Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Ćorić says Never Discussed Škugor with PM, Slams Vanđelić for "Alternative Facts"

ZAGREB, 30 August, 2022 - Croatian National Bank Vice-Governor Tomislav Ćorić said on Tuesday that he had never talked with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about an INA director, Damir Škugor, one of the five suspects in the gas trading scam.

Ćorić told Hina today that INA Supervisory Board's former chair, Damir Vanđelić "is creative in presenting alternative facts" after Vanđelić said that the INA gas resale contract was not within the remit of the Supervisory Board but of the Management Board and that he notified the competent officials, including former minister Ćorić when he realised that INA was losing money.

"I never talked about Damir Škugor with Plenković," Ćorić told Hina, dismissing allegations presented by the Nacional weekly about this case.

Škugor, one of the five suspects in the INA gas resale scam, was, according to the report made by the Nacional, "among trustworthy persons in Plenković's inner circle" and the newspaper also says that INA Management Board chairman Sándor Fasimon stated that it was Plenković in fact who in 2019 pushed for Škugor to be appointed the director of INA's natural gas trade division.

"Two independent sources claim that Fasimon said that he came to that conclusion after talks he had conducted with the then Economy Minister, Tomislav Ćorić," Nacional alleges.

According to the Nacional, it was Ćorić who directly asked Fasimon for Škugor's appointment, adding that he was conveying Prime Minister Plenković's wishes.

"During my ministerial term, I have never insisted or requested any personnel appointments during the talks with Fasimon, including in Škugor's appointment," Ćorić said.

"This also means that I have never referred to the Prime Minister," said Ćorić.

The five suspects, including INA executive Damir Škugor, were arrested last Saturday on suspicion of defrauding INA of more than one billion kuna by buying natural gas supplies from the company at below-the-market price and then selling that gas at market prices, thus making an illegal gain of at least HRK 848 million (approx. €113 million).

Investigators believe that from June 2020 to 27 August this year, Damir Škugor, head of INA's Gas and Power division and deputy chair of the Plinara Istočne Slavonije Supervisory Board, conspired with the other suspects, including his father Dane Škugor, their business partners Goran Husić and lawyer Josip Šurjak and Management Board chair of the Plinara Istočne Slavonije gas distributor, Marija Ratkić to sell INA's gas below market prices.

Minister can't know about transactions conducted at four levels below Management

Commenting on the gas resale scam, Ćorić said that the relevant minister "could not have known the prices at which transactions were being conducted four levels below the Management."

Ćorić also commended the Ministry of Finance, the Tax Administration, and the Anti-Money Laundering Office for successfully revealing the operation aimed at exposing criminal wrongdoings in INA.

Ćorić says Vanđelić presented "alternative facts"

A former chair of the INA Supervisory Board Damir Vanđelić has said that the INA gas resale contract was not within the remit of the Supervisory Board but of the Management Board and that he notified the competent officials, including former minister Tomislav Ćorić, after realising that INA was losing money.

Vanđelić was first a member of the INA Supervisory Board and in 2016 he was appointed its chair for a term of five years.

Responding to the claims, Ćorić said that "Vanđelić is very creative in presenting alternative facts."

"We emailed all members of the Supervisory Board to say that INA's business has been lagging behind and that we are losing 200 million euros annually, so there is obviously a problem. I sent the email to all members of the management and supervisory boards, as well as to (then Economy Minister Tomislav) Ćorić," Vanđelić told the N1 broadcaster today, adding that he did not receive any response, but a phone call in July, "when we were practically reprimanded for problematising the matter."

"Ćorić said that I was politicising the matter," Vanđelić said, adding that "at that meeting, Škugor's name was not mentioned, I do not know him."

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Croatia Registers 568 New COVID Cases, 17 Deaths

ZAGREB, 30 August, 2022 - In the past 24 hours, 568 coronavirus cases and 17 related deaths have been registered in Croatia, the national COVID crisis management team said on Tuesday.

