Sunday, 14 November 2021

PM Says Gov't Won't Step Down, No Early Election

ZAGREB, 14 Nov, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday that protesting against vaccination was allowed and that everyone was entitled to their opinion, but added that the government would not step down and there would be no early election.

"We must respect each other. I haven't noticed that some of the protesters have asked us to meet with them. I heard they call us Mengele and want resignations. We are not like Mengele," he told the press, adding, "all we are doing is in the interest of citizens."

He said it was good that more than two million people in Croatia had been vaccinated and that foreigners were coming to Croatia to get vaccinated. "If people from Russia and Azerbaijan can invest in coming to Croatia to get vaccinated, then that shouldn't be a problem for our people."

Plenković thanked doctors and other health workers for their efforts in the treatment of COVID patients.

Croatia soon to have 10,000 COVID deaths

He said it was absurd that citizens were not using the opportunity to get vaccinated, bringing themselves into danger. He added that Croatia would soon have 10,000 COVID deaths.

"COVID certificates are no coercion to vaccination, just a filtre, a guarantee to be responsible towards those who have been vaccinated. Whether you will be alive and healthier or pretend that there is no coronavirus and perhaps die, that's a choice."

Plenković said he disagreed with claims that the media equated those speaking responsibly and those "talking nonsense," adding that he was not blaming the media and that in this crisis one should not eliminate all the good things that had been done and focus on omissions.

"The media are very important, common responsibility is important. You can write whatever you want, but we will say what we think is important for Croatian citizens," he said.

Croatia's COVID measures extremely balanced

Asked if Croatia would introduce restrictions like Austria, Plenković said every country was adjusting to the situation and respected those vaccinated, adding that it was understandable if someone could not get vaccinated for medical reasons.

"But to deny coronavirus, to say that there are some bad governments which have nothing better to do than limit citizens' freedoms, that's nonsense. Besides, our epidemiological measures have been extremely balanced."

Plenković said that despite the pandemic, people were receiving salaries, Croatia's credit rating was upgraded and growth was 9%. He added that people who refused to get vaccinated were affecting "healthcare, expenses and general social problems."

Deputy PM Boris Milošević to take part in Vukovar remembrance procession

The prime minister went on to say that he would take part in the Vukovar remembrance procession next week, as would Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević.

Asked to comment on President Zoran Milanović's claims yesterday that Defence Minister Mario Banožić was a "corrupt loony" and a case for the European Anti-Fraud Office, Plenković said he failed to see that. "Sometimes when people talk about people, they mostly talk about themselves."

He said he did not know when the conflict with Milanović over Banožić would end, adding that the government was dealing with important things. "Those with a lot of time and few powers deal with unimportant things so that the public could realise that they exist."

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

Milanović: Plenković’s Cynicism Ruining Croatia Spiritually, Materially

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović on Saturday criticised Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's statement that he expected Milanović to release a letter from the military chief-of-staff, saying "such cynicism and contempt for the truth and rules is ruining Croatia spiritually and materially."

That letter is to his defence minister and is classified, Milanović told press. In the letter, he said, the military chief-of-staff "warns, asks, even tells (the minister) that he is harassing the entire system, that he is strategically mobbing him and jeopardising the system."

"That document is not secret, I can declassify and make it public tomorrow, but I wanted Plenković to read it first. I wrote in the letter that I ask him to pay special attention to it... One corrupt loony can cause enormous damage, which is currently happening," the president said, alluding to Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

Speaking of a scandal involving the transport of bishops by a Navy vessel, he said the military must not be used for that and would not be any more as long as he was president. Banožić brought the bishops into an awkward position, he added.

As for the prime minister's statement that the Navy would not be ruined because of that transport, Milanović asked him if the EU would be ruined because of the recently arrested former EU funds minister Gabrijela Žalac.

Such a cynical approach by the prime minister when someone commits an evident offence with criminal intent, that's favouring, that's protection, he said.

