Thursday, 13 February 2020

Šuica: Committee of Regions Very Important for Conference on Future of Europe

ZAGREB, February 13, 2020 - The Committee of the Regions is an extremely important institution for the Conference on the Future of Europe as without the local level the Conference would not be feasible, European Commission Vice President for Demography and Democracy Dubravka Šuica said in Brussels on Wednesday.

She spoke about the Conference at the first plenary of the Committee of the Regions' new make-up. She is in charge, on behalf of the Commission, of organising the Conference which is expected to start on May 9, Europe Day, and last two years.

We must make it so that citizens see the tangible effects and results of debates, which can be achieved via a feedback mechanism that makes it possible to turn ideas into clear recommendations based on which we will take further steps, Šuica said.

We want to be innovative, to eliminate the gap between institutions and citizens, and local and regional representatives have a key role in that, she added.

Šuica said the Committee of the Regions, although its role is only advisory, would have equal treatment as other EU institutions.

Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EPP), the Committee's new president, said the Conference on the Future of Europe must be an opportunity for genuine debate with citizens and for changing the EU.

It must be open and inclusive. The Conference will not be successful if run vertically, if it is centralised, if it is launched from Brussels and does not actively include local and regional leaders. Only through ambition and openness to change can we restore trust and build an EU that puts citizens first, he added.

Croatian Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica also spoke at the plenary. "We must come closer to citizens, listen to them and respond to their problems more adequately. The expertise of the Committee of the Regions at local level and its experience in organising dialogue with citizens will represent a valuable contribution to this initiative," he said.

The Committee of the Regions today adopted a resolution on the Conference on the Future of Europe and a resolution on the European Commission's work programme.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Šuica: 3 EU Institutions Close to Common Position on Conference on the Future of Europe

ZAGREB, January 28, 2020 - European Commission Vice-President for Demography and Democracy Dubravka Šuica expressed hope on Tuesday that the three main institutions of the European Union would soon adopt a joint declaration defining details of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The joint declaration is expected to cover the concept, structure, scope and timetable of the conference which is due to open on Europe Day, May 9. The European Parliament and Commission have already made public their views on the conference, while the General Affairs Council is scheduled to discuss the matter on Tuesday.

The General Affairs Council is chaired by Croatia's State Secretary for European Affairs, Andreja Metelko Zgombić.

"I think we are close to a common position which should be a solid basis for launching the conference. I hope the Council, too, will agree with our proposal that the conference open on May 9, Europe Day, in Dubrovnik," Šuica told reporters on her way into the Council meeting.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is conceived as a new public forum for an open, inclusive and structured debate where citizens will be able to express their view of the future arrangement of the European Union.

Metelko Zgombić will outline the priorities of the Croatian EU presidency that fall within the authority of the General Affairs Council. After that the Council will discuss its position on the Conference on the Future of Europe based on the proposal drawn up by the Croatian presidency.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Commissioner Šuica Sets Out EC's Ideas for Conference on Future of Europe

ZAGREB, January 23, 2020 - European Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica on Wednesday presented a document in Brussels according to which the Conference on the Future of Europe would be a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens of diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life.

The Commission has adopted the Communication on its ideas on what the Conference on the Future of Europe should look like and proposes that it begins working on Europe Day, May 9, and to run for two years.

"The Commission proposes to launch the Conference on Europe Day – 9 May 2020. This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Schuman Declaration and the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. As the launch would coincide with Croatia’s rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, the kick-off event could take place in Dubrovnik," the EC says in its communication published on its website.

Defining the concept, structure, scope and timing of the Conference must be a truly joint effort by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, the document says. EC Vice-president for democracy and demography, Croatia's Dubravka Šuica, has been assigned with the task of organising the conference.

"We must seize the momentum of the high turnout at the last European elections and the call for action which that brings. The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to reflect with citizens, listen to them, engage, answer and explain. We will strengthen trust and confidence between the EU institutions and the people we serve. This is our chance to show people that their voice counts in Europe," Šuica was quoted as saying.

