Sunday, 27 March 2022

Croatian Government Reshuffle by May 30? As Many as 7 Names Are Mentioned

March 27, 2022 - Several sources from the ruling coalition claim that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has broken through and that a wider Croatian Government reshuffle will take place around May 30.

This began to be seriously considered after the arrest of Minister of Construction Darko Horvat, and especially after Uskok opened investigations against two other members of the Government: Minister of Labor and Pensions Josip Aladrović, who is suspected of favoring the employment of two people in 2018 and 2019 while being director of the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, who is suspected of mediating in "arranging" incentives for selected companies, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

The idea of ​​a broader government reshuffle, according to sources, was terribly pushed by the latest affair that erupted after the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak publicly announced that she had received terrible threats but did not report them to the police until her public appearance, nor to her boss - the Prime Minister. They are convinced that Tramišak has already been de facto written off, especially after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković publicly said that "the whole situation with Minister Tramišak is extremely bizarre" and that "it is not yet completely clear to him".

''I will not make statements. The whole case was taken over by the police.'', was all that Minister Tramišak told Slobodna Dalmacija yesterday.

The idea has been ''cooked'' before

A source from the HDZ says that the story about the government's reshuffle was "cooking" even before the Tramišak case, that it will cover much wider than her, Aladrović and Milošević, and that it will take place between Easter (April 17) and Statehood Day (May 30).

''As for Minister Tramišak, it is clear that she no longer has any confidence. A more serious reconstruction is being considered, which would not only affect her and the members of the Government burdened with investigations (Aladrović and Milošević). There are executed people in the Government, such as the Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković, and the stay of the Minister of Health Vili Beroš is still uncertain.'', says the source. He claims that the case of the Minister of Defense, Mario Banožić, is particularly interesting. He says that he is terribly untalented and that almost no one in the party supports him (anymore).

''But it would be too bold to claim that he lost Plenković's trust because Banožić is completely loyal to him.'', he says.

In addition to the mentioned names, in the context of the Government reshuffle, sources from HDZ and the ruling coalition parties note that the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić could also leave the Government".

One of the sources claims that he received information that Tomo Medved (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Veterans' Affairs) could replace Mario Banožić as Minister of Defense.

''I think that would be a phenomenal move because the President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, respects him terribly, especially because of Medved's role in the country's defense. Therefore, Milanović could no longer score easy goals, as he does now with Banožić. However, I think that Plenković will not give up Banožić, not (only) because of their good relationship, but because of Milanović who would declare such a move his victory (in a clash with the Government and Prime Minister Plenković).

Ministers are silent

Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved was not in the mood yesterday to discuss the government reshuffle.

We did not receive any comment on the information on the government reshuffle from the others mentioned in that context: Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic, Ministers Banožić, Aladrović, and Beroš, as well as from the Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković.

Some of Plenković's coalition partners are also strongly advocating a broader government reshuffle.

- I am sure that there will be a reconstruction. Without going into, of course, whether they (Aladrović and Milošević, n. A.) Are guilty or not, it is objective that the burden of these investigations puts the Prime Minister in a position to go into government reshuffle. This is not in dispute or questionable at all. In addition, there are still some open topics in the public and it can be assumed that some other ministerial positions may be the subject of government reshuffle - says the head of the Reformists  Radimir Cacic. 

HSLS President Dario Hrebak is also a supporter of the (wider) government reshuffle.

''HSLS will continue to support the ruling majority, but we should not run away from the problems we have. As a serious party, we believe that Croatia does not need new elections because of everything that is happening in the world, as well as in the domestic economy. But that does not mean that we will not advocate certain refreshments in the Government within the ruling majority. I think it would be good to do that. But the final decision on the reconstruction is made by the prime minister. He is the prime minister, he is forming the Government, and he will best assess whether he needs reconstruction. HSLS sees its role as a party that will not blackmail or condition anything, but propose. We will certainly suggest that we need to refresh the Government because we have two more years of mandate and we are simply coming to a political position that requires us to make certain changes. I would like to mention once again that Prime Minister Plenković has a much broader picture. He should suggest when, in what way, and whether a government reshuffle is needed. HSLS will continue to support the ruling majority.'', says Hrebak.