Banožić is a case for OLAF and should be removed at once

Milanović said that due to Banožić's arbitrariness, the soldiers escorting him were not receiving per diems. That's a crime, that's his revenge. We'll see how to legally stop such barbarous behaviour, he added. "Banožić is a case for OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) and should be removed at once."

The president reiterated that he would "sit at the table only with Plenković," not with Banožić.

Fitch rating upgrade expected

Commenting on the Fitch Ratings agency's upgrade of Croatia's credit rating, Milanović said it had been announced and expected due to Croatia's upcoming euro area entry.

Asked to comment on Žalac's arrest earlier this week, he wondered how Plenković would explain in Brussels "this fiasco with EU funds and the people he trusted. Because this is a fiasco. Such outrageous things rarely happen. This is indeed an outrage."

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

Plenković: More Than 2 Million Citizens Have Been Vaccinated

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday repeated his appeal to all citizens to get vaccinated and called on those who refused to do so to get tested.

Speaking at a press conference, Plenković said that the number of people vaccinated so far has exceeded 2 million and that today the proportion of people who have received the first dose will most likely reach 60 per cent of the adult population and 50 per cent of the total population.

"Everyone has the right to protest, but what we are advocating is common sense, notably the view of medical professionals, doctors and scientists," the prime minister said. He added that people who do not want to get vaccinated can get tested very quickly and obtain a COVID certificate.

"We respect the people who are responsible and who have been vaccinated. And those who have not, we appeal to them to get vaccinated and to get tested," he said.

Plenković said that the Fitch Ratings agency had taken into account the vaccination rate when it upgraded Croatia's credit rating on Friday. "Ratings agencies watch what we do as a society, whether we stand in solidarity with one another, whether we are responsible, whether we understand what's going on." 

Commenting on the message from Croatian Roman Catholic bishops that citizens should not be coerced into getting vaccinated, Plenković said that the bishops should be asked whether they should have publicly called on people to get vaccinated.

He said that Pope Francis was clear in his statement when he appealed to people to get vaccinated.

"I believe that many of our bishops have been vaccinated, considering their age and the availability of the vaccines. As for freedom, it cannot be the reason not to respect the people who have been vaccinated," the prime minister said.

Asked whether he would meet with protesters against COVID certificates, he said he did not get the impression any of them wanted to talk with the government, and that peaceful protests were held to express an opinion.

"We live in a democracy. If anyone wants to talk, they can contact us and say what the problem is. I would like to see what it is about through dialogue," the prime minister said.

Peaceful protests against the introduction of mandatory COVID certificates for public-sector workers and people visiting state and public institutions, were held in several cities across the country on Friday evening. In Zagreb, protesters rallied outside the government building in St Mark's Square.

Commenting on the criticism from President Zoran Milanović regarding the transport of bishops by a Croatian Navy vessel, Plenković said he could not see the problem.

"This was about the ordainment of Bishop Vidović (on Hvar island). The Military Ordinariate had asked the defence minister in writing to arrange transport and the minister approved it. Is it a crime? It's not. Did the state collapse? It didn't," he said.

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Saturday, 6 November 2021

Plenković Again Appeals to Citizens to Get Vaccinated

ZAGREB, 6 Nov 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that all Croatian citizens should get vaccinated against COVID-19 as that would certainly reduce the rate of new infections, the number of hospitalizations, and consequently the number of deaths, also advising people to get a booster dose.

Plenković was speaking to the press after visiting Zagreb's Dubrava hospital, where he and Health Minister Vili Beroš met with the hospital's management and the national coronavirus response team and visited the intensive care unit.

Plenković said that Croatia had sufficient quantities of COVID-19 vaccines, adding that vaccination would reduce the number of deaths and infections. He once again appealed to people who had not been immunized to get vaccinated.

He said that the data of the past few days was encouraging as it indicated a growing interest among the citizens in getting vaccinated. In the last three days alone, 23,000 people have received their first shot, he added.

The prime minister stressed that Croatia had dedicated medical staff and an abundance of vaccines, stressing that people had a responsibility towards contributing to this collective effort.

