Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Restart Coalition: We Will Pass Cannabis Law Already in September

ZAGREB, June 30, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Tuesday unveiled its 'Lex cannabis' bill, which would ensure the full potential of cannabis use, saying that if the Restart coalition formed the next government it would pass the bill already in September.

The party's adviser on green development, Mirela Holy, said that retailers and large producers of cannabis already existed and produced cannabis with a low share of THC of up to 0.2% and that it was necessary to remove that limit.

Lex cannabis would exploit the full potential of cannabis, she added.

Currently, it is used for nutritional purposes for humans and animals. It can be produced with a 0.2% share of THC for medicinal purposes but only by legal entities that have approval from the HALMED medicines agency, she explained.

With such a low THC level, cannabis produced today cannot be used for the production of textiles, cosmetics, paints, cement, bio-compost used in automobiles, and space technology, she added.

To be able to exploit the full potential of cannabis it is necessary to remove that "senseless restriction," which would enable the Faculty of Agronomy and science institutes to launch research and create various types of cannabis for various purposes.

She added that cannabis is an energy plant that can be used to produce energy sources and it can also be used in tourism by branding destinations as cannabis destinations.

Cannabis is also essential in treating and relieving the negative consequences of a wide range of diseases like multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, AIDS, and various malignant diseases.

Party colleague Vesna Nadj said that SDP considers it to be key to regulate the production of cannabis that would allow legal entities, small businesses, and family-run farms to produce cannabis under conditions regulated by the ministries of agriculture and health.

The law should allow producing up to nine plants for personal use and for a maximum penalty for those breaching the law, Nadj said.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Election Monitoring NGO Warns of Discrimination Against Voters Infected With COVID-19

ZAGREB, June 30, 2020 - The GONG election monitoring NGO on Tuesday warned that people infected with the coronavirus will not have the right to vote because the State Electoral Commission has not allowed them to vote from home while at the same time it has allowed this for people in self-isolation even though they too pose a risk.

GONG underscored that this is a denial of a fundamental political and constitutional right.

"This inconsistency leads to the question of the necessity and the ability of the measure to achieve its primary goal of protecting lives and health. The infection could in theory be spread also by people in self-isolation, hence the question is, has the right for those infected been unreasonably restricted," GONG said in a press release.

GONG added that the public had to know on the basis of which law have those infected with coronavirus been stripped of their right to vote given that Croatian law does not recognise the category of stripping someone of their right to vote, hence the procedure to do so is not prescribed.

"Seeing that the law does not foresee voting in hospitals, all citizens being treated in hospitals, not just those suffering from coronavirus, will be stripped of their constitutional right to vote," GONG underlined.

GONG advocates establishing polling stations at all hospitals and care facilities as well as introducing postal votes so as to avoid any discrimination.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Plenkovic, Bernardic: There Will Be No Grand Coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernardic: Ustasha salute should be outlawed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernardic: Who believes you?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Interview with Ruza Studer Babic: Croatian Diaspora Also Wants Croatia 2.0

June 20 - In addition to strong support from parties from across the political spectrum, the Glas Poduzetnika Association received clear support of the Diaspora's new list, led by Ruza Studer Babic. Josip Hrgetic, one of the founders and the director of the conference Meeting G2 for Croatians from the Diaspora, intended for all business people who wish to connect their homeland and the expatriated Croatia better, is also on the list led by Ruza Studer Babic.

The conference has taken place for five years already, and Ruza was the regular guest. The impression from these conferences is that Croats living in the Diaspora think in a very entrepreneurial way, having the same values which the Glas Poduzetnika Association points out in their postulates. For these reasons we also wanted to do a short interview with Ruza:

How did you come up with creating a new list that will offer an option in the electoral division for the Diaspora?

Emigrants, returnees, and immigrants face many problems and are often left on their own in these situations. I have been actively engaged in issues and challenges of emigration for the last seven years. Many ex-pat congresses and conferences I participated in and met many expatriates signal that many are ready to invest in their homeland. All this, along with the ineffectiveness of political structures concerning emigration, is the reason why we started a list, the goal of which is to reach the emigrants and encourage them to go to polls.

You very quickly agreed with the UGP Pledge that we also sent to all the critical parties, how much does it match your goals?

