Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Presidential Candidate Kovač Calls for Prosecution of Corrupt Officials

ZAGREB, August 13, 2019 - Presidential candidate Dejan Kovač, who is supported by the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), said on Tuesday that three years had passed since the Security-Intelligence Agency's (SOA) report on corruption in the judiciary and that it was time perpetrators were prosecuted and security services enjoyed full autonomy in their work.

Noting that there had been much talk of changing presidential powers recently, Kovac told a news conference that he was not in favour of sudden changes because too much power in one person's hands in a young democracy could lead to autocracy.

"For a young democracy such as Croatia, it is not good that one person holds too much power in their hands because that can again result in autocratic leaders as those who were in power in the past century and they used the security system for personal benefit," said Kovač.

He stressed that he would advocate full autonomy for security services and the fight against corruption as the main problem in the country.

"If we look at SOA's official report of three years ago, we will see that dozens of senior office-holders in the judiciary are connected to criminal circles," he said.

He wondered what had changed in the past three years, noting that the purpose of security services was not to follow anyone's lovers but to work for the benefit of the state.

"If 90% of citizens have said that corruption is the main problem in the country, then it has to be dealt with. The president and the prime minister should say why nothing has been done in the three years since SOA's report," he said, noting that over the past three years Croatia had failed to prosecute even those officials who had stolen millions of kuna of public money so the question was when it would begin dealing with corruption in the judiciary.

"Corruption needs to be identified. If SOA has identified the problem, the authorities have to be asked why nothing has been done," Kovač said, noting that SOA had done its part of the job and that it was now up to the president and the prime minister to show the political will to deal with the problem.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Milanović: Calling Parliamentary Session Would Set Precedent

ZAGREB, August 11, 2019 - Presidential candidate Zoran Milanović said during a visit to the southern town of Metković on Saturday that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's possibly calling an extraordinary parliament session would set a precedent but that the president was the one to make a decision on the matter.

The Office of the President said in a statement on Friday that with regard to a request sent to her by the Bridge party to call an extraordinary session of the parliament to discuss a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, she would make a decision on the request if the Constitutional Court ruled that conditions for such a move had been created.

"The President knows the Constitution well enough because she tendentiously violated it when she gave Tihomir Orešković the term to form the government, and now after five years she pretends not to know the Constitution; the Constitutional Court does not decide about such matters, it serves for other purposes," the former Social Democrat prime minister said when asked to comment on the Opposition's motion for a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić.

"The President should decide whether or not to take action. The Opposition's actions are legitimate - it is trying to provoke the majority. I don't know to what extent the president of the republic can become involved in political struggles... If a session of the parliament was called now, during the summer recess, it would set a precedent and we could expect the Opposition to request an extraordinary parliament session every summer in the coming years. It's up to the president to decide," said Milanović, who attended the Boat Marathon in Metković.

Asked if Kujundžić should leave, he declined to comment.

"I have said that I will not behave towards any government the way others behaved towards me (as PM) because I know how harmful it is for the country," he said, noting that the president of the republic should be neutral but have political views and must not "scheme regarding the appointment or replacement of ministers or blackmail the government."

"We are witnessing that now. My opinion of the incumbent government is not good but I wouldn't do the things the president has been doing. What she has been doing is not decent," Milanović said.

Asked if he could count with the support of the entire Social Democratic Party (SDP), considering senior SDP official Zlatko Komadina's statement that his chances of winning the election in the second round were not very good, Milanović said that it was up to the SDP to decide how much his presidential candidacy was in its interest.

"But I am a candidate with the SDP's support and I agree that I can win in the second round only with the support of Croatian voters," he said.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Analysts: President's Decision to Announce Her Candidacy in Far-Right Weekly Odd

ZAGREB, August 9, 2019 Political analysts Davor Gjenero and Žarko Puhovski have described President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's decision to announce her candidacy for a second term in office in the Hrvatski Tjednik weekly as "a very odd and panicky decision" and "an attempt to solicit support from the right-wing electorate."

In an interview with the weekly, which the analysts consider to be a newspaper of the far-right, President Grabar-Kitarović announced that she would run for president for the second time.

Political analyst Davor Gjenero told Hina on Friday that Grabar-Kitarović's decision to give an interview to a media outlet such as Hrvatski Tjednik was "odd".