There are 4,829 active cases, including 635 hospitalised patients, 17 of whom are on ventilators, while 3,127 people are self-isolating.

Croatia has registered 1,212,547 coronavirus cases to date, the death toll stands at 16,690, and 70.87% of adults have been vaccinated.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

:BRUT - Baranja Rural Trail Cycling Event in Slavonija and Baranja

August 30, 2022 - At the junction of Slavonia and Srijem, through vineyards and hills, forests and plains, through museums and monuments, where the Danube kisses the sky, on September 3, a new BRUTAL bicycle race is coming. After a successful race in Beli Manastir, in Baranja, BRUT arrives in Vukovar. It is a 25 or 50 km race through vineyards, fields, forests, and unpaved roads.

In addition to the race itself, on September 1 and 2, we can expect a bicycle tour of the Bata-Borovo industrial heritage as well as street art murals as part of the VukovArt program, a tourist tour around Vukovar, a children's race and a traffic safety workshop, and of course, evening entertainment programs on the 2nd and on the 3rd day of the event.

The full program, as presented on the official website of :BRUT, will look like this:

September 1, 2022 :BRUT Murali starting at 16:00 - 18:00 tour of the city of Vukovar and murals on buildings by bike.

September 2, 2022 :BRUT

Small children's races starting at 10:00 and duration until 12:00, city center Vukovar.
Preschool kids, 100m races.

Traffic safety - joint action with the Ministry of Interior and PD Vukovar.

September 2, 2022 :BRUT Sights starting at 16:00 a tour of the sights in the city of Vukovar – a tourist tour by bike and then a gathering in the bar "Vukovarsko naj".

September3, 2022 :BRUT Vukovar  

:BRUT Vukovar 2022 race route map

:BRUT official race map

Start of the race on September 3, 2022 at 16:00h (registration of participants from 14:00h)
Start - zone target: Salaš Goldschmidt (on the road between Vukovar and Sotin)
Length 25 km and 50 km (choice of route on the trail)
The path is circular in shape. Cyclists ride 1 lap in the 25km race and 2 laps in the 50km race.
The time limit (time-cut) is 3:00h (until 19:00h), and everyone who does not complete one lap in 80 minutes will not be able to go to another and will be counted time for :BRUT Vukovar 25.

After the race, lunch and drinks are provided for all participants and :BRUT Chill with a DJ, fun and socializing. 

For an awesome weekend of walking, cycling, and enjoying the sights and events, we encourage you to apply here (participation includes the start package, meal and drink, and guaranteed entertainment).

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Croatia Airlines Serves Slavonian Snack to Promote Destination

August 30, 2022 - 600,000 passengers on many routes, from Zagreb to destinations around the world, will see and taste the Slavonian snack.

As SiB writes, the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board, Croatian Tourist Board, and Croatia Airlines are from August 1 to November 30, 2022, implementing the joint promotional project "Tastes of Slavonia". Passengers on all flights of the Croatian national airline are served a Slavonian meal, which represents a special experience, and at the same time promotes Osijek-Baranja County as a tourist destination, as well as the gastronomy of Slavonia, Baranja, and Srijem. This way, more than 600,000 passengers on 10,000 flights to 30 international and domestic destinations can taste Slavonian delicacies, and thus destinations.

On this occasion, yesterday (August 29, 2022), a press conference was held at Osijek Airport, where the director of Osijek Airport Ivan Kos, director of the Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board Ivana Jurić, director of commercial affairs of Croatia Airlines Slaven Žabo, Osijek Deputy Mayor Dragan Vulin, and Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Ivan Anušić spoke about the project "Tastes of Slavonia".

The Director of Osijek Airport, Ivan Kos, initially thanked Croatia Airlines for the partnership on the "Tastes of Slavonia" project and expressed his belief that Slavonia and Baranja will be presented to passengers on all lines through this unique project.

