Saturday, 28 January 2023

HDZ Claims That Russian Media is Praising President Zoran Milanovic

January the 28th, 2023 - We all know that President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) is one to make sometimes rather strange remarks, and he isn't at all shy when it comes to saying precisely what he thinks of everything and... well, everyone. Unfortunately, some of his statements have made him popular with the Russian press, and HDZ isn't having it.

As Index writes, HDZ recently took to Facebook in order to publish some of the titles and images of articles published in the Russian media space that convey the statements of President Zoran Milanovic about sending Western tanks into Ukraine.

"If America and Russia don't come to an agreement, and that currently isn't something that is in sight, this war will not stop. Somehow I hope that some kind of talks do continue, or we will slowly move towards WW3, which some people think has already started, but I'm a little more reserved on that front. As for the tanks, both Russian and American will burn," President Zoran Milanovic said recently, among other rather alarming things.

HDZ called him out in its social media publication with the taunting title "From Russia with love/Iz Rusije s ljubavlju".

"The caries (an insult comparing the president to a persistent form of tooth decay) from Pantovcak is once again being showcased as a hero by the Russian regime's media. How could they not praise and celebrate Zoran ''Lex Perkovic'' Milanovic when he, much like the Kremlin, insults Germany and condemns it for the delivery of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine? When he fervently spreads ideas which have already been being expressed Vladimir Putin's own spokesman Peskov, claiming that these tanks will 'burn' and threaten humanity - in order to stop aid from being sent to Ukraine - with 'a new world (nuclear) war?'' wrote HDZ.

"He wants Croatia to be in the ''Russian world'' they wrote, using the word ''svet'' instead of the Croatian word ''svijet'' for ''world'', in an apparent jab by using Serbian spelling.

''At the same time, President Zoran Milanovic has been saying things about the Germans, claiming that "that they've already tried to go to war with Russia", alluding to Adolf Hitler - similar to when he accused Ukrainians of "Nazism" because they don't agree with being enslaved. He also claims that the delivery of German and American tanks will ''only prolong the conflict'' (hm, conflict, not aggression or invasion). In translation - He demands that Kyiv capitulate!

Milanovic is now quite openly working in the interest of Russian aggression and Vladimir Putin's undemocratic regime, and against Ukraine, Europe (which he once again showered with insults) and the West. He wants Croatia in the "Russian world". But don't worry: Grbin & Grmoja will continue to support him, and will continue to claim that they ''see nothing objectionable'' in his statements," HDZ's Facebook post reads.

For more, check out our news section.

Friday, 28 October 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Schengen, Slovenia, Ukraine and Nancy Pelosi

October the 28th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from insults, Slovenia's opinions on Croatian Schengen entry and wage increase proposals to healthcare reforms, Milanovic's latest actions, and Nancy Pelosi.

The Croatian Health Insurance Fund's HDZ boss referred to Croats as arrogant in his speech about healthcare not being free

The director of the HZZO, HDZ member Lucian Vukelic has referred to Croats as arrogant because "they think healthcare is free". The HDZ member at HZZO's helm also made sure to refer to himself as somewhat arrogant, too, just for good measure.

"We have a lot of relatives in America, as soon as you see them, they say: 'Thank God I'm healthy'. They say that because healthcare costs serious money in America. In America, you pay for your healthcare out of your own pocket. Our people here are arrogant, and I must say that even I was arrogant, people in Croatia say 'it's free'. It's not free. Healthcare in Croatia isn't free, healthcare in Croatia also costs money," he said.

Vukelic failed to really explain what the point of saying any of that actually was, but he seemed to imply that there is a widespread opinion across Croatia that healthcare somehow doesn't cost money. Moreover, Vukelic himself said that a third of Croats who work annually pay 26 billion kuna from their wages for basic health insurance, so they certainly know that healthcare isn't free.

