Thursday, 30 April 2020

Rainbow Families NGO Calls for Inclusive Laws

ZAGREB, April 30, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović on Wednesday received a delegation of the Rainbow Families association, who informed him of the association's activities geared towards ensuring that all laws in Croatia are non-discriminatory and inclusive for all citizens, in line with the Constitution.

The representatives of this non-governmental organisation, which brings together same-sex partners, welcomed a decision by the Constitutional Court on the Foster Care Act under which life partners can also become foster parents.

They stressed that it was important that the Foster Care Act itself was amended in line with the Constitutional Court decision, the Office of the President said in a statement.

They warned that the current Family Act and the Act on Medically Assisted Reproduction put life partners in an unequal position in relation to other citizens, noting that they expect a debate to be launched on those laws and their alignment with constitutional values.

"We are not seeking greater rights, we just want Croatia to be a society of equals," the association said.

President Milanović said that the decision by the Constitutional Court was good because everyone should be equal before the law and he supported the association in its promotion of the equality of all Croatian citizens, the Office of the President said.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 20 April 2020

NGO Urges Government to Take Measures to Safeguard Civil Society Work

ZAGREB, April 20, 2020 - Initiative For a Strong Civil Society on Monday called on the Croatian government to adopt measures to safeguard the work of civil society organisations in the wake of the coronavirus health crisis.

In its letter to the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs, the Ministry of Labour and the Pension System, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds and the National Foundation for Civil Society Development, the Initiative underscored that government representatives so far had not addressed the issues of civil society organisations' programmes and schedules.

They reiterated that it was the civil society organisations that had been most successful at drawing funding from EU funds and allocating it for contracted activities of public importance. They also underscored that numerous activities the organisations provided depended on those projects and programmes, as well as jobs of a great number of people.

According to data of the National Bureau of Statistics, about 18,000 persons work for civil society organisations.

The initiative underscored that is was vital that the government revised the decision to restrict the use of state budget funds earmarked for funding civil society organisations and that it should urgently publish the results of tenders by the European Social Fund and other funds that are in the process of evaluation, as well as proceed with planned calls for tenders.

More news about NGOs can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

NGO Says Emergency Measures Can Last Only for Duration of Pandemic

ZAGREB, March 19, 2020 - The GONG nongovernmental organisation has said that measures being introduced by the Croatian government and most countries to alleviate the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic must not be misused, must be in line with the Constitution and must be in force only during the pandemic.

Restrictions that are being introduced must be motivated solely by reasons related to public health and they must be implemented in line with the Constitution, the NGO said on Thursday, underlining the importance of respect for rights and procedures in crisis situations.

As for Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović's announcement about the introduction of an information system for tracking infected persons and persons in self-isolation and other information solutions, GONG said that it raised the question of possible abuse and the need for supervision.

"The rule of law and civil liberties must not be forgotten due to the fear of infection. Restriction of individual rights and freedoms (Article 17 of the Constitution) requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority. If the parliament stops working, the prime minister and the president of the republic take over. Such measures must be proportionate and precisely defined," GONG said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

NGOs: EU Solidarity in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic Insufficient

ZAGREB, March 18, 2020 - The Forum 2020 platform, which brings together civil society groups, warned on Wednesday about the insufficient solidarity of EU countries amid the coronavirus pandemic, calling on Croatia, as the current EU chair, to convene the European Council to define a joint response to the current crisis.

Expressing concern about the first reactions to the strengthening of the epidemic on European territory, notably by EU member-countries, the platform said that they ignored the pandemic that could only be countered with international solidarity and not nationally.

Forum 2020 said messages which testify to insufficient solidarity with others who are affected undermine international solidarity which is necessary to stop the pandemic.

"This is especially evidenced by a high degree of caution regarding the distribution and production of medical equipment," said the platform.

It noted that it supported EU institutions and member-states' efforts made so far but that it was necessary to enhance activities taken so far and strengthen policies of international solidarity in order to overcome the crisis as soon as possible.

Forum 2020 asked Croatia as the current EU chair to call an extraordinary session of the European Council at which leaders would make decisions enabling the EU to do its best to protect its citizens from infection.

It proposes the allocation of additional funds for the public health system as well as that the European Council urge the private sector with high capital reserves to contribute with donations to public financial funds that are being set up to alleviate the negative socioeconomic consequences of the crisis.

It also believes that all available medical and protective equipment made in the EU should be gathered and that agreement should be reached that member-countries have the right to keep 90% of the equipment while 10% would be used for emergency interventions in European and global hot spots.

