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.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Strategic Croatian Company List to be Revised as Numbers Drop

January the 4th, 2022 - Precisely what makes a strategic Croatian company? Are there any firm criteria to speak of? With the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Croatian: NPOO) requiring explanations, it seems that there are.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, for years, the state has had a list of companies it owns and which are of special interest to it, but for the first time at last year's session, the government updated the list, citing precise reasons as to why each company is strategically important.

The reason for these explanations are the measures adopted by the NPOO on improving the management of state-owned enterprises, and the competent ministries will have to revise the list which contains information on each strategic Croatian company each and every year and determine the reasons why some companies in their jurisdiction are classed as strategic.

There were once 50, now there are 36...

This is a list that once numbered about 50 strategic Croatian companies, and that number appears to be constantly decreasing. As expected, this has happened again, because three companies have been "removed" from the existing list, and that list now boasts just 36. In two cases, the Institute of Immunology and the Rijeka-Zagreb Highway, the removal is due to technical reasons, while the third company, Maritime Electronics Centre Split, was "transferred" to CERP's extensive portfolio.

As for the remaining ones, as a rule, short lines are given about the company's activities, the size of the state's share in the share capital and the like. Alan Agency takes care of defense production and the procurement of weapons and equipment, AKD prepares ID cards and other official documents for the state, Croatian Post (Hrvatska posta) is the largest service network in the country and holds 83 percent of the postal services market, and Transmitters and Communications is the only network operator for all existing digital terrestrial television networks with 100 percent of the market share in DVB-Ta.

INA remains an exception

When it comes to ACI, their strategic importance lies in them taking care of the country's expansive maritime domain, and for Croatia Airlines (CA), it's crucial that its market share, which otherwise stands at 36 percent, grows to 60 percent during the winter, because most carriers don't fly, or not as much, so the Government believes that CA provides connectivity to, from and across Croatia.

HPB (Hrvatska postanska banka) is the largest domestically owned bank, and for the last decade or so it has been one of the five largest in the Croatian banking system and has deposits with a very high balance from the central government. Its title as a strategic Croatian company is as such indisputable at this time.

For all companies on the strategic Croatian company list, the state is the majority owner, with the exception of INA, which is still on the list because "of the processing and exploration of oil and gas which is important for the security of the energy supply in the Republic of Croatia."

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Much Talked About Croatian Sunday Work Ban Still Not Happening, Yet...

December the 10th, 2021 - There has been a debate going on about a potential Croatian Sunday work ban for longer than the coronavirus pandemic has been around, with some vehemently opposed to it and others believing that the move would be a good one. With opinion divided, the topic has once again found itself on the political ''to do'' list.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the draft proposal for the new Trade Act, which stipulated that shops would be able to operate on only sixteen Sundays each calendar year, will not be voted on until January the 1st, 2022 reports Jutarnji list.

The draft passed a public consultation that began back on July the 3rd and closed on August the 1st this year. However, the final text of the new amended law which delved into the Croatian Sunday work ban issue is not yet in the government procedure, and the constitutional break in the work of the parliament, which is expected to pass it, begins only on December the 15th, which means that any decision on the controversial Croatian Sunday work ban will be postponed until further notice.

The competent Ministry says that "comments and proposals that have arrived in large numbers are still being considered and analysed, and that consultations are underway with all stakeholders involved in this process."

In addition to the proposed Croatian Sunday work ban, another perhaps quite surprising item appeared in the Draft Bill on Amendments to the Trade Act - a ban on shops being open after 09:00 in the evening entirely.

“The provision of Article 2 of this Bill proposes to amend the Trade Act in Article 57 so that the working hours of retail outlets are determined by the retailer from Monday to Saturday starting from 06:00 to 21:00, and when it comes to retail outlets, on Sundays and holidays they will be mostly closed,'' the draft reads.

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

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Croatian State Owned Companies to be Managed by New Institution

October the 17th, 2021 - A brand new institution is set to manage Croatian state owned companies as the country edges ever closer to Eurozone accession, and the response is likely to be a very mixed bag.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the establishment of a new body for the management of state property, more precisely Croatian state owned companies, is currently being prepared. This is the result of the commitments that Zagreb has accepted within the process of introducing the euro as Croatia's official currency, in order to raise the efficiency and improve the quality and operations of Croatian state owned companies.

Last week, the government appointed a steering committee to work on an Action Plan for this task, and the competent Ministry of State Property, headed by Darko Horvat, has taken its first step - launching a public debate on a preliminary assessment of the new Law on Legal Entities owned by the Republic of Croatia, which intends to bring order to corporate governance policy.

The basis will be the guidelines given to the government this summer by the OECD, which proposes the establishment of a coordination body that will monitor the activities and results of all Croatian state owned companies, meaning the placing of all enterprises under state ownership across Croatia under one ''cap'' for monitoring and management.

This new body, according to the OECD, would be of the agency type directly accountable to the government or possibly located in a ministry, provided that it isn't in charge of enacting regulations.