The European Parliament has already defined its position in a resolution adopted on 15 January, and the document calls for "an open and transparent process which takes an inclusive, participatory and well-balanced approach towards citizens and stakeholders."

The Council will discuss the topic on January 28. Croatia's presidency is tasked with harmonising proposals and positions by member states in that regard.

After the Council adopts its relevant document, all three institutions -- the Council, the EC and the EP -- need to adopt a joint statement defining the concept, structure, scope and timing of the conference.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that all Europeans will actively contribute to the Conference. "It is only together that we can build our Union of tomorrow," von der Leyen said.

The Commission proposes two parallel work strands for the debates.

The first should focus on EU priorities and what the Union should seek to achieve: including on the fight against climate change and environmental challenges, an economy that works for people, social fairness and equality, Europe's digital transformation, promoting our European values, strengthening the EU's voice in the world, as well as shoring up the Union's democratic foundations.

The second strand should focus on addressing topics specifically related to democratic processes and institutional matters: notably the lead candidate system and transnational lists for elections to the European Parliament, according to the information on the European Union's website.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Dubravka Šuica: Dubrovnik High-School Teacher to Top Croatian in EU

November 30, 2019 - Croatia has a new high-ranking member of the European Commission, Dubravka Šuica. Who is she?

Dubravka Šuica was born on 20th May 1957 in the city of Dubrovnik. After graduating from high school, she moved to Zagreb, where she majored in English and German at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University in Zagreb. Even though she was a teacher in elementary and high schools in her hometown, she is infamous in the Croatian media for her "Russian" accent and stammering during her speech at the European Parliament. Contrarily to that is her current position in the European Commission, which puts her as the highest achieving Croatian in the EU administration. 

Career journey

Shortly before starting her career in Croatian politics, Šuica worked as a headmaster of Dubrovnik Grammar school from 1996 to 2001. In the parliamentary elections in 2000, she was named a member of the Croatian Parliament, and a year later, she also became Mayor of Dubrovnik. She held this until 2009, and in the meantime, was voted in the top 10 mayors of the world (2006), as well as won an award for being the Mayor of the Year by the International League of Humanists (2009).

Dubravka Šuica has been part of the ruling HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) party since 1990, and with it, a member of the Croatian Parliament during the three mandates which HDZ won, in 2000, 2003, and 2007. When Croatia became the 28th member of the Europian Union in 2013, Šuica became one of the twelve new EP members. She was reelected in the 2014 European elections.

Even though Croatians apparently think she is doing a great job representing their country in the European Parliament and they are showing it by voting for her on three consecutive elections, Šuica is not going to fulfill her role this time around. Instead, she will move on to a much more prominent position. Last week, she was appointed to the European Commission as one of six Vice-presidents, designated to Democracy and Demography. In the next five years, she will be part of Ursula von der Leyen's hand-picked team, which will be governing the European Commission, and with it, the EU as well.

The woman who has often been called a favorite of Croatia's Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, a significant asset to Croatia's foreign policy and immense pride of her party is the same woman whose public Facebook posts are often grammatically incorrect. Recently she was the subject of mockery, as people questioned her previous position as a language teacher when she misspelled two words in a single Facebook post. 


Her three-hour-long hearing before the European Commission in October, which she barely passed with the required number of votes, happened amidst another hearing, that of her affair over her declared list of assets. Always presented as a modest woman coming from a hard-working family from Dubrovnik, Šuica became the subject of controversy in the Croatian media after her net-worth was said to be over 5 million euros.

The declared list of assets of the new VP of the European Commission became the top news story in Croatia this September, even before her hearing, in GONG's campaign, which was directed at getting the information Šuica didn't want to disclose to the public. GONG is a Croatian non-governmental organization which aims to encourage citizens to actively participate in political processes, and fight for their civil and human rights. Their first goal was to get the answers to six questions that were dismissed after the Committee for the discovery of Conflict of Interest denied access to Šuica's personal information by invoking the protection due to the fact she once worked for the Croatian Government.