Forum 2020 also seeks from the EU financial support for the solidarity fund recently set up by the World Health Organisation, for the long-term strengthening of the civil protection system and for solidarity with refugees, as well as for solidarity with the global south and developing countries.

Without clear commitment to resolving the crisis through global partnership, the number of human lives lost will be much higher, the platform said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Activists Protest on Occasion of World Day of Social Justice

ZAGREB, February 20, 2020 - An informal initiative of associations and individuals Survivor2020 on Thursday observed the World Day of Social Justice staging a protest rally in Saint Mark's Square in Zagreb to raise awareness about disabled people's disadvantageous status.

The protesters also called on the government to adopt a National Strategy for Civil Society Development as soon as possible.

Senada Halilčević of the Association for Self-Advocacy warned about the social deprivation of disabled people, condemned to a life of poverty, about poorly implemented deinstitutionalisation and about the practice of encouraging adult foster care, which does not exist anywhere in Europe but in Croatia.

"Manipulations of property owned by people under guardianship is another way of deepening the poverty of people who are already in a disadvantaged position," Halilčević underscored at the demonstration "Survivor2020 - Day of Social Justice in Croatia".

Nikola Tadić of the Croatian Autism Association said that parents of children with disabilities who were members of associations were exhausted as they were the only ones providing information and social services.

The initiative Survivor2020 called on the government to support the proposal by the European Parliament and vote for an increase in the budget of the Rights and Values programme, which amounts to 1.83 billion euro for the entire European Union.

The initiative Survivor2020 is supported by 30 organisations and associations, such as the Centre for Peace Studies, the Centre for Women's Studies, the Rainbow Families association, the Forum for Freedom in Education, the GONG election monitoring NGO, the civic initiative "Let's help children with disabilities", the Croatian Youth Network, the Roda (Parents in Action) association and the Green Action.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

GONG Calls for Greater Transparency of European Affairs

ZAGREB, February 13, 2020 - The nongovernmental organisation GONG on Thursday called on the government to use Croatia's EU presidency to enhance the transparency of working procedures for state and European affairs and to bring them closer to citizens.

"Europe cannot be close to citizens if those procedures are very non-transparent, if there is a policy of confidentiality in adopting EU laws. We believe that we have the right to know which decisions regarding European affairs are made on our behalf," GONG executive director Oriana Ivković Novokmet told a news conference.

GONG prepared recommendations for the government and ministers to enhance the transparency of European affairs and its activists were handing out leaflets with those recommendations before today's government session.

One of the recommendations concerns the participation of citizens and the public in shaping national positions. GONG believes that situations such as the one regarding roaming charges, when two Croatian governments acted against citizens' interests and did not support demands for lower roaming charges, must not happen again.

Ivković Novokmet said that the Permanent Representation of Croatia to the EU had supported GONG's request and started publishing a list of its meetings with lobbying groups, based on the model of the Finnish EU presidency.

GONG also believes that the Croatian prime minister and his ministers should do the same.

The NGO also considers sponsorships as disputable.

"The government has shown best what the risk for one's reputation can be because at the moment when the EC defined the new Green Deal it accepted the sponsorship of an oil company," she said.

GONG has also demanded that all documents of the Council of the EU and informal trialogues between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament be published as well.

Asked how realistic it was to really expect that to happen, considering the way European and Croatian bureaucracies work, she said that certain progress was possible regarding transparency.

"There are European Parliament resolutions that call for opening more to citizens and for enhancing citizens' participation because those things encourage euroscepticism... We can see that the Permanent Representation has made a small step forward - even though they do not publish the topics of the meetings - and we expect the same of the prime minister and ministers," Ivković Novokmet said.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Rainbow Families NGO Says Court's Decision Bans Discrimination

ZAGREB, February 10, 2020 - The Croatian association called Dugine Obitelji (Rainbow Families) that gathers LGBTI persons who are or want to become parents said Monday that the Constitutional Court's decision under which the Foster Care Act must include life partners was important because it bans discrimination.

The Constitutional Court last Friday published a decision in which it concludes that courts and relevant bodies have the duty to enable everyone to participate in "the public service of foster care" under equal terms.

The court reached the conclusion after considering motions for the assessment of the constitutionality of three Foster Care Act articles which numerous political parties, associations and individuals claimed to be discriminate against same-sex partners.

"The decision recognises and prevents discrimination against life partners and is doing what politicians in Croatia have not been doing for years -- treat all Croatian residents equally, regardless of their sexual orientation," the coordinator of the Rainbow Families, Daniel Martinović, told a news conference.

