Friday, 20 May 2022

Croatian PM Meets with European Commissioner for Budget and Administration

ZAGREB, 20 May 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn in Zagreb on Friday, a government press release said.

The European Commission announced earlier in the day that it had granted Croatia an extension of the deadline for using money from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) for the repair of the earthquake damage until the end of June 2023, aligning the implementation deadlines for the earthquake that struck Zagreb in March 2020 and the earthquakes that hit Sisak-Moslavina County in late December 2020 and January 2021.

Thanking the Commission for accepting the arguments made by the Croatian government, the prime minister and competent ministers informed Commissioner Hahn of the steps being taken to accelerate the use of EUSF funding so that the allocation awarded to Croatia would be successfully used within the set deadline.

Also discussed were Croatia's plans to join the Schengen Area and the euro area. Commissioner Hahn and the European Commission strongly support Croatia's ambitions, assessing that the country meets all the membership criteria, according to the press release.

Plenković and Hahn also discussed further EU assistance to and solidarity with Ukraine, the energy crisis as well as the economic and financial situation in Croatia.

The prime minister said that after a strong recovery in 2021, Croatia continued down the path of growth, public debt reduction, and financial stability, as confirmed by international credit rating agencies.

Plenković also talked about the situation in southeastern Europe, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He emphasized the need to change electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure equality and legitimate political representation of the Croats as a constituent people, saying that that was the basis for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be a functioning and stable country.

Also attending were Minister of Culture and Media Nina Obuljen Koržinek and Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Ivan Paladina.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

PM Says Croatia Can Play Crucial Role In Providing Energy In Europe

ZAGREB, 19 May 2022 - Croatia can be a crucial country for future energy supply to the countries in its neighbourhood that now fully depend on Russian energy sources, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday commenting on the "REPowerEU" plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels in Europe.

Plenković told a news conference that the REPowerEU Plan, which the European Commission presented on Wednesday as its response to the hardships and global energy market disruption caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, highlights the need to invest in gas and oil pipelines networks.

This is an opportunity for the Croatian companies Plinacro and Janaf, and talks are being conducted with them to see what can be done, said the PM.

Plinacro, a leading Croatian gas transport system operator, and Janaf, which manages the oil transport network, have initial projections of necessary investments, according to Plenković.

The EU has a high degree of understanding for Croatia's crucial role, and the Croatian energy companies "have important roles in the changed energy structure of Europe," he added.

The PM highlighted three aspects of the EC plan: saving energy, diversifying supplies and accelerating the rollout of renewables.

The €300 billion plan consists of schemes for the disbursement of €225 billion in loans and €75 billion through grants.

The investment in gas and oil infrastructure is important to us because they create possibilities for additional investment, enhance our capacity and help Croatia become a strategic country in the diversification of supply routes, said Plenković.

He said that the government was taking necessary steps to fill gas storage capacities, as required by the EU.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Klovićevi Dvori Gallery Marks 40th Anniversary With "Ukrainian Rhapsody" Exhibition

ZAGREB, 19 May 2022 - Zagreb's Klovićevi Dvori Gallery on Wednesday marked its 40th anniversary with an exhibition of graphics entitled "Ukrainian Rhapsody" and the screening of a film about the gallery.

The exhibition, initiated by former culture minister Božo Biškupić, was opened by Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek, who said that Klovićevi Dvori was one of the most important world galleries, having hosted more than 1,500 exhibitions.

The exhibition, featuring works by 14 Croatian artists, is a token of solidarity with the suffering of the Ukrainian people, Obuljen Koržinek said.

Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Kyrylych, who attended the event, thanked Croatia and its prime minister for their strong support to Ukraine.

Attending the opening of the exhibition were also Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, government ministers, members of parliament and other prominent public figures.

The exhibition "Ukrainian Rhapsody" lasts until 19 June.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

PM: Croatia Looks Forward to Deepening Political and Economic Ties with China

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview with the Xinhua news agency released on Wednesday that he looked forward to deepening political and economic relations with China.

 "I very much look forward to deepening our political relationship, our consultations, our economic cooperation," Plenković said on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Croatia and China.

The Croatian prime minister pointed out that the relations between Zagreb and Beijing over the past 30 years had been excellent.

He said that bilateral cooperation within the Chinese initiative "One Belt One Road" had intensified and that the 17+1 initiative, within which Beijing cooperates with Central and Eastern European countries, was an excellent tool for all of us in Central and Eastern Europe.

