Sunday, 19 June 2022

Conflict of Interest Commission Fines Croatian PM Plenkovic 3000 Kuna

June the 19th, 2022 - At a recently held session, the Commission for Deciding on Conflict of Interest passed a unanimous decision according to which Croatian PM Plenkovic was fined 3,000 kuna for incompatibilities when listing his assets and income, which he can pay in three equal installments.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, this was confirmed by the President of the Commission, Natasa Novakovic, as reported by Dnevnik.hr, and the aforementioned commission launched proceedings against Croatian PM Plenkovic back in early October last year.

In the period from 2016 to 2018, he reported higher income for his wife than what was really the case. It was stated that her annual salary stood at 121,385 kuna, and during 2016, 2017 and 2018, she actually received significantly less than that because she was on maternity and then parental leave until the third year of their child's life.

In addition to that, Croatian PM Plenkovic failed to state that back in 1997, his wife inherited a third of a plot in the cadastral municipality of Makose near Dubrovnik, which spans a total of 759 square metres, with a house of 61 square metres also skipped.

Namely, the Prime Minister's wife is the co-owner of a third of the plot she inherited as a minor after her father's death and, as she claims, she didn't even know about the co-ownership share because she doesn't use the property whatsoever.

Officials are required to provide accurate information

Croatian PM Plenkovic did appealed against the decision of the Commission for Deciding on Conflict of Interest due to the proceedings initiated against him. In addition to his salary, his wife earned other income during that period, and she didn't consider it appropriate to report a smaller amount, it is stated in his statement, which was read on Friday at the session of the Commission.

As for not registering the property she acquired way back in 1997 in the municipality of Makose near Dubrovnik, it is stated that Ana Maslac Plenkovic didn't know that she had even become the co-owner of that property, so, as was stated in Plenkovic's statement, the Prime Minister himself couldn't have possibly known about it either.

It was explained at the session that this was only a very minor disparity, but it was also pointed out that officials are obliged to provide absolutely precise data.

Having in mind these two omissions, the Commission determined that there was indeed an issue, and that Croatian PM Plenkovic would have to pay a fine in the amount of three thousand kuna, which can be paid in three equal installments.

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

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Croatian MP Miro Bulj: There Could be No Worse Time for Eurozone Entry

June the 18th, 2022 - Croatian MP Miro Bulj has boldly claimed that there could be no worse time possible for Croatian Eurozone accession, for which it has had the green light and into which it will enter on the 1st of January 2023, replacing the kuna with the euro.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian MP Miro Bulj (MOST) spoke recently with N1 television about possible changes to the Law on Referendums. He says that MOST is against the way of defining which topics could be decided in a referendum. Bulj also believes that the imminent introduction of the euro couldn't be possibly coming at a worse time.

"In the sense of defining the topics [which could be decided in a referendum[, what they did with the constitutional referendum for which we collected 400 thousand signatures, is more than sad. We'll oppose it. We can change it to make it easier to collect signatures, not to limit them in advance and define the appropriate topics. We know that the Constitutional Court is under the control of HDZ, that these are the Godfathers and that it's a purely political body. That body is meaningless. We strongly oppose this and we will monitor how other political options will behave,'' warned Bulj, talking about the amendments to the Law on Referendums.

Croatian MP Miro Bulj also said that the HDZ had enjoyed great levels of support from other political parties when it came to the epidemiological measures introduced in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus, which had a hugely negative impact on the economy.

"It doesn't mean anything to them that we have more voters than we have residents, it's a disastrous proposal. This is a blow to the foundation of and the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia,'' believes Bulj.

"Where does one get the right to say that the constitutional changes for which MOST collected signatures aren't constitutional? They can't say what the people think about the Constitution. It was the same with the definition of marriage. This is a direct interference of HDZ and the Constitutional Court in the interest of Andrej Plenkovic, who has also taken over the judicial system. This isn't something new, it's a blow to democracy, it's shameful act and an anti-national blow to the Constitution,'' said Croatian MP Miro Bulj.

Bulj's beliefs on Croatian Eurozone accession

"It couldn't possibly be coming at a worse moment," Bulj said when asked if it was the right time to send the kuna to the history books and introduce the new currency, adding that we need to be taking care of our natural resources and as such, our farmers.

"We must help our farmers during these difficult times, not be spending our time on preparing to introduce the euro. It's clear to Finance Minister Zdravko Maric how much inflation will rise to and what will happen, but it's more important to listen to Brussels than the interest of the Croatian people. They've played games and it's obviously more important to Plenkovic to be the one to introduce the euro than listen to the interest of the people. Nobody knows what will happen when the euro is introduced,'' concluded Croatian MP Miro Bulj.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Could New Croatian Government Plans See Work Permitted Until 68?

