Thursday, 22 April 2021

Croatian Recovery and Resilience Programme Faces More Criticism

April the 22nd, 2021 - The Croatian Recovery and Resilience Programme is continuing to face more backlash, doubt and criticism as this so-called ''generational opportunity'' presents more questions than it does answers.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, not even ten days before being sent to Brussels, criticism of the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Programme, the key to the 6.3 billion euro grant to try to drag us up and out of the ongoing pandemic crisis, hasn't stopped.

Those to whom it should refer didn't participate in the programme's creation, only about eighty pages of the summary were released to the public and it included projects that have nothing to do with reforms.

Disappointment with the plan, which the prime minister calls a "generational opportunity", is shared by the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP), who demand that the document be changed in such a way as to direct more money to the real sector.

At a recently held conference, which dissected the plan with the specific question of what kind of investments can get us out of the crisis, chief economist Iva Tomic pointed out that in terms of GDP per capita, Croatia is at the very bottom of the EU, at 65 percent of the European Union average.

If we want to get closer to 75 percent then we need to grow faster than others in as much as is possible by boosting merchandise exports and private investments with a quick return, rather than repeating the mistake we made back in 2008 when public investment and infrastructure were favoured.

''We need bold growth rates’'

"The patient is now in the terminal phase, and we're treating him with aspirin, so in five years we'll be sitting, scratching our heads and again wondering why we're lagging behind. We need bolder growth rates, and we can only achieve that by direct investments in entrepreneurship,'' HUP's Igor Skrgatic, from the company BE-ON, stated.

"I really don't understand how we can allocate 7.5 billion kuna for the renovation of buildings and facades, and only 2.5 billion kuna for healthcare, which is less than a dozen annual investments in the sector," asked HUP president and Pliva's main man, Mihael Furjan. He noted that productivity must be increased, but "we don't see how the plan is planned to be used in the right way, in order to increase efficiency."

He added that investments in equipment are welcomed because in healthcare it can increase disease prevention and bring savings, but that it should be used to the maximum with accompanying investments in people. “In healthcare, we have great doctors and pockets of excellence. For example, efficiency already exists in dental tourism and transplant medicine,'' Furjan pointed out, highlighting brighter Croatian examples.

Skrgatic emphasised that there is too much allocation in the public sector already, which doesn't have the capacity to absorb money in the short term, instead of in the private sector, where one kuna of investment would create a new 3-4 kuna. "There is a thesis that we're asking for helicopter money. No, we're asking for money for projects in a high stage of development, to make programmes in accordance with the pillars of the EC, to which entrepreneurs will apply,'' said Skrgatic.

Mislav Balkovic, the Dean of the Algebra University College, believes that the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Programme and its plan shouldn't be viewed only from the perspective of cash but also the creation of jobs. He stated that education is the foundation of competitiveness, and Croatia is in the company of the Philippines and Costa Rica in this regard, which isn't much to shout about.

"Investments in infrastructure aren't going to work to create new jobs, and we aren't going to be able to maintain the existing system of intergenerational solidarity for long. Key reforms must emerge. That's why it's much better for the changes to be designed after the local elections when the pressure for investments in local infrastructure is reduced,'' said Balkovic.

The age old Croatian mentality of helplessness

“The Rimac Campus and the Sisak Refinery are very potent projects. But why don’t we have 200 projects in the catalog? We can't even get anywhere close to that if the person compiling the catalog doesn't come and talk to us,'' stated Atlantic Group CEO Emil Tedeschi.

He pointed out that he opposes the stereotyping that projects are divided into the private and public sectors, but that it's important to see how to allocate money to create a multiplier effect. He also pointed his arrow to the address of the private sector and discussed the role, or lack of, of the state in that field.

"If Infobip had waited for the Government, it wouldn't have become a unicorn, if Rimac had waited, he wouldn't have attracted investments from Porsche and Hyundai"

We've unfortunately got a mentality which is a combination of rentiership and helplessness, and there's still an awful lot of work which needs to be done. But that doesn't simply get the Croatian Government out of its duties of taking some responsibility,'' Emil Tedeschi concluded when discussing the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Programme and its content.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Has New Position

March the 4th, 2021 - Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has always been known for her diversity when it comes to turning her hand to various things, and she has stepped outside of the political box once again with her newest role.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM), the oldest business school in all of Croatia, leads the Olympic committees of four countries and two elite European universities in creating an educational programme for professionals, which will enable them to follow new business careers after finishing with the sporting world.

