Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Opposition: It's Not Good That PM Plenković is Trying to Intimidate Media

ZAGREB, 2 June, 2021 - Recent frequent attacks on media, reporters and political analysts by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković were met on Wednesday with condemnation by opposition MPs, who called on him to accept criticism and on media not to allow to be intimidated.

Social Democrat Arsen Bauk said the prime minister had opted for the "attack is the best form of defence" approach.

"Some defeats at local elections are painful for the HDZ, notably the prime minister, because he chose or imposed some of the candidates. It is not good for the prime minister, who has both objective and real power, to try to square accounts with or intimidate reporters, media and their editors and owners. I hope you will not let yourself be intimidated by him," Bauk told reporters in the parliament.

Judging by their response, I can see that they are not intimidated, he said, adding that he was fascinated by Plenković's claim that rival broadcasters had colluded to devalue the HDZ's candidate for Zagreb mayor.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said that media were possibly responsible for the latest developments because they had been very mild towards Plenković from the start.

"I definitely support media freedoms and it is not unusual that media in Croatia and the rest of the world are leaning to the left, but I think that what is more important here are the so-called independent analysts who often have material interests and certain relations with political camps and NGOs and who act in public as if they were unbiased," said Bartulica.

The sole MP of the Reformists party, Natalija Martinčević, who chairs the parliamentary Media Committee, said that the prime minister was very nervous, which she considers inappropriate.

"Communication with the media must be civilised. We are all expected to behave that way and so is the prime minister. There is no justification for his behaviour," she said.

Most MP Marija Selak Raspudić said that media had been the PM's fetish for a long time.

"Let me remind you of his high school graduation thesis 'Means of Mass Communication' in which, apart from extensively quoting (Yugoslav Communist politician Edvard) Kardelj and Marx, he also says that the Party is the one to control all information in society. He then advocates some democratic trends and says that media should be democratised, but it seems that as an experienced politician he has accepted the principle that the Party should control all information and is surprised when he does not manage to do it," said Selak Raspudić.

HSLS MP Dario Hrebak said that every politician had their own style of communication, noting that the prime minister was evidently irritated by something.

"I, too, am sometimes unhappy with the media but everyone has the right to say what they think, I would not be a liberal if I thought differently," he said, adding that he believed the prime minister would mend his relationship with the media and some reporters.

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Thursday, 15 April 2021

Opposition Accuse Government of Trying to Buy Votes From Pensioners and Young People

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - Parliamentary opposition parties on Thursday criticised the government's plan to pay a COVID supplement to pensioners and a tax refund to young people in the run-up to local elections as vote buying.

Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) told reporters in the parliament building that the government "has obviously sorted its priorities to ensure the best possible election result" for the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

"We support a COVID supplement for pensioners, even before elections. I think the Croatian democracy is mature enough and that this will not result in voters voting en masse for the HDZ," Bauk said.

Homeland Movement MP Stjepo Bartulica said that Prime Minister Plenković often expressed his disdain for populists. "I see a great dose of populism in the timing of this measure," he said.

"We are all equal in Croatia, but obviously some groups are more equal than others, especially with elections coming up. In principle, I am not against helping the pensioners, but the way in which the government runs its policies actually increases cynicism in Croatia," Bartulica said.

Bridge's Božo Petrov noted that the government had promised several years ago that the living standards and monthly incomes of pensioners would rise considerably, suggesting that the measures proposed by the government should remain permanent.

Bojan Glavašević of the Green-Left Bloc said that "the pensioners and young people, as vulnerable groups, need systematic rather occasional assistance."

Unlike the opposition, the HDZ's Ivan Ćelić disagreed that this was an attempt at vote buying for local elections. "Let me remind you that a month before elections the (SDP) government of Zoran Milanović gave away electricity vouchers of HRK 200, which can be seen in the same way as the COVID supplement," he said.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Friday, 9 April 2021

Gov't Rep Accepts Amendments By HDZ Party Group to Local Elections Bill

ZAGREB, 9 April (Hina) - A government representative on Friday accepted amendments by the ruling HDZ party group to a bill on local elections which ease previously proposed stricter rules for the nomination of candidates in elections and reasons for the termination of a local official's term.

