Sunday, 19 March 2023

Croatia Fails to Use EU Grants in Time to Restore Important State Buildings

March 19, 2023 - The state, now it is pretty clear, will not be able to use the EU grants from the Solidarity Fund in time to restore its two most important buildings - the Banski Dvori (government) and the Croatian Parliament building on St. Mark's Square in Zagreb.

As Index / Jutarnji write, after several failed tenders, three years after the Zagreb earthquake, the money from the EU Solidarity Fund for the structural renovation of the two most important buildings of the Croatian legislative and executive authorities will remain unspent, and only the creation of a complete renovation design will be financed.

The term expires at the end of June

HRK 87.6 million, or EUR 11.6 million, was supposed to finance the structural renovation and design documentation for the parliament building, while HRK 61.5 million o,r EUR 8.2 million, would have gone towards documentation, and the first phase of the government building renovation.

The deadline for spending that money from the Solidarity Fund expires at the end of June this year. Croatia was the only country in the European Union that received a one-year extension of that deadline. However, despite this precedent, the state could not even restore its own buildings.

In order to spend at least a small part of the money from the Fund, the government and parliament decided to call for tenders for the preparation of design documentation only. Thus, the IGH Institute won the parliamentary competition for the preparation of documentation, which undertook to deliver the project by the end of June.

The state will spend five percent of the grant

The council estimated that the work was worth HRK 9 million without VAT, or EUR 1.2 million, but IGH won the tender with a price of less than half of that estimate, i.e., slightly less than HRK 4 million or EUR 533,800. The government estimated the creation of design documentation at HRK 6.3 million, or EUR 836,100. A consortium of companies Interkonzalting and Planaxis won the tender with a price of HRK 3.5 million without VAT, or EUR 464,500.

This means that, of the projected 19.8 million euros intended for structural renovation and documentation of the parliament and government buildings, the state will spend just under a million euros for the project, i.e. only five percent of the total allocated grant from the Solidarity Fund.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated News section.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

SDP, We Can! Want to Run in Next Parliamentary Election Together, Večernji List Says

ZAGREB, 9 Feb 2022 - The strongest opposition Social Democratic Party and We Can!, which ran separately in last year's local elections in Zagreb, are no longer hiding that they are coming closer at national level, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

Although the next regular parliamentary election is two years away, both parties are saying off the record that they will not run independently because nobody can form a government alone, and only together can they be a strong alternative against the ruling HDZ.

The only dilemma at the moment, top SDP officials say, is whether it is better to run in one bloc, all centre-left parties together, or in two, one comprising the SDP and We Can!, and the other with Centre, GLAS, Focus and similar parties.

The SDP and We Can! say they are satisfied with their cooperation in parliament, and that their ruling coalition in Zagreb will be an essential factor for a possible joint success at the national level.

"The SDP-We Can! coalition is the first step without which there is no chance at all of defeating the HDZ in the next election. If it's done soon enough, like (the then SDP leader) Ivica Račan did in 1998 with Dražen Budiša and the HSLS, which means offering a clear platform and people, it's a really good alternative which can look for voters' confidence in the election," an eminent SDP member was quoted as saying.

The fact that you have coalition potential and that there is a wish before the election to change things points to an honest approach which will certainly bring results, he adds.

Večernji List's We Can! sources think the same. They say the constant attacks on the HDZ over its scandals is counterproductive in attracting attention, and that in the months ahead the SDP and We Can! must solely present their policies to citizens, showing that they have both a platform and a vision, and are capable of solving problems.

The latest public opinion polls speak in favour of the SDP-We Can! cooperation, showing that together, they have higher support than the HDZ, the newspaper said, adding that the next most popular party, Bridge, has not clearly said whether it will run in the election together with the SDP and We Can!, but "swears" it will not go with the HDZ a third time.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Parliament To Discuss Vote of No Confidence in Health Minister, Vili Beroš on Tuesday

May 31st, 2021 - The Croatian parliament starts its session on Tuesday this week because the Feast of Corpus Christi is observed on Thursday. It will discuss the proposal of 41 opposition MPs for a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš.

The opposition says the reasons for that include the accumulated problems, the lack of an effective and transparent vaccination system, the avoidance of public procurement, corruption, and the theft of public money during the COVID pandemic to benefit close associates Minister Beroš.

"The reasons for this move are clear to all citizens - the accumulated debts in the healthcare system resulted in the suspension of deliveries of medicines to hospitals at the height of the pandemic. There are also huge problems with the vaccination system, and we have learned of favorable treatment in the development of the vaccination registration system," Peđa Grbin of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said in early May, explaining the reason for filing a joint motion for a no-confidence vote, signed by all opposition groups in parliament except the Croatian Sovereignists, who announced, however, that they would vote in favor of Beroš's resignation.