June the 10th, 2022 - Could new Croatian Government plans see normal employment permitted for people until they reach the age of 68? While there are certainly many industries in which this would either not be possible or would simply be undesirable, it seems that it could well be on the cards.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, one of the most interesting novelties of the Croatian Government's legislative proposals is that it proposes extending the age until which a worker can be employed from 65 to 68 years of age, as confirmed by our interlocutors from the trade union and the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP).

At the same time, clearly, the age requirement for exercising the right to retirement remains 65 years in this country, which is prescribed by another law, Jutarnji list writes.

In other words, Croatian employers would not be able to terminate their employment contracts held with those employees who are turning 65 if the workers themselves do not want to agree to that, and after the age of 68, it will simply become a matter of agreement between the employee and the employer.

Of course, these new Croatian Government plans open up many questions, the most important of which being; who will want to work at that age, or in which industries is such a move remotely realistic? As HUP's negotiator for ZOR Nenad Seifert pointed out, when an employment contract is indeed terminated after an employee reaches 65 years of age, workers will not be entitled to any severance pay, given that they will then retire.

In the first version of the ZOR proposal, the age limit for the duration of employment was dropped, which, according to him, seemed somewhat insane.

Nevertheless, the Republic of Croatia is among the three European Union (EU) member states with a legal age limit for the termination of employment contracts. Fierce discussions were held in the negotiations on other issues, such as the extension of fixed-term contract periods.

Both the Ministry of Labour and the unions referred to data showing that the Republic of Croatia is at the infamous European top of the list (with an embarrassing share of more than 20 percent), and about 90 percent of new employment contracts are still concluded for a certain period of time, which is a very uncertain and often unwelcome form of work.

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

Friday, 3 June 2022

Croatian MEP Dubravka Suica Chosen as EPP's Vice President

June the 3rd, 2022 - Croatian MEP Dubravka Suica has been chosen as the new vice president of the European Peoples' Party (EPP).

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian MEP Dubravka Suica has been elected as vice president of the European People's Party, as reported by N1. On the occasion, she addressed the media, first thanking Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic who put her forward in his proposal for the position.

"I think we're strong at the European Union level, that we are respected within the EPP and we will be able to do something for the Republic of Croatia," she said.

Croatian MEP Dubravka Suica also pointed out that the EPP programme is compatible with the European Commission (EC) programme and that she does not see any significant differences in the work of the EPP and the EC.

"Strengthening the EPP depends on the situation across the EU's member states. We can see that progress is already happening in Germany, we're moving in the right direction and I hope that the three of us women within the first five candidates are a sign that gender equality is being respected and that women are going to be having an increasing level of influence in politics,'' she said, before going on to talk about some more important topics.

"Demography is very important, this isn't only a topic in the Republic of Croatia but across the entire EU as a bloc. I hope that we'll be able to implement the proposals we have adopted as well as possible. We live in difficult circumstances that we've otherwise never seen during this century, war, a global pandemic, everything going on keeps pushing us into even more problems and I hope, when it comes to Croatia, that we will manage to achieve deeper integration,'' Croatian MEP Dubravka Suica said, mentioning Croatia's accession to the Eurozone which has now been given the green light to occur on the 1st of January, 2023, as well as hopes for the country's future Schengen entry.

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

Thursday, 5 May 2022

MP Katarina Peovic Says Minimum Croatian Wage Should be 10,000 Kuna

May the 5th, 2022 - MP Katarina Peovic believes that in order to comfortable cover all costs of living, from rent to loan repayments to food, utility bills and everything else that might come up from month to month, the minimum Croatian wage should be 10,000 kuna per month.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Workers' Front MP Katarina Peovic was a guest in the Newsroom on N1 television recently, where she commented on the changes made to the Labour Law.

"It started all being talked about because at the beginning of the pandemic, the Government wanted to suspend a good part of the Labour Law. Various unions from across Europe reacted to that, so Plenkovic instead decided to do it step by step and Minister Aladrovic was given the task of coming up with a new Labour Law which would include suspensions under the justification of regulating work from home,'' said MP Katarina Peovic, adding:

"This has been being done in secret and in non-transparent conditions for a year and a half now. What comes out of it isn't good - to have more flexibility in terms of working hours, the workplace, but to the detriment of the employees themselves. It's criminal that we received the draft law without the Government ever having made it public. I'll state without hesitation what we've seen. If an employee is unable to meet something introduced in the draft (such as having to deal with unpredictable working hours), then they will be allowed to switch to part-time work, especially if they're in a situation like needing to care for a child, an elderly person or someone who isn't well,'' Peovic said.