Consultations have not yet begun

A source from the HDZ, who is also convinced of the government's spring reshuffle, says "serious consultations on the subject in the party have not yet begun".

"We haven't come that far yet," he says.

Clearly, there are those in the HDZ who believe that the government reshuffle should not go much further than those burdened with investigations such as Aladrovic and Milosevic.

''Why would Minister Tramišak, for example, leave the Government as part of a package that includes persons who are the subject of Uskok investigations? Unlike them, she is "pure", she received threats because she did not want to please anyone. After all, we will discuss her position in the Government on Tuesday at a meeting of the HDZ leadership. While the Prime Minister finds it bizarre that Tramišak did not report the threats to the police before she spoke about them publicly, it is bizarre to me that he has a Minister of Defense who has not been able to evict the Nazi for more than two weeks, and it is bizarre to me that in Zagreb, more than two years after the earthquake, reconstruction has not yet begun'', says the interlocutor from the ruling party.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Despite Horvat Scandal, PM Plenkovic Manages to Avoid Snap Elections

February the 24th, 2022 - PM Plenkovic has had his hands full with the most recent scandal involving former Minister Darko Horvat, but he's managed to avoid any snap elections.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the development of events and the latest reshuffles on the Croatian political scene and the increasingly serious military security crisis in which the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin are of growing concern have been being followed with trepidation recently.

PM Plenkovic wanted to see Croatian People's Party (HNS) leader Stjepan Curaj placed in the position of Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property after Darko Horvat was arrested a few days ago. Curaj is also currently state secretary in the Ministry of Finance, but despite his resume, the idea didn't work with PM Plenkovic's coalition partners.

Stjepan Curaj is otherwise a lawyer and the fact that there are no references to his name that would make him particularly desirable for the leading position in the construction department has sparked heated debates over the Prime Minister's intention to position him in such an important position, just after the European Commission gave Croatia another year to use cash from the Solidarity Fund.

In addition, Curaj has been reproached for being in a wave of recent questions about the character of politicians and the use of benefits covered by the state budget and his name having emerged on that infamous list.

PM Plenkovic definitely wants to avoid any snap or early elections, but with the latest developments, he will probably not take the opportunity to "clean start" and introduce completely new, unblemished people from the profession. The question is still open as to what further consequences there will be for the functioning of the Government and other state bodies if he is forced to make changes in some other positions.

Whether he will be able to push his mandate right through to the end with this level of shaky credibility and whether there will be disruptions at lower levels in decision-making after all of this are some of the questions that can be heard from the political, analytical and even economic ranks. Unfortunately, all this is happening in the midst of strained relations and an increasingly serious crisis in which Russia is leading with the recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine, and which will cause a wave which will inevitably spill over into the Croatian economy.

Not only will the likely sanctions against Russia, announced from Western countries against Russian banks and companies, again hamper trade, which last year exceeded 5 billion kuna, but the consequences will all be felt indirectly, through rising oil and gas prices that will close access Russian raw materials and their procurement in other markets. The new sanctions, which in the case of the EU should be similar to those put in place back in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, will be felt through business with EU member states that have extensive trade with Russia, such as Germany, one of Croatia's most important foreign trade partners.

Therefore, a new global military and economic crisis is imminent, and the current proverbial earthquakes (thank God they're at least not real ones this time) we're experiencing due to rising electricity and gas prices and the threat of inflation will not be tackled until April the 1st. Let's hope that date carries none of its traditional meaning, either.