A regulation has been eased under which a person with a final court verdict sentencing them to a prison term of at least six months or whose verdict has been changed to community service and a conditional verdict will be banned from running in elections, starting already with the May 16 local election.

The HDZ parliamentary group proposed that the ban should not apply to persons sentenced to prison for an unintentional crime, if their sentence has been changed to community service or a conditional sentence.

Also accepted were amendments that relax reasons for the termination of the term of a member of a representative body, municipal head, mayor and county head and their deputies.

If those officials have committed an unintentional crime and have been sentenced to prison but their sentence has been changed to community service or a conditional sentence, the terms of those officials will not cease, government representative Sanjin Rukavina said.

He did not accept Social Democrat MP Arsen Bauk's amendment under which those officials' terms would end also in case the party which has nominated them and on whose slates they have been elected has been given a final court verdict for an offence.

The government partially accepted amendments by the SDP, GLAS and Centre party groups under which the term of a member of a representative body, municipal head, mayor and county head stops on the day when they deregister their residence in their local government unit.

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Wednesday, 7 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Says Who Plans to be Supreme Court President Must Respect Law

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that someone who planned to be president of the Supreme Court was expected to respect the law, which "is the prerequisite of every reform."

He was responding during Question Time to MP Arsen Bauk of the opposition Social Democratic Party, who said Plenković was preventing changes in the judiciary, that Croatia was the least vaccinated EU member state, that COVID-19 measures were being applied selectively and that there was no reconstruction after last year's earthquakes.

Plenković accused the SDP "and the whole left" of trying to create an "awful" atmosphere as if tomorrow there would be no wages, electricity or gas.

He said Croatia ordered 8.7 million vaccine doses and that people would be vaccinated, but that the government could not be responsible if a big drugs company had problems with its vaccine, production and distribution. "Other countries are in this situation too."

Bauk said Plenković did not refute any of his claims and that citizens believed the president more in his row with the prime minister over the election of the new Supreme Court president.

Bauk concurred with other opposition MPs' criticisms of the ruling HDZ's policies and their rejection of the possibility that Plenković's party could transform itself.

He said the HDZ's "core won't change, it's always more or less the same" and that "the HDZ has always functioned on doctrines of (...) sustainable nationalism and clientelism."

SDP MP says minister tried to bribe her

SDP MP Mirela Ahmetović said that "one of your ministers (...) personally offered me a bribe to keep quiet about all the illegal and negative things" about the LNG project off Krk island, and that as a result of the project the gas price for households went up 80% on 1 April.

Plenković accused her of having boycotted the project "dreamed of for 40 years", saying it would reduce the price of gas and that this benefitted Ahmetović as head of Omišalj Municipality.

He also dismissed claims by Marijana Puljak (Centre) that he was protecting Vice Mihanović, the HDZ's candidate for mayor of Split who is under suspicion of having plagiarised a scientific paper.

He said Mihanović had a doctorate and that it was up to the relevant commissions to decide on his doctoral dissertation, adding that Ivica Puljak, Marijana Puljak's husband, would certainly lose to Mihanović in the Split mayoral race.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Parliamentary Committee Chair: "We'll See if Đurđević Will be a Candidate and if She is Acceptable"

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - The chair of the parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System has said that it would be in the spirit of the Constitution to publish a new call for applications for the Supreme Court president, declining to say if Zlata Đurđević is acceptable to the ruling majority.

"The President must respect the Constitution and under the Constitution, he has the authority to propose a candidate for the Supreme Court president, but he also must respect the legal procedure. That includes the Law on Courts, in line with which a public call is conducted, and the Law on the State Judicial Council (DSV), which specifies conditions a candidate for the Supreme Court president must meet," Dražen Bošnjaković of the ruling HDZ party told reporters in the parliament.