"Anyone who thinks that the situation is not difficult should visit this hospital for 30 seconds and they would immediately change their mind," Plenković said.

Asked to comment on the statement by right-wing MP Zlatko Hasanbegović that he will not get vaccinated or tested and that it is his right to have the virus, Plenković said that the statement is idiotic. He added that being a member of Parliament does not give Hasanbegović the right to talk nonsense.

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Saturday, 6 November 2021

FM Expects "Constructive Dialogue" With President at Meeting on Tuesday

ZAGREB, 6 Nov 2021 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Saturday he expected a constructive dialogue between the president of the republic and the prime minister at a meeting of the Defence and National Security Council on Tuesday in the interests of the functioning of the state, its institutions, and national interests.

President Zoran Milanović has proposed a meeting of the Defence and National Security Council because of the escalation of his conflict with Defence Minister Mario Banožić, whom he accused of politicizing the Armed Forces. The government proposed three dates for the meeting and Milanović chose 9 November.

"I expect a constructive dialogue, an exchange of views and proposals because we politicians and officeholders are accountable to our citizens. Everything that is in the interest of the functioning of the state and its institutions, national interests, will be on the table," Grlić Radman told reporters during a visit to his ministry's stall in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg square as part of events marking the 25th anniversary of Croatia's membership of the Council of Europe.

"We are facing a serious task ... because Croatian citizens deserve what they need, and that is social stability, economic growth, a higher vaccination rate, and security. The government will provide an appropriate answer in that regard," he added.

Ambassadors are a priority

Speaking of filling ambassadorial positions, Grlić Radman dismissed Milanović's claim that he did not want an ambassadorial nominee because he was an ethnic Serb. "I never said that," Grlić Radman said, calling Milanović's claims "empty talk" and "base insinuations".

Grlić Radman said that ambassadors were a priority to him. "We have three important positions - Paris, Vilnius, and the Vatican, and they need to be filled. This will also be discussed" at the Defence and National Security Council meeting, he added.

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Friday, 5 November 2021

Exhibition "Freedom is Called by Its Name" Opens in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday opened the exhibition "Freedom is Called by Its Name", staged by the National and University Library (NSK) in Zagreb to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar.

Plenković said that every time that emotions and events from 30 years ago are mentioned there is no better word that embodies the idea of Vukovar than the word 'freedom', which the authors of the exhibition pointed out well in its title.

The exhibition reminds us of the city that suffered the most unimaginable and cruel destruction after the Second World War in Europe, the prime minister said, adding that for every Croatian citizen, Vukovar is a place of identification with the suffering of all victims, with the courage and sacrifice of Croatian defenders and the process of gaining Croatian independence and sovereignty.

He said that the exhibition was a contribution to the numerous activities marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar.

We will try, he said, to pass, through support and patronage, the meaning, value, and symbolism of Vukovar on to young generations.

The exhibition "Freedom is Called by Its Name" pays tribute to the hero city of Vukovar on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar in the Homeland War, said NSK director Ivanka Stričević.

Stričević stressed that in addition to offering insight into the materials about the Homeland War in Vukovar, the exhibition also offers insight into the materials of all library collections.

The exhibition features photographs, books, manuscripts, newspaper articles, and other materials that the NSK and partner institutions keep in their collections -- materials that testify to the suffering of Vukovar, as well as to its rich culture.

The central part of the exhibition consists of texts by historian and curator of the exhibition, Vlatka Filipčić Maligec, which provide insight into the battle for Vukovar, especially the events at the Vukovar hospital, Ovčara, the barracks, Borovo Selo, and Borovo Naselje in 1991.

The texts are accompanied by photographs by Croatian photojournalists and covers of Večernji List daily, which are testimonies of the war in Vukovar and the fate of Vukovar citizens during the Homeland War, as well as by library materials on the war in Vukovar from the NSK collection on Homeland War.

