Sunday, 27 February 2022

Plenković: Croatia on Right Side of History

ZAGREB, 27 Feb 2022 - By supporting the attacked Ukraine, Croatia is "on the right side of history" and "on the right side of values," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday.

"Croatia is on the right side of history, on the right side of values, on the right side of international law, on the right side of humanity. It's very important that at this moment such a clear message prevails also in the Croatian public," he told the press.

Plenković said that he, the cabinet and his HDZ party had a "consistent line" on this issue, adding "not everyone has been... so clear."

"We see that we were right the whole time, while some others were wrong. It's very important that this be viewed in the political context... Things should be viewed a little more clearly, with a little more perspective and experience. Not everyone sees that."

Plenković was likely referring to President Zoran Milanović's calling him "an Ukrainian agent."

He said that at the moment Croatian-Russian relations, "to put it mildly," were not good.

As for the impact of the sanctions against Russia on energy supply, Plenković said Croatia's gas supply was not in jeopardy as it does not depend on import from Russia like other EU member states because it built an LNG terminal in the northern Adriatic.

He reiterated that Russia carried out a "cold, brutal invasion" of Ukraine which has "huge repercussions on the foundations of the international order."

"Like other countries, we have to make decisions so as to oppose such behaviour which is not only totally unprovoked, but violates every foundation of the security order in Europe as well as the world."

Plenković said the government would set up a task force for the reception of Ukrainian refugees.

He added that between 35 and 60 Croatian nationals are currently in Ukraine.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Plenković: Ukraine is Independent, Sovereign State

ZAGREB, 26 Feb 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday extended solidarity with and support to the people of Ukraine, saying that it is an independent and sovereign state.

"Solidarity with and support to the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is an independent and sovereign state. Croatia is with you!" he said on Twitter, tagging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime minister Denys Shmyhal.

Earlier today Plenković met with members of the government, Civil Protection and the Red Cross in order to raise the level of preparedness regarding the reception of refugees from Ukraine.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Despite Horvat Scandal, PM Plenkovic Manages to Avoid Snap Elections

February the 24th, 2022 - PM Plenkovic has had his hands full with the most recent scandal involving former Minister Darko Horvat, but he's managed to avoid any snap elections.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the development of events and the latest reshuffles on the Croatian political scene and the increasingly serious military security crisis in which the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin are of growing concern have been being followed with trepidation recently.

PM Plenkovic wanted to see Croatian People's Party (HNS) leader Stjepan Curaj placed in the position of Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property after Darko Horvat was arrested a few days ago. Curaj is also currently state secretary in the Ministry of Finance, but despite his resume, the idea didn't work with PM Plenkovic's coalition partners.

Stjepan Curaj is otherwise a lawyer and the fact that there are no references to his name that would make him particularly desirable for the leading position in the construction department has sparked heated debates over the Prime Minister's intention to position him in such an important position, just after the European Commission gave Croatia another year to use cash from the Solidarity Fund.

In addition, Curaj has been reproached for being in a wave of recent questions about the character of politicians and the use of benefits covered by the state budget and his name having emerged on that infamous list.

PM Plenkovic definitely wants to avoid any snap or early elections, but with the latest developments, he will probably not take the opportunity to "clean start" and introduce completely new, unblemished people from the profession. The question is still open as to what further consequences there will be for the functioning of the Government and other state bodies if he is forced to make changes in some other positions.

Whether he will be able to push his mandate right through to the end with this level of shaky credibility and whether there will be disruptions at lower levels in decision-making after all of this are some of the questions that can be heard from the political, analytical and even economic ranks. Unfortunately, all this is happening in the midst of strained relations and an increasingly serious crisis in which Russia is leading with the recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine, and which will cause a wave which will inevitably spill over into the Croatian economy.

