Wednesday, 20 April 2022

PM: It's Hard to Change Someone's Attitudes on BiH Impacted by Sarajevo Narrative

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - It is difficult to change the position of the international community on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was tailored by the "Sarajevo narrative", especially since the previous (Croatian) governments did not work on that, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in parliament.

Presenting a report on the meetings of the European Council to the members of the parliament, Plenković in particular referred to the discussions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressing it was a success that a reference on BiH's constituent peoples was included in the Strategic Compass, at Croatia's insistence.

"Those in charge of the foreign policy before us could also have discussed this topic, but they never did in this way," said Plenković.

MPs of the Bridge party criticised Plenković for not having done enough to change the existing BiH election law, which allows for Croats there to be outvoted due to their small number.

MP Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) pointed out that a reference to constituent peoples in the Strategic Compass was not a success as that was a fact which was part of the BiH Constitution.

"Equality of constituent peoples did not exist as a reference. That may seem obvious, simple to you, like copying the Constitution, but it is not," said Plenković, underscoring that Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic explicitly opposed it.

According to Plenković, this "speaks of the rooted attitudes in the international community, which was primarily generated by the political narrative of Sarajevo".

"In Sarajevo, there have been no Croats in the political sense for nearly two decades, and this fact is partly the reason why all international representatives who spend some time there ultimately adopt that narrative," said Plenković.

According to him, for years there has been a lack of understanding of the way BiH is organised.

"Changing that after so many years is extremely difficult," said Plenković, adding that his cabinet has done more over the past two years than all the previous governments combined.

PM: I don't think drone crashed in Zagreb by accident

Plenković also commented on the crash of a Soviet-era unmanned aerial vehicle in Zagreb on 10 March, saying that it was indicative that it had exploded during an informal meeting in Versailles, when a statement on Russia's aggression against Ukraine was discussed.

"It is not highly probable that of all the places within the radius of its range, it crashed in the capital of Croatia. I'm not so inclined to believe in the strange aleatory path of that unmanned aerial vehicle considering how likely it was for it to crash in Zagreb," said Plenković.

Davorko Vidović of the SDP said that Croatia, despite all claims of the government's foreign policy successes, "is the only member of the European Union that has been attacked, and we as citizens do not know who attacked us and why".

At the moment, we cannot categorically state whether that was an attack, a mistake or sabotage, said Plenković.

Friendly relations with Ukraine

The Croatian premier also spoke about the EU's response to Russia's aggression and pointed out that the European Union and Croatia "show solidarity, unity and determination" by providing humanitarian, political, military, technical and other aid to Ukraine and with readiness to find alternative energy sources.

"Croatia has sincere and friendly relations with Ukraine. Ukraine was the first to recognise us. We support its sovereignty and integrity," Plenković said.

He noted that Croatia had received 15,000 refugees from Ukraine, that it had supported the opening of an investigation of the International Criminal Court into war crimes in Ukraine, and that it supported Ukraine's European perspective.

"Croatia will help Ukraine, we want it to get a special institutional status with regard to the EU in these circumstances," said Plenković.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

SDP Chief, PM Trade Accusations Over Perković and Mustač, Allowances

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - The request for a pardon for two Yugoslav-era secret service officials came at an opportune time for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković so that he would not have to deal with real problems in the country, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said in Parliament on Wednesday.

"This whole story with Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač comes as if on order for the prime minister, or was possibly even ordered by him, so that he would not have to deal with real problems in the country," Grbin said during Question Time, asking the prime minister when the government would be reshuffled and whether he would step down or start doing his job.

"You are so rude and so low to impute to us that we instigated the story with Perković and Mustač. Are you in your right mind? What's the matter with you?" Plenković responded.

Plenković called Grbin "a scammer" who had used an allowance for living apart from his family and later portrayed himself as a humanitarian by donating this government money to no one knows whom. He said that Grbin should be ashamed and should keep his mouth shut for a year so that people would forget he existed and should stop coming to Parliament until this was forgotten.

Pointing at the ministers in the Parliament chamber, Grbin recalled the scandals they were suspected of. "Your government is not functioning and is corrupt, but you don't bother about that," he said, adding that by avoiding an answer the PM did not spat in his face but in the faces of those he was supposed to represent and whose interests he should be serving.

Grbin warned that many businesses were facing higher electricity bills, which would lead to higher prices of bread and other staples, adding that government measures were not enough any more.

Plenković said that Croatia was not facing any shortages. "We are quite stable both with regard to reserves and with regard to production and imports," he said, noting that food prices were increasing on account of increasing energy prices.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

PM: There'll be no Early Election

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - There will be no early election, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said during Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday after MP Sandra Benčić (We Can!) said that the government should go because of a string of scandals implicating cabinet ministers and the failure of the post-earthquake reconstruction process.

"We have dealt with all the challenges, and what have you do done in Zagreb about securing funds for the reconstruction?" Plenković said in his response to Benčić, whose party is in power in the capital.

Benčić then congratulated Plenković on yet another issue meant to shift the focus away from important issues of public interest, the request for a pardon for Yugoslav-era secret service officials Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač, who were sentenced to life imprisonment by a German court in 2016 for their roles in the murder of Croatian political emigrant Stjepan Đureković outside Munich in 1983.