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Thursday, 4 November 2021

PM: Government Firmly Opposed to Politicization of the Military

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government was firmly opposed to any politicization of the Croatian armed forces, stressing that the position of Defence Minister Mario Banožić in his cabinet was absolutely stable.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Plenković said that the matter would be discussed by the Defence Council on Tuesday and that the meeting would be preceded by a preparatory meeting on Monday with the college of military commanders so that he could "hear first-hand what problems are facing the military and see how the government can help resolve them."

The pace of the fourth wave of the pandemic determined by those not vaccinated

Commenting on the largest daily count of new coronavirus cases in the country since the start of the pandemic, Plenković said he would see what would happen with case numbers in the coming days, adding that colder weather had contributed to the considerable increase in the number of confirmed cases.

He said that the monthly report submitted by the Croatian Public Health Institute showed that the epidemiological situation and the pace of the fourth wave of the infection were mostly determined by people who have not been vaccinated.

Last month, 65,558 new coronavirus cases were registered, of which 77 percent were people who were not fully vaccinated. 554 infected persons were placed on ventilators and 427 or 77.1 percent of them were not vaccinated. 578 people died and 75 percent of them were not vaccinated, the prime minister said.

He added that the majority of the people who had died from COVID-19 in October had underlying health conditions and were elderly. All 22 people aged below 50 who died from coronavirus last month were not vaccinated, he noted.

Plenković once again appealed to elderly people who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 to get vaccinated because nearly one in four people aged above 65 have not been immunized yet, which is more than 230,000 people.

He said that 1,922,763 people have been vaccinated to date, which is 56.7 percent of Croatia's adult population, expressing satisfaction that recent days have seen a rise in the number of newly-vaccinated people, albeit small.

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Thursday, 4 November 2021

President Writes to PM About Defence Minister's Unlawful Conduct

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - President Zoran Milanović on Thursday sent a letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, warning him of "unacceptable and unlawful conduct by Defence Minister Mario Banožić" and calling on him to take action to enable the normal functioning and development of the Armed Forces.

In the letter, sent to Plenković on 28 October, the president claims that Banožić abused his powers by sending into early retirement the commander of the Honorary and Protection Battalion, Colonel Elvis Burčul.

Minister harassing, discriminating HV officer

Milanović says that Burčul's case is extremely important because it shows the minister's behavior pattern, notably in light of the fact that Burčul is a decorated officer, Homeland War volunteer, and commander of the unit in charge of the security of the President and Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief.

He recalls that the proposal to extend Burčul's term was sent to Banožić by the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, based on an assessment that it is in line with operational reasons and is a common procedure, with none of the former defence ministers ever having withheld their consent.

This time, the minister "not only withheld his consent but told the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff and my defence and national security advisor that he would never sign any decision (to that effect) for the officer in question and that he must leave the army, without giving any justified reason for his position," Milanović says.

Milanović recalls having asked Banožić directly why he was withholding his consent and telling him that he would withdraw his proposal if there was a serious reason for the minister's position, to which the minister, without going into detail, repeated several times that "the Colonel is a bad person."

"The minister has the right to give or withhold his consent but he does not have the right to abuse that power," Milanović says in the letter, noting that sending Burčul into retirement was just that and that Banožić also falsely claimed that he had acted in line with the retirement plan for 2021 while Burčul's name was not on that list.

Noting that Banožić's decision was motivated by personal reasons, Milanović expresses hope that those reasons are not political, adding that the minister's conduct is an act of abuse of powers and harassment and discrimination of a Croatian Army officer.

Burčul's retirement is an attempt to politicize the Armed Forces and divide officers into suitable and unsuitable ones, those whom the minister likes and those he does not like, says Milanović.

"Neither you, as Prime Minister, nor I, as President and Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief can tolerate that," the president says in the letter.

He also cites a number of cases in which the defence minister enabled a set of personnel decisions at the Defence Ministry that is entirely contrary to the law.

Milanović notes that the minister was warned about and informed of problems regarding army personnel matters and the material situation and level of equipment of the army on a number of occasions but failed to act on it.