"We're live between unpredictable events, and predictability is a prerequisite for stability, which is essential for successful business," said Damir Zoric, director general of the Croatian Employers' Association.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

It's Important to Respect Presumption of Innocence, Minister Obuljen Koržinek

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said on Wednesday she condemned any suspicion of a dishonourable act, wherever it came from, but that it was important to respect the presumption of innocence, notably regarding Deputy PM Boris Milošević and the allocation of incentives.

The USKOK anti-corruption office is accusing Milošević of abuse of office in the allocation of incentives to businesses alongside five other persons, including Darko Horvat, who was arrested on Saturday and relieved of duty as construction minister.

Speaking on Croatian Radio, Obuljen Koržinek said the matter was under investigation.

"It's important not to create hysteria, not to convict people before proceedings have been carried out because many people in high positions in Croatia have been accused and labelled, which lasted for years, only to be acquitted."

She said it was very important to respect judicial institutions and not to convict people before a verdict was delivered.

Opposition's only agenda is to topple the HDZ without arguments

Asked to comment on some opposition parties' demand for dissolving parliament and an early election, she said "the opposition's only agenda is the delusional and unfounded toppling of the (ruling) HDZ."

"How has it happened that all of a sudden the SDP, We Can! and Bridge agree on everything?" she said, adding that it is their only narrative.

"They should form a party together, act together and pretend they are on different political positions", she said, telling all three to consider their actions in the election they are demanding.

"They are praying to God that there is no election and that in two years they can try to work some more on their image and rating."

Obuljen Koržinek called the opposition's statements on the judiciary as mud-slinging and an unfounded stating of untruths. "A week ago they said the HDZ had its hooks in and controlled the judiciary and now, a week later, all of a sudden the whole judiciary is excellent, independent  and should be protected."

She said such inconsistency and spitting on everything was very bad for democracy in Croatia.

"Don't hit at institutions because tomorrow you will have to build them," she told the opposition, adding that the common goal of those in power and the opposition is to affirm politics as an activity in which one works for the common good.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

MPs Talk Former Minister Horvat's Arrest

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Some opposition MPs on Wednesday commented on the arrest of former minister Darko Horvat on suspicion of abuse of office, and the case of allocating incentives in a non-transparent fashion.

Katarina Peović of the Workers' Front said the ruling HDZ party "is the third natural disaster, after the pandemic and the earthquakes," that had hit Croatia.

She said that in 2018, when Horvat served as economy minister, he was texting with his aide on the allocation of incentives to small businesses in a non-transparent fashion, while the Uljanik shipyard was in agony.

"The only thing Uljanik needed to maintain production and keep jobs was a HRK 150,000 state guarantee, but there was neither the need nor the will for that, while money was being given to small businesses without criteria", Peović said, adding that the collapse of Uljanik, Brodotrogir and Orljava is much more dangerous than what Horvat is being accused of.

"Taking the state attorney general to task is the twilight of every reasonable democracy and law-based state, that's a violation of constitutional principles," Željko Sačić of the Sovereignists said about the prime minister's statements on Saturday following Horvat's arrest.

He called on state attorneys to do their job to the maximum. "You are the only possibility we have of saving Croatia", he added.

State Attorney General "Zlata Hrvoj Šipek has sent the prime minister the clear message that his ministers are corrupt, that they are stealing from the state budget," said Milan Vrkljan of For a Just Croatia, criticising the prime minister for calling out Hrvoj Šipek for the timing of Horvat's arrest and for demanding stronger evidence.

"The State Attorney's Office has knocked on Horvat's door, two other ministers are being mentioned, and what they all have in common is that they are not competent and the procedure of their selection is unclear", Vrljkan said, especially criticising Labour Minister Josip Aladrović.

"He's a lazybones doing his job by belittling, without social intelligence," he said, calling on the prime minister to remove such ministers.

Speaker Gordan Jandroković said it was unfair to talk about someone who could not defend himself.

Branko Bačić of the ruling HDZ said Vrkljan should not preach morality given that "the public knows" the epilogue of his trial, evidently referring to a trial in which Vrkljan and a hospital colleague were accused of bribe-taking, but the indictments were dismissed due to the statute of limitations.

