Thursday, 4 March 2021

Croatia's General Government Debt Reaches €43.7 Billion at the End of November 2020

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - At the November of 2020, Croatia's public debt totalled HRK 327.8 billion, rising by 35.3 billion, or 12.1%, from the end of 2019, and the country's public debt-to-GDP ratio increased by 15.3 percentage points to 88.6%, according to the Croatian National Bank (HNB) data.

Month on month, the public debt increased 0.6% at the end of November 2020.

A strong rise in the public debt in the first eleven months in 2020 is a result of the response to the crisis caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced a large number of economic activities and consequently budget revenues while the state stepped in to cover a budget gap, according to assessments made by RBA bank's analysts.

The analysts also expect the reduction of the debt-to GDP ratio in 2021 below 85%, provided that economic recovery forecasts come true in the course of this year.

(€= HRK 7.5)

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

14 Ministers Replaced since Start of Plenković Cabinet

ZAGREB, January 28, 2020 - During the first 39 months of the term of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's government, 14 cabinet ministers have been replaced with most of them having to step down due to scandals related to their personal property and assets.

In addition to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, the only ministers from the original cabinet, which came into power on 19 October 2016, include Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved, Minister of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković, Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Koržinek, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli and Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić, who was originally Minister of Labour and Pension System.

The most recent minister to "fall" from Plenković's "starting lineup" is Health Minister Milan Kujundžić while the first ministers, who were "expelled" were ministers nominated by the MOST party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) junior coalition partner after the September 2016 election, after they voted against rejecting a no confidence motion, submitted by the Opposition, against Finance Minister Marić.

This led to a new parliamentary majority being formed with the Croatian People's Party (HNS) taking on the role of HDZ's junior coalition partner in mid-2017 when changes happened at the helm of seven ministerial departments.

The HNS nominated Predrag Štromar for the Minister of Construction, while Blaženka Divjak took on the Ministry of Science and Education replacing Pavao Barišić who was ousted due to the scandal of alleged self-plagiarism of a research paper

Davor Božinović who had served as chief-of-staff in Plenković's office was then appointed as Minister of Interior Affairs while Dražen Bošnjaković was appointed as Justice Minister. Tomislav Ćorić was appointed as Minister of Environment and Energy vacating his ministerial position of labour and pension system which was then taken over by Marko Pavić while Lovro Kuščević was appointed Public Administration Minister.

Disappointed with the fact that the government took the HNS as its junior partner, the then Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Davor Ivo Stier of the HDZ, resigned and his position was taken over by Marija Pejčinovic Burić.

When the "hotmail" scandal erupted regarding the adoption of the law on systemic companies, dubbed Lex Agrokor, in May 2018, Economy Minister Martina Dalić was replaced by Darko Horvat.

The next major government reshuffle occurred over non-transparent property dealings surrounding four ministers which was why in July last year Plenković dismissed Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, Public Administration Minister Kuščević and State Assets Minister Goran Marić.

Nada Murganić, who was at the helm of the ministry of demographics, family, youth and social policy was replaced due to accumulated problems in social welfare system.

Marija Vučković was appointed Agriculture Minister in the reshuffled government while Marko Pavić was transferred to the helm of Regional Development and EU Funds. The Labour Ministry was taken over by Josip Aladrović while Ivan Malenica was appointed to the Public Administration Ministry and Vesna Bedeković was appointed to the Ministry of Demography, the Family, Youth and Social Policy, and Mario Banožić took on the State Assets Ministry.

During that same reshuffle, Pejčinović Buric who was already elected Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, was replaced by Gordan Grlić Radman.

According to the latest reports, Minister Kujundžić will be replaced by Assistant Minister Vili Beroš.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 3 January 2020

200 Cabinet Meetings Held Since Beginning of Term of Plenković Government

ZAGREB, January 3, 2020 - From the beginning of its term on 19 October 2016 to this day, the Government chaired by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has held exactly 200 cabinet meetings, introducing 6,744 regulations and decisions from its remit, including 983 bills, according to data released by the government on Friday.

