Thursday, 24 January 2019

Vlaho Orepić Talks Police, MOST and New Political Party - Nova Politika

Vlaho Orepić has seen his fair share of political alterations in Croatia, from becoming minister of the interior during Tihomir Orešković's government, to being shockingly dismissed by Andrej Plenković, to stepping down as an MP for MOST, one of the partners of the former ruling coalition, eventually breaking away entirely and forming a new party of his own - Nova Politika.

Known for not only his position as the minister of the interior, but for his achievements in the sporting world and his political activities in his beloved town of Ploče, Konavle-born Orepić sat down with us to discuss the past, the present, and the future, including his new party.

Why did you decide to set up a brand new political party? What values ​​does it, and you, represent?

Through the experiences I gained through my civic activism, and then through my direct participation in the work of the Government and the Parliament of Croatia I realised that politics in Croatia is not what should be expected of it. It doesn't do the work of the people. On the contrary, all the policies of the past have disrupted the [lives of the] Croatian people, and has impoverished the Croatian economy.

So, we need something new, that is Nova Politika, which will be what people expect it to be, and that means working for the people. This need, this message, and these values ​​are contained in the idea and the very name Nova Politika.

How will your party differ from the countless others who are already operating in Croatia?

We simply need order in the country, as well as in political and social relations because we as a country aren't in a crisis, but we are in disorder. The basic two goals of Nova Politika are the protection of democratic principles and procedures in political relations and the institutional arrangement, as well as the optimisation of the state. Nova Politika as a party is, unlike others, a project. A project of getting together with the aim of institutional convergence from the current disorder putting the country in order.

There are many challenges which require ambitious structural reforms, so new, life-motivated policies are needed.

First and foremost, what we're going to invest a huge amount of energy into is the struggle for the legitimacy of elections. The outcomes of the entire series of electoral processes in Croatia are crucially influenced by the voices of those who have filed a false residence in the Republic of Croatia, and as such gain a whole range of substantive rights, as well as voting rights. In its electoral register, Croatia has at least 150,000 such fictional voters. Parliament has a minimum of 4-6 parliamentarians who base their mandate on those fictional voters. That's been going on for far too long and it needs to stop.

Why did not you take advantage of this opportunity and as the minister of the interior, solve this problem?

I didn't manage to. They dismissed me. I believe that you're familiar with the fact that I uncompromisingly tried to solve this problem. In just two and a half months, the police, to whom the law prescribed that obligation, prompted the deletion of 45,000 fictional residences. Very rapidly this figure has grown to 75,000. This issue, because of political incitement and abuse, is an exceptional problem in our society.

What is especially disturbing is that this is intractable abuse and a kind of blackmail of people in need. People who, because of realistic, existential problems, engage in illegal behavior such as the fictitious reporting of residence in the Republic of Croatia. The Republic of Croatia should systematically and legally care about its emigrants and not just keep tolerating this crime.

You've endured huge political resistance to this engagement of yours and even personal discreditation. Judging from your findings, which parties have encouraged fictitious voters to participate in the elections in the Republic of Croatia?

Fictitious voters' transport from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina was organised by the HDZ, SDSS and even MOST, which was concealing it from me as its minister. Even the activists engaged in the recent referendum initiatives have also collected signatures in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the pre-election campaign for local elections in Vrgorac, HDZ had a poster with a cross marked over my face which they stuck in neighbouring places and cities in western Herzegovina. With which they called "their" fictional voters to come to the elections.

But that doesn't matter anymore. It's important to realise the magnitude of this problem and to get credible electoral registers as soon as possible in order to guarantee the legality of elections in the Republic of Croatia. We need to get that in order. To move forward, we need to be able to count the results of the elections to match the real will of the citizens. That's Nova Politika.

Will someone who is already active in political or public life enter your party? Maybe one of the members of MOST? 

I hope we'll all be able get together around the goal as Nova Politika is focused on its political goal, and all those who see Croatia as a decent and well-regulated state are welcome. Let's say that proper order in the area of [registering] ​​residence should be the target of everyone who wishes our homeland well.  This is what I expect especially from those who ran their election campaigns based on fictional voters and who claim they're sovereign.

Will you participate in the forthcoming European Parliament elections, and will you have your candidate for the president of the Republic of Croatia?

