Friday, 20 January 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Davos, Bureaucracy Injections and Price Hikes

January the 20th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've still more or less been talking non stop about inflation, Schengen and Eurozone entry and of course - ongoing price increases, but that isn't all. From meetings with Azerbaijani officials and Google's top brass to new ways of injecting even more bureaucracy, let's take a glance at the last week.

The government is set to introduce a special ID card for state institution employees, a move which will cost millions

Just when you thought Croatia couldn't possibly have more forms of card that you need to carry around with you, it goes and introduces yet another one, this time for the employees of state bodies. Yes, you're right, this is precisely what the country needs to be spending time on during difficult social and economic times. Still, we may as well visit the subject - as Index reports, despite being firmly in the shadow of the heated debate regarding the military training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, the final proposal of the law on the official identity cards for state body employees, has remained strong.

Here we have just another way of spreading the plague of needless, time wasting bureaucracy among the Croats, and it is going to cost a pretty penny (or two). What is an official ID card for a state employee anyway, and why bother with it? Those are valid questions, so here is what Article 4 of the Final Bill on the matter says: "An official ID card is an electronic public document by which an employee of a state body proves their official status and electronic identity."

"An official ID card is to be used as a means of electronic identification and authentication to access electronic services, to activate other authentication or signature means, and to sign acts for which the user of the official ID card is authorised," it is stated in paragraph 3 of the same article.

In addition to the above, this card "can be used for physical identification and contactless application for the purpose of registering entry into the premises of a state body and for other purposes prescribed by special regulations".

I'm sure you'll agree that this additional bureacratisation in a society already perversely obsessed with red tape is something that we all really require.

There is plenty of opposition to this, both from the world of Croatian politics and from various other experts in this field. Most people will oppose the sheer amount of cash coming from somewhere that will be poured into this. 

The opposition criticised this idea last summer, believing that this law is utterly redundant, unnecessary, that without it the state would have saved a massive 5.8 million kuna, and so on.

"This law makes no sense, it should be withdrawn, why the new cost?'' asked Zeljko Pavic, a parliamentarian for the Social Democrats, who also went on to explain that there are already ready-made services that can be used without such ID cards which enable greater flexibility.

State Secretary Josip Salapic also stated that these identity cards "are in line with the development of the information society and digitisation", which is why it is "necessary to enable state and judicial officials as well as civil servants and state employees both simple and quick access to various databases and applications that are used to perform business and electronic signature of acts".

He added that around 60,000 official state body employee ID cards now need to be changed, of which 30,000 would be financed with EU funds. The new cards would be valid for three years, and one would cost 125 kuna.

Plenkovic has been busy meeting with all and sundry, from Google's boss to the the president of Azerbaijan

PM Andrej Plenkovic has recently held numerous bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, with, among others, the Secretary General of the OECD, the President of the European Investment Bank, the head of Google and the head of Visa Europe.

He took to the social media platform Twitter to tweet that he had met with Werner Hoyer, head of the European Investment Bank (EIB), an institution which, at least according to Plenkovic, has so far directed seven billion euros through various loans to both the public and private sectors in Croatia.

"We're discussing project cooperation as well as global financial challenges," the tweet reads.

In Davos, the Prime Minister also met with representatives of the Global Citizen organisation, whose activities, as he wrote, Croatia continues to strongly support. At the meeting with the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mathias Cormann, he discussed Croatia's accession to Schengen and the Eurozone as the final strategic step of the country's integration into the circle of the most developed countries in the world.

"We also exchanged opinions regarding the economic situation in Europe and efforts to overcome energy and inflationary pressures," tweeted Plenkovic.

Meetings with the head of Google, the president of Azerbaijan, the president of the European Parliament also took place during what was a very busy week for the PM. Google's president of global affairs, Kent Walker, was also on the list of Plenkovic's meetings, as was the head of Visa Europe, Charlotte Hogg, with whom he discussed potential cooperation and investments.

He discussed the further strengthening of relations between Croatia and Azerbaijan with an emphasis placed primarily on energy and economic cooperation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and he also met with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola.

"We're grateful to the European Parliament for supporting Croatia's accession to Schengen and the Eurozone. We've been discussing the continuation of aid to Ukraine, the European [Union] path of Southeastern Europe, and the green and digital transition," concluded the Prime Minister on Twitter.

He also met with the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic.

Economist Damir Novotny claims that the government is trying to turn the trade sector into ''enemy number one''

What with the recent introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency and the scrapping of the kuna, price hikes as a result of inflation and of the introduction of the new currency have been the hottest topic since the new year began. The government has stepped in and has involved all of the relevant authorities in making sure those stores and service/goods providers who are unjustifiably raising their prices lower their prices to what they were back in December 2022, but not everyone feels their moves are correct.

Economic analyst Damir Novotny was a guest on N1 television's Novi Dan/New Day, during which he commented on price hikes and inflation trends, as well as the government's moves as a result of the above.

Commenting on the new data on inflation and whether it is a decreasing trend, Damir Novotny said: "It's possible, but not because of the movement on the Croatian market, but because of the global movement. This is happening on large markets such as those of the USA, France, etc, and that will spill over to Croatia. It's possible that the trend of slowing growth will spill over into Croatia, but prices will not return to what they were back in 2020."

When asked why most products are cheaper in other countries, which is especially evident after the introduction of the euro, the economist explained the details:

"The main reason is the difference in the tax burden. In Croatia, until recently, there was one rate, 25%, and it's higher than the VAT rate. That rate is very high compared to the rates in Austria, Germany, Italy... not to mention the reduced rates. Austria has 9.5% VAT on all food products, including pet/animal food, taxed at significantly lower rates than in Croatia. Lastly, excise taxes in Slovenia are very low. Here in Croatia, there is an excise tax on plain water, while in Slovenia such an excise tax is very low or non-existent. Jana is therefore cheaper in Slovenia. Another important component of price growth in this country is the long-term closed market. While we had one monopolist, one litre of oil cost 15 kuna back in the year 2000, which is a very high price. And thirdly, in a short period of time over the summer, Croatia has a sudden increase in demand for all goods due to the tourist season. Ten million people come to the Croatian market, the demand increases and those people are ready to pay almost any price."

When asked whether or not it is really realistic to expect what the government is asking from traders in reality, which is the return of December prices, Novotny pointed out:

"For the past twenty years, every single government has chosen an enemy in the private sector. Milanovic's government turned the banking sector into enemy number one. Now this government wants to make the trade sector the enemy, they constantly talk about traders being dishonest. This isn't the discourse of market-oriented economies... Of course, the government needs to have an institutional framework to try to protect consumers and force retailers to disclose product defects, but that's impossible. Hundreds of thousands of items cannot be controlled."

When asked if it was possible to reduce the VAT and whether it would affect the movement of prices, he said: "I think it's impossible. Once the VAT is raised, which was done by Jadranka Kosor, it can't be reversed. The government relies on VAT when it comes to tax revenue, which is the most important source of tax revenue and it is indeed a generous tax. The government will probably maintain this tax burden, and this individual reduction leads to nothing. Government interference in prices is a wrong direction for government policies.

The government reacted, at least in my opinion, unnecessarily abruptly, there was hysteria, the media from Germany, Turkey, Poland, Slovenia called me, asking what was happening. Europe saw that something was happening in Croatia, but they didn't understand why it was happening. Prices have been rising across the entire EU."

Novotny pointed out that it is not true that Zagreb is unjustifiably raising its water prices: "That is not true, the price of water was terribly low here."

He also noted that he doesn't expect any further price increases, explaining that we have now passed the first energy shock and that we won't see a sharp rise in prices again. "I see that retirees are the ones who complain the most, and it's true that pensions are very low in this country, the government needs to intervene there if anywhere," concluded Novotny.

Now the Eu(ro)phoria surrounding Eurozone and Schengen accession has died down, Plenkovic and Milanovic are back to falling out with each other

Plenkovic had a recent interview for French television during which he discussed the vote in the Croatian parliament on the training of Ukrainian soldiers. He said that journalists keep asking him about it and he has to explain to them repeatedly what it's all about.

"It's not a denunciation, I heard what Zoran Milanovic said about all this. Imagine coming out with some thesis that Croats are some kind of American slaves. These are serious theses, what kind of anti-American policy, anti-NATO policy is that? These absurdities never end. These are very serious political mistakes that people in the political community are shocked by. They ask: 'Hello, what is Croatia saying here!?'' he stated, saying that those who have been observing the situation will know precisely where Croatia stands when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war, and that is firmly by the side of Ukraine and firmly against Russia.

"I'm talking about this again because journalists keep asking me about it," he repeated, before opening fire on Milanovic again. "He's leading an absurd policy against Croatian interests..." concluded the Prime Minister when discussing his disapproval of Milanovic's recent bizarre statements about being ''America's slaves''. The two have had an ongoing issue for a long time now, and never miss an opportunity for the claws to come out.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to check out our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 9 December 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Schengen, Bomb Scares and ATM Shortages

December the 9th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've finally had a bit of good news - Croatia has successfully filled all of the requirements to finally join Schengen and will officially do so on the 1st of January, 2023, on the very same day of Eurozone accession. That isn't all, though...

After a lot of nail biting and waiting, Croatian Schengen accession has been officially approved

After much deliberation, a lot of back and forth and eyebrow-raising from Austria apparently not being quite understood, Croatia got the green light to become a Schengen member state on the first day of 2023. Austria's initial issues with proposed Schengen expansion (which would have also included Romania and Bulgaria, but that won't be the case for now) weren't with Croatia as a country but with Schengen expansion as a whole. One Austrian minister was quoted as saying that Schengen is all well and good until there's a political issue, when it suddenly ''ceases to exist''. I dare say that for as excellent as Schengen is, he's far from alone in those opinions.