There were 24 conference calls, and 11 cabinet meetings were held outside Zagreb, that is in other Croatian towns.

The cabinet meetings lasted for 216 hours and 42 minutes in total, and 4,275 items of the agenda were discussed.

Of 983 bills sponsored by the government, 348 have been adjusted to the EU aquis and this cabinet has to date proposed 8 state budgets.

At the government's proposal, the Croatian Parliament has passed 641 laws, 181 of which refer to the adjustment of the national legislature to EU laws, and there was 87 international treaties and agreements ratified.

The government has responded to 6 interpellations, as well as to 466 questions submitted by members of parliament. It referred 46 documents to the Constitutional Court, and 19 documents to the Administrative Court.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Ruling Coalition Confirms It Wants to Complete Full Term

ZAGREB, September 26, 2019 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Thursday that the members of the ruling coalition had met and resolved all contentious issues and confirmed that they wished to see this government's term to the end.

"We resolved all contentious matters at the past few meetings that were held in a very friendly and fair atmosphere. We very clearly confirmed that we wish to see this term to the end and that political stability is exceptionally important as is the adoption of the 2020 budget and the chairmanship of the European Union," Jandroković told the press during a visit to the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

He added that Darinko Kosor, the leader of the Croatian Social Liberal Party, a junior coalition partner, had excused himself from the meeting and that there was no political motive behind his absence.

As far as threats by Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić were concerned and that he would leave the coalition if there were no projects, Jandroković underlined that projects are a substantial part of any coalition, perhaps even their fundamental essence because they concern the quality of living.

"There is no blackmailing. We are talking and seeking the best solutions, and that is the spirit that has existed these past three years. If matters were different then we certainly would not be collaborating," Jandroković said.

Jandroković commented on a sports event being organised by the HVIDRA veterans' association in Makarska over the weekend with regard to possible protests due to the association's disgruntlement over the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) coalition with the leader of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS) Milorad Pupovac.

"I am certain that the games in Makarska will be held in an excellent atmosphere and that everyone will be satisfied...I spoke with veterans' representatives and they fully support Andrej Plenković and the government. They are aware that political stability is exceptionally important for Croatia's development," said Jandroković.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Plenković Says Slavonia Continues to Be Priority for His Cabinet

ZAGREB, August 29, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday visited the eastern Croatian town of Županja and on that occasion he said that 10.7 billion kuna (€1.45 billion) had been engaged through the Slavonia project in the last three years.

Plenković recalled that three years ago, his cabinet had decided during a meeting in the biggest eastern city of Osijek to invest more efforts to help the five Slavonia counties to boost their development.

"In less than three years, we have engaged 10.7 billion kuna through the project," Plenković said adding that the region would remain a priority for his cabinet.

During Plenković's stay in Županja, his cabinet and the local authorities signed two grant deeds transferring ownership over land to the town for the construction of accommodation facilities and a local sports centre.

A meeting of the government's advisory committee for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem would be held in Orahovica on September 3.

"Our aim is for people to remain in this area, demographic revival, opening new jobs and support to agricultural and rural development," Plenković said earlier in the day.

Plenković recalled that systematic and permanent contact with the five Slavonian counties "is a clear reflection of a 2016 analysis when it was concluded that Croatia's east needed the Slavonia Project".

More Slavonia news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Incoming Ministers Present Their Projects

ZAGREB, July 18, 2019 - Ivan Malenica who has been nominated to replace Lovro Kuščević at the helm of the pulic administration ministry, on Thursday said that he would continue implementing projects of the digitisation of public administration and merger of state administration offices with county governments.

Ahead of meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Malenica told the press that his predecessor Kuščević had managed to complete some activities and that he will continue the job until the end of this term.

"I think that it will be possible to finish all that in the next year, so that we demystify public administration in Croatia and restore citizens' trust," Malenica said.

Asked whether he would scale down the powers of the Conflict of Interest Commission, Malenica said that he will see. "There is bill on the matter and we will see what they refer to."