"The products of Slavonia and Baranja in the air through the Tastes of Slavonia project in cooperation with the Croatian Tourist Board and Croatia Airlines will last four months. It is a project that invites you to visit the destination through the flavours, because good food is one of the first associations with Slavonia and Baranja, with Osijek-Baranja County as the largest tourist county in the east of Croatia. This confirms once again that the east means hedonism, which means a lot of good food and drink, as well as the events that the destination offers. We are happy that we are promoting the destination not only on domestic but also on international flights, and we continue our good cooperation with Osijek Airport, Osijek-Baranja County, the City of Osijek and the Croatian Tourist Board," said the director of Osijek-Baranja County Tourist Board Ivana Jurić.

She explained that "Slavonian snack" is part of the "Croatia full of flavour" platform as a project of the Croatian Tourist Board, and that the package distributed to passengers includes crackers based on corn and red pepper, which are associated with Baranja, its fish stew, and other flavours that we find in dried meat products, followed by čvarak spread, kulen (spicy sausage), pickled vegetables and a contemporary interpretation of the Slavonian Šapice as a dessert. There are different package sizes, from the crackers handed out on shorter domestic flights to the full package given to passengers on longer international flights.

slavonian_snack_obž.JPG

Osijek-Baranja County

The Director of Commercial Affairs of Croatia Airlines, Slaven Žabo, pointed out that through this joint project, which is based on the wider project of the Croatian Tourist Board (Croatia, Full of Flavours), a range of products/meals for flights was put together that actually represent traditional Slavonian specialties, spices, and other products of this region.

"This joint project is the crown of cooperation between Croatia Airlines, the Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County, the City of Osijek, the Croatian Tourist Board, and Osijek Airport, through which we established an international Osijek-Munich route that operates all year round. Its added value, apart from enriching Croatia Airlines’ offer on its flights, is that we have also created the preconditions for the promotion of the specialties of this region," said Slaven Žabo.

The Deputy Mayor of Osijek, Dragan Vulin, expressed his satisfaction that, as he said, the best possible flavors will be available to all passengers on Croatia Airlines flights and will thus contribute to the branding of the food from this area. He pointed out that compared to last year, the City of Osijek now records 55 percent more arrivals and 28 percent more overnight stays of tourists, and in August (until August 25) the record from August last year was exceeded.

"Through the project "Slavonian snack" we can see the continuation of the activities for the promotion of Slavonia and Baranja that we announced and started several years ago. We are still doing this together with Croatia Airlines, our Tourist Board, the Croatian Tourist Board, and the City of Osijek. We are glad that around 600,000 passengers on many routes, from Zagreb to destinations around the world, will see and taste the Slavonian snack, and it is precisely our goal to increase the visibility and quality of our service and offer", said Prefect Ivan Anušić. He added that the results of tourist visits in Osijek-Baranja County this year are better than the record year of 2019 and that the County wants to remain the leader in the development of continental tourism in Croatia, so it continues to strengthen tourism and the economy in all segments.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

War Veterans Minister says Serbia Not Cooperating in Search for War Missing

ZAGREB, 30 August, 2022 - War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said in Vukovar on Tuesday, at a commemoration marking the national day of remembrance for people gone missing in the country's 1991-95 Homeland War and the International Day of the Disappeared, that there was no cooperation on Serbia's part in the search for the missing.

Medved said that Serbia was not submitting information on the fate of persons gone missing in the Homeland War although it was completely clear that data on the whereabouts of the missing persons' remains could be found in Serbian archives.

"I therefore again call on Serbia to face the fact that it carried out military aggression against Croatia and committed horrible crimes, and to open its archives and provide information on the whereabouts of the missing persons' remains so that we can speed up the process," Medved said.

Asked by a reporter if the Croatian government was prepared to block Serbia's EU accession talks if its non-cooperation continued, the minister said that at the time when talks on policy chapters 23 and 24 were opened in Serbia's EU entry talks, Croatia made its conditions clear and that those conditions were still the same.