In addition to ZSEM, the consortium consists of the Olympic Committees of Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Institute of Sports in Slovenia and two elite universities - the Stockholm School of Economics from Sweden whose professors participate in selecting Nobel Prize winners and the German WHU - the Otto Beisheim School of Management & Euromasters, whose master's programme in management was ranked among the top three in the entire world by the prestigious Financial Times (FT) magazine.

As stated, the MLEA (Micro Learning Entrepreneurship for Athletes) project will develop specialised, "tailor made" programmes to enable current and former athletes in the region to acquire the necessary business knowledge and skills to facilitate their often difficult and confusing transition from the sporting world to business and entrepreneurial careers. The project will also include elements of gamification and the employment of micro-learning methodology.

The business schools of Sweden and Germany involved in the project have been developing their world-renowned sports and management centres for years now, functioning as interdisciplinary research centres boasting expertise in a wide range of areas from management and marketing to international business and finance. Through this project, ZSEM intends to lay the foundations for the creation of a similar sports centre here in Southeastern Europe.

The former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will more than likely succeed in her new position of ZSEM Advisor for International Affairs

The project will, as touched on, also include the former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic as the new advisor of ZSEM for international affairs. She otherwise became a member of the International Olympic Committee last year. In her new position, the former Croatian president will support ZSEM's ambition to further expand in terms of international cooperation and even more actively engage in international projects.

"Since its establishment, ZSEM has been internationally oriented and we are continuously working on strengthening ties with those who are similar and the best business schools and universities around the world. We believe that this global networking is one of our greatest qualities and unique values ​​that we can provide to our students. Therefore, we want to continue to strengthen our international cooperation and our global recognition and position in the coming years. The arrival of Ms. Grabar-Kitarovic in our team can undoubtedly help us significantly. We´re glad that she will share her rich and valuable life and professional experience she gained in her previous positions with us and our students,¨ said Mato Njavro Dean of ZSEM.

Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a member of the International Olympic Committee and the Croatian Club of Olympians, pointed out that former presidents across the world are engaged in education after the end of their political careers, and that she is glad that she got such an opportunity.

"The way ZSEM works and its ambitions for further development and international positioning have opened space for our cooperation. It started with a project related to sports and ZSEM's desire to position itself as a regional centre for athlete education in the future. It is well known that sporting careers typically end when an individual is still young, and very often they do not have adequate skills and knowledge that would enable them to develop equally successful business careers, so their potential often remains underused, which is a missed opportunity for them as individuals and for the community as a whole,¨ pointed out the former president.

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Sunday, 19 July 2020

HDZ: SDP's Grbin Resorts to Aggressive Rhetoric to Conceal Lack of Vision

July 19, 2020 - The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) on Saturday said that the rhetoric used by Social Democrat official Peđa Grbin who had called HDZ members thieves "is futile rhetoric of marked by aggressive behavior and lies which the SDP used in the run-up to the parliamentary elections."

Instead of presenting the SDP's vision of the future or programs for the challenges which Croatia is faced with, Grbin is again trying to label HDZ members as "thieves", resorting to the futile rhetoric of aggressive behavior and lies which the SDP kept promotion, including also during the election campaigning, HDZ said on its Facebook account after Grbin's statements earlier on Saturday.

Peđa Grbin, who has been the only one to explicitly express his intention to take the helm of the SDP so far, since the SDP leader Davor Bernardić resigned due to the party's poor election results, said on Saturday that he would support the Možemo! platform leader's candidacy for Zagreb Mayor if that would mean Milan Bandić's ouster. Grbin admitted that he saw no problem to support Tomislav Tomašević of the Možemo! platform as a joint mayoral candidate of several parties in the capital city, if that will mean the ouster of the current Mayor Milan Bandić whom he called "a thief" and if that will mean "that we will not let thieves from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) succeed him (Bandić)."

HDZ says that this statement made by Grbin, who "is trying to introduce himself as a leader of the new SDP after that party's election defeat" on 5 July, proves that nothing new could be expected from the SDP-led coalition. HDZ says that SDP representatives use false accusations about thieves only to disguise their own incompetence and lack of the party's program and vision, which was the reason why the SDP "experienced one of the worst election results" in its history.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Who are the New Ministers in the Croatian Government?