The UGP overview is similar to our reasoning and goals. The fact that our list includes people who came from emigration to Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina says that we have people who have chosen their homeland. They recognized the obstacles that hinder new investors and can, with their experience, be of great help to new investors. We want to launch an entrepreneurship incubator for expatriates, wherewith the support of the state, and together with entrepreneurs, we would initiate economic projects through which they would gain access to foreign markets. We would stimulate the foreign investors to invest and the expatriated entrepreneurs' return and create work opportunities in the homeland. As an example, we would keep young people in the country.

You managed to gather Croatians from all parts of the world. What is the one thing that unites you, and do you think this will increase your chances of entering the parliament?

Keeping in mind that we did not have much time, the ex-pats' readiness to be a part of this is admirable. The love for the country unites us, and we all have the same goal — to stimulate the return of ex-pats, to top the trend of emigration, and to encourage foreign investors to invest in Croatia.

How are Croatian media treating this initiative so far?

Upon sending a press release to all the media, we received four responses expressing the willingness to donate space for our initiative. For major media, such initiatives do not seem to be of interest.

To read more breaking news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 29 June 2020

DIP Says Epidemiological Measures to Be in Place During Voting on July 5

ZAGREB, June 29, 2020 - The State Electoral Commission (DIP) on Monday unveiled instructions on voting in the July 5 parliamentary election at polling stations and institutions for special care in the context of the coronavirus epidemic, including instructions for persons in self-isolation.

DIP chair Djuro Sessa said two technical recommendations were adopted, one on the implementation of elections at around 7,000 regular polling stations in Croatia and the other on voting in retirement homes.

Sessa called on all voters in self-isolation to contact their polling committees by Thursday so that those committees could make a work plan for Sunday.

According to DIP's recommendations, all polling stations will have to be washed and disinfected, all members of polling committees will have to wear face masks, and it has been recommended that they wear gloves as well. Gloves will be mandatory only for those members of polling committees who identify voters and those who have hand skin problems.

Disinfectants will be available at entrances to polling stations and their application will be controlled, the distance between polling booths will be 1.5 metres as will the distance between members of polling committees.

As for voting outside one's place of residence, those who cannot go to the polls due to health reasons and people in self-isolation have to report to polling committees at least three days before the election so they can vote at home, under strict compliance with epidemiological measures.

DIP recommends that voters take their temperature in the morning on election day and that if they have a temperature above 37.2 degrees Celsius, they should contact their doctor. In that case, they must not go to their polling station, just like people infected with COVID-19.

Voters are recommended to wear their own masks at polling stations as well as their own pens even though that is not obligatory. They will enter a polling station one by one, and it is desirable that they wait in the open. In the room where there is the polling committee, the number of voters will be limited to the number of polling booths.

For the sake of identification, voters will have to briefly remove their face masks while standing at a distance of two metres from members of the polling committee, said DIP deputy chair Ana Lovrin.

Epidemiological measures will be stricter for voting in retirement homes. Members of polling stations and monitors there will have to wear face masks, gloves, and shoe covers, constantly disinfecting hands and election material.

People who end up in self-isolation just before election day will be allowed to vote if they contact their polling station.

DIP said that regardless of the number of people in self-isolation, polling committees have sufficient capacity to enable voting for those who want to vote even though that right is not absolute and it has never been stated that 100% of those who have to stay at home will be able to vote, even if they register in advance.

People infected with COVID-19 will not be able to vote.

As for voters from Bosnia and Herzegovina, compulsory self-isolation for people coming from that country will be abolished.

Detailed instructions on voting in the July 5 election are available on DIP's web site.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Skoro Says In Favour Of Croat Federal Unit In Bosnia And Herzegovina

ZAGREB, June 29, 2020 - Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro has said that he advocates a Croat federal unit in Bosnia and Herzegovina so that Croats in that country could become equal to the other two ethnic groups, and he criticised the attitude of Croatia's governments so far to compatriots in the neighbouring country.

"We are not satisfied with statements about the need for Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be an equal and constituent ethnic group, we have been hearing them for years and (ethnic Croats) are neither equal nor constituent. The only true solution that would satisfy those principles is a federal unit for the Croat people within an integral Bosnia and Herzegovina," Skoro said.

He said that that solution would be best for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croats themselves as it would not "push them into the embrace of Milorad Dodik, who is not hiding his separatist ambitions at all."

Skoro welcomed resolutions by the European Parliament supporting the federalisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on which he said Zagreb had not insisted.

Skoro believes that the source of the inequality of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, which put an end to the war in the country, which, he said, had stripped local Croats of that constitutional right.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Plenkovic: SDP Is Trying To Undermine Coronavirus Response Team's Credibility

ZAGREB, June 29, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Sunday he regretted that during its election campaign the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) was trying to undermine the credibility of the national coronavirus response team and the professionals involved in the team.