"What do we have to do with Perković and Mustač, why are you looking at us? You should be looking at those who support you. Look at (the President's Office), that's where the orchestra is," the PM replied.

Ivan Karin of the ruling HDZ asked Health Minister Vili Beroš about health care for cancer patients, to which Beroš said that all urgent cancer and chronic patients had been provided with continued care despite the COVID-19 pandemic. "We have done all in power to ensure that all patients can exercise their right to health care during the pandemic," the minister said.

Independent MP Ružica Vukovac expressed concern about the sale of the Russian bank Sberbank's stake in the Fortenova Group to the Hungarian Indotek Group. Plenković responded by saying that the government had no influence on that decision, but that it considered it good.

"We think that Sberbank's decision to sell its 43 per cent stake in Fortenova is actually very good for the company because it is no longer burdened with the image of Russian co-ownership," the PM said, adding that the government had helped both the company and its suppliers to survive with no cost to the government.

Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said that Croatia had sufficient energy supplies and that in that regard it was in a better situation than most EU countries.

Croatia satisfies 80 per cent of its needs for electricity from its own production. As for natural gas, some of it is domestically produced and some imported, with the LNG terminal at Omišalj on the northern Adriatic island of Krk serving as an alternative supply route, and the oil terminal at Omišalj is also an important point of import for this part of Europe, Ćorić said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Paladina Appointed Minister to Step Up Reconstruction, Plenković Says

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that Construction, Physical Planning and State Assets Minister Ivan Paladina was brought into the government to step up post-earthquake reconstruction and that it was up to him to explain everything concerning his assets.

"He was brought in to step up the reconstruction process, including public infrastructure, private houses and buildings in both Zagreb and the Banovina region. That's his job," Plenković said in parliament during Question Time.

He was responding to Ivana Posavec Krivec of the Social Democrats, who asked why Paladina assumed the full responsibility of a minister when there were so many "unknowns" and suspect questions about him.

Plenković said Paladina had experience in construction and in running projects in the private sector.

"If you appoint someone who is a politician and has legitimacy, who is part of the parliamentary majority, it's not good. If you appoint someone from the public sector who has not earned even one kuna in the government sector so far and who told me he could explain and justify everything he has, then that's it."

Plenković said Paladina came from the private sector and took a risk, adding that Paladina presented a five-point plan to step up reconstruction, that the government and the ministries involved had many meetings, and that he himself made sure that Croatia could spend European Solidarity Fund money for the reconstruction longer than planned.

"That's an incentive so that, with that and other sources, we can deal with reconstruction, which will take years," Plenković said.

He added that he had "great expectations (of Paladina). It's up to him to explain everything concerning his assets because that has nothing to do with either you or me. What concerns me is that he addresses and steps up the reconstruction process or another subject, whether it's construction, physical planning or state assets."

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Plenković Says Request to Pardon Perković, Mustač Orchestrated Action

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday a request for the pardon of Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač was an "orchestrated action" which had caused rifts among the generals, war veterans and "the Croatians in general."

"Croatia has seen many orchestrated actions, this is one of them," he said in parliament during Question Time.

Plenković recalled that President Zoran Milanović had said in his presidential campaign that he would not use the institute of pardon and that he had not responded to any of the 275 pardon requests forwarded by the Justice Ministry.

Plenković said the government had no authority over the pardon requests for Perković and Mustač, former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence officials. He said his HDZ party was against pardoning them.

"This is a big weakness of the one who had to submit the request, that's the legal representative or the family, and perhaps mostly the weakness of the one who has been silent all the time and waiting to see what we will all say about it, that the one who, under the Constitution, is the only one authorised to grant pardons," Plenković said, alluding to the president.

Commenting on MP Hrvoje Zekanović's remark that Milanović was "the spokesman for the Kremlin," Plenković said the Russian invasion of Ukraine began 56 days ago and that he sent a letter to Milanović on 24 February, requesting a session of the National Security Council.

"There has been no answer", he said. "Croatia is the only EU member state whose National Security Council has not met since the aggression began".

OECD accession

Responding to HDZ MP Gari Cappelli's question about Croatia's bid to join the (OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said it was one of the strategic priorities alongside joining the Schengen and euro areas.

"Joining the OECD would mean a lot for Croatia, first and foremost for national reform, for improving the investment climate and corporate management of state-owned companies, and for the fight against corruption in international business transactions".

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Plenković Wishes Happy Easter to Displaced Ukrainians

ZAGREB, 17 April 2022 - After attending Easter mass on Sunday, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković wished a happy Easter to everyone, notably to the displaced Ukrainians who were at the service.

"This is a time when we can all together examine in peace what we do, our actions, our decisions, try and collect our thoughts and be even better, towards others, towards those most in need," he said.