It sounds like a mere formality and a new accumulation of administration, which the public will hardly welcome, especially if we remember the numerous transformations that the state-owned company management system has undergone in Croatia already, from the Privatisation Fund, the State Property Management Agency to the Centre for Restructuring and Sales. and now here's a special ministry in charge of state property.

However, the OECD claims that the introduction of such a specialised body is very necessary, because the existing system, although improved in the meantime, is still not up to par in any way, shape or form. That is likely not a shock to anyone who has had dealings with one of these companies.

In short, their analysis of Croatian state owned companies and the entire corporate sector identified a number of ambiguities and shortcomings that this new “unit” will seek to address, from regulatory inconsistencies to insufficiently defined ownership policy objectives in terms of financial and non-financial expectations, and incoordination and poor communication between ministries.

The new agency should not only gain a range of powers in overseeing management standards, monitoring performance and publishing public reports of these Croatian state owned companies, but also take on an important role in appointing supervisory boards.

More specifically, it would propose candidates, which, according to the OECD's estimates, would allow for greater expertise and a shift away from politics, which is desperately needed in Croatia. There is also the possibility that the new agency will get direct ownership in state owned companies, first for a small part of the portfolio, and gradually for the entire thing.

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

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Details of New Croatian Maternity and Paternity Law Proposals

October the 3rd, 2021 - The new law proposal we recently wrote about, which would guarantee new mothers full wage payments for the duration of Croatian maternity leave, as well as paternity leave for new fathers, has had more details revealed.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, a woman's full salary will be paid during the entire duration of Croatian maternity leave, and paternity leave is also now being introduced - the news is that, as Vecernji list unofficially finds out, the announcing of a proposal for a new Maternity and Parental Benefits Act.

Parental benefit during the six months of leave following the birth of a child currently amounts to a maximum of 5,654.20 kuna, and in the future it should be equated with the full salary of an employed or self-employed parent who uses that leave. An interesting new part of these rules is obligatory paternity leave, which the father will use together with the mother immediately after the birth of their child. It is a matter of harmonisation with the European Union directive governing the matter.

-''The implementation of Directive 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the work-life balance of parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU introduces a completely new law that didn't previously exist in the Croatian legal system, and that is paternity leave. Paternity leave will allow employed and self-employed fathers to use at least ten working days on the occasion of the birth of their child with the aim of encouraging fathers to use their parental leave. The proposal that the compensation paid out during paternity leave be in the amount of full salary is being considered,'' they confirmed from the Central State Office for Demography and Youth.

Namely, this office is responsible for regulating cash benefits during Croatian maternity leave.

''In addition, certain issues related to the difficulties in the application of the current law, as well as the possibilities of improving the area of ​​parental leave, are all being reviewed,'' they continued in their statement from the Central State Office for Demography and Youth. They didn't specifically respond to any inquiries regarding the amount of parental benefit being discussed, but they did say that these legal changes should come into force in the third quarter of 2022.

Compulsory paternity leave should, in accordance with the aforementioned European Union directive, be introduced by the 2nd of August next year at the very latest. Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic confirmed that he would move in the direction of delimiting Croatian maternity leave benefits. The view is that this is a very good demographic measure that can encourage families and young people to decide to have more children.

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

Friday, 1 October 2021

President Zoran Milanovic Slates Former Zagreb Government

October the 1st, 2021 - Zoran Milanovic is known for not mincing his words and speaking his mind. The president, who is also a former prime minister, has become somewhat famous (or infamous, it depends how you view it) for his creative insults and wars of words with PM Andrej Plenkovic. He has now spoken frankly about his beliefs about the former local Zagreb government, and the poor management which caused the dire issues the city is facing today.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said on Wednesday that, as far as reconstruction after the devastating earthquake of March 2020 in Zagreb is concerned, we're now "simply going into the red''. This was his picturesque warning of the fact that the financial situation in the Croatian capital city is not good because the previous Zagreb government led it into this ''abyss''.

"If we're talking about the reconstruction of Zagreb, we're now quite simply going into the red. The financial situation in the City of Zagreb, as far as I hear, isn't good, not because of this government, but because of the previous Zagreb government,'' said Milanovic, clearly pointing fingers at the former mayor, Milan Bandic, who was one of the most controversial Croatian politicians of our time, even by this country's rather impressive standards.

Mired in corruption accusations and alleged wrongdoing, Bandic (often affectionately referred to as Bandit) died suddenly and prematurely from a massive heart attack earlier this year, with many calling him the greatest Croatian politician of all, simply because he died without ever having been charged.

Asked about the reconstruction of Zagreb after the earthquake, he told reporters at the "Big Plans Day/Dan velikih planova" conference that it was financially important in Zagreb for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to start paying some actual attention to it.

"There's no room for trade and agreements. The city cannot borrow beyond a certain point, and the previous Zagreb government brought it into this abyss of a situation it's now in,'' concluded the president.

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

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Where are Milan Bandic's Former Associates 6 Months After His Death?