Grbin also said that the Ministry of Health "simply isn't functioning," and there were no reforms.

Beroš must leave, but that is not enough, and after he leaves, we must all work together to address the accumulated problems in the health system, Grbin said.

The government rejected the opposition's claims, saying that there are no grounds for a vote of no confidence in Beroš, and proposed to the parliament to reject the proposed decision on the no-confidence vote.

The government stressed that since the COVID outbreak, the health system had to deal with circumstances it had not experienced since the Homeland War, but it "stayed on its feet."

It rejected the opposition's claims on financing the health system, organizing the vaccination system, the public procurement, and claims related to the website and the procurement of advisory services.

The government said that the reform measures should establish a better, more efficient, and more flexible organizational structure and health system management.

On Wednesday, the parliament will discuss a report on the work of the State Audit Office for 2020; it will vote at noon and then conclude this week's work.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Parliament Speaker Says Will Discharge Duty Responsibly

ZAGREB, July 22, 2020 - Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic told MPs on Wednesday at the first session of the tenth parliament that being appointed speaker for the second time was a great honour and that he would discharge his duty responsibly.

He said the appointment made him proud. "It's a confirmation of the election results which have shown that citizens support the direction in which the previous government and parliamentary majority took the state, as well as a recognition for all the achievements of the past four years."

Jandrokovic said he would push for the promotion and strengthening of the highest values of the constitutional order as well as the strengthening of and respect for institutions. "This moment demands common sense, calm and seriousness from all of us. And above all, dedication in serving the common interest and Croatian citizens."

He recalled the 30th anniversary of the first Croatian parliament, marked this year, saying the Sabor had always guarded Croatian statehood and protected the interests of the Croatian people.

Croatia today, like the whole world, is in a time full of challenges, faced with a pandemic and an economic crisis, but the government responded quickly and well to protect health, lives and jobs, Jandrokovic said.

"In these complex circumstances, the Croatian Sabor was one of the few European parliaments that worked without a break, passing laws essential for Croatia."

He congratulated Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on the €22 billion that Croatia will get in the next seven-year EU budget, calling on MPs to be responsible in building Croatian society.

He also called on MPs to behave responsibly, to respect each other and accept the principles of work for the common good and the interests of the country based on truth, freedom, justice and equality.

"In order to convince the other side that one's arguments are right, debates can be harsh, but they should be based on openness, tolerance, understanding of what has been said, and respect for colleagues and their opposite views and opinions. We here in the Croatian Sabor aren't enemies. We have different ideas, but I believe we all stand for Croatia's well-being," Jandrokovic said, adding that this was especially important in this challenging time.

He said he was pleased that this Sabor had more women MPs than the last one but still not enough.

Jandrokovic reiterated that a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb would be one of the first to be passed by the new parliament.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Public Health Has Priority over Parliamentary Elections

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - Members of both the ruling majority and the Opposition said on Friday, in a comment on media speculation that parliamentary elections could be held in the summer, that elections should be held when the epidemiological situation became favourable, to avoid jeopardising public health.

Parliament Speaker and HDZ secretary-general Gordan Jandroković told a news conference the Opposition was insisting on the topic of elections in an attempt to depict the HDZ as trying to fish in troubled waters.

"Elections will certainly be held by their constitutional deadline but at this moment we are preoccupied with the fight for the health and lives of our citizens, and we also care about their safety," said Jandroković, stressing that as long as the situation was as it was, elections would not be organised but that the constitutional deadline to hold them by mid-December would be respected.

Jandroković said that the plan was to hold the elections by their constitutional deadline if there was no significant change in public health but he added that no one could guarantee anything.

Elections would not be held by their constitutional deadline only in the event of a major health crisis, but I doubt that will happen, he said.

Asked if holding elections during the summer was an option, as speculated by some media, Jandroković said there had been no discussion about any deadlines in the HDZ, as the current situation did not allow any plans.

He noted that 47 countries had postponed different types of elections over the coronavirus crisis.

As for electronic voting and postal ballot, the HDZ is not considering it for the time being, he said.

Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) whip Arsen Bauk said that there were two conditions for holding elections - the right to public assembly and freedom of movement. Without that, elections would not be regular, he said.

"Once those conditions are met, the SDP will be ready for elections," he said.

Should it be impossible to meet those conditions, the Constitution provides for such situations and that option would then be activated, said Bauk.

