Saturday, 30 April 2022

Social Democrats Say Their Party to Offer Different Political Activity Paradigm

ZAGREB, 30 April 2022 - Members of the Social Democrats parliamentary group presented in Split on Saturday their eponymous association and announced the establishment of a political party that would offer a different paradigm of political activity than the one currently on the scene.

Croatia clearly needs a serious Croatian policy based on different values, said Davorko Vidović, the association's president.

The Social Democrats are the largest opposition parliamentary group, formed after 18 Social Democratic Party (SDP) MPs were ousted from or left the party.

Vidović said their own political party would be based on values of social democracy present in Europe for the past 200 years, such as freedom, justice, equality and solidarity, but faced with new challenges.

"We wish to be the spokespersons of the modern Croatia, which needs representatives capable of articulating those needs."

The Social Democrats want to show that the country can be run differently, by respecting every citizen and introducing decency, respect, tolerance and arguments in the political discourse, Vidović said.

MP Katica Glamuzina said Social Democrats were" returning to the foundations of social democracy" and "the path of equity, equality and the fight for those disenfranchised."

Speaking of tomorrow's International Workers' Day, MP Davor Bernardić said citizens no longer wanted to watch the president and the prime minister row but were interested in how to live better.

It's key to help workers working on insecure platforms as well as all others, and also young people who can't afford to buy a flat, which the Social Democrats are dealing with, he added.

The key job is to help Croatia demographically and keep people from leaving, he said.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

SDP Leader Says DIP's Instructions Scandalous

ZAGREB, July 1, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardic said on Wednesday that instructions by the State Electoral Commission (DIP) on voting on election day in the context of the coronavirus pandemic were scandalous, calling on the government to enable all voters to go to the polls.

"Should it happen that some citizens are not enabled to vote, elections would be irregular. The government wanted elections, they made the decision and now they have to enable all citizens to participate in the elections in line with the Constitution," Bernardic said.

He called DIP's instructions scandalous because he believes that DIP is not authorised to ban people with a high temperature to vote.

"Have they made sure those people can exercise their right somehow, that is what this is about," he warned.

Bernardic stressed that a government that was unable to make it possible for all citizens to go to the polls was incapable of implementing elections or running the country.

The government has opened the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina as it counted on the votes of ethnic Croats crossing the border, Bernardic said, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina were among European countries with the highest rates of new cases of COVID-19.

Commenting on the latest claims by Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro that neither Andrej Plenkovic nor Bernardic could be prime minister, Bernardic said that Skoro was trying to form a coalition with the HDZ.

"He is hoping for a coalition with the HDZ and offering the prime minister the post of foreign minister. In the current situation, the message is very clear - a vote for Skoro is a vote for the HDZ and vice versa," said Bernardic.

He said his party's approval ratings were positive and that all surveys predicted victory for the SDP-led RESTART coalition.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Plenkovic, Bernardic: There Will Be No Grand Coalition

ZAGREB, June 30, 2020- HDZ president and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and SDP president and Restart Coalition leader Davor Bernardic said on Monday they did not want a grand coalition after the election and that one of their first moves after it would be the adoption of a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb.

"A grand coalition with the SDP, never," Plenkovic said in their first TV debate on RTL television.

Bernardic said a grand coalition was out of the question "with a party on trial for corruption and whose 11 ministers had to leave the government on suspicion of corruption."

He said that after the July 5 vote Restart could form a coalition with left and centre-left parties, but never with Miroslav Skoro's Homeland Movement, Bridge, or Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic's party.

"A vote for Skoro is obviously a vote for the HDZ," said Bernardic, while Plenkovic said Skoro proved to be a great SDP ally in the presidential election and that he felt centre-right voters would not disperse their votes by voting for Skoro.

Plenkovic asked Bernardic why he would not form a coalition with Bandic, saying he was "his pupil" and that Bandic helped him become the president of the SDP.

Bernardic: HDZ has left Zagreb residents in the lurch; Plenkovic: HDZ has given HRK 1.7 million for reconstruction, you have given nothing

Speaking of the adoption of a Zagreb reconstruction law, Bernardic said Restart would present a bill on Tuesday "because we are responsible and that will be one of our government's first moves."

