Saturday, 23 October 2021

EU Citizens Opposed to Violence Against Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 23 Oct, 2021 - EU citizens want illegal migrants arriving at EU borders to be treated more humanely, and on Saturday they called in the European Parliament on politicians to really help people in migrants' countries of origin to reduce their influx.

The European Parliament on Saturday started a plenary at which 80 EU citizens were presenting conclusions of discussions on different topics held by 800 randomly chosen citizens in September and October.

"Citizens are worried about illegal migrations so our working group discussed that topic more than labour migration between the member states," Croatian pensioner Dajana Milinković said in a public address.

Migrations should be destigmatised, human rights respected

Milinković was speaking on behalf of 200 European citizens who discussed the topic of migrations and the EU in the world. Participating in the discussions was another Croatian pensioner, Dragan Volarević from Zadar, who was also presenting conclusions of that citizens' working group on Saturday.

"One should tackle the real causes of migrations and find ways and funds to help people stay in their countries of origin, by helping them financially and otherwise," Milinković added.

She advocated legal migrations.

"There will be less illegal migration if we establish good programmes of legal migration. That is what the EU lacks with regard to 'third world' countries," she said.

Citizens across the EU feel that they have no influence on decision-making processes, which is why euro-skepticism has been on the rise so the three main EU institutions - the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament - have launched a series of discussions called the Conference on the Future of Europe.

"Citizens have asked to be more involved instead of just being called to go to the polls every five years, so this is our answer to their wish," European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica said on Saturday.

Randomly chosen citizens who were invited in October to discuss migrations and the EU in the world have told politicians that they do not want violence against migrants such as that recorded on the Croatian border.

"Migrants' human rights need to be respected. They are humans too and we need to respect them," said Milinković, who comes from the northern Adriatic town of Umag.

Her speech in the European Parliament was welcomed by a round of loud applause.

Earlier this month, media broadcast footage of masked Croatian police officers clubbing migrants who had tried to enter Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina through a forest.

Wishing to lead the country into the Schengen area of passport-free movement, the Croatian government has been trying to convince the European Commission that it is capable of protecting the joint border. Similar reports of brutality by Croatian police have been arriving for months.

The Greek and Romanian governments have also been criticised in recent months over police conduct towards migrants.

"Migrations need to be destigmatised. They should be accepted as a fact," Milinković said.

"European countries need voluntary, legal migrants. That is why they need to be provided with better education in the countries they come from," she said.

Croatia not participating in refugee scholarship programme

Officials from the foreign ministries of 42 countries-members of the Union for the Mediterranean met in Barcelona this past Thursday to discuss the inclusion of refugees in the recipient-countries' education systems.

The talks focused on a project as part of which 300 refugees, mostly from Syria, will be granted university scholarships.

The three-year project so far has been joined by 10 of the 42 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean but Croatia is not among them.

A spokesperson for the Union has said that the aim is for as many countries as possible to join in and to extend the project.

A Croatian government official, however, told Hina: "That's it as far as the project is concerned. Those who wanted to participate have joined in."

Involved in the project are currently Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco. The initiative for the project was launched by Portugal where refugees staying there have already enrolled at universities.

The funds for the education of refugees would be raised through donations by foundations, solidary taxation of the academic community, and risk capital fund investments in talented students.

For Croatia's latest news, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

MEP Says Croatia Fares Poorly in Terms of Access to Legal, Safe Abortion

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - Compared to other countries, Croatia fares poorly in terms of access to legal and safe abortion, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, Social Democrat Predrag Matić, said on the occasion of International Safe Abortion Day and the presentation of the Abortion Atlas.

"The Abortion Atlas is a new tool that gives an overview of countries according to the availability of abortion, and more importantly, the kind of obstacles women across Europe encounter in terms of access to abortion. Croatia is in the lower section of the ladder in that regard, with the situation considered as poor. Even though abortion in Croatia is legal, we have a problem with practical obstacles to access to abortion," Matić said, as quoted by his office.

The Abortion Atlas, authored by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, is the first comprehensive interactive map with data on access to abortion in Europe.

