Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Jandroković Receives British, Spanish and Chinese Ambassadors

ZAGREB, 9 Feb 2022 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Wednesday received the ambassadors to Croatia from the United Kingdom, Spain and China - Simon Derek Thomas, Alonso Dezcallar De Mazarredo and Qi Qianjin, to discuss closer cooperation with their respective countries, the parliament said in a press release.

Jandroković and British Ambassador Thomas talked about defence cooperation and partnership within the framework of NATO and economic relations. In particular, they welcomed the progress in strengthening cooperation in the IT industry, research and development, technology and smart cities, the press release stated.

They cited company, Rimac Automobili, expanding its business to Great Britain as an example of excellent cooperation in the technology sector.

Jandroković and Thomas spoke about the current situation in Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of Southeast Europe.

In his talks with Spanish Ambassador De Mazarredo, Jandroković said that relations with Spain were "very good and friendly, with a intention of intensifying in all areas of common interest."

Croatia and Spain recorded positive trade results in 2021 and good cooperation in the fields of energy, transport and tourism.

Jandroković said he was pleased with the number of Spanish tourists to Croatia last year despite the pandemic.

The newly appointed ambassador presented Jandroković with an invitation to a Spain-Croatia inter-parliamentary forum. Jandroković accepted the invitation from Spain's parliament speaker and said he hoped the forum would enable even more cooperation between the two countries.

Ambassador Qi Qianjin was on an inaugural visit to the parliament. He and Jandroković pointed out the Pelješac Bridge as the best example of cooperation, saying that the bridge would be open to traffic this year year, marking 30 years of diplomatic relations between Croatia and China.

With the aim of strengthening inter-parliamentary cooperation, Jandroković accepted an invitation to attend a video meeting with the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Li Zhanshu.

In addition to important projects like the Senj wind park, an important Chinese investment project in Croatia, also discussed were other areas with the potential to strengthen economic cooperation within the China+16 Initiative.

The meeting highlighted the significance of Chinese visitors for Croatia's tourism and expressed hope for even more Chinese tourists in the years to come, the press release said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

As Croatian Fuel Prices Soar, Minister Tomislav Coric Talks Intervention

February the 8th, 2022 - Fuel prices are rising once again and Economy Minister Tomislav Coric has promised that the state will intervene as the situation continues to unfold.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, recently, a session of the Economic and Social Council was held, after which, Minister Tomislav Coric spoke in a statement to the media about the procurement and prices of natural gas, as reported by N1.

He commented on the rise in fuek prices, stating that nobody could have expected such a jump and that the current situation could not have been predicted.

Asked if time had shown that they had made a mistake in choosing a methodology such as the one chosen back in 2016, Minister Tomislav Coric said no, because no one could have predicted the current situation: "Changing the methodology at this time won't result in anything."

He said he couldn't say at this time exactly how much fuel prices would would continue to rise. "I saw in the media that it was 30 percent. The logic is that we'll have to find funds for that, at the expense of the state budget. If the thesis about the 30 percent increase is correct, it's equal to about 55-56 million kuna more,'' he said.

He reiterated that Croatia and the world is currently in a phase of a huge shock to both fuel and oil prices.

Asked whether or not the Croatian Government had already submitted a request for a review of the arbitration for the INA-MOL shareholder agreement, he said: ''Tomorrow is the deadline for that and the government will react within the deadline. Everything is ready, such requests are usually submitted on the last day of the deadline.''

He touched on Damir Vandjelic's accusation that the governments acted to the detriment of INA and didn't react when necessary. He said that he cooperated correctly with Vandjelic when he was a member of the INA Supervisory Board.

"From the things he'd been saying, it seemed to me that he's been questioning the actions and reactions and processes in the Republic of Croatia and is thus slowly becoming politically engaged, even though he's been politically inactive all the time. I welcome his political moment and place his comments in the context of his political engagement.''

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 7 February 2022

Ambassador Says Serbia, Croatia Need to Intensify Political Cooperation

7 February 2022 - Political cooperation between Serbia and Croatia needs to be stronger, Croatian Ambassador in Belgrade Hidajet Biščević said in an interview with a Belgrade newspaper on Monday, stressing that economic cooperation and trade were good and that cultural cooperation was increasingly good.

"I have to be honest and say that our political cooperation needs to be stepped up... there have been, for a long time, no meetings at the highest level, too often daily events, statements and incidents set us back. At the same time, that has almost no effect on our economic cooperation and trade, while cultural cooperation has been increasingly more relaxed," Biščević told the Monday issue of the Kurir tabloid.