GONG proceeded with its requests, and soon the news was flooded with information that Šuica's net-worth was 5 million euros. As soon as Šuica discovered it, she called it fake news on her twitter profile, which sparked further comments from GONG as well, after which Šuica even posted a picture of her house in Cavtat mocking the Croatian media.

#5millEuros = #FakeNews

Digital platforms are actors of progress, we need to ensure that they are not used to destabilise our democracies. We should develop common standards to tackle issues such as #Disinformation and online hate messages."

Dubravka Šuica's Twitter account

In her admission form for European Commission, Šuica handed over her declared list of assets, which was a bit different from the one required in Croatia because it doesn't list quadrature and value estimation of the said property. Instead, it was discovered most of the property is said to belong to Šuica's husband and retired ship commander, Stjepan Šuica.

Expecations from her position

Many of her fellow Croatian citizens are probably confused as to what is exactly going to be her role as a Vice-president of the European Commission designated for Democracy and Demography.

Some of the questions which were raised before Šuica were appointed were directed at her ability to be unbiased and deal with some of the problems the EC might be faced with, in an authentic European matter. For instance, Šuica was against sanctions to Hungary for violating the rule of law, she was against the resolution on equal pay between genders, and she rejected report which would enable tighter mechanisms for control of the protection of human rights. The only safe thing to say is that only time will tell whether she will be able to prove that Ursula von der Leyen made the right decision by putting Šuica on her team.

For the latest in Croatian politics, check out the TCN politics section


Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Šuica: Protecting European Way of Life a Priority of New European Commission

ZAGREB, October 30, 2019 - Protecting the European way of life and giving a fresh boost to European democracy are some of the priorities of the new European Commission, said Dubravka Šuica, the Croatian member of the Commission led by President Ursula von der Leyen.

The agenda of the new EC President includes several headline ambitions: a European Green Deal; an economy that works for people; a Europe fit for the digital age; protecting our European way of life; a stronger Europe in the world; and, a new push for European democracy.

Presenting those priorities in Zagreb on Wednesday, Šuica, who is the European Commission Vice President-elect for Democracy and Demography, said that in the first six months of her term she intends to detect the main reasons for emigration from rural areas to urban centres throughout Europe as well as determine the impact of demographic changes on various groups of population with the aim of defining measures for the resolution of demographic issues.

"A long-term vision for rural areas is necessary," she said at the event at which Prime Minister Andrej Plenković outlined the priorities of Croatia's presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020.

The Croatian Commissioner recalled that she would be in charge of organising the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should start in 2020 and last two years.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Plenković Expects from Šuica Progress on Demography

ZAGREB, October 4, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday he expected the new European Commission, notably its Vice President Dubravka Šuica, to make progress that would help Croatia and other member states deal with demography issues.

Šuica, the Croatian candidate for Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, was given a positive assessment after a hearing in the European Parliament on Thursday during which she answered questions from members of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, and the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.

Speaking at a press conference, Plenković recalled that Šuica was nominated by the Croatian government and that her department was chosen by new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Democracy and demography are two very important topics for Croatia and all of Europe, he added.

This is the first time in the European project that a commissioner has been tasked with demography, a topic that "is especially important for us because of Croatia's negative birth rate" and a problem, he said, to which many other member states were not immune either.

He said it was especially important that Šuica was also one of the Commission's eight vice presidents. "I consider this to be a great success for Croatia, which is the youngest Union member. We have strengthened Croatia's position in the EU and the influence we have in the Union's institutions."

Asked if he had to attack the GONG NGO recently given that some MEPs at the hearing were not interested in the question of Šuica's declaration of assets, Plenković said he did not know who felt attacked but that it was telling that no one had raised the issue of Šuica's assets when she ran in European Parliament elections in 2013, 2014 and this year.