July 26, 2020 - A lot is already publicly known about the new Croatian government, although its ministers are yet to be officially announced. Who will be the new ministers? 

From what we've been able to read in the media so far, the new government will have three first-time ministers, people less known to the Croatian public as they haven't been in the political spotlight in the previous administrations. Jutarnji list writes about those three new ministers in Andrej Plenković's government: Nikolina Brnjac, Boris Milošević, Nataša Tramišak. Let's find out more about them, as the final preparations for Andrej Plenković's meeting with President Zoran Milanović take place. In that meeting, the President will give Plenković the mandate to form the new government. 

There was a lot of talk about Nikolina Brnjac as a minister in the Croatian government whenever there were any changes at any number of ministries since Plenković has been in charge. It's often said that she's one of "his people," and the fact that she joined the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) when he became President in 2016 confirms the bond between them. She's been the state secretary in two different ministries in the previous term: Ministry of the sea, traffic and infrastructure, where she left because of numerous disagreements with minister Butković, and after that, she went to the Foreign Ministry, where she was given an essential diplomatic role during the Croatian presidency, although she had no diplomatic experience. She was born in 1979, has a Ph.D. in traffic sciences. She is expected to head the newly-formed Ministry of tourism, youth, and sports. She held the eighth position on the HDZ slate for the elections, in IV election district, and got 552 preferential votes there, not winning a Parliament seat. 

We've gotten used to the minority representatives in Croatia supporting whoever is forming the government, and once in a while, they even get a seat at the big table. This Andrej Plenković cabinet will be such a cabinet, with the position of Deputy Prime Minister for social activity and human rights created just to seat a minority representative. Boris Milošević will get that position, an experienced politician, born in 1974 in Šibenik, a representative for the Serbian minority. He's a lawyer who's already served in two administrations, both time as deputy Minister of Public Administration (interesting tidbit: once in an SDP government, and once in HDZ-Most government). He's also the President of the Serbian National Council, where he took over after 22 years of Milorad Pupovac's presidency. He got 7.715 votes at the election. 

The least known to the general public among the three is Nataša Tramišak, a 38-year-old lawyer from Osijek, who's spent most of her career working in regional development and EU funds, so it's highly appropriate that she's about to become a minister dealing with these topics. She hasn't always been an HDZ member; before she joined, she ran for Antunović municipality position as a member of heavily right-wing HSP in 2009, along with Ivan Anušić, who has since become an HDZ vice-president. She's worked in Osijek-Baranja County as a person in charge of investments and EU funds, where she's proven herself to be a very successful workaholic, always on top of any project she's in charge of.

If it turns out someone else is named to the Government position for the first time, we will update this article with information about the other new minister (there is still uncertainty on who will be the next Education and Science Minister).

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Minister Says HDZ to Reduce Number of Ministries, Local Officials

ZAGREB, June 20, 2020 - Public Administration Minister and HDZ official Ivan Malenica said on Saturday that after it won the elections, the party would reduce the number of ministries, halve the number of local officials and do its best to make public administration efficient.

"We will digitise local government and connect it with central government registers and numerous services, applications and platforms," Malenica told a news conference.

Digital signature to be introduced for entire country, public administration

He added that the HDZ would introduce the digital signature for the entire state and public administration by the end of its term. "An efficient state, a resilient state and a digital state is something we will insist on in the next term."

Malenica said the system of local government would be divided into several categories, with each local government unit having a defined scope of duties and activities to be conducted based on the principle of self-sustainability and self-sufficiency.

"We want to oblige local government units to cooperate," he said, adding that digitisation increased the efficiency of the private and public sectors, education and society in general.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Oreskovic: Croatia Divided into Those who Steal and Those who have been Robbed

ZAGREB, June 20, 2020 - Dalija Oreskovic of the Party with a First and Last Name said in Rijeka on Saturday that Croatia was not divided into the right and left camps but into those who stole and those who had been robbed, and that, she said, should be the main topics of the election campaign, "instead of wombs".

Presenting candidates of the coalition comprising her party, Pametno and Fokus, Oreskovic said that the antagonism between the SDP and the HDZ prevented people from seeing what was happening with the country.