Not only will the likely sanctions against Russia, announced from Western countries against Russian banks and companies, again hamper trade, which last year exceeded 5 billion kuna, but the consequences will all be felt indirectly, through rising oil and gas prices that will close access Russian raw materials and their procurement in other markets. The new sanctions, which in the case of the EU should be similar to those put in place back in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, will be felt through business with EU member states that have extensive trade with Russia, such as Germany, one of Croatia's most important foreign trade partners.

Therefore, a new global military and economic crisis is imminent, and the current proverbial earthquakes (thank God they're at least not real ones this time) we're experiencing due to rising electricity and gas prices and the threat of inflation will not be tackled until April the 1st. Let's hope that date carries none of its traditional meaning, either.

"We're live between unpredictable events, and predictability is a prerequisite for stability, which is essential for successful business," said Damir Zoric, director general of the Croatian Employers' Association.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Professionals: New Minister Should Have Construction Expertise

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Two professional construction associations on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to appoint an expert in construction and in management of civil engineering projects as the new minister of physical planning, construction and state assets.

The Croatian Chamber of Civil Engineers and Croatian Alliance of Civil Engineers sent a letter to the prime minister appealing for candidates to be carefully considered, particularly with regard to  the post-quake reconstruction as the most challenging task construction-wise in recent Croatian history.

That task requires expertise and sound knowledge of civil engineering, and it is of utter importance that the nominee has years of experience in management and project management.

Architects calls on PM to choose someone from construction sector to be new minister

On Tuesday, the Association of Architects of Zagreb urged Plenković to appoint someone with construction qualifications as the new minister who will contribute better to the reconstruction process.

The association said that a huge scope of demanding reconstruction procedures and absorption of EU funds awaits us this year.

It welcomed the extension of a deadline for the absorption of the funds from the EU Solidarity Fund and warned that disruptions on the construction market are continuing, conditioned by the global post-pandemic crisis which has made all activities in the construction sector even more demanding.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Professor Mario Plenkovic, Father of Andrej Plenkovic, Passes Away

February the 20th, 2022 - Professor Mario Plenkovic, the father of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, has sadly passed away in Zagreb following a long and difficult illness.

As Vecernji list writes, following a long and severe illness, Professor Mario Plenkovic, the father of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, passed away in Zagreb on Saturday night, it was confirmed to Hina by the Croatian Government.

That night in KBC Zagreb (Rebro), after a long and severe illness, Professor Mario Plenkovic (1947), the father of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, passed away after a long and difficult illness, government spokesman Marko Milic announced. The funeral of the late Professor Mario Plenkovic will take place among close family members.

Professor Mario Plenkovic was otherwise a very successful full professor of information sciences at the University of Zagreb, and since 2019, he'd been professor emeritus of the University of Zagreb and the University of Maribor in neighbouring Slovenia.

Since back in 2014, he had been a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (EASA). From 2013 to 2021, he led the doctoral study of Strategic Communication Management Alma Mater Europaea/European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Maribor. He was also the editor-in-chief of the scientific journals Informatologia (1980-2021) and Media, Culture and Public Relations (2001-2021).

For more Croatian news, click here.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Horvat Scandal Too Much Even for Croatia, Time for Plenkovic to Step Down?

February the 20th, 2022 - The Darko Horvat scandal which has dominated the press over the last few days has been too much even by Croatian standards according to some. One Index journalist, Goran Vojkovic, believes it's time for PM Andrej Plenkovic to step down.

As Index/Goran Vojkovic writes, the State Attorney's Office Act states that ''any form of influence is prohibited, especially any form of coercion against state attorneys and deputy state attorneys, the abuse of public authority and personal influence, and the use of media and public appearances in criminal cases prosecuted ex officio and in cases where the state attorney or deputy the State Attorney performs his powers and duties in the protection of the property of the Republic of Croatia.''

It was a very difficult, rainy Saturday for the Prime Minister, it was a bit like the sky was crying for the HDZ (again). Things should have been completely different during that day. Over in Brussels, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic managed to get an extension of the deadline in which Croatia has to spend European Union money for reconstruction, because Croatia didn't manage to spend any of that money on time. The newly arrested Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, Darko Horvat, is in charge of this reconstruction process. It seems now that the Horvat scandal is only just beginning.

