Thursday, 3 February 2022

MP Says PM Fencing Himself Off from Reality in Croatia

ZAGREB, 3 Feb 2022 - GLAS party leader Anka Mrak Taritaš on Thursday called for removing the metal fence put up in St. Mark's Square, where the government and parliament are located, and for finding an appropriate security solution, accusing PM Andrej Plenković of arrogance and of fencing himself off from Croatia's reality.

Speaking at a news conference, Mrak Taritaš said the fence in St. Mark's Square had been put up more than a year ago, after a shootout outside the government offices in which a police officer was wounded.

"Absolutely nothing has happened since except for the prime minister expressing yesterday his dissatisfaction with the work of the institutions that have investigated the incident. ... the prime minister will be dissatisfied until the institutions agree to make a report that will suit him, and St. Mark's Square will remain closed," she said.

"Some people who live in the Upper Town (where the government and parliament buildings are located) can pass through, some can't. That is not normal or common in reasonable countries. State institutions must be respected and protected but citizens and tourists must also be able to access St. Mark's Square," she said.

As for arrests of citizens over comments on social networks in which they expressed their dissatisfaction with the prime minister, Mrak Taritaš said that that was becoming a synonym for Plenković's status of an untouchable official, adding that if the prime minister was more in touch with the reality in the country, those things would not be happening.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

National Security Committee: Different Opinions on Attack on Government Headquarters

ZAGREB, 2 Feb 2022 - Members of the Croatian Parliament's Home Affairs and National Security Committee on Wednesday failed to agree on whether the attack committed by Danijel Bezuk on government offices in Zagreb in October 2020 was an act of an individual or if certain social and political groups were behind it. 

"Conclusions have been adopted but there will be dissenting opinions, by me and Mišel Jakšić, because we partly did not agree with the position of the ruling party," Committee chair Siniša Hajdaš Dončić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said after the session.

"My impression is that it was an act of an individual," he added when pressed by reporters to state his position.

23-year-old Danijel Bezuk of Kutina opened fire from a machine gun at the government offices in St. Mark's Square on 12 October 2020, wounding a security officer. Prosecutors investigated the case as an act of terrorism and the criminal report was dismissed in July 2021 as shortly after the shooting, the young man committed suicide.

Hajdaš Dončić confirmed that the session discussed right-wing extremism, but also stressed that the case had nothing to do with right-wing political parties.

"I have not seen any political party, not even right-wing political parties active in the parliament, call for an armed rebellion or extremism," he said.

Hajdaš Dončić said that he had called the session of the committee due to the different interpretations by PM Andrej Plenković, the State Attorney's Office, the Ministry of the Interior and the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) of the terrorist attack on the government offices.

"I wanted it to be cleared up if the institutions generally enjoy PM Plenković's trust since he earlier expressed partial suspicion regarding certain reports," Hajdaš Dončić said.

He added that the key question was if the attacker had acted on his own, or as a member of a social or political network.

Hajdaš Dončić said that the committee also discussed if there was "something more" than posts on social networks over which some people were arrested.

Committee member Željko Sačić (Croatian Sovereignists) said that he had walked out of the session as the first item on the agenda was discussed; the attack on the government offices, because he disagreed with the conclusion proposed by Hajdaš Dončić.

"I was surprised because the discussion went in a different direction and then Hajdaš Dončić proposed a conclusion under which a crazy terrorist act was to be described as an act of right-wing radicalism," said Sačić.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

PM Says Parliamentary Committee Discussed Ways to Reduce Hate Speech

ZAGREB, 2 Feb 2022 - PM Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday upon the conclusion of a session of the parliament's National Security Committee, that discussions included creating an atmosphere in society that would reduce hate speech. 

Discussions were motivated by the 2020 attack on the government headquarters by Danijel Bezuk, which was condemed as a terrorist attack.

"We discussed the terrorist attack of October 2020. Everyone agreed that it was a terrorist attack and an unacceptable act, and we discussed ways to create an atmosphere in society that will reduce hate speech which, when it evolves, unfortunately can lead to cases like this one," Plenković told reporters, adding that there were not many dissonant voices during the debate.