The ambassador said that a large portion of ordinary citizens, on both sides, ignore old stereotypes and that new generations are coming for which, "despite the parallel histories", "new windows are slowly opening in many ways."

Asked to comment on his statement that "the legacy of the past is too big and has lasted too long", Biščević suggested that "time and patience" as well as "turning to a culture of cooperation instead of insisting on old stereotypes" are necessary.

Asked to comment on announcements in Croatia that Zagreb would block Serbia's accession to the EU, the ambassador categorically dismissed the claims as incorrect.

"I have said on many occasions here that Serbia's EU membership is Croatia's key strategic interest, for us to be part of the European family, share the same values and standards, regulate our relations in the European spirit of tolerance, respect for differences and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and for the European context to serve as a platform for us to overcome the past," Biščević said.

He added that Croatia setting conditions, slowing down or delaying "the realisation of that clearly stated strategic interest" would be a paradox.

He stressed EU entry talks were not about setting conditions or blockades but about "respect for the negotiating rules."

"The EU has clear fundamental negotiating rules and conditions - those who do not accept them block themselves and shifting responsibility to a member state is of no help," he said.

Commenting on the case of Matej Periš, a young man from Split who went missing in Belgrade in the night between 30 and 31 December 2021, the ambassador said that there were a lot of unknowns in that case, but noted that Serbian police were doing their job professionally and with commitment and that they had been cooperating with Croatian police on the case.

Friday, 4 February 2022

Croatian Political Parties: A Brief Summary

 4 February 2022 – Many words can be used to describe Croatian politics: controversial, sensitive, dull, exciting, but confusing stands out as the word that I think many of us would associate most strongly with the topic. A closer look into Croatian political parties. 

Political misperception represents a common challenge globally. In an age where misinformation campaigns are rampant, the task of discerning fact from fiction is becoming evermore arduous and personal. Moreover, for the diaspora, the Croatian political establishment can present as a bit of a Blackbox. However, our votes matter, as does our political engagement. To make an informed decision about who should receive our support in the Sabor, clear information about each party and its objectives must be available to public members. In hopes of providing some clarity, I have created a summary of some of Croatia's leading political parties, providing a brief description of each platform and prominent figures that you may recognize the next time you go to the polls.

Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica

Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica (HDZ), or the Croatian Democratic Union, is one of Croatia's two major political parties and is the party of current Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. HDZ runs on a center-right platform, governing with an ideology of conservatism, Christian democracy, and pro-Europeanism. HDZ has been the leading government in Croatia for most of the period since independence. In coalition with several smaller parties, HDZ forms the current majority in the Sabor. The party has been in power since 2016 when it won on a policy platform that party members describe as being "devoid of extremes and populism." As the party leader, Plenković has kept mainly to this moto, leading Croatia towards further European integration without creating much significant scandal since he came to power approximately five years ago.

Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) is the major center-left movement in Croatia, serving as the primary opposition to HDZ. The party's ideology is self-explanatory, but generally, the SDP aims to apply social democratic values to improve Croatian society, subscribing to liberal progressive and pro-European values. President Zoran Milanović is likely the party's most well-recognized member in contemporary politics, serving as the Prime Minister from 2011-2016. The current party leader is Peđa Grbin, a lawyer from the coastal town of Pula. With 14 seats in the Sabor, SDP forms the official opposition in a coalition with various other parties on the same political spectrum.

Domovinski Pokret

Domovinski Pokret (DP), or Homeland Movement in English, is a right-wing populist party founded by musician turned politician Miroslav Škoro. The party runs on a platform of conservatism, nationalism, and soft Euroscepticism. A newcomer to Croatian politics, the party was founded in 2020 by Škoro after he left HDZ to take a farther right-wing stance. Škoro's DP garnered 16 seats in the Sabor in the national election. However, the celebrity musician resigned from leadership in July of last year and has since been replaced by Ivan Penava as party president. Despite its novel status, it will be interesting to see how the DP performs going forward as the DP represents a growing populist trend in European politics.

Možemo!

Možemo! or "We Can!" in English is another political newcomer who debuted in the 2019 EU elections. The party subscribes to an ideology of left-wing green politics, Eco-socialism, and Progressivism, in many ways a counterbalance to the DP. Uniquely, there is no party president, instead opting for governance by collective leadership. Despite not winning any seats in the European parliament, Možemo! has been gaining ground at a pace that has turned heads amongst the Croatian liberal sphere, even attracting the support of American actor Jane Fonda. In the 2020 parliamentary election, Možemo! in coalition with other green-left parties, managed to attain 4 seats in the Sabor. However, their most impressive feat came in 2021 when the party managed to win 40% of the Zagreb local elections, allowing them to form a government within the city assembly.

