Sunday, 2 February 2020

Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic Protest 'Enough' Draws 20,000: Stops Traffic

Around 20,000 citizens protested in Trg bana Jelačića against Zagreb Mayor and USKOK indictee Milan Bandić and demanded his permanent removal from politics. The protest was punctuated with crowd chants of “Enough, Milan", "Go, Go" and "Thieves, Thieves".

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Largest Crowd of Three Protests Against Zagreb Mayor

The protest, which was called "Enough", began at 16:00 CET yesterday. According to the organizers' observations; this protest has by far gathered the most residents of all three against the mayor. The third protest, which feature live bands and a stage, was organized by Siget Citizens Association, Green Action and Zagreb Te Zove according to Matej Devčić/Jutarnji List on February 1, 2020.

“In the first protest we shouted, ‘step down’, in the second we were jurors and passed down a ruling - you are guilty. We even showed up at the courtroom. But this has all happened with the support of the government. Without Andrej Plenkovic, Bandić would not have been able to do all this,” Gordana Pasanec, president of the Siget Citizens Association, told the gathering.

Bernard Ivčić from Green Action said that citizens came to Zagreb's Trg bana Jelačića to say enough to Bandić's system of clientelism, which is destroying Zagreb.

Mayor’s GUP Plan Benefits Friends: Residents Choking on Trash

“The GUP (General Urban Plan City of Zagreb) is a scandalous document in which Bandić backs Zagreb Manhattan for the benefit of his friends and lets us choke on the trash everywhere. We ask all MPs to oppose this plan,” Ivčić said.

Jelena Miloš from the Zagreb Te Zove said that Zagreb is ashamed of its mayor. Residents take pride in their neighborhoods and are fighting against the criminal GUP plan and waste mismanagement. All of this would not have been possible without the support of the HDZ in the city assembly, she said.

“We are also saying to the HDZ: we will not forget you,” Miloš proclaimed to the crowd.

Marko Košak from Green Action arrived to the stage holding a garbage bag full of trash.

“What I have in my hand is a symbol of Bandić,” said Košak, adding that the mayor is guilty for all the waste problems in Zagreb.

“Remember this date: February 1, 2020; today we are taking down Milan Bandić,” Košak added.

Zagreb Protest Crowd Reached 20,000: Shut Down Tram Service

Police officers wouldn’t provide crowd estimates, but observers claim the crowd, which filled the entire main city square, reached 20,000. There were so many people in Trg bana Jelačića that tram traffic was suspended at one point.

Bandić Dismissed Protesters as Whiners and Actors

Yesterday, Mayor Bandić spoke to reporters about the protest organized against him and suggested that some protesters were "whining, and some were acting."

“It is the democratic right of protesters to protest, and the democratic right of the mayor to work,” said Mayor Bandić, who responded to questions on Cvjetni trg, where P.I.N.K. had organized an event to commemorate World Cancer Day.

Highlights of the Zagreb Protest as It Happened

16:25 - Several thousand people gathered at Trg bana Jelačića to protest Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić. Protesters came to the square with banners chanting "Prison", "Bandits and thieves" and "Enough!"

Comedian Marina Orsag, a presenter at the protest, addressed the crowd. "Thank you, everyone, for pointing out that you are not afraid to come out, that we are not little hooves who will not fight Milan Bandić," Orsag said, according to Dnevnik "What happens when you are dissatisfied with an employee? You fire him!"

16:45 - Film director and candidate in the last presidential election Dario Juričan also came to protest Milan Bandić.

The protesters were also addressed by Bernard Ivčić of Green Action. "A little kid would have done more than (Milan) Bandić. Everywhere around Zagreb, there are affairs, all with the support of Andrej Plenkovic and the HDZ, who hold a majority in the assembly.

Orsag asked the assembled people to remove derogatory signs and claimed that the protesters had "stopped traffic".

17:00 - Jelena Miloš from Zagreb Te Zove addressed the protesters. "(Milan) Bandić has to leave because he has been destroying GUPs for the last 20 years," Miloš said, to which protesters responded with "Leave!" "Zagreb is ashamed of its mayor."

"Today we are proud of Savica, who defended their park. Samoborček and Trešnjevka, because they are defending green spaces. Resnik fought against a harmful incinerator. Novi Zagreb too. "We say - 'we won't forget about you,'" Miloš said.

17:25 - Marko Košak from Green Action brought a black garbage bag to the stage. “This is a symbol of Mayor Bandić. If Milan Bandić is famous for something, then it is an inability to solve trash problems. We have had enough,'' Košak said.

''Now he wants to increase everyone's bills. It won’t work, Milan!'' said Marko Košak to Bandić, as quoted by Dnevnik.

''Remember this date: February 1, 2020, today we are taking down Milan Bandić here!'' Košak concluded to the wild applause of protesters.