The focus is on parliamentary elections. But Nova Politika partaking either alone or in cooperation with someone else in all the upcoming elections hasn't been ruled out.

What's your opinion on the work of current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Will you back her for a second term?

She failed to portray herself as the president of all citizens. We definitely need a new president.

At the moment, the most current issue is the collapse of an Israeli jet plane purchase. Do you think Croatia needs war planes? If so, how much money would you be willing to invest in their purchase?

We don't need to call the need for war planes into question. But what we need to take into account is our financial situation. At this point, we have no money for that. We have a whole series of challenges that are related to our bare existence. We must take into account the life priorities that hav arisen from the situation in which we're in and live within our means. Aircraft, at this time, aren't something we can afford and aren't a priority.

MOST has been looking like a conservative party recently, more and more. Do you share such a vision? If not, why were you in that party at all?

I don't share the current worldview of MOST, which is significantly different from the one they were trying to show, and which dominated while I was in MOST. The leaders of MOST have repositioned MOST within the frameworks of their own personal worldviews. It isn't mature, and it is a type of conflict politics, this is a political environment which I can't identify with.

Why did you leave MOST?

MOST as a party abandoned the very idea of ​​MOST, so I left MOST.

In two HDZ-MOST coalition governments, you were the interior minister. Would you enter into a coalition with HDZ again? Will you remain in the Parliament as an opposition representative until the end of your mandate or does a possibility for you to support the current government exist?

I'm going to remain an opposition MP.

Which parties would you potentially enter into a coalition with?

With this very question you've addressed a big problem in the functioning of politics in the Republic of Croatia. Nobody asks you what your suggestions are. What are your political goals, etc. People are already accepting or rejecting you on the basis of your ideological orientation. This approach to politics is wrong and that's why we need Nova Politika. A policy that highlights clear goals and their implementation brings together the necessary majority. We need to evolve current politics into realistic politics. Politics that can and should be measurable. Politics which will be conditioned by the mutual interaction of the principles of trust and responsibility.

Davor Božinović succeeded you as the minister of the interior. How do you evaluate his work?

He's completely unambiguous in his approach in these circumstances we're in and his root changes make him look superficial. Manipulation with fictitious residences and some staffing solutions paralysed the operational work of the police and indicated a lack of workability. He acts unambiguously because he has no ambition and therefore no actual results.

What do you think about the Croatian police's treatment in relation to migrants on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina? Does the behavior of the police differ now than from when you were minister?

The migrant policy of Croatia, of which a lot is dealt with by the police I consider to be good. The work on the frontier is on the line of the one that was designed and established during my mandate. There is no leg room when it comes to illegal border crossings but there's also a very human approach when it comes to caring for people in need. Some isolated failures in treatment can't diminish the significance of the police work done.

When talking about migration policy, every day Croatia that it is a responsible member of the EU, because don't forget that the Croatian police, in protecting the borders of the Republic of Croatia, are also working to protect the EU's external borders.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for more.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Corruption Suspect Transferred to Work for Interior Ministry

ZAGREB, December 20, 2018 - Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic on Wednesday commented on the forthcoming transfer of Sandra Zeljko, a corruption suspect in a travel allowance scam, to his ministry.

Božinović said that as a result of government efforts to downsize the public administration, several agencies had been merged and added to the Interior Ministry, including the Mine Clearance Office where Zeljko works.

Zeljko is suspected of collecting fictitious travel expenses while serving as a secretary in the Prime Minister's Office.

The USKOK anti-corruption office has indicted Tomislav Saucha, chief of staff in the Prime Minister's Office during the term of the SDP-led government, and his secretary Zeljko for defrauding the state budget of over 580,000 kuna. Saucha was also accused of sharing the profit with Zeljko, a former key witness in this case.

USKOK suspects that Zeljko continued to collect fictitious travel expenses even after the end of Saucha's term in the government. Zeljko is now also suspected of forging the signatures of Saucha's successors Neven Zelić and Davor Božinović himself, from March 2016 to February 2017, collecting nearly 350,000 kuna in fictitious travel expenses.

Božinović explained that during the merger of the agencies the Interior Ministry also takes over their staff.

He said that Zeljko has been on sick leave for a long time and that a medical board would be requested to assess whether she was fit to continue her duties considering her long absence from work.