Parliament today added eight items to the agenda, including two opposition motions for its dissolution.         

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.                                                     

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Attorney Confirms Hiring by Deputy Prime Minister Milošević

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Attorney Anto Nobilo said on Tuesday that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević hired him after the USKOK anti-corruption office accused him of incitement to abuse of office in the allocation of incentives to businesses.

Speaking to Hina, Nobilo said he was now waiting to see the case file so that he could start preparing a defence.

He said Milošević had not been questioned at USKOK nor summoned, and that he would not state his defence before seeing the case file.

Nobilo said Milošević was accused of incitement to abuse of office.

Speaking for RTL television earlier in the evening, he said that, judging by the decision to conduct an investigation, incitement was suspected but there was room for a defence.

"Milošević believes that he is not guilty," Nobilo said. "He advocated for the constituents who elected him and did not ask someone else to commit a crime."

Nobilo said Milošević should not appeal against the investigation, which is also looking into Darko Horvat, who was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of abuse of office, after which he was relieved of duty as construction minister at his own request.

"I suggested against it because there is reasonable doubt. USKOK embarked on a criminal procedure absolutely correctly upon getting a witness deposition. It believed the deposition and that, as a basis of reasonable doubt, is enough to launch an investigation," Nobilo said.

USKOK is investigating six persons. Horvat, who is in one month's custody, and his former aide Ana Mandac are accused of abuse of office.

Besides Milošević, USKOK is accusing of incitement to abuse of office, according to unconfirmed information, Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry state secretary Velimir Žunac, the head of the Administration for assisted areas, Katica Mišković, and former minister Tomislav Tolušić.

As the main suspect, Horvat was arrested after Mandac told USKOK that incentives were allocated to businesses that did not meet the criteria when Horvat served as economy minister. Horvat claims he was only signing documents brought to him by Mandac.

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.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Pundits Comment on Developments Surrounding Minister's Arrest

ZAGREB, 20 Feb 2022 - Political analyst Žarko Puhovski said on Saturday that Minister Darko Horvat's arrest will not undermine the government if the matter remains within the limits of that minister, and Davor Gjenero believes that speculations of snap elections are dangerous amid unpredictable global developments.

Construction and State Assets Minister Darko Horvat was arrested on Saturday on the abuse of power charges, and upon his apprehension the minister dismissed the charges.

The Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) on Saturday evening stated that based on a police report, it launched an investigation of two persons on suspicion of abuse of office, and that another four suspects in the case are accused of incitement to the offence.

USKOK did not reveal the identities of the six suspects, however, earlier in the day media outlets reported that the suspects are Construction Minister Darko Horvat, his former aide Ana Mandac, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, the Regional Development Ministry's state secretary Velimir Žunac, the director of the administration for assisted areas, Katica Mišković, and former minister Tomislav Tolušić.

According to USKOK's statement, in his previous capacity as economy minister, Horvat is believed to have signed off on the disbursement of grants in the amount of HRK 2.6 million (€347,000) to some businesses that are ineligible for aid, between November 2018 to the end of 2018, at the urging of Tolušić, Milošević, Žunac and Mišković.

Upon his arrest, Horvat resigned. 

Commenting on the developments, the analyst Puhovski told Hina on Saturday evening that in the event that the case remained within the limits pertaining to Horvat, the cabinet led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković would not be negatively affected by the scandal.

"The developments could even make things easier for PM Plenković, as in this way he got rid of the minister with the poorest performance", said the pundit.

"However, if the whole case expands to include Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, all this will grow into a serious issue both for the government and for the ruling coalition. In such scenario, it is possible to have discussions on early elections, however I do not believe that we will have them soon," said this analyst.

Puhovski agrees with Plenković that the gravity of the arrest of a minister required the appearance of the State Attorney General in the public to give further explanations.

Upon Horvat's arrest, Plenković held an impromptu news conference in which he said, among other things, that he expected the State Attorney's Office (DORH) to explain the urgency of the actions taken.

