Thursday, 21 October 2021

PM Warns of Growing Number of Coronavirus Cases in Croatia

ZAGREB, 21 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday warned of the growing number of coronavirus cases in Croatia, saying that the death toll would soon exceed 9,000 and stressing the importance of vaccination and compliance with epidemiological measures.

"We must comply with the basic protection measures - wearing a face mask, keeping a distance, airing the premises, and maintaining hand hygiene," Plenković said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

He stressed the importance and necessity of vaccination, especially for elderly people, noting that the elderly are at greater risk if they contract COVID-19. "One in four elderly persons aged 65 and over have not been vaccinated yet, and we are talking about 238,000 persons or about 25-27 percent."

Plenković warned that the COVID-19 death toll will soon exceed 9,000. "This is a high price we are paying as a nation and society. But now we have vaccines, and there is no reason for this number to be so high," the prime minister said, adding that the vaccines also effectively protect against serious forms of the disease.

He appealed to people who have still not been vaccinated to get vaccinated, citing the views of medical professionals and the government's Scientific Council as well as statistics.

74 percent of hospitalized COVID patients not vaccinated

Plenković said that 74 percent of infected people who have been hospitalized this month were not vaccinated, which is three in four patients, while 80 percent of patients who were or still are on ventilators were not vaccinated, which is four in five.

"These are very clear and convincing figures," Plenković said, noting that 93 percent of the people who died from coronavirus were above the age of 60 and 98 percent were above the age of 50.

He said that the Scientific Council, which met two days ago, stressed the importance of vaccination, especially for the elderly.

"We all agree with the view of the Croatian Public Health Institute on a third dose, that it should be administered to immunocompromised persons and to health and welfare workers because it will help in the fight against the epidemic," the prime minister said.

He said that the situation in Croatia is similar to the rest of the world. "The unvaccinated people represent a pool where the virus spreads the most and where mutations occur the most. It's a fact that vaccinated people can also transmit the virus, but that is less likely than among the unvaccinated, and in the case of infection the disease is much milder."

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Sunday, 17 October 2021

Plenković Says Intraparty Elections in HDZ Democratic, Transparent

ZAGREB, 17 Oct, 2021 - Prime Minister and HDZ party leader Andrej Plenković said on Sunday that intraparty elections at which the leaders of the HDZ's city and county branches will be elected, were democratic and transparent.

"Anyone who wanted to run as a candidate could do so, and the process has been transparent and democratic. I do not see any relevant objections or anything that is not in line with democratic standards," said Plenković, who cast his vote in regular intraparty elections.

He expressed hope that local HDZ branches, which are to elect their presidents and vice-presidents today, would contribute to their local communities as well as the HDZ's national policy.

HNB governor should explain his statement about loan installment increase

Plenković was also asked to comment on Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić's warning in an interview with the Novi List daily that loan installments of debtors with long-term loans approved with a variable interest rate could increase from 10% to as much as 20%. Vujčić did, however, note that that scenario was not very likely.

"I have not read the interview, he should explain what he meant. As far as I understand, that is not a very likely scenario. If he has an opinion on the matter, he should make a statement," Plenković said.

In a comment on the International Day to Eradicate Poverty, which is observed today, Plenković said that the government's national development strategy stated that maximum effort should be invested to reduce the number of Croatians who were at risk of poverty or were poor.

"The 20% rate is still very high, as an EU country we must reduce it, not only through social policy but through a policy that enables wage growth and a general atmosphere of equal opportunities," he said, adding that his government would continue working towards that goal in the next three years.

Plenković believes that the progress made in the past five years in the fight against poverty is visible, albeit not as great as one would want it to be.

He wondered what the percentage of people at risk of poverty would be if the government had not intervened with job-keeping measures during the coronavirus crisis.

Asked about the investigation into police violence against migrants on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Plenković reiterated that the case was contrary to the government and Ministry of the Interior's policy, that it was an isolated incident and that the government would do its best to prevent any similar incidents.

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

Milanović: You Won’t Hear Me Say That HDZ Is a Criminal Organisation

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday that he did not consider today's HDZ to be a criminal organisation due to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Fimi Media case, but he noted that PM Andrej Plenković's statement, in which he linked the ruling with Milanović's rhetoric, was "silly".

"I think that it is irresponsible to link the ruling, whereby the Supreme Court actually upheld a lower court's ruling, with my statements. The idea that my rhetoric had influence on the Supreme Court's decision is silly," he told reporters during a visit to Samobor, a town west of Zagreb, where he attended a ceremony marking the town's day.