Plenković also noted that Chinese companies had built the Pelješac Bridge and the Senj Wind Farm, and he also called for more cooperation and dialogue between China and the European Union on global issues, including global security and peace and climate change, especially in the energy sector, Xinhua reported.

"We should cooperate more. I think we have a very solid basis. We have 30 years of cooperation and a very intensive period over the past couple of years," the Croatian PM said.

He said he particularly appreciated that Croatia had been able to acquire sufficient amounts of protective equipment and masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Ex-commission Chair: Decision on Karamarko Served to Prevent Probes into Plenković

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - After the High Administrative Court quashed the Conflict of Interest Commission's decision that former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko had been in a conflict of interest, former Commission chair Dalija Orešković said the case was a political pretext serving to prevent the Commission from investigating PM Andrej Plenković.

"It was clear what epilogue the situation would have from the moment the Constitutional Court ruled on that case in July 2019. All subsequent decisions by administrative courts, including in Karamarko's case, as well as in all the cases in which the Commission decided about the violation of principles of conduct, followed the basic decision and instruction of the Constitutional Court," Orešković told reporters in the parliament.

She was commenting on the High Administrative Court's final ruling quashing the 2016 decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission which found that former HDZ leader and Deputy PM Tomislav Karamarko had been in a conflict of interest, which was why he withdrew from politics.

Orešković, a member of parliament from the Centre party, said the Constitutional Court's decision contested the Conflict of Interest Commission's authority to decide and make declaratory decisions on breaches of principles of conduct.

"That decision was not primarily motivated by justice-seeking or defence of constitutionality in the case of Tomislav Karamarko but was a political front for aborting the Conflict of Interest Commission as an anti-corruption body with the aim of preventing it from looking into cases involving Andrej Plenković," she said.

Orešković recalled that at the time when the Constitutional Court decided on the Karamarko case, the Conflict of Interest Commission was expecting to deal with reports filed against PM Plenković (concerning the appointment of his close friend Igor Pokaz as ambassador to the UK, the HDZ party's trip to Helsinki aboard a government plane, and the Agrokor and Borg affairs), which involved Plenković, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and former Economy Minister Martina Dalić.

"The degree of conflict of interest in Karamarko's case is insignificant compared to the gravity of violations of law in Plenković's case, and if such practice had been supported by the system, the government of Andrej Plenković would have fallen long ago," she said.

The Constitutional Court's decision not only protected Plenković from facing political responsibility but was used by the HDZ to fully erase from the new Conflict of Interest Act the provision on the violation of principles of conduct, she said.

Orešković said that instead of the Conflict of Interest Commission "we now have a scandalous novelty that has enabled the government to adopt a code of ethics for office-holders, with the relevant decisions being made by a body directly under government control."

"The standards are being eroded and today we have a completely paralysed anti-corruption system," said Orešković warned.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

PM: Constitutional Court's Ruling is as Expected

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader, Andrej Plenković, said on Monday that the Constitutional Court's ruling on the Bridge party's referendum question was as expected.

Earlier today, the Constitutional Court ruled that the questions in the two referendum petitions launched by the opposition Bridge party - to abolish mandatory COVID passes and transfer the powers of the national COVID response team to Parliament - were not in line with the Constitution.

"We had no idea what the decision would be," said Plenković after a session of HDZ party's Presidency and National Council, dismissing claims that the Constitutional Court was "someone's puppet".

"To anyone who had read the request to assess the constitutionality, such a decision is not a surprise," added Plenković, pointing out that the Constitutional Court's decision was well-argued ed and reasoned.

He said that the entire thing was too politicized and that the initiative was led by anti-vaxxers.

As for the statement by President Zoran Milanović that the Constitutional Court should be abolished and that the decision was a coup d'etat, PM Plenković said that this was "yet another brilliant claim".

He also said that Milanović's statement in which he asked the Croatian State Attorney's Office (DORH) to "imprison" Defence Minister Mario Banožić was unacceptable and unheard-of He added that it was unimaginable that anyone could incite DORH against a minister.

Plenković on SDP initiative for new abortion bill

The prime minister also commented on the abortion bill, saying that the initiative of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was "a lightning-fast transformation of a personal tragedy and health situation into a political initiative".

He recalled that the issue of termination of pregnancy had not been on HDZ's agenda or coalition agreement and that it was back "on the table" following a decision by the Constitutional Court after 26 or 27 years.