Despite all of that, and despite reports from the likes of the Financial Times (FT) that neighbouring Hungary and Viktor Orban could be the ones to throw a spanner in Croatia's Schengen plans, both Austria and Hungary (and even Slovenia, which was expected to cause many more issues than it actually did) gave the green light alongside the other deciding nations.

Croatia is now set to become a fully-fledged member of the Schengen area and in less than one month, border controls will be abolished at land, as well sea border crossings, and then on March the 26th, 2023, the same will be done at the country's airports.

Bulgaria and Romania apparently did not receive support because there was a lack of consensus on them joining. 

"Croatia received the unanimous support of the Council for Internal Affairs and Justice - on January the 1st, 2023, we will become a member of Schengen! During this, a year of delivery, we achieved the government's strategic goals, from which both people and the economy will benefit the most!" Plenkovic tweeted after the official announcement.

ATMs cause trouble as we approach Eurozone accession

Moving the Schengen celebrations and the promise of totally free movement aside for a moment, the same unfortunately can't be said for the freedom of cash withdrawals as we approach the day on which we introduce the euro as our official currency. Thousands of ATMs were put out of function this past week as we prepare to enter the Eurozone, leaving many people scratching their heads about where to get cash. Some ATMs have already had the kuna drained from them and been filled up with euros, and around 40 percent of them across the nation will eventually become unavailable as we get closer to D-Day, or should I say E-Day. 

Throughout this final month in which the kuna remains the country's official currency, around 2700 ATMs will be put out of function. Only those which have the ability to allow both kuna and euro withdrawals will continue to work, with the rest gradually being adapted to the euro.

The mass shutdown of ATMs will begin in about ten days, with a small number being shut down by December the 15th, and from that date, the Croatian Association of Banks (HUB) will publish an interactive map of all ATMs in Croatia that remain active in real-time so that people know where they can withdraw banknotes.

It's worth noting that this is also the time to get that old sock with rolled up notes in it out, lift up the mattress, and check your old coat pockets for 10 and 20 kuna notes. The traditional Croatian practice of keeping banknotes in odd items of clothing hidden somewhere in the house could come back to bite those who fail to bank their extra cash lying around so that it can be automatically converted to euros free of charge when we make the official switch over from the kuna to the euro on 2023's maiden day.

PM Andrej Plenkovic says that those who are against Ukrainian soliders being trained here will have to carry that on their conscience for a long time to come

There has been a lot of talk about the idea and then the plan to train Ukrainian soldiers here in Croatia. President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) quite openly said that he was very much against the idea and that Croatia's unwavering support for Ukraine and warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees said enough. He believed that training soldiers to fight against the Russian invaders here could end up bringing unwanted problems to Croatia's doorstep, a mere 30 years after a bloody war of its own.

Others are totally for the idea, and this includes other EU countries who have agreed to also train Ukrainian soldiers in their fight against continued Russian onslaught. 

Plenkovic claimed that he hasn't yet heard any valid, logical or reasonable argument for possibly not making a decision on Croatia's participation in the EUMAM military aid mission to Ukraine and said that the burden of political responsibility isn't on those who are in favour, but on those who aren't. He said he'd be voting for it and that he didn't understand the political logic of those who have reservations about that decision and mission.

How parliament members will vote on Croatia's participation in the EU military aid mission to Ukraine "will be a mark they'll carry with them in the long term," he added.

It's important that Croatia supports Bosnia and Herzegovina on its EU candidate path, according to its senior international representative

During a recent meeting with the State Secretary for Europe at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Andreja Metelko Zgombic, the senior international representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, assessed that it is important for that country that Zagreb fully supports its acquisition of EU candidate status.

"Croatian support for Bosnia and Herzegovina's candidate status for EU membership is very important," wrote Schmidt on his Twitter profile. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also expressed his expectation that the Council of Europe would be able to approve the candidate status of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of the year. Earlier on, the European Commission had indeed recommended that the Council make such a decision.

The German politician at the head of the international administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina assessed having EU candidate status as important for the entire country. "Obtaining EU candidate status would be a much-needed boost for the country and an important sign for people that the enlargement process is working for Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said.

During that same day, State Secretary Metelko Zgombic headed the delegation that held working consultations with colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josip Brkic, also stated on his Twitter that the interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the "extremely good bilateral relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina".

"Croatia remains the most important supporter and friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to both the EU and to NATO," said Brkic.

President Zoran Milanovic visited Chile, the home of a huge number of Croats and their descendents

President Zoran Milanovic went to Chile for the first time recently, on his first trip to South America since taking office in February 2020. It is a vast continent of many opportunities where around 600,000 Croats and their descendents live today. Approximately 160 years ago, the very first wave of Croatian migrants, forced into making difficult decisions by poverty along the coast, set out for Chile. Two more emigrant waves to South American countries followed later, motivated by both economic and political reasons. I won't go into the political ones here.

Historian Ljuba Boric, who works at the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Santiago de Chile, says that the first Croats arrived there from all over the Dalmatian coast between 1860 and 1870 because of a disease of the grapevines and olive trees which sank their (typically) only means of making a living. They often took up mining careers in Chile.

Milanovic will spend a week in Chile and among other things he;ll meet with Chilean President Gabriel Boric who has been in power since March. Ljuba Boric, who is also related to Gabriel Boric, says that the president's great-grandfather Ivo Boric and his brother Sime came from the island of Ugljan (close to Zadar) to Punta Arenas in about 1885.

Institutions from Croatia, a country with 3.8 million inhabitants according to the 2021 census, have been trying to determine the number of Croats in all of South America for some time now, claiming that approximately 600,000 ''members of the Croatian nation and their descendants live in various countries in South America.''

Milanovic says that the recent reports about bombs being in various large shopping centres have nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine

If you've been following the news over the last few months, every now and then there are very strange reports about shopping centres (usually in Zagreb) being evacuated because there have been reports of a bomb being planted there. Odd indeed. They have all been false alarms and for some extremely bizarre reason, it has become somewhat of a trend to claim bombs are being hidden in shopping centres. Odd indeed, yet again. One of the people who made such a claim was a security guard who simply didn't want to come to work. He has since been dealt with by the authorities, and probably regrets not just calling in sick. Hopefully anyway.

This week, the bomb scare/shopping centre stories got a bit more of a spring in their step and more such scares were announced in multiple shopping centres in multiple areas. In sixteen counties, to be exact! Milanovic has been quick to squash the rumours that it has anything at all to do with the Russia-Ukraine war. On Tuesday he said that he thinks that these weird false reports about bombs have nothing to do with the horrific ongoing situation in Ukraine and said that those making these false claims should be located and arrested because creating panic among people like this for no reason is an act punishable by law.

"Find and aprehend these individuals - these are obviously people who don't have these means (bombs) at their disposal, nor do they have anything to do with them, but they have the capacity to sow fear and panic among people, and that's a punishable offence,'' Milanovic told reporters in Dubrovnik. He added that he believes that it has absolutely nothing to do with the war between Russia and Ukraine, as some have been quick to try to claim. He also said that no normal person would show any sort of support to Russia.

Dubrovnik honoured its defenders and marked the 31st anniversary of the darkest day in its history - the siege

The 6th of December 1991 will remain etched deeply into the memories of all those who were there when the JNA attacked the city, and will forever be an unhealed wound for the Pearl of the Adriatic. 

On the aforementioned date back in 1991, the City of Dubrovnik was viciously attacked by the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army), it was the culmination of a siege which sought to raze the globally adored UNESCO World Heritage Site to the ground. A similar and unfortunately successful action was seen much more recently in Palmyra at the hands of ISIS. The horrific bombardment of Dubrovnik resulted in international condemnation of the JNA and rightly became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to and furthering their diplomatic and economic isolation and winning them powerful enemies across Europe and the rest of the world. It was a shot in the foot from which the still-estranged Serbia has hardly ever recovered in the eyes of the international community, and rightly so.

You can read much more about that day, the lives that were lost and the tremendous damage that was done by clicking here.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 25 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Politician Pay Rises, Schengen and Ukraine

November the 25th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from wage increases for politicians and state officials and saying an emphatic ''YES'' to training Ukrainian soldiers, to Austria changing its tune regarding Croatian Schengen accession and Milanovic claiming that it's actually America fighting with Russia through Ukraine.

The monthly wage earned by Plenkovic, his ministers and parliamentarians is set to go up

Much to the delight of every average Joe living and working in Croatia and struggling to make ends meet, Plenkovic and co are set to get a wage increase. 

You'll probably remember that last month, the government and the trade unions finally came to an agreement on a basic salary increase, meaning that the monthly salary will also increase for Plenkovic, Milanovic, Jandrokovic, government ministers and members of parliament, that is, for all officials. However, with the passing of this particular law, the President of the Constitutional Court will be taking home the highest official salary, and not President Zoran Milanovic.

With the amendments to the law that the government sent to the parliament recently, for which it is requesting adoption under an urgent procedure, the base rate for officials will be the same as that applied to civil servants, so all future increases, including this one now, will automatically apply to politicians as well.

One Ukrainian minister thanks Croatia for allowing Ukrainian soldiers to come and be trained to fight the Russians in Croatia

''Thanks, Plenkovic!'' tweets the minister...

