Friday, 13 May 2022

Croatian Parliament Passes Law On Adoption Of Euro As Legal Tender

ZAGREB, 13 May 2022 - The Croatian parliament on Friday passed a law on the adoption of the euro as legal tender, with 117 MPs voting in favour, 13 against and one abstaining.

MPs rejected amendments by Bridge and the Green-Left Bloc and a conclusion by Bridge that the government had not endorsed.

The euro is expected to be introduced on 1 January 2023.

As of the 5th of September this year through 2023, prices would be displayed both in kuna and in euro.

Next year there will be no cost for exchanging kuna cash for euro, which will be done in banks, post offices and the Financial Agency. Citizens will be able to exchange kuna bills for euro in the central bank indefinitely.

Bridge and Sovereignists against euro

Before today's vote, some of the opposition again spoke against introducing the euro.

Miro Bulj of Bridge said an estimate of the effects of the introduction should have been made, calling on parliament to repeal the law and saying that experts should state their opinion and the people decide in a referendum.

Marijan Pavliček of the Sovereignists said the party was concerned about how citizens would survive the month upon entering the eurozone and how pensioners and workers would live.

He said it was insane to enter the eurozone during the EU's biggest energy crisis, biggest economic uncertainty, and the biggest inflation in 20 years.

2022 budget revision included in agenda, debate next week

Parliament today added 14 items to the agenda, including a draft revision of this year's budget.

"We'll debate it next Wednesday," Speaker Gordan Jandroković said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Bridge Launches Interpellation on Government Work Over Rising Energy Prices

14 February, 2022 - After meeting with the parliamentary opposition on Monday, the Bridge party announced that it was launching an interpellation on the government's work over rising energy prices.

"The Bridge group convened the meeting with the opposition to discuss certain proposals for an interpellation regarding the issue of energy," Zvonimir Troskot said, adding that there were several proposals and a final one hasn't been decided on.

Each parliamentary group presented short and long term measures to buffer inflation, he added.

Bridge believes that the government was not prepared for this crisis and that it is tardy in adopting measures to relieve the situation with rising energy and food prices. The party thinks that the focus should be on fiscal relief, by reducing VAT and abolishing excise taxes on fuel, and on social transfers, said Troskot.

"For months we have been pointing out the problem of inflation and increasing energy prices, and the government has done absolutely nothing about it, only saying that there won't be increases in gas prices before 1 April," he said.

Bridge also commented on the government's idea to tax Croatian residents working abroad, saying this was yet another blow to the weakest, aimed at filling the budget.

The Tax Administration is now targeting micro-enterprises and it's obvious that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić is trying to fill the state budget by hitting on the weakest, who could be the backbone of our economy, Bridge MP Nikola Grmoja said.

Monday, 8 November 2021

Zagreb Opposition Strongly Against Plans To Cancel Stay-at-Home Parent Scheme

ZAGREB, 8 Nov, 2021 - Opposition parties in the Zagreb City Assembly - the HDZ, the HSLS, Bridge and the Homeland Movement - on Monday strongly opposed plans to abolish a grant scheme for stay-at-home parents as well as reduce grants for layettes for newborn babies.

HDZ deputy and HDZ Zagreb city branch leader Mislav Herman said on behalf of the HDZ/HSLS group that the announced drastic cut in grants for stay-at-home parents and the proposal to shorten the period during which they receive them was tantamount to their abolishment.

The City of Zagreb last Friday put to public consultation a decision abolishing grants for stay-at-home parents after their child reaches the age of seven, and the grant for those with younger children is reduced to HRK 1,000 per month, from 65% of the gross average pay in Zagreb.

Herman said "the abolishment of the grants was accompanied with a bizarre explanation that it was a huge cost."

"Does demography in the 21st century in Croatia and the whole of Western Europe have a price? We believe it does not, and that the benefit of this demographic measure was great," said Herman.

He added that the measure currently costs HRK 44 million a month, while city subsidies for kindergartens amount to HRK 45 million a month, which, he said, could result in the cost of kindergarten subsidies going up because of children who will return to pre-school institutions due to the cancellation of grants for stay-at-home parents.

Herman also believes that Deputy Mayor Danijela Dolenec's view that the grants had yielded insignificant results "is not competent as no concrete figures have been provided."

He claimed that the scheme had stopped negative demographic trends in the city, concluding that Mayor Tomislav Tomašević was guided by "ideological and not by financial interests."