"We suggest shortening the working week down from 40 to 35 working hours"

Asked what the most important emphases we can take from this are, and what the changes that will bring better conditions for workers about are, MP Katarina Peovic said: "First, the most important thing is to arrange the institute of temporary work. We were the first in all of Europe in terms of having rather precarious and non-standard employment contracts, now we're in second place. This is a plague in this country, about 21% of people are working on fixed-term contracts. We've proposed that the three-year limit be reduced to one year. Secondly, we propose shortening the working week from 40 down to 35 working hours. Croats work more than the European average, around 10 hours more than the Dutch do per week.

"The definition of a basic salary is important. Workers working for minimum wage work overtime and even on Sundays in order to reach the minimum wage, which is completely unacceptable," she added.

"Our average salary is at the level of the Slovenian minimum"

She pointed out that she often agrees with the ruling party when it comes to detecting the problem, but not when it comes to proposing a proper and working solution: "If there is one topic that should connect the left-leaning parties, then it's the topic of work. We've been following Croatia's race to the absolute bottom for decades. We have over 800,000 able-bodied people who are unemployed. We're a country that has no solution for almost a million able-bodied people. Such a country cannot prosper. We cannot reduce ourselves to tourism alone. Our average salary is at the Slovenian minimum level, and our cost of living is no higher than that of Slovenia.''

MP Katarina Peovic also revealed what the Croatian minimum wage according to the research should be:

"The new union conducted an in-depth research and stated that the minimum wage that could cover all living expenses should be over 10 thousand kuna."

For more, make sure to check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

What Are Government's Next Steps if Croatian Inflation Continues?

May the 4th, 2022 - If Croatian inflation continues and becomes worse, posing more issues for the pockets of the country's already struggling residents following coronavirus-induced lockdowns and restrictions, just what does the government have up its sleeve to combat it? Finance Minister Zdravko Maric has claimed that there is still ''munition'' to be released in this sense.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric also answered the question as to whether the Croatian inflation rate will end up reaching double-digit figures: "I wouldn't go that far. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic all recorded double-digit rates back in March. Some of them even nearly 16 percent. Croatia hasn't done so yet,'' he said.

Maric spoke on Dnevnik Nova TV about problematic fuel prices, the situation on the gas market, Croatian inflation, the impact the current situation is having on the Eurozone, which Croatia is on schedule to join in 2023, as well as the current state of the Croatian budget.

Minister Maric first commented on whether the acceleration of Croatian inflation is going to continue to pose a very serious threat to the country because of everything that is unfolding globally, with the ongoing Ukraine war included.

"According to the latest projections, the average rate this year is 7.8 percent. Considering that the last published data said it would be 7.3, and before that the inflation rates were slightly lower, unfortunately my answer to your question is yes," he stated, before going on to discuss the aforementioned topic of potential of double-digit Croatian inflation.

Inflation has suddenly become a key variable on Croatia's path to the Eurozone, which it is due to enter early next year.

"We've been talking about the budget for years, and in the end, neither the public debt nor the budget deficit is a topic. Croatia has been exactly between the Eurozone and the EU average for the last 12 months," he said.

"In the middle of this month, we'll have the data for April, both for Croatia and for all EU countries. This will be the last input that enters the convergence report. At the beginning of June, the European Central Bank and the European Commission will publish this report separately. I really believe we'll get a positive outcome. The official decision should come in early July,'' added the minister. He also said that he wasn't in favour of delaying Croatia's entry into the Eurozone, which some are calling for owing to this dire situation. He believes that the Eurozone shows the best benefits during times of crisis. VAT for certain product categories was planned to be reduced when Croatia switches to the Euro, but the government slashed it beforehand anyway.

"If necessary, we have more ammunition to help people out in this situation," said the minister, before speaking about the healthcare system and whether he sees any room for much needed reforms there."Drugstores write to us periodically, both to my colleague Health Minister Vili Beros and to me. We have a fair relationship. Unfortunately, the payment deadlines for both hospitals and pharmacies have risen again. They've reached a level of over 180 days, and for some hospitals, that level is now over 200 days,'' said the Minister, and when asked how much the healthcare system's debt is and whether he knows how many ''holes'' there are when it comes to that, he answered: ''Unfortunately, I do know because every month that hole increases, meaning obligations grow, and it's been between 400 and 500 million over the last few months.'' he stated.

