Friday, 12 March 2021

Parl. Parties Endorse Ratification of Classified Information Agreement With Spain

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - Croatian parliamentary parties on Friday endorsed the proposal to ratify the Agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information between the governments of Croatia and Spain.

During the discussion, Zvonimir Troskot (Bridge) noted that Croatia and Spain had had good bilateral relations since the 1990s, sharing the same principles and goals.

"Both countries are facing the same challenges - migration, the fight against terrorism, climate change, Spanish companies are already present on our market, so why are we ratifying this agreement only now?" Troskot asked.

Juro Martinović, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Administration, said that "there is nothing spectacularly new" in the Agreement. "States always regulate such matters. Under international law, Croatia is a successor to many agreements concluded by (former Yugoslavia)," he added.

Martinović said that the Agreement had been signed on 15 December 2020 and that it established a legal framework for the protection of classified information that is generated or exchanged between the parties, and designated competent authorities for the implementation of the Agreement. The Agreement also determines equivalent classification levels, national measures to protect classified information and mechanisms for transmission of such information.

Independent MP Marijana Petir asked Martinović if Croatia had similar agreements with other EU countries and whether there had been any violations of those agreements, to which he said that he had no knowledge of any violations.

Ivan Budalić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that Croatia had similar agreements with many countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Sweden and Italy. 

Dalija Orešković (Centre party) was interested to know who had decided on concluding the Agreement, who had appointed the delegation and whether the President of the Republic was involved in the process, to which Martinović said that the Agreement enters into force after it is signed by the President of the Republic and published in the Official Gazette and the two governments exchange notes.

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Parliament Discusses Candidates for Public Ombudsman

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - The Croatian parliament on Wednesday discussed a proposal by the Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System to nominate attorney and judge Sandra Hančić and Deputy Public Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter for the post of Public Ombudsman.

Several opposition party groups expressed dissatisfaction that Public Ombudswoman Lora Vidović's reports for 2018 and 2019 had still not been discussed.

Nino Raspudić of the Bridge party warned about what he called a huge increase in the budget of the ombudswoman's office, saying it had doubled since 2008, as well as about an increase in the number of staff.

He proposed reducing the term of the public ombudsman from eight to five years and that the official should be elected by a two-thirds majority in the parliament.

That way one would not elect a para-political person, said Raspudić, adding that outgoing Public Ombudswoman Lora Vidović had not dealt with issues she should have dealt with and that she made her views clear when she opposed the 2013 referendum on marriage as a union of man and woman.

Dalija Orešković (Centar, GLAS) warned about growing social inequality and what she described as the shameful treatment of the office of public ombudswoman, whose reports for 2018 and 2019 had still not been discussed by the parliament. The Public Ombudswoman has protected public interest and not the interests of the HDZ, Orešković said, accusing the ruling party of destroying the country and causing its people to emigrate.

She dismissed Raspudić's claim that Vidović was a para-political figure.

The declining number of applications for the post shows that candidates do not see any prospects there, she said.

Ružica Vukovac of the Homeland Movement warned that MPs were only given short biographies of the candidates, who were not presented in the parliament.

Vesna Nađ (SDP) said that her party preferred Šimonović Einwalter, noting that it was not good that the public ombudswoman's reports for 2018 and 2019 had not been discussed.

Damir Habijan of the HDZ said the office of the public ombudsman was undoubtedly important and that the candidates had answered all questions put to them by two parliamentary committees.

The public ombudsman is expected to advocate and protect the rights and freedoms defined by the Constitution and international treaties, and the HDZ will make a decision on which candidate to support when the vote is taken, he said.

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

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Centre for Dissolving COVID Response Team, Forming New One in Parliament

ZAGREB, November 28, 2020 - The Centre party on Saturday proposed dissolving what it called the ruling HDZ's national COVID response team and the establishment of a new advisory body by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Speaking at an online press conference, the opposition party's co-president Dalija Oreskovic said people no longer trusted the response team because of "its inconsistent, incompetent and politicised measures."