You might recall the likes of President Zoran Milanovic among others being staunchly against the idea of training Ukrainian soldiers to fight against their invaders here in Croatia. Milanovic believed that Croatia's showcasing of unwavering support for Ukraine and providing help and safety for refugees was enough, and that anything else would be provocation of Putin and inviting the war to this country's doorstep. Many agreed with him. Many more found themselves surprised at agreeing with him.

Still, it seems that his case for disapproval fell on deaf ears as the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksij Reznikov, thanked Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi and Defense Minister Marij Banozic on Twitter after the government sent the decision on Croatia's participation in the military aid mission to Ukraine for approval by the parliament yesterday.

"The government of the Republic of Croatia approved the decision to train the Ukrainian army in Croatia. A modern, well-trained army with powerful partners will definitely defeat a pack of Russian murderers, robbers and rapists. Thank you Andrej Plenkovic and Mario Banozic for their support!" Reznikov tweeted.

Croatia's participation in the military aid mission to Ukraine includes the training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, which isn't something many people are all too thrilled about. Banozic, however, seems to have allowed all logical opposition to this fly right over his head. ''What are they against? Are they against saving lives?'' he asked.

Zoran Milanovic claims that America is fighting a war against Russia... through Ukraine

If you're a follower of Croatian politics in any deeper capacity, you'll know that President Milanovic often comes out with some rather unusual things. He also never misses an opportunity to spit on HDZ, which for many makes him a popular character in at least one aspect. For others, his distasteful remarks cross the line a bit too often, and for others, well, they can't quite make head nor tail of him. He has recently come out with something quite strange.

The Day of the City of Zadar took place recently, which is celebrated at a formal session of the City Council, and Milanovic was there. As expected, he referred to the government's decision to train Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia which I mentioned above, and which he was firmly against. "This is personal terror and harassment by Plenkovic, it's just his desire to push some of his ideas," said Milanovic, as RTL reported at the time.

President Milanovic also said that he knows what is written in the Croatian Constitution because ''he wrote it''. He was referring to the statement of the government at that session that the training of Ukrainian soldiers is based on the Constitution and on the laws and international agreements according to which Ukraine is an allied country.

''Therefore,'' Milanovic added: "Ukraine, to its credit, is not an ally." "The Croatian Parliament is not responsible for making any decisions on the training of foreign soldiers in Croatia," he said. He called things as they were set up by the government a "Udbas sabotage", which, if you know who the ''Udbasi'' (the Yugoslav secret service) were and what they got up to, you'll realise is quite the statement.

"Now it will be seen who's Russia and who's for Ukraine. I'm not for anyone. I'm for Croatia,'' Milanovic said.

"There's a war going on there between America and Russia. Between Russia and Ukraine, I'm on the side of Ukraine, of course. But it's a war between America and Russia," he said. "We have to state that the Americans are waging a war against Russia through Ukrainian youths, we have to say that. When it comes to decisions that have a security and defense character, you have to consult with the president, and I say to the members of parliament: ''Don't be intimidated,'' he said.

New measures against inflation could come to be, and all hands are on deck for post-earthquake reconstruction (for the earthquake that occurred two years ago)

Plenkovic recently pointed out that the proposed state budget for next year will provide funds for the growth of both wages and pensions, increased funds for veterans and the army, and he also announced possible new measures to mitigate the impact of inflation, with the message that "there's power and space for that".

"We have the space and strength to do that, if there's a need, and considering the circumstances, our measures will be precise and comprehensive, and as we've done so far, we'll solve it and you'll be satisfied with what we do,'' said Plenkovic in response to Branko Grcic (SDP ) when asked what will happen at the end of March next year, when all previous measures are due to expire.

''We'll also reduce excise duties on heating oil and thereby provide additional assistance to people,'' announced the Prime Minister during the parliamentary debate on the 2023 budget, adding that ''the number of people at risk of poverty is continuously falling in Croatia and that figure is smaller than when we assumed responsibility.''

In his answers to the deputies, Plenković pointed out that the fight against corruption continues, that it is strong and brings results.

Regarding the post-earthquake reconstruction for the earthquakes which struck Zagreb in March 2020 and the Banovina area in December of that same year, which he was also asked about, Plenkovic said that the government is providing a lot of aid and that the reconstruction of houses is intensifying, that all departments are working on reconstruction and are in charge of spending the available funds.

Austria is now all for Croatia joining Schengen, or is it?

You may have read (or heard) about Austria taking a stance against Croatia joining the Schengen zone in January 2023, with talk of the country potentially going as far as to block entry. Now it seems that the tide has turned, or has it? Memories are short when it comes to Croatian politics.

Plenkovic recently received the Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, Karl Nehammer, at Banski dvori. This is Nehammer's first official visit to Croatia as chancellor.

"In the last thirty years or so, relations with Austria have been among the most extensive of the numerous countries with which Croatia cooperates since it was internationally recognised. Since the 1990s, Austria has been the second biggest investor in Croatia. This year, Croatia was visited by one and a half million Austrian tourists,'' said Plenkovic at the beginning of the press conference.

"Today we also discussed the most important topic ahead of this visit, which is the final two weeks before the decision on Croatian membership of the Schengen area. This was an opportunity to once again explain to the chancellor what Croatia has done from 2016 until today," Plenkovic said.

"We're currently discussing the expansion of Schengen, and we can see that Austria in particular has insufficient protection of its external borders. At the same time, we have a reduction in border protection within the EU itself, in our opinion it can't continue like that, so some measures will have to be taken,'' he said.

"When we talk about Schengen's expansion, and at the same time we criticise the plan that the European Commission should present with regard to these problems that we've presented, it is important to say that this doesn't apply to Croatia. Special votes will be cast for Croatia, as they will for both Bulgaria and Romania. We'll support Croatia's accession to the Schengen area, but we're going to be critical of the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania," added the Austrian chancellor.

The Austrian chancellor also said that it is necessary to change the system and strengthen the EU's external borders in order to make free movement within Schengen possible.

It's worth noting that Austrian Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, caused great concern reently after he said that he was against the expansion of the Schengen area to include Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. Over the past few days, he has repeatedly said that he is against any Schengen expansion, which he said is something that simply isn't working, which can be seen from the increased number of asylum seekers arriving in Austria. That country registered the entry of around 100,000 migrants this year alone, of which 75,000 were not previously registered in any EU country at all.

Nehammer warned that his minister wanted to signal that "Schengen is clearly not working and that new measures are needed." The Council for Justice and Internal Affairs meets on December the 8th and 9th, when it will make the final decision on Croatia's entry into the Schengen area. Croatia's accession was previously supported by the European Commission and the European Parliament, so all fingers (and likely toes) are crossed.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to follow our dedicated section and keep your eyes peeled for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 18 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Taxes on Taxes, Drones and Spanish Royalty

This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from Spanish royalty visiting the country for the very first time to Milanovic insulting the foreign minister, missiles hitting Poland, complaints about taxes being put on taxes and still not actually knowing who dropped a drone on Zagreb back in March.

PM Andrej Plenkovic meets the Spanish king

Andrej Plenkovic met with the Spanish king during the very first visit of the Spanish royals to the Republic of Croatia this week. King Felipe VI of Spain and Plenkovic sat down to discuss economic cooperation, the ongoing energy crisis, migrant policies and Croatia's imminent entry into the Schengen area.

As stated, this was the Spanish royal couple's very first official visit to Croatia, and Plenkovic pointed out that the visit is "a pledge to further strengthen bilateral relations with Spain at all levels, with a special emphasis placed on on cultural, educational and scientific exchange".

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation on cooperation in the creation of the DONES Programme, which envisages a partnership between Croatia and Spain in fusion research.

"Projects like this are an opportunity for further cooperation between Croatian and Spanish companies in the high-tech and scientific sphere, they also represent the improvement of economic relations," the press release on the matter stated. Plenkovic was quick to thank King Felipe for Spain's ongoing support in Croatia's entry into Schengen, which is set to occur on the 1st of January, 2023, the same date on which Croatia will officially adopt the euro as its currency.

The pair also discussed current challenges such as the energy crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine and the bloc's migrant policy, which requires a unique European response, as well as the role of the EU in Latin America and in the Western Balkans.

The Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) claims the new tax which was proposed recently will further discriminate against certain companies and work to punish the most successful

''We're shocked by the government's proposal for a new profit tax because it's discriminatory and puts the most successful companies in Croatia at a disadvantage. This is actually the dishing out of a punishment to the most successful companies in this country, the companies that fill the state budget the most, employ the most people, pay the highest salaries and invest the most," said the Croatian Association of Employers, reacting to the introduction of the new profit tax.

"Companies operating here in Croatia don't have extra earnings, this year's profit barely covers losses from previous years, and it's completely unclear as to why the government is doing this. Ahead of us lies a crisis and recession, the depth of which we don't yet know. What we know is that Croatian companies are cancelling orders left, right and centre and that now we need the strength to survive the recession and let people keep their jobs," they warned from HUP.

"This is a proposal to introduce a tax on taxes, which will certainly stop investment in development, which means that there will be no new jobs or salary growth, and we're once again becoming an unsafe country for business and looking unattractive to investors. Along with Hungary, we're the only country that spreads the tax across the entire economy instead of, as prescribed by the European Commission Regulation, keeping it exclusively to the energy sector, which made an unexpected profit thanks to market disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine," announced HUP.