"The Parliament Speaker has already said that he must return the President's proposal for completion as the candidate he has proposed did not submit her application in a public call. Anything that arrives in the parliament must be in line with the law, which is not the case now because an application was not submitted," said Bošnjaković.

There are no special regulations regarding a renewed public call but in the spirit of the system, if no one has applied or if there is no will to propose any of the candidates who have applied, a notification is sent to the DSV that none of the candidates will be proposed and a new public call is advertised, Bošnjaković explained.

As for President Zoran Milanović's candidate Zlata Đurđević's statement that she was willing to apply for the post of Supreme Court president in a new public call, Bošnjaković would not say if she was acceptable to the ruling majority, noting only that that would be seen when and if she applied.

SDP MP: Constitution requires agreement between president, parliamentary majority

The deputy head of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) parliamentary group, Arsen Bauk, said that Đurđević should be elected by a majority vote in the parliament at the proposal of the president of the republic, and that the procedure was a technical matter at the moment.

If the president and the parliamentary majority reach an agreement on Đurđević, she will be elected, and if they don't, she won't. The Constitution requires agreement between the president and the parliamentary majority, anything else is one-upmanship and amuses the public, Bauk said.

"The law has evidently fully served its purpose because this is the most transparent election of the Supreme Court president ever, it won't be this transparent in the next few election cycles," Bauk said.

"If Đurđević is an acceptable candidate to the HDZ, it makes no difference if she is elected based on the (president's) proposal or if she submits an application in a make-believe public call. If I were to make a joke, I would say that if she were honest, she would ask to be elected in a rigged public call. Or an agreement will be reached on someone else, if possible, but there are four more months left," said Bauk.

Also today, during a parliamentary debate, Bauk criticised Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković for breaching the parliament's standing orders by returning President Milanović's proposal for the election of the Supreme Court president to be completed.

"The Parliament Speaker has breached Article 170 of the Standing Orders because he sent back the President's proposal instead of letting the parliament decide on whether the proposal would be put on the agenda," Bauk said, noting that the president's proposal had all the elements it was required to have under the Standing Orders.

"If there are any objections, they are determined in a debate," Bauk said, adding that he was citing a breach of the Standing Orders "in order to have the topic nominated for discussion by the Committee on the Constitution and Standing Orders."

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Thursday, 4 March 2021

MP Arsen Bauk Takes off Mask in Parliament in Protest of Violation of Measures at Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - Member of Parliament Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party protested on Thursday in the parliament against the "flagrant and rude" violation of epidemiological measures at the funeral of the late Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, which was attended by an estimate of one thousand people.

Bauk entered parliament without a mask, which is not permitted and which was remarked on by Deputy Speaker Ante Sanader (HDZ).

SDP's MP explained why he took his mask off.

"I violated Article 293b of the Rules of Procedure because I took off my mask. I did so in protest at the flagrant and rude violation of measures at Mirogoj on Wednesday, sponsored by the national and local COVID-19 crisis management teams," Bauk said.

He asked Sanader to issue him with a warning so that "at least someone would be penalised" for yesterday's violation of epidemiological measures.

"I won't issue you with a warning for yesterday, but I will for what you did today, you violated the Rules of Procedures," Sanader responded.

Friday, 9 October 2020

SDP MP Arsen Bauk Says PM Andrej Plenkovic Must Step Down

ZAGREB, October 9, 2020 - Social Democratic Party parliamentarian Arsen Bauk said on Friday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should step down for many reasons, and one of them is his claim that he did not know that a preliminary probe had been launched in the Janaf case.

"I have in particularly noticed President Zoran Milanovic's statement that the premier definitely knew 1000% what was going on and failed to do anything, while the premier is claiming that he did not know anything. That is an even a bigger reason for his resignation," Bauk said.

Considering the Opposition's further plans after the ruling majority's refusal to support the establishment of an inquiry commission over investigation leaks, Bauk said that the discussion on that issue would be on the agenda of parliament's plenary sitting, when it would be clear who represented what, considering that matter.

