an Enter Croatia form. 

All international arrivals to the UK must adhere to a different set of rules, which also continuously change. Let's just make a point that the rules among England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are different. As of recently, fully vaccinated travellers to England do not need to take a COVID-19 test prior to arrival. One can choose to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test upon arrival to England. Things get a little trickier if the lateral flow test shows positive: one will then need to self-isolate and book a PCR test. Either one of the tests must be booked before the arrival to England. Mind-boggling, doesn't it?

To conclude: there is no longer quick city-hopping between London and Zagreb. Travel requires research, planning, and commitment these days. It is only for the most determined travellers who can afford the newly required travel “luxuries” - my student budget doesn’t exactly allow for those! 

I am now trying to reassure myself with the fact that if I don’t travel I am actually being a responsible citizen on many levels: I do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic internationally nor do I participate in increasing a carbon footprint! However, I do long for the times when travel is easier again so I can go to Croatia to give my grandparents a quick hug and to jump over to Zagreb or Hvar to visit my friends. 

For more updates on international travel news, check out our dedicated travel section.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Who Votes for Sanctions against Dodik is Croatian Traitor, Milanović Says

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Milorad Dodik is Croatia's interlocutor and should not be subjected to sanctions, while Bakir Izetbegović "is buying time" so that elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be held under the election system which discriminates against Croats, Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday.

"Dodik is not an ethnic nationalist, he's not a chauvinist, doesn't spread ethnic hatred," he told the press about the Serb member of the BiH Presidency. "He is an interlocutor."

Milanović said he was against the EU imposing sanctions against Dodik like the US did. "If someone from Croatia votes for those sanctions, for me they will be a traitor. Then I will represent Croatia in the European Council."

As for Izetbegović, leader of the largest Bosniak party in BiH, Milanović called him "a time thief" holding a dialogue with Croatian representatives and then not honouring what had been agreed.

"Time is passing, the election is coming and will be held under totally untenable rules," he said of a general election BiH is due to hold in October.

"The Croats will be robbed" unless the electoral system is changed to prevent the Bosniaks from electing Croat representatives in the highest state bodies again, he added.

Milanović again commented on the 9 January observance of the Bosnian Serb entity's day, reiterating that it's "a bad date" as horrible crimes were committed after it on the territory of the present-day entity called Republika Srpska.

"That will haunt them as a dark shadow," he said, calling the choice of that date "politically not smart."

"Republika Srpska was supposed to be militarily destroyed in mid-October 1995 when the Croatian army, only because it was told so, did not enter Banja Luka," Milanović said, adding that the entity was established under the Dayton peace agreement signed later that year, including by Croatia's then president Franjo Tuđman. "I accept that, that's all."

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Gunja-Brčko Bridge to be Rebuilt, 2 New Roads between BiH and Croatia

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Croatian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković said in Mostar on Tuesday that Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina would this year start rebuilding the Gunja-Brčko bridge across the Sava River and start work on a new one.

The Gunja-Brčko bridge was built at the time of the Habsburg Empire and due to its obsolete state, traffic across it has been restricted to cargo transport.

Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have agreed to maintain joint bridges together and this year they will start the renovation of that bridge over the River Sava.

"In 2022 (Croatian road operator) Hrvatske Ceste and Bosnia and Herzegovina will launch the reconstruction of that bridge, equally sharing the cost of reconstruction work in the amount of HRK 30 million," Butković said.

He added that the two countries had agreed to build a new bridge over the Sava, located slightly more to the south in relation to the existing bridge.

Croatia has already defined the connecting point and is now waiting for the Brčko District authorities to define project documentation, after which work will start.

Butković could not say how much the bridge would cost.

Work on the bridge at Gradiška, also on the River Sava, is continuing and it should be completed in 2023. An access road on the Croatian side of the bridge is yet to be built. The project is worth €19.5 million.

During his visit to Mostar, Butković announced also work on two roads in the south to better connect the two countries.

Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are interested in building two high-speed roads connecting Mostar with Split via Imotski and Zagvozd, and Zavala near Ravno in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Slano, in Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Justice Minister has Most's Support for New Referendum Bill

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said on Tuesday he had the support of the Bridge opposition party for a new referendum bill, adding that its MPs welcomed certain solutions, including signature verification monitoring.

Speaking to the press, he said he received the support during the first reading in parliament and that there was no reason for representatives of referendum petitions not to monitor signature verification.

Malenica said the new referendum bill envisaged the State Electoral Commission checking if enough signatures had been collected as an independent body.

Bridge has recently collected over 400,000 signatures for a referendum against COVID certificates.

"Perhaps the new law will be passed in the meantime, but the current referendum procedure is under the currently valid law," the minister said.