"HUP cannot support the unjustified discrimination of large companies that this proposal brings. On top of that, this tax cannot be introduced retroactively for the year 2022, when investment and employment plans have already been implemented. This proposal will unjustifiably penalise the most successful Croatian companies, the best employers and the largest investors who and they pay the most into the state budget," said Irena Weber, CEO of HUP.

Instead of introducing yet more new taxes, HUP very concretely advocates a full tax reform and stronger work relief through an increase in the personal tax deduction and a reduction in income tax rates. This is the way to strengthen the economy, attract new investments, increase wages and create new jobs, according to them.

Milanovic and King Felipe talk politics while their wives talk healthcare and the prevention of obesity in children

King Felipe VI of Spain and Croatian President Zoran Milanovic are both satisfied with the bilateral relations between the two European countries, while their wives emphasised the importance of preventing obesity in children for preserving the health of the entire population, according to the press releases published after their meetings in Pantovcak.

The Spanish king was on a two-day official visit to the Republic of Croatia together with Queen Letizia, and after the ceremonial reception at Pantovcak, President Milanovic and his wife Sanja Music Milanovic spoke with the royal pair. The Spanish king and the Croatian president both stated that they are satisfied with the bilateral relations between Croatia and Spain, which are two friendly and allied countries, members of the European Union and NATO.

King Felipe and Milanovic also referred to the close scientific cooperation between the two countries, which is particularly marked by the joint partnership in the aforementioned DONES programme, which the Spanish king also discussed at length with Plenkovic.

The meeting also discussed current European and global topics, including the security crisis in Eastern Europe caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine, while their wives discussed the importance of preventing obesity in children.

Sanja Music Milanovic and Queen Letizia of Spain separately discussed innovative approaches to obesity prevention in children in Croatia, Spain and the entire continent. The importance of obesity prevention in children for preserving the health of the entire population was emphasised and the importance of a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention through a multisectoral set of interventions aimed at all periods of life was emphasised, the press release on the topic stated.

Music Milanovic presented the professional and scientific activities she carries out in this area in Croatia and Europe and announced the upcoming inaugural summit of the spouses of European leaders on the topic of childhood obesity prevention across Europe, which she will jointly organise with the European Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The King and Queen of Spain were, as stated, on their very first official visit to Croatia during the year which marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Croatia and Spain, all with the aim of confirming exceptionally good bilateral relations and providing incentives for their further development.

Croatian authorities still don't know who launched the six-tonne drone which hit Zagreb eight months ago

As news broke about an alleged Russian missile having crossed over into Polish territory, killing two people, our memories return to the drone which struck Zagreb eight months ago. It turns out that the powers that be still have no idea who launched the mysterious drone which crash landed and ended up in pieces. 

The Russians are still claiming that the drone which struck Poland had nothing to do with them, saying all those who are claiming it to be Russian are just trying to provoke. Still, we were all shocked and we went from speculating about a Russian attack on Poland, a NATO country, to thinking about the possibility of a third world war to, what is now increasingly likely, finding out that the missile was in fact Ukrainian.

As a reminder, two people were killed after, as Polish authorities then said, a "Russian-made projectile" fell near the village of Przewodow, about 6.4 kilometres west of the Polish-Ukrainian border, around the same time that Moscow forces launched their largest wave of missile attacks on multiple Ukrainian cities in more than a month.

The circumstances of the incident, including information about who fired the missile and from where it was fired, were unknown, which caused possible speculation about Russian involvement in the event and expectations of NATO's next step following the apparent striking of Poland, a NATO member state. But according to US officials, initial findings suggest that the missile that hit Poland was actually fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile.

Three officials told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that the Ukrainians were trying to defend themselves against Russian fire aimed at their electrical infrastructure. This is the event that reminded us of the incident that happened on March the 10th right here in Zagreb, just two weeks after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Then, a strange Soviet-made Tu-141 unmanned aircraft crashed in Zagreb near the "Stjepan Radic" student dormitory. During the fall, the unmanned aircraft crashed into the ground, leaving a crater behind it.

The circumstances behind it all are still unclear, so Index asked DORH recently if it had ever actually been established who had sent that drone into Croatian territory.

"On April the 13th, 2022, the County State Attorney's Office (DORH) in Zagreb, in the presence of experts, held a press conference where they reported on the results of the investigation related to the crash of the drone.

''At the aforementioned press conference, it was stated that the answers to the questions about where the [unmanned] aircraft came from and whose aircraft it was are under the jurisdiction of other bodies, and not under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney's Office," the answer reads. As for the press conference that DORH mentions in the answer, it was said that the drone had Ukrainian colours on it, but also that it was carrying a bomb. "It was undoubtedly established that it was fragments of an OFAB 100-120 aerial bomb," Major Mile Tomic said in a DORH press release back in April, adding that a lighter was also found.

"During the impact, an explosive device did explode, as was evidenced by the creation of a large crater, the scattering of earth and stones, the ejection of fragments from the crater, as well as traces of tearing and hardening of the metal parts of the bomb," said Ivana Bacic, a chief fire and explosion expert.

"The original aerial bomb should contain 40 to 46 kilos of TNT military explosive, which would be characterised by blackening," Bacic noted.

The Zagreb drone incident could therefore have had horrendous consequences, and yet it seems we're none the wiser. By sheer luck, a real tragedy was avoided. When people say the word 'drone', to many people it sounds like a plastic toy or indeed a type of worker bee, but in this case we're dealing with something that weighs six tonnes and was carrying an explosive on it. It fell in the immediate vicinity of the student dormitory and what could have happened doesn't bear thinking about. In spite of all of that, it is still not known who the drone belonged to, how it was launched, or and why.

Back at that time, the drone event stimulated two debates. First, the question arose as to how much protection NATO provides to Croatia in general.

Before entering Croatian territory, the drone flew over two NATO member states, Hungary and Romania, only to crash in the third NATO member state, Croatia, after seven minutes of flight. In those seven minutes, no one reacted, neither the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia nor the Directorate of Civil Protection. NATO did nothing either, and all that lack of action in the then very fresh situation of the shocking Russian invasion of Ukraine and the outbreak of war here in Europe once again.

"NATO's integrated air and anti-missile defense followed the flight path of the object that subsequently crashed in Zagreb. The Croatian authorities have announced that they are investigating this incident," said a NATO official at the time.

Second, in parallel with the investigation, there was a debate about whether the drone really had a bomb on it or not. Defense Minister Mario Banozic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic claimed that there was an explosive device in the drone, while a number of experts disputed this. President Zoran Milanovic was also skeptical about the presence of a bomb in the drone, and he was quick to reproach Plenkovic and Banozic for stoking fears.

Even NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg entered the discussion about the explosive device on the drone, and he stated at a press conference that the drone was unarmed. After that, another press conference was called by Prime Minister Plenkovic, who denied his claim, along the way showing photos of parts of the drone that he said belonged to the bomb.

As stated, despite the severity of this incident and all of the potential reasons behind it which are extremely concerning to think about given Russia's actions and the ongoing war over in Ukraine, nobody seems much more in the know then they were back on March the 10th.

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman says that we will not be training Ukrainian soldiers on Croatian territory

If you recall, Zoran Milanovic was among the loudest in his opposition to this idea, and it seems he is far from alone in his thoughts that supporting Ukraine should be as far as Croatia goes, as we don't want to bring the war to our doorstep. 

"I'm absolutely not going to give my consent. Grlic Radman went to Brussels without my prior consent. There are enough of Plenkovic's mini ministers going up to Brussels without the prior consent of the commander-in-chief, and it isn't going to carry on that way. Grlic Radman is nobody and nothing, Plenkovic is actually important here, but he went and pushed himself to the front row like a dumb nerd,"  Milanovic said about the Minister of Foreign Affairs, once again using another opportunity to sling mud and throw insults around.

Grlic Radman also said later today that there will be no training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, and he remained polite and professional in his wording.

"What Croatia can offer, it will offer. Is it the training of Ukrainian soldiers on our territory? No, no it isn't, it will be on the territory of some other EU member states that have offered. However, the countries in which that might take place still haven't been determined,'' Grlic Radman said in an interview with RTL Danas/Today.

 

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and keep your eyes peeled for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 4 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Arab Investors, Marijuana and Pay Rises

November the 4th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from investors purchasing stakes in Croatian companies that apparently nobody knew anything about, attempts to legalise marijuana, hopes for neighbouring countries to become EU member states, Italians and more drama regarding Zoran Milanovic.

Fortenova claims it was unaware of the approval of the sale of Sberbank's stake to an investor from the UAE, the government says it knew nothing, either

Ever heard of Saik Alketbi? Nobody here has either. The name cropped up for apparently the first time this week in Croatia after the sale of the Russian Sberbank's stake in this massive Croatian company was sold to him. The government also claims it has absolutely no idea about any of this either. To be more specific, a 43.4% stake has been sold to the Arab investor without any approval, with the transaction having been completed on the final day of October this year.

Sberbank, which is the biggest shareholder in Fortenova, is currently under international sanctions due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it seems that the company hasn't even been officially notified of this stake sale, which is not only difficult to believe but extremely odd. It's worth recalling that the first would-have-been buyer of Sberbank's stake in the company was Indotek from neighbouring Hundary, but it failed in its quest as it didn't get the necessary approvals. The second attempt at a purchase was made by pension funds, but the transaction was halted.

''Sberbank's assets are under sanctions and their sale requires the issuance of all of the necessary approvals by the authorities in charge of implementing those sanctions,” Fortenova said in its statement on this rather bizarre matter.