17:50 - Marina Orsag ended the protest with a message for Bandić, "I have one slogan to end with - when we get rid of the scum, we get rid of the garbage," Orsag concluded.

Siget Citizens Association president Gordana Pasanec thanked everyone who came to the protest. "When I see how many there are of you are on stage, it makes me tremble. Thank you for showing up in such large numbers," Pasanec said.

Green Action: GUP Not Taking Public Interests into Account

On Friday, Green Action welcomed the Zagreb Constitutional Court's ruling that it would not increase the cost of transporting waste for Zagreb which was slated for on February 1, but they also had announced that they would not withdraw from the protest.

Green Action president Željka Leljak Gracin said there were many other reasons for today's protest because "Bandić's politics and city management are anything but acceptable." At the protest, she said, "we will once again demonstrate that it is time for Bandić to leave this position."

She also said that changes to the GUP will be decided next week, which she claims are "increasingly detrimental to the city in every case and are in no way taking public interests into account. I believe that residents need to show that this city is not Bandić's, but it is being managed as if it is," she claimed.

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A considerable archive of Total Croatia News articles about Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić can be found here.

Information on Zagreb Organizations Working to Remove Bandic

Follow Zagreb Te Zove here to keep updated on events and protests the Zagreb mayor. Information on Dario Juričan, documentary film maker and performance artist, can be found on his Facebook page and website. Information on Zagreb je NAŠ, a Zagreb-based political party, can be found on Facebook here and on their website.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic Divorced Wife To Acquire Cheap Apartment

Did Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić and his wife Vesna go through a marital rough patch 24 years ago? According to court records, the couple filed for divorce in March 1996. Apparently, their short-lived divorce was amicable, because then ex-husband Milan immediately approved his ex-wife’s request to purchase an apartment for a price seven times below its market value!

UPDATE: All about Milan Bandic protest "Enough", which took place Saturday February 1, 2020 here.

Recently Vesna Bandić, wife of the multiple USKOK (Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime) indictee, bought a 68m2 apartment right in the center of Zagreb.

The recently purchased apartment is located on Trg Petra Petretića and was bought from family friends Željko and Dragica Šelendić for 854,000 HRK (114,775 EUR). It is important to emphasize that most of the money, 720,000 HRK (97,304 EUR), was immediately paid in cash. The apartment was purchased for Bandić's daughter Ana Marija, who was then registered as the apartment’s owner a few days before the New Year, according to Index on February 1, 2020.

Dario Juričan also posted the agreement dated April 7, 1997 for the sale of an apartment on Preradovićeva to Bandić's wife, on his Facebook profile. Bandić has claimed that the sale of this apartment was the source of funds for the recent purchase of the much larger more expensive property.

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You can steal my name, but you can't steal my corruption! | Dario Juričan

Dario Juričan Uncovers Vesna Bandic Apartment Purchase Agreement

"FROM DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE TO ŠELA'S APARTMENT IN A FEW COMPLETE STEPS

Milan oh Bandić, you went to court and got divorced from your wife Vesna on March 25, 1996. You only completed this procedure so that your wife Vesna could buy an apartment on Preradovićeva ulica in Zagreb.

Immediately after your divorce was filed, Vesna Bandić submitted a request with the Zagreb Housing Commission for the recognition of right of occupancy for a 38m2 apartment on Preradovićeva 13.

Vesna Bandić claimed that she had been living in the house since birth, even though she was living with you, only a budding label cutter at the time, in a skyscraper on Bužanova 41.

Just a day after submitting her request, the commission accepted her right of occupancy claim and Vesna bought the apartment for 35,760 HRK (4806 EUR), which was then at least seven times less than the market value.

It took you, Milan, just seven days after your divorce to purchase the apartment in Preradovićeva ulica.

Now Milan, you are spinning a tale that your wife Vesna just bought a 68m2 flat from your friend Šela (Dragica Šelendić) for your daughter, from the proceeds of the sale of that apartment on Preradovićeva.

Thank you for reminding us, label cutter, what a complex operation you were prepared to do for 38m2.

Today, Master of the Fog, thanks to your entrepreneurial spirit, your daughter has an apartment almost double the size…

It paid off, Milan, good job!

Dario Juričan, Mayor of the Universe
/ Thank you Hrvoje Appelt! /

Juričan Poses More Questions For Milan Bandic (There Are So Many)

P.S.

I am particularly pleased, Milan, with your announcement yesterday:

"THERE IS NO DISPUTE REGARDING THE MAYOR'S PROPERTY REPORT!

The Mayor obeyed the law and legal procedures (...)

The Mayor properly made the necessary changes to his property report in a timely manner.”

And where did it all go, Milan, all those luxury watches Zenith, Cartier, Piaget, IWC ...?

Where did the old-timers from Grude (Bandić’s hometown in Bosnia) go?