Policy of tolerance has changed atmosphere on political scene

Speaking of ways to reduce hate speech, Plenković said political stakeholders should think about whether they contribute to polarisation and radicalisation, adding that "some debates in the parliament, too, contribute to that atmosphere that later spreads to some media and social networks."

Plenković said that he had been pursuing a policy of tolerance, inclusiveness, dialogue and respect for six years, pointing in that regard to his position that ethnic minorities should be part of the parliamentary majority, feel well, and for their rights to be respected.

He added that with such policy he had changed the atmosphere on the political scene, compared to the time before he became prime minister.

"Think back a little, also when the HDZ and its political philosophy, rhetoric and moves are concerned, I think the differences are visible and do not need much description," he said.

Asked who was intolerant, he said "There are many", but would not elaborate who he was referring to, telling reporters they knew that better than he did.

Plenković said today that he did not tell the State Attorney, or the national police director, that he was dissatisfied with their work regarding the attack on the government headquarters, which was mentioned in December.

"When I saw the reports, there were many questions that I thought remained unanswered and I said so last summer to the state attorney, the police director and the minister of the interior. They said today that they were still working on the case," Plenković said, noting that the case was still not closed.

"It was an unprecedented case, a terrorist act committed by a 22-year-old man, it was purposeful, it caused fear, violence was used and it was of a political nature. Those are elements of a terrorist act and that requires a thorough analysis of the phenomenon of hate speech and those who indoctrinate people as young as that man," he said.

Plenković did not specify who had indoctrinated Bezuk, noting that "there is a lot of very useful and telling information in the report."

The PM also would not say if some political camps were behind the incident, saying only that "things are quite recognisable."

He dismissed speculation that his special advisor on security Robert Kopal had done some analyses, saying that reports were made by the institutions working on the case - the Office of the State attorney, police and the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA).

Reopening St. Mark's Square a matter of security assessment

Asked if there were plans to reopen to public St. Mark's Square, the seat of the parliament and government headquarters, Plenković said it was a matter of security assessment.

"I do not know of any other country where state institutions were as accessible as we were until that moment," he said.

Those who want to stage a peaceful protest in St. Mark's Square can do so today. "A protest is announced, the gate is opened and the protesters go inside, they protest, sing, play loud music and that's all right. Except for walking around, everything else is allowed," he said.

Today's session of the parliament's National Security Committee was attended, along with the prime minister, also by State Attorney Zlata Hrvoj Šipek, Police Director Nikola Milina and SOA head Danijel Markić.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Milanović Accuses Plenković Government as Most Corrupt Yet

ZAGREB, 28 Jan 2022 - President Zoran Milanović on Friday accused the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as the most corrupt Croatian government yet.

"Plenković is protecting the people who are simply corrupt. I cannot call it any other way," Milanović said in an interview with RTL television.

Milanović said that Plenković's chief of staff Zvonimir Frka Petešić had deliberately registered his residence on Dugi Otok island so that he could qualify for a state-owned apartment in Zagreb. 

Frka Petešić "is fully aware that what he has done is punishable under the law, yet he enjoys the prime minister's protection," he added.

Milanović rejected the idea of his being an opposition leader in Croatia. "Not only am I not, but I feel bad in this position. All this that I am saying, which I have to say and will keep on saying, is just an unnecessary burden to me. This should not be my job."

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Plenković: Croatia to Procure 89 Bradleys for US$ 145.3 Million

ZAGREB, 26 Jan 2022 - Croatia and the USA have agreed on the procurement of Bradley fighting vehicles, for which Croatia will pay US$ 145.3 million, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday.

"Agreement has been reached with the US side regarding the army fighting vehicles that have been discussed over the past few years," Plenković said in a comment on the M2A2 ODS fighting vehicle.

The total value of the deal is $196.4 million, the US donation will amount to $51.1 million, which means that Croatia will pay $145.3 million.

Croatia will obtain 62 fighting vehicles, 22 vehicles for spare parts and five for training, and their upgrading will be performed at the Đuro Đaković company in Slavonski Brod.