Looking to the Future

While far from exhaustive, the list above provides a general idea of the political options available to voters in future elections. The beauty of democracy is that everyone gets a voice. In recent years, voter turnout has been low, standing at only 46.44% in Croatia's most recent parliamentary election. While there are likely many reasons for this mediocre figure, public disillusion with their political leaders cannot be ignored as a likely contributing factor. By outlining just a handful of the choices available to voters, I hope that I have demonstrated that Croatian politicians are as diverse as their electorate.

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

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

National Security Committee: Different Opinions on Attack on Government Headquarters

ZAGREB, 2 Feb 2022 - Members of the Croatian Parliament's Home Affairs and National Security Committee on Wednesday failed to agree on whether the attack committed by Danijel Bezuk on government offices in Zagreb in October 2020 was an act of an individual or if certain social and political groups were behind it. 

"Conclusions have been adopted but there will be dissenting opinions, by me and Mišel Jakšić, because we partly did not agree with the position of the ruling party," Committee chair Siniša Hajdaš Dončić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said after the session.

"My impression is that it was an act of an individual," he added when pressed by reporters to state his position.

23-year-old Danijel Bezuk of Kutina opened fire from a machine gun at the government offices in St. Mark's Square on 12 October 2020, wounding a security officer. Prosecutors investigated the case as an act of terrorism and the criminal report was dismissed in July 2021 as shortly after the shooting, the young man committed suicide.

Hajdaš Dončić confirmed that the session discussed right-wing extremism, but also stressed that the case had nothing to do with right-wing political parties.

"I have not seen any political party, not even right-wing political parties active in the parliament, call for an armed rebellion or extremism," he said.

Hajdaš Dončić said that he had called the session of the committee due to the different interpretations by PM Andrej Plenković, the State Attorney's Office, the Ministry of the Interior and the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) of the terrorist attack on the government offices.

"I wanted it to be cleared up if the institutions generally enjoy PM Plenković's trust since he earlier expressed partial suspicion regarding certain reports," Hajdaš Dončić said.

He added that the key question was if the attacker had acted on his own, or as a member of a social or political network.

Hajdaš Dončić said that the committee also discussed if there was "something more" than posts on social networks over which some people were arrested.

Committee member Željko Sačić (Croatian Sovereignists) said that he had walked out of the session as the first item on the agenda was discussed; the attack on the government offices, because he disagreed with the conclusion proposed by Hajdaš Dončić.

"I was surprised because the discussion went in a different direction and then Hajdaš Dončić proposed a conclusion under which a crazy terrorist act was to be described as an act of right-wing radicalism," said Sačić.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Opposition Agrees Đerek's Allegations are Reason Enough for Government to Fall

ZAGREB, 2 Feb 2022 - Parliamentary opposition parties on Wednesday mostly agreed with President Zoran Milanović's statement that if only half of what whistleblower Maja Đerek had said about the Državne Nekretnine state property management company was true, it was reason enough for the government to fall.

Social Democrat Ivana Posavec Krivec said there was no reason to doubt Đerek's statement and that Parliament should investigate further. 

Bridge's Marija Selak Raspudić said that the government should fall first and foremost because of its failure to rebuild Zagreb and the Banovina region after the earthquakes, and because of its incompetence and irresponsibility which put citizens in a highly unfavourable position.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc said that it was the government's duty to allow for Đerek's allegations to be investigated, rather than allow its minister to argue with the former Državne Nekretnine employee through the media. 

"We want to see if the allegations are true, and if they are, someone should take responsibility, and that for sure is Minister Mario Banožić at least," Benčić said, adding that there were many other reasons for the government to fall.

"To begin with, there is no post-earthquake reconstruction. Then there is the pandemic, in which we have become the worst in the world in terms of the number of deaths per million people. There are corruption scandals cropping up one after another. The only thing worse than economic inflation is inflation of their corruption scandals," Benčić said.

Vesna Vučemilović of the Croatian Sovereignists said, "what is worrying is the fact that not just state officials, but civil servants such as heads of directorates, also use state-owned apartments."

"Calling for the fall of the government is rhetoric appropriate to opposition politicians, but President Milanović is part of the government. His rhetoric is a bit strange and I would prefer him to pay more attention to demographics and other vital issues," Vučemilović added.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Government to Cap Rising Croatian Fuel Prices Again?