He said the Plenkovic cabinet left the people of Zagreb in the lurch because they would have no accommodation when winter came, adding that this was irresponsible and should not have happened.

Plenkovic said the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), its MPs and government members had donated HRK 1.7 million for the reconstruction of the capital after the March quake and the SDP (Social Democratic Party) nothing, and that in the revised budget the government set aside HRK 141 million for intervention works on damaged buildings.

He added that the state was paying rent for all who could not stay in their flats after the quake and that the government was paying HRK 3 million for the expenses of those temporarily accommodated in a student dorm. "The bill is ready and it will be the first our next parliament will enact."

Bernardic: Ustasha salute should be outlawed

Speaking of the "For the homeland ready" salute, Bernardic said it should be banned by law also in the coat of arms of the HOS militia from the 1991-95 Homeland War. He said the salute suited Serbia and those using it against Croatia. "There is no place for the Ustasha salute in the public sphere."

Plenkovic said a former SDP government legalised the salute in the coat of arms of a Zagreb HOS association, adding that he was personally against it. "It has no place in the public sphere, except in small exemptions which we have done out of respect for Croatian war veterans."

Speaking of the education reform, Bernardic said Restart's goal was to educate children for the labour market, improve PISA test results, and introduce civic education.

Plenkovic said the education reform was launched during the incumbent government which, he added, aligned education with labour market requirements and increased the Science and Education Ministry budget by over 30%.

Plenkovic: Bernardic has shown a lack of knowledge about European topics

Speaking of Croatia's EU presidency, Bernardic said Croatia "slept through it" and that it did not raise the issue of the novel coronavirus or migrants. "We did absolutely nothing during the Croatian presidency."

Plenkovic said Bernardic had shown a lack of knowledge about those topics and that the Croatian presidency had ensured an orderly Brexit and agreed on a mandate for negotiations on future EU-UK relations, among other things, and that Bernardic had never shown the slightest interest in European topics.

Coronavirus response

Speaking of COVID-19, Bernardic said Croatia did not procure the necessary equipment in time and that it was doing too few tests, calling the national response team a political body whose decisions encroached on some constitutional rights.

"You haven't taken any responsibility for the deaths of 20 residents of the (care) home in Split. The lockdown was imposed after elections in the HDZ... You endangered citizens' health then and you are doing the same thing now," said Bernardic.

"Thanks to our engagement, we have not only saved lives and the economy, but we were also the first in the EU to launch a COVID response mechanism, we protected hospitals. In Europe, the virus has claimed most lives in homes for the elderly. Our achievement is that we've had only 107 deaths," Plenkovic responded.

Bernardic: You pushed Croatia into an election; Plenkovic: We wish to have a stable government by autumn

Plenkovic said experts were predicting a second COVID-19 wave in the autumn and that he wished to have a stable new government by then.

Bernardic said Plenkovic had pushed Croatia into a parliamentary election despite a rise in new infections, that he was opening the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina only so that HDZ sympathisers could come to Croatia to vote, and that by refusing to self-isolate after a recent tennis tournament in Zadar, Plenkovic was putting the tourist season at risk.

"Hungary and Slovenia will close their borders. (Their tourists) won't be coming to (our) sea because they will have to self-isolate (upon returning) home," said Bernardic.

He went on to say that if his coalition came to power, it would adopt a moratorium on loan payments because this government, he added, had failed to so, siding with banks. "We have sent a proposal for a shorter work week because of the EU's SURE programme."

"I'm flabbergasted that you want to be prime minister, you know nothing," responded Plenkovic. "The EU Next Generation is a new instrument. My government in October 2016 encountered 9% of contracted funds, 1% paid out. Today we have 96% agreed and 36% paid out. We are fighting to get another €22 billion in the next seven years. I hope such ignorance won't have the opportunity to represent Croatia in the EU. I'm disappointed, you could have prepared, it saddens me."

Bernardic: Who believes you?

Asked about the minimum wage, which amounts to HRK 3,250, Plenkovic said that during the SDP government it went up to HR 250 and during his 750.