In addition to the above, Croatia was visited by an American carrier, which is, in fact, a matter of global relations and is nothing new for the country, the two nations from each side of the Atlantic Ocean have been allies in this regard since back in 1952, when Tito, dressed up in his white uniform, walked along the bridge of the American carrier Coral Sea. But in a country full of scandals, while energy prices are rampant, any extra time will come in handy for the post-earthquake reconstruction that we didn't bother to do and of course, for a walk on this American carrier.

The Prime Minister's easy Saturday morning coffee was interrupted by the Horvat scandal, and that's never a good way in which to start the day.

The prime minister was probably planning a quiet family morning donning a comfortable dressing gown, sipping a coffee, surfing the internet on his tablet which would have been packed with praise and good news and enjoying the view of the calming Zagreb rain through the window of his warm apartment. And then came some very awkward news - a search of the house of the Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property. The Horvat scandal had broken.

This would never be good news, but it was a very awkward story indeed for Saturday, especially because Andrej Plenkovic himself had said a few days ago: "I will not be removing anyone until the end of my term." The kiss of death? Maybe. Moreover, as the slow recovery process after the earthquakes of 2020 was the reason for the opposition in parliament to demand the removal of Minister Horvat, just two weeks ago Plenkovic signed a sixteen-page document defending the newly arrested minister.

Plenkovic responded to Saturday's events and the Darko Horvat scandal with a direct verbal attack on the State Attorney's Office, asking for explanations, and his entire appearance in front of the camera can be described as: "Do you even know who I am?!"

According to the State Attorney's Office Act, the State Attorney's Office doesn't have to justify what it does to the PM. It is an autonomous and independent judicial body, not a government body, and it isn't under an executive branch. Just asking them for additional talks and some special explanations to the Prime Minister can be interpreted as an attempt to influence them, which is strictly forbidden. Andrej Plenkovic, very well versed in law himself, knows that all too well.

But why is Plenkovic so nervous about the unfolding Horvat scandal? Because he is personally responsible for the selection of Minister Horvat, as well as every member of the government. Let us remember - the person who collects 76 signatures in the parliament receives the mandate to form the government from the President of the Republic and becomes the Prime Minister when the Parliament confirms the election of the Prime Minister. Ministers don't come to their positions by way of interviews and tenders, they're people trusted by the future prime minister himself, who he himself proposes for the position.

If any of these people nominated by Plenkovic personally for the highest office in the country have been arrested on suspicion of very serious corruption, then this is not only the problem of that minister, but also the problem of Plenkovic on a very personal level. Why would we trust him any more if he can't put his team in order? Nobody imposed these people on him, he guaranteed both the deputies and the people of Croatia that they were the best choices for their respective positions.

Does Plenkovic still guarantee the knowledge, ability and honesty of his ministers?

Plenkovic repeatedly vouched for all these people, for their ability, honour and honesty. Therefore, we completely agree that he shouldn't remove anyone by the end of his term, but should resign, himself, as Prime Minister of Croatia.

The Prime Minister can't keep repeating until the end of the century that he didn't know about the problematic behaviours of the people he himself elected or at a lower level signed for their appointment. He, by proposing these people to these positions, vouched for them personally. As far as the legal responsibility of Minister Horvat is concerned, it is, of course, a matter for the courts, but political responsibility for this affair, this crisis and this shame (because of the brazen inaction of Minister Horvat, Plenkovic was forced to ask the EU for a new deadline for the spending of the funds from the Solidarity Fund) is on Andrej Plenkovic.

The news that Plenkovic fired Minister Horvat at his request doesn't change anything. It is only a small legal maneuver. Horvat knows that he cannot remain in office, and in this way he makes things easier for the party chief.