The SDP is against electronic and postal voting because it would enhance the diaspora's influence on the election outcome and one would also not be able to prevent possible abuse, said Bauk.

Opposition Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) leader Krešo Beljak said that elections should be held as soon as the conditions were created. Beljak believes electronic voting would open a Pandora's box, noting that he would not trust the result of those elections.

Electioneering is impossible in the current situation and the question of legitimacy of such elections would arise, he said, calling for a consensus on the matter and noting that public health should be the main priority.

If the ruling majority decides to hold elections in the summer, that will mean that they want to profit from the crisis, Beljak said, adding that holding elections now would suit the HDZ as it believed that it would score better results thanks to the popularity of the team managing the coronavirus crisis and the new health minister.

MOST party leader Bozo Petrov said the HDZ was calculating with whether to go to the polls or not, the reason being that it is afraid that in two to three months' time, problems caused by the coronavirus epidemic as well as the government's belated response to it would become obvious.

Petrov again called for a budget revision and for the introduction of electronic and postal voting.

GLAS leader Anka Mrak-Taritaš said the minimum standards for elections were free movement and the possibility of public assembly.

If life is normalised to a certain degree, it would be much more appropriate to hold the elections in the autumn, she said, adding that electronic and postal voting is very good but that it would not be possible to organise it in the current situation.

Milorad Batinić, whip of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), a junior partner in the HDZ-led coalition, said that the election date depended on the epidemiological situation.

Should it not be possible to hold elections due to public health reasons, there are constitutional provisions that regulate how and when they can be held, he said, adding that the idea of electronic and postal voting was acceptable to his party.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 24 April 2020

MPs Harshly Respond to Statements by 2 MPs on Ethnic Minorities

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - During a parliamentary debate on the implementation of the constitutional law on ethnic minority rights in 2018 on Friday, SDP lawmaker Gordan Maras and independent MP Mario Vučetić accused MPs Miro Bulj and Hrvoje Zekanović of spreading intolerance and hatred.

Vučetić and Maras said that citizens were fed up with attempts by individuals to parasitise on ethnic minorities and on negative context.

Those who spread intolerance and hatred do not wish good for Croatia, and stupid nationalists are in favour of a model of governing like that in Serbia, they said in response to previous statements made by Bulj and Zekanović.

Bulj, a parliamentary deputy of the MOST party, said that ethnic minorities in Croatia were exercising their rights to a great extent, however, this was not the case with ethnic Croats in Serbia who were, he said, exposed to mobbing.

Bulj raised the question of reciprocity considering the respective minorities in Croatia and Serbia. In that context he recalled that ethnic Serbs have three seats allotted to them in the Sabor, on the other hand there was no allotted seat for Croats in Serbia.

Furthermore, Serbia sets aside one kuna per each member of the ethnic Croat community, while Croatia allocates 37 kuna for each member of the ethnic Serb community, he added.

Zekanović of the Sovereigntists Party, wondered whether the Serb National Council would be included in efforts to take on the burden of the corona crisis considering austerity measures, and in that context he raised the question whether millions of kuna would still be allocated to "that and other associations that spread hate speech."

He went on to say that although ethnic minorities are a benefit for Croatia's society, he insisted that it should not be forgotten that members of an ethnic minority took up arms against Croatia 30 years ago.

"We have not heard the leader of that minority offering a sincere apology," he said accusing the current government of being "a Croat-Serb-Roma coalition."

The parliamentary deputy of the Czech and Slovak minorities, Vladimir Bilek, responded that minorities should be seen as bridges between Croatia and other countries.

He said that in the past few years, Czechia and Slovakia had provided some 25 million kuna for infrastructure investments in Croatia.

Ante Babić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that Croatia was investing efforts to make sure that the status of ethnic Croats in Serbia could be improved. We would like their status to be improved, however that also depends on the other side, Babić said.

Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said that in 2018, a total of 173 million kuna was spent on the implementation of the law on ethnic minority rights, 29 million kuna more than in 2017.

More news about national minorities in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Parliament Speaker Says Election Date Has Not Been Discussed Yet

ZAGREB, April 16, 2020 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Wednesday that in the current crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic the parliament had entirely fulfilled its role, noting that the date of the next parliamentary election had not been discussed yet.

"At this moment, continuing the fight against the coronavirus and citizens' health and lives are our absolute priority. We have not thought about or discussed a date for the elections," Jandroković said in an interview with the HRT public broadcaster. He noted that elections could be held in December at the latest.

Jandroković could not rule out pay cuts for office holders. "We will see what the government will propose with regard to office-holders' salaries, I believe that they will be reduced if necessary," he said.