"The President's decision to speak to such a paper, which has been treating her very unfairly lately, is very odd. Jeopardising one's position among voters of the political centre is not clever because elections are not won with votes from the margin of the political arena," said Gjenero.

He noted that the weekly in question "represents political views that are not part of constitutional parliamentarism" and that its view were rather extreme.

In her interview with the weekly, Grabar-Kitarović also commented on the "For the homeland ready" salute, after the interviewer asked her if "it is not abnormal that the salute under which Vukovar was defended is compromised while the red star is not". She said that "no symbol under which Vukovar was defended can be compromised."

Gjenero believes that this topic should be given less and less attention. "It should be moved from the agenda and not be discussed that way," he said, adding that ignoring the topic would make discussions about it stop.

Political analyst Žarko Puhovski said that Grabar-Kitarović's move was a sign of panic following the emergence of another presidential candidate on the right side of the political spectrum.

"This is yet another attempt by her to solicit support from the right-wing electorate, whose support until recently was reserved only for her, but now a man has emerged with good chances among right-wing voters, so she is forced to address them more actively," Puhovski told Hina, referring to presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro.

Describing Hrvatski Tjednik as a right-wing paper, he said that by announcing her candidacy in that paper she had given weight to it because all the other media outlets had carried her statement.

He said that her interview "could be an act of damage control among right-wing voters" but that the real question was if she could win the election without the help of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) whose approval ratings had been declining.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 9 August 2019

President Announces Intention to Announce Candidacy for 2nd Term Soon

ZAGREB, August 9, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in an interview with the Croatian weekly newspaper "Hrvatski Tjednik" that she would soon formally announce her candidacy for the second term.

"Of course, I will rerun for the presidency. I will soon announce it," the president says in the interview published on Thursday.

She said that she did not want to turn her back on Croatia now and that therefore she would not accept offers for more lucrative jobs abroad.

" I do not want to leave my Croatian people and my own children who see their future here."

She went on to say that she first and foremost counts on the support of the Croatian people and that she is loyal to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) .

My loyalty to the HDZ does not exclude my loyalty to a wide spectrum of people who love Croatia, she said.

Declining to comment on presidential hopefuls she said that she would not conduct a mudslinging campaign.

As for the 'For the homeland ready' salute, the president said that all that is the matter of the intentions.

If this salute renews sympathy for the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), it is then unacceptable, she said adding that its use by HOS war veterans who defended Croatia in the 1991-1995 war could be tolerated.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Kovač to Advocate Transparent Spending of Public Money as President

ZAGREB, August 7, 2019 - Independent presidential candidate Dejan Kovač, who is supported by the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS), on Wednesday officially announced his presidential candidacy, saying that the transparent spending of public money started at the top and that it was crucial for productivity and for the fight against corruption.

"Corruption can be eradicated only through transparency, digitisation and political responsibility. Those elements, especially political responsibility, have not existed in recent years. How can we expect citizens to behave better if we do not set an example with our own actions," Kovač, an economist by profession, told a news conference.

He said that in the past five years he had been studying corruption in Croatia and that his research showed that 90% of citizens believed corruption at all levels of government was the country's main problem.

Kovac said that attempts to restore transparency and citizens' trust in state institutions, which had not been functioning properly for the past 30 years, was what had brought him and the HSLS mayor of Bjelovar, Dario Hrebak, together.

He said that during his term as president he would promote what Hrebak had introduced in Bjelovar - a project enabling citizens to see how money from the town budget was spent.

"They will tell you that there is no money for that. Yet there is money for a (publicly financed) concert by (singer Marko Perković) Thompson, worth half a million kuna. The cost of a single concert by Thompson equals the cost of three transparency applications for three towns that last forever," he said.

Kovač also said that as president, he would make the finances of the president's office more transparent and that he advocated a change of the diplomatic network to make it become the backbone of an export-oriented economy, with ambassadors receiving their salaries in two parts, one of which would be fixed while the other would vary depending on their performance.

HSLS deputy leader Hrebak said that Croatia needed people like Kovač, new people and people with results, expressing confidence that his and Kovac's plans were possible to implement.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Milanović Accuses Opponents of Selling Fake News, Wanting Tyranny

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Presidential candidate Zoran Milanović said on Monday that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was selling Croatians fake news, and that presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro's advocating more powers for the president was a road to tyranny.

