Croatian Political and Business News Bulletin: March 8

By 8 March 2016

Day 2 of the TCN premium content newsletter. A round up of all the latest political and business news in Croatia. 

Zagreb, March 8, 2016.

Politics 1
Business 2
Analysis 3
Bulletin 3
Daily Agenda 4


Veterans Associations Name Branko Borković as Candidate for Veterans Minister

Wartime commanders of the defence of Vukovar and several veterans’ associations have proposed Branko Borković as the new Minister of Veterans Affairs or, at least, as the new deputy minister. They say that Borković has proven himself during the war and that he was the last commander of the defence of Vukovar. “We believe that Borković is an ideal person who can lead the Ministry or be part of the team that will lead the Ministry”, said the president of the Croatian Association of Prisoners of Serbian Concentration Camps Danijel Rehak. One of the commanders of the Vukovar defence Ivo Ćurić said that Borković was a very honest person and that he was the commander of the best unit in Croatian history.

He added that Borković had agreed to this initiative and is ready to take over the Ministry which has had no one at the helm since Mijo Crnoja resigned more than a month ago. The veterans said that they have nothing against HDZ secretary general Milijan Brkić who has also been proposed as the minister, and added that they were ready to accept him if the Prime Minister were to appoint him. In a separate statement, Branko Borković said he had accepted the candidacy at the urging of his fellow soldiers from Vukovar. “My comrades and veterans’ associations from Vukovar have persuaded me that in this situation I should accept the candidacy. I expect that the Prime Minister will invite me to a meeting so he can make the decision”, said Borković. He added that he was proposed as a non-party candidate on behalf of veterans.
Chairman of BiH Presidency Čović: We Expect Croatian Support on the Road to EU

Members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina will this Tuesday arrive in Zagreb for a two-day visit. They will ask Croatian officials for specific support on the road to the EU and will insist on stronger economic cooperation between the two countries, said Dragan Čović on Monday, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We want to create a common vision of how Croatia can help us on our Euro-Atlantic path. All those experiences which Croatia had on its European path can make it easier for us to achieve the necessary standards”, said Čović for Federal News Agency. He added that they would like for a joint session of two governments to take place. “I am confident that the session can happen very quickly. We will inform Prime Minister Orešković that it is urgent to have such a session, since all the outstanding issues that we have must be solved through the executive branch”, added Čović. In Zagreb, Čović will be accompanied by two other members of the Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović and Mladen Ivanić. On Tuesday, they will meet with President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović. On Wednesday, they will hold separate meetings with Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković and Speaker of the Parliament Željko Reiner.

Orešković: I Do Not See Any Problems in the Puljiz Appointment

Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković said on Monday that he saw no problem in the fact that he had decided to appoint Jakša Puljiz as the coordinator of all ministries, adding that he is a professional person. “Two weeks ago, I said publicly that I will have a CIO (Chief Integration Officer) and I do not see any problems. The man is an expert, he has a PhD, he knows his job, and it is important that we coordinate all the ministries and start working”, said Orešković after arriving at the EU-Turkey Summit in Brussels. Jakša Puljiz is a nonpartisan expert on European funds, and in the previous government he was a deputy to SDP’s Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Branko Grčić. Ivan Kovačić (MOST) said on Monday that he did not know that Jakša Puljiz would be made an advisor to the Prime Minister, but added that MOST had a good opinion about him. “We know the quality of his work in the past four years and we regard him as a professional person”, he added.

Defence Minister Buljević Visits Kosovo

Defence Minister Josip Buljević arrived on Monday in Kosovo on an official visit. According to a statement issued by the Croatian Defence Ministry, Buljević, while in meetings with Kosovo’s top officials, expressed his support for the reform of local security forces, the implementation of the agreement between Priština and Belgrade, and the Euro-Atlantic integration of Kosovo. Buljević and Minister for Kosovo Security Forces Haki Demolli agreed that it was necessary to continue joint efforts towards the integration of Kosovo in the formats and initiatives of defence cooperation in Southeast Europe. Buljević also met with Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. He expressed his strong support for Kosovo’s Euro-Atlantic orientation and welcomed the readiness of Kosovo to implement structural reforms and strengthen institutional capacity. Minister Buljević also met with the commander of NATO’s KFOR forces General Guglielmo Luigi Miglietta and visited members of the Croatian contingent, also a part of KFOR.

Hungary to Reopen Three Railway Border Crossings with Croatia

Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter and his Croatian counterpart Vlaho Orepić, who was on an official visit to Hungary, announced that three railway border crossings between the two countries would be reopened. The three railway border crossings, Murakeresztur-Kotoriba, Gyekenyes-Koprivnica, and Magyarboly-Beli Manastir were closed due to the migrant crisis. The Ministers said the move demonstrates the improving bilateral relations in their portfolio. According to MTI news agency, Orepić said that the cooperation could continue in the areas of tourism and demining operations, while Pinter said that the meeting helped resolve some issues.