Of course, there's also the question of what we actually get out of this healthcare we're paying for, which HDZ member Vukelic claims is expensive. It would perhaps be okay if, given that Vukelic is already more than happy to admit that we all pay dearly for our healthcare, he explained why every now and then people are forced to collect money for their treatment, why pregnant women sometimes have to take their own toilet paper to maternity hospitals with them, why the waiting times for often basic examinations are so long and why medical staff are leaving Croatia.

Only later, when asked by a journalist about his statement, did the HDZ member try to justify himself by calling himself arrogant as well, which is absolutely true, but it is also true that he called other people arrogant with the thesis that "our people say that healthcare is free", which honestly, they don't. When they see how much of their wage is shaved off for it each month, they definitely do not.

A man who takes home a monthly salary of over 18,000 kuna, who drives a 300,000 kuna Mercedes, who has an official car, who owned a 150,000 kuna 2001 Harley Davidson until 2019 and who claims his ''communication skills are excellent'' but makes sexist remarks on a TV show (Otvoreno) about women talking a lot should perhaps quiet down before calling others arrogant.

On the topic of healthcare, Health Minister Vili Beros has announced reforms to the system

Beros has presented his healthcare reform package, and it's extensive. Preventative examinations will be introduced, with pilot projects beginning next year in two Croatian counties, the number of specialisations in primary healthcare will be widened, there will be revisions for national preventative programmes for malignant diseases, a focus will be placed on melanoma, hospital system changes are set to come in, and there will be an emergency helicopter service fully established and up and running (or flying) by 2024.

This is just a little bit of what was presented and discussed. You can read more details in this article.

Are Croatia and Slovenia set to start falling out over Schengen entry?

The topic of Croatian Schengen entry is hotting up as the country's Eurozone accession rapidly approaches, but is neighbouring Slovenia ready to throw yet another spanner in the works? 

An expert in European Union law from the Faculty of Law in Maribor, Janja Hojnik, was a recent guest of Novi Dan on N1 where Croatia's entry into Schengen, among other things, was discussed. Hojnik noted that, as far as it seems, the Slovenian Government has not decided to block Croatia's entry into Schengen in any way.

"It has been determined that it is a mutual benefit for Croatia to enter the Schengen zone. The plan is for Slovenia to also ratify the agreement on Croatia's entry into Schengen," she said. She also commented on the announcement, which was published yesterday in the Ljubljana-based newspaper Delo, that Slovenia will issue a unilateral note stating that Croatia, by entering the Schengen area, accepts the arbitration ruling which was reached in the past regarding a territorial dispute.

"Recently, I was on Slovenian television and they asked two ministers for their comments on those statements and one minister said that it was all misinformation, and the Minister of Justice said that the Government hadn't even commented on it and that she knew nothing about it, that this statement should be confirmed in parliament, and there is no information from the Foreign Policy Committee about it. We can only speculate whether it will be brought to the Slovenian Government itself or to parliament. I think it would be a little unusual if it were inserted into the Act on Ratification. This is not the norm and the European Commission would probably ask Slovenia what it all means. I don't think that ratification with this condition is possible. I don't see any legal consequences to this. Such a statement can't be part of European Union law, and it doesn't have any legal consequences even in international law,'' explained Hojnik.

When speaking about the arbitration agreement between Slovenia and Croatia, she said that the task of politics is to resolve relations between neighbours, not to deepen them.

"I'd like Slovenia and Croatia to solve this problem themselves, without any external factors getting involved. Schengen is probably the last thing where Slovenia could have a veto. It is in Slovenia's interest that they aren't on an external border. I see it as the responsibility of politics to find an agreement,'' she said.

Plenkovic says he's going to regulate work on Sundays and raise the minimum wage. Again.

PM Andrej Plenkovic recently discussed the state of the economy, ongoing inflation, the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic and of course, Russian aggression against Ukraine. Digitalisation and the green transition, two topics that keep coming up, were also touched on. Perhaps what attracted the most attention of all, however, were the discussions on banning (or should I say regulating) work on Sundays (remember that?) and of course, talk of raising the minumum wage. If you've spent any time following the domestic political scene, neither of the aforementioned and farily worn out topics will come as a surprise to you.