After laying wreaths at Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day, Milanovic commented on other presidential candidates and the central commemoration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day in Knin.

Milanovic laid wreaths and lit candles at the central cross in the Alley of Croatian Defenders, at the grave of Croatian Army general Petar Stipetić and at the common grave of unidentified Homeland War victims.

Asked about President Grabar-Kitarović's speech in Knin in which she spoke about Croatia's defence in the 1991-95 war, saying that she had felt guilty at the time and had wanted to "take a rifle and go to war," Milanovic said the statement was fake and a fraud.

He noted that he did not attend the Sinjska Alka tournament on Sunday for private reasons and that his nonattendance at the Knin commemoration was a political message.

"Knin is one of the places one can go to... but it is not Berlin and it was by no means the real centre of the (Croatian Serb) rebellion, either in terms of financing, ideology, material or human resources, the centre was Belgrade. I respect Knin but Croatia exists also outside of Knin. To give too much attention to the commemoration in Knin means to attach too much importance to the so-called Republic of Serb Krajina," he said.

He added that Operation Storm began one day earlier and that the biggest battles were fought on Mt Vještić and Mt Dinara as well as in the area of Petrinja and the Banovina region and that most people were killed there.

Commenting on presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro, Milanović said that he did not make mention of him specifically on his Facebook wall but that he wrote about people who acquired their property through membership of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party.

"He is not my rival, he is just another candidate of the HDZ," said Milanović.

As for Škoro's calling for expanding presidential powers, Milanović said that that was a road to tyranny.

"I am not in favour of rearranging the furniture in the Croatian house of democracy, that furniture has already been arranged," he said.

The president should not have too great powers and he should be independent, especially from other people's money, Milanovic said, adding that calls for expanding presidential powers were motivated by the wish to "take the money and trade in favours."

"Croatian men and women, that is a road to tyranny and it should be opposed," he said.

"My campaign is a fight against thievery, against a system in which people who work hard cannot succeed," he said, adding that his political orientation was liberal democracy.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Grabar-Kitarović Indirectly Announces Her Candidacy for Second Term

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Monday hinted that she would rerun for presidency.

"I am here in my capacity as the president of the republic, we will see each other in the next five years," the current head of state said in her brief address to reporters after a ceremony in the southern town of Knin, held on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day.

She also extended to journalists her congratulations on the occasion of the holiday, marked on 5 August.

Addressing Sunday's celebrations in Knin on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the Operation Storm President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović underscored that the 1995 operation was an impeccably spotless liberating operation conducted by the Croatian Army.

During a reception of war commanders during the Homeland War in the presence of the state leadership, Grabar-Kitarović said that "we have to explain Operation Storm as it was, an impeccably spotless operation by the Croatian Army and police that liberated Croatian territory," she said.

Gabar-Kitarović added that Croatia's diplomacy did its role during the Storm operation and she recalled that a lot more could have been done.

Recalling talks with soldiers during her visit to Afghanistan, Grabar-Kitarović said that the homeland was defended while the enemy and dangers were far away.

Had Croatia been a member of the NATO Alliance during the aggression, Vukovar would never have happened, nor the war, she said adding that today Croatia is being defended in Afghanistan because if that far-away country falls, seven million people could be expected to head toward Europe.

Speaking about Croatia's defence during the Homeland War, she underscored that she had a guilty conscience. "I would have liked to have taken a gun and gone to the battlefield but realised that not everything lies in bullets and facing those who are in front of you," she underscored, adding that she was aware that she had a duty in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time.

One of those duties, she said, was when she worked as a NATO assistant secretary-general and explained that Operation Storm was a legitimate military operation.

She especially thanked former US Secretary of Defence, General James Mattis who, she said, said that Storm was "an impeccably conducted Croatian military operation that has entered into the text books of military history."

She expressed her condolences on every victim. "We were just defending ourselves and in the meantime created a military force and a feeling of unity," she said.

Mattis said in July 2017 that Operation Storm "is studied in the U.S. military to show what a well-led force, well trained, well equipped, and with good political guidance, how it can change the course of history".

More news about the presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Dejan Kovač of Princeton University Says to Run for President

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Dejan Kovač, an economist at Princeton University, on Sunday announced his candidacy for Croatia's next president, saying that public procurement, pre-bankruptcy settlement procedures and government subsidies would be in the focus of his campaign.