Who swallowed the three apartments that you had at your disposal and used ...?

How did the 200,000 HRK (26,879 EUR) of cash found in the search of your office and apartment evaporate?

And those fine art paintings you tried to hide with Kikaš, which made you want to go on vacation for a long time because you asked Vida Demarin to make a false statement about those paintings?

Come on, come on, label cutter, send the media the appropriate press releases. Do it properly and in a timely manner, as you always obey the both the law and proper procedure. Please, you can do it," Juričan wrote on Facebook.

Milan and Vesna Bandić’s Fake Divorce

This story first appeared back in 2005.

In 1996, Bandić divorced his wife, Vesna Bandić, after which she, unburdened by his property, very conveniently bought an apartment in Preradovićeva ulica in the center of Zagreb. The law on compensation for property, which was confiscated during the Yugoslav communist rule, provided people with unresolved housing issues the right of purchase. At that time the Bandić’s owned an apartment on Bužanova ulica.

As such a buyout was only possible until March 1997, it is interesting to note that Bandić divorced his wife in March 1996. Then, a week later, his ex-wife submitted a request to buy an 38m2 apartment for 35,760 HRK (4806 EUR) on Preradovićeva ulica.

Until her death in 1992, her grandmother, Anka Kolarić, lived in the apartment. Vesna Bandić said in her request to buy the apartment that she had been registered at that address since 1975 and she had been living in that apartment for seventeen years. Their daughter, Ana Marija, has also been reported as living at that same address since 1983.

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Vesna Bandić Apartment Purchase Agreement | Dario Juričan

Milan Bandić Approved Ex Wife's Zagreb Apartment Purchase

Vesna Bandić was granted the right to buy the apartment just one day after her request was submitted. Despite their divorce, Bandić, as a government official, personally approved the decision on the recognition of the right of occupancy for his ex-wife. The purchase contract shows that the apartment was purchased for 37,760 HRK (4806 EUR), that the amount of the first installment was 3576 HRK (481 EUR), and the rest was to be paid in 240 installments of 148 HRK (20 EUR) per month.

An extensive archive of Total Croatia News articles on the notorious Zagreb Mayor can be found here. An archive of articles on Dario Juričan can be found here. More information on Juričan can be found on his website

Another protest against Mayor Bandić, organized by Zagreb Te Zove, will take place on Trg bana Jelačića today February 1, 2020 at 16:00 CET. More information on the protest can be found on the group's Facebook page

UPDATE: All about Milan Bandic protest "Enough", which took place Saturday February 1, 2020 here.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Corruptia: Ivica Todoric, Ivo Sanader and More Face Trial in 2020

Remember Ivica Todoric? Dr. Ivo Sanader? Tomislav Saucha? They haven't gone away with the arrival of 2020 and nor have the stains they and their ilk have left on Croatian society. It's all hope and glory as Croatia chairs the rotating EU presidency, marking an incredible journey from war to peace in a relatively short space of time, but you can't sweep everything under the rug...

The old saying goes that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and that couldn't possibly be more true for some of the big (and bad) names from Croatia set to face the judge for their crimes during the course of this monumental year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 3rd of January, 2020, while on December the 30th, 2019, a Zagreb County Court jury handed down a final verdict in the long INA-MOL affair, sentencing HDZ's Ivo Sanader to six years in prison, ex PM Ivo Sanader also spent time in Krapinske Toplice, according to a report from Ivana Jakelic for Vecernji list.

Dressed in an unassuming tracksuit and sitting on a chair, Ivo Sanader made a phone call in the hallway using a pay phone. Although the scene looked a bit retro Russia at first glance, the point is that Ivo Sanader's knee surgery recovery is taking place under the watchful eye of the long arm of the law, because he was brought from Remetinec prison for rehabilitation in Krapinske Toplice, where he is serving a sentence of six years, which was handed to him for his part in the Planinska affair.

In 2019, the judicial process with Ivo Sanader ended, and in 2020, Sanader, like many other politicians of all party colours, will continue to be a frequent guest of the Zrinjevac court. Specifically, the trial of Fimi Media, in which HDZ was indicted, should continue this month. It is a retrial because the first conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court. For Ivo Sanader, 2020 could therefore be important in a judicial sense. The Supreme Court is likely to rule on appeals to its other two judgments; in a condemnatory sense in the Hypo affair and an acquittal in the HEP-Dioki affair.

In addition, because of the Planinska affair, Ivo Sanader filed a constitutional complaint, hoping that the Constitutional Court would rule in his favour this time as well. That is, it would revoke his final conviction, as was done back in 2015 in the now somewhat infamous INA-MOL case.

Should that happen, Ivo Sanader would stand a chance of exiting Remetinec, as long as the recent INA-MOL ruling does not become final. However, since this judgment has only been rendered and its reasoning is yet to be written, the court has a three-month deadline and knowing the Supreme Court's operation, it is unlikely that the any appeals will be discussed before the end of 2020.