"That is why I have requested a session of the Defence Council to focus on that topic... The situation is not good and it requires urgent action," the president says in his letter.

Banožić makes statements in NATO, EU without the president's consent

The president further notes that Banožić attends NATO and EU ministerial meetings without informing him, as President and Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, of it, and that he makes statements at those events on Croatia's behalf without his consent.

"The positions expressed that way, without prior agreement, can only be the positions of your government, naturally, if you give your consent for them, but they are not Croatia's positions because I, as President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, do not give my consent. Any obligation which your minister may undertake in that way and which concerns the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic and the Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, is potentially unimplementable," Milanović warns, adding that such conduct on the minister's part can cause damage to the country's international reputation.

"Mr. Prime Minister, if your government continues with such conduct and your minister insists on the politicization of the Armed Forces, I will, if necessary, resort to Article 144(5) of the Croatian Constitution in the defence segment, for the purpose of protecting the interests of the Republic of Croatia," Milanović says in the letter.

Article 144(5) of the Constitution reads: The Republic of Croatia shall be represented in the Council and the European Council by the Government and the President of the Republic of Croatia in accordance with their respective constitutional powers.

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Thursday, 4 November 2021

PM Says Motion to Vote No Confidence in FinMin Bizarre

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday evening defended Finance Minister Zdravko Marić from yet another attempt by the parliamentary Opposition to have the minister replaced, calling the opposition motion bizarre and the group of MPs who supported it as ridiculous.

"The parliamentary majority rejects the motion and Minister Marić will continue doing his job to the benefit of the Croatian economy," Plenković said in a debate on a motion by 34 opposition MPs for the parliament to give Marić a vote of no confidence.

He then described independent MP Karolina Vidović Krišto's presentation in which she explained the reasons for the motion as 'bizarre', likening the ideologically diverse group of MPs who supported it to "a circus troupe".

The PM said that the Opposition did not understand the concept of division of powers, judicial autonomy or unobstructed police work, dismissing their claims as conspiracy theories.

Speaking of the government's achievements, Plenković recalled the tax reform, reduction of public debt, restoration of the country's credit rating, and job preservation, wondering what Vidović Krišto had done. "What have you done for Croatia to join the EU? Nothing at all," he said.

He added that the incumbent government would continue in its present form for several years to come and work to improve citizens' living standards.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić dismissed allegations from the motion for a vote of no confidence, calling them unfounded.

He said that he categorically rejected any insinuation, starting with the one that he used his position to favour his friends' and acquaintances' interests, noting that he was doing his job conscientiously and responsibly.

Vidović Krišto launched the motion for a vote of no confidence in Marić over his spending a few days on a yacht owned by businessman Blaž Pavičić and over what she described as "his lie to the public that the businessman does not do business with the state."

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Monday, 1 November 2021

Plenković: Climate Change Must Become Main Political Topic

ZAGREB, 1 Nov 2021 - Climate change must become the main political topic, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a UN conference on climate change in Glasgow on Monday.

The two-week COP26 conference brought together 120 state leaders expected to agree on new initiatives on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing down the temperature increase.

"This must become one of our main political topics," Plenković said, adding that Croatia "is not a problem" because it has the fourth-lowest harmful gas emissions per capita in Europe.

"The problem is the big countries whose industry, traffic, and agriculture contribute a lot to carbon dioxide emissions," said Plenković, who will address the conference on Tuesday.

He said he saw the conference as a way to raise awareness of climate change, notably among the young population which "deserves a future" such as the one older generations had.

Plenković said the current political generation had the responsibility to take a step forward when it came to climate change and that the leaders who came to Glasgow were aware of the climate emergency. 

"It's something that's here, before us," he said, adding that politicians "didn't come to walk around Glasgow but to make a contribution."

He said it was "a pity" that representatives of China and Russia were not present, adding that "they have their policies" on attending international conferences in times of COVID-19.

On the fringes of the conference, Plenković met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

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