The equipment includes a 25 mm automatic cannon, a 7.62 mm machine gun, and anti-tank missiles.

Plenković said that with the deal, which had been discussed since 2017, Croatia had achieved several strategic objectives - strengthening its alliance with the USA, lowering the price of the vehicles in relation to earlier talks, and securing a job for Đuro Đaković, which, he said, could become a "broader" service centre.

By joining NATO Croatia has assumed the obligation to form by 2026 a medium infantry brigade, which requires appropriate equipment for the army, the PM said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Plenković: Three Segments to Mitigate Energy Price Hike

ZAGREB, 26 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced on Wednesday that the government would act in three segments in an effort to alleviate the energy price hike - social transfers, allowances for gas and electricity, and elements related to the taxation system, VAT.

"The government is carefully analysing trends in energy prices and the measures other European Union member states are taking. Currently, we are considering all the options that will protect the standard of citizens," Plenković said at a conference "Energy Security in an Era of Fast Decarbonisation," organised by the Jutranji List daily.

Recalling that last autumn, the government capped the price of oil products, when it was necessary, Plenković reiterated that the situation is being monitored with regard to the growing prices of electricity and gas.

He said that the government's activities would be conducted in three segments with the basic aim of relieving the impact on households and citizens.

The first segment is a measure of social transfers with the Prime Minister announcing increased allowances for socially vulnerable citizens. Today that is a maximum allowance of HRK 200 and 64,000 socially vulnerable households will receive vouchers.

"Our plan is to adopt a new regulatory framework to increase the scope of those allowances and expand their implementation to gas besides electricity. We will expand the circle of beneficiaries entitled to those allowances. We will act through all three elements to protect the most vulnerable in society," said Plenković.

The second part of the package refers to reviewing all elements in the final calculation of the price of gas and electricity. Here we will lean on the important role HEP has as the national energy company which in these circumstances, has the strength to take on some of the burdens, he underscored.

The third element is to review all the elements we have through the taxation system and VAT with the Prime Minister recalled that currently, VAT on electricity is 13% and 25% for gas. "We are preparing a substantial fiscal analysis of impact, we are considering a reduction to buffer the impact on citizens and the economy," said Plenković.

In his address, he recalled the reasons for the significant energy price hike adding that Croatian citizens did not experience any significant growth in the past period. In the EU the price of energy increased by an average of 30%.

In the context of the global energy crisis, speculation is increasing about the problem of energy supplies while Plenković said that Croatia still has significant domestic production of hydrocarbons and satisfies 20% of its consumption whereas with gas it satisfied 30% of domestic consumption last year.

He underscored the LNG Terminal on Krk island saying that Croatia has secured gas supplies from all parts of the world.

"We recognised the strategic significance of this project for Croatia's energy independence and to diversify supplies," he said, adding that the terminal gives Croatia a different dimension on Europe's energy map.

Last year 21 ships with LNG arrived at the terminal and unloaded about 3 million cubic metres which provided 1.7 billion cubic metres of gas that was handed over to Croatia's transport system. This year 24 ships are planned.

Croatia has to be ambitious in energy transition

Plenković believes that Croatia has to be ambitious with regard to energy transition and he announced public consultation regarding Croatia's hydrogen strategy to 2050. He recalled planned investments in solar power plants, new technology, geothermal water, nuclear energy and the Krško nuclear power plant.

He recalled that 37% of the funds from the Recovery and Resilience mechanism is earmarked for green transition and funds will be available from other sources too.

He added that a new EU legislative package foresees the establishment of a social fund for climate policies that would ensure additional funds to relieve the impact of reducing greenhouse emissions. Croatia would have €1.4 billion available which will help citizens finance investments in energy efficiency, new heating and cooling systems and cleaner mobility.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

PM: Croatia Continues to Foster Friendly Ties with Ukraine, Normal Ties with Russia

ZAGREB, 26 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that the Croatian government continues fostering friendly relations and partnership with Ukraine and normal relations with Russia.

"Croatia's basic position is respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine," Plenković said in reference to the Ukraine crisis.

Following all our experience, we give priority to diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution, de-escalation, and cooperation with our partners within the European Union and NATO, the PM said.