"It's not good when politicians, quack doctors and specialists from other scientific disciplines start dispensing their advice rather than listen to those who helped us overcome the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in February, March, and April," Plenkovic said in response to questions from the press after meeting members and sympathisers of his HDZ party in the eastern city of Osijek. 

"Right now we have a slightly increased number of infections, but like elsewhere in the world, in the time ahead we will need to balance between protecting public health and maintaining the economy and tourism," he said.

"It should be recalled that thanks to the government's efforts the entire healthcare system has been raised to a high level, protective equipment has been provided. All that has been done by the government of the HDZ and not the opposition, and we will continue to behave responsibly like that," he added.

Asked to comment on Bosnian media reports about Bosnian citizens being denied transit through Croatia and that the Bosnian foreign ministry had announced reciprocal measures, Plenkovic said that the two countries should make maximum efforts to reduce the number of new coronavirus cases for the sake of the citizens of both countries.

"We will pursue the dialogue in that regard, and as soon as the epidemiological situation allows, we will lift those measures," Plenkovic said.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Skoro Distances Himself From Those Who Committed Crimes

ZAGREB, June 28, 2020 - Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro on Sunday strongly distanced himself from "those who committed any criminal offence yet are in politics," saying that if Davorka Smokovic, a candidate on one of their lists, won a seat in parliament, she would cede it to the party.

The media have reported that the Homeland Movement's slate for Constituency No. 8 includes Smokovic, a former Pazin municipal prosecutor who was recently convicted of corruption.

In a press release, Skoro admitted to his part of the blame, saying the Homeland Movement could not control the "deep state" and vet people the usual way.

He said it was necessary to amend the election law because now the Homeland Movement could not legally take Smokovic off the slate.

Earlier today, Smokovic said in a press release that she was pulling out of the campaign. She said she had not received any Supreme Court ruling but that she did not want her "alleged burden" to be transferred onto the Homeland Movement in any way.

Smokovic added that if she won a seat in parliament, she would cede it to the party.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Bozinovic: All Voters Will Be Enabled To Vote

ZAGREB, June 28, 2020 - Although over 2,000 people in Croatia are self-isolating, the head of the national civil protection authority said on Saturday that all voters would be enabled to vote in the July 5 parliamentary election.

"That's a query we will forward to the State Electoral Commission, which is in constant contact with the Croatian Institute of Public Health, which will provide a framework for how to organise the election and do everything so that it is a controlled situation," Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said on Nova TV.

Commenting on the coronavirus hotspot in Djakovo, he said epidemiologists had responded promptly and that a certain number of people were in self-isolation, but that there was no need for quarantine.

He said the local civil protection authority would consider some restrictions which would not result in enclosures but the postponement of some events.

Bozinovic said the situation on the border crossings with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina was being monitored daily and that control had been stepped up until June 30. He said the European Union had recommended that borders with Southeast European countries be reopened as of July 1.

"A balanced solution will be sought that is in the interest of protecting the health of all citizens and maintaining economic activity."

As for the increase in the number of infected young people in night clubs, Bozinovic said inspection teams would continue to visit the clubs, although the goal was not closures and layoffs but health protection.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Croatian Elections: From HDZ to HNS, How Well Placed Are Parties?

With the Croatian elections rapidly approaching, just how well are the parties doing? As HDZ finds a stronghold in Slavonia, Restart does well in Zagreb and Miroslav Skoro and the Homeland Movement (Domovinski pokret), a somewhat newer face on the political scene, has found his support in the north of Croatia.

As Mislav Bago/Dnevnik writes on the 26th of June, 2020, there are a mere ten days left until the polls open. Dnevnik Nova TV has published the latest info from Crobarometer's survey, which reflects the mood of voters according to the offered lists in the run up to the Croatian elections. It's important to note that the survey was conducted as if Croatia were one single constituency.

HDZ is currently the voters' first choice with support of 26.7 percent. Right behind them is the RESTART coalition with 24.6 percent of support. The Homeland Movement (Domovinski pokret) has received 11.1 percent of support, and MOST is crossing the election threshold, currently counting on just 6.8 percent of voter support.

The HDZ electorate is significantly more male. For example, among younger male voters under the age of 30, the party has received 19 percent of the vote, but among the older males, more precisely those over the age of 60, they've received 38 percent of support. The party seems to be able to count on more support in the countryside, with 31 percent of the vote, and among voters with elementary school education where they would get 49 percent of the vote. Slavonia seems to be a strong stronghold for the HDZ and they're getting an average of 43 percent of the vote there, in Dalmatia they're getting 37 percent, and they're performing very poorly in Zagreb, enjoying just 16 percent of the vote.