"Our future depends on how many people will realise that what the HDZ is at the national level, the SDP and the IDS are at the local level. That is why Rijeka is the right place to fire a torpedo at attacks by all those who think that when there is nothing left to plunder, they should encroach on our personal rights and freedoms," said Oreskovic.

Oreskovic also commented on a campaign on social networks in which numerous women have posted photos of themselves with their middle finger held up in protest at Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro's statement that if a woman gets pregnant after being raped, she should consult with her family about what to do.

"We should show our middle finger not only to those who would want to encroach on our wombs, we should show it to the policies of both camps that over the past 30 years have not known what to do with this country."

"All those Raspudics and the likes are here to obscure the main problems that bother our citizens - the emigration of young people and the lack of strong state institutions," she said, in an allusion to Nino Raspudic, a professor and political analyst, who will run in the coming elections as a candidate of the Bridge party.

Oreskovic also called on women to go to the polls in large numbers to fight back attacks on their freedoms.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Milan Kujundzic: Business v Politics, What Will It Take for Croatian Politician to Resign?

What would it actually take for a Croatian politician to actually politely resign from his or her position? Ever wondered what level must be stooped to before someone steps down of their own accord? You're not alone.

It's quite incredible just how much is continuously discovered about various people from across the Croatian political scene and yet honourable resignations are about as rare as an honest election campaign. The elusive thing that is often referred to as accountability is severely lacking when it comes to politicians, and of course this extends far beyond the borders of modern Croatia, but with the latest discovery of an incorrectly registered property belonging to Health Minister Milan Kujundzic (HDZ) and the assault of a Slobodna Dalmacija journalist by people allegedly related to the lovely Mr. Kujundzic himself, one must ask the question in the first sentence of this article. Several times.

As Telegram/Sanja Modric writes on the 23rd of January, 2020, remember when Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic (HDZ) defended his minister, Gabriela Zalac, before the pressure finally got too much, leading to him having to settle things? Then comes the notorious Lovro Kuscevic (HDZ). Then Martina Dalic (HDZ) and her role in the Agrokor fiasco. We mustn't forget Goran Maric (HDZ) from the Ministry of State Property. Oh, and Tolusic... In short, everyone who ended up getting booted out of their cushy government positions, but not because of the most minimal dose of respect for their fellow citizens and taxpayers, but because they were backed into a corner and there was simply no other way.

After Raiffeisen Bank Croatia's rather embarrassing and wholly insulting search for a PR agency to engage who would be willing to "put pressure on the Constitutional Court and other courts in Croatia" regarding Swiss loans was uncovered and forced into an already tired and worryingly desensitised public eye - RBA Croatia's CEO Michael Muller officially resigned. Index discovered and published a critical text about that RBA ad on Monday. Muller, the director of the major bank, resigned on Wednesday, citing the tarnished reputation of RBA after its unethical and not to mention entirely illegal attempt to pressure the Croatian judiciary.

Within 24 hours, he did it in a very decent and in no way defensive manner. "I'm aware of the strong negative impression that has arisen around Raiffeisen Bank and its management," he wrote. "As a professional manager, I decided to step down from my position to prevent further reputational damage to the bank."

Muller's boss Andreas Gschwenter, chairman of the RBA Austria board of directors and board member of Raiffeisen Bank International, which serves as many as fourteen million clients, announced immediately that he was accepting his resignation "as a sign of Muller's responsible attitude". And - that's it. Done and dusted. As tremendously disappointing the story surrounding RBA is, someone at the top did the honourable thing.

The instruction manual for such a level of good practice (at least in the end) should be written down in a little notebook and be kept in the inside pocket of the jackets of every Croatian politician and other individuals in influential public positions, and every now and then, each and every Croatian politician should be forced to take a look at a miniature handbook from RBA on how to behave appropriately when they're inevitably discovered with sticky fingers.

Even Alojz Tomasevic (ex HDZ) didn't even think of resigning after he was convicted as a domestic abuser with clearly zero respect for women - the mark of a truly odious individual. But let's lighten the mood a bit and laugh about this otherwise most serious matter for the first time, we will quote, for example, what Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman decided to do today about the current story unfolding about Health Minister Milan Kujundzic and his magically appearing houses near Imotski, whose unexplained assets are rightly questioned and scrutinised in the media.