The four-way Normandy format peace talks are taking place today in Paris. The entire international community, from the USA to NATO and the European Union, and all the leaders, want peace. No one wants conflicts, the premier told a news conference.

Last December, Plenković paid a visit to Ukraine and offered Kyiv Croatia's experience of peaceful reintegration of occupied areas, and Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman visited Russia last week.

Plenković said today that his cabinet's policy is to continue fostering friendly relations and partnerships with Ukraine and to develop normal relations with Russia.

"Croatia's role is constructive, it wants to share its experience that can prevent further conflicts, lessen the tension and share experience, which from our point of view, should lead to solutions."

On Tuesday, President Zoran Milanović said that Ukraine did not belong in NATO, which prompted Kyiv to summon Croatia's Ambassador Anica Džamić.

Milanović said, among other things, that there would be no Croatian soldiers in Ukraine in the event of Russia's invasion and that the events in Ukraine of 2014, known as the Revolution of Dignity, were a military coup, that Europe had not done enough to assist Kyiv, and that the tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border were a consequence of the US home policy.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, the Ukrainian authorities said Milanović's statements in 2014 insulted the feelings of Ukrainians and foreign nationals who gave their lives for a European future.

Plenković today described Milanović's statement as "surreal in every aspect" and recalled that this was not the first time that Croatian ambassadors were being summoned over Milanović's comments.

Plenković recalled Milanović's statements on Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and his statements on Hungary and Austria.

This seems to be a consistent track record of upgrading good bilateral relations with a number of countries important for Croatia, the PM said ironically.

Plenković told the press that he had talked with the Ukrainian ambassador in Zagreb and that logically, the ambassador was disappointed by Milanović's statement.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Citizens Have Right to Call for Throwing Rotten Eggs at Politicians, MP Says

ZAGREB, 26 Jan 2022 - Citizens have the right to call for throwing rotten eggs at politicians, independent MP Karolina Vidović Krišto said on Wednesday, labeling the recent arrest of two men for allegedly threatening Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Facebook as shameful acting out by those in power.

Last week's arrest of a 72-year-old who said Plenković "should be welcomed with rotten eggs" when he came to Zadar and a 49-year-old for calling Plenković a "baboon" was a shameful acting out by "corrupt ruling structures alienated from the people" and an antidemocratic act, the MP said in a statement.

"Croatian citizens are justified, in their helplessness and exposed to arrogant powerful structures, in having the right to call for throwing rotten eggs at politicians."

The ruling structures are openly breaking the law, getting rich illegally, corrupting the media, and running the judiciary, Vidović Krišto said.

She added that Plenković was "personally involved" in a "long list of corruption scandals," that he "has HRK 5 billion in his account, yet the government has not rebuilt even one house either in Banovina or in Zagreb" after the 2020 earthquakes, and that he "is a symbol of incompetence and the anti-democratic state of affairs."

The key political stakeholders, the key media, and the judiciary are insulting citizens on a daily basis by breaking the law, through tax plunder, and by destroying the health system, the MP said, asking "who will send Plenković and his supporters for police questioning for impoverishing Croatian citizens, destroying the legal system, and systematically emptying" Croatia.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 24 January 2022

PM Plenkovic Claims to Have Made Life for Croatian Islanders Better

January the 24th, 2022 - PM Andrej Plenkovic has claimed that his government (HDZ) has pushed life for Croatian islanders in a better direction, adding that the digital transition is a huge chance for Croatian islanders in many ways.

As Morski writes, after visiting the moonlike island of Pag and participating in the "Croatian Island Product" for 2020 and 2021 award ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stressed that this initiative, which has been going on since way back in 2007, is a great example of promoting island economies, indigenousness, cuisine and agricultural products - all that makes up the true identity of not only the islands but Croatian islanders themselves.

The Croatian island product label, he added, is a guarantee of quality and originality, and is proudly placed on products from the islands of Brac, Hvar, Vis, Korcula, Pag, Krk, Lastovo, Dugi otok, Rab, Cres, Lošinj, Prvic, Ugljan, Mljet, Solta, Zirje, Pasman, Iz, Murter, Olib, Kornati, Rab, Silba and Zlarin and the Peljesac peninsula.