The team "which lost its authority and credibility because of its oversights must be dissolved," she added.

Oreskovic said the time had come for top state officials to act statesmanly and nationally.

The party called on President Zoran Milanovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to sit at the table and show they were willing to talk, and on Plenkovic to sit at the table with the parliamentary majority as well as the opposition to find a solution.

Oreskovic said Centre was proposing the establishment of a response team of national unity, adding that only a team which did not comprise members of only one party and laws adopted by consensus could help restore trust.

Trust in those conceiving measures is the main tool for successfully fighting the coronavirus crisis, she said.

That body would comprise experts from all relevant fields chosen in line with expert criteria, not party affiliation, and their key decisions would be communicated by the prime minister, not the team's members, Oreskovic said, adding that before parliament voted on the new response team, it was necessary to adopt a law which would allow it.

Centre co-president Marijana Puljak said Croatia was in a deep recession and that the brunt of the economic crisis fell on businesses which, she added, the government treated as enemies, not partners.

She said the response team's measures were being changed by the week and that, as a result, entrepreneurs could not remain in business.

Puljak said the restrictions should not create a gap between the public and private sectors, and that "we should all form a single viable sector which would share the burden of the crisis."

She said the compensatory measures to date focused on job retention, leaving out expenses for rent, utilities and interest on loans, adding that it was necessary to urgently cut business costs, taxes and parafiscal levies.

Puljak said compensation should be conceived for the hospitality sector given that bars and restaurants were closed for the next three weeks, adding that local government should help.

Centre co-president Dario Carev said the national COVID response team was increasingly used to score political points and that the growing distrust in it resulted in citizens acting relaxed about COVID-19.

Instead of being an advisory tool in the fight against the epidemic, the response team has become a mask on the government's political face, he said, adding that Centre "won't keep quiet about the bad scenarios and even worse justifications being given these days by a team which has lost credibility and expertise."

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Centre Party Says Undeclared Lockdown in Force in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 21, 2020 - One of the Centre party leaders, Dalija Oreskovic, said on Saturday that there was a state of undeclared lockdown in Croatia.

That way, she said, the government is avoiding its responsibility to give financial support to businesses that cannot operate due to the coronavirus crisis.

"Examples of arrogance, which show that there are double standards for epidemiological measures, just as for anything else in Croatia, started already during the summer. There is one set of rules for the HDZ and their privileged categories of people and events, and another one for us, less important mortals," Oreskovic told a news conference.

Coronavirus under control yesterday, today it's a plague we are to blame for

"Coronavirus was under control by the national COVID-19 response team yesterday, while today it is a plague we ourselves are to blame for. Tomorrow, when the HDZ holds intraparty elections, the virus will be laughed at, but the day after we will be admonished for being responsible for its explosion," said Oreskovic.

She noted that her party was not a proponent of conspiracy theories or disregard for science, calling on citizens to be twice as responsible as asked of them by the national COVID-19 response team, which she described as politicised.

"One should remember, when any next election is held, who are those who treat citizens as fools with whose lives they dare play on the verge of an undeclared lockdown in which all rights and credit will be theirs and all responsibility and damage ours," said Oreskovic.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Pametno and SIP Join to Form New Party Called Centre

ZAGREB, November 16, 2020 - The parliamentary opposition parties Pametno (Smart) and the Party with a First and Last Name (SIP) joined to form a single party, called Centre, at an online convention on Sunday, they announced in a statement on Monday.

The new party will not have a leader, but will be headed by four co-leaders - Dalija Oreskovic, Marijana Puljak, Marin Racic and Dario Carev.

The first unification of two political parties in Croatia on an equal footing is aimed at bringing together as many respectable individuals as possible to push for more civil liberties, less state influence on the economy and strong anti-corruption policies, the statement said.

The new party said it would prepare for local elections in May by offering a programme and candidates who can effect true change.

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.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

New Political Party Launched in Croatia

ZAGREB, March 11, 2020 - The initiators of a new political party in Croatia, called "Stranka s imenom i prezimenom" (Party with a First and Last Name) held a press conference in Zagreb on Wednesday to present their platform, saying that they would insist on unpopular but necessary reforms and the fight against corruption.