"Those are cooperation in the search for missing persons, payment of compensation to former inmates of Serb-run concentration camps, and the withdrawal of the law on the so-called regional or universal jurisdiction... Those are not only Croatia's conditions but the EU's conditions as well," said Medved.

He recalled that Croatia was still looking for 1,832 persons gone missing in the 1990s war.

In the past six and a half years Croatia has made significant progress in that process, having established the fate of 221 missing persons, with exploratory exhumations being carried out on a daily basis, he said.

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

German Chancellor Supports Croatia's Entry into Schengen

ZAGREB, 29 August, 2022 - The European Union's member-states -- Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria -- meet the criteria for the Schengen area membership and Germany will work to make it possible for them to join the border-free area, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Prague on Monday.

"Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria fulfil all the technical requirements for full membership. I will work to see them become full members," he said in his speech titled "Europe is our Future", delivered at the Charles University in Prague.

Scholz said that Germany would continue supporting Ukraine as long as necessary, foreign news agency reported.

Commenting on the European Union's enlargement, Scholz said that Germany was committed to the enlargement process and that Western Balkan countries, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia should join the bloc over time.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

INA: Management and Supervisory Boards Did Not Approve Disputed Contracts

ZAGREB, 29 August, 2022 - The INA oil company said on Monday that its management and supervisory boards did not decide on the contracts that are being investigated by the USKOK anti-corruption office and that Damir Škugor was authorised to sign contracts worth up to €20 million, co-signed by his deputy.

"The INA Management and Supervisory Boards did not decide on the disputed contracts that are being investigated by USKOK. Damir Škugor, who is a manager three levels below the Management Board, had the authority to sign contracts worth up to €20 million, with the co-signature of his deputy. In line with his powers, Škugor signed all the contracts that are being investigated," the company said in a press release.

It adds that INA will terminate Škugor's employment and revise all existing gas sales contracts and take all possible legal steps.

"In the coming days, extraordinary sessions of the Management Board and Supervisory Board will be held. A detailed investigation of this case is already underway at INA, and as a result, additional control mechanisms will be introduced. The supply of gas to the market is not jeopardised in any way," says INA.

USKOK anti-corruption investigators and the police on Saturday arrested Damir Škugor, an executive at INA, Josip Šurjak, president of the Croatian Bar Association, Šurjak's business partner Goran Husić, with whom Šurjak co-owns the OMS Upravljanje company, Škugor's father Dane, and Marija Ratkić, Management Board president at the Plinara Istočne Slavonije gas distribution company.

They are suspected of having defrauded INA of over HRK 1 billion. The illegal gain of Škugor and his father is estimated at nearly HRK 500 million, while Husić and Šurjak are believed to have illegally gained over HRK 90 million and HRK 68.9 million respectively.

There is over HRK 200 million in illegal gain still in the bank account of the OMS Upravljanje company.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Plenković: We will Never Ratify Arbitration Ruling But Issue will be Resolved

ZAGREB, 29 August 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob on Monday that the Croatian parliament would never ratify the arbitration ruling on the border between the two countries and that the two friendly countries would "resolve the border issue eventually."

On the eve of the Bled Strategic Forum, Plenković met bilaterally for the first time with the recently inaugurated Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tanja Fajon.

The officials discussed the improvement of mutual relations, the energy situation and cooperation, joint initiatives at the level of the EU, the strengthening of economic cooperation, Croatia's assistance to Slovenia during this year's devastating wildfires, and excellent tourism results, with more than a million Slovenians having vacationed in Croatia in the first seven months of this year.

Talks on the border issue between the two countries and the arbitration tribunal's ruling, which Croatia does not recognise, were also on the agenda.

After a unanimous decision by the Sabor, Croatia abandoned the arbitration procedure in 2015, after it was compromised by the Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal, Jernej Sekolec, and Slovenia's representative before the tribunal, Simona Drenik, who influenced other members of the tribunal and manipulated the relevant documents.