Commenting on the latest statements by President Zoran Milanovic and his heated debates and exchange of barbs with his critics, Bauk said that anyone who followed Milanovic in the last 15 years of his political career should not be surprised by the president's public conduct.

Bauk said that he agreed with most of the things the president said.

I like a majority of his stylistic and metaphoric expressions, the SDP MP said.

He declined to comment on the internal conflicts in this strongest Opposition party, and expressed hope that there would not be any rifts within the SDP following the latest developments when a majority of SDP MPs rejected the motions and decisions proposed by the party's new leader, Pedja Grbin.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

SDP Whip Arsen Bauk Says Speculation about Party Rift very Dangerous

ZAGREB, Oct 7, 2020 - Social Democratic Party whip Arsen Bauk said on Wednesday, following a rift in the SDP parliamentary group, that he hoped this was the last time something like that was happening because party members were fed up with conflicts and that conflicts would not continue.

The SDP group in the parliament on Tuesday rejected a proposal by the new SDP leader Pedja Grbin for changes in parliamentary positions held by the SDP.

Bauk said speculation about a rift in the party was very dangerous, adding that one such situation happened during the term of the last parliament when the party began the term with one number of MPs and ended it with a different number. He expressed hope this would not happen again.

"I have informed the parliamentary secretariat that the SDP presidency has decided that Pedja Grbin will be the new party whip, while Mirela Ahmetovic, Sinisa Hajdas Doncic, Sabina Glasovac and I will be his deputies, and we expect the secretariat to put those changes on the parliament's official web site," said Bauk.

The other proposals for appointments will not be forwarded by the party presidency but by the party's parliamentary group, in line with the parliament's standing orders. Since the parliament's standing orders say that party groups in the parliament are formed by political parties, I'm not sure the parliament's secretariat should arbitrate in parties' internal matters, said Bauk.

He assumes that the new party whip, as soon as the parliament secretariat carries out the proposed changes, would very shortly put forward a proposal for new personnel changes for the SDP.

When asked if Grbin would do so contrary to the will of a majority of SDP MPs, Bauk said that the will of SDP MPs would be determined at a plenary session.

Grbin on Wednesday would not comment on the conflict in the party but made a brief comment in a Facebook post on HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic's statement that there was continuity of conflicts in the SDP.

"We do have problems, but we are dealing with them rather than sweeping them under the carpet. It's better to have the continuity of problems that are being dealt with than the continuity of not dealing with corruption," said Grbin.

HDZ whip surprised by SDP's motion

HDZ whip Branko Bacic told reporters he was surprised by the SDP's motion.

A party cannot send such proposals to the parliament, only a parliamentary group can or requests for certain appointments can be submitted if backed by a certain number of MPs, 40 for a deputy parliament speaker and 15 for a committee chair, he said.

"We are not a party state. Parties cannot propose bills or any other decision related to the work of the parliament. Under the standing orders, only parliamentary groups can do so or one should seek the support of a certain number of MPs. I'm surprised that Grbin, who chaired the Committee on the Constitution and Standing Orders, is putting forward a proposal which is, I won't say funny but is absolutely inappropriate and cannot be implemented, either under the law or under the standing orders," said Bacic, noting that the HDZ did not intend to arbitrate in the dispute in the SDP.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

SDP MP Willing to Teach Math to Pupils Who Don't Attend Religion

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) lawmaker Arsen Bauk on Wednesday called on the Education Ministry to organise Religion classes in school timetables so that children who do not attend that optional subject should not stay in their classrooms during those classes.

Addressing the parliament on behalf of the SDP bench, Bauk said that with the organisation of classes in circumstances marked by the outbreak of coronavirus, some schools demand that children who do not attend Religion should remain in their classroom during that class.

"It is a horrible practice," said the SDP math teacher-turned-politician, adding that he was willing to teach those children math during those classes.

He called on the ministry to solve the issue and help avoid situations in which such children could feel "as second class pupils".

Bauk recalled that the children's ombudswoman Helenca Pirnat Dragicevic also stated that Religion classes should be scheduled as the first or the last period in a school timetable.

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