He underscores that he has a vision of what public administration should look like and that it is meant to be at the service of citizens who can be satisfied with civil servants, with their efficiency and performance.

Commenting on the Constitutional Court decision that the rights of the ethnic Serb minority in Vukovar should be improved, he said that that is a Constitutional Court decision and as such it needs to be respected. He announced that he would discuss that matter with the Vukovar authorities.

Malenica said that he accepted the ministerial position because it was challenge in his career and that he can also do something for Croatia in the area of public administration. He dealt with this area of work during his work as a researcher and believes that that can be applied to public administration.

"I will see just how different practical work is compared to research when I step into office but I think that there should not be any problems," said Malenica.

The candidate for the new State Assets Minister, Mario Banožić, said on Thursday that the state should keep control over the companies that make it competitive.

I cannot now say whether the state should have five or six strategic companies and whether others should be on the market. I have to get an insight, however, I believe that the state should have control over those companies that make the state competitive, Banožić told reporters while coming to Government House for talks with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who yesterday nominated him for the new state assets minister after Goran Marić resigned this past Monday over media reports on his involvement in murky real estate deals.

Banožić praised Marić for having made a great step forward in state property management, notably in cases where ownership was unclear and in the registration of state assets.

Addressing the press ahead of a meeting in Government House with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Labour and Pension System Minister nominee, Josip Aladrović, on Thursday said that he would invite social partners, unions and employers, to a social dialogue and to revive the Economic-Social Council (GSV).

"I would like to first mention that we will call social partners to a dialogue and to resume activities within the GSV," Aladrović said, adding that he considers that most of the matters tended to in the department of labour and pension system under outgoing minister Marko Pavić were handled well.

Aladrović did not wish to comment on the union initiative to call a referendum against the proposed pension reform after the unions collected more than 700,000 signatures.

"Considering the number of signatures and all the work done prior to that, I would say that that was the democratic will of the people. In future we will attempt to anticipate and launch social dialogue," he said.

He believes that it is necessary to allow the government and the public administration ministry to do their job and to see if there is a sufficient number of votes for a referendum and the Constitutional Court needs to determine whether the referendum question is in accordance with the Constitution.

"I would not like to interpret something that the Constitutional Court will interpret considering that we achieved what we wanted with the pension reform and that is long term sustainability of the pension system and adequate pensions."

Aladrović also said that the Conflict of Interest Commission had launched proceedings against him due to a "minor oversight" and that he will accept any decision the commission makes. He apparently did not enter a car he possesses into his declaration of assets.

He said that he joined the HDZ when he was 16 or 17 and thanked Prime MInister Plenković for showing his confidence and giving him the honour to be a minister.

"I am certain that I will justify that trust and that I will do my job responsibly and that the results of the Ministry of Labour and Pension System will be visible in a very short time," he said.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Prime Minister Presents Cabinet Reshuffle

ZAGREB, July 18, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who held a news conference on Wednesday evening to present ministerial nominees as part of his cabinet reshuffle, said that this was a larger-scale reshuffle meant to enable an unburdened government to continue implementing its agenda and thus enable the national economy to continue growing as well as the Croatian society to strengthen its solidarity and reduce polarisation and tensions.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić, who is leaving the government as she was recently appointed secretary-general of the Council of Europe, is to be replaced by Croatian Ambassador to Germany, Gordan Grlić Radman.

Last week, Plenković nominated Ivan Malenica, the Dean of Šibenik Polytechnic, as the new Public Administration Minister replacing Lovro Kuščević who resigned in early July over reported involvement in murky real estate deals.

State Assets Minister Goran Marić, who also resigned over media reports implicating him in murky real estate deals, is to be replaced by Mario Banozić, an official of the Vukovar-Srijem County administration.

Gabrijela Žalac who is the Regional Development and EU Funds Minister will be replaced by the current Labour and Pension System Minister Marko Pavić.

The Labour and Pension System Minister nominee is Josip Aladrović who is currently at the helm of the Croatian Pension Insurance Fund (HZMO).