"Before COVID, the public debt was reduced to 73% of GDP. It used to be 81%. We are trying to make the quality of life better for everyone. Croatian citizens live better than four years ago," he said, adding that his government had relieved citizens and businesses of HRK 9 billion in taxes.

"Who believes you? Investors don't believe you. We have fallen on the Doing Business ranking. You have collected HRK 15 billion more in taxes, yet you talk about relief. Entrepreneurs are burdened," countered Bernardic.

He said that after the election he would reduce the number of ministries and abolish the State Assets Ministry, calling it a made-up ministry. "Our goal is a smaller state administration, fewer municipalities and towns, and tax relief. Plenkovic and the HDZ had four years, yet they didn't do it."

Plenkovic too announced fewer ministries, saying he would say how many after winning the election.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Plenkovic Responds to Bernardic: Situation Is Under Control

ZAGREB, June 25, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday responded to the leader of the centre-left Restart coalition, Davor Bernardic about the parliamentary election being held in these insecure times of the coronavirus epidemic, saying that Croatia was a safe country and that the situation was under control.

"Croatia is a safe country. As for Bernardic's comments, unlike him, we have retained jobs and employment and supported the workers. That means a responsible policy and a safe Croatia," Plenkovic said during a visit to the eastern town of Pozega when asked by the press to comment on Bernardic's statement that the HDZ had pushed Croatia into elections expecting to gain a political profit from the coronavirus crisis, thus putting citizens' lives at risk.

Commenting on the spike in the number of new coronavirus cases in the country, the prime minister said that the situation was under control. 

"We overcame the first wave of the outbreak with strong restrictive measures and moves to help businesses. We have the same number of people employed as before the crisis, which is excellent. Now we are seeing a rise in the number of infections. The virus is here with us, but none of the people are in critical condition or on ventilators," Plenkovic said.

He said that lessons had been learned from March so that today Croatia has a resilient healthcare system, well-prepared medical staff, and doctors, as well as epidemiologists who are processing all contacts,

Considering an increased number of people coming from other countries, the rise in new cases is not unexpected and is not something that Croatia cannot cope with, he added.

"This is not dramatic because according to the information that I get, my impression is that there are no critical patients. I can't say that the virus has mutated or that the summer COVID is milder, we will see that, but our services are keeping the situation under control and it will stay that way in the future," Plenkovic said.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Bernardic: Our Task Is To Further Decentralise Croatia

ZAGREB, June 24, 2020 - Leader of the Social Democratic Party Davor Bernardic, who is at the helm of the Restart coalition, said on Wednesday that the coalition's task was to further decentralise Croatia and enable Istria, known for its tolerance and inclusiveness, to develop even faster.

Only investments can change the economic structure

He added that for that reason one of the first measures the Restart coalition would put in place would be for a zero tax rate on wages of up to HRK 5,000 so that workers could immediately receive HRK 300 more in their monthly wages.

The SDP-led government would also immediately reduce VAT in hospitality and tourism.

He added that one of the fundamental problems over the past four years was that the government had introduced taxation on investments or reinvested profit which, he said, the Restart coalition would once again abolish because it wanted to attract investments to Croatia "because only investments can change our economy's structure."

National coronavirus crisis management team is a political body

Responding to reporters' questions, Bernardic said that the national coronavirus crisis management team's likely decision to change the border regime with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro was belated as shown by "the escalation of the corona crisis."

"It's obvious that the crisis management team is in a fact a 'political team' because its key leaders are on HDZ's election slates. That is not good given that because of the election, they do not have time to deal with the coronavirus which is why it has spread.

"Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should go into self-isolation. However, it is obvious that one set of rules applies to citizens and another to the prime minister and HDZ members. That is an injustice that citizens feel," said Bernardic.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Bernardic: Church Should Not Be Interfering in Politics

ZAGREB, June 16, 2020 - The leader of the SDP and the Restart coalition, Davor Bernardic, said on Tuesday that the Church should not be interfering in politics and elections because Croatia is a secular country, commenting on the recommendations by the Croatian Bishops' Conference for the July 5 parliamentary election.