He pointed out that the maritime orientation of Adriatic Croatia is important for understanding Croatia and its differences, but above all - its riches and what it has to offer.

"The government wants the sustainable management of island resources"

''Croatian islands are among the riches of this country that many of our friends have come to love and appreciate. In terms of tourism, the islands are always among the most attractive destinations, visited by many tourists, and they want domestic products,'' said Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, talking about the meaning of the Croatian Island Product initiative which emancipates the tradition of Croatian islands and Croatian islanders in a visible and recognisable way.

He said that his government had partly continued and partly improved the strategic, legal, programmatic, project and financial framework for improving life on the islands and providing more support to Croatian islanders.

He added that the islands are also part of Croatia's National Development Strategy until the year 2030, which emphasises the direction of development of smart and sustainable islands, fully incorporated into global and European Union (EU) trends. The government also wants the sustainable management of island resources, respect for specifics and the greater availability of infrastructure and public services.

''In the future, the islands will be the focus of one of the most important global topics - the issue of climate change,'' he pointed out.

''The digital transition is a huge opportunity for Croatian islanders''

In addition to the green transition, Prime Minister Plenkovic emphasised, the digital transition is also important for the country's many inhabited islands. He said that it was a huge opportunity for island inhabitants, noting the fact that Croatia was the first to embrace digital nomads, given that today, internet platforms for work and more or less everything else can be used from anywhere in the world.

Croatia also has a National Island Development Plan, added Prime Minister Plenkovic, which aims to improve the availability of health and social services and strengthen all of the brimming potential of the islands that will have an impact on demographic trends and economic revitalisation. It will also work to further encourage the creation of the proper entrepreneurial infrastructure for island economy development, competitiveness, innovation, and increase the recognisability of island products and services. On top of that, it will work for the protection of nature and the environment and the use of renewable energy sources.

One of the key topics, Plenkovic also pointed out, is the mobility of Croatian islanders and frequent transport connections, not only from the islands to the mainland but also between the islands themselves.

He stated that 1.8 billion kuna had been invested in transport and transport connectivity, 300 million kuna had been invested in the economy and employment, 262 million kuna had been invested in agriculture, 166 million kuna in energy, 162 million kuna in water management, while when it comes to the budget, another 560 million kuna had been invested, and 206 projects worth as much as 118 million kuna had been co-financed through the Island Development Programme.

''We're going to continue to do everything to keep our people living on the islands and to make life better for them,'' he said, emphasising that fact that the island of Pag is one of the great examples of recognisability in this way.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Croatian Island Product Designation Example of Promoting Economy, PM Says

ZAGREB, 21 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković attended a Croatian Island Product award ceremony for 2020 and 2021 in the town of Pag on Pag island on Friday, saying it was a great example of promoting the economy, cuisine, and farm products.

The Croatian Island Product designation is awarded by the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry. For 2020, it was given to 27 producers for 45 products and for 2021, to 23 producers for 78 products.

The designation is given to applied arts and design products, chemical products, foodstuffs, and beverages.

To date, the designation has been given to 320 producers for 1,094 products from 24 islands.

The prime minister said the islands were part of Croatia's riches and among the most attractive tourist destinations.

"Tourists want a domestic product, the Croatian Island Product. The producers have tried to emancipate all our tradition in a visible and recognizable way," he said, adding that the government has "enhanced the strategic framework of improving life on the islands as well as the legal, program, and financial framework of extending support to the islands."

He recalled that the islands are part of the national development strategy up to 2030.

Had there been no coronavirus, he said, all topics would have focused on climate change, which affects life on the islands. He underlined the green and digital tradition, saying that the latter is a huge opportunity for island people.

"We have opened the labor market to digital nomads as well as to our people. One can actually work from any part of the world via internet platforms. It's necessary to establish a stimulating enterprise infrastructure. There's also nature and environmental protection and the use of renewable energy sources. Everything will continue to be done so that people continue to live on the islands and Pag is one of the brighter examples," Plenković said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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