Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Most Projects in Zagreb Agreed Through Ministry of Culture and Media, Minister Says

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Minister of Culture and Media Nina Obuljen Koržinek said on Wednesday that Croatia found itself in a situation that isn't regulated by the EU Solidarity Fund (ESF) by experiencing two major earthquakes in relatively the same region in one year.

Speaking on Croatian Radio regarding post-earthquake reconstruction, Obuljen Koržinek said that Croatia was hit by two separate earthquakes in 2020 in the midst of COVID, when intervention was made even more difficult.

She underscored that the European Commission inspected Croatia's intervention plans for Zagreb and for the Banovina region, where more than half the ESF was allocated, and accepted Croatia's arguments and allowed it to absorb the entire allocation.

"The majority of projects for Zagreb that have been agreed were agreed through the Ministry of Culture and Media. We are monitoring what is being done in the field and we will certainly spend the entire allocation", she said.

She added that this however, will only cover a minor share of what is required for reconstruction.

The ESF is earmarked exclusively for public buildings and infrastructure while the reconstruction of houses and blocks of flats will have to be covered from the state budget, she said.

First step in Banovina region were minor repairs to houses

Asked why Zagreb and Banovina aren't the biggest construction sites, she cited numerous reasons. In the case of Zagreb that involves larger, more complex buildings, she said, this involves public procurement procedures so that the financing of such projects is transparent.

She recalled that a decision was made regarding Banovina to first deal with minor repairs, so that as many people in temporary accommodation could return to their homes.

Public procurement procedures have been launched for the construction of houses and that process will now be accelerated, she added.

She also underscored that the timeframe for the reconstruction of houses depends on a lot of factors and owners too have an important role and there are a lot of problems with ownership rights.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Unofficial Source Claims Stjepan Curaj Could Take Darko Horvat's Place

February the 23rd, 2022 - An unofficial source has suggested that Darko Horvat's replacement could be Stjepan Curaj, but this is yet to be confirmed in any sense with any certainty.

The now former Minister Darko Horvat is being held in custody following his arrest for alleged corruption, about which we've written extensively since the situation occurred over the past few days. USKOK swooped in and as much as PM Andrej Plenkovic tried to calm things, people are rightly up in arms about yet another minister being investigated and arrested for the apparently age-old (alleged) crime of corruption.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the name of the new minister set to come and take Horvat's place is still not officially known, but as was unofficially confirmed by the Government for N1, it could be Stjepan Curaj, the head of the HNS (Hrvatska Narodna Stranka/Croatian People's Party).

Maybe someone else is still in the game with their eye on Darko Horvat's still warm chair, maybe those people could be still valid options, but according to unofficial sources from the Government, Stjepan Curaj is said to already be a member of the Banija/Banovina (post-earthquake) reconstruction staff, is entirely informed about the whole story, is very familiar with the details and the belief is that he would do his best in that business.

The party involved isn't one that you tend to hear of anywhere as much as the likes of HDZ or SDP, but despite that, it is a party that split in order to save the Government of Andrej Plenkovic back in the day, and they paid for that in the elections.

If the Prime Minister does end up deciding that Stjepan Curaj will be the new minister to take over from Horvat, he might be indebted to the Croatian People's Party which saved him in his last term when he expelled Most (Bridge) from the Government, and maybe he would actually seek to somehow reward the Croatian People's Party for their part in that sticky situation.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Right-Wing Opposition: Why Would Left-Wing Opposition Be Better than Present Government?

21 February, 2022 - The demand by the centre-left opposition parties in the Croatian parliament on Monday for an early election and the Bridge party's initiative for dissolution of parliament received a lukewarm response from right-wing parties. 

"Croatian Sovereignists are of the view that there should be a radical government reshuffle because this government has lost its legitimacy. If that does not happen, we should not shun away from an early election," the party's MP Marijan Pavliček said while commenting on the demand for an early election following the arrest of Economy Minister Darko Horvat.

He said that an early election was advocated by Social Democratic Party leader Peđa Grbin, who was recently "caught with his hand in the cookie jar" for receiving the family separation allowance and is now "pretending to be a very moral person."

"What makes him different from those who have been arrested? He is a small-time crook and they are big-time crooks," Pavliček said.

"I'm not sure that those aspiring to come to power are much better and that they can promise the Croatian people a change, as shown by their two leaders Bauk and Grbin," added Milan Vrkljan (For a Just Croatia), adding that such people cannot be guarantors of change.

Independent Hrvoje Zekanović said: "What I am in favour of is irrelevant. Whatever the quasi-opposition may be predicting and gathering signatures for is irrelevant, because Andrej Plenković has a majority in parliament and hence a stable government."

Asked whether, if necessary, he would be the 77th hand for Plenković and the majority led by his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Zekanović said that he was in the opposition and that he had not discussed this with the prime minister.

Pavliček said that the Sovereignists would announce their position on Bridge's initiative on Wednesday, while Vrkljan said that Bridge had not asked anything of them yet.

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! 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.

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