However, DORH said later that it and the attorney general would not comment on the Prime Minister call on DORH, and that "the competent state attorney's office and the USKOK anti-corruption office are taking action in line with the law."

Puhovski said that this was the second time in the present-day Croatia that an incumbent minister was arrested, and he believes that it is unfair from DORH to give only a press release claiming that prosecutors are doing their job in line with laws and that they will not give any explanations to anybody.

"They should have informed the general public what this is about, as the arrest concerns a minister," said Puhovski.

One pundit for early election, another believes it would be dangerous in current circumstances

On the other hand pundit Anđelko Milardović criticises PM Plenković for making statements which, he says, interfere in the work of DORH.

This pundit slams Plenković for "authoritarian tendencies that also smack of the dictatorial way of governance."

Milardović also said that Horvat should have been dismissed instantly, and that the Prime Minister should also have resigned.

While Milardović believes that the ruling majority should dissolve itself, another political analyst Gjenero told Hina that calling for snap elections in the current circumstances of unpredictable global developments, is dangerous.

Gjenero finds it odd that the arrest of Horvat and this case implicating his former aide Mandac was not a follow-up to "the wind park" case in which Mandac was also a suspect, but that this is being regarded as an entirely different matter.

This analyst also points out that the latest allegations concern the coalition between the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the biggest party representing an ethnic minority, the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS). 

"This is always a politically sensitive situation, I am very reserved about what that can be actually," he said, adding that the affair could give ammunition to those who claim that the HDZ-SDSS coalition is an outcome of a trade-off.

"If there are any elements hinting at corruption, those involved must immediately step down, however I find this whole case an odd precedent", he added.

More on this story from yesterday:

Minister Horvat Denies Guilt, Anti-Corruption Office Demands Remand in Custody

State Attorney's Office says Won't Comment on PM's Statement After Minister's Arrest

Grbin: Election Only Salvation for Croatia

Čačić: Horvat Has to Go, Reformists' Support Depends on Police Operation's Results

Croatian Prime Minister Blames USKOK for Ruining Croatia's Spectacular Week

PM Calls on Prosecutors to Explain Case Implicating Minister Horvat 

Police Probe is Targeting Horvat and Milošević, Aladrović not Implicated

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Horvat Scandal Too Much Even for Croatia, Time for Plenkovic to Step Down?

February the 20th, 2022 - The Darko Horvat scandal which has dominated the press over the last few days has been too much even by Croatian standards according to some. One Index journalist, Goran Vojkovic, believes it's time for PM Andrej Plenkovic to step down.

As Index/Goran Vojkovic writes, the State Attorney's Office Act states that ''any form of influence is prohibited, especially any form of coercion against state attorneys and deputy state attorneys, the abuse of public authority and personal influence, and the use of media and public appearances in criminal cases prosecuted ex officio and in cases where the state attorney or deputy the State Attorney performs his powers and duties in the protection of the property of the Republic of Croatia.''

It was a very difficult, rainy Saturday for the Prime Minister, it was a bit like the sky was crying for the HDZ (again). Things should have been completely different during that day. Over in Brussels, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic managed to get an extension of the deadline in which Croatia has to spend European Union money for reconstruction, because Croatia didn't manage to spend any of that money on time. The newly arrested Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, Darko Horvat, is in charge of this reconstruction process. It seems now that the Horvat scandal is only just beginning.

In addition to the above, Croatia was visited by an American carrier, which is, in fact, a matter of global relations and is nothing new for the country, the two nations from each side of the Atlantic Ocean have been allies in this regard since back in 1952, when Tito, dressed up in his white uniform, walked along the bridge of the American carrier Coral Sea. But in a country full of scandals, while energy prices are rampant, any extra time will come in handy for the post-earthquake reconstruction that we didn't bother to do and of course, for a walk on this American carrier.

The Prime Minister's easy Saturday morning coffee was interrupted by the Horvat scandal, and that's never a good way in which to start the day.