For more on Croatian inflation, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Croatian MEPs Call for Swift Amendment of Bosnia Election Law

ZAGREB, 9 March 2022 - The European Union (EU) Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi  on Tuesday informed the European Parliament (EP) on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and called for agreement on Bosnia's election law, while Croatian MEPs urged the amendment of that legislation soon.

The developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the topics on the agenda of the EP on Tuesday in Strasbourg, and during the discussion members of the EP agreed that the war in Ukraine had also made the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina more complicated.

Last week, the EU increased its military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 600 to 1,100 personnel by sending reserves from Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia to prevent potential instability there following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last Saturday, France announced training flights over Bosnia and Herzegovina in light of the deteriorated international security situation.

"Thirty years after the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the war is back on European soil. Once again, we are witnessing extreme human suffering, with many lives lost and millions fleeing Ukraine," said the Commissioner.

"The last weeks and the changing geopolitical constellations have brought the need for peace back on the top of our agenda. This also means that the stability and security of the Western Balkans have never been so important as they are today!"

"A lot of hope and efforts have been put in the ongoing talks on the electoral and constitutional reform, but a solution is not yet there. It should be found urgently and without any further delay," he added.

"Fair, free and inclusive elections must take place in October, as scheduled," Várhelyi underscored.

He called on Bosnian Serb representatives to take steps "to deescalate tensions, to avoid further rhetoric and to ensure the swift return to State institutions and ensure their full functioning."

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula of the S&D group said that outvoting one of the three peoples "is direct abuse of the system".

MEP Željana Zovko (EPP) recalled the City of Mostar as example after its citizens have not been able to elect their representatives for 12 years.

"Let us make Bosnia and Herzegovina and its election law successful and give people a chance to exercise their voting rights", she said.

MEP Tomislav Sokol (EPP) said that the urgent amendment of the election law was a precondition for the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He elaborated that the matter of the protection of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina concerns the preservation of fundamental European values including the rule of law, and it also represented a key to stability of that part of Europe.

German Green MEP Romeo Franz said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression against Ukraine is an attack on Europe and the European values.

"Putin wants to push Bosnia and Herzegovina back to the past and his biggest ally is (Bosnia Serb leader) Milorad Dodik", Franz said during the debate.

For more information on this, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

PM: Construction Minister Nominee's Experience, Enthusiasm to Contribute to Government

ZAGREB, 9 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday presented the nominated minister of construction, Ivan Paladina, in the parliament, and said that the candidate's experience and enthusiasm are supposed to be a useful contribution to his cabinet.

"The government needs a man with the experience in the construction sector, project management, and real estate and with managerial and entrepreneurial skills so as to make the processes more dynamic," Plenković said at the joint meeting of the parliamentary committees on construction and the economy.

Paladina, born in 1983, graduated from a faculty of economics and has also a postgraduate degree in management. He used to be an advisor to the management of Hrvatska Poštanska Bank (HPB) and before that he had been the chair of the management board of the IGH Institut construction company.

The PM said today that the ministerial department of construction and zoning had three important tasks: to accelerate the post-quake reconstruction, to make the issuance of building permits and other documents faster and simpler in order to boost the investment cycle, as well as to make use of the state property.

For more information on this, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Opposition Says Croatian Problems Mustn't be Ignored Due to War in Ukraine

ZAGREB, 2 March 2022 - Party groups in parliament on Wednesday unanimously condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine, but part of them warned that Croatia's internal affairs must not be neglected because of the war in Ukraine.

Russia's attack on Ukraine is not an argument against the government's fall but an argument in favour of the government's fall, the war cannot be used as a fig leaf to cover up crime, said Nino Raspudić (Bridge), recalling the problems the government has with former minister Darko Horvat and incumbent minister Josip Aladrović.

PM called on to replace ministers the public no longer has confidence in

"In such a dangerous geopolitical situation, having the top of government riddled with crime and corruption is a security threat for Croatia, such people can be blackmailed, and that's why this government has to leave," said Raspudić.

Dalija Orešković (Centre) thinks similarly and she pointed out this was an opportunity to realise how much internal mechanisms of control are important for democracy and peace.

"While the world wonders if there's anyone in the Kremlin who can stop Putin, we must ask ourselves if Croatia today is what we wanted it to be if the HDZ's rule is unquestionable regardless of the amount of corruption," she said, calling on the prime minister to replace the ministers the public no longer had confidence in.