January the 21st, 2022 - Rising Croatian fuel prices was an issue for drivers several weeks ago, more precisely back at the tail end of 2021, and the government had to step in and place a cap on the price of fuel in order to make the situation sustainable. It looks as if the same is going to need to be done again with a new packet of measures.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the government is set to compile a new package of measures to reduce the impact of rising energy prices on people if prices continue to rise, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced on Wednesday.

''In the case of price increases, in addition to limiting Croatian fuel prices, we'll raise the fees provided to socially disadvantaged households, and when it comes to the price of electricity and gas, we're going to be relying on HEP, which can take over and reduce the impact on people and households,'' announced Plenkovic in response to a question on the matter asked by Mirela Ahmetovic (SDP).

As the third element, PM Plenkovic mentioned VAT, which amounts to 13 percent for electricity and 25 percent for gas. He explained that the rise in energy prices was caused by supply disruptions, the ongoing disruption as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and extremely high demand.

"Households across the Republic of Croatia haven't yet seen an increase in electricity prices and will not experience them until April the 1st, and the same is true with the price of gas," he assured.

Earlier on Wednesday, he announced that the state could step in and limit Croatian fuel prices again, if prices continue to rise next week.

When it comes to the price of Croatian fuel prices, the government limited the price to approximately 11 kuna just three months ago and kept that price for a period of two months, thus avoiding a blow to driver's wallets and bank accounts.

"After that, we left things to the market, and yet we noticed that the current fuel prices are higher once again. If we have an estimate that the price will continue to rise next week, we will once again step in and place a cap on Croatian fuel prices, with the exception of premiums,'' concluded Plenkovic.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

The Blame Game: Reactions to Croatian 2021 Census Varied

January the 16th, 2022 - There have been a varied range of reactions to the recently revealed official Croatian 2021 Census results, from shock and references to ''catastrophe'' to those who most absolutely expected such an underwhelming result.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after the Central Bureau of Statistics published the first official data from the Croatian 2021 Census, according to which 3,888,529 people live in the Republic of Croatia, the first reactions have arrived.

"We expected the population to be less than 3.8 million," said Croatian demographer Stjepan Sterc, who was a recent guest on N1's live studio. He added that little was said about Croatia losing almost 400,000 inhabitants.

"This is an incredible catastrophe for Croatia, to lose 400,000 inhabitants and that there is no reaction to it or awareness of it," added demographer Sterc.

Member of Parliament Katarina Peovic also commented on the results of the Croatian 2021 Census as a guest in N1's studio.

"It must be said openly that people have been expelled from the country. The birth rate is low everywhere, but in Croatia there are measures that force young people to leave the country. For the first time, we have a situation where young people have worse living conditions than their parents did. Young people are creating a surplus of the population, they're deemed unnecessary and this country does not intend to use them. We have a million unemployed people, no country can prosper if there are so many people who are deemed to be unnecessary to it,'' said Peovic.

"The devastating results of the Croatian 2021 Census are a defeat to all those who led this country first and foremost, for the last ten years! But what's even more of a concern is their deep misunderstanding of the problem they're trying to solve with the measure Choose Croatia - which would pay people to return here,'' said the head of Nova ljevica (New Left), Ivana Kekin, on Twitter.

The prefect of Vukovar-Srijem County, Damir Dekanic, commented on the Croatian 2021 Census results and the fact that his county has almost 20 percent fewer people than it did before 2011. "I have to admit that this result is, unfortunately, expected," said Dekanic, adding that a large number of people from the county he's in charge of left with Croatia's entry into the European Union (EU).

"HDZ is not in power in the Czech Republic, so the results of the population in the Czech Republic are because people have moved out of the country when it joined the European Union," he said in response to people criticising HDZ as the results came in.

"The general climate of return should be created first, just as the general climate of departure was created in the media," Dekanic added.

Rajko Ostojic considers the results of the Croatian 2021 Census utterly catastrophic. "Corruption, crime and clientelism are the main reasons why people are leaving Croatia," said Ostojic as a guest on the N1 live studio.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

EC Tells Government: No Deadline Extension for Spending on Reconstruction

January the 15th, 2022 - The European Commission (EC) has told the Croatian Government that there will categorically be no deadline extension for spending on reconstruction projects for post-earthquake procedures.

As Index vijesti writes, the European Commission has refused to extend the deadline for the Republic of Croatia to use the funds from the Solidarity Fund and added that there is no consideration whatsoever being given to the proposed deadline extension of eighteen months to use the funds from the day the money was paid to the country, Jutarnji list unofficially reported.