Asked about the opposition's proposal for including an inter-party commission in referendum monitoring, he said those initiating referendums would be able to nominate their members to the commission.

Under the current law, he said, referendum advocates as well as those against it can participate in signature verification and referendum monitoring.

Whistleblower protection 

Asked how the position of whistleblowers Adrijana Cvrtila and Maja Đerek could be improved by law, Malenica said he would rather not comment on specific cases.

He said the new whistleblower protection bill envisaged internal reporting, external reporting to the ombudsman, and public disclosure via the media.

The bill increases protection through the courts and the three reporting channels, he said, adding that courts protect whistleblowers from revenge, including from employers.

"This quality bill should encourage individuals to report irregularities and to have all the protection envisaged by the new law."

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Milanović Says PM's Chief of Staff Committed Offence

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that PM Andrej Plenković's chief of staff Zvonimir Frka Petešić having registered permanent residence on the island of Dugi Otok "is an offence with a very high level of awareness of the nature of the act", for which, he said, Plenković was also responsible.

"(The PM's chief of staff) resides here. Frka is a resident of Zagreb and what he has done is unbelievable. The (post-earthquake) reconstruction of the building where he lives is not the problem, the problem is the reconstruction of the apartment where he lives. The man sponges off us, off me, I am still repaying the loan for my flat. Why should I not save some money for my son who studies in the Netherlands?" Milanović told reporters during a visit to the Kraš confectioner.

Frka Petešić enjoyed "his friend and boss's support" 

Noting ironically that this was why he had considered reporting his residence in Senj, Glavice or Sinj (where his family hails from) because he has relatives who live there, Milanović said that what Frka Petešić did "is an offence with a very high level of awareness of the nature of the act."

Milanović added that neither he nor any of his associates, and until now no one from the Plenković government, had ever thought of doing such a thing.

"Find me someone who has benefitted from that clumsy formulation, find a resident of Zagreb who has used a state flat in the past 10 years... who has used that benefit and has paid for accommodation less than any of us, stupid Zagreb residents. I'm confident there is no such person, not even in the Plenković government," Milanović said, adding that what Frka Petešić did was also a responsibility of PM Plenković "because Frka Petešić has enjoyed the protection of his friend and boss."

"Plenković is defending him, saying that he will not comment, while I had to answer their questions as to how I took out a 30-year housing loan," said the president.

On combat planes: Treating parliament as a third party is outrageous

Milanović also said that the government had still not sent him agreements on the purchase of the French Rafale multipurpose fighter jets, but that more important than that was that the agreements were sent to the parliament.

"It is more important that the parliament gets them, (the jets) are 20% more expensive than planned, which is €200 million less for the army. Answering the parliament and treating it as a third party in an illiterate letter... is an unprecedented act of contempt and insolence," Milanović said.

He went on to say that the defence minister or the PM cannot write to the parliament treating it as a third party, saying that they have to ask the French corporation for permission. "That's too much, even for the HDZ."

The agreement is confidential, that is understandable and acceptable, but such conduct towards the parliament is not, said the president.

As for the procurement of the US Bradley combat vehicles, he recalled that he had exerted pressure for a month and a half to deal with the issue, after which the Defence Ministry was excluded from the process for a second time due to incompetence and the Office of the Prime Minister stepped in and did the job.

Asked if he went skiing recently, Milanović said that his spokesman explained everything in a statement, adding that he had paid for the trip and meal, and that if he was asked if he had also paid for the ticket, he would have said yes.

"A president is in a cage 24 hours a day, I want to get away from my house for three hours, ask (Minister of the Interior Davor) Božinović, ask the same about Plenković. When I go somewhere, my security goes with me. Where do they sleep? Some sleep in the house. The suggestion is that I do not leave my flat," he said.

Rotten egg attack - let the man go

Commenting on the arrest of two citizens who posted inappropriate comments about Plenković on social networks, Milanović recalled that during his term as PM and incidents in Knin, when charges were pressed against some people, he had told the police not to do it as it was wrong.

"Not knowing who those people were, I said that they should let them go. In this case a man said one should throw rotten eggs at Plenković. If the eggs were fresh, maybe they would have acted differently? Who has ever attacked anyone with eggs in Croatia," asked Milanović.

"I expect the unenlightened absolutist leader to show mercy and say that the matter is irrelevant and that the man should be let go," he added.

Asked about the opposition Bridge party's referendum initiative against the COVID certificate mandate, Milanović said that he had heard that the Constitutional Court would be asked to check the constitutionality of the referendum questions.

"What is there for the Constitutional Court to decide?.. If they have collected that many signatures, I congratulate them. It's not an easy thing to do."

The idea that a respiratory infection could be controlled is crazy, Milanović said, adding that his younger son was in the third year of high school and had practically not attended any face-to-face classes. That's not normal, he said.

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