It ranks 52 countries in terms of their legislative frameworks, access and availability of abortion, abortion-related medical care and available public information on abortion.

Croatia is in the lower part of the ranking, with a score of 60%, and it belongs among countries with a poor rating concerning legal and safe abortion. Of the EU member-countries, the best-ranked are Sweden and the Netherlands while Malta and Poland are worst-ranked.

"Access to abortion in the EU has been prevented due to a number of administrative and imposed medical obstacles and conditions such as compulsory counselling, compulsory additional medical tests and a compulsory waiting period," said Matić, a member of the EP's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee and author of an EP resolution on the state of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU.

The obstacles are unjustified and most citizens advocate access to abortion, Matić said, citing the latest survey on the topic in Croatia, in which 81% of the respondents supported the right to abortion while as many as 63% said that pregnancy termination must be free of charge, which makes abortion truly available regardless of one's geographical and socioeconomic status, Matić's office said.

Matić also recalled an extremely dangerous trend among gynecologists in Croatia, with 186 or 60% of the 322 gynecologists employed in hospitals across the country refusing to perform abortion.

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

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

European Parliament For Recognising Same-Sex Marriage Across EU

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - A majority of members of the European Parliament on Tuesday endorsed a draft resolution seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states.

The draft was endorsed by 387 MEPs, 161 voted against and 123 abstained.

The resolution says same-sex spouses and partners should be treated equally as heterosexual ones, and that marriages and partnerships concluded in one EU member state should be recognised in all.

Of the Croatian MEPs, the draft was endorsed by Biljana Borzan, Predrag Matić and Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Valter Flego of the Istrian Democratic Party.

Independent Mislav Kolakušić and conservative Ladislav Ilčić were against, while Sunčana Glavak, Karlo Ressler, Tomislav Sokol and Željana Zovko of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) abstained.

Ivan Vilibor Sinčić (Human Shield) did not vote as he was in Rome, and Romana Jerković (SDP) could not because of technical difficulties, but her office told Hina that she "supports this resolution."

Speaking to Hina, Matić said the adoption of the resolution was a "civilisational achievement", while Flego said it was unacceptable that LGBTIQ rights were being reduced instead of advanced in many countries, and that it was time to "finally give everyone equal rights."

Ilčić told Hina the resolution "is consciously trying to equate the legal status of same-sex couples in all member states, thus negating the right of the states to independently decide which unions they will recognise and which they won't."

"That would mean that the whole EU must follow the most liberal states to avoid alleged discrimination, which is absurd, contrary to the treaties and the subsidiarity principle," he said, adding that the LGBT lobby was exerting enormous pressure on the European institutions.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission to take action against Romania, Hungary and Poland for violating LGBTIQ rights and fundamental EU values.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

European Commission to End Caged Animal Farming in EU By 2027

July 20, 2021 - The "End the Cage Age" campaign to ban caged animal farming was approved by the European Commission with the support of the European Parliament. 170 European animal rights associations, including Animal Friends Croatia, celebrated this major step towards improving animal welfare in Europe!

Since the launch of the End the Cage Age campaign in September 2018 headed by Compassion in World Farming EU, it garnered 1.4 million signatures and big support from citizens and animal welfare associations all over Europe. Two of these associations include Animal Friends Croatia and Victorious Association who were responsible for collecting signatures from Croatian citizens who were supportive of this campaign. Last June 30, 2021, the European Commission finally announced their commitment to phase out animal cages in European farms by 2027 making it the first successful civic animal welfare initiative in the European Union!

 

The European Parliament also supported the banning of cages in animal farming. BBC reported that the parliament had "grave concerns" about animal housing and well-being in farms, with a lot of these animals not having enough space to stand straight, stretch or even turn around. Stella Kyriakides, the EU health commissioner, also announced that animals are sentient beings and humans have a moral and societal responsibility to make sure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this. According to BBC, the EU has one of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, however, the data collected by the End the Cage Age suggested that it still has a lot of room for improvement. As of 2020, it showed that 94% of EU's farmed rabbits are caged and so are 49% of farmed hens and 85% of farmed sows. 

