Thursday, 25 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Gov't Announces Shorter Working Hours Scheme As Job-Saving Measure

ZAGREB, June 25, 2020 - The Croatian government on Thursday announced the possibility of introducing shorter working hours as a new measure designed to help save jobs, to be introduced in the second half of the year for businesses with more than ten employees.

Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrovic said that the government was working on defining, in cooperation with trade unions and employers, criteria for job keeping aid to be granted as part of a scheme envisaging shorter working hours.

The measure would be in force from June 1 to December 31.

Under the measure, employers who need to introduce shorter working hours due to a decline in business activities would be entitled to aid for the payment of a part of their workers' wages.

The measure is intended for all sectors and for all businesses with more than 10 employees.

It will be financed by an EU programme.

The measure is expected to cost slightly less than three billion kunas by the end of the year, said Aladrovic.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Gov't Has Helped Save 600,000 Jobs, 103,000 Businesses, Says PM

ZAGREB, June 25, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a government session on Thursday that the government's measures designed to help businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis had helped save 600,000 jobs and 103,000 businesses.

Plenkovic recalled that the measures included payments to employers for workers' wages, the write-off of direct taxes and contributions and the procurement of medical equipment for the health system.

Plenkovic said the government had ensured the necessary aid also owing to Croatia's reputation on international financial markets.

"We have secured financing and liquidity, payment of wages and pensions and the normal functioning of the state," he said.

He said that aid worth a total of HRK5.3 billion had been secured for employers in March, April and June, with employers in Zagreb alone receiving HRK 1.6 billion in government aid.

He noted that data from the Croatian Employment Service showed that in terms of employment, Croatia was at the pre-crisis level and that there were 17,500 more unemployed persons because they had not been hired for seasonal jobs.

He said the government would help the business sector also by shortening working hours, which would help them retain workers.

In the EU's next seven-year budget Croatia will have €22 billion at its disposal as well as more than ten million euros from the EU's programme for economic recovery, of which two-thirds are grants, said the PM.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Croatian General Election Preview: Expert Analysis from Ankica Mamic

June 25, 2020 - The Croatian general election is 10 days away. Leading political commentator Ankica Mamic offers her thoughts in this pre-election preview.   

Official election campaigns for parliamentary elections in Croatia have begun. Though it seemed that the election would be held in a corona-free atmosphere, that unfortunately will not be the case. The coronavirus is again among us. At the moment, the numbers are not alarming nor worrying, but the fact is that certain events have favoured its spreading, such as the Adria Tour tennis event in Zadar where numerous organisational mistakes occurred. This is damaging for the current government, specifically Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, given that the event was organised with the endorsement of the Croatian Government, and has given the opposition the opportunity to take advantage of the situation in the election campaign.

Parliamentary elections will be held on July 5, 2020, with about 3.7 million voters in Croatia and from the Croatian diaspora having the right to vote. Croatia is divided into 10 constituencies each with 14 representatives elected to Croatian Parliament. In the 11th constituency, 3 representatives are elected by citizens who do not have permanent residency in the Republic of Croatia, whereas the 12th constituency, covering the entire territory of Croatia, is marked for the local national minorities in Croatia who will elect their 8 representatives. In all, 151 representatives are elected to Parliament, meaning that a parliamentary majority comprises 76 representatives.

The two leading and largest parties that have positioned themselves on the left and right electoral spectrum in Croatia are the RESTART coalition incorporating the centre left parties (SDP - Social Democratic Party, HSS, HSU, SNAGA, GLAS, IDS PGS and independent candidate Matija Posavec, whereas the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is the centre-right party and currently the leading and governing party in Croatia. However, a survey of public opinion indicates that neither of these political options will be able to form a government after the elections without the support of smaller parties and other coalitions who have positioned themselves to the left, right or in the centre. This is primarily the Miroslav Škoro Domovinski pokret (Homeland Movement) as a right political option, which has currently established itself as the third political force in Croatia. The party MOST nezavisnih lista (Bridge of Independent Lists) has also positioned itself to the centre right. Among the left aligned parties is the political platform Možemo (We Can), gathered around active opponents of Milan Bandić in the city of Zagreb, whereas the centre-aligned parties include Hrvatska narodna stranka (Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats), Koalicija centra (Centre Coalition), Demokrati i laburisti (Democrats and Labourists) and also the Reformisti (Reformists).