In addition to Ivo Sanader, in legal terms, Zagreb's mayor Milan Bandic could also find himself in some hot water indeed in 2020. The longtime mayor of Zagreb is continuing to be judged for the Agram affair, and the trial will start in January. The reason is that the existing file will be re-annexed to the part relating to the charges related to waste management in Zagreb. That part of the indictment was returned to USKOK for further processing, and once the charges become final, the file will once again become an integral part of his trial for the Agram affair.

That trial might end during the next election year, in which Bandic will enter a well-shaken up campaign made against him by the highly creative Dario Jurican. Jurican was a presidential candidate who advocates "corruption for everyone, not just for them", and in April he should present his film "Kumek", which deals with the way Bandic and his associates, many of whom will also frequent the Zrinjevac courthouse in 2020, have operated.

Needless to say, the absolute "star" on trial next year will be the notorious, once untouchable Ivica Todoric, Agrokor's tycoon, against whom an investigation into the shattering Agrokor affair should soon be completed.

After that, an indictment should be filed, so it is realistic to expect that the trial of Ivica Todoric and others charged with damaging the concern for 1.1 billion kuna could start in the autumn of 2020. In addition to the trial for the Agrokor affair, Todoric is also awaiting proceedings for the payment of fictitious services, which damaged Agrokor, which held Croatia's entire economy by a thread, by a massive one million euros.

In 2020, Nadan Vidosevic, former head of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), and Nada Cavlovic Smiljanec, former head of the Tax Administration and former SDP MP, are also likely to know their judicial fate. Their trials are nearing their final stages, so it is realistic to expect that their final verdicts could be released by summer this year.

The Zrinjevac court building will also be visited by two former ministers of culture, SDP's Andrea Zlatar Violic and HNS's Berislav Sipus, who can also expect final verdicts to be issued in 2020. The trial of Tomislav Saucha, former head of Zoran Milanovic's office, who now supports the HDZ Government of Andrej Plenkovic with his hand in Parliament, and Marina Lovric Merzel, the former SDP prefect, will also continue. The two of them can look forward to the end of their trials next year, and as things stand, most of the verdicts to the former political elite could be handed down by the end of next year.

All this is going on just in time for the current political opponents to attack each other over corruption in their campaigns for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

As for a real classic crime, the trial of Tomislav Sablja and his co-defendants, who are charged with smuggling 18 tonnes of marijuana worth 11 million euro, should start next year.

These stories are the type that will certainly intrigue the public with the judicial developments in the coming year, and just how much these complications will affect the public perception of the Croatian judiciary's (in)ability to deal with corruption and organised crime on any level whatsoever remains to be seen.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for more.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Croatia Presidential Debate: Hopefuls on Corruption, Taxes, Foreign Policy

On Thursday evening January 2, 2020; HRT (Croatia Radio Television) moderated the second of three debates between presidential candidates Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.

During the two-hour debate, the candidates answered 40 questions – which were divided into several groups including the economy and demographics, foreign policy and presidential powers, national security and the fight against corruption. Of course, there was a set of questions pertaining to worldviews and personal questions, as reported by Index on January 2, 2020. Here are a few highlights from last night’s debate:

Candidates’ Opening Statements:

Milanović: I am aware that I need to reach out to people who don’t intend to vote for me in the second round. I will defend the constitution and fight for the rights of all citizens. I will fight corruption, the monster which has consumed Croatia. The present government and president do not understand the difference between the public and private. Nor do they understand what it means to fight corruption. Those who break the law will not get any preferential treatment from me.

Kolinda: As a woman, I broke through the glass ceilings in the world. I was the first woman foreign minister, have important world connections and was one of the first presidents to meet Trump. I will move away from ideological issues.

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Entrepreneurs are complaining about high taxes. Are they too high?

Kolinda: The tax burden is too great. I do not want to please everyone, otherwise I would say what everyone wants to hear, and I am already too controversial. Zoran Milanović's government raised the VAT from 23 to 25 percent, which was a big blow. I am in favor of reducing taxes because that is the only way to secure higher salaries, create new jobs, investments and encourage people to stay. I will advocate for higher take-home wages and higher wages for employees.

Milanović: You are saying this to please everyone. Life is not like that, and it’s easy for someone who has never earned anything on their own. It is expensive to finance state obligations; including education and care for the elderly. Increasing the VAT rate during the recession was not a blow. Prices did not rise, so that thesis that does not hold water.

Kolinda: I’ve been working for a living since my third year of college. You addressed the deficit by increasing the VAT. I won’t allow you to downplay this failure because it was the VAT that impoverished our citizens. You had a budget deficit with a higher VAT. You can’t rely only on taxes to finance the state budget.

Milanović: How else would the budget be financed? From exports? This shows complete ignorance of fiscal policy.