The RESTART coalition has more support among Croatian women. They have the support of 18 percent of young voters under the age of 30, and they would get 31 percent of the vote from older voters who are over the age of 60. Among voters with secondary education, they would receive 27 percent support and 25 percent in cities. Zagreb is the best stronghold of the coalition with 30 percent support. In the North of Croatia the coalition enjoys 27 percent of support, in Istria and the Littoral, they also enjoy 32 percent, with Dalmatia at 16 percent and Slavonia at 20 percent.

The Homeland Movement (Domovinski pokret) has received 18 percent of support among younger voters, among those with primary school education, support stands at 12.5 percent, and they appear to have more votes in the countryside - 15 percent. Interestingly, they are the strongest in the north of Croatia with 15 percent, then Zagreb with 12 percent, and there is Dalmatia and Slavonia with 10 percent. They are doing the most poorly in Istria and the Littoral with just 9 percent.

MOST has extremely high support among voters aged 31 to 44, more precisely 11 percent, and among the highly educated, 12 percent. MOST is enjoying 10 percent in Dalmatia, 9 percent in Zagreb, and 7 percent in Istria and the Littoral.

Who is fighting to enter the Croatian Parliament?

The MOŽEMO (WE CAN) coalition, which has united the left, has 4.5 percent of voter support, the other coalition, Stranka s imenom i prezimenom (the Party with a Name and Surname), Fokus (Focus) and Pametno (Smart), has 4.1 percent, and the joint Živi zid (Living wall) and Ivan Pernar are at 3.3 percent of support.

Interestingly, when looking at the regions, MOŽEMO is extremely strong in Zagreb, enjoying 13.6 percent of the vote. The coalition Pametno, Stranka s imenom i prezimenom and Fokus are also at 7 percent in Zagreb, and finally the coalition of Živi zid and Ivan Pernar is dancing around the election threshold in Istria and the Littoral.

Other parties are below 1 percent, for example Radimir Cacic's Reformists have 0.7 percent, HNS has 0.6 percent, and Bandic's party 0.5 percent. 12.5 percent are undecided.

Croatian elections aside for now, the president is losing popularity...

The president, Zoran Milanovic, is receiving less and less support for his work and currently every second respondent evaluates his work negatively, and only 39 percent of them approve of his work.

All politicians are losing popularity in the run up to the Croatian elections

As stated, the president's popularity is dropping, with 47 percent of respondents having a negative view of his work. HDZ's Andrej Plenkovic has entered the end of the campaign with the support of 44 percent of citizens who have a positive impression of him, and 48 percent have a negative one.

Miroslav Skoro is also falling, he can currently count on a mere 39 percent of citizens having a positive impression of him, and 52 percent of them think of him negatively.

Bozo Petrov can count on 37 percent of citizens who think positively about him, and 49 percent of them who think negatively.

Davor Bernardic also cannot count on majority support, 26 percent of citizens have a positive impression of him, and 59 percent of them have a negative impression.

Finally, 20 percent of citizens have a positive impression of Milan Bandic, and 73 percent of them have a negative impression.

In the run up to the Croatian elections, it can be seen that the government is losing support, and the country itself is sinking into a state of pessimism...

The Croatian Government has not counted on majority support for a long time now. Currently, 59 percent of citizens do not approve of the work of the HDZ-run government, and only 32 percent of them approve of it.

This is very much in line with the direction in which Croatia is going, because 70 percent of the country's citizens think that Croatia is heading in the wrong direction currently, and only 21 percent of them are optimistic.

What are the problems Croatian citizens have highlighted?

Unemployment comes first and foremost, it is the first and biggest problem for 25 percent of Croatian citizens. The economic situation is the biggest problem for 19 percent of citizens. Crime and corruption are a big problem for 16 percent of citizens. Living standards and low wages are considered a problem by 7 percent of citizens, and 5 percent of them consider the coronavirus pandemic to be the biggest problem.


FOOTNOTE: This pre-election survey was conducted by IPSOS on 978 Croatian citizens by telephone from the 22nd to the 24th of June, 2020. The maximum error margin in a sample is +/- 3.3 percent, and for party ratings +/- 3.6 percent.


For more on the Croatian elections and on politics in general in Croatia, follow our dedicated section.

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