More news on the corruption cases in Croatia can be found in our Politics section.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Interior Minister Attending Marrakesh Migration Conference

ZAGREB, December 10, 2018 - Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović is attending the Marrakesh migration conference. He said that until now the UN had never systematically dealt with migration and that if it had, perhaps the big migration crisis which hit Europe in 2015 could have been avoided.

"This is a global problem which the United Nations has decided to start dealing with. The pace it will take is uncertain and how long it will take is also uncertain. However, it's a fact that a solution to a global challenge can be sought only globally," Božinović told Croatian reporters ahead of a meeting on Monday and Tuesday at which representatives of over 100 countries are expected to endorse the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Asked if one should be afraid of this document, he said there was "absolutely nothing" to fear about it.

"It is a document which I would say is a process of regulating migration in the future so that we don't have what we have on Croatian borders today. On the one hand, there are countries from which people are coming and one should address why they are coming, how to help them stay in their countries. On the other hand, there are countries which want the workforce as well as countries which, like Croatia, are transit countries, and these matters must be regulated."

Božinović said that from the start Croatia's policy had been not to allow illegal entry and strong diplomatic activity. "We have managed to raise awareness in the EU of the issue of countries on the Balkan route because the issue of migration through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia wouldn't have been on the agenda without Croatia's engagement."

He said that in Marrakesh he would talk with representatives of the countries from which migrants were coming, such as Algeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey so as to, "not just bilaterally but also at EU level", focus efforts on helping them keep their citizens.

Asked why many countries would not endorse the Global Compact, Božinović said "the majority of EU member states support the agreement" and took part in its preparation. "I think it's a delicate issue. However, Croatia is very clear and transparent about this. We won't allow illegal migration but we are with all those who wish to resolve this issue at the source."

"It is a fact that many actors are using this issue for internal political breakthroughs by releasing news that are unrealistic and untrue. There are also attempts to scare people with the migrant issue but everyone who lives in Croatia knows that we are very firm about this, that we will stay firm and that there's no need to believe those spreading fake news. Migration is here, it won't go away, but the organisation of the Croatian police and the Croatian state guarantees all our citizens and all of Croatia's guests that they will be safe."

Božinović said arrests for trafficking in humans had jumped 88% from 2017 and that this showed how efficient Croatian police were.

"I am sure that we have a realistic policy focused on the well-being of Croatian citizens and if the world comes together about this issue sooner or later, if everyone defuses tensions a little, I'm sure we will start coming closer to solutions. Let's be realistic. Whatever anyone claims, if the EU hadn't reached an agreement with Turkey and if Turkey hadn't closed its borders, who knows what Europe would look like today," he said.

You can find more on Croatia’s migration policies in our special section.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Todorić: ''We've Got Unbelievable Evidence, I'm the Victor''

Agrokor's former main man fights on in the fog of London.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Son on Drugs Charge? Can Drinks with Interior Minister Keep Prison at Bay?

Does a coffee a day keep prison away?

Friday, 7 September 2018

Croatia Receives Strong Support for Schengen Area Entry

ZAGREB, September 7, 2018 - Croatia has once again received strong support for its bid to join the Schengen area, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said after discussing Croatia's progress in meeting accession criteria with European Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in Brussels on Thursday.

Friday, 31 August 2018

MUP Spends Several Million Kuna on New Protective Vests

The vests will be ordered immediately.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

“Croatian Police Capable of Handling Migrant Pressure”

ZAGREB, August 30, 2018 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović has said that the increase in the number of migrants on Croatia's borders is not worrying because Croatia has one of the most capable border police forces in Europe which knows how to handle crisis situations.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Security Situation in Croatia Very Good, Say Police

ZAGREB, August 23, 2018 - A report on last year's activities of law enforcement authorities, which was submitted to the government by Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Thursday, concludes that the security situation in Croatia is very good.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

“Croatia Will Not Allow Unlawful Border Crossings”

ZAGREB, August 15, 2018 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović has said that Croatia cannot and will not tolerate unlawful acts of trespassing on its territory, and warned that irregular migrations are actually in the interest of criminal gangs, as evidenced by the fact that proceeds from the smuggling of human beings have reached the revenues from drug trafficking.

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