Bridge: 2,700 Zagreb children left without kindergarten care in 2020 

Bridge deputy Lovro Marković said that the city had not made a thorough analysis of demographic and economic effects of the scheme, introduced by former mayor Milan Bandić, and that it did not know how its cancellation would affect the filling of kindergarten capacity in Zagreb, adding that in 2020, 2,700 children could not enroll in kindergartens.

"The scheme for stay-at-home parents covers more than 6,000 children, and according to current rules, coming from families with more than one child, those children will have advantage when enrolling," he said.

His Bridge party also strongly criticises the reduction of grants for layettes, stressing that that measure was a way for taxpayers to get back the money paid into the city budget in the form of local rates.

Peternel: Tomašević attacking foundations of Croatian society

Homeland Movement deputy Igor Peternel said the abolishment of the scheme was "outrageous", causing complete mistrust in state institutions.

"We consider this to be a worldview-motivated decision which symbolically strikes at the foundations of the Croatian society, namely at the family," said Peternel, condemning also the reduction of grants for layettes.

Last Friday, the city administration submitted for 30-day public consultation its proposal to abolish grants for stay-at-home parents, as well as reduce allowances for layettes for newborn babies.

A document has been released analysing the demographic and financial effects of the scheme, as well as its effects on the inclusion of women in the labour market and children in educational institutions.

"There will no longer be new applications for the scheme, only regulating the rights of existing beneficiaries, and the right to use the measure is reduced to seven years of age of the child," Deputy Mayor Dolenec said.

This means that the beneficiaries whose children have already reached the age of seven or more will no longer be eligible for the grant as of 30 April 2022, which creates a period in which they can adapt to the new circumstances, that is, they can look for a job and get a job while they are still using the grant.

The grant for beneficiaries who have children under the age of seven will be reduced to HRK 1,000 per month as of 1 May.

They can use the measure until their child reaches the age of seven, but they can also find a job immediately and they are also allowed to enroll their child in kindergarten in May, said Dolenec.

The analysis attached to the public debate shows that the City of Zagreb has spent HRK 1.8 billion on this scheme since 2016, and if applications had not been suspended in August, the monthly budget expense for that measure would be HRK 700 million.

"The amount is equivalent to the construction of 27 new kindergartens in Zagreb", said Dolenec, adding that the measure was unsustainable for the budget.

She underscored that the demographic effect of the measure was small, that is, dubious.

"For families with three and more children there is a small increase in the period when the measure was introduced, but the total number of live births has not risen," she pointed out.

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Building Bridges Between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia

February 18, 2021 – Appropriate government bodies of the three neighbours have come together and agreed to work together to improve bridges between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia

We say building bridges between Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. It's actually more a case of renovating and maintaining bridges between Croatia and the two neighbours to the east.

Despite what journalist Zdenko Jurilj describes as “constant political skirmishes” between the neighbours, in Vecernji List's coverage of this news, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers and the governments of Croatia and Serbia have reached an agreement to work together in the rebuilding, maintenance and review of bridges which connect them. According to the signed agreement, each party will share 50% of the costs without, as it says, "claiming compensation from the other party, unless otherwise agreed between them."

In other words, the cost of renovating bridges between Croatia and Bosnia will be half paid by Bosnia, half paid by Croatia, the cost of renovating bridges between Bosnia and Serbia will be half paid by Serbia, half paid by Bosnia.

According to the agreement between the three governments, equipment needed for the reconstruction and maintenance of the bridges will be exempt from customs duties. Bridge managers shall make a detailed inspection of each of the bridges at least once every five years and independent experts appointed by the bridges' trustees will inspect them each year.

There are 10 bridges between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina which will be jointly maintained. Most of them stretch between the countries across the Sava river, although a few cross over the Una, Maljevac and Korana rivers. A further 11 bridges between Serbia and Bosnia are within the agreement, making a total of 21 bridges to exist within the deal.

Although there are bridges between Croatia and Serbia (including at Ilok and Erdut in Slavonia), within the article published by Vecernji List there is no mention of an agreement to improve bridges between Croatia and Serbia. Following the optimistic and uplifting promise of the headline at the start of this news item, this fact is a rather more unfortunate metaphor on which to end it.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

H1 Donations to Bridge, GLAS, Human Shield, New Left Range from HRK 70k to 19k

ZAGREB, July 14, 2020 - The Bridge party received nearly 70,000 kuna in donations in the first half of 2020, according to the reports on political parties' donations.