"First of all, Croatia is a secular country and the Church should not be interfering in politics or in elections. This suggests that they are dissatisfied with the government because it failed to ban work on Sundays," Bernardic said at a presentation of the Restart coalition's education programme.

Speaking of the position of prime minister within the SDP (Social Democratic Party) and the Restart coalition, he said that under a decision by the SDP's main committee the president of the SDP is the candidate for prime minister.

Bernardic said that an interview with the head of the Homeland Movement, Miroslav Skoro, clearly showed that Skoro intended to form a coalition with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, adding that a vote for Skoro was a vote for the HDZ and vice versa.

Asked why he had declined an invitation to face off against Plenkovic in a debate on the public television service HRT, Bernardic reiterated that he had confirmed his participation in debates on the commercial television channels Nova TV and RTL during the official part of the election campaign.

"There is an impression that this is a competition for the President of the Republic or a tennis match between me and Plenkovic. No, this is the presentation of the best team and the best programme for Croatia. I know it's embarrassing for Plenkovic to talk about his team because 15 people have left it," Bernardic said.

As for Zeljko Sabo, who has been included on the SDP's election slate although he was found guilty of corruption by a court of law, Bernardic said that the rehabilitation period had passed.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Bernardic: We'll Have Enough Seats To Form A Firm And Stable Government

ZAGREB, June 13, 2020 - The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Davor Bernardic, said on Saturday he was confident that together with their partners from the centre-left Restart coalition they would win enough votes in the forthcoming election to form a firm and stable government.

"Today is a very important day for the SDP on the road to a final victory at this election and I am certain that after this day we will be a step closer to it because we have the most competent people, as we showed at the European and presidential elections," Bernardic said in his opening remarks at a meeting of the party's main committee where lists of candidates were to be agreed.

He said that their mission was to ensure a better life for the citizens and that no one would stop them from achieving that. "Only together can we succeed, as we did at the European and presidential elections, riding on a wave of unity, good ideas, good programs, and the faith and vision that our country deserves better."

"That's what will happen at this election too. Rest assured that the SDP and its coalition partners will have a sufficient number of seats to form a firm and stable government. Today I am certain of a victory more than ever before," Bernardic said.

He said that Croatia needs a decent, responsible, and transparent government with a strategy to address the present crisis and with a clear vision of the future. In the past four years Croatia has not carried out a single reform and lags behind other EU countries on all criteria, while it can do better and deserves better, he added.

Bernardic said that If elected, in the first week in office the Restart coalition will extend the job retention scheme by passing a law on a shortened work week, a law on a moratorium on loan repayments, a decision for the development bank HBOR and the SMEs agency HAMAG to provide loans to small businesses and family-run farms, a set of measures for the most vulnerable social groups and a law on the reconstruction of Zagreb after the March 22 earthquake.

He said that his government would have five priorities - kick-start economic recovery and growth, boost employment, wages and pensions growth, a crackdown on corruption, implement a comprehensive digital transformation of the system, reform the state, and local government system, and reform the healthcare system.

"Our goal is a progressive, modern, and successful Croatia. At this election, the citizens will choose whether they want a Croatia free of corruption, poverty, and injustice or a return to the old ways. They will decide whether they want a Croatia without discrimination that will give everyone, and not just some, a chance to succeed," the SDP leader said.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Restart Coalition: Green Economy to Create 100,000 Jobs

ZAGREB, June 10, 2020 - Leader of the Restart Coalition and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Davor Bernardic on Wednesday announced that his government would work actively on a prompt transition towards a circular economy so that it reaches a share of 25% and by the end of the decade creates 100,000 jobs.

"Based on numerous indicators, Croatia is at the bottom in Europe in terms of the judiciary, corruption, living standards, the economy's competitiveness, absorption of EU funds, and in applying a circular economy," Bernardic warned while presenting the Restart Coalition's green development election platform.

"The share of circular use of the material is 4.4% whereas the average in the EU is 11.7%. We are eighth from the bottom with regard to ecological innovations and we account for just 38% of the EU average with regard to productivity in all sectors of the bio-economy or €13,000 in added value for each employee, while in the EU that is €41,000," said Bernardic.