"The result of this team's work is a political project which I believe will cause a political shock of final change after decades of stagnation in Croatia. We will insist on reforms because everyone's had enough of PR moves and cosmetics. We want to make radical changes," said one of the initiators of the party, MP and mayor of the southern town of Vrgorac Ante Pranić.

The party brings together people who have distinguished themselves in their professions and who have the knowledge, energy and will to change Croatia for the sake of future generations, he said.

Dalija Orešković, the former head of the Conflict of Interest Commission and the party's adviser on public administration and justice, said that they were seeking to attract other parties and individuals willing to work towards common objectives and interests.

She said that the parties that have ruled Croatia in the last 30 years have turned it into a country of injustice, a country of angry people, unemployed people and people with blocked accounts.

"We need to dismantle the present system and build a new one, but one person or one party is not enough to do that. That requires an alliance," Orešković said, adding that the dominant parties belonged to history because they were preoccupied only with history or with themselves.

The coordinator for economic affairs, Josip Budimir, said that the party would focus on combating corruption through the public and private sector, adding that other parties could not do this because it would destabilise them.

The party will seek to reduce the number of public sector employees, eliminate clientelism and create a public sector that meets the needs of the state. It plans to change the model of management of state-owned companies through selection of managers who have distinguished themselves in the public sector.

The mayor of Knin, Marko Jelić, said that among the main problems were management of state property, resources and the environment, as well as poor transport connectivity which makes life for people in small communities difficult.

The party initiators said they were ready to carry out their programme even at the cost of "disappearing" from political life after that.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 8 July 2019

START Leader Dalija Orešković Announces Bid for Presidency

ZAGREB, July 8, 2019 - The leader of the START party and former chair of the parliamentary Conflict of Interest Commission, Dalija Orešković, announced on Sunday she would run for president, saying that the institutions that should be combating corruption either have been sunk or are facing euthanasia.

"I made the decision at the height of corruption scandals that erupted in government. None of the candidates so far has offered acceptable solutions and responses to the social injustices created by corruption, which has seeped into all pores of government and society," Orešković said in an interview with the commercial Nova TV television channel.

She added that it seemed to her that at the moment all the institutions that should be combating corruption "either have been sunk or are on track to be euthanised, as is the case with the Conflict of Interest Commission."

"That's why I think it is very important for me to speak about the matters I am sure no other candidate will address as I do," Orešković said.

Although START failed to win a seat in the European Parliament in May's election, she said this was not a shortfall. "This was the first election at which a new political party was gaining political experience. One defeat cannot be a reason for discouragement, and everyone who is committed to their political persuasions and objectives must find the strength to fight for them."

Given that some members of her party had left, she said that START would undergo political reorganisation in parallel with the presidential campaign.

Commenting on the platform of the presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro, Oreskovic said that the concentration of power in the hands of one person may offer "quick and easy solutions" but means less democracy and less rule of law.

As for the Social Democratic Party's candidate, former prime minister Zoran Milanović, she said that although there were many positive things about him he was not a good presidential candidate. "First of all, he is a candidate of continuity and of maintaining the status quo in this society. It is precisely because of his previous political career that I think he will not be able to advocate progressive anti-corruption policies," Orešković said.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

START Party Presents European Election Candidates

ZAGREB, April 6, 2019 - The non-parliamentary party called START, which was recently established by lawyer Dalija Orešković, a former head of the Conflict of Interest Commission, on Saturday presented its 12-member slate for the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament.

Apart from members of this party, also two independent parliamentary deputies are nominated as START candidates for future MEPs: Bojan Glavašević and Tomislav Žagar, who used to be officials of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The slate also includes lawyer Nicole Kwiatkowski, who is perceived in the public as an attorney promoting the rights of holders of loans that used to be denominated in the Swiss franc.