"We have a coalition in which there is the HDZ, some other center-right parties, as well as liberal parties and ethnic minorities, and this is an issue on which it is extremely difficult, I would even say nearly impossible, to reach a consensus within our parliamentary majority," Plenković said, recalling that the Constitutional Court did not task the government but the parliament to adopt a new law.

Last week, members of the parliamentary majority could vote on this ideological question in line with their program and values, Plenković said, noting that the HDZ understood the message and that it was a signal of caution.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Croatian Prime Minister Sends Letter of Condolence Over Death of UAE President

ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Sunday sent a letter of condolence following the death of the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who died on Friday, the government said.

"The United Arab Emirates has lost a great man and serious statesman, who worked for the benefit of his people and country with foresight and commitment," Plenković said.

"Our thoughts are with the royal family and the friendly people of the United Arab Emirates, whom I offer sincere condolences and deep sympathy," Plenković added.

Sheikh Khalifa, born in 1948, came to power in the richest emirate, Abu Dhabi, in 2004 and became UAE President. He was succeeded on Saturday by his half-brother, Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who has been widely seen as the de-facto leader of the rich Gulf monarchy.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Few 20th Century Statesmen Measure up to Tuđman, Says Plenković

ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 - HDZ party leader and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday, on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of Croatia's first president Franjo Tuđman, that few 20th century statesmen can measure up to Tuđman in terms of their historical importance for their own nation.

Tuđman's political legacy democracy, freedom and state

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Tuđman's birth at Zagreb's "Vatroslav Lisinski" concert hall, Plenković said that a free and sovereign Croatia was Tuđman's life's work.

Tuđman's political legacy is what we live today - democracy, freedom and an own state, Plenković said, adding that Croatia's first president believed that people of different worldviews could give a valuable contribution to the accomplishment of Croatian national interests.

He advocated reconciliation of the Croatian people and the unity of Croatians living in Croatia and the expatriate community, and those are the beliefs he built the HDZ on, said Plenković.

"Because of all of that we can freely say that few 20th century statesmen can measure up to him in terms of their historical importance for their own nation," Plenković said.

Today's HDZ has been advocating for six years now Christian Democratic, people's, patriotic and universal humanist values, which are the values Croatians rallied around under Tuđman's leadership, he said.

"His legacy is the foundation of both the home and the foreign policy of today's Croatia, which has a strong pro-European orientation and feeling of belonging to Central and Mediterranean Europe," Plenković said.

Speaking of those who "in the past 20 years have worked on the so-called de-Tuđmanisation, trying to downplay Tuđman's accomplishments and political legacy," Plenković said that they had not succeeded and would not succeed.

The commemoration in a packed Vatroslav Lisinski hall was also addressed by former parliament speaker Vladimir Šeks, who said that those who doubted that the HDZ was continuing Tuđman's policy should look at the gathering to see for themselves what Tuđman meant and still means to the HDZ.

Attending the commemoration were members and leadership of the HDZ, the HDZ government ministers as well as former ministers and party officials -  Ljubo Ćesić Rojs, Martina Dalić, Tomislav Ćorić, Josip Aladrović, Milan Kujundžić, Lovro Kuščević, and former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko.

Also present were a delegation of the HDZ BiH party, led by Dragan Čović, the president of the Croatian National Council (HNV) in Serbia, Jasna Vojnić, Serbian MP Tomislav Žigmanov, Montenegrin minister Adrijan Vuksanović, and some members of the Tuđman family.

War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved recalled the successful military and police liberation operations of the 1991-95 Homeland War, the crown of which was Operation Storm, saying that Tuđman was a superior military strategist.

Jandroković: It is a perfidious lie that HDZ and Croatia were created by UDBA

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that as the main champions of change and transformation, Tuđman and the HDZ had been constantly under attack by external and internal factors.

"Defamation has been going on the whole time. I heard the other day a perfidious lie, that the HDZ and Croatia were created by UDBA (former Yugoslav security service)," Jandroković said.

UDBA worked and killed for Communist Yugoslavia and Croatia was created by true patriots, defenders, and ordinary people for whom Croatia was above any ideology, said Jandroković.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Croatia and Cyprus Can Assist in Europe's Energy Independence

ZAGREB, 11 May 2022 - Cyprus can help the European Union achieve energy independence, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday during an official visit by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who underscored that the LNG terminal on Krk Island would have a big role in that.

The two officials discussed the energy crisis in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

President Anastasiades also condemned a decision by Turkey to not join in Europe's sanctions against Russia.