How do we bring young people back to Croatia?

Milanović: The exodus began in 2016. Poland, Romania, Lithuania had the same problems after joining the EU. Did it destroy those states? As far as I know it did not. We are having moral panics in the Republic of Croatia. We are here, we will fight, we will survive, and they will return. I cannot blame either Milanović or Kolinda for the exodus.

Kolinda: The exodus began during the Milanović government due to pre-bankruptcy settlements and enforcement law. I'm not having a moral panic.

Milanović: Thousands of jobs were saved by pre-bankruptcy settlements, it's ridiculous to say that this is the reason for the exodus. Please don't embarrass yourself.

Kolinda: The fact is that pre-bankruptcy settlements benefitted your friends.

Who is Croatia's biggest ally?

Kolinda: It's the US and we are currently working on concrete proposals.

Milanović: Ms. Kitarović accomplished nothing when she was Croatian ambassador to the United States. You must be totally lost if you are claiming that the United States is our greatest ally. If the US is our closest ally; we are certainly not theirs. The current administration is what it is, and I don't want to fault them, but the EU is our biggest ally and the largest agent of peace in the world.

Kolinda: Of course, we are working with all EU countries. Let’s allow Milanović to highlight some of his achievements with Germany. Croatia is thinking about Croatia today, but is acting globally.

Milanović: I’m not out camping, I’ve worked, traveled, and hung out with the Scandinavian elite. Kolinda was an ambassador to the US and fled to NATO.

Kolinda: I've never turned my back on Croatia. Seventy percent of our foreign trade is with the EU. It is very important for us to work with Serbia and Bosnia and I want them to join the EU. But Milanović quarreled with all our neighbors. Where I build, you destroy.

Milanović: I'm glad to hear these phrases. Relations with neighbors have been the most corrupted by Kolinda. Now we only have a good relationship with Orban (Hungary). As for migrants (backed up at the border with Serbia in 2015); if we hadn't arranged for them to be transferred to Germany, those people would still be here with us now.

Kolinda: You caused that incident, you closed them off in Serbia. 

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Do Jihadists in Bosnia pose a threat to Croatia?

Milanović: I believe SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency) is doing its job. Jihadists in Bosnia are a reality. Standard law enforcement measures will not help the situation there. Kolinda has damaged relations with a country with a Muslim majority due to her reckless stories.

Kolinda: I have don’t have any problems with Muslims. I didn't ruin the SOA; I don't interfere with their work. 

Milanović: Kolinda hangs out with people who steal. I'm not saying she's stealing, but she's a serious problem for the system of national security.

How would you detect and prevent corruption?

Milanović: Saucha (former assistant to Milanović) has been indicted, and he now supports Kolinda and the HDZ. Kolinda arrived (to the debate) today from a celebration held by (Milan) Bandić - these messages are dangerous and toxic.

Kolinda: I did not come from a celebration. I was at an event held by a party which supports me comprised of individuals who support me.

Bandić has been indicted in several court cases. Why would offer to bring him cookies?

Kolinda: Bandić is innocent until proven guilty and I will fight for that. Let's not put people on a pillar of shame. Let's not forget Lovrić-Merzel (SDP), and you defended Bandić when he was your friend. Would you pardon Perković and Mustač (Yugoslav Secret Police)?

Milanović: I would not pardon anyone. You are talking to me about corruption. I have a letter here that you sent to the Washington Times praising Sanader before he fled justice. 

Kolinda: I had no idea about Ivo Sanader's corruption. After all, he had dismissed me from the government.

Should the Croatian army withdraw from Afghanistan?

Milanović: Yes, immediately. It's been 16 years and it’s obvious that the Americans are not even clear on what to do there.

Kolinda: There has been one (Croatian) death since 2003. We will act as a responsible ally with NATO. My guess is that this process will begin sooner rather than later, and we will discuss it with our allies. Then, we will shift most of our forces to Eastern Europe.

Milanović: We are open to discussion, but we’ll make the decision. The soldier who died had his picture taken with me and asked me not to post the photo because he was still a specialist. A few days later, Kolinda posted a photo with that soldier. I would never manipulate people like that. 

Kolinda: That’s false. The soldier waited for an hour at Ovčara to have his picture taken with me. He never asked me not to post that photo.

What do you think about the adoption of children by same-sex partners?

Kolinda: The adoption and foster care application process is very difficult in general, and we need to make it easier. Children need both a mother and father; I do not know if we are ready for the adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Milanović: That is a process which is unstoppable. We need to talk about it, accept it and understand that these trends are unstoppable. And there is a human element to this topic.

How much have your personal assets grown during your five-year term?

Kolinda: I don't know exactly. I’ve put everything in my asset statement. This year, I received a severance from NATO of around one hundred thousand euros. My husband and I live off our wages.