If we consider that a reallocation of parliamentary seats within the Restart coalition formed by SDP results in 8 seats going to SDP’s partners (HSS 3, HSU 2, GLAS 1, PGS 1 and Matija Posavec 1), the presumption is that HDZ will be the strongest single party at the coming elections. However, it becomes clear that the Restart coalition is prepared to fight for every parliamentary seat. The campaign is now in full swing, with candidates touring Croatia and presenting their programs to the electorate. The resurgence of the coronavirus is assisting the Restart coalition. However, the situation highlights the leading people of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, i.e., Minister Beroš as an HDZ candidate in the 10th constituency and Minister Božinović as a candidate in the 6th constituency. Though HDZ’s slogan of a safe Croatia is somewhat comprised now, unless the opposition adequately responds in communicating that in the campaign, the current situation will cause not greater damage on HDZ.

The Miroslav Škoro Homeland Movement is heading off to the elections with quite an extensive list of people whom the public knows little or almost nothing about, or who come from an altogether different world, mostly from show business. It remains to be seen whether the list of candidates in the Homeland Movement will remain cohesive or disperse, which is what happened to Most after winning a total of 19 parliamentary seats in the 2015 elections. Concerning any possibility of forming a coalition, the pool of candidates gathered around Miroslav Škoro certainly presents a greater potential for a reaching post-election agreement with HDZ.

Most, which also lies on the spectrum of the conservative right, has an active and quite visible campaign with well-articulated messages and new political personalities who are well known to the public. However, their problem is that they are not a preferred coalition partner neither for HDZ with which they share similar ideologies, due to a failed political relationship from the past and the demise of the then coalition, nor are they suitable for the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SPD), i.e., the Restart coalition, given that Most is too far to the right.

The latest survey of public opinion across constituencies in Croatia predicts 64 parliamentary seats going to the Restart coalition, 52 to HDZ, 15 to the Homeland Movement, 8 to Most and 1 to HNS. However, in some of the constituencies, some parties are hovering around the election threshold, and possibly leading to different outcomes. For instance, in the 3rd constituency, where the Reformist Radimir Čačić, the current mayor of Varaždin County, also has a big chance of winning a seat. An uncertain and interesting battle will take place in the 6th and 7th constituencies which include parts of the city of Zagreb and surrounding region. A united left in Zagreb, having branded itself through its opposition activities in Zagreb City Assembly, might result in a surprise in Zagreb due to the large number of voters there and the fact that the united left has been an active opposition to the Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić. Therefore, I think that this left option might win a lot of left-leaning voters in Zagreb.

Tracking what the 8 minority representatives decide will be interesting, on account of their animosity towards Miroslav Škoro and the Homeland Movement. However, power is the best cohesive force and after the elections, various political combinations are possible, meaning that a large coalition might still be a possibility. Understandably, no political option wants to talk about that possibility at the moment, because such an outcome is certainly not appealing to each of their voters who form opposing camps.

So, we need to wait until 5 July, and after that, anything is possible!

You can connect with Ankica Mamic via LinkedIn.

For more election coverage, follow the TCN politics section

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Bernardic: Our Task Is To Further Decentralise Croatia

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

Only investments can change the economic structure

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

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

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

National coronavirus crisis management team is a political body

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

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

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

Monday, 22 June 2020

Croatian General Election Preview: Expert Analysis from Kresimir Macan

June 22, 2020 - The Croatian general election is less than two weeks away. Leading political commentator Kresimir Macan offers his thoughts in this pre-election preview.  

More questions than answers expected after July 5th, polling date in Croatia

Two weeks ahead of July 5th, the date set for the Croatian general election, everything seems more blurred than ever. Add to that the recent corona outbreak, and what looked like a clean reelection for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković could turn to a nightmare. His HDZ (Hrvatska demokratska zajednice) right party lags somewhat behind the broad left Restart coalition formed by SDP (Socijaldemokratska partija) and led by Davor Bernardić. Both parties will still need coalition partners to form a ruling majority and this is making things even more complex - or simpler - depending on the final outcome.

The State Electoral Commission (DIP) ( you can follow them on where the election results are to be expected too on July 5th after 19:00 when polling stations close) received 190 slates and 17 minority candidacies for the July 5 parliamentary election. More slates were submitted than four years ago but less candidacies for Constituency 12, where ethnic minorities elect their MPs. In 2016, 177 slates and 29 minority candidacies were submitted. A record 313 slates were submitted for the 2011 parliamentary election.

They published them on June 18th, which marked the beginning of the official election campaign period that will end on midnight of July 3rd, followed by a day of election silence.

At first glance, HDZ has a somewhat larger potential for a post-election coalition. Two other relevant political players are coming from the right spectrum. Miroslav Škoro, a former presidential candidate who came third in December’s presidential elections, leads the Homeland Movement (DP), while Božo Petrov leads MOST. They are both now in the conservative or far-right spectrum, while HDZ is trying to position itself from the center to the right, so forming coalition with any of them would mean some compromises. Škoro is already wanting to be Prime Minister, which was rejected immediately by Plenkovic, while both previous coalitions between MOST and HDZ ended in an ugly divorce, so nobody is ready for a third failure.