If anyone knows how to embarrass this country - HDZ definitely knows

But, realistically, it's highly unlikely that Plenkovic will decide to resign on the back of the Horvat scandal. He has enough dogs in his fight, and most of the opposition is not going to want new elections, they wouldn't be re-elected to the parliament. In addition, his resignation would mean the end of Plenkovic's political career instead of its continuation somewhere else a bit more flashy, let's say in the European Commission. Even now, it will be difficult for Plenkovic to explain that billions intended for the reconstruction should have been managed by the minister who has now been arrested. If anyone knows how to embarrass this country, then HDZ definitely knows.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Why Was Croatia Granted EU Fund Use Delay? Plenkovic Explains

February the 20th, 2022 - The European Commission (EC) very recently granted the Republic of Croatia an EU fund use delay. The cash in question is from what's known as the Solidarity Fund.

While 2020 was a horrendous year for the vast majority of the globe, if not all of it, thanks to the emergence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 and its journey around the world in the form of a pandemic, Croatia also suffered two devastating earthquakes. One struck the City of Zagreb in March, and another struck Sisak-Moslavina County in Central Croatia at the very end of December that year. Known as the Petrinja earthquake, this shattering natural disaster is still fresh in people's minds and the reconstruction process is moving at a classical snail's pace.

The situation here in the very heart of Zagreb isn't miles better, but when it is compared to the situation that has been left to fester in Petrinja, Glina and other nearby locations, it's difficult to fathom how December 2020 was now so long ago. 

We recently wrote about PM Andrej Plenkovic having successfully secured an EU fund use delay from the European Commission which would allow those funds from the aforementioned Solidarity Fund to be utlised until June 2023. Plenkovic has since been asked how and why that approval was given from the EC.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic recently commented on current events and his stay in the Belgian capital of Brussels following probes from journalists. He was also asked if Ursula von der Leyen had asked him to explain why the post-earthquake reconstruction following 2020's natural disasters in Croatia is going so painfully slowly.

“There are two fundamental reasons for that, you have progressive damage and you've also got a global pandemic. These are extraordinary circumstances, they're acts of God. Other countries had the use of the same Solidarity Fund, but not in such conditions,'' explained Plenkovic.

Asked whether or not things being classed as an act of God was the only reason why the Republic of Croatia had successfully received an EU fund use delay, Plenkovic said that it was.

"I don't know another capital city that was hit by such a strong earthquake in these circumstances," Plenkovic briefly commented.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Plenkovic Secures Croatian EU Fund Absorption Extension Until Mid-2023

February the 19th, 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has managed to secure a Croatian EU fund absorption extension until the summer of 2023 owing to the unusual circumstances surrounding the natural disasters which struck Central Croatia back in 2020 in the form of devastating earthquakes.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the European Commission (EC) has stated that when it comes to Croatian EU fund absorption, more precisely money from the Solidarity Fund, it will be sympathetic towards the circumstances surrounding it.

Those of us living in the City of Zagreb and who remember the earthquake happening and the sheer amount of time it took for any sort of real clean up to begin will have a particular understanding of the circumstances that have caused the Prime Minister to request an extension. Many obstacles, mainly in the form of paperwork and a slow administration which wasn't helped by the pandemic continue to exist on the road to post-earthquake recovery, particularly in Sisak-Moslavina County following December 2020's horrific earthquake.

"Glad to meet with Andrej Plenkovic today. We discussed reconstruction work supported by the European Union after the Zagreb and Petrinja earthquakes. Given the exceptional circumstances, the Commission will look favourably at the request to align deadlines for absorption of EUSF funds to June 2023,'' she wrote on her Twitter.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also took to Twitter and spoke about the meeting.

"Following the arguments presented by Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission will approve the use of EUSF funds to repair the damage from the Zagreb earthquake until June 2023, which is in line with the period for the use of the Banovina earthquake allocation (of funds) due to progressive damage," he wrote in his own tweet.