"I'm pleased that the displaced from Ukraine were also at mass today, mainly mothers with their children, which once again speaks to how big the tragedy is which this Easter and for more than 50 days now has befallen the Ukrainian people. That's why I'm pleased that Croatia is once again showing a big heart and giving great support to the Ukrainian people and those who, in these difficult circumstances, have found a temporary home in Croatia," the prime minister said.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Plenković: A11 Motorway to Breathe New Life Into Quake-affected Sisak Area

ZAGREB, 6 April 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited Sisak-Moslavina County on Wednesday and met with County Prefect Ivan Celjak for talks on county and government projects concerning the post-earthquake reconstruction of the region.

He visited two building sites on the 11-km-long Lekenik-Sisak section of the A11 motorway. The value of the project is HRK 281.3 million, and the deadline for its completion is 24 months.

Plenković expressed his satisfaction with the pace of the work, saying that it would "breathe new life" into the region and help attract investment.

He said that the talks with the county leadership focused on projects aimed at removing the consequences of the December 2020 earthquakes and revitalising the region. The projects discussed included investment in education, health care, cultural, transport and social infrastructure and housing reconstruction.

Plenković said that a lot of work had already been done, in particular with regard to the health care and education infrastructure. "The reconstruction process will be further accelerated," he said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Demographic Revitalisation Remains Strategic Issue, Prime Minister Says

4 April 2022 - Demographic revitalisation remains a strategic issue of Croatia's future and all actors must cooperate in this long-term project, from the national and local governments to civil society and the business sector, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday.

Speaking at an Economic and Social Council session, he said the Croatian Bureau of Statistics was still processing the results of last year's census but that they led to the conclusion that everyone would have to work together on more effective public policies that would contribute to turning the negative population trends around.

"We wish to create a positive social climate for starting and expanding a family, better care for children and our older citizens, because a demographically more vital Croatia is the only solution to the future of the Croatian people," the prime minister said.

That requires the synergy of the state, municipalities, towns, counties, civil society, the social partners, the academic community and the business sector because it is an issue on which it is easiest to reach a broad national consensus, he added.

Croatia's population began decreasing in 1991 as a consequence of the war, emigration, ageing and fewer births, but other EU member states have the same problems, he said.

The government is taking measures for youth, families and other social and economic actors via population, tax, social, housing, education, employment and other policies.

Plenković said a national reform programme would comprise 95 reforms in six areas - the economy; public administration and the judiciary; education, science and research; the labour market and welfare; health; and building reconstruction and energy efficiency.

He mentioned challenges such as climate change, energy efficiency, the crackdown on corruption, stronger administration, a modern education system, helping those most in need, and promoting healthy lifestyles and disease prevention.

Plenković also mentioned the government's activities to boost the economy and mitigate the blow of the crisis to living standards.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

PM, Defence Minister Remember Operation Plitvice

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday remembered the first victim of the 1991-1995 Homeland War - police officer Josip Jović who was killed by Serb insurgents near the Plitvice Lakes 31 years ago.

"This is an opportunity for us to once again remember and thank all Croatian defenders, soldiers, police officers and all those who gave their lives for freedom," Plenković said.

In a separate message on this occasion, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said: "We are proud of Josip Jović and all defenders, Croatian police officers and Croatian soldiers, who showed how to fight for the freedom of Croatia and all its people, regardless of the gravity of challenges and despite sacrifices."

Croatia on Thursday commemorated the 31th anniversary of Operation Plitvice and the death of Josip Jović, the first Croatian police officer to be killed by Serb insurgents at the start of the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

The operation was mounted after rebel Serbs set up a police station in Plitvice and the Croatian state leadership decided to restore constitutional order there.

Jović, 22, was killed and nine other police officers were wounded in that police operation after the Serb rebels occupied Plitvice Lakes National Park and blocked the D1 state road that connects the country's north and south. Jović was a member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit.

The operation was launched on the morning of 31 March 1991, Easter Sunday, and is also known as Bloody Easter.

According to police reports after the operation, 29 Serb extremists were arrested and 18 were charged with armed rebellion, including Goran Hadžić, a member of the main committee of the Serb Democratic Party, and Borivoje Savić, secretary of the executive committee of the party's Vukovar branch. Although the Croatian police regained control of the local police station, they had to withdraw later and the area remained under rebel control until August 1995 when Operation Storm crushed the Serb insurgency.

Jović has been posthumously promoted to the rank of major and decorated with high state medals.

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

PM: Measures To Mitigate Impact Of Energy Prices Enter Into Force On 1 April

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković opened a cabinet meeting on Thursday by commenting on the government's HRK 4.8 billion (€640m) package of measures aimed at mitigating the impact of increased energy prices on households and businesses, which enters into force on Friday.

The increase in electricity prices was capped at 9.6% and the increase in gas prices for households at a maximum of 20%. The VAT rate on gas deliveries was reduced for a year from 25% to 5%, and VAT was also reduced on food, agricultural costs, cultural and sports activities, and so on, the prime minister said.

"We also took into account those most vulnerable in our society, who are living at risk of poverty. For them social transfers were increased from HRK 200 to 400, which also includes electricity and gas bills. In this way we are taking care of our fellow citizens who need our solidarity at this moment," Plenković said.

He also mentioned a special scheme for farmers and fishermen, and one-off allowances for pensioners.

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

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