Jandroković also said that in the current crisis the parliament had successfully defended its status of a representative and legislative body and had completely fulfilled its role.

"We have adopted all important laws that concern the work of state institutions, we have sent a message of support to both the government and citizens to hold on as this is a difficult, unprecedented situation, but it will pass and we must emerge from it stronger," he said.

Jandroković also commented on the remark that the opposition and the ruling majority disagreed as to how measures to fight the coronavirus should be adopted, by an absolute or two-thirds majority, and the fact that he had sought the opinion of the Constitutional Court on the matter.

"The Constitutional Court did not do anything that would indicate that we have violated the Constitution or a law in any way, if the Constitutional Court considered something as unlawful or unconstitutional, it would react," he said.

Jandroković said that the parliament would evidently have to change the way it works because the crisis caused by the coronavirus was not likely to end soon.

The parliament's work should be adjusted to include online sessions or video conferences, he said in a comment on the MOST party's proposal for introducing online communication and electronic voting.

As for the SDP's request that ministers come to the parliament every week to answer MPs' questions, he said that it should be discussed as it would mean that there would no longer be Question Time.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 30 March 2020

SDP Calls for Parliament to Sit Mon-Fri for Duration of Epidemic

ZAGREB, March 30, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) wants parliament not to stop sitting for as long as the coronavirus epidemic lasts, recommending that parliament should sit from Monday to Friday and not from Wednesday to Friday as is now the case.

The chairman of the SDP's parliamentary group, Arsen Bauk, sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Monday calling for the current sitting to continue until 3 April as previously scheduled and that during that time the Sabor should sit every working day.

There are still 81 items on the agenda that have not been discussed yet, and the SDP forwarded a package of nine bills to parliament on March 27 aimed at supporting the economy during the crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic and which the party believes should be debated as soon as possible at a plenary session.

The strongest opposition party also proposed that at the meeting of the Sabor's presidency, scheduled for 1 April, a decision be adopted according to which the agenda would prioritise items related to relieving the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus epidemic.

The SDP further suggested that the number of lawmakers allowed to be present at the same time during a plenary session be determined using the same criteria as when determining the number of MPs per parliamentary group who can ask questions during Question Time and that the parliament's working bodies and presidency meetings be held via video conference due to the extraordinary circumstances.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Parliament Speaker to Request Opinion on Restrictions of Civil Liberties

ZAGREB, March 25, 2020 - The Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandroković, announced on Wednesday he would request an opinion of the Constitutional Court on "restrictions of civil liberties" imposed as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I will request an opinion of the Constitutional Court on whether we should apply Article 17 of the Constitution, meaning that the Croatian Parliament should decide by a two-third majority on restricting certain freedoms, or we can do so by directly applying Articles 16, 32 and 50 concerning freedom of movement and freedom of enterprise without Article 17," Jandroković told the press after a meeting of the Parliament Presidency.

He said that after the Court gives its opinion, he will organise a vote. "Protecting the health and lives of citizens is of paramount importance, but freedom, democracy and rule of law must also be taken into account," he added.

"Parliament is extremely important right now because it is a guarantor of democracy and rule of law. We are a law-making body and must insist on this for as long as necessary," Jandroković said.

He said that parliamentary debates will be shortened, each parliamentary group will have ten minutes to present its view on an item on the agenda and each MP will be allowed to take the floor for five minutes. Voting will be conducted by rotating groups of not more than 50 MPs.

Jandroković said that Parliament would sit in the old headquarters of the INA oil company until the quake-damaged Parliament building was repaired.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Jandroković: MPs Won't Convene in Parliament House Due to Damage

ZAGREB, March 22, 2020 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Sunday said that given the damage to Parliament House in the wake of the earthquake that hit Zagreb this morning, sessions cannot be held there until further notice.

Parliament House in Zagreb's Upper Town has suffered significant damage in the earthquake and the electricity, water and gas have been turned off.

"The damage is quite extensive. Walls and stairways have cracked on the upper floor and one section of the roof has been destroyed. The courtyard part of Parliament House has incurred more damage than the front," Jandroković told reporters.

Seeing that the earthquake occurred during the weekend, the Sabor was not in session and only members of the guard were in the building at the time of the earthquake.

"We will see what the damage is. However, that is not the main thing at the moment and it is more important to assist our people who have been left without a roof over their head," Jandroković said.

"We will see what we will do, whether we will convene in the small chamber or look for other premises," Jandroković said, adding that he was confident a solution would be found for the legislature to sit and continue adopting laws.

Parliament was supposed to sit on Wednesday.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

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