"We don't know what awaits us and it's important that we have a stable government, and many things don't point to such a conclusion," said Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement.

He said Croatia couldn't afford a government in the shadow of corruption scandals, stressing that the prime minister had a great responsibility to make decisive moves.

Krešo Beljak (HSS) underscored that Croatia had to protect its own interests in the crisis, suggesting that leaders of Western Balkan countries sit down and talk about defusing tensions so that the conflict doesn't expand.

Marijan Pavliček (Croatian Sovereignists) said Croatia had to be ready to receive Ukrainian refugees, work hard to increase the capacities of strategic commodity stocks and raise military readiness.

"The Croatian army must be on the eastern borders of the country," said Pavliček, adding that after Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić did not join the EU in condemning Russia, the Danube would be the border between the east and the west, and stability and instability.

Groups of the parliamentary majority gave their full support to the government measures to help Ukraine and expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

The government reacted quickly, a few hours after the aggression, noted Branko Bačić (HDZ), pleased that the Croatian Postal Bank (HPB) was taking over Sberbank.

Bačić: Passivity in current situation would be immoral

In response to warnings that the sanctions against Russia, in which Croatia is also involved, would affect the Croatian economy, Bačić asked -- what's the alternative?

"Passivity is a situation like this would be immoral, it is important that Croatia sided with justice and freedom", he said, calling on Putin and Russia to stop the aggression and start peace talks.

In a debate on the prime minister's report on the situation in Ukraine, MPs also warned about the possible repercussions of the war for Croatia's neighbourhood.

Our interest, as an EU member, is to engage intensively with the neighbourhood, said Milorad Pupovac (SDSS), noting that the area of former Yugoslavia that is not integrated into the EU, as well as Albania, should be of special interest.

Veljko Kajtazi (Roma minority) hopes that everything happening with Ukraine will be an incentive to the EU to grant it the status of a membership candidate.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Despite Horvat Scandal, PM Plenkovic Manages to Avoid Snap Elections

February the 24th, 2022 - PM Plenkovic has had his hands full with the most recent scandal involving former Minister Darko Horvat, but he's managed to avoid any snap elections.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the development of events and the latest reshuffles on the Croatian political scene and the increasingly serious military security crisis in which the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin are of growing concern have been being followed with trepidation recently.

PM Plenkovic wanted to see Croatian People's Party (HNS) leader Stjepan Curaj placed in the position of Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property after Darko Horvat was arrested a few days ago. Curaj is also currently state secretary in the Ministry of Finance, but despite his resume, the idea didn't work with PM Plenkovic's coalition partners.

Stjepan Curaj is otherwise a lawyer and the fact that there are no references to his name that would make him particularly desirable for the leading position in the construction department has sparked heated debates over the Prime Minister's intention to position him in such an important position, just after the European Commission gave Croatia another year to use cash from the Solidarity Fund.

In addition, Curaj has been reproached for being in a wave of recent questions about the character of politicians and the use of benefits covered by the state budget and his name having emerged on that infamous list.

PM Plenkovic definitely wants to avoid any snap or early elections, but with the latest developments, he will probably not take the opportunity to "clean start" and introduce completely new, unblemished people from the profession. The question is still open as to what further consequences there will be for the functioning of the Government and other state bodies if he is forced to make changes in some other positions.

Whether he will be able to push his mandate right through to the end with this level of shaky credibility and whether there will be disruptions at lower levels in decision-making after all of this are some of the questions that can be heard from the political, analytical and even economic ranks. Unfortunately, all this is happening in the midst of strained relations and an increasingly serious crisis in which Russia is leading with the recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine, and which will cause a wave which will inevitably spill over into the Croatian economy.

Not only will the likely sanctions against Russia, announced from Western countries against Russian banks and companies, again hamper trade, which last year exceeded 5 billion kuna, but the consequences will all be felt indirectly, through rising oil and gas prices that will close access Russian raw materials and their procurement in other markets. The new sanctions, which in the case of the EU should be similar to those put in place back in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, will be felt through business with EU member states that have extensive trade with Russia, such as Germany, one of Croatia's most important foreign trade partners.

Therefore, a new global military and economic crisis is imminent, and the current proverbial earthquakes (thank God they're at least not real ones this time) we're experiencing due to rising electricity and gas prices and the threat of inflation will not be tackled until April the 1st. Let's hope that date carries none of its traditional meaning, either.

"We're live between unpredictable events, and predictability is a prerequisite for stability, which is essential for successful business," said Damir Zoric, director general of the Croatian Employers' Association.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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