The Supreme Court last Wednesday partly upheld the verdict following the retrial in the Fimi Media corruption case, under which the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was fined HRK 3.5 million while the former PM and HDZ chief Ivo Sanader had his prison sentence cut from eight to seven years.

Sanader and his co-defendants were charged with siphoning around HRK 70 million (€9.3 million) from state-owned companies and institutions through the Fimi Media marketing agency into the HDZ's slush funds from 2004 to 2009.

Commenting on Plenković's statement of Friday, Milanović said that he had indeed criticised the Supreme Court but that Plenković had confused the cause with the consequence.

Plenković on Friday said, among other things, that he did not know if some judges worked under the pressure of Milanović's rhetoric.

"And then the Supreme Court does what? It takes revenge on the HDZ by listening to me, who had criticised it. I think such statements are for the Logic Olympiad," Milanović said.

He noted that he did not consider Plenković responsible for crime in the HDZ and did not claim that today's HDZ was a criminal organisation.

"You won't hear me say that the HDZ is a criminal organisation. Not all people there are clean today, but today's HDZ has that, too, in its past. Just as the SDP has in its past the fact that it is the successor to the Communist Party," he said, adding that those things should be left to the past and that new people were emerging and answering to voters.

He said that he had been the first in the country to raise the issue of criminal liability of legal entities.

"There was a law from 2003 which envisaged for the first time that kind of legal responsibility. I raised that issue in the parliament, I was not Prime Minister at the time, and, to my surprise, the Public State Attorney launched the procedure and the (Fimi Media) ruling is a result of that. So in a way, I am responsible for the ruling," he said.

Protesters should not rally outside office-holders' homes

Asked to comment on protests held outside the homes of members of the national coronavirus management team, Milanović said that protesters should not do that.

"They are free to disagree with what those people do, but to protest now, after a year and half? They could have done it earlier if they had objections, and they should especially not be doing it outside (COVID-19 response team's members') homes because that way they disturb their neighbours," Milanović said, calling on the protesters to end the protests.

Speaking about the prosecution of crimes committed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, Milanović said that the Croatian judiciary had done its best, notably with regard to the prosecution of members of the aggressor forces.

"Evidently some things are no longer possible due to the passage of time. I am sure the Croatian judiciary does not have an agenda to help the enemy. There are real limitations regarding time, place and facts. I am not satisfied, but on the other hand, a lot has been done so I can say that I am also satisfied," he said.

We have no relations with Belgrade and Serbia

As for people gone missing in the war, Milanović said that Belgrade was familiar with the destiny of close to 2,000 missing persons.

"We will insist on that, we won't let the matter rest just like that," he said, adding that Croatia currently has no relations with Belgrade.

"Relations with all the others are good or very good, they are not good only with Belgrade and those currently in power there," he said.

Milanović announced that he would attend this year's commemoration of the fall of the eastern city of Vukovar.

"This year is different, last year the way things were organised was wrong," he said.

He welcomed the government's decision to limit fuel prices but noted that it would cost.

"The government has the instruments, naturally all of that costs, and one should be aware that producers and distributors who have fixed costs will have to be compensated somehow," he said, estimating that prices of energy products should go down in a few months.

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

Strategy Envisages €7.5 Billion of Investments in Agriculture in Next 10 Years

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - Agriculture and the energy industry are the two main sectors enabling each society and state to function normally, and therefore in the next decade, €7.5 billion will be invested in the agricultural sector, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Zagreb on Saturday.

Addressing an Agriculture Ministry event dedicated to promoting farming, fisheries and forestry, the Prime Minister said that his cabinet spared no effort to help agricultural producers, the food and timber industries and the fisheries.

The government has sent to the parliament a draft strategy on agriculture, and the document, which should be adopted this year, envisages investments in agriculture of some €7.5 billion in the next decade, which should help the Croatian agricultural sector to reach the target of HRK 30 billion (€4 billion) of annual production.

During the term of this government, over a score of state aid schemes have been designed and mostly implemented, and their value is estimated at €253 million, provided from the state budget, Plenković said, recalling prompt interventions to address market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis and natural disasters.

In the livestock sector, nine measures and schemes are being implemented in response to problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and HRK 450 million has been made available as part of the government's aid schemes, he said, adding that an HRK 163.5 million scheme is in the pipeline to help businesses affected by fodder price rises.

From 2016 to 2019, state grants amounted to HRK 11.1 billion, and in 2020, HRK 3.2 billion was disbursed as state aid, the PM said.