Miroslav Škoro and his conservative entourage also do not have an especially positive opinion about Plenković. They believe that Plenković is not authentic enough to serve either the interest of HDZ or of Croatia; rather they see him as a Brussels-oriented politician who is only at the disposition of his friends from the European Union. HDZ, on the other hand, are clearly pointing fingers at Škoro who they hold responsible for the loss of the presidential election when he invited his voters to cross their ballots and not vote for either Grabar Kitarović or Milanović.

SDP have formed a broad pre-election coalition called Restart with center-left parties and their leader, Davor Bernardić, publicly announced that he does not want to enter a post-election coalition with Škoro or MOST. Their strategy is clear – to secure as many seats in parliament - 65 preferably + 8 MP from minorities would bring them just 3 seats short of a 76 majority. Voters will elect 151 MPs, 140 in ten constituencies in Croatia, three will be elected by Croats residing abroad, and eight by ethnic minorities, thus making 76 MPs ruling majority.

We’ll see whether this is possible because two new blocks have emerged on the left and could take some planed seats from Restart, although is very likely that they could from a coalition together after the elections. MOŽEMO movement is formed around City of Zagreb MPs lead by Tomislav Tomašević and made a quick and effective campaign around the them of post-earthquake Zagreb and seem to be gaining some support recently. The other block are the center and liberal Pametno and Focus who joined forces with StrIP (Stranka s imenom i prezimenoom – Party with a name and surname) who gathered some strong names to lead their lists in Zagreb and Split and could also win several seats.

The leadership capabilities of both of the main leaders is a topic which is causing plenty of comment, with most leaning in favor of Plenkovic compared to Bernardic, so everybody is eagerly awaiting the personal TV debates in the last week before the elections. 

Pre-campaign polls (Crobarometar i Crodemoskop) suggest that Restart could win around 32%, while Možemo and the block around Pametno Focus and Strip, both are at 4%, close to the census of 5%. Other lists on the left are not likely to win any MPs, but could influence the final results by taking votes from these three blocks.

On the right HDZ could win around 31%, DP around 14% and Most is dancing on the edge of census of 5%.

If you model this to MP seats – it is very likely a win for Restart in Croatia ranging from 56:55 to 61:59 compared to HDZ. HDZ could win 2 extra MPs among Croats residing abroad, taking the lead eventually. They would depend on DP’s 15-20 mandate to from a ruling majority, while Restart should look for 3 to 5 mandates of Možemo and Pametno Focus Strip blocks. Most is expected to win 3-4 mandates. More on Macan's election analysis here.

Croatia is divided into 10 electoral units, each giving 14 MPs and it is very hard to model it without precise polls by electoral units that we can expect in the following days.

As far as themes of the campaign are considered HDZ is trying to get credit for the economic growth in the last four years, as well as management of crises from Agrokor to Covid-19 and the earthquake in Zagreb claiming that they are the guarantee of Safe Croatia (Sigurna Hrvatska). Restart on the other hand claim that this HDZ government was corrupt since so many ministers left it, claims that Croatia needs a new, fresh start and calls on voters to Come out and Change things (Izađi i promijeni). All this was shadowed with Miroslav Skoro's statements on abortion and woman rights, which triggered strong reactions from women. The only thing stronger than this could be rthe eturn of coronavirus in recent days. With only two weeks ahead it is very obvious that as of July 5, we could have more questions than answers.

For more election coverage, follow the TCN politics section

Friday, 15 May 2020

Grmoja: HDZ Has Adapted Everything to Suit Its Own Needs

ZAGREB, May 15, 2020 - MP Nikola Grmoja (Bridge) said on Friday that the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had made everything it had done, including the timing of the parliamentary election, to suit its own needs, adding that Bridge had not yet decided whether it would run in the election with Miroslav Skoro's Homeland Movement.

"They have adapted the election and everything else they have done to suit themselves. Croatian citizens are not important here... nor what the opposition thinks. This election is for them. I call on citizens to respond to this attack by going to the polls and to listen to those who will call on them to go to the polls yet until yesterday were telling them to stay home. Listen to them this time but don't vote for them," said Grmoja.

He rejected the interpretation that previously he had called for a snap election and was now objecting to the election being held in July.

In response to reporters' remark that according to news coming from the Homeland Movement, election slates were a bone of contention, Grmoja said that "slates and candidates' ranking on them are not the problem," and that he could be in the last, 14th place personally, but that the issue at hand was what sort of people would enter parliament through that alliance.