Croatia to Draw Down a Billion Euros from EU Funds This Year

Croatia will utilise around a billion euros from EU funds this year, announced Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Tomislav Tolušić at the opening of the EU Funds Week. “So far, we have been withdrawing crumbs from the rich European table, but that will change”, said Tolušić. “In the budgetary period from 2014 to 2020, out of 10.7 billion euros which are available to us, so far we have taken only 146 million euros”, he said and explained that a billion euros could now be accessed thanks to simplified procedures, 200 new tenders, and better coordination on the ground. Tolušić stressed that the project procedures relating to the withdrawal of money from EU funds were extremely complicated and announced that he was working on their simplification. The Minister assessed that Croatia lacks experts on EU funding and announced the employment of new staff, noting that 85 percent of the salaries of the newly-employed professionals would be covered by the European Commission. Agriculture Minister Davor Romić agreed that so far the record of withdrawing EU funds had been pitiful. “My expectations are much higher, especially since agriculture has at its disposal 2.3 billion euros, and it is a huge amount of money which should be used in rural areas”, said Romić.Image

Croatian National Tourist Board Launches Spring Promotional Campaign

Croatian National Tourist Board has launched a spring promotional campaign of Croatian tourism titled “Say hello to someone you love, say hello to spring. Experience spring in Croatia”, which will continue until the end of March in markets with potential for tourist arrivals in the preseason and postseason periods, reported the Central Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board. The campaign covers Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Slovenia, and includes advertising activities on digital channels, mobile media, social networks, as well as advertising on TV channels.

HANFA Approves Buyout of Slobodna Dalmacija

Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (HANFA) approved Marijan Hanžeković’s offer for the buyout of Slobodna Dalmacija. Shareholders holding less than five percent of the publishing company will be offered 16.5 kuna per share. Accordingly, for the remaining 236,996 shares, Hanžeković will have to provide a little more than 3.9 million kuna.

Economy Minister Panenić Meets with Chinese Delegation

Economy Minister Tomislav Panenić met on Monday with members of a Chinese delegation which is visiting countries of Central and Eastern Europe in order to prepare the future cooperation in the China 16+1 format, announced the government in a statement. Representatives of the Chinese delegation expressed their interest and desire for the Croatian Prime Minister to attend the China 16+1 Summit to be held in Riga in October or November. “The Croatian government is interested in further deepening and intensification of cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. The meeting also discussed the potential projects in which the Chinese side has an interest to participate, especially in the sectors of infrastructure, energy, tourism, and industry”, read the statement.


Pressure on Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujčić Intensifies

Željka Godeč analyses how HDZ and MOST might vote regarding the Croatian National Bank’s report in Parliament (published in Jutarnji List on 8 March 2016).

On Friday, members of Parliament are expected to vote on a report on Croatian National Bank’s (HNB) activities. However, what is not certain is whether they will vote to accept or reject the report, or whether they will just vote to officially take note of the report. The difference is significant. Ivan Šuker, president of the HDZ parliamentary caucus, believes that Parliament should just take note of the report, which he claims would be in accordance with the European Commission recommendations about protection of independence of national banks. On the other hand, there are opponents of this line within HDZ itself, led by Goran Marić, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, as well as many SDP and MOST MPs. They claim that Parliament has the right to vote whether to accept or reject the HNB report. Although neither way of voting would have any legal ramifications for HNB Governor Boris Vujčić, MOST MPs unofficially say that the report should be rejected, which would demonstrate their disapproval of HNB policies. HNB has been listed as one of MOST’s five priority reform areas and it is almost certain they will not back down. Governor Vujčić warned that Parliament “cannot approve, adopt, suspend, annul, or delay any of HNB’s decisions”. Ivan Kovačić, president of the MOST parliamentary caucus, commented that MOST would behave according to the law, but that, as far as he knew, “the main legislative body in Croatia is the Croatian Parliament”.

It Is a Mistake to Isolate Karamarko

Davor Ivanković analyses relations within the ruling coalition after the appointment of Jakša Puljiz as advisor to the Prime Minister (published in Večernji List on 8 March 2016).

Over the last four years, one of HDZ’s fiercest criticisms of the now-former SDP government was that of mistakes made in using EU funds. And then, now that HDZ has come to power, Prime Minister Orešković gives one of the more important governmental posts to Jakša Puljiz, the person who was charged with the withdrawal of EU funds in the former government. This apparently absurd state of affairs speaks clearly as to why relations within the ruling coalition are strained, enough that we may say we have even reached a turning point. “Until now, we could have some understanding for Orešković, but this is too much”, says one member of the HDZ leadership. The Patriotic Coalition believes that Orešković has gone too far and that he should have better sense of the way this complex coalition government is supposed to function. Two and a half months after he became Prime Minister, Orešković has chilly relations with both President Grabar-Kitarović and Tomislav Karamarko. Orešković is trying to show that he has personal authority within the government and does not respond well to media pressure. As far as Karamarko is concerned, he is dissatisfied that he is being blocked in his own backyard – security, intelligence, and police issues. Orešković should understand the complex situation in which Karamarko finds himself. If HDZ remains dissatisfied with the state of affairs after the internal party elections finish in about two and a half months, it could choose other options – from forming a new governing majority to calling new elections. However, the most likely scenario is a political ceasefire, which would be favourable to all.