"We're going to regulate work on Sundays and the minimum wage will go up,'' says Plenkovic, who announced that his government would make several steps forward in both this and in other regards in the coming weeks. "We'll regulate work on Sundays and we've come up with a rational, well-balanced proposal," Plenkovic assured, adding that the minimum wage will also increase from next year to 4,220 kuna net, and a proposal for an additional tax on extra profits is being prepared in order to more fairly share the burden of the ongoing crisis. He also announced the continuation of the social dialogue with the trade unions, with whom intense conversations have been happening of late.

He noted that in just two months, the Republuc of Croatia will be among the fifteen countries in the world that are in NATO, the European Union, Schengen and the Eurozone, and that negotiations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been launched.

Plenkovic uses yet another opportunity to troll President Zoran Milanovic (SDP)

If you've spent any time in the City of Zagreb over the last few days, you'll have noticed that getting anywhere by road proved impossible for about 48 hours. The Crimea Platform Summit was being held right here in the Croatian capital, and for road users, the problems were very much in evidence. Plenkovic recently discussed how this extremely significant summit went, making no effort to hide his satisfaction with how it unfolded, and once again offering words of support to Ukraine.

It didn't stop there. If you follow Croatian politics, you'll know that Andrej Plenkovic (HDZ) and Zoran Milanovic (SDP), the Prime Minister and the President of Croatia, make sure to miss no chance to insult or troll each other, and this was no exception. Plenkovic made sure to make his feelings clear on Milanovic's earlier comments about Nancy Pelosi and the aforementioned summit.

"I think you're more than aware of just how important, useful and excellent an event like this that we organised actually is for the courageous, correct and moral foreign policy of the Croatian Government. This topic of whether or not someone went to Makarska just isn't the subject of my interest. He can explain that one himself,'' Plenkovic said, referencing Milanovic having gone to the aforementioned part of Central Dalmatia.

''I guess you can see who has been saying what over the past few years. I don't know what sort of rally he'll decide to go to, maybe he'll go to one Russia organises. Mrs. Pelosi didn't waste her time on irrelevant things, and neither did we," Prime Minister Plenkovic concluded, having made a very clear jab at Milanovic with the Russia comment. Gordan Grlic Radman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, also touched on the topic of Milanovic, claiming that ''people are calling and asking what Croatia's position actually is'' in regard to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Nancy Pelosi praises Croatia for its humanity towards Ukraine and refers to the country as a leader in the diversification of energy sources

Nany Pelosi said that Croatia could offer Ukraine a lot owing to its relatively recent experience of war, and she also said that this country is a leader in the diversification of energy sources. Pelosi issued a warning that energy has become a means of blackmail in Russia's horrendous aggression against Ukraine, before thanking Croatia and Plenkovic for their leadership in the field of energy.

"Croatia is a small enough country to be resilient, but big enough to be significant in terms of security, democracy, peace and values," Pelosi believes, adding that the diversification of energy sources is helping to save planet Earth. Plenkovic said that with the construction of the LNG terminal on Krk, Croatia has now ''finally resolved" a four-decade-long debate in energy circles and that by deciding to increase its capacity, the government has "enabled Croatia to become an energy hub'' for natural gas.

Pelosi also said that the Croatian capital is the "perfect" place for the summit to be held, emphasising the very strong Croatian-Ukrainian friendship and the help that Zagreb continually provides to Kyiv as it goes through such terrible times.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section, and keep an eye out for our A Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published each Friday.

Friday, 14 October 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - INA, Russians and Sylvester Stallone

October the 14th, 2022 - Let's have a look at the past week in Croatian politics with just some of the stories from the political stage, the bad, the embarrassing, and the just plain weird.

HDZ earns its second worst rating since Andrej Plenkovic has been at the helm of the party

HDZ hasnt done brilliantly in its latest rating, with it being the second worst one since Plenkovic has been top dog. Index reports that in cooperation with Promocija (Promotion) plus, RTL published the CRO Demoskop for the month of October 2022. The survey was conducted from October the 3rd to thr 6th on a sample of 1,300 respondents. The standard error of the sample was +/- 2.77 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.