The European Commission is aiming to revise current EU legislation with a commitment to present a legislative proposal by the end of 2023 and to completely phase out the use of cages for hens, cows, rabbits, calves, ducks, geese, and other farmed animals by 2027. The commission also expressed commitment to ensure that the EU will only import products from non-EU countries which comply with cage-free standards and lastly, to provide systems, incentives, and financial support to European farmers in their transition to cage-free farming. The End the Cage Age announced that this monumental event is not the end and success of the campaign, on the other hand, it is only the beginning. The campaign's mission now is to monitor and ensure that the European Commission and the promised legislative laws and processes would be delivered. It is also now reported that some EU countries are already supporting this change. Austria and Luxembourg have already banned battery caging of hens entirely while the Czech Republic and Germany have started implementing protocols to unilaterally ban caged hens by 2025. 

Many associations celebrated this big milestone in animal welfare in Europe including a number of politicians and members of the Parliament and longtime animal rights advocates, Tilly Metz and Francisco Guerreiro. According to Animal Friends Croatia, the approval of the petition is a huge victory for animals and a big step in the fight to completely stop the exploitation and killing of animals. “The European Commission's commitment to ban cages across Europe will have a huge impact on millions of animals. We want to thank all the 1.4 million EU citizens and the hundreds of organizations that have fought for this historic moment.", said Reineke Hameleers - the Executive Director of Eurogroup for Animals. The Osijek Association Pobjeda also thanked everyone who supported the campaign by signing and sharing the information. The activists are proud to make a difference to more than 300 million farmed animals that are immensely suffering from harsh animal farming conditions. Animal Friends Croatia also invites everyone to switch to a plant-based diet and in order to not further contribute to animal cruelty by procuring animal-based food and products. "It is horrible that in industrial farming, animals are being kept their whole short lives in cramped cages in which they cannot even turn around, and then brutally end up in a slaughterhouse.", said AFC.

To learn more about End the Cage Age campaign, CLICK HERE.

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Thursday, 8 July 2021

European Parliament Confirms that Croatia Meets All Conditions for Schengen

ZAGREB, 8 July 2021 - Croatia has met all the conditions to Schengen, it is said in a resolution of the European Parliament adopted on Thursday in which Croatia is also urged to address shortcomings in terms of providing border staff with training and to persist in a thorough assessment of respect for fundamental rights.

During a visit to Croatia in November 2020, the Commission reaffirmed that the necessary conditions for the application of the Schengen acquis had been met, it is said in the resolution of the European Parliament, adopted with 505 votes in favor, 134 against, and 54 abstentions.

All but two Croatian MEPs voted in favor of the resolution. Those two who voted against were an MEP of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Ladislav Ilčić, and independent MEP Mislav Kolakušić.

The Parliament also called on Croatia to address the identified shortcomings, especially in terms of staff training, the number of staff, and the capacity to protect the land border and to persist in a thorough assessment of respect for fundamental rights following repeated reports by NGOs and the media on abuse, violence, and pushbacks by border police officers.

In that context, the document welcomes the establishment of independent mechanisms to monitor the actions of police officers towards illegal migrants and applicants for international protection.

Croatia expects that its membership in the Schengen area could be on the agenda during Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in late May.

In October 2019, the Commission said that Croatia had met the criteria for joining the Schengen area while in early June it invited EU countries to admit Croatia to the Schengen area.

All EU countries except Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania are members of Schengen, as are four non-EU countries -- Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Violence against migrants

The resolution also says that there are still allegations of violence against migrants, including those seeking international protection, and of illegal pushbacks at the EU's external borders, but no member states are explicitly mentioned.

In that context, it is stressed that the EU does not have a developed mechanism for monitoring fundamental rights at its external borders, which should change.

The Parliament is deeply concerned due to constant and serious reports on violence and pushbacks at the external border, including from one member state to another and then to a third country.

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

Friday, 2 July 2021

Ressler: We Mustn't Give in to Pressure Regarding Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 2 July 2021 - Croatia must not give in to political pressure aimed at changing the policy of preventing illegal migration, Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler said on Friday, adding that Social Democratic Party (SDP) MEPs had been known to be "fall" for "campaigns lambasting" Croatia.