The Rural Development Programme has made HRK 22.8 billion available to beneficiaries, and of that amount 18 billion has been contracted, and 13.8 billion has been disbursed for investments in agriculture, the PM told the event.

The fisheries branch has been provided with HRK 2.3 billion in grants within the Operational Programme for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and to date more than 1.2 billion has been disbursed.

Plenković went on to say that the government has increased outlays for investments in food safety and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan envisages the provision of infrastructure for a food bank and for participants in the food donation chain. This is one of the important reforms, worth HRK 32 million, he said.

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that the aim of the strategy would be to increase the output in the agricultural sector to HRK 30 billion annually until 2030.

The implementation of the strategy will require €7.5 billion, and the government plans allocations for this purpose in the amount of five billion euros until 2027 through the multiannual financial framework, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and the state budget, she explained.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

PM: Protests Outside COVID-19 Response Team’s Members’ Homes a Show

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - In a comment on protests held outside the homes of members of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that such shows were unnecessary as the government was acting responsibly in the coronavirus crisis.

"All those shows... are unnecessary because the government has acted reasonably, responsibly, appropriately and sensitively with regard to all possible segments of state functioning in the 600 days of the pandemic; other countries had months-long lockdowns," the PM said after a conference on agriculture, fisheries and forestry in Zagreb.

Noting that in Croatia there was a ban only on large gatherings and the work of night clubs, Plenković said that the protests did not seem rational, speculating if their real purpose was to generate social unrest.

About a dozen citizens gathered outside Health Minister Vili Beroš's home on Thursday evening after a Religious Instruction teacher from Križevci called on them to do so on his Facebook profile due to restrictions on visits to hospitalised children.

Beroš said that he understood their dissatisfaction, but that the place for dealing with such matters should be the Health Ministry.

Another group of protesters on Friday protested outside the home of the head of Zagreb's Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Alemka Markotić.

Asked if the situation could escalate and if members of the coronavirus crisis management team were under police protection since more protests had been announced, Plenković said that as far as he was aware, they were not.

Should someone resort to violence, they will be given police protection, he said, recalling that until the October 2020 terrorist attack "we had been very easy to approach."

"We are a normal, small Central European and Mediterranean country, civilised, warm, and we are good hosts... There are, on occasion, violent individuals but the Croatian people in general are not violent. These are exceptions. I call on them to calm down and be reasonable, there is no reason for drama, there are much worse situations than this," he said.

Asked about a possible parliamentary vote of no confidence in Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, Plenković said that no opposition motion questioning the government's work had been successful so far and neither would the latest one.

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

PM Says His Cabinet Won’t Let Energy Prices Affect Citizens’ Living Standards

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that his cabinet would not allow a decline in the living standards of the Croatians due to the energy prices, now when the funds for the post-coronacrisis recovery were secured.

Visiting the agriculture ministry's fair promoting the Croatian farming sector in Zagreb, PM Plenković reassured the general public that in the event of a further rise of the energy crunch prices, there were additional tools available to his government  to use them to calibrate the prices in the country.

He underscored that the internal discussions in the government and also their talks with international partners over the last two months had been focused on the energy prices, including the trends in prices of electricity and natural gas.

Regarding the prices of gas supplies and electricity, Plenković said that "the situation is stable in Croatia" and that the country "is in a much better position than many others."

Concerning petroleum products, since 2014, fuel prices in the country have been fully defined by the market, he recalled.

Until the latest developments considering the fuel prices globally, the government had never applied Article 9 of the Law on Petroleum Products that envisages the adoption of a decree on capping the prices, Plenković said.

That article stipulates that only in exceptional circumstances, the government can determine the maximum retail prices of fuels for a period no longer than 90 days in order to protect consumers or for some other justified reasons.

On 14 October, the government passed a decree limiting the retail price of petrol to HRK 11.10 (€1.48) per litre and the price of diesel to HRK 11.00 (€1.46) per litre for the next 30 days.

Plenković today explained that the government had opted for that interventionist move when it found that the conditions were met.

"We managed to overcome the biggest health, economic and financial crisis and consequently avoided the potential biggest social crisis in the last 600 days, without large-scale lay-offs and without a series of bankruptcies and social fractures, while all the state services continued to  function as usually, and we managed to retain the country's investment rating and good reputation  on the domestic and international financial markets, with a clear roadmap for Croatia's accession to the euro area. Therefore, we will not let  a decline in the living standards of our citizens due to the energy  prices, now when we managed to ensure funds for the economic recovery," Plenković said.