“Fortenova has no information that further approvals to buy Sberbank's stake have been issued and therefore we don't see how a valid sale could have gone through. Besides, following the pension funds, there has been no due diligence of the company. If sanctions [those against Russia, which encompass Sberbank] have been violated, then a crime has been committed and the company has not participated in it,” Fortenova stated.

Multiple politicians have voiced their views on this topic, believing that something extremely strange has gone on. Politicial figures from the opposition (read not HDZ) are frothing at the mouth at this new opportunity to tear HDZ a new one, stating that it is impossible that after the initial Agrokor scandal from 2017 and now this latest charade with INA, claiming ''they don't know anything about it'' is an excuse which is wearing thin for HDZ.

Marijuana isn't addictive, claims parliamentarian when discussing the new on the substance

Ivana Posavec Krivec (social democrats) has stated that marijuana doesn't lead to addiction. Posavec Krivec's party was the one to propose a new law on exploiting the full potential of hemp in Croatia.

"The use of marijuana isn't harmful, it doesn't lead to addiction, this isn't a question of the use of hard drugs," Ivana Posavec Krivec said in Croatian Parliament during the recent debate on the proposed law of her party. With this, she responded to HDZ's Luka Brcic, who believes that this bill would create an atmosphere where people believe that the use of marijuana is not harmful, which, he believes, isn't the case. He stressed that like any drug, it can be especially harmful for children and young people. HDZ's Mladen Karlic also made sure to warn that the proposed law stipulates that every adult can grow nine flowering female plants for their own needs, which, in his opinion, flings the door wide open for the completely free enjoyment of marijuana and "the entry of drug tourism into Croatia". On top of that, he thinks such a move would result in a significantly higher number of marijuana users.

Posavec Krivec explained that research into marijuana has shown that the cultivation of nine female hemp plants is the amount needed to produce everything needed to relieve pain in seriously ill patients who are using it for relief. She claims that properly legalising and regulating this would prevent such people doing things under the table and purchasing impure things on the market, and it would help boost the domestic economy too. The proposers of the law, Posavec Krivec and Vesna Nadj, both pointed out that hemp has an exceptional economic potential because more than 25,000 different products are produced from it.

"The Club of Social Democrats believes that Croatia must not be at the tail end of European and global trends in the legalisation and liberalisation of hemp in order to exploit its full potential. Croatia must be a country that will be a leader in exploiting all of this plant's significant potential through this law,'' Nadj stated.

PM Andrej Plenkovic says it is in Croatia's interest for its neigbouring countries to join the European Union (EU)

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic (HDZ) stated after the meeting at the Western Balkans Summit 2022 in the German capital of Berlin that it is very much in the Republic of Croatia's interest that all countries in its immediate neighbourhood become members of the European Union, and he praised Germany's efforts in reviving the Berlin process.

"The meeting was very good. I think it's excellent that Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to continue this initiative that Chancellor Angela Merkel started back in 2014," Plenkovic said after the summit ended. Croatia's energy potential and issues with the political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina were also discussed at the summit.

The Croatian Government finally came to a decision to increase the salaries taken home by those employed in public and state services

The government finally adopted some formal conclusions at a recent session, and the assumption now is that for about 240,000 employees in the public and state sector, their basic salaries and other material rights will be increased in this and the next year. According to the agreement which was finally (and somewhat painfully) reached last Wednesday by the trade unions and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, salaries for employees in the public and state sectors will increase by six percent from October the 1st this year and by two percent from April the 1st next year.

The plan is also to increase Christmas bonuses from 1,500 kuna to 1,750 kuna, among other similar increases. Out of a total of 11 public and state service unions that were involved in negotiations with the government regarding the base increase of late, nine unions accepted the government's offer, meaning that the conditions for signing the addendum were met because the government's offer was supported by unions that have more than 50 percent of the total number of members of all unions that participated in the negotiations, as well as unions from at least three of the five areas that were negotiated.

The government's offer was still not accepted by the Preporod trade union and the Independent Trade Union of employees in science and higher education, considering that it was an insufficient salary increase for them considering the inflationary pressures we're currently all dealing with.

A six percent increase in the base will cost the state 600 million kuna, and it will be provided through budget rebalancing and redistribution, while a two percent increase will require a slightly lesser sum of 500 million kuna. Plenkovic said that the agreement with the unions testifies that they reached an agreement through a high-quality and open dialogue with the leaders of the unions, which confirmed the government's commitment to social dialogue and the strengthening of social partnership. Plenkovic also stated that their end goal is to support workers and employees as much as possible.

President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) wasn't invited to an important war anniversary

As All Saints' Day was marked, many delegations were present at Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery. Wreaths were laid and candles were lit by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Minister of Croatian Veterans Tomo Medved, Minister of the Interior Davor Bozinovic, and the President of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic.

"These are the days when we remember the dead with sadness and reverence, especially those who lost their lives during the Homeland War. Over these days, we also think about the suffering of others that we observe, especially over in Ukraine. I hope that all this week, and in all of Croatia's cemeteries, a dignified atmosphere will take hold, and that we'll all remember those who are no longer among us in peace and quiet," said Nina Obuljen Korzinek, Minister of Culture and Media.

"We urge that anniversaries are not misused for political purposes,'' she stated when asked if the tragic anniversary of the Vukovar massacre later this month will end up being  misused for political purposes by certain individuals and groups in Croatian politics.

"What we as a government do and say is aimed exclusively at coming together [to remember]. If someone creates an agenda on divisions, I think people will recognise that, and Minister Tomo Medved clearly emphasised that we as a nation are facing one of the saddest months of the year, especially for the people of Vukovar, Skabrnja and other Croatian cities which suffered heavy casualties back in 1991. We always call for us to come together in silence, with dignity, and that neither anniversaries nor commemorations be misused for any political goals, especially those that cause unrest, discord and divisions in society."

Commenting on the situation with Milanovic not being invited to an important anniversary, Obuljen Korzinek said that "nobody is boycotting anyone".

"We're doing our job responsibly. There are actors in society who only and exclusively have an agenda of inciting hatred, throwing out unacceptable theses and narratives, people will be quick to recognise that. I think that especially from this place we should call for dignity in our behaviour, but also in public communication,'' she said.

The minister didn't want to directly comment on the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the liberation of southern Croatia, to which President Milanovic was not invited. She briefly and simply said that no one would face any issues because of it.

Plenkovic meets with the Italians in Pula, stating that he wants to further strengthen Croatian-Italian relations going forward

During his recent stay in Pula, Plenkovic with representatives of the Italian Union and emphasised their great commitment to maintain and further develop the culture and identity of their national community in these areas.

"The cooperation between the government, the Italian Union and Istria County as a whole can serve as an excellent example for all other national communities across Croatia. We also discussed the framework of our cooperation today, noting that there is a special chapter in the government's operational plan that concerns the activities of national communities," said Plenkovic adding that the goal of both Croatia and Italy is to strengthen their relations and level of mutual cooperation.

The president of the Italian Union, Maurizio Tremul, expressed his satisfaction with the conversation he'd had with the Croatian prime minister, noting that they discussed a number of topics aimed at improving the position of members of the Italian minority population across Istria, and thanked the Prime Minister for the government's support for the Italian national community.

 

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to follow our dedicated section and keep an eye out for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 28 October 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Schengen, Slovenia, Ukraine and Nancy Pelosi

October the 28th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from insults, Slovenia's opinions on Croatian Schengen entry and wage increase proposals to healthcare reforms, Milanovic's latest actions, and Nancy Pelosi.

The Croatian Health Insurance Fund's HDZ boss referred to Croats as arrogant in his speech about healthcare not being free

The director of the HZZO, HDZ member Lucian Vukelic has referred to Croats as arrogant because "they think healthcare is free". The HDZ member at HZZO's helm also made sure to refer to himself as somewhat arrogant, too, just for good measure.

"We have a lot of relatives in America, as soon as you see them, they say: 'Thank God I'm healthy'. They say that because healthcare costs serious money in America. In America, you pay for your healthcare out of your own pocket. Our people here are arrogant, and I must say that even I was arrogant, people in Croatia say 'it's free'. It's not free. Healthcare in Croatia isn't free, healthcare in Croatia also costs money," he said.

Vukelic failed to really explain what the point of saying any of that actually was, but he seemed to imply that there is a widespread opinion across Croatia that healthcare somehow doesn't cost money. Moreover, Vukelic himself said that a third of Croats who work annually pay 26 billion kuna from their wages for basic health insurance, so they certainly know that healthcare isn't free.

Of course, there's also the question of what we actually get out of this healthcare we're paying for, which HDZ member Vukelic claims is expensive. It would perhaps be okay if, given that Vukelic is already more than happy to admit that we all pay dearly for our healthcare, he explained why every now and then people are forced to collect money for their treatment, why pregnant women sometimes have to take their own toilet paper to maternity hospitals with them, why the waiting times for often basic examinations are so long and why medical staff are leaving Croatia.

Only later, when asked by a journalist about his statement, did the HDZ member try to justify himself by calling himself arrogant as well, which is absolutely true, but it is also true that he called other people arrogant with the thesis that "our people say that healthcare is free", which honestly, they don't. When they see how much of their wage is shaved off for it each month, they definitely do not.

A man who takes home a monthly salary of over 18,000 kuna, who drives a 300,000 kuna Mercedes, who has an official car, who owned a 150,000 kuna 2001 Harley Davidson until 2019 and who claims his ''communication skills are excellent'' but makes sexist remarks on a TV show (Otvoreno) about women talking a lot should perhaps quiet down before calling others arrogant.