"This was a political wish to make this an outstanding issue now," he said, adding that Šuica had passed the hearing at the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee without a question mark.

He said the MEP who asked Šuica about her assets at Thursday's hearing was irrelevant. "He belongs to the group of those who don't belong to anyone."

More news about Dubravka Šuica can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 4 October 2019

EC Vice President-Designate Dubravka Šuica Passes Hearing Before EP

ZAGREB, October 4, 2019 - A European Commission Vice President-designate, Dubravka Šuica of Croatia, has the necessary majority support for a positive assessment of her hearing, sources at the European Parliament said on Thursday evening.

The Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs, expanded to include members of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, on Thursday evening interviewed Šuica, the Croatian candidate for EC Vice-President for Democracy and Demography.

According to unofficial sources at the EP, members of Šuica's political group, the EPP, were satisfied with the hearing, as were the Socialists&Democrats (S&D), the Liberals (RE), and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). Those who were against were the far left, the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE), the far right, Identity and Democracy (ID), and the Greens.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković congratulated Šuica on Twitter, describing her passing the hearing as a great success for Croatia.

The hearing, which lasted slightly less than three hours, was dominated by topics regarding a Conference on the Future of Europe in 2020, which is within Šuica's remit, and world-view questions.

She was also asked about her property.

In her introductory address, Šuica committed to improve citizens' participation in EU democracy and to address Europe's demographic change.

She also said that she would dedicate herself fully to the organisation of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should start in 2020 and last two years.

The conference is expected to serve as a forum to connect European citizens, civil society and European institutions, its aim being for Europeans to say what kind of Union they want and how they want it to be run.

Questions from all seven coordinators of political groups were about that topic.

Some of the MEPs asked Šuica why she had voted against a report whereby a procedure was launched against Hungary under Article 7 for violation of the rule of law and European values.

She said that she had voted against the report because she believed that the EP should not be the one to launch the procedure and that the European Commission was in a better position for that as it was a neutral arbiter. She added that she believed in the rule of law and shared the concern about some serious cases of violation of the rule of law.

A representative of the Renew Europe Group, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, said that Šuica had regularly voted against women's rights, notably sexual and reproductive rights.

French MEP Raphael Glucksmann (S&D) asked Šuica about her position on abortion and family planning and asked her to condemn Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's statement that there was a danger of the European population being replaced by migrants.

I will not condemn anyone and will not be in a position to do so. As I said earlier, I am for legal migrations, Šuica said.

As for abortion, she said that the issue was not within the remit of the EU but of member-states and that in her country, abortion was legal.

Swedish MEP Alice Kuhnke (Greens) said that Šuica had voted against women's right to decide about their own bodies and asked her if she could promise that she would advocate women's right to abortion.

I voted the way I did not because I am against gender equality but because the reports in question always contained something that was not related to women's rights, Šuica said.

I will promote human dignity, freedom, equality and minority rights, she added.

Spanish MEP Eugenia Palop (GUE) asked Šuica if a family other than the traditional one was acceptable to her.

She said that she was for the traditional family but that she did not have anything against the family being defined otherwise.

A German MEP, satirist Martin Sonneborn, who does not belong to any political group, asked Šuica about her property.

Can you reveal the concept of how you acquired a wealth of more than five million euros, he asked.

Committee on Constitutional Affairs chair Antonio Tajani reacted to this, saying that Šuica had received the green light from the Committee on Legal Affairs and that everything was in order with her declaration of financial interests and that this was not a topic of the hearing.

Šuica said that she would answer that question as well.

What you are saying does not correspond with the facts. You have read some articles that are simply not true. Twenty years ago, I lived in a family house with my husband who was a sea captain and had a decent salary. My financial statements have always been transparent and in line with the rules, my financial situation has always been clear and transparent. Everything is in line with the law, she said.