Milanović: That's nice when you get such a large severance pay. At the beginning of your term you had a loan of more than one million HRK. And that was paid off with what money?

Kolinda: I obtained a loan in 1995 with a 4.5 percent interest rate. I had to take out another loan in at a full (interest rate), but that loan was paid off in two years by selling some smaller apartments. How did you get the 180,000 EUR loan at a preferential interest rate?

Milanović: You are making things up again and everything you say is wrong again. This is public information. I was not the prime minister at the time. And, it was a loan for 300,000 EUR with a 6 percent interest rate. I paid back the first portion by selling our first apartment. Not only is this defamation, it is nonsense. At the time of Operation Storm, you got a loan with a 4 percent interest rate when everyone else’s loans were at 14 percent.

Kolinda: Yes, I got that loan as a Foreign Office employee. It was the minimal amount of credit, because I could not afford to borrow more. I paid it off. I’ve worked for all the money I have.

Milanović: That was credit available HDZ guys. You worked for that? It's unfair, dishonest and immoral…

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What did Kolinda mean when she talked about the coup?

Milanović: In 2015, Kitarović formed her government, after only 40 days of consultations with (Tomislav) Karamarko which went on behind my back. She was doing her best to undermine the center-left government.

Kolinda: In the first two years of my term, two rounds of parliamentary elections were held. I absolutely stand behind my claim that I maintained the stability of the state and did everything according to the constitution. There was a possibility of having a transitional government if one did not form within a reasonable time period. 

The constitution provides for a 60-day window, so I consulted with constitutional lawyers and the Constitutional Court. I was told that this lengthy procedure would have to be completed because the Parliament would find themselves in constitutional crisis if their mandate expired. I never appointed any government and please don’t slander me. Find the evidence!

Milanović: Of course, you didn't leave any tracks, but people are talking. Sue them if they slander you. Personally, I will respect the constitution. And, (Vladimir) Šeks is a constitutional expert?

Kolinda: Šeks had nothing to do with it, and there weren’t any secret negotiations. You wanted a coup, so you barricaded yourself. Furthermore, you sent me a text message which read: “today you can be a stateswoman and appoint a government or you can give Karamarko control and be his puppet.”

Milanović: That’s defamation, I would never send that kind of message.

Closing Statements:

Milanović: In a few days you will elect a Croatian president. I am here to serve you, not to divide you, to fight against what antagonizes our people, for which they are losing the will to live and stay (in Croatia). Demographics are most successful if a country has fair leadership. For years, we have been led by people who are not fair leaders, but who have networked by formal and informal means. We have a president who hangs out with unworthy people, and a government which has fallen apart because of corruption. This is sending a terrible message. Nothing revolutionary will happen (if I become president), but we believe in making small shifts.

Grabar-Kitarović: When I took office five years ago, Croatia was on its knees because of the disastrous policies of Zoran Milanović, the worst Croatian Prime Minister in history. We have achieved growth which is not yet adequate. I want the GDP to be above five percent, and that positive factors impact your lives and financial obligations. We must stop young people from leaving and complete the process of education reform. We need to encourage entrepreneurship, create jobs, increase wages and pensions, and raise the standard of living. I am interested in our country, not party politics. I unite, rather than divide. My Croatia is a Croatia for everyone.

The presidential candidates will meet for one more debate before the election. Tonight (Friday January 3, 2020) at 20:20h, they will face off on Nova TV.

Follow our Politics page for news on the upcoming presidential election in Croatia, which will take place on Sunday January 5, 2020. We will be providing by-the-minute exit poll results and final election results after the polls close at 19h Central European Time (CET).

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Zagreb Residents Chant 'Prison' at Protest Against Mayor Milan Bandić

More than 1,000 Zagreb residents and supporters chanted “prison” for Mayor Milan Bandić at yesterday’s protest in the city's downtown square.

The demonstration, which was organized to protest the Zagreb mayor and multiple USKOK (Croatian State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption) inductee Milan Bandić, was held at Trg bana Jelačića, the main city square, according to Index on December 21, 2019.

The protest began at 16h and was organized by a number of associations: Udruga građana Siget (the Siget Citizens' Association), Braniteljska udruga Vidra (the Veterans of Vidra), Veterani i društvena akcija sa Zelenim odredom (the Veterans' Association with Green Squad social action group), Udruga za zaštitu okoliša UZOR iz Resnika (the UZOR Environmental Association of Resnik), Udruga Eko-Zagreb (the Eco-Zagreb Association), Inicijativa Samoborček (the Samoborček Initiative), Inicijativa Hipodrom (the Hipppodrome Initiative), and the građanska inicijativa Zagreb bez zračenja (Zagreb Radiation-Free Initiative).

According to organizers, the protest gathered around two thousand citizens. They are planning another protest at the end of January.

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Clear Message from Zagreb Protesters: Resign!