On the topic of healthcare, Health Minister Vili Beros has announced reforms to the system

Beros has presented his healthcare reform package, and it's extensive. Preventative examinations will be introduced, with pilot projects beginning next year in two Croatian counties, the number of specialisations in primary healthcare will be widened, there will be revisions for national preventative programmes for malignant diseases, a focus will be placed on melanoma, hospital system changes are set to come in, and there will be an emergency helicopter service fully established and up and running (or flying) by 2024.

This is just a little bit of what was presented and discussed. You can read more details in this article.

Are Croatia and Slovenia set to start falling out over Schengen entry?

The topic of Croatian Schengen entry is hotting up as the country's Eurozone accession rapidly approaches, but is neighbouring Slovenia ready to throw yet another spanner in the works? 

An expert in European Union law from the Faculty of Law in Maribor, Janja Hojnik, was a recent guest of Novi Dan on N1 where Croatia's entry into Schengen, among other things, was discussed. Hojnik noted that, as far as it seems, the Slovenian Government has not decided to block Croatia's entry into Schengen in any way.

"It has been determined that it is a mutual benefit for Croatia to enter the Schengen zone. The plan is for Slovenia to also ratify the agreement on Croatia's entry into Schengen," she said. She also commented on the announcement, which was published yesterday in the Ljubljana-based newspaper Delo, that Slovenia will issue a unilateral note stating that Croatia, by entering the Schengen area, accepts the arbitration ruling which was reached in the past regarding a territorial dispute.

"Recently, I was on Slovenian television and they asked two ministers for their comments on those statements and one minister said that it was all misinformation, and the Minister of Justice said that the Government hadn't even commented on it and that she knew nothing about it, that this statement should be confirmed in parliament, and there is no information from the Foreign Policy Committee about it. We can only speculate whether it will be brought to the Slovenian Government itself or to parliament. I think it would be a little unusual if it were inserted into the Act on Ratification. This is not the norm and the European Commission would probably ask Slovenia what it all means. I don't think that ratification with this condition is possible. I don't see any legal consequences to this. Such a statement can't be part of European Union law, and it doesn't have any legal consequences even in international law,'' explained Hojnik.

When speaking about the arbitration agreement between Slovenia and Croatia, she said that the task of politics is to resolve relations between neighbours, not to deepen them.

"I'd like Slovenia and Croatia to solve this problem themselves, without any external factors getting involved. Schengen is probably the last thing where Slovenia could have a veto. It is in Slovenia's interest that they aren't on an external border. I see it as the responsibility of politics to find an agreement,'' she said.

Plenkovic says he's going to regulate work on Sundays and raise the minimum wage. Again.

PM Andrej Plenkovic recently discussed the state of the economy, ongoing inflation, the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic and of course, Russian aggression against Ukraine. Digitalisation and the green transition, two topics that keep coming up, were also touched on. Perhaps what attracted the most attention of all, however, were the discussions on banning (or should I say regulating) work on Sundays (remember that?) and of course, talk of raising the minumum wage. If you've spent any time following the domestic political scene, neither of the aforementioned and farily worn out topics will come as a surprise to you.

"We're going to regulate work on Sundays and the minimum wage will go up,'' says Plenkovic, who announced that his government would make several steps forward in both this and in other regards in the coming weeks. "We'll regulate work on Sundays and we've come up with a rational, well-balanced proposal," Plenkovic assured, adding that the minimum wage will also increase from next year to 4,220 kuna net, and a proposal for an additional tax on extra profits is being prepared in order to more fairly share the burden of the ongoing crisis. He also announced the continuation of the social dialogue with the trade unions, with whom intense conversations have been happening of late.

He noted that in just two months, the Republuc of Croatia will be among the fifteen countries in the world that are in NATO, the European Union, Schengen and the Eurozone, and that negotiations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been launched.

Plenkovic uses yet another opportunity to troll President Zoran Milanovic (SDP)

If you've spent any time in the City of Zagreb over the last few days, you'll have noticed that getting anywhere by road proved impossible for about 48 hours. The Crimea Platform Summit was being held right here in the Croatian capital, and for road users, the problems were very much in evidence. Plenkovic recently discussed how this extremely significant summit went, making no effort to hide his satisfaction with how it unfolded, and once again offering words of support to Ukraine.

It didn't stop there. If you follow Croatian politics, you'll know that Andrej Plenkovic (HDZ) and Zoran Milanovic (SDP), the Prime Minister and the President of Croatia, make sure to miss no chance to insult or troll each other, and this was no exception. Plenkovic made sure to make his feelings clear on Milanovic's earlier comments about Nancy Pelosi and the aforementioned summit.

"I think you're more than aware of just how important, useful and excellent an event like this that we organised actually is for the courageous, correct and moral foreign policy of the Croatian Government. This topic of whether or not someone went to Makarska just isn't the subject of my interest. He can explain that one himself,'' Plenkovic said, referencing Milanovic having gone to the aforementioned part of Central Dalmatia.

''I guess you can see who has been saying what over the past few years. I don't know what sort of rally he'll decide to go to, maybe he'll go to one Russia organises. Mrs. Pelosi didn't waste her time on irrelevant things, and neither did we," Prime Minister Plenkovic concluded, having made a very clear jab at Milanovic with the Russia comment. Gordan Grlic Radman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, also touched on the topic of Milanovic, claiming that ''people are calling and asking what Croatia's position actually is'' in regard to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Nancy Pelosi praises Croatia for its humanity towards Ukraine and refers to the country as a leader in the diversification of energy sources

Nany Pelosi said that Croatia could offer Ukraine a lot owing to its relatively recent experience of war, and she also said that this country is a leader in the diversification of energy sources. Pelosi issued a warning that energy has become a means of blackmail in Russia's horrendous aggression against Ukraine, before thanking Croatia and Plenkovic for their leadership in the field of energy.

"Croatia is a small enough country to be resilient, but big enough to be significant in terms of security, democracy, peace and values," Pelosi believes, adding that the diversification of energy sources is helping to save planet Earth. Plenkovic said that with the construction of the LNG terminal on Krk, Croatia has now ''finally resolved" a four-decade-long debate in energy circles and that by deciding to increase its capacity, the government has "enabled Croatia to become an energy hub'' for natural gas.

Pelosi also said that the Croatian capital is the "perfect" place for the summit to be held, emphasising the very strong Croatian-Ukrainian friendship and the help that Zagreb continually provides to Kyiv as it goes through such terrible times.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section, and keep an eye out for our A Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published each Friday.

Friday, 21 October 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Gas, Energy Drinks, Hospitals and Milanovic

October the 21st, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics saw everything from hopes of energy drink bans, the Russian media writing about Milanovic and former government ministers getting new jobs to gas prices, wage proposals and hospital construction plans.

MEP Biljana Borzan (SDP) thinks the Health Ministry and the Croatian Government should ban the sale of potentially dangerous energy drinks to minors

How many kids need to suffer the health consequences of consuming energy drinks before the government steps in and does something about it? Borzan asks, referencing the horrific case in which a twelve year old suffered a stroke.

"I've been warning people about this problem for years, I've submitted a proposal two times for a legal ban through Croatian parliament, but the Minister of Health and the government don't even care about it," said Borzan, recalling another energy-drink related death, this time of a thirteen year-old in Zagreb.

"I ask them, how many more children need to be harmed for you to do something about this? Whose interests are you defending with this carelessness and inaction?" asked Borzan. The MEP also pointed out that research shows that children and young people are increasingly drinking energy drinks, which are harmful to them in many ways, and a large number of children claim that they drink them because they need energy, which is of enormous concern.

On top of that, the very adult trend of mixing energy drinks with alcoholic beverages is also beginning to make an appearance among younger generations. Borzan believes the fact that energy drinks are even being consumed by kids should result in a ban on selling them to minors, but given the fact that kids are also mixing them with alcohol, nobody should be in two minds about the next move.

Koncar speaks out about employing controversial former government minister Darko Horvat, saying everything was strictly above board

Koncar rather surprisingly announced the employment of the former Minister of Spatial Planning, Construction and State Property, Darko Horvat, recently. Just keep in mind that Darko Horvat had to step down from his position as a minister within Plenkovic's government because of alleged corruption.

Koncar has stressed that despite the fact that they have employed a minister who had to step down, everything was done correctly and Horvat was selected for the position thanks to his qualifications as a graduate electrical engineer.

"Owing to the recent retirement of an engineer who strategically participated in technical and commercial work related to the field of electricity distribution, a job opening was announced as we were seeking an electrical engineer with significant operational experience in that area. Mr. Horvat was selected as a graduate electrical engineer with extensive experience in the field of electricity distribution, including experience in the field of business at both the Croatian and international level.

During the initial media announcements, incorrect information was circulating claiming that Darko Horvat was set to hold the position of adviser to Koncar's Management Board. In reality, his field of activity will be focused exclusively on the field of electrical distribution, Koncar stated.

After his resignation, Horvat activated what's known as the 6+6 option.

On February the 19th, when he was first arrested, Darko Horvat resigned from his position and activated the 6+6 option, which legally prevents him from being appointed to management positions within companies with which his former ministry or government cooperated. It isn't actually prohibited under the law for him to receive a fee for providing consulting services to or within a company in which the state has a three percent ownership. Koncar is 80 percent owned by Croatia's pension funds, the head of which is HDZ member Gordan Kolak.