Describing the government's response to the energy crunch prices as agile and prompt, he added that in the event of the escalation, his cabinet had additional tools at its disposal to address the situation.

He said that he expected energy producers and distributors to assume a part of the burden. "I believe that they are sensible. They are not the companies that cannot endure such burden on their margins and or that it would adversely affect their business," he said.

He added that the government would follow the developments in the period to come and that the next moves would be considered in three week's time before the expiry of the current 30-day price limiting.

Asked by the press about aid to agricultural producers faced with high fuel prices, Minister Marija Vučković recalled that farmers and fishermen could use the so-called blue-dyed fuels that have the government-subsided prices.

The minister said that the authorities were taking other measures to help the whole sector to be more competitive.

Use of blue-dyed diesel in 2020 approved for 97,200 farmers

In January 2020, the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development granted 97,200 farmers the right to use blue-dyed diesel in 2020 in the total amount of 173.1 million liters, .

The farmers could use cards with allocated amounts of blue-dyed diesel as of early January last year.

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Thursday, 7 October 2021

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez Visits Croatia: Strong Cooperation in 2022

October 7, 2021 - Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez visited Croatia recently and met with Croatian PM Andrej Plenković to talk about deepening diplomatic relations in 2022.

Nobody can deny the fact that foreign countries' ambassadors and diplomats are valuable in the day-to-day business of nurturing diplomatic relations with Croatia on various levels (political, cultural, economic, and more). But it's even more special when political representatives of other countries actually come to Croatia for an official visit.

The latest such instance was the visit of Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez. His meeting with the Croatian PM Andrej Plenković was the big story in the Croatian media space. Apart from foreign politicians' visitors generally being interesting, this was also the first visit of any Spanish PM, making the story all the more interesting.

As stated by the official governmental website, the two PM's talked about upgrading diplomatic relations between Croatia and Spain and the continuing intense political dialogue next week down in Dubrovnik at the European Future Conference (one such conference was recently held in Osijek).

PM Plenković pointed out the fact that Croatia recently joined the MED 9 Forum which involves nine Mediterranian countries, including Spain.

''The forum will serve as a dialogue for Mediterranean countries for upgrading their cooperation in a series of areas, particularly in terms of key global questions we're faced with. From the fight against illegal immigration, climate change, which is particularly important for all Mediterranean countries, to a series of security and developing topics important for North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean,'' said Plenković.

Spain and Croatia enjoy mutual trade worth one billion euros, but the goal is, of course, to increase that figure.

Both countries are tourism-oriented, with the Spanish capital of Madrid also being the headquarters of the World Tourism Organisation, and instead of looking at each other as competitors for global tourists, the two leaders agreed to collaborate and enhance the offers of both of their countries.

Spain will also be the host of a top NATO meeting in 2022. With Croatia being a very enthusiastic NATO member, the Croatian governmental website states this is another reason Croatia wants closer relations with Spain.

To make sure not everything is just trade, tourism, politics and the military, there's good progress in terms of science too, in particular, the environment.

''One of the projects that is very important for reducing greenhouse gasses is the DONES project. It is Croatian-Spanish partner cooperation in which the Croatian side brings experts from the Ruđer Bošković Institute. It is a very important strategic project for nuclear fusion financed by the European Union funds. Experts will work on upgrading research so we can have a future of infinite clean energy sources,'' promises the governmental website.

This meeting was initiated by Plenković and he invited Sanchez, but the wish for cooperation is mutual.

''Spain wants closer cooperation with Croatia,'' said Spanish PM Sanchez, adding he expects to see Plenković in Madrid next year.

Did you know our TC guide is available in Spanish? Disfruta leyendo!

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Thursday, 7 October 2021

PM Says Shelling of Gov't Building Was Crucial Moment for Croatia's Freedom

ZAGREB, 7 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday commemorated the 30th anniversary of the shelling of the government building by laying a wreath at the memorial plaque on it and saying that those had been fateful moments for Croatia's freedom.

"Today is 30 years since the shelling of the government building. At that time it was the headquarters of the first president of the republic, Franjo Tuđman. That afternoon, a Yugoslav Army MiG shelled the government building with the obvious goal to kill Croatia's leadership," the prime minister said.

He added that together with Tuđman at that moment were the chairman of the presidency of the former Yugoslavia, Stjepan Mesić, and federal prime minister Ante Marković, who were talking about the Great Serbia military aggression against Croatia.