For most people, the INA situation is the most important issue within Croatian politics and in the country at this moment in time, and this continues to affect the rating of the ruling party and of the prime minister himself.

Although HDZ is still the first choice when it comes to political parties for almost a quarter of respondents, this is HDZ's second lowest rating since the arrival of Andrej Plenkovic at as head of the party (October 24.4 percent - September 24.2 percent). SDP (October 16.7 percent - September 16.6 percent) and Mozemo! (We Can!) also have similar support as they did back in September. (October 10.6 percent - September 10.6 percent.

With a slight drop, the fourth choice of the respondents was Most (Bridge), slightly above 9 percent (October 9.2 percent - September 9.4 percent), and another right-wing option, Domovinski pokret (Homeland Movement), which is growing when compared to September (October 6 percent - September 5.5 percent).

The Croatian Government apparently wants to go ahead with the much talked about plans to build the country's national stadium in Zagreb, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport says no, and the City of Zagreb has been left in the dark

If you follow the world of sport, particularly football, you've probably wondered why a country so famed for its sportsmanship and for churning out top class athletes doesn't actually have its own national football stadium. You wouldn't be the only one who has asked that question. It is a subject that people have gone back and forth on for years now, and it appears that the situation is as clear as it has ever been (clear like mud, that is), as the government says we're set to go ahead with the stadium's construction, but the Ministry of Tourism and Sport says no.

A spokesperson for the Croatian Government, Marko Milic, has said that a stadium is going to be built, finally, and that it is a priority, but in just as much time as it took him to make the statement, the aforementioned ministry said that wasn't going to be the case. To say he is a government spokeperson, Milic doesn't take the stand as it were very often, and his confidence surrounding this matter has obviously confused some.

"Soon it could be a reality. And yes, I can tell you that we are going to build a stadium in Zagreb," said Milic, adding that addition to the state, other stakeholders will participate in the work, without specifying who exactly those stakeholders actually are.

Milic also said that preparations and consultations for the new budget year are currently underway, and that investments for the apparently upcoming stadium are also being taken into account in these calculations. Hr also noted that a financial framework is being sought for the construction of a stadium in Zagreb where Dinamo would play. Milic later mentioned other larger cities such as Rijeka and Split, where there are stadiums that have "national significance".

"The priority is to build the stadium in Zagreb, which is in a bad condition," said Milic, adding at the end that both Dinamo and the Croatian national team have shown that they deserve an adequate stadium.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sport was quick to deny what Milic had stated. 

"The state isn't building the stadium, nor is it financing the stadium independently, nor is this the model we're thinking about, but the state could potentially co-finance the construction and equipping of sports buildings, according to clearly developed criteria and based on the conducted tender," the Ministry led by Nikolina Brnjac stated in response.

As she explained, the draft Law on Sport will give the government the opportunity to declare certain sports buildings as buildings of national interest, but it is, in typical Croatian style, entirely unclear what the criteria for something to be of national interest actually are. Also in typical Croatian style, the City of Zagreb apparently has absolutely no idea of any of these plans. ''We know absolutely nothing about any of these government plans,'' Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic's office stated.

It also begs the question as to why this is even a topic within Croatian politics when parts of Zagreb and particularly Sisak-Moslavina County are still waiting for renovations and reconstruction following the earthquakes of 2020.

Most tries to twist the knife with HDZ by publishing a list of the party's apparently ''forgotten'' ties with Russia

Most took to good old Facebook to respond to PM Andrej Plenkovic, who, just to quickly remind you, rejected the opposition's claims that the government and HDZ were to blame for the catastrophically embarrassing and expensive INA affair, and said that the opposition is attempting to come together and overthrow the government in a joint operation.

"There are no doubts about any of this, it's all just an orchestrated operation and the actions of very clearly visible and recognisable actors, we just have to see how much of it is internal, and how much is external. That's the only question we still need to look at in a little more detail, but we'll examine that too," Plenkovic said.