Among the messages on the banners were "Resign", "Enough of Banditism", "Your Mayor is poisoning you and robbing you", "Bandić's godfathers: You will fall into Resnik" (Resnik is a garbage dump in Zagreb), "Put the right thing (Bandić) in the right place in Remetinec" (Remetinec is a Zagreb prison), "Zagreb must not be defined by Milan Bandić"," Whose benefitting from the garbage centers?" and "Bandić and his 26 bandits".

City Council 'Thieves' Voted for Waste Removal Cost Increase

They explained that these "26 thieves" are the city council members who voted for an increase in waste collection costs and will be voting on the GUP (General Urban Plan). The protesters also exhibited four garbage bags which contain the names of the mayor and his associates, Mirka Jozić and Sanja Jerković, with one bag saying "26 city deputies."

They called the bags "radioactive waste", which they say will be taken to Bandić and the Zagreb City Administration on Monday where they will be placed under a pine tree.

Gordana Pasanec, from the Siget Citizens’ Association, said that they were protesting because they were fed up with Milan Bandić's despotism, from the "golden toilets", and benches for 20, 30, 40 thousand HRK, his bullying of city government staff, and his insults directed at journalists and citizens.

She also pointed out that Zagreb is separating only 10 percent of its waste, there is no real waste management system or fair billing and Zagreb streets are flooded with waste.

"The chaos we are witnessing is the result of a long-standing (lack of) waste management policy implemented by the Mayor of Zagreb. There is no single justifiable reason for this; no increase in services except for the systematic robbery of citizens by the Mayor through waste collection, which has benefitted individuals and interest groups for 20 years.

Branka Genzić-Horvat from UZOR said that they have been protesting for 14 years and because they are fed up with what is happening and want to make Zagreb a better place to live.

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Pensioner in Wheelchair Calls Bandić 'Garbage'

Višnja Škreblin, who was introduced as the oldest activist, said that Bandić has consolidated his power (over the city) and has humiliated and belittled its citizens. “He says 'if you can't pay the cost of utilities and services, then you should leave Zagreb,’” which infuriated the wheelchair-bound pensioner, who publicly called Bandić "garbage."

"We have been witnessing this for 14 years. And it all started back in 2005 under the leadership of a mayor who has put himself at the forefront of these interest groups. The Waste Management Center is a continuation of concocted thievery, which this mayor carries out in the interest of specific groups and individuals. The Ministry of the Environment has backed an octopus who has ruled Zagreb and Croatia for many years," she said. She also said that for 14 long years they have been closely watching every step of this mayor and now the “water has reached her throat".

Ivan Kos from the Eco-Zagreb Association said that what Mayor Bandić is doing was "unacceptable".

Fled Scene of Drunk-Driving Accident in 2002

Bandić, a onetime member of SDP (Social Democratic Party) was elected mayor of Zagreb in 2000 and re-elected in 2001. In 2002, Bandić fled from the scene of a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol and was forced to resign.

The Zagreb SDP had the authority to nominate a new mayor, but the city council was so dominated by Bandić that it was questionable who would be able replace him. Eventually Vlasta Pavić took over, while Bandić retained a position as deputy mayor. However, he was eager to become mayor again, and blocked Pavić's development plans while pushing for an early election. In response, Ivica Račan (then head of SDP) tried to restrain Bandić's activities.

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Successful Power Grab Led to 2005 Reelection

At that time, the law would not allow Bandić to serve a second term as mayor. Although Vlasta Pavić attempted to strike a deal to end their ongoing feud, but Bandić eventually succeeded in undermining her authority. Even though early elections were not held, he was re-elected mayor in 2005.

Bandić is currently serving his sixth term as Mayor of Zagreb. His administration has been defined by scandal and accusations of corruption. Bandić left SDP in 2009 and identified as an independent candidate for six years. In 2014, he was arrested on charges of corruption, bribery and organized crime, along with two other members of the Zagreb City Council. In 2015, he founded his own party, the Bandić Milan 365 – Labor and Solidarity Party. The 365 in his party’s name refers to his claim that he works for the city of Zagreb as mayor every day of the year.

In the 2017 local elections, Bandić narrowly defeated challenger Anka Mrak Taritaš. His current term ends in 2021.

Follow our Politics page to keep up with protests against the Bandić administration. For more information on upcoming protests against the Mayor, check out the Zagreb Te Zove (Zagreb is calling you) page on Facebook.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Corruption in Croatia: The Main Reasons Foreign Investors Withdraw

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes on the 12th of December, 2019, the Republic of Croatia loses more than ten percent of its GDP annually due to corruption, fraud and financial crime, and last year, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Croatia ranked a somewhat unimpressive 60th out of 180. Corruption in Croatia is rife, but what can we do to stop it, and what is being put in place to help?