Economy Minister Davor Filipovic has stated that there will be no shortage of gas for the Croatian market this winter, despite talks of the opposite being the case

It seems like all we're talking about recently is the spiralling price of gas and energy, and while the Croatian Government recently came to the decision that INA would sell all the gas produced here in Croatia to HEP, it turned out that this was simply not possible. INA has seven contracts that cannot be terminated. Minister Davor Filipovic commented on the situation.

''There's going to be enough gas, and that Croatian gas is going to be provided to all hospitals, schools, kindergartens and all institutions at a price of 41 euros. The government made a decision recently that is heading in that direction,'' said the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Davor Filipovic, adding that the most important thing is that Croatian gas goes solely to Croatian institutions.

"It's known that we ordered INA to increase gas production by 10 percent. As for the change in the regulation, for seven customers there are fixed contracts that cannot be terminated unilaterally, to unilaterally terminate would be more harm than good and termination would mean those customers launching lawsuits against INA, and then INA would sue us. That's why we made that exception, and as soon as those contracts are finished, INA will be obliged to transfer all of the rest of that gas to HEP," explained Filipovic.

He noted that distributors who have experienced losses will be able to buy their gas from HEP, adding that both INA and MOL have taken a huge hit to their reputations owing to the recently exposed affair.

The Croatian Government offered teachers higher wages, but the Croatian Teachers' Union rejected their proposal for the second time

The Grand Council of the Croatian Teachers' Union unanimously rejected the Croatian Government's latest offer on wage increases which came to light on October the 18th. The new offer was deemed unacceptable because it wasn't even aimed at securing a greater increase in the base rate compared to their previous offer, but only at a different dynamic of the payment of the previously proposed increase in the base rate, the Croatian Teachers' Union announced when explaining the reasons behind their rejection.

"Increasing the amount we get for Christmas bonuses, holiday allowance and other such things can't compensate for the growth of the base rate or solve the issue of the salary lag either this year or next year. Therefore, the new offer was rejected,'' they stated.

The government initially offered the unions an increase in the salary base rate by four percent from October the 1st and two percent from April the 1st next year, but the unions refused to accept it. At the second meeting, they received a new offer, which was also binned.

Public service unions have been asking for an 8 percent increase in the base starting on October the 1st this year and another 5 percent starting on January the 1st, 2023.

Russian media discuss Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, claiming he has "admitted that NATO is partaking in the war in Ukraine" in his rejection of the idea of Croatia training Ukrainian soldiers

Recently, Milanovic stated that he isn't familiar with the idea of ​​European foreign ministers to train 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers here in Europe, but that upon hearing of it, he "doesn't support it".

"I don't support that idea because I don't support involving Croatia in this war more than it should be. It's bringing the war to Croatia. We stand in solidarity [with Ukraine] and that's as far as it should go," he said.

The Russian media were of course quick to twist Milanovic's statement and beliefs and have written extensively about how Croatian President Zoran Milanovic apparently ''opposes the training of militants". The Russian state news agency, TASS, reported his statements, and the RIA Novosti agency added that Milanovic had previously "emphasised that Russia and Croatia have become enemy states and had expressed concern about this fact." Russian Interfax writes that, according to the media, the Croatian Government had offered EU training for Ukrainian soldiers.

Regnum writes that Milanovic opposes the "training of Kyiv militants in Croatia" and that he doesn't support "any excessive interference in conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine." Regnum also claimed that former Croatian football player and national team member Tomislav Dujmovic said around one week ago that Milanovic was ''on Russia's side'' and that he is ''observing the Russian-Ukrainian conflict more objectively than Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is''.

Milanovic opposed the training of Ukrainian soldiers, but also the sending of weapons to Ukraine because of the danger that the Croatian Army itself would run out of weapons, MKRU writes. Milanovic would agree to send weapons to Ukraine if Croatia is compensated, they added, before the Iz.ru made the strange statement that ''Milanovic has confirmed that NATO is participating in this conflict.''

Milanovic's statements were also reported by Kommersant, which focused instead on the statement that the training of Ukrainian soldiers would represent Croatia's interference in the war in Ukraine. Ruska Gazeta wrote that, in addition to Zoran Milanovic, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto also rejected the idea of Europe training Ukrainian fighters.

Transport Minister Oleg Butkovic claims that "Croatia is much more successful in comparison to some other EU member states''

On a recent episode of the radio show ''And now for the government/A sada Vlada", the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butkovic said that the Croatian Government has successfully dealt with some major challenges over the last six years, adding that they expect the growth of the Croatian economy in 2023, as in the last year, to be higher than the EU average.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic submitted the annual report on his government's work to the Parliament, which outlined economic growth of around 6 percent and the continuation of aid measures towards both people and companies throughout these challenging and in some cases truly unprecedented times.

"A very challenging year is now behind us, last year we achieved the third highest growth in the entire European Union and due to growth of 10.2 percent, we brought two packages into force with a total value of 26 billion kuna. In order get through this energy crisis as best as possible, the government also undertook a lot. Peljesac Bridge was finally completed and put into function, and on January the 1st, 2023, we'll finally enter the Eurozone and Schengen," Oleg Butkovic said during his time on the aforementioned radio programme.

He added that these are major developments, noting that they have at their disposal a package of 25 billion euros from the National Resilience Programme and a new financial envelope.

"We're ensuring not only reforms but the continuation of investments, and this opens up possibilities for this country's economic growth to be above the EU average in 2023 as well. The situation is good," stated the minister.

"Compared to other EU countries, Croatia has been much more successful," he believes.

The topic of the construction of the Blato hospital has reared its head once again, with the Health Ministry claiming that works will begin in two years

The construction of the National Children's Hospital in Blato (Zagreb) should begin in 2024, and in the coming weeks the call for tenders for the preparation of the conceptual design will begin, the Ministry of Health announced, emphasising that it will be the first hospital in the City of Zagreb to be located south of the Sava River.

This greenfield project worth around 300 million euros will be financed from the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience and other forms of European Union (EU) funding. The new children's hospital will span an area of ​​100,000 square metres in total, and construction is planned in two phases. About 50 thousand square metres of gross area will be built in each phase.

As far as land agreements with the City of Zagreb go, in the implementation of this strategic project, the Ministry of Health and the City of Zagreb are continuously holding working meetings in order to realise the transfer of city land in Blato through partnership cooperation, with the condition of the final and complete construction of the hospital. At the last working meeting in the Ministry of Health with the City of Zagreb, property and legal issues that need to be resolved were discussed.

Given that this will be the very first Zagreb hospital to be situated south of the Sava, he realisation of the Blato hospital project represents a significant contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as all of its energy would come from renewable sources. It will also represent a big step forward in the territorial availability of healthcare services not only for the residents of the Croatian capital but also for everyone coming to Zagreb for treatment, especially from the south of the country.

''Although it seems that the road to the new Blato hospital will be a very long one, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the idea and desire to embark on this demanding project took even longer. Despite the two-year battle with the global coronavirus pandemic and all of the other challenges that have since come to pass, the government and the Ministry of Health are taking the proper steps in order to successfully realise this strategic project for the healthcare system, which will provide the highest quality healthcare for children in Zagreb and all of Croatia,'' the Ministry of Health stated.

 

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and our Week in Croatian politics articles which will be published every Friday.

Friday, 14 October 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - INA, Russians and Sylvester Stallone

October the 14th, 2022 - Let's have a look at the past week in Croatian politics with just some of the stories from the political stage, the bad, the embarrassing, and the just plain weird.

HDZ earns its second worst rating since Andrej Plenkovic has been at the helm of the party

HDZ hasnt done brilliantly in its latest rating, with it being the second worst one since Plenkovic has been top dog. Index reports that in cooperation with Promocija (Promotion) plus, RTL published the CRO Demoskop for the month of October 2022. The survey was conducted from October the 3rd to thr 6th on a sample of 1,300 respondents. The standard error of the sample was +/- 2.77 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.

For most people, the INA situation is the most important issue within Croatian politics and in the country at this moment in time, and this continues to affect the rating of the ruling party and of the prime minister himself.

Although HDZ is still the first choice when it comes to political parties for almost a quarter of respondents, this is HDZ's second lowest rating since the arrival of Andrej Plenkovic at as head of the party (October 24.4 percent - September 24.2 percent). SDP (October 16.7 percent - September 16.6 percent) and Mozemo! (We Can!) also have similar support as they did back in September. (October 10.6 percent - September 10.6 percent.

With a slight drop, the fourth choice of the respondents was Most (Bridge), slightly above 9 percent (October 9.2 percent - September 9.4 percent), and another right-wing option, Domovinski pokret (Homeland Movement), which is growing when compared to September (October 6 percent - September 5.5 percent).

The Croatian Government apparently wants to go ahead with the much talked about plans to build the country's national stadium in Zagreb, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport says no, and the City of Zagreb has been left in the dark

If you follow the world of sport, particularly football, you've probably wondered why a country so famed for its sportsmanship and for churning out top class athletes doesn't actually have its own national football stadium. You wouldn't be the only one who has asked that question. It is a subject that people have gone back and forth on for years now, and it appears that the situation is as clear as it has ever been (clear like mud, that is), as the government says we're set to go ahead with the stadium's construction, but the Ministry of Tourism and Sport says no.

A spokesperson for the Croatian Government, Marko Milic, has said that a stadium is going to be built, finally, and that it is a priority, but in just as much time as it took him to make the statement, the aforementioned ministry said that wasn't going to be the case. To say he is a government spokeperson, Milic doesn't take the stand as it were very often, and his confidence surrounding this matter has obviously confused some.