"From the very start of this European Parliament, we have been exposed to political pressure because of our protection of the external border and because of our ambition to become a member of the Schengen Area," Ressler told a virtual press conference called "Asylum, migration and the Schengen Area's functioning" that was organised by the EP's office in Croatia.

Several NGO's and some MEPs claim that Croatia is illegally pushing back migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As we draw closer to joining the Schengen Area, the pressure in the EP has increased, said Ressler, adding that it is necessary to underline that there cannot be any double standards and that it is a duty to protect the EU's external border.

He added that that entails "respecting all human rights, all high Croatian, European and international standards."

Earlier this year four Italian MEPs (S&D) tried to get to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and they were prevented from doing so by Croatian police. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković then said that it was an attempt to mar Croatia's reputation. SDP leader Peđa Grbin and his deputy Biljana Borzan, who is also an MEP, then condemned the fact that the Italian MEPs were prevented from getting to the border.

Ressler said that strong awareness exists among European leaders and institutions that "there is no room in Europe for illegally crossing borders."

State-secretary in the Interior Ministry Terezija Gras said that due to the accusations against Croatia that it was violating the rights of migrants, Croatia would allow an "informal visit" to the Croatian border so that the Commission and member states could be convinced of what Croatia has done with regard to improving its technical equipment on the border with BiH and to strengthen its police capacities.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

Parliament Votes Against Zlata Đurđević For Supreme Court President

June 25th, 2021 -  MPs on Friday rejected President Zoran Milanović's recommendation that Zlata Đurđević is appointed Supreme Court president by 81 votes against, 37 for, and five abstentions.

Before the vote, Marijan Pavliček (Sovereignists) reiterated that Đurđević was unacceptable because she was "ideologically colored, an exponent of liberal-left politics and a toy in President Zoran Milanović's hands."

"There is no ideology about her. On the contrary, she is a professional who bothers all those who don't want change," said Krešo Beljak (People's Party).

Peđa Grbin (Social Democrats) said there were two groups, one that felt that everything in Croatia's judiciary was all right and wanted to change things.

Dražen Bošnjaković (ruling HDZ) said Đurđević did not apply for the post, that she broke the law and that it was therefore unacceptable to appoint her to the Supreme Court.

Stephen Bartulica (Homeland Movement) said Đurđević was "not the best candidate."

Milorad Pupovac (Independent Democratic Serb Party) said it was a pity the procedure had been contaminated from the start and that it was not only a matter of a good candidate but the election atmosphere.

Urša Raukar Gamulin (Green-Left Coalition) said one should elect based on objective and professional criteria and that short-term political interests should be eliminated from such elections.

Marija Selak Raspudić (bridge) called everything a farce in which parliament was reduced to a worthless institution that should participate in a show whose outcome was predetermined.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

SDA, Džaferović, Komšić: Croatia Defeated In EP Regarding Ethnic Divisions

June 25th, 2021 -  The leading Bosniak party, SDA, and two members of the Bosnian Presidency, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić, said on Thursday that Croatia and the concept of ethnic divisions were defeated in the EP with the rejection of an amendment on constituent peoples to a Bosnia and Herzegovina progress report.

At a plenary on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a report on BiH, rejecting amendments by Croatian MEPs on the rights of constituent peoples, which the European People's Party supported but not the Liberals, the Left, and the Greens.

"The rejection of the amendment by the parliamentarians from Croatia and ultra-right European parties, which asked of BiH to additionally deepen discrimination in the election process... is a clear message as to which direction future reforms of the Constitution and electoral legislation in BiH should take," the SDA said in a press release.

Komšić called the result of the vote in Brussels a clear message to Zagreb.

"That was as expected given the fact that the allegedly legitimate representation of the constituent peoples has no basis in European Court of Human Rights rulings. That's a message Zagreb should take note of well because it's clear now that the ethnic concept they are forcing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not acceptable to the EU," he said.

Džaferović said Croatia's idea to introduce "the rhetoric of ethnic divisions" in the EP resolution was rejected.