He also commented on negative reactions to the Constitutional Court's decision.

"We are confident that it is extremely hypocritical to say that it is better for children without adequate parental care to remain in an institution than to be placed in a home of a same-sex partners. Experts and education workers of the welfare centres should decide who should or should not be a foster parent, and not those who continue to generalise and use prejudice to justify their homophobic points of view," Martinović said.

More LGBT news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 7 February 2020

NGO Against Increase in Taxes on Tobacco, Coffee, Non-Alcoholic Drinks

ZAGREB, February 7, 2020 - The Lipa taxpayers' association opposes the Finance Ministry's plan to increase taxes on tobacco, coffee and non-alcoholic beverages as it believes that their sole purpose is to patch holes in the budget caused by the failure to implement reforms and lack of transparency.

"The (planned) government regulations will increase the tax burden. However, the government does not plan to spend the money to be obtained through higher taxes on improving the health sector but rather for patching budget holes. Even though the ministry is referring to an EU directive, we note that the EU has continually recommended that Croatia implement reforms in all segments of its public sector yet those recommendations are ignored to a large extent," the association said in a statement.

It believes that the introduction of excise taxes on e-cigarette liquid and heated tobacco products is a very bad measure that will discourage consumers from switching to less harmful products.

Excise taxes already account for more than 80% of the price of cigarettes and they end up in the state budget while hospitals still owe more than nine billion kuna and work in very bad conditions, Lipa says.

It proposes that in order to keep the same level of the tax burden, the state should lower fuel excise taxes while increasing tobacco taxes and introducing special taxes on sugar and coffee.

Tobacco prices are expected to go up soon because the Finance Ministry recently put to public consultation a draft regulation envisaging an increase in tobacco excise taxes by 40 kuna per thousand cigarettes, and it also plans to introduce excise taxes on some new tobacco products, including e-cigarette liquid and heated tobacco products.

The public consultation lasted until February 3.

The government last increased excise taxes on tobacco in 2018, after which the price of cigarettes went up by around 2 kuna per packet.

More news about taxes in Croatia can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Patients Do Not Have Equal Opportunity for Lung Cancer Screening

ZAGREB, January 17, 2020 - The Dignitatis association of patients on Friday welcomed the National Lung Cancer Early Detection Programme, saying however that the programme was discriminatory because not all patients had equal access to the programme as only certain hospitals possess the necessary LDCT screening equipment.

"When the programme was being planned it should have taken account that all counties need that equipment as the majority of patients who would perhaps decide to participate in the programme will not be in a position to do so because of the distance and costs involved," Dignitatis said in a press release.

"We condemn this discrimination against patients in Croatia and ask that before the programme is implemented that the Health Ministry secured the necessary apparatus in all county centres for the programme to be able to be implemented in a quality way and be accessible to all patients," Marina Novaković Matanić of Dignitatis said.

The KoHOM association of family doctors on Thursday warned that conditions had not been established to implemented the screening programme.

With the announcement that the first screens could start as of Friday has put family doctors in an awkward situation because they have to explain to patients that the programme is not ready yet.

We welcome the national programme, which we helped prepare. We are prepared for cooperation in implementing it however the programme has not come to life nor will it tomorrow either as announced in the media, KoHOM said on Thursday in a press release.

KoHOM has asked that patients for their understanding and to approach the Croatian Health Insurance Institute and Health Ministry for any further information.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

GONG Urges Government to Organise Polling Stations in Hospitals, Retirement Homes

ZAGREB, January 2, 2020 - The GONG election monitoring NGO on Thursday called on the government to enable elderly and ill citizens to exercise their electoral right by amending the legislation whereby polling booths can be set up in all hospitals and retirement homes as well as organising the possibility of voting from home for disabled citizens.

"We call on the government to urgently resolve the problem of discrimination against voters who are not able to access polling stations and to better regulate voting at special polling stations, by introducing regulations regarding various ways of facilitating the voting process as a legal obligation," GONG said in a press release.

The NGO warned that the elderly and ill must not be treated as second-class citizens.

Several dozen elderly, ill, and disabled voters sent complaints to GONG saying that they could not exercise their right to vote in the first round of the presidential election.

Under the Constitution voters, who happen to be at hospitals treatment on the day of an election, have general and equal voting rights. However, as the law does not foresee voting in hospitals those citizens have been deprived of their constitutional right to vote, GONG warned.

The NGO underlines that only a portion of citizens living in retirement homes have been enabled to vote in elections.

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

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