The outgoing Minister of Demography, the Family, Youth and Social Policy Nada Murganić is to be replaced by a member of parliament, Vesna Bedeković.

Outgoing Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić's successor is incumbent state-secretary Marija Vučković.

The government will have two new deputy prime ministers: Interior Minister Davor Božinović and Finance Minister Zdravko Marić.

Some changes in the posts of state secretaries in a few ministerial departments will be conducted as part of this reshuffle plan.

Thus, Transport and Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Nikolna Brnjac is going to the post of the Foreign Ministry's state secretary, while Josip Bilaver will fill her post in the Transport Ministry.

A parliamentary deputy, Sanja Putica, is nominated as a new state secretary in the science and education ministry.

The ministerial nominees and this reshuffle plan will be presented to the national parliament on Friday.

Deputy parliament speaker and deputy leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Milijan Brkić said on Wednesday evening that the party's leadership had unanimously supported the new minister nominees, underlining that the HDZ will continue to care for citizens' problems and resolve issues facing the country.

Also junior partners supported the reshuffle plan during their meeting with Plenković on late Wednesday evening.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic held a press conference late on Wednesday to announce the names of new ministers and state secretaries in his government, saying that the reshuffle was necessary because the public perception of his cabinet was becoming a burden and that he wanted to put the focus of the public and media on everything positive that the government has done so far.

Thanking the outgoing ministers for their effort and contribution, Plenković said he wanted the focus to be on government achievements in having the country's credit rating restored to investment grade, increasing the minimum and average wages, economic growth, European Commission projections, lower unemployment, higher employment, measures for demographic revitalisation, and rescuing the Agrokor conglomerate.

He said that these achievements had ensured the stability of political institutions in the country. "Without this stability, none of these achievements would have been possible."

Plenković said that it was common to reshuffle the cabinet before the start of the fourth year in office. "They will make it possible for the government to continue implementing its programme unburdened," he said, citing activities aimed at economic growth, promoting solidarity in society and lowering social tensions.

The prime minister made the announcement after meeting with his coalition partners, who had given him their support for the changes, and after a meeting of the leadership of his HDZ party.

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 12 July 2019

SDP Gathering Signatures for Dismissal of Three More Ministers

ZAGREB, July 12, 2019 - The parliamentary group of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Friday began gathering signatures for a motion of no-confidence in Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić and State Assets Minister Goran Marić over their alleged involvement in corruption scandals, unofficial sources said.

A no-confidence motion requires the signatures of one fifth of MPs, or 31. If the necessary number of signatures are gathered, the motion will be formally submitted to parliament already next week, the sources said.

Such motions are debated no earlier than seven and no later than 30 days after being included on parliament's agenda.

The head of the SDP parliamentary group, Arsen Bauk, said recently that of the seven motions for a vote of no-confidence in cabinet ministers filed so far, four had resulted in their resignations.

In the meantime, the parliamentary group of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has unanimously supported Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's proposal that Ivan Malenica, the Dean of Šibenik Polytechnic, succeed Lovro Kuščević as the Minister of Public Administration, the group's chairman Branko Bačić told the press after their meeting on Friday morning.

Bačić said that they did not discuss changes for other ministerial positions. "It has been agreed that an extraordinary session of the Croatian parliament will be convened by the end of the month to decide on the appointment of new government ministers."

The HDZ leadership has backed Plenković to propose a government reshuffle after analysing the work of all government ministries.

"Today we did not discuss the number of ministers who would be replaced. The prime minister has our support to make such a proposal to the party's leadership and coalition partners, after which our group will confirm the necessary number of ministers," Bačić said.

Asked if State Assets Minister Goran Marić still enjoyed the trust of the party's leadership after all the scandals reported by the media, Bačić repeated that the HDZ leadership had expressed their support for the prime minister to decide which ministries would be reshuffled. He said that the prime minister decides on the status of each minister but that his decision also needs the support of the party's leadership.