Plenković said that as far as Croatia was concerned that judgment "does not exist" and that the two countries "can discuss various topics, but the Sabor will never ratify the ruling."

"I think it's up to us now to work in a good spirit on all the topics that connect us," Plenković underscored.

"Croatia and Slovenia are friendly countries and we need to focus on what brings us together, not what separates us, and in time, that topic will be resolved."

Plenković, who is participating in the 17th Bled Strategic Forum, said that the meeting will focus on the relationship between "that part of the international community that is based on multilateralism, international law and cooperation, and the authoritarian one, which is based on conflict and claims to other countries' territory."

The forum, taking place on Monday and Tuesday, is being attended by the entire Slovenian state leadership as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the forum via video link.

Attending are also Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Iceland's President Gudni Johannesson, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó, and others.

A panel on the European prospects of the Western Balkans will be held on Tuesday, and it will be attended by US special envoy Gabriel Escobar, the international community's High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, the EU representative for dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, Miroslav Lajčak, BiH's Foreign Minister Bisera Turković, and the foreign affairs ministers of Montenegro and North Macedonia, among others.

This Bled Forum was launched in 2006, and this year's edition is marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

HDZ Launches Disciplinary Proceedings against Its Member Damir Škugor

ZAGREB, 29 August 2022 - The head of the ruling HDZ party's branch in Zagreb's Maksimir district, Stanko Gačić, said on Monday the party had launched disciplinary proceedings against its member Damir Škugor, arrested on suspicion of masterminding a scam in which the INA energy group was defrauded of more than HRK 1 billion.

In an operation launched on Saturday by the USKOK anti-corruption office and the police, five persons were arrested on suspicion of wrongdoing with INA's natural gas, which was sold below the market price.

Investigators believe the suspects bought gas from INA for €19.5 and sold it for €210 thus defrauding the company of over HRK 1 billion. 

The operation targeted INA executive Damir Škugor, Croatian Bar Association (HOK) president Josip Šurjak, Šurjak's business partner Goran Husić, Škugor's father Dane Škugor, and the management board chair of the Plinara Istočne Slavonije gas distributor, Marija Ratkić.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Minister: Accounts of Suspects in Gas Trading Scam Blocked Thanks to State Bodies

ZAGREB, 29 August, 2022 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović has said that thanks to actions by state bodies, data were collected and bank accounts were blocked, preventing major damage to the INA company in a case of fraud exceeding one billion kuna, and that corporate procedures that failed to detect the fraud are a different matter.

"I am satisfied that the police, Tax Administration, the Uskok anti-corruption office, and other competent services collected enough evidence in a long-lasting investigation to file charges and identify the perpetrators," Božinović told reporters in Obrežje after meeting with Slovenian counterpart Tatjana Bobnar.

He underscored that thanks to the suspects' assets being frozen, even greater damage to the INA energy company was prevented and that further data collection would additionally strengthen the criminal complaint.

He warned, however, of the business procedures at INA that allowed such a thing to happen.

"These are business procedures that were signed by a company with a specific commitment. We all expect an answer as to how it was possible for no one to notice that such transactions were occurring that should have raised suspicion," said Božinović.

Police prevent clash between two sports fan groups

Commenting on yesterday's incident on a motorway when supporters of the Hajduk football club caused a traffic jam, he said that the police operation conducted was part of the protocol agreed with the Croatian Football Federation, under which the police coordinated all security aspects of high-risk matches.

"The prompt response by police officers prevented what I assume was an arranged clash between two fan groups. A car with a child who was on a ventilator managed eventually to pass through the blockade and questions about the incident should actually be put to those who do such things, who stop traffic on the motorway, and to anyone who has understanding for their dissatisfaction, as well as all those who participate in public political life and were not always clear enough in their condemnation."

Dissatisfaction should not be expressed through violence. The Croatian police will not leave anything to chance, Božinović said, adding that fans were an integral part of football, while the riot on Sunday was caused by individual fans. Nobody's life should depend on someone else's arrogance, he underscored.

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