The prime minister was probably planning a quiet family morning donning a comfortable dressing gown, sipping a coffee, surfing the internet on his tablet which would have been packed with praise and good news and enjoying the view of the calming Zagreb rain through the window of his warm apartment. And then came some very awkward news - a search of the house of the Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property. The Horvat scandal had broken.

This would never be good news, but it was a very awkward story indeed for Saturday, especially because Andrej Plenkovic himself had said a few days ago: "I will not be removing anyone until the end of my term." The kiss of death? Maybe. Moreover, as the slow recovery process after the earthquakes of 2020 was the reason for the opposition in parliament to demand the removal of Minister Horvat, just two weeks ago Plenkovic signed a sixteen-page document defending the newly arrested minister.

Plenkovic responded to Saturday's events and the Darko Horvat scandal with a direct verbal attack on the State Attorney's Office, asking for explanations, and his entire appearance in front of the camera can be described as: "Do you even know who I am?!"

According to the State Attorney's Office Act, the State Attorney's Office doesn't have to justify what it does to the PM. It is an autonomous and independent judicial body, not a government body, and it isn't under an executive branch. Just asking them for additional talks and some special explanations to the Prime Minister can be interpreted as an attempt to influence them, which is strictly forbidden. Andrej Plenkovic, very well versed in law himself, knows that all too well.

But why is Plenkovic so nervous about the unfolding Horvat scandal? Because he is personally responsible for the selection of Minister Horvat, as well as every member of the government. Let us remember - the person who collects 76 signatures in the parliament receives the mandate to form the government from the President of the Republic and becomes the Prime Minister when the Parliament confirms the election of the Prime Minister. Ministers don't come to their positions by way of interviews and tenders, they're people trusted by the future prime minister himself, who he himself proposes for the position.

If any of these people nominated by Plenkovic personally for the highest office in the country have been arrested on suspicion of very serious corruption, then this is not only the problem of that minister, but also the problem of Plenkovic on a very personal level. Why would we trust him any more if he can't put his team in order? Nobody imposed these people on him, he guaranteed both the deputies and the people of Croatia that they were the best choices for their respective positions.

Does Plenkovic still guarantee the knowledge, ability and honesty of his ministers?

Plenkovic repeatedly vouched for all these people, for their ability, honour and honesty. Therefore, we completely agree that he shouldn't remove anyone by the end of his term, but should resign, himself, as Prime Minister of Croatia.

The Prime Minister can't keep repeating until the end of the century that he didn't know about the problematic behaviours of the people he himself elected or at a lower level signed for their appointment. He, by proposing these people to these positions, vouched for them personally. As far as the legal responsibility of Minister Horvat is concerned, it is, of course, a matter for the courts, but political responsibility for this affair, this crisis and this shame (because of the brazen inaction of Minister Horvat, Plenkovic was forced to ask the EU for a new deadline for the spending of the funds from the Solidarity Fund) is on Andrej Plenkovic.

The news that Plenkovic fired Minister Horvat at his request doesn't change anything. It is only a small legal maneuver. Horvat knows that he cannot remain in office, and in this way he makes things easier for the party chief.

If anyone knows how to embarrass this country - HDZ definitely knows

But, realistically, it's highly unlikely that Plenkovic will decide to resign on the back of the Horvat scandal. He has enough dogs in his fight, and most of the opposition is not going to want new elections, they wouldn't be re-elected to the parliament. In addition, his resignation would mean the end of Plenkovic's political career instead of its continuation somewhere else a bit more flashy, let's say in the European Commission. Even now, it will be difficult for Plenkovic to explain that billions intended for the reconstruction should have been managed by the minister who has now been arrested. If anyone knows how to embarrass this country, then HDZ definitely knows.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Ex-Minister Horvat Remanded in One Month's Custody

ZAGREB, 20 February, 2022 - A Zagreb County Court investigating judge on Saturday evening remanded Darko Horvat, who was relieved of duty as construction minister, in one month's custody on suspicion that, at the urging of four other suspects, he illegally disbursed millions in grants in 2018.