"Soon it could be a reality. And yes, I can tell you that we are going to build a stadium in Zagreb," said Milic, adding that addition to the state, other stakeholders will participate in the work, without specifying who exactly those stakeholders actually are.

Milic also said that preparations and consultations for the new budget year are currently underway, and that investments for the apparently upcoming stadium are also being taken into account in these calculations. Hr also noted that a financial framework is being sought for the construction of a stadium in Zagreb where Dinamo would play. Milic later mentioned other larger cities such as Rijeka and Split, where there are stadiums that have "national significance".

"The priority is to build the stadium in Zagreb, which is in a bad condition," said Milic, adding at the end that both Dinamo and the Croatian national team have shown that they deserve an adequate stadium.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sport was quick to deny what Milic had stated. 

"The state isn't building the stadium, nor is it financing the stadium independently, nor is this the model we're thinking about, but the state could potentially co-finance the construction and equipping of sports buildings, according to clearly developed criteria and based on the conducted tender," the Ministry led by Nikolina Brnjac stated in response.

As she explained, the draft Law on Sport will give the government the opportunity to declare certain sports buildings as buildings of national interest, but it is, in typical Croatian style, entirely unclear what the criteria for something to be of national interest actually are. Also in typical Croatian style, the City of Zagreb apparently has absolutely no idea of any of these plans. ''We know absolutely nothing about any of these government plans,'' Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic's office stated.

It also begs the question as to why this is even a topic within Croatian politics when parts of Zagreb and particularly Sisak-Moslavina County are still waiting for renovations and reconstruction following the earthquakes of 2020.

Most tries to twist the knife with HDZ by publishing a list of the party's apparently ''forgotten'' ties with Russia

Most took to good old Facebook to respond to PM Andrej Plenkovic, who, just to quickly remind you, rejected the opposition's claims that the government and HDZ were to blame for the catastrophically embarrassing and expensive INA affair, and said that the opposition is attempting to come together and overthrow the government in a joint operation.

"There are no doubts about any of this, it's all just an orchestrated operation and the actions of very clearly visible and recognisable actors, we just have to see how much of it is internal, and how much is external. That's the only question we still need to look at in a little more detail, but we'll examine that too," Plenkovic said.

Most then made a list of links between HDZ and Russia.

"Here are all of HDZ's ''forgotten' connections with the Russians. Since HDZ is trying to move away from the topic of its corruption and high treason in regard to INA to the topic of Russian players, mercenaries and Russian influence, we'll be very happy to oblige and remind them a little about their own connections:

- HDZ borrowed 4.2 million kuna from the company Gas trading d.o.o., owned by PPD, which in turn created its wealth from the sale of Russian gas.

- HDZ negotiated for a long time with Ivan Vrdoljak about ousting Most so that HNS, which was connected to Russian capital through Vrdoljak, would take its place. By the way, Ivan Vrdoljak asked the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) in a written document to give the Russian tycoons Grigory Edel and Mihail Zhukov Croatian citizenship, which they needed to break through Russian capital of dubious origins, which was, strangely enough, linked to Oksana Dvinski, HDZ's great "benefactor".

- HDZ minister Zdravko Maric came into his job [as finance minister] from Agrokor came and stayed with the government after securing Russian money from Russian banks for Agrokor. At the same time, Agrokor was a donor to HDZ through various different companies.

- HDZ's Minister of Construction Ivan Paladina has business ties to Russian tycoons, especially to Sergey Glyadelkin, who is connected to the Russian secret service.

- The Russian Foundation called ''New Generation'', led by the already mentioned Russian citizen Oksana Dvinski, the wife of Maksim Poletaev, was a donor to HDZ with 2.6 million kuna after completion.

- The HDZ government awarded the contract for the overhaul of the Mi-171Sh helicopter worth 206.9 million kuna to the Russians, and that overhaul turned out to be very problematic.

As you can see, HDZ members are the last ones who should be talking about Russian mercenaries," Most concluded in their rather damning Facebook post.

An HDZ parliamentarian claims that his role model is Sylvester Stallone

What does the world of Croatian politics and Hollywood have in common? Apparently more than you'd think, and not just because of the endless drama. HDZ Parliamentarian Ante Bacic Baco, who is enrolled in military school and attends it with HV officers, once told Dalmatinski portal that his role model is actor Sylvester Stallone.

"I like such people who don't really have the prerequisites to succeed, but still succeed with motivation and persistent effort," Ante explained, saying that Stallone inspires him because of that fact.

His life motto is, as he said in an interview: "Keep punching" - a statement from the classic Stallone movie, Rocky.

Aside from idolising Rocky, Baco has been quite the hot topic of sorts over more recent weeks. President Zoran Milanovic commented on his enrollment in the "Ban Josip Jelacic" War School, judging that it was "a criminal offense because there's no place in the war school for parliamentarians, who by definition are state officials".

"If they don't withdraw, we'll report them and I will personally forbid the entry of such people into the premises of the Croatian Army,'' Milanovic said of the matter.

Following Ivo Sanader's acquital, President Zoran Milanovic wasted no time in claiming that while Sanader was a thief ''solely for his own gain'', HDZ has advanced its tactics of theft

Zoran Milanovic and Andrej Plenkovic make very little effort (if any) to hide their utter disdain for each other. The pair frequently come to blows (not literally of course, Sylvester Stallone isn't involved in this particular feud), and Milanovic has quite the way with words when it comes to insults and being a troll. One may hope the pair would have more pressing issues to tackle, but I digress.

Milanovic was quick to hop on the band wagon in regard to the massive INA scandal, of course blaming HDZ entirely, and claiming that while Ivo Sanader was indeed a thief, he was in it for himself, unlike HDZ which he claims has ''improved its methods'' of theft.

"The story surrounding INA is the story of HDZ. All these slurs about Russian people are attempts by Plenkovic's martyrs to bury that story with whitewash. But that isn't going to work, it doesn't work because these things are just obvious. Did HDZ set up people there? Is Skugor connected to the top people within HDZ? Yes. Was he going to get rich in this underhanded way? Did he panic because he got too rich? Was the gas sold through the county company where Banozic is? Those are the facts," he said.

"Ivo Sanader fell like the greedy private thief he was, but he stole for himself. He was accused in the way in which he stole. HDZ was declared to be an organisation of robbers. They didn't learn anything [from matters involving Sanader], they just improved their techniques when it comes to robbing. Plenkovic ignores it all, but to me that just means he supports it," Milanovic said.

For more on Croatian politics, keep up with our Week in Croatian Politics articles which will be published every Friday.

Friday, 9 September 2022

PM Plenkovic Talks Anti-Inflation Measures: We'll Cap Price of Electricity

September the 9th, 2022 - Ongoing inflation is continuing to spiral, and with countries across Europe making various arrangements and creating measures to help citizens and companies through this extremely difficult period, Croatia's PM Plenkovic has now spoken out, confirming that the Croatian Government will cap electricity prices as energy bills are set to soar.

The Croatian Government was very quick in stepping in with a package of various measures when the global coronavirus pandemic reached the country and began disrupting life as we've never known it before. Many sectors across the economy are hoping for the same rapid response as inflation rises, taking the cost of energy with it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, PM Plenkovic stated that this recently held session was entirely dedicated to the autumn package of measures the government intends to put into place to protect households, companies and the domestic economy from continually rising prices.

''We've dedicated as many as the first twenty points of the government session solely to this," PM Plenkovic assured.

"We are going to be opting for a very strong intervention, as we've always done until now for the benefit of the Republic of Croatia and for our citizens," he said, adding that ''we are in a time of global disruption," before showing a presentation in which the graphs clearly show an extreme rise in oil, gas and electricity prices.

"The first part of the package we're going to introduce will be to mitigate the rise in energy prices, and we've primarily concentrated on electricity costs. When it comes to households, we're going to be capping electricity prices. This measure will be fixed for the period from October the 1st to March the 1st, and as such it will cover the autumn-winter period," he said.

"Whoever spends less will of course pay a lower price. Those who use more will be put into a higher price class," Plenkovic said.

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

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Croatian GDP Growth in Second Quarter Exceeds EU Average

August the 27th, 2022 - Croatian GDP growth has been considerably higher than it has been in the rest of the European Union, despite the ongoing troubles being faced by spiralling inflation and pressure on the government to step in with measures to protect some of the most vulnerable in society.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic recently visited Rijeka where he commented on the news about the 7.7 percent Croatian GDP growth in the second quarter of this year, saying that it represents the second highest growth in the European Union (EU) and is almost double the average at the level of the bloc.

Plenkovic said that for now, only neighbouring Slovenia has enjoyed a higher GDP growth in the second quarter in the entire 27 member bloc.

''The average growth in the second quarter at the European Union level stands at four percent. So, that means that Croatian GDP growth is almost a hundred percent higher, almost doubling that. We can be very satisfied with that indeed,'' he said, highlighting the extra burden the economic crisis we're all dealing with at this moment in time.

He added that considering the "fantastic" tourist season Croatia has enjoyed so far, with numbers matching those of the pre-pandemic, record year of 2019 in multiple sectors, everything indicates that the third quarter will also be very good for the country.

''This means that Croatian GDP growth this year will be higher not only as we predicted it, but also how others predicted it. This includes international institutions, agencies, organisations, and so on, so we can look forward to that and it will, of course, help us in solving the economic crisis that we're all facing,'' Plenkovic concluded, as reported by HRT.

For more on Croatian GDP growth and the Croatian Government, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

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