Kovač's candidacy was supported by the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS).

A member of the American Economic Association and the Royal Economic Society and the first Croat to work at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University, Kovac said his decision to announce his candidacy on the day when the 1995 military and police operation Storm, which liberated areas held by Croatian Serb rebels, was launched, was not accidental.

"It's time Croatian politicians who have created problems stopped selling us the better past, it's time we turned to the future. Those who have caused problems will certainly not solve them, they are interested solely in keeping the status quo and their posts," Kovač said, adding that Operation Storm had shown that change required courage.

Twenty-four years after Operation Strom, patriotism should be demonstrated with work and competence rather than by holding one's hand on the heart, said Kovač, who believes that he is the candidate of productive but quiet Croatians who work and fight honestly while being trampled on daily by those with political connections.

It is time the voice of that productive Croatia was heard loud and clear, he said, noting that was joining in the presidential race because he believed it was time citizens assumed responsibility and a more active role in society.

Public procurement, pre-bankruptcy settlement and subsidies will be in the focus of his campaign.

Pre-bankruptcy settlement proceedings reveal how poorly Croatia's business and judicial systems are organised, he said, adding that Croatia was the only country that did not want to make public who received subsidies.

"Those are the three instruments for siphoning money from the state budget. That Gordian knot can be cut with one blow, and the sword is transparency through digitisation," Kovač said.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Presidential Candidate Škoro Advocates More Powers for President

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro said on Sunday that he did not intend "to play a pot plant or a pin-up model" if elected president.

"I advocate a slightly more serious status when the post of president is concerned," Škoro told reporters during a visit to Sinj, where he arrived for the Sinjska Alka tournament, explaining that he called for more presidential powers because the current model was not good.

He noted that over the past 20 years it had become evident that there was no parliamentary democracy in Croatia because political activity was reduced to arrangements between the leader of the winning party and the coalition partners, which, he said, should be changed.

Škoro believes that voters, who elect the president in direct elections, should have the right to act as a corrective in that sense and that the president should also be able to launch certain initiatives and not just perform ceremonial duties.

Škoro said that claims that he was avoiding the media were not true because he had been in the media for a long time and had practically grown up before the public eye.

He said that in the next five months he would answer all the questions and would try to conduct an affirmative campaign focusing on his platform.

As for incumbent president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's not having confirmed her candidacy yet, he said that it was a beautiful and sunny day and that she might do it today.

Škoro sad that he was a better candidate than Grabar-Kitarović because he had competence, results and vision, and that the role of the president so far had been ceremonial.

Speaking about bilingual signs in Vukovar, Škoro said that legal regulations should be complied with but that Vukovar was a wounded city and that additional politicisation should be avoided.

He added that nobody was against the Cyrillic script or minority rights but that sometimes the opinion of the majority should be taken into account because Croatia was the state of the Croat people.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Bandić's Party Dismisses Findings about Covert Electioneering

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Slavko Kojić of the Labour and Solidarity Party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić on Sunday dismissed the findings by the State Election Commission (DIP) that the City of Zagreb's billboards used during campaigning for May's European Parliament election covertly promoted Bandić's political party and were paid for with money from the city budget.

In a report on an inspection of campaign financing in the EU election, DIP said that jumbo posters with information about the City of Zagreb were paid for from the city budget and were in fact covert electioneering by Bandić's party.

City authorities put up 175 jumbo posters on billboards during the election campaign which all carried the City of Zagreb logo and promoted various events and achievements by the city.

The DIP said that the number of posters displayed in 2019 was disproportionately higher than in previous years.

Kojic told a news conference on Sunday that DIP had not asked the Labour and Solidarity Party for its position on the matter, which was why the party had to make it public.

In its statement, the party said that Bandić was not an office-holder or candidate running in the election, which, it said, was the legal precondition for DIP's assessment and therefore the party considered DIP's accusation unfounded.

Asked if Bandić had used a legal loophole to pay for his party election campaigning with taxpayers' money without actually violating the law, Kojic said that the mayor had only wanted to mark the city's day and inform citizens of the progress made.

He added that the messages on the billboards did not contain any party or election symbols and that DIP's accusation was based on an impression.

More news about Milan Bandić can be found in the Politics section.

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