The heads of parliamentary committees will meet on October 15 to decide on the outcome of all hearings and they will submit their conclusions to a conference of EP presidents, which comprises the EP president and heads of parliamentary groups. They will make final assessments and decide which candidates have passed their hearing, for which a new hearing will be requested and for which alternative candidates have to be proposed.

A vote on the entire EC is set for October 23 at a plenary session in Strasbourg and if all goes well, members of the new European Commission will take office on November 1.

More news about Dubravka Šuica can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Šuica Publishes Declaration of Financial Interests, Doesn't Declare Assets Value

ZAGREB, September 30, 2019 - The Croatian candidate for a member of the European Commission, Dubravka Šuica, has published her declaration of financial interests ahead of a hearing at the European Parliament in which she declares her family assets without stating their value.

The declaration of financial interests is available on the official website of the European Parliament and is dated September 12.

The candidate for the European Commission vice-president for demography and democracy, Šuica owns 69 shares of the Atlantska Plovidba shipping company worth 4,105.91 euro and 63 shares of the HT telecommunications company worth 1,354.71 euro.

Her declaration also includes a family house in Dubrovnik, an apartment in Zagreb, and a house at Blidinje in Bosnia and Herzegovina which are all declared as her husband's property. She does not state the value of the real estate declared.

The statement also includes a house and land on Pelješac peninsula, which is partly owned by her husband, and the DUBE d.o.o. maritime shipping company, which has not operated since 2016.

Šuica also declared in the statement of financial interests a house in Cavtat, which has been under construction since 1988 and which she inherited from her parents.

The GONG nongovernmental organisation recently called on Šuica to put an end to years of speculation on the origin of her assets and publish her declarations of assets from the start of her political career, as well as findings of a tax inspection into her property, which according to media reports is worth five million euros.

Responding to GONG's demand, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said Šuica "declared everything she should have declared" regarding her assets and accused GONG of "pretending" to be an independent NGO while actually being a prolonged arm of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Sunčana Glavak, who is to replace Šuica as a member of the European Parliament, has said that by questioning the origin of Šuica's property GONG and the SDP were harming the state's reputation.

More news about Dubravka Šuica can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 27 September 2019

SDP: Šuica Should Prove the Origin of Her Assets

ZAGREB, September 27, 2019 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Peđa Grbin on Friday dismissed Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's accusations that the GONG non-governmental organisation was "a prolonged arm" of the SDP and that they were orchestrating an attack on the Croatian candidate for European Commission Vice-President, Dubravka Šuica, over her declaration of assets.

"The answer to the prime minister's accusations is very simple - prove the origin of her assets and everything will be sorted. For years there have been reports circulating in the Croatian media, and quite justifiably so, of a disproportion between Šuica's income and the property that she owns," Grbin said.

He said he thought it was necessary, when Šuica became the candidate for a European Commissioner, to give her a chance to explain herself.

"Her answer, to put it mildly, was ridiculous because it is interesting that her family's ship came in only after she became mayor of Dubrovnik. Prove the origin of her property and everything will be clean, and don't blame those who asked this question, which is perfectly normal in a modern and democratic state, but answer it," the MP said.

Asked if he was in any way in contact with GONG when he raised the issue of Šuica's personal assets, Grbin said he was in contact with the Croatian media. "The Croatian media has written about this for years so I simply googled it and within 20 minutes I had all the information I needed to ask that question."

Grbin said it was interesting that Plenković had reacted to GONG but not to some other non-governmental organisations. "I haven't heard that he reacted to HVIDRA (the association of disabled war veterans) which has been attacking an MP and member of the ethnic Serb minority in Croatia for days now. Plenković never asked on whose behalf they were acting," Grbin said.

The leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), Krešo Beljak, said on Friday that GONG was also a prolonged arm of his party because the HSS had recently put forward a bill on the origin of personal property.