Instead of restraining Kujundzic, diplomatically of course, until all the facts about the health minister's real estate have been verified, Radman, has, as is typical, turned it on the journalists and made it all their fault.

"They're dealing with Milan Kujundzic instead of following our EU presidency," he said in a strikingly ''North Korean'' style tone on N1. Quite fascinating, isn't it? That it doesn't matter that a female journalist was cornered by several men claiming that the public road she was on ''belonged to our Milan''. She should have been covering Croatia's EU presidency!

But let's not pick on Radman too much, he is no exception, nor must we let him think he's anything special. Similar reactions by those responsible for difficult affairs in Croatia seem to be the rule. They wouldn't resign for love nor money (well, actually, maybe for money), and their loyal masters would protect them until their dying breaths with the most insane justifications that offend the power of reasoning even below the level of a very average mind.

I don't want to bully Croatia too much, it is a country that I live in, pay my taxes in and adore in spite of its many faults. This type of thing happens elsewhere, too, of course, but the approaches are strikingly different. Sadly, when they happen here, things ripen, swell and rot, turning into a gangrenous mess that festers for weeks and months, and the ''amputation'' only occurs when the odor becomes unbearable, not because it is anyone's best interest.

That is why any kind-hearted Croatian citizen, blinded by the tremendous apathy towards and acceptance of gross misconduct in Croatia appears ignorant of the code of conduct applicable in other parts of the world. They could expect that, in the case with RBA, Muller would say that he had nothing to do with that really idiotic ad that reveals what is otherwise done under the table. That he didn't even know about it. That someone was trying to frame him. He could force the blame on someone in a less powerful position than him. But he didn't.

Instead, Muller stepped down immediately and issued a statement that was fair and fitting given the circumstances. This is behaviour so utterly foreign, alien even, to a Croatian politician - for whom power often seems to mean the chance deceive with permission.

Since starting this article it has been revealed that our dear health minister has two more apartments he has not declared on the island of Pag. Which do you think will come next, a resignation or another undeclared villa?

Follow our dedicated politics page for more.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Croatian Zoran Milanović First Former Prime Minister Elected President

Although only 53 years old, Croatian President-elect Zoran Milanović is already a political veteran. Since Croatia's independence, he is the only politician to be elected to two of the most important state functions, first as prime minister and now president.

He was born on October 30, 1966 in Zagreb. In private conversations, he likes to point out that Zagreb shaped his identity, but was also intrigued by his family history, according to Robert Bajruš/Jutarnji List on January 6, 2020. Therefore, Milanović researched archives from Austrian barracks and the Sinj monastery in a quest for information on his ancestors and their life paths. Zoran Milanović's family is from western Bosnia and arrived in the Sinj region as part of a mass migration led by Franciscan Friars in 1687. His mother Đurđica Matasić's family has lived in Sinj for almost two centuries.

Father Held Key Zagreb Government Positions

His father, Stipe Milanović, performed several important roles during the socialist regime: he was Cabinet Secretary to Miko Tripalo, a Zagreb city council member and chaired the Vatroslav Lisinski Hall Construction Committee. In the early 1990s, he joined HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and became Assistant Minister to Vlatko Pavletić.

Milanović's claim that his grandfather was an Ustasha member (Croatian WWII Fascists) was one of the more interesting developments in the 2016 election campaign. He was referring to his mother Đurđica’s stepfather, Petar Plišić, but had kept silent about him until then.

He graduated from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb in the early 1990s where he was an excellent student. He received the Rector's Award and participated in the "Telders" competition in public international law at The Hague.

Began Post Law School Career in Foreign Diplomacy

Milanović landed his first job at the Commercial Court in Zagreb and then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993, where he arrived upon the recommendation of Ivan Šimonović, professor at the Faculty of Law and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia to the UN. He became advisor to the Croatian Mission to the European Union and NATO in Brussels in 1996 and completed a postgraduate certificate in European Union law there two years later.

He joined SDP (Social Democratic Party of Croatia) immediately after his return to Zagreb in 1999. After SDP won the January 3, 2000 elections as part of a coalition, he was entrusted with a position in communications with NATO. Three years later, he was appointed Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs under Tonino Picula. However, he left diplomacy and was brought onto the SDP Executive Board at the invitation of Ivica Račan after the HDZ won the 2003 elections.