"I do not want obedient people to enter the parliament and secure  Plenkovic another term in government," he said.

He admitted that Bridge had not been the best in selecting personnel and that it had made some mistakes but nevertheless he believes that the party did not entirely go wrong with its people.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Croatian PM: Parliament Dissolved May 18, Election Late June, Early July

ZAGREB, May 14, 2020 - Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that parliament would be dissolved on May 18 and that he had informed President Zoran Milanovic, who can call a parliamentary election for June 21 or 28 or July 5 or 12.

"After the cabinet meeting and the meeting of the parliamentary majority, I can inform the Croatian public that all components of the parliamentary majority have decided to propose to parliament to dissolve on Monday, May 18," Plenkovic told the press after a meeting of the ruling coalition.

He said the reason for this decision was that over the past three years his cabinet had achieved all the key ambitions it had set itself.

Plenkovic said the government had shown in recent months how to cope with the coronavirus pandemic crisis with its measures to retain jobs and help the economy, and that given the economic challenges before Croatia in the future, the term of the next parliament and government should focus on the country's economic recovery.

Plenkovic said the timing of the election was appropriate.

"The epidemiological situation in Croatia is such that we practically have less than ten (daily new) infections and, with all citizens behaving very responsibly, we will have the opportunity to organise the election within the constitutional deadline, which leaves the president of the republic the possibility to call it for June 21, June 28, July 5 or July 12."

The prime minister said he had informed the president about everything and that it was now up to Milanovic to decide in line with the law.

Under his constitutional powers, the president calls a parliamentary election after parliament is dissolved. Under the law on the election of members of parliament, the election must be held within 30 days of parliament's dissolution at the earliest or 60 at the latest.

Election day is a non-working day and the president also convenes the inaugural session of the new parliament.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Bandić Says Not Likely to Support Dissolution of Parliament without Law on Zagreb

ZAGREB, May 12, 2020 - Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić said on Tuesday that the parliamentary group of his Work and Solidarity Party was unanimous that it would not support the parliament's dissolution if parliament did not previously vote in a law on the reconstruction of Zagreb.

Bandić said he would be happy if the law was voted in by the current parliament, adding that even though this was difficult to expect, he had heard that the bill would receive first reading "as early as next week."

Bandić believes that the law on the post-quake reconstruction of the capital city could be adopted under fast-track procedure.

"There is still time for those in charge at the state level to respond appropriately because this is a top priority," said Bandić.

Commenting on announcements that people in self-isolation would be allowed to go to the polls in the coming parliamentary elections, Bandić said that the precondition for holding elections "is a zero or close to zero rate of the coronavirus."

"Anything that would put citizens' health at risk would constitute the scoring of cheap political points and timing elections to suit one's own interests. I'm against that and we will be against that."

More election news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Plenković: Electoral Commission Responsible for Election

ZAGREB, May 12, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday said that when the parliamentary majority adopts a decision on the parliamentary election, the State Electoral Commission (DIP) will make its decisions and consult with the Institute of Public Health on possible recommendations.

"We in the parliamentary majority will agree on that when we assess that the epidemiological circumstances are appropriate, which I think they are, and after that we can make a decision about that in the parliament. In any case, it is in DIP's remit to organise the election and it will make its decisions on that. When a decision on the election is made, then I am certain that DIP will, logically, consult with the Croatian Institute of Public Health regarding any possible recommendations," Plenković told reporters ahead of a meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) presidency.

He said that everything will be known once election slates are on the agenda, adding that Damir Krstićević, who resigned as defence minister, was still a member of the ruling party's presidency.

"We are going into the election with solid achievements in this term. For three years now we have been achieving what we promised. Now we have shown not only that we have consolidated the state and that it is much better off than when we won the election, but that we know how to manage both public health challenges and an enormous package of economic and social measures," he underscored.

Plenković said that a big meeting was held in the government today concerning Zagreb's post-earthquake reconstruction and that it was agreed that the government will adopt a conclusion on Thursday on covering rent costs for all those who cannot live in their own homes.

"For people who are currently staying in the student dormitory to be able, in a month or so, to move into apartments that are on the market...We will find a way to provide these people with temporary accommodation," he said.

He added that the Construction Ministry would form a special task force to review the preliminary assessment of the earthquake damage so that a single, comprehensive picture of the real situation in Zagreb can be obtained as well as of the level of reconstruction required.

"The Construction Ministry will issue guidelines for the future reconstruction of buildings that have to be in line with appropriate seismic criteria. The bill will be ready for public consultation this week. It is our opinion that, considering its nature, the long-term reconstruction, the need to incorporate all elements, that the bill has to be undergo serious consultation," said Plenković.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

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