"The ruling coalition rejected the bill, but we will continue to insist on checks of the property of all politicians and other public office holders, such as judges," Beljak said, adding that Šuica's personal property was estimated at several million euros.

Beljak asked the prime minister to say how a secondary school teacher could earn so much money. "Common sense dictates that she couldn't have earned it legally."

The Conflict of Interest Commission has received several requests for Dubravka Šuica's declaration of assets, however, those requests have been rejected for the purpose of protecting private data considering that Šuica has not been a Croatian official since 2011.

After receiving several requests for access to information in declarations of assets belonging to Šuica, who is Croatia's candidate for a European Commission vice president, a test of proportionality was conducted considering that declarations of assets contain a lot of personal information and that Šuica she has not been a Croatian official for more than seven years, the commission's spokeswoman Martina Jurišić told reporters.

The test proved that in this specific case the interest of protecting personal data prevailed over public interest in access to the declarations of assets and the requests were turned down, Jurišić said.

However, in deciding about the requests, the commission would consider those circumstances if Šuica herself gave permission to release her declarations.

According to the media, Dubrovnik's former mayor and former member of the Croatian parliament and later a MEP, allegedly owns assets worth more than 5 million euro.

More news about Dubravka Šuica can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Plenković Accuses GONG of Campaigning Against Croatian Candidate for EC Vice-President

ZAGREB, September 27, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday accused the GONG non-governmental organisation of campaigning against the Croatian candidate for European Commission Vice-President, Dubravka Šuica.

"Dubravka Šuica got through the hearing before the Croatian Parliament's Committee on European Affairs where members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) raised these topics which are now, ostensibly accidentally, being recycled by GONG, which always steps in on the SDP's side," Plenković told reporters in Brussels after a working lunch with European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen.

Plenković was responding to questions about Croatian media reports on Šuica's personal assets and whether those could do her damage during a European Parliament committee hearing next week.

"GONG is a left-wing non-governmental organisation which has launched a major campaign by sending letters to all MEPs in an effort to sway their view on the Croatian candidate for European Commission Vice-President. The public should know this. The seemingly independent GONG is conducting a fierce campaign against the future European Commission Vice-President from Croatia. They are the long arm of the SDP, asking the same questions as MP Grbin. ... This is orchestrated and intentional and I am saying this with full responsibility so that the Croatian public should know," Plenković said.

Asked if this campaign managed to shake the confidence of Ursula von der Leyen, Plenković said: "Not at all."

The GONG NGO said on Thursday it still wanted answers to its six questions about the declaration of assets of Dubravka Šuica, the Croatian candidate for European Commission Vice-President, and that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's "attack" on GONG was an attempt "to divert attention from what is important."

GONG explained in a press release why it had sent the questions to the European Parliament. "We requested the declaration of assets... from the Croatian Parliament, but it referred us to the Conflict of Interest Commission, which turned us down, citing the confidentiality of... Šuica's personal data."

"Since we didn't get the answers in Croatia, in the hope that we would finally get them, we sent the questions to European Parliament committees and the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, who will hear Dubravka Šuica."

GONG said Šuica should put an end to years of speculation on the origin of her assets, which GONG said were also investigated by the tax authorities. It would be enough if she published her declarations of assets from the start of her political career and the findings of the tax authorities, the NGO added.

GONG went on to say that the prime minister, instead of attacking those asking questions, should have made sure that the Croatian and the European public were given answers in time. "We have the right to know."

GONG reiterated its questions to Šuica: How will she care for the future of democracy in the EU when the Croatian government is rife with corruption scandals? How will she defend the rule of law if she was against sanctions against Hungary for breaching the rule of law? How will she fight for equality if she was against two resolutions on gender equality? How did she manage, having worked only in the public and government sectors, to gain assets estimated at 5 million euro? Why hasn't she made public all tax audit findings from 2001 to 2009, when she was an MP and the mayor of Dubrovnik?

More news about Dubravka Šuica can be found in the Politics section.

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