Assumed SDP Leadership Role After Račan

The SDP party membership overwhelmingly chose Milanović as their new leader when Ivica Račan died in 2007. He had defeated Željko Antunović, Milan Bandić and Tonino Picula; the party’s old guard. While Račan had not considered him his successor; within a month Milanović had taken control of SDP and set about overthrowing Ivo Sanader.

Diana Pleština, widow of the former SDP leader, spoke about the Račan-Milanović relationship. While she has always thought well of Milanović; she also noted:

"Ivica Račan understood that Milanović was young and well-educated, and had experience communicating with the outside world, but he was not referring to Zoran Milanović in the phrase 'New SDP Force'. Instead he was referring to Milanović along with other members of the party. Therefore, the ‘New SDP force’ was not referring to one person, but an overall proposal to continue the rejuvenation of the Social Democratic Party, and one of those players was Milanović,” Dijana Pleština recalled.

However, he lost to Ivo Sanader in the 2007 parliamentary elections and spent the next four years leading the opposition. During that time, he was able to marginalize the old guard within SDP and surround himself with a new generation of associates including Ranko Ostojić, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, Rajko Ostojić, Ante Kotromanović, Igor Dragovan and Gordan Maras.


Defeated Scandal Ridden HDZ With Kukuriku Coalition

In November 2011, under Milanović’s leadership, the SDP-HNS-IDS-HSU coalition overwhelmingly defeated HDZ, which had been rocked by a series of corruption scandals. Their coalition ruled Croatia for the next four years. Before that victory, Milanović played a crucial role in the election of SDP presidential candidate Ivo Josipović. Josipović's victory had a strategic effect on the downfall of HDZ and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, and subsequent victory of the four-party coalition.

Milanović's political experience did not often reveal itself during his first three years in office. In the face of poor economic performance, he was subject to widespread criticism for refusing to make severe cuts to a bloated and inefficient state administration, which was stifling the economy. In addition, almost nobody believed he could make a comeback after he barely succeeded in expelling Slavko Linić from SDP in June 2014. Those doubts were strengthened after Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović narrowly defeated Ivo Josipović in the 2015 presidential election.

"Who would have thought that we were capable of regaining voter confidence back in January," Milanović recently suggested in a private interview.

Political Personal Evolution and Move to Right

Nevertheless, he changed tremendously and became much more accessible while choosing to remain silent about the confrontation with Linić. Even then, a well-known SDP politician revealed that he had been closely observing Milanović's career for seven years, and denied the widespread belief that the SDP chief was incapable of transforming himself:

"After losing the election to Ivo Sanader in 2007, Milanović realized that he had to change. He succeeded because he strengthened the party with new young talent. I’ve also changed and have begun displaying a better part of my character in interactions with people. That’s why I believe he can also change in a positive way,” claimed this member of government.


Praise for Franjo Tuđman and Croatian Nation in Knin

After all, Milanović's metamorphosis, which manifested itself in a slight turn to the right, was first noticed in Knin on August 5, 2014 when he gave a speech commemorating Dan domovinske zahvalnosti (Homeland Thanksgiving Day), which suggested a more patriotic direction. It was then that he first came forward with the conviction that his government was a people's government elected by the Croatian nation, comprised of people who are of primarily Croatian background. "As long is that is the case, we will oversee this country and lead it on the right path with Croatian interests in mind," Milanović said.

Milanović also paid respect to the first Croatian president, Franjo Tuđman, "because he was the Croatian president during a most difficult and challenging time."

“We have been waiting for a thousand years to have our own state and are grateful to those who gave everything for our country. For thousands of years we have worked, fought and died for foreigners, who treated us like foreigners, but they are not our enemies today. We are united with them in the EU and are building a better future together,” said Milanović in Knin.

It was the beginning of a 16-month campaign in which Zoran Milanović decided to tackle the stigma of (Croatian) leftists and present himself as a self-aware national leader. A social democrat who respects Tuđman, frequently mentions Croatia and condemns chauvinism then became his election-winning formula.

He also hired PR expert Alex Braun and his government achieved positive economic results in 2015. However, Milanović narrowly lost the parliamentary elections, remained at the helm of the SDP and defeated his old rival, Zlatko Komadin, in party elections.