Bačić said that he had notified all the coalition partners of the nomination of the new Minister of Public Administration before the prime minister made the announcement on Thursday evening, adding that they supported Malenica's nomination.

Bačić said that the position of the HDZ and most of the coalition partners was that a government reshuffle should be carried out as soon as possible.

According to unofficial sources, the extraordinary session of parliament might be held as early as the end of next week and the government reshuffle could include four to five ministries.

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Coalition Supports Government Reshuffle, Opposition Wants Elections

ZAGREB, July 11, 2019 - The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Wednesday said that the announced government reshuffle was a welcome move that will improve functionality and strengthen the government.

"Improved functionality and strengthening the government, in the opinion of our caucus and party, is a welcome move and in that regard we support the stand of the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union). We are waiting for the prime minister to do what is necessary, that means internal consultations, and for him to decide and assess what needs to be done, after which we too will be informed, I guess," Pupovac said, whose party is part of the ruling majority.

As far as the timing of the reshuffle is concerned, Pupovac believes that there is no need to wait until the autumn. Considering speculations that the number of ministries will be reduced, Pupovac recalled that there had been experiments with fewer ministries, but that did not improve the government's functionality. He said the prime minister will decide on the number of ministries.

Asked whether the reshuffle was possible by Friday or whether parliament would convene for an extraordinary session, Pupovac said that "there is not enough time for serious work" to be done by Friday.

Asked whether the government was burdened by scandals involving ministers, Pupovac said "a lot burdens the government, various circumstances in society." "What we as partners consider to be important is political strengthening, strengthening the government and the political scene in the country because it seems to us that this is a crisis point that needs to be considered and dealt with," he added.

Reporters asked if that meant that ministers Goran Marić and Gabrijela Žalac and others should be replaced. Pupovac said that the prime minister should be asked that. "When the time comes for talks on that, we will say our opinion, he added. Pupovac dismissed speculation that the SDSS would take over the Public Administration Ministry.

The Opposition in parliament on Wednesday called for a snap election instead of a government reshuffle as announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. MP Gordan Maras (Social Democrats) said that Plenković's government is the most corrupt since Croatia gained independence.

Nikola Grmoja (MOST) considers that Plenković's hands are tied. This government will probably hold out for the full term, unless the HNS (People's Party) and minority MPs estimate that it would be better for them to leave, yet Croatian citizens will have nothing to gain from that.

"We called for a new election long ago, for allowing the people to decide and for not agreeing to political bartering in the parliament," he said.

He believes it is scandalous that someone who is not fit to be in government can sit in the parliament, as former minister Lovro Kuščević will.

Silvano Hrelja of the Pensioners' Party (HSU) said that he would like the prime minister to have the courage, in the interest of Croatian citizens, to conduct an ambitious government reshuffle and find people who are willing to work in the public interest.

"It would be good for Croatia's mental health if we stopped dealing with scandals and for someone to take the wheel and steer those ministries in the right direction," he said.

As far as Kuščević's returning to parliament is concerned, Hrelja recalled that parliament had on several occasions debated whether mayors and municipal leaders should be allowed to run for parliament and whether they should automatically return to parliament. "That all needs to be defined with election legislation," said Hrelja.

More political news can be found in the dedicated section.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Government Reshuffle Coming Soon

ZAGREB, July 10, 2019 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday evening that he had been supported by the party leadership to reshuffle his cabinet.

"Members of the HDZ presidency and the national council gave me the support to take measures I find necessary to refresh the government," Plenković said after the meeting of the HDZ leadership in Zagreb.

He said that the purpose of this refreshing will be to streamline the efforts aimed at achieving the goals from the government's agenda and to prepare Croatia for the chairmanship over the European Union in the first half of 2020.

Furthermore, all that will be done with the aim of consolidating the HDZ and providing full support to President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović in the race for her second term.

He added that the meeting had revolved around a few important topics and that all the participants supported the course taken by the government and by the HDZ which enabled Croatia to enjoy a political stability and conditions for the committed reform activities.

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

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