"After NATO's refusal at the past summit to include similar formulations in its declaration, this is the second important message after which Zagreb should... start changing its policy on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Any attempt by Zagreb to impose solutions on Bosnia and Herzegovina will fail and an unnecessary decline of Croatia's reputation," he said.

Džaferović said BiH should reform its Constitution and electoral legislation based on ECHR rulings and European Commission recommendations to eliminate discrimination and ensure equality for all its citizens across the country.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

European Parliament Adopts Kolakušić Report On Better Law Making

June 25th, 2021 - The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a report by Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakušić, which underlines that it is necessary to oversee better the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the adoption of EU policies and to introduce the EP's right to legislative initiative.

Presenting the "European Union regulatory fitness and subsidiarity and proportionality report on Better Law-Making covering the years 2017, 2018 and 2019," Kolakušić said the expansion of EU powers harmed the EU's democracy and functioning, and that it was necessary to protect better member states' possibility to make decisions and act without European institutions interfering whenever possible.

620 votes adopted the report in favor, 20 against, and 51 abstentions.

The EP stresses that acting at the EU level must be justified concerning possibilities available at a national, regional, or local level while respecting retroactive assessment, impact assessment, and consultation with stakeholders.

MEPs call for reviewing the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and introducing the EP's right to legislative initiative, given that it directly represents European citizens.

Kolakušić said the report contained an important call on MEPs, all member states, and EU citizens that the EU must change and that the power to move bills must be given to citizens and their representatives in the EP.

The resolution presents solutions to the weakened regulation of compliance with subsidiarity and proportionality principles.

MEPs push for better participation by national parliaments in legislative procedures at the EU level.

The EP calls for more open access to the drafting of legislative texts and enabling the independent moving of bills.

To have better regulations, it is essential that the European Parliament, Council, and Commission be included in more structured cooperation to assess the application and effectiveness of EU law to improve legislation, the resolution says.

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

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Matić: No One is Advocating Abortion, It is Women's Choice

ZAGREB, 24 June 2021 - Croatian MEP Predrag Matić said on Wednesday that it was a lie that his report on sexual and reproductive health, which will be put to a vote in the European Parliament on Thursday, promoted abortion.

"No one is advocating abortion, particularly not as a method of contraception," Matić said during the plenary meeting of the European Parliament.

"The number of abortions in countries where abortion is allowed is the same as in countries where it is banned. Only in these latter countries, it poses a risk to women's health as 23,000 women throughout the world die from it every year," he added.

Presenting his report, Matić said that abortion is a very difficult choice for every woman, but that in the end, every woman must have a choice.

"No one is denying doctors the right to refuse to provide a medical service for personal reasons, but at the same time the health institution must ensure a doctor who will provide the requested service," Matić said, adding that the resolution clearly says that health care falls within the competence of member states.

Matić, a member of the Croatian Social Democratic Party and the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament, said he had received "angry and disgusting" criticisms and hundreds of hate emails over his report.

He said that by voting for this non-legislative resolution, men would show respect for women's rights and women would show self-respect, while all members of the European Parliament should show what kind of Europe they wanted.

Matić said that opponents of the resolution were ready to ignore the parts of it speaking of improving women's health only to focus on the issue of abortion using "an unbelievable amount of lies and manipulation."

"Tomorrow is a great day for Europe and the entire progressive world. Tomorrow we decide on positioning Europe as a community that chooses to live in the 21st  or the 17th century. Don't let history remember us as the latter ones," Matić concluded.

The report was criticized by parties on the right side of the political spectrum for referring to abortion as a human right, for treating the issue of conscientious objection as a problem, and for sidestepping the powers of EU member states.

Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler (HDZ/EPP) said that the resolution uses confusing language equating conscientious objection with denial of medical care, while his colleague Tomislav Sokol said that Matić, by advocating sexual education in school based on gender ideology, was overstepping the competencies of the EU and telling the member states what they should teach in their own curricula.

"Matić drew up the report probably under the influence of foreign lobbies that promote abortion. This stems from the fact that in the report Matić gives an arbitrary definition of sexual and reproductive health that is not based on international law," Sokol said, demanding that the disputed parts of the report should be voted on separately.

For more news about Croatia, visit our dedicated page.

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