New HRT Acting Director General Assumes His Post

An official handover ceremony between former director general of Croatian Radio Television (HRT) Goran Radman and new acting director general Siniša Kovačić took place on Monday. The ceremony included the signing of the handover minutes, which marked the transfer of power. On Friday, Parliament appointed Kovačić with 79 votes in favour. In his first statement after the appointment on Friday, Kovačić said he would raise the level of professionalism and added that he expected HRT to continue to be a public service open to all groups in society, but also to protect Croatian national interests, Croatian identity, and culture.

Croatian National Tourist Board to Award Grants for Projects in Underdeveloped Tourism Areas

The Croatian National Tourist Board announced on Monday a public call for funding for projects of tourist boards in underdeveloped tourism areas. This year, 3.7 million kuna has been appropriated for the initiative and those interested can register by 4 April. Underdeveloped tourism areas include all inland counties except the City of Zagreb, as well as all settlements from other counties which do not have access to the sea. The total grant for all projects in one tourist board area cannot be higher than 350,000 kuna.

Zagreb Fair to Open a Co-Working Centre for Start-up Companies

By this summer, the Zagreb Fair will have opened a centre for young IT entrepreneurs and start-up companies, the Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandić announced on Monday, after visiting a similar complex, HUB385 at the former Heruc factory in Zagreb, one of Croatia’s largest co-working centres. The mayor visited the centre at the invitation of Ivica Mudrinić, who together with Ivana Šoljan and Ante Magzan founded HUB385.

In February, 16.6 Percent More New Cars Sold in Croatia than Last Year

In February, 16.6 percent more new passenger cars were sold in Croatia than in the same month last year. The total number of sold cars was 2,583. The best-selling cars were Volkswagen (327), followed by Skoda (213), Hyundai (186), and Opel and Renault (181 vehicles each). As for specific models, Volkswagen Golf was the top-selling (132), followed by Suzuki Vitara (113), and Skoda Octavia (105).

Croatia to Take Part in International Travel Trade Show ITB Berlin

Croatia will present its tourism industry at the world’s largest travel trade show, the 50th ITB Berlin, which will gather more than 10,000 exhibitors from around the world from 9 to 13 March. It is expected that positive tourism trends from Germany and other markets will continue this year as well. The organiser of the national presentation of Croatian tourism is the Croatian National Tourist Board, whose exhibition area will include 20 co-exhibitors. Tourism Minister Anton Kliman will visit ITB Berlin on 9 March, which will be his first official trip abroad since taking office.

Government to Sell a Large Fleet of Used Cars

A fleet of state-owned used cars will be offered at an auction organised by TRCZ on Saturday, 12 March. Interested buyers will be able to compete for vehicles owned by various ministries, HEP, Hrvatske Vode, Hrvatska Pošta, and various other state bodies, public companies, and agencies. There are 203 vehicles of all makes and models offered. A list of all the offered vehicles, accompanied by photographs, can be seen at: www.trcz.hr. The offer includes numerous smaller cars, large executive cars, vans and motorcycles, and the initial prices range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of kuna.

Vesna Pusić: Coalition between HNS and HDZ Is Not an Option

HNS president Vesna Pusić said on Monday that a coalition between HNS and HDZ “in these circumstances is not an option”. “This is an attempt to threaten MOST a little bit”, said Pusić commenting on recent speculation that HNS, if Ivan Vrdoljak is elected as the new party president, could move closer to HDZ or even form a coalition.

Daily Agenda - Tuesday

Members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chairman Dragan Čović and members Bakir Izetbegović and Mladen Ivanić, will arrive in Croatia for a two-day visit. On Tuesday, they will meet with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovač will meet separately with his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality will meet and discuss the topic “Role of Women in Demographic Renewal”. The meeting will be co-organised by the B.a.B.e. Association.

The Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science, and Culture will meet and discuss the “Report on the Activities of the National Council for Science, Higher Education, and Technological Development in 2015”.

The Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Nature will meet and discuss the implementation of the laws on sustainable waste management.

The Programme Council of Croatian Radio Television will meet and discuss an official letter from the HRT Supervisory Board sent on 4 March.

The Association of Croatian Trade Unions will hold a press conference presenting the results of the EU research project which shows that workers in the public services are not privileged in their rights compared to workers employed in other parts of the economy.

The Serbian National Council will present the latest issue of its bulletin providing examples of attacks, threats, and destruction of property owned by Serbian institutions and of public statements which contain hate speech and call for intolerance toward Serbs. The bulletin will be presented by Milorad Pupovac, president of the Serbian National Council, and Tamara Opačić, the author of the bulletin.

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