The remaining nine candidates are the party leader Orešković as well as Lejla Sehić Relić, Duje Prkut, Branka Lukačević-Gregić, Marina Pavković, Pero Mrnarević, Tonći Talaja, Igor Vlajnić and Nebojša Biškup.

Dalija Orešković told a press conference that this was a victorious option that would like to bring together the left centre.

The slate will advocate values of anti-corruption, anti-Fascism and of the future-oriented Europe, she said expressing hope that the slate will win one of the 12 seats allotted for Croatia in the EP.

Glavašević said the programme of this slate revolves around anti-corruption as well as safety and security of people, individuals, borders, and the market.

More news about the European elections can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Newly-Formed Start Party Offer Citizens "New Faces and New Hope"

ZAGREB, February 10, 2019 - The newly-formed Start party will offer the citizens of Croatia "new faces and new hope" by promoting different values than those advocated by the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the president and the prime minister, its leader Dalija Orešković has told Hina in an interview.

Orešković, former chair of the parliamentary Conflict of Interest Commission who has been portrayed by the media as a new star on the Croatian political scene, says that the support she has received from 4.6% of the electorate in opinion polls this month gives her additional motivation. She rejected the possibility of entering into a pre-election coalition with the Amsterdam Coalition and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and said that she saw the space for dialogue among new forces such as the newly-formed political platform We Can! and the Pametno party.

Commenting on the voter support, Orešković said the public needed a party that would advocate a different approach to politics and promote different values. "This surprisingly high result at our very start only provides additional motivation and is an obligation for me to fulfil all the things that I have hinted at even before the party was formed."

Asked about the prospects of her leftist-liberal party in the first next elections in the Lika region, where it would stand against the HDZ which has been in power there since the 1990s, Orešković said: "This is not about whether Start can win or not. It is essential that we go to Lika and explain to people there that they have a choice that is different from what they are used to." She said that the HDZ was using local resources only for the sake of staying in power and that her party's aim is to encourage and bring together all independent forces to vote down the budget and bring down first the county prefect Darko Milinović and then the HDZ itself.

Asked if it was wise for a new party to risk a total fiasco by taking on the most powerful rightwing stronghold in the country, Orešković said: "It is important for us to open an alternative way and sooner or later it will produce a result. It doesn't necessarily have to be now. The key issues that we will raise in the context of the European elections can best be explained in the case of Lika. I specifically mean the absorption of EU funding for agriculture and the fact that these grants are allocated without a proper control system. The allocation of agricultural grants is possibly one of the most corruption-ridden areas of governance in Croatia."

Responding to the interviewer's remark that Start does not have recognisable people with political experience, Orešković said that their aim is to "open the door to new forces and people who are not stigmatised by their past, people who can vouch with their results, professional engagement and integrity that they will represent indeed something new on the political scene."

Asked what part of the electorate she was counting on and whether among them were voters of the left disillusioned with the present leadership of the SDP, Orešković said she primarily counted on those aware of the damage being done by "the HDZ and this corrupt clientelistic model, to which some other political models may have also resorted to a lesser extent."

"I count on those who see that the standard of living of our people is considerably lower than the EU average, that the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse, that a meaningful education reform does not exist even on paper, that the pension system is questionable, that the existing territorial organisation is threatening sound public financial management. The fact that 100,000 citizens left Croatia last year shows that government is not functioning. There's also the state of the judiciary, freedom of the media, the corruption perception index and indicators of the ease of doing business. Anyone who feels even a grain of rebellion and resistance in them and wants politics to become an area of competition between good ideas, they are all my potential voters who I count on," Oreskovic said.

Asked whether she would challenge Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's run for a second term as president, Orešković said that her priority was to present her party and its platform to the public, establish party infrastructure and connect people who would be involved in the detailed elaboration of party policies. "The European elections will be the first serious test that will show how successful we are and whether voters have recognised us as being different from other political parties."

When pressed to say whether this meant that she would not run in the presidential race, Orešković said: "The idea is for Start to have its own candidate for president, but our ultimate goal is the parliamentary election. Everything else will be geared towards achieving that goal. I believe a lot of things will change on the political scene by then, particularly after the European elections, when we will be able to be more specific about the presidential election."