September the 4th, 2021 - Former Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, a deeply controversial figure even for Croatian politics, has been dead for six months now. The longtime mayor died suddenly and prematurely from a massive heart attack in the spring, and despite jokes that he'd still somehow run for mayor from beyond the grave, the capital has a new government headed by Mozemo! (We Can!) leader Tomislav Tomasevic. Six months after his death, where are Bandic's former associates?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the people who once decided on the fate of the City of Zagreb for years, apparently untouchable, are now mostly retired from politics, some are engaged in kinesiology, some in security, and some in consulting, RTL reported.

Mirka Jozic is no longer in a leading position within the city administration, she's now a business advisor. If you need help with finances, the environment, and utilities, this former close associate of Milan Bandic can give you advice. She left and founded her company a month ago and paid herself her very first salary.

"Well, it's not a bad feeling to pay yourself your own salary, I mean, I used to work in the private sector, then in the public sector and now again in the private sector as an independent person. It's all fun in its own way,'' said Mirka Jozic.

She once had three thousand colleagues, and now she has none.

"My old colleagues and friends are still my friends, I don't miss my old job and I think it's time for a change and it will come in handy," added Jozic.

He once commanded the situation during earthquakes, floods, fires, and he was known for his colourful use of language. He was the head of the Emergency Management Office for 13 years, an office he himself set up, but Pavle Kalinic now has a new job. He works in a security company where he is the director of corporate security and development.

In perhaps the saddest alteration, Zagreb's much loved ''first dog'' also unfortunately died after having had a tumour.

With the arrival of the new Zagreb government, eleven people left the chairs they had grown so comfortable sitting in, some too comfortable. Nine of them resigned at the request of the new mayor, Tomislav Tomasevic, and some of them, including Milana Vuković Runjic and Sanja Jerkovic, are now assistant heads.

Andrea Sulentic, the former head of the Mayor's Professional Service, is suspected of rigging the competition for the director of the Srebrnjak Hospital. When she isn't in the company of prison officers, she works in the regional office of the local self-government.

Miro Laco, who is accused of wrongdoing alongside Milan Bandic in the now somewhat infamous Agram affair, and Ivica Lovric, the former head of education, are now special advisers to the new mayor.

Apart from the head, many other people who once gathered around the late Milan Bandic will not welcome the autumn at their old jobs. The former head of Zagreb Holding, Ana Stojic Deban, got tired because the pace of the late mayor was difficult to follow.

"His day lasted over 20 hours, he had over 20 commitments a day."

In a telephone conversation, she said that she is taking a break entirely until end of October, and then she'll go into the private sector and withdraw entirely from public life. Slavko Kojic - Milan Bandic's former head of finance and a friend with whom he worked for 35 years, doesn't have those same plans.

"It's dynamic for me because I'm versatile, I played sports and music. I'm active in Bandic's party, I'm a business director and I'm there almost every day and I know everything that is happening,'' said Kojic.

After the election, Jelena Pavicic Vukicevic also withdrew from the political scene and announced that she would continue her career as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology in Zagreb.

As Milan Bandic's time at the helm of Zagreb drew to a sudden close with the ending of his life, he took the many controversies and undoubtedly many secrets with him. As ''his people'' gradually disperse, a new era for the Croatian capital is upon us - for better or for worse.

For more, follow our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Tomislav Tomasevic Seeking Millions in Damages from Bandic's Affairs

August the 31st, 2021 - The new Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic and his city administration is seeking millions in damages from the late Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic's many alleged affairs and scandals.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Tomislav Tomasevic and his government are looking for the money extracted during the time of former mayor Milan Bandic in alleged scandals, most of which are well known to the public, reports Jutarnji list.

The closest associates of the late Mayor Milan Bandic in Zagreb's city administration, as well as the owners of companies that benefited from doing ''illegal business'' with the City of Zagreb are being watched very closely by the new Zagreb government led by Tomislav Tomasevic, who is asking for a return of a little more than 227 million kuna in what he claims is looted money.

The office of Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic confirmed to Jutarnji list that the new city administration, on behalf of the City of Zagreb, has submitted property claims in all proceedings in which, according to USKOK (Croatian State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organised Crime and Corruption) indictments, the capital city was financially damaged.

When submitting the request for the return of the money, Tomasevic's administration allegedly adhered to those USKOK indictments that the court has confirmed so far, this incluces the owners of companies that benefited from said illegal activities, as well as some court experts and lawyers who participated in the conclusion of those criminal cases.

"It's our responsibility to ask for the stolen city money to be given back to the city treasury because it's the money of our citizens,'' the Zagreb mayor's office confirmed.

Although all the indictments on which the current city government bases its property and legal claims were confirmed during Bandic's lifetime, the former city administration failed to submit any requests for the return of the apparently stolen money.

Namely, it was difficult and rather illogical to expect that Milan Bandic himself and his closest associates from Zagreb's city administration would file any demands for the return of the stolen money against themselves.

Many of these people are still employees of the city administration, although they are no longer in the positions they held back during the controversial Bandic's time.

For more, follow our dedicated politics section.

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