Another Croatian publication, Telegram, has since published accurate quotations from a letter from the European Commission sent to the Croatian Government. It is clear from the letter that Croatia cannot receive a deadline extension for the spending of a massive 5.1 billion kuna from the Solidarity Fund.

"It was clarified that the EU Solidarity Fund Regulation doesn't provide for an extension of eighteen months for its implementation, and my colleagues explained that the costs of the first damage as a result of the original event (Zagreb earthquake) back in March 2020 are acceptable. Given its limited amount and timeframe, the EU Solidarity Fund should be used for emergency rehabilitation, while other means are more appropriate for significant and long-term reconstruction,'' reads the European Commission's letter signed by Sofia Alves of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the EC.

This means that the Republic of Croatia will need to return part of the amount totalling 5.1 billion kuna because it will not be able to spend it until June the 17th, when the deadline is set.

Croatia will have to finance these projects contracted so far from other EU sources

The European Commission also requested that the Croatian Government's decision to establish special departments within the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning, which were established exclusively for work on the Fund, be sent.

Special services within the Ministry were established only in December last year, one entire year after initially receiving the funds. They also noted that the funds of the Solidarity Fund are intended for emergency operations after damages, while the funds of other funds can be used for other projects.

On December the 27th, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said he hoped that the European Commission would accept Croatia's argument for a deadline extension. It seems that there will be none of that, which means that the country will have to finance the projects agreed so far from other EU sources, which means less money for development projects.

Plenkovic's ministers: Nobody sought postponement

Plenkovic's ministers, Obuljen Korzinek, Bozinovic and Horvat all claimed that no one had actually asked the European Commission for a deadline extension, nor that this letter published by Telegram (linked above) was rejected.

"These are incorrect allegations, the merits of the letter were to confirm what was discussed at the meeting, and the implementation of the projects financed from the Fund was discussed, as was the method of reporting. The letter reads the follow-up of our technical meeting with the EC during December and at which we agreed on the dynamics of further work. The aim of the letter was to confirm what was agreed at the meeting,'' claimed Obuljen Korzinek.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Late Mayor Milan Bandic's Assets Total Three Million Euros?

January the 6th, 2022 - The late Mayor Milan Bandic, who passed away back in spring last year from what was then reported as a massive heart attack, has left a very long legacy behind him. From political scandals and serious allegations to being a longtime corruption suspect followed closely by USKOK, one cannot ever say that the former Zagreb mayor had a boring life.

His widow, Vesna Bandic, about whom we recently wrote, has stated that she doesn't know where all this money ''hidden away with friends'' the late Mayor Milan Bandic was claimed to have, but it seems that the assets we do know about could be worth a massive three million euros in total.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the legacy of the late Mayor Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic is extensive, and his assets could be worth at least 20 million kuna today, Jutarnji list reported recently.

This is of course if you count the well-known properties, movables and works of art Bandic had possession of both here in Croatia and in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were linked to the former mayor by the Zagreb County Court and are scattered on several sides, some with his brother Drago Bandic and others with the Brzica family from Imotski.

In short, the court attributed four apartments in Zagreb worth about 10 million kuna, a cottage in Samobor, some works of art and oldtimers, and a property in Herzegovina worth 10 million kuna to the late Mayor Milan Bandic.

The story of Milan Bandić's mythical properties and assets, which is almost impossible to trace in its entirety, was recently updated by Bandic's widow Vesna Bandic, who said in an interview with Jutarnji that she could soon be left without everything, about which you can read in more detail in the link provided above. According to official data, only a part of Bandic's estimated legacy now belongs to her.

In the interview, she said that after her husband's death, she owned a part of the property Buzanova street, a cottage in Samobor and a part of the property in Herzegovina, a luxurious property in Grude in an area that has become known for being closely tied to Bandic and his cash. The problem now, according to Vesna Bandic, is that she cannot reach an agreement with her late husband's brother, Drago Bandic, on how to divide up the property.

Public cadastral data shows that only two properties now officially belong to Vesna Bandic. Half of the apartment in Buzanova street and a cottage in Samobor. Specifically, she owns a 176-square-metre apartment in Buzanova 4, which consists of a 119-square-metre attic living space, a 54-square-metre terrace, some basement storage and a garage space.

For the other three properties, apartments in Kruge, Jarun and Gracani, Vesna Bandic says that she has never heard of them and that they didn't appear among his registered properties. However, the court found that these apartments, formally owned by the Brzica, Mate and Silvana families from Imotski, could allegedly also belong to Bandic and that Bandic used them, according to Jutarnji list journalist Filip Pavic.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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