"Unfortunately, one person was killed then and several were wounded. Fortunately, president Tuđman and the other officials survived. Those were fateful moments for Croatia's freedom, for all that we have today, and the next day, in the night between 7 and 8 October, the Croatian parliament passed key decisions on independence," Plenković said.

He announced that parliament would mark its day tomorrow, saying they remembered that time with a lot of pride and with the important message that young generations should be informed of all the key events in the creation of present-day Croatia.

MP Zdravka Bušić was in the government building when it was targeted. "God wanted us to survive. It's almost impossible to imagine what it was like. I'm happy that an indictment has finally been filed against the pilot and commander of the military squadron that headed for the government building and Croatia. We know that the commander of that squadron was Ljubomir Bajić. I hope the light will be shed on everything."

Also present at today's commemoration were Interior Minister Davor Božinović, War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, and Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

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Thursday, 7 October 2021

Plenković, Sánchez Announce Stronger Croatian-Spanish Cooperation

ZAGREB, 6 Oct 2021 - Croatia and Spain cooperate well in many areas, with €1 billion in trade, but the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted that process, so Prime Ministers Andrej Plenković and Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday they would work on intensifying cooperation.

"Croatian-Spanish trade is about €1 billion. We believe that's good. However, we've had certain oscillations during the COVID crisis. Today we talked about how to advance cooperation, how to make our private sectors cooperate as well as possible, notably by utilizing funds from the NextGenerationEU instrument," Plenković told the press after meeting with his Spanish counterpart.

Sánchez, the first Spanish prime minister visiting Croatia, said the two countries were trying to advance their relations, the development of which was stopped by the pandemic last year, stressing that EU funds could help them revive their economies.

"A few weeks ago, Croatia joined the cooperation within MED9, nine European Union members states on the Mediterranean, and this forum will serve as a dialogue for Mediterranean countries to advance cooperation in many areas, notably all those key global issues we are faced with, from the fight against illegal migration to climate change, which are especially important for all Mediterranean countries, as well as in many other security and development topics that are important both for north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean," said Plenković.

He also said that Croatia and Spain could exchange experiences in tourism, "this important industry", and see how, "after this brilliant season that we had", to prepare for the next one as well as possible.

"Croatia is very active in the World Tourism Organization, which is based in Madrid. We are looking forward to cooperation in that area," Plenković said.

He noted that cooperation in defense and security as well as many operations, notably in the Mediterranean, was also important for the two countries, adding that next year Spain will host a NATO summit.

The two prime ministers also mentioned cooperation on the DONES (DEMO-Oriented Neutron Source) project which, they said, is very important for the future of energy and for reducing greenhouse gases.

"That's a Croatian-Spanish partnership in nuclear fusion in which the Ruđer Bošković Institute is participating. It's an important, strategic project financed with European funds so that we can have inexhaustible and clean energy sources," said Plenković.

Sánchez too welcomed the experimental program for preserving the environment.

Following a summit with Western Balkan countries in Slovenia over the past two days, the two prime ministers also talked about the situation in Southeast Europe and EU enlargement.

Plenković said Sanchez was exceptionally familiar with the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other countries in the region.

"We took this opportunity to talk about how to make it possible for enlargement to go on, how to have, first of all, a stable BiH. For us it's especially important to ensure, through changes to the electoral law, the legitimate representation of Croats as the smallest constituent people in BiH's highest bodies," Plenković said.

According to the Spanish premier, the Western Balkans "should be given the place to which it belongs". He again called for EU enlargement.

Sánchez also invited Plenković to visit Madrid.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Ruling Coalition Supports Dobronić, Mrčela For Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 5 Oct, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the ruling coalition would back the candidacies of Radovan Dobronić and Marin Mrčela at tomorrow's meeting of the parliamentary judiciary committee on the selection of the president of the Supreme Court.

Speaking to the press after a meeting of the parliamentary majority, the prime minister said Dobronić presented a good programme and that Supreme Court judge Mrčela's programme was good too, so both deserved a positive assessment.

Dobronić meets the terms of the public call for applications, he delivered an important decision in the case of loans pegged to the Swiss franc, and submitted his candidacy as stipulated by law.

He is a man of integrity who is not inclined to corruption, so it is unlikely that someone better might apply in the future, Plenković said.

In this way, the parliamentary majority wants to bring to an end the saga of the selection of the Supreme Court president, and it is good for the Croatian judiciary for this process to be finished.

The parliamentary committee will vote on the five candidates, the president of the republic will be informed of the outcome and recommend one candidate to parliament. If President Zoran Milanović recommends Dobronić, the parliamentary majority will vote for him, Plenković said.

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