Foreign investment should be (and indeed could be) a happy story indeed. This country boasts a wealth of opportunity and potential, but red tape, draconian laws and corruption in Croatia tend to put them off.

Yuri Sidorovich, Deloitte's foremost partner for forensics in the Adriatic region discussed the challenges of corruption in Croatia shortly after the International Fraud Awareness Week, which was rather symbolically held for the very first time in Croatia.

What are the main causes of and reasons for corruption and fraud?

Corruption and fraud are a social phenomenon triggered by a number of factors; from achieving sales goals and a lack of control, to factors that are more psychological in their nature, with the attitude of "why wouldn't I take what belongs to me?" In an environment with high levels of tolerance for corruption, these factors are of course heightened. Poorly developed corporate governance mechanisms, the ineffective prosecution of perpetrators, and large social disparities create a ground for corruption that gradually enters all pores of society.

Then where do we go from there, and how can we restore confidence in the system?

We must first admit that we have a problem. It's human nature to close our eyes to problems and to look for solutions when they are already "burning" away. This is also true of corruption, and despite its long history, only 25 years ago did any serious analysis really begin. What are the solutions? All models of theoretical fraud risk management emphasise the role of those at the top and management in this process, which must be driven by positive examples and dedicated to problem solving. It’s a key factor in starting something, moving forward and getting the right resources. There are no quick fixes with a magic effect. We must firmly decide that we want to change things and insist on investing in instruments to raise awareness and combat corruption. We all know that trust is something we can lose quickly and that it's hard to regain. Unfortunately, we're currently in a situation where confidence is at a very low level and it will take a lot of effort to repair this image.

What about the judiciary?

Penalties and sanctions are certainly an important deterrent to corruption, but only if they're implemented systematically. Unlike in countries with Anglo-Saxon law, a major problem in our environment is that we don't enforce laws effectively. If we just look at the numbers and amount of settlements that companies pay for open cases of violations of the American anti-corruption FCPA law, we can see that these are multimillion dollar amounts, they even go into the billions, and they're a sore spot for even the world's largest corporations. The resources that these companies invest in preventing corruption and ensuring business coherence are, of course, at a completely different level than what we're used to. We need to prosecute individuals, but the responsibility of legal entities for crimes is also important, which we must begin to recognise and sanction. Unfortunately, there is still the impression that the courts don't have sufficient power to deal with financial crime professionally and apolitically.

Where does Croatia rank on Transparency International's corruption perceptions index?

According to the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 survey, Croatia ranks 60th out of 180, it's in the company of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Romania.

This index measures the perception of corruption in the public sector by experts and businessmen, therefore it doesn't reflect the general state of this problem in the country. More than the general index, we should be interested in the health situation, on how much we invest in public infrastructure and how we can solve specific problems in the most neglected industries. Some serious analyses are lacking here that would provide a foundation and focus on narrower areas.

What is Deloitte's involvement in fighting corruption, fraud and financial crime in the region, and what are the results?

As the world's largest consulting firm, we're privileged to be able to observe good practices in a wide variety of environments. In doing so, we can see that awareness-raising measures are one of the priorities in the fight against corruption. It was in this area that Deloitte was particularly engaged. As part of International Fraud Awareness Week, we've taken the initiative and created a forum for relevant stakeholders looking to contribute to something positive in the process. We're all aware that the result of our work will not be visible tomorrow, maybe it won't be visible even in another five years, but we do hope that one day we'll be able to look back and see that we've done something right. As for the attitude of companies towards this problem, we're seeing progress today. More and more companies are looking to set up anonymous reporting lines for irregularities, increase employee awareness and get early detection capabilities with advanced analytics tools and the like. These measures will certainly contribute to raising awareness in corporate governance.

How do the challenges you cite affect the system, the economy and the confidence of foreign investors?

There are various estimates of the effects of corruption, including those that say that we're losing more than 10 percent of our GDP annually owing to corruption in Croatia. These macro estimates make it clear that we all pay the price of corruption.

What we see on a daily basis are cases where foreign investors withdraw from the purchase process because of the risk of business compliance and financial consequences, and for the same reasons, foreign companies terminate product distribution agreements. Foreign investors and business partners are extremely sensitive to any regulatory compliance issue and just aren't prepared to compromise there. I don't think it's a question of whether or not there will be investment, but what is the price we have to pay for it.

How to identify corruption coming from outside on time?

Corruption always has two sides; someone who offers something valuable and someone who will accept it and make biased decisions. No matter who from the outside is trying to influence, we can build a culture that will refuse such offers, but we can't expect such a mechanism to always work. The potential of technology must also be taken into account. The advancements in advanced analytics tools are truly remarkable, and we can expect to utilise solutions that offer criminal profiling of company-risk events here. This, in turn, will deter individuals from any wrongdoing and increase the integrity of the business.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more on what's being done to put a stop to corruption in Croatia.

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