This parliamentary opposition party received exactly HRK 68,500 from 108 donors. The four highest donations were 4,000 kuna paid by party officials: Sonja Cikotic, Bozo Petrov and Nikola Grmoja each.

The GLAS party reported HRK 51,000 in donations, with its leader Anka Mrak-Taritas having paid 10,000 and parliamentary deputy Goran Beus-Richembergh 8,000 kuna.

The Human Shield party had 23,000 kuna of donations, mainly secured by donations given by its members.

The New Left which secured seats in the new, 10th parliament had donations in the amount of 19,000 and the biggest individual donation in the amount of 10,000 was paid by the Specijalna Oprema Lucko company, whose core business is developing, manufacturing and installing equipment for gas, oil, petrochemical and general process industries.

About 30 political parties have so far submitted their reports on donations and they are available on the Electoral Commission's website.

In the first half of this year the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party received HRK 560,000 in donations for its regular political activities, a report published on Monday shows.

Many political parties, including those in parliament, reported no donations, including the Independent Democratic Serb Party, the Croatian Pensioners Party, the Istrian Democratic Party and Let's Change Croatia. Independent MPs Vladimir Bilek, who represents the Czech and Slovak minorities, and Veljko Kajtazi (Roma minority) also reported receiving no donations.

The Social Democratic Party, Bridge and the Homeland Movement are yet to submit their reports. The deadline is July 15.

Any party that fails to do so by the given deadline faces a fine of between HRK 10,000 and 100,000, while MPs and councillors face a fine of between HRK 2,000 and 20,000.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Bridge Says Will Turn Down Plenkovic's Invitation for Meeting

ZAGREB, July 14, 2020 - The Bridge party said on Tuesday that it would turn down Prime Minister's invitation for a meeting with that opposition party, explaining that it believes that only a joint meeting of Plenkovic with all opposition parliamentary parties would have some sense.

Although the Bridge party was initially ready to forget all political differences when it comes to Croatia's interests, and therefore it had accepted the invitation for a meeting in the government, now that party believes "that there is no willingness to ensure a joint and constructive meeting with the whole Opposition."

Bridge writes on its Facebook that separate meetings with each of the Opposition parties would not make any sense and therefore this party is against such talks.

Bridge says that it has already presented its platform's economic plank to the public and that the implementation requires courage and political will.

The party goes on to say that it expects the new government to present its platform in the parliament and to organise a joint meeting with the Opposition.

Last week, Plenkovic, who is to be the prime minister-designate after the results of the July 5  elections, announced meetings with representatives of parliamentary parties so as to reach a consensus on key issues for the country.

 A majority of opposition parties seem to be against separate meetings.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Bridge: State Attorney's Office Administers Selective Justice in Line with Politics

ZAGREB, June 30 (Hina) - The Bridge party on Tuesday called out the State Attorney's Office (DORH) for administering "selective justice", saying that it does not adhere to the law but follows political instructions, which is why it is necessary to change the way state attorneys are selected.

"DORH is often in the service of politics. It is not fulfilling its purpose and it is necessary to change the way the chief state prosecutor is selected," Bridge's political secretary Nikola Grmoja told a press conference.

He said that there are two possible selection procedures, one being a two-thirds majority vote in the Sabor, "even though we select constitutional court judges that way which hasn't proven to be that efficient," he admitted.

"We all know that constitutional court judges are chosen by agreement between the HDZ and SDP which then leaves room for political bartering," Grmoja noted.

The other way is through direct election just like the president is elected.

"We have seen that until now DORH has behaved by turning a blind eye to some, while some people are arrested ahead of an election in an effort to curry favour with this or that political group. That has to change. We need an independent judiciary and institutions," Grmoja said.

Party colleague Tomislav Jelic said the DORH administers "selective justice", citing the Croatia Osiguranje (CO) insurance scandal in 2013 and 2014. Experts are preparing a suit which will prove that Croatian citizens - as owners of CO - were robbed of HRK 3.5 billion (about €450 million) "when CO was given away to the Adris Group in a scandalous way."

Even though a state audit found that the privatisation of CO was illegal, DORH has done nothing about it, Jelic said.

County attorneys have not been replaced for years and it is "high time after the election for some people in DORH to be charged for their inaction and covering up crimes," Jelic said.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Bridge Calls On Gov't To Explain How Election Will Be Held

ZAGREB, June 27, 2020 - The Bridge party said on Saturday the government, having organised an early parliamentary election, should instruct citizens on how it would be held and under which coronavirus protection measures.