Anastasiades spoke about energy inter-connection projects in the eastern Mediterranean, between north Africa and Europe, and about the EastMed gas pipeline which should connect Cyprus with Europe via Greece.

That island state has in recent years discovered significant offshore gas deposits, and the proposed project is still being analysed to test its economic feasibility, said Anastasiades.

It can help Europe's energy diversification, he told a news conference.

Addressing the news conference in Nicosia, Plenković underlined that the LNG terminal on Krk Island would have a significant role in achieving Europe's energy security. Thought is being given currently to increasing its capacity and not just for Croatia but for the needs of countries in Central Europe, he said.

Croatia can become an energy hub in the north Adriatic for gas and oil, said Plenković.

He underscored that Europe has to find a new, long-term sustainable alternative to Russia's energy products at an affordable price.

Bilateral cooperation

The two officials emphasised that this was the first visit by a Croatian prime minister to Cyprus and that it should mark a turning point in cooperation between the two countries so that their political agreement on European topics can expand to economic ones.

The two countries are expected to finalise in November an agreement on avoiding double taxation and they have also signed a memorandum on strengthening economic cooperation, which should be accompanied by a memorandum on digital transformation and sea traffic.

We are two Mediterranean countries not far from each other, we share the Mediterranean and I believe there is a lot of room for expanding cooperation, Plenković said, underlining the petrochemical and electrical energy industries, IT sector, pharmaceutical industry and financial and digital cooperation.

Cyprus and Croatia have been connected by air for the past two years, which has resulted in an increased number of tourists.

Croatia's political objectives

Plenković said that he and "his good friend" Anastasiades also discussed Croatia's ambitions for deeper integration in the EU that should occur this year - accession to the passport-free Schengen area, on which a final formal decision is expected in June or July, and accession to the euro area, on which a decision is expected in July.

We will be ready for euro changeover on 1 January, said Plenković.

The two officials also discussed the situation in Southeast Europe, with emphasis on Bosnia and Herzegovina and the need to ensure the political rights of Croats in that country, with Zagreb having full support from Nicosia in that regard.

Plenković's two-day visit to Cyprus, during which he laid a wreath at the monument to Makarios III, Archbishop of Cyprus who was the country's first president and is considered to be the father of the nation, ended with a meeting with the country's parliament speaker.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Plenković: Croatia Admires Resistance of Ukrainian People

ZAGREB, 8 May 2022 - Croatia admires the resistance of the Ukrainian people and their European aspirations and is ready to help with its own experience in post-war reconstruction, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said during a visit to Kyiv on Sunday.

Plenković made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Victory in Europe Day and ahead of Europe Day, observed on 9 May. In his speech, he expressed Croatia's full support to the Ukrainians in their resistance to the military aggression by neighbouring Russia and to Ukraine's EU path.

"We admire the resistance you have demonstrated in the face of the Russian aggression. You are fighting not only for the freedom of Ukraine but also for the values that we all share," the Croatian PM said.

Croatia itself experienced military aggression and that's why "we understand how hard the pressure is and how difficult the situation is for the defenders and Ukrainians," Plenković said and added: "I have the highest regard for the heroism of Ukrainian soldiers defending their homes, their families, their territory and their homeland."

Addressing a joint press conference with President Zelensky, Plenković noted that he was well aware of the European aspirations of the Ukrainian people.

Before becoming prime minister, Plenković had served as chairman of the European Parliament delegation to Ukraine and headed an EP observer mission for the 2014 election in Ukraine. As prime minister, he had offered Ukraine Croatia's experience with the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region after its 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Plenković also offered Croatia's experience with post-war reconstruction, mine clearance, and reconciliation. "We would like to share this experience with you," he said, recalling that he had last visited Kyiv five months ago when he and Zelensky signed a statement on Ukraine's EU membership perspective.

He commended Ukraine for responding so quickly to the EU questionnaire, presented to the Ukrainian president in Kyiv by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which is the first step by an aspirant country to gain the status of a membership candidate.

"We will be on your side every step of the way," Plenković said.

Croatia has supported the first five packages of sanctions which the EU has imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and will support a sixth package which is being prepared.

Plenković expressed satisfaction that Croatian Ambassador Anica Djamić has returned to Kyiv and that the Embassy will continue to operate normally. "This, too, is a strong sign of support to Ukraine and Ukrainians," he said.

For more, check out our politics section.

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