Withdrawal from Politics After 2016 Defeat

After the fall of Prime Minister Tim Orešković’s short-lived administration in late 2016, Milanović led the People's Coalition into the elections, but lost, and then announced that he was withdrawing from politics.

In November 2016, he founded EuroAlba Advisory. Earlier this year, the media reported that the company's total 2018 revenue was 744,970 HRK (99,700 EUR), about a 20 percent increase from a 2017 reported revenue of 625,000 HRK (83,600 EUR).

Milanović lost his father Stipe and his younger brother Krešimir, who died after a short illness, during his election campaign late last year.

Follow our Politics page to stay updated on the new Croatian presidency and upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović Spends 30 Million Kuna Less Than Ivo Josipović

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes on the 22nd of August, 2019, in her four and a half years in office as Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and the President's Office cost Croatia's taxpayers 155.8 million kuna, while in the same period, 186 million kuna was spent on former president Ivo Josipović during his term.

The Croatian Government's budget expenditures reached 66.9 billion kuna in the first half of this year, and this figure suggests spending is within the previously announced annual plan of 140 billion kuna.

The half-yearly realisation is therefore now at 47.7 percent of the annual plan, but as the budget for 2019 has been increased, when compared to last year and with those 67 billion kuna included, it represents an increase of about five billion kuna in total.

Most departments and government bodies are currently spending at a pace slightly below what was initially planned. Some of this is likely to do with the Ministry of Finance and the troublesome Uljanik guarantees and the European Parliament elections.

Since the first elections are presidential ones, and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is often under the auspices of the public precisely through the prism of costs (especially when it comes to her travel), it remains to be noted that the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia's expenditures amounted to 15.7 million in the first six months of 2019, equal to about 240,000 kuna less than last year.

As previously mentioned, when considering the entire budget mandate so far, President Grabar-Kitarović's office has cost Croatia's taxpayers a total of 155.8 million kuna over the last four and a half years.

At the same time, for the four-and-a-half-year term of former President Ivo Josipović, the Office of the President cost the taxpayer 30 million kuna more, with costs of 186 million kuna (208 million kuna in all of those five years).

Thus, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's office has annually spent about seven million kuna less than the predecessor.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Interview with Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President of Croatia

June the 24th, 2019 - Since 2015, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has been President of the Republic of Croatia. Prior to that, the 50-year-old NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy has so far been the highest ranking woman in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Furthermore, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is the first female president of independent Croatia. Sven Lilienström, founder of Faces of Democracy, spoke with Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović about Croatia’s Presidency of the EU Council in 2020, the gender roles in Croatia and NATO as the backbone of Europe’s security architecture.

Ms. President, you are our 66th “Face of Democracy”. How significant are democracy and democratic values to you personally?

I remember how much I yearned for democracy, when I was a girl growing up in the communist Yugoslavia. How much I wanted to escape the oppression, lack of freedom and lack of individual choice. This is what motivated me to become an exchange student in the US. Upon return, it was even more difficult to tolerate the failed economic policies, the lack of values, of respect, of democratic institutions and inequality before the state and the law. Thus, I joined the moment for an independent Croatia that wanted to become part of the democratic family of nations.

For me the European Union’s greatest achievements are peace, freedom, democracy, equality, human rights. It is easy to take the freedom it brought to all of us for granted. Or to forget the strong desire of the nations formerly behind the so-called Iron Curtain, behind that high wall that separated Europe, to be part of the free world. That desire guided and invigorated our fight for democracy and liberation. Croatia remembers it well.

As a country which has had its fair share of difficult history, communism and war it had to endure to achieve its independence and freedom, we appreciate peace, liberty, democracy, prosperity and stability even more. And we understand how crucial it is to protect the principles which allow our countries and peoples to live in conditions which a great majority of people on this planet are unfortunately not blessed with. My personal experience makes me appreciate democracy and democratic values all the more.

In the first half of 2020, Croatia will take over the Presidency of the EU Council for the first time. One objective for this period is the accession of your country to the EU and Schengen area. What other items are on your to-do list?