Horvat, who was arrested this morning, was remanded in custody so that he cannot tamper with witnesses, but not due to the risk of repeating the crime since he was relieved of duty at his own request by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

The USKOK anti-corruption office, at whose request Horvat was remanded in custody, proposed questioning 11 witnesses, including eight employees of the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry.

Horvat's attorney Vladimir Terešak said after the hearing that his client denied being guilty and that all the decisions he signed were made by his then aide Ana Mandac, another suspect in this case.

More on this story from yesterday:

Minister Horvat Denies Guilt, Anti-Corruption Office Demands Remand in Custody

State Attorney's Office says Won't Comment on PM's Statement After Minister's Arrest

Grbin: Election Only Salvation for Croatia

Čačić: Horvat Has to Go, Reformists' Support Depends on Police Operation's Results

Croatian Prime Minister Blames USKOK for Ruining Croatia's Spectacular Week

PM Calls on Prosecutors to Explain Case Implicating Minister Horvat 

Police Probe is Targeting Horvat and Milošević, Aladrović not Implicated

Saturday, 19 February 2022

USKOK Launches Investigation Against Several Government Officials

February 19, 2022 - Crisis in the Croatian government, as the USKOK launches investigation against several of its officials. Construction Minister Darko Horvat was arrested this morning for alleged abuse of authority, and an emergency meeting is underway. USKOK suspects that Horvat gave 2.6 million kuna in illegal incentives.

In addition to Minister Darko Horvat, as Telegram has learned, investigators have also focused on former Minister Tomislav Tolušić. Along with them, according to the information available so far, this latest procedure also applies to Horvat's former assistant Ana MandacJutarnji List finds out that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević and Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Josip Aladrović are also under investigation. According to the information provided so far, they are suspected of seeking employment through a connection and due to the granting of incentives.

According to currently available information, the Minister of Construction is associated with abuse of office and authority. Sources say investigators are investigating Horvat's role in the abuses suspected by his former assistant Ana Mandac. USKOK suspects that, at the request of Josipa Rimac, Mandac arranged support for craftsmen from the Ministry of Economy at the time when it was led by Horvat.

Horvat arrested

Minister Darko Horvat was arrested this morning, his lawyer Vladimir Teresak confirmed to Media Servis. USKOK suspects that Horvat gave 2.6 million kuna in illegal grants and incentives. According to information from sources close to the investigation, Minister Darko Horvat should be questioned by USKOK in the early afternoon. He will be brought to the USKOK headquarters in Vlaška Street in Zagreb, where he will be able to testify in the presence of a lawyer.

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Photo: Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/PIXSELL

This morning, he was taken from Donja Dubrava in Međimurje, where his home had been searched since the morning. It is certain that investigators are following him to Zagreb, where the procedure in coordination with USKOK and the police will continue.

Finance Minister first to comment

The case was commented on by the Minister of Finance Zdravko Marić in a Croatian Radio show. He said he was surprised by the news of a police raid on Horvat's home.

"I assume that I am the first to speak on this topic, I have no knowledge and I cannot comment on that", the minister added. He referred to media allegations that Labor Minister Josip Aladrović, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, and former Minister Tomislav Tolušić were also being investigated.

"I mean, this is pure information from the media. I didn’t even get to read, driving to the show. But, any scandals do not have a positive effect on the Government", said Marić.

Emergency government meeting is underway

In addition to Minister Darko Horvat, the Minister of Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrović, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, and former Minister Tomislav Tolušić were also targeted by investigators on Saturday morning.

The police started searching the house of the Minister of Construction, Darko Horvat, this morning. Although there is no official information, and no one from the Government has responded yet, 24sata finds out that an emergency meeting has been convened in the Government. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is expected to address the media soon.

This is developing news.

For more, check out our politics section.

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