For more on Croatia and the EU, as well as Croatian EU fund use across various sectors, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

USKOK Launches Investigation Against Several Government Officials

February 19, 2022 - Crisis in the Croatian government, as the USKOK launches investigation against several of its officials. Construction Minister Darko Horvat was arrested this morning for alleged abuse of authority, and an emergency meeting is underway. USKOK suspects that Horvat gave 2.6 million kuna in illegal incentives.

In addition to Minister Darko Horvat, as Telegram has learned, investigators have also focused on former Minister Tomislav Tolušić. Along with them, according to the information available so far, this latest procedure also applies to Horvat's former assistant Ana MandacJutarnji List finds out that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević and Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Josip Aladrović are also under investigation. According to the information provided so far, they are suspected of seeking employment through a connection and due to the granting of incentives.

According to currently available information, the Minister of Construction is associated with abuse of office and authority. Sources say investigators are investigating Horvat's role in the abuses suspected by his former assistant Ana Mandac. USKOK suspects that, at the request of Josipa Rimac, Mandac arranged support for craftsmen from the Ministry of Economy at the time when it was led by Horvat.

Horvat arrested

Minister Darko Horvat was arrested this morning, his lawyer Vladimir Teresak confirmed to Media Servis. USKOK suspects that Horvat gave 2.6 million kuna in illegal grants and incentives. According to information from sources close to the investigation, Minister Darko Horvat should be questioned by USKOK in the early afternoon. He will be brought to the USKOK headquarters in Vlaška Street in Zagreb, where he will be able to testify in the presence of a lawyer.

PXL_190222_92086967.jpg

Photo: Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/PIXSELL

This morning, he was taken from Donja Dubrava in Međimurje, where his home had been searched since the morning. It is certain that investigators are following him to Zagreb, where the procedure in coordination with USKOK and the police will continue.

Finance Minister first to comment

The case was commented on by the Minister of Finance Zdravko Marić in a Croatian Radio show. He said he was surprised by the news of a police raid on Horvat's home.

"I assume that I am the first to speak on this topic, I have no knowledge and I cannot comment on that", the minister added. He referred to media allegations that Labor Minister Josip Aladrović, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, and former Minister Tomislav Tolušić were also being investigated.

"I mean, this is pure information from the media. I didn’t even get to read, driving to the show. But, any scandals do not have a positive effect on the Government", said Marić.

Emergency government meeting is underway

In addition to Minister Darko Horvat, the Minister of Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrović, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, and former Minister Tomislav Tolušić were also targeted by investigators on Saturday morning.

The police started searching the house of the Minister of Construction, Darko Horvat, this morning. Although there is no official information, and no one from the Government has responded yet, 24sata finds out that an emergency meeting has been convened in the Government. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is expected to address the media soon.

This is developing news.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Prime Minister: Measures Will Protect Citizens and Economy From Energy Price Rises

ZAGREB, 18 Feb 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that the package of measures for cushioning the electricity and gas price rises, worth HRK 4.8 billion, was a wise state intervention that would, as of 1 April, protect citizens and a large part of the economy from rising energy prices.

"This way, we are showing the government's readiness to make a wise intervention that benefits citizens in key moments," Plenković said, talking about the package of measures at a government session.

The measures apply to all citizens, a large part of the economy, especially micro and macro businesses, and special measures have been introduced for socially vulnerable groups, as well as for pensioners, farmers, and fishermen, the prime minister said.

"In addition to the caps on the prices of petroleum products, we have made a good, clear framework which also involves tax relief, social transfers, and subsidies, and which will cushion the price rise as of 1 April," he said.

The prime minister also said that over the past two days, based on well-prepared documentation for the European Commission, it had been decided that the deadline for using the money from the European Solidarity Fund for earthquake relief in Zagreb would be extended for another year, from June 2022 to June 2023, to overlap with the deadline for the use of money allocated for the earthquake in Banovina.

He said that he now expected "intensive work and dynamics of the reconstruction process" in order to use that money and engage other sources and ensure as soon as possible that the reconstruction process would accelerate.

For more, check out our politics section.

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