Joining the Eurozone and the Schengen area are our national priorities that we will be working on in the next period. In addition, on the global level, Croatia is ready to start the accession process to join the OECD. When it comes to our EU Presidency, we want to focus on development and growth, employment - especially of youth, connectivity (energy, transport, digitalization), and strengthening the security of our citizens, both internal and external. We will strive to give additional visibility to policies in which we believe we can provide some benefit and our specific know-how - such as tourism and maritime policies. Furthermore, one of our most important priorities is EU enlargement, or - as I like to call it - consolidation of the EU. In this vein, we will host an EU-WB summit in May 2020, twenty years after the first Zagreb summit, which was a turning point for the EU perspective of South East European countries.

In a global environment marked by disintegrating structures and numerous conflicts, NATO is an anchor of stability. What does the NATO membership mean for Croatia?

NATO has been the backbone of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture for decades. Let me emphasize in this context that the Republic of Croatia remains firm in its conviction that NATO is the cornerstone of our security and the backbone of Europe’s security architecture.

In our current security surrounding an arc of instability stretches from our south to our east, as a source of a multitude of traditional and non-traditional security threats and challenges, such as hybrid threats, terrorism and extremism, uncontrolled mass migrations and so on. In such circumstances, NATO’s relevance and importance for Europe’s, as well as Croatia’s security and stability remains unquestionable.

Croatia’s commitment to NATO and support to its goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace is steadfast and we have been proving this by our active participation in all major NATO missions and operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Mediterranean, as well as NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania and Poland.

The further development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is designed to strengthen the strategic autonomy of the EU. Does Europe need another security institution alongside NATO?

Europe must invest in its security. Investing in security is investing in long-term stability and prosperity. We support the further development of the CSDP and its Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). However, we do not believe in duplication of efforts. NATO remains for us the anchor of our joint defense.

Keyword “emigration”: At present, your country has a brain drain of almost 50,000 citizens per year. Many of them come to Germany. How do you intend to stop the brain drain?

The brain drain is also a consequence of our EU accession. All new EU Member States have experienced the same phenomenon. I have put demographics high on my presidential agenda from the beginning of my mandate. Croatia has talented, educated and diligent young people who fair well at the labour markets across the EU. It is important to implement policies which will keep them in the country. Job creation in Croatia and GDP growth coupled with specific measures for the youth and young families are crucial in this regard. I am content that the emigration process has slowed down recently, but there is much work ahead of us. Now we need to stimulate the return of our recent émigrés.

The gender roles in Croatia are strongly shaped by traditionalist values. You are the first female president of independent Croatia. What developments are taking place in your country with regard to gender diversity?

First of all, Croatia is currently one of only four countries in the world (out of 193 UN Member States) where a woman was elected Head of State directly by popular vote. We have had a female prime minister, and women foreign and defence ministers. I am proud to have recently taken over the Chairmanship of the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL), the only organization in the World dedicated to current and former women heads of state and government. When it comes to Croatia, gender equality is enshrined in our Constitution as one of the highest constitutional values. We have a whole range of established institutional mechanisms for the protection against discrimination based on gender as well as combating all forms of domestic violence. Croatia is one of the few countries in the world that has a dedicated Ombudsperson for Gender Equality. Furthermore, we developed a Data Base of Business Women in Croatia as well as the Women's Entrepreneurship Development Strategy, which contributed to the increase in number of women entrepreneurs by 23 percent in the last 15 years. We are proud of the fact that we have a smaller gap in wages than the EU average (10 percent in contrast to EU average of 16 percent). Since 2003, a total of 344 women have participated in peace missions and operations around the world. That said, I don't think there is a day when I am not faced with some form of discrimination against women, of gender stereotypes and language that borders on hate speech. Our work is far from done until full gender parity is achieved and violence against women is eradicated, in Europe and the World.

Ms. President, you won the hearts of many people across the world at the World Cup final in 2018. Assuming that you will be elected for a second term in the office: Will you bring the red and white checkered jersey with you to Qatar?

First of all, I have to say once again how immensely proud I am of the Croatian team and their historic second place in Russia, but also of the way they played and carried themselves, of their passion and heart that they left in the field. I am also so proud of the Croatian people, of the sense of pride, unity, belonging and their love for Croatia, that was tangible and that could be felt throughout the country (and seen on TV as well). Of course, I am hoping for the same scenes in Qatar. No matter if I am the President or not, I will be there in red and white checkers cheering the Croatian team on.

Ms. President, thank you very much for the interview!

With thanks to Faces of Democracy for the interview with the President of Croatia.

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