Marija Selak Raspudic told reporters the election was seven days away and that citizens still did not know how to vote safely given "the epidemiological situation and the fact that Croatia, primarily because of the prime minister, has become anything but a safe country."

She said it was necessary to make sure that polling committee members and observers would come to the polling stations, otherwise, the election risked being "illegal." She also wondered how many diaspora voters would be prevented from voting and if, because of that, the election might be declared unconstitutional.

Asked if Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should be self-isolating after a recent tennis tournament in Zadar, where an outbreak of coronavirus occurred, Nino Raspudic said it was very clear that one set of rules applied to the prime minister and another to the rest of the population.

He said the decision to hold the election early had been rushed to use the then popularity of the coronavirus crisis management team for political gain. "Now we see how many of the team's members are on HDZ slates. It's difficult to distinguish between the HDZ's election campaign and the team's press releases."

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Bridge Blames National Response Team And Government For Spike In Coronavirus Cases

ZAGREB, June 25, 2020 - The number of coronavirus cases in Croatia is on the rise because members of the national crisis response team and the prime minister set a bad example and because recommendations from the Public Health Institute (HZJZ) are being ignored, Ivan Bekavac of the Bridge party said on Thursday.

Bekavac was presenting the party's healthcare programme for the forthcoming parliamentary election.

He wondered how it was possible to organise a concert for 600 people in Knin, where the singer was infected with the coronavirus, without the HZJZ measures being observed.

He said that yesterday's decision to impose a 14-day quarantine for people coming to Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia was not based on the medical profession and law but was a political decision aimed at shifting the public focus from the responsibility of the ruling parties to citizens of the neighbouring countries.

"In the context of the ongoing election campaign, this suits the HDZ," Bekavac said. "The rise in the number of infections shows that we should focus more on preventing a new wave of the coronavirus and less on political decisions at the expense of public health," he added.

Bekavac said that the Croatian hospital system needed reorganising and restructuring, calling for an end to the monopoly of the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZ). He said that Bridge advocated market-based health insurance because citizens have the right to choose a healthcare scheme that suits them best and be responsible for their own health.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Bridge Presents Its "Croatia Is Awakening" Election Platform

ZAGREB, June 17, 2020 - The fight against corruption and clientelism, boosting the economy and a better education system are the key points of the "Croatia is awakening" platform presented by the Bridge party for the July 5 election.

Our platform is a realistic framework unlike those of others who are offering fairy tales and promises and offending the people's intelligence. We are offering something that can be achieved and that Croatia needs - a decent life for every citizen and a just system, Bridge leader Bozo Petrov said presenting the party's platform.

Chief State Prosecutor should be appointed by a two-thirds majority in parliament

In addition to the three key points, Bridge's platform deals with other issues such as health, agriculture, and the status of pensioners. We have an answer to all those issues, said Petrov.

The party's political secretary, Nikola Grmoja, said that it was necessary to change the judiciary and speed up proceedings in order to attract foreign investments.

"We want to change the model of appointment of the chief state prosecutor, who is currently appointed by the ruling majority through corrupt bartering, and extend their term in office. They should be appointed by a two-thirds majority in the parliament," said Grmoja.

The Conflict of Interest Commission should have more powers and be transformed into an anti-corruption agency, Bridge representatives said, adding that they would insist on transparent spending by public officials and on making public the budgets of all government bodies.

Education sold to satisfy political interests

Heading the party's slate in  Constituency 1, Marija Selak Raspudic underscored that education is high on the list of Bridge's policies as is the problem of democracy deficit so that the shameful political trade-offs that occurred in the last government with the Croatian People's Party (HNS) could be prevented.

"We witnessed the sale of the education sector to satisfy one's own political interests," she said and added that the education reform needs to be impartially evaluated.

The deficit of democracy is evident in the fact that the parliamentary election was called in the midst of the pandemic, Selak Raspudic said, warning that electronic and postal voting was not possible and that referendums had been thwarted.

Bridge is offering amendments to the election law with more preferential votes, she said.

Responding to reporters' questions regarding failed negotiations with the Homeland Movement, Grmoja said that negotiations were held, however, Bridge could not come to terms with being on the same slates as defectors who joined Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic's Labour and Solidarity Party.

"Skoro has attracted a wide variety of people, while we are glad that we are going to the election with new, uncompromised people because only people like that can bring change," he said.

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