Commenting on media reports about the possibility of former SDP prime minister Zoran Milanović standing for president and asked if he would be a better president than the incumbent, Orešković said: "I prefer new faces and new forces in politics. As for Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, I consider her entire term in office to be a failure which has degraded both the function and role of the head of state. The sum of her gaffes, bad messages and failure to take a stand on vital problems in society leads me to the conclusion that I can hardly think of a candidate, at least those that are currently being talked about, who could be worse than her."

Asked about her opinion of the opposition proposal for a review of the Vatican treaties, which is opposed by both the president and the prime minister and has been rejected by the parliament, Orešković said: "It is important to open dialogue on a review of these treaties, but not in a hostile atmosphere that would lead to further divisions. The way in which the Vatican treaties are now being implemented is not good either for the Church or for the faithful, and this issue is often used to promote individual political groups. I think that the fact that Catholic catechism has been introduced in primary schools as an optional subject does not reflect the spirit of the constitutional values of secularism because of the way it is being implemented. The moment the Church entered the education system in such a way we neglected that basic constitutional principle."

Asked if she thought the president was flirting with the far right, Orešković said: "I think the president is doing much more than that. Everything that we now consider a genie released from a bottle began with her (election). Here I don't mean just the persons she invited to her inauguration, but a series of her moves that were against the spirit of values that a president should embrace." She criticised Grabar-Kitarović for failing to condemn tolerance of symbols related to the Nazi-allied Ustasha regime that ruled Croatia in WWII. "In my opinion that's possibly her biggest failure because that is not what a forward-looking Croatia looks like."

Asked to comment on the ruling majority's stalling the adoption of the new abortion law, Orešković said: "Abortion primarily concerns women's right to freedom of choice. The government is stalling this probably because it is pandering to clerical circles with whom it has colluded for decades on how to run government policy. Ever since Croatia became an independent state, the Church has had too much influence on government decision making. As for the Istanbul Convention, although it has been ratified, the protection of women against violence has not improved in practice. Certain examples show that violence is continuing to grow. There are many implementing measures and laws that need to be upgraded so that the ratification of the Convention would make sense, but it seems to me that there is no political will to ensure an effective protection of women. It's not about money but about good will, because if we have enough money to buy military aircraft, we should also have money to protect our people if we really care about them at all. When it comes to women, this government shows that it doesn't care. The ratification was motivated by the prime minister's desire to show his face of a modern European politician to Europe, but I don't think Plenković has a firm foothold in himself in terms of a value system."

Orešković said she held all HDZ-led governments, and particularly the present one with Prime Minister Plenković at its helm, responsible for the situation in the country. She said that relevant authorities had never reacted to arrangements that had been made for the overindebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate and that Plenković had "euthanised" the rule of law in Croatia. "Is this the country that we fought for and dreamed of? I don't think so. If all these scandals that occurred during Plenković's term go unpunished, the question will be whether there is anything left in Croatia that is worth saving."

Asked to comment on the growing strength of the parliamentary group of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić's party and defections to his group, Orešković said: "There is obviously a secret deal between Milan Bandić and Andrej Plenković, although we citizens do not have any specific proof of political corruption. Bandić is accused of very serious and financially lucrative criminal offences while the judiciary is not particularly quick in addressing these cases. The message that he is sending is that he is in a position to blackmail the government, and we can only speculate what is going on under the table. As long as an independent and effective judiciary is not in place to investigate cases like this independently and proactively, I'm afraid that we others won't be able to do much. The only thing left for the citizens to do is to say a resounding no to Bandić and all the defectors who joined his group at the next elections."

Asked about possible pre-election cooperation with the Amsterdam Coalition or the SDP, Orešković said she saw the space for dialogue primarily among new forces appearing on the political scene, citing the We Can! platform and the Pametno party, given that they too are calling for reducing the number of local government units. As for the Amsterdam Coalition, "I don't see any possibility of entering into a pre-election coalition with them for now."

More news on the Start party can be found in the Politics section.

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