The EU's New Green Deal is a key development document that foresees Europe's social and economic transformation by 2050, which means that Croatia has to work more intensively and faster on the transition from a linear to a circular economy by adopting and implementing the green transformation strategy, he underscored.

Considering that Croatia imports 50% of its food and energy, there is room in these sectors for green development and employing a large number of people, he added. 

One of the first moves will be to adopt a Circular Economy Strategy which foresees the construction of 100 bio-composting and waste sorting plants and 50 smaller bio-gas units with EU funds.

He announced that the main source of green transformation funding would be from the EU's Horizon Europe fund, in addition to state and local government budgets, the Environment Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund, the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development and commercial banks, along with private investments and donations.

SDP green policy advisor Mirela Holy underlined that green transformation has to be the main paradigm of change and that the New Green Deal is the EU's key development document which entails large investments in energy efficiency.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Bernardic: Plenkovic Pursuing Traitorous Policy

ZAGREB, June 8, 2020 - Social Democratic Party president Davor Bernardic on Monday accused Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic of pursuing a policy which betrayed national interests because Hungarian PM Viktor Orban was laying claims on Rijeka and that in return, Plenkovic was delivering Croatian oil.

"Orban is Plenkovic's friend. He claims parts of Croatian territory and as a reward, Plenkovic delivers Croatian oil to Budapest," he said in response to questions from the press, calling this a "policy of betraying Croatia's national interests."

As for the announcement from Canada that Croatian citizens there would not be able to vote in Croatia's parliamentary election because of COVID-19, Bernardic said the key task of the government and the state was to make sure that every Croatian citizen could go to their polling station anywhere in the world.

That was one of the reasons why the SDP asked the COVID-19 crisis management team to ensure that citizens can vote, notably in care homes, he said.

Asked if he would sign a green-left coalition petition for the president to convene an extraordinary parliamentary session after the election so as to have a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb passed, Bernardic said that the SDP-led Restart Coalition, after winning the election, would pass that law at parliament's first session.

Our experts from various fields are working on that bill and our goal is that citizens return to their homes as soon as possible, that we activate the construction sector and stop the real estate brokerage currently going on in Zagreb because people have moved out and their properties have been devalued, Bernardic said.

Commenting on a public opinion poll according to which 42% of citizens would not go to the polls, he urged citizens to vote and "say no to the thieving government" because, he said, it concerned every citizen what Croatia would look like and if it would be free of corruption.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

SDP Chief Says Gov't Only Reform Is Reform Of Holiday Calendar

ZAGREB, May 30, 2020 - Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardic said on Saturday, on the occasion of Statehood Day, that the only reform implemented by the government led by Andrej Plenkovic was the reform of the holiday calendar.

Offering his congratulations to Croatians for Statehood Day, Bernardic noted that Statehood Day was again observed on May 30 by a decision of the incumbent government.

"Holiday dates change, corruption stays, corruption was and remains the trademark of this government, led by the HDZ," said Bernardic, adding that he could not help but think that the latest arrests in a case involving the construction of a wind park were politically motivated and served to divert public attention from the "latest scandals involving (ministers) Bosnjakovic, Coric and INA" and create the impression ahead of elections that state institutions were doing something about corruption.

"Everyone knows that this is the most corrupt government in Croatia's history and that 11 of its ministers had to go because of suspicion of corruption," Bernardic said at the Mirogoj cemetery, where together with other leaders of the RESTART coalition he laid wreaths.

"That topic is irrelevant," he said when asked by reporters if his coalition would, when it came to power, change the holiday calendar.

"The most important topic at the moment is how to save jobs, increase wages and bring back to the country more than 150,000 people who have emigrated," he said.

Croatia will have to wait for money from the EU

Bernardic believes that Croatia will have to fight hard for the 10 billion euros to be allocated by the EU for the country to salvage its economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That money has to pass certain bodies, it is just a proposal by the European Commission and we will have to wait for it, Croatia has unfortunately overslept its EU presidency and fortunately Germany is taking over on July 1," said Bernardic, describing Croatia's EU presidency as inactive.

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