Most then made a list of links between HDZ and Russia.

"Here are all of HDZ's ''forgotten' connections with the Russians. Since HDZ is trying to move away from the topic of its corruption and high treason in regard to INA to the topic of Russian players, mercenaries and Russian influence, we'll be very happy to oblige and remind them a little about their own connections:

- HDZ borrowed 4.2 million kuna from the company Gas trading d.o.o., owned by PPD, which in turn created its wealth from the sale of Russian gas.

- HDZ negotiated for a long time with Ivan Vrdoljak about ousting Most so that HNS, which was connected to Russian capital through Vrdoljak, would take its place. By the way, Ivan Vrdoljak asked the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) in a written document to give the Russian tycoons Grigory Edel and Mihail Zhukov Croatian citizenship, which they needed to break through Russian capital of dubious origins, which was, strangely enough, linked to Oksana Dvinski, HDZ's great "benefactor".

- HDZ minister Zdravko Maric came into his job [as finance minister] from Agrokor came and stayed with the government after securing Russian money from Russian banks for Agrokor. At the same time, Agrokor was a donor to HDZ through various different companies.

- HDZ's Minister of Construction Ivan Paladina has business ties to Russian tycoons, especially to Sergey Glyadelkin, who is connected to the Russian secret service.

- The Russian Foundation called ''New Generation'', led by the already mentioned Russian citizen Oksana Dvinski, the wife of Maksim Poletaev, was a donor to HDZ with 2.6 million kuna after completion.

- The HDZ government awarded the contract for the overhaul of the Mi-171Sh helicopter worth 206.9 million kuna to the Russians, and that overhaul turned out to be very problematic.

As you can see, HDZ members are the last ones who should be talking about Russian mercenaries," Most concluded in their rather damning Facebook post.

An HDZ parliamentarian claims that his role model is Sylvester Stallone

What does the world of Croatian politics and Hollywood have in common? Apparently more than you'd think, and not just because of the endless drama. HDZ Parliamentarian Ante Bacic Baco, who is enrolled in military school and attends it with HV officers, once told Dalmatinski portal that his role model is actor Sylvester Stallone.

"I like such people who don't really have the prerequisites to succeed, but still succeed with motivation and persistent effort," Ante explained, saying that Stallone inspires him because of that fact.

His life motto is, as he said in an interview: "Keep punching" - a statement from the classic Stallone movie, Rocky.

Aside from idolising Rocky, Baco has been quite the hot topic of sorts over more recent weeks. President Zoran Milanovic commented on his enrollment in the "Ban Josip Jelacic" War School, judging that it was "a criminal offense because there's no place in the war school for parliamentarians, who by definition are state officials".

"If they don't withdraw, we'll report them and I will personally forbid the entry of such people into the premises of the Croatian Army,'' Milanovic said of the matter.

Following Ivo Sanader's acquital, President Zoran Milanovic wasted no time in claiming that while Sanader was a thief ''solely for his own gain'', HDZ has advanced its tactics of theft

Zoran Milanovic and Andrej Plenkovic make very little effort (if any) to hide their utter disdain for each other. The pair frequently come to blows (not literally of course, Sylvester Stallone isn't involved in this particular feud), and Milanovic has quite the way with words when it comes to insults and being a troll. One may hope the pair would have more pressing issues to tackle, but I digress.

Milanovic was quick to hop on the band wagon in regard to the massive INA scandal, of course blaming HDZ entirely, and claiming that while Ivo Sanader was indeed a thief, he was in it for himself, unlike HDZ which he claims has ''improved its methods'' of theft.

"The story surrounding INA is the story of HDZ. All these slurs about Russian people are attempts by Plenkovic's martyrs to bury that story with whitewash. But that isn't going to work, it doesn't work because these things are just obvious. Did HDZ set up people there? Is Skugor connected to the top people within HDZ? Yes. Was he going to get rich in this underhanded way? Did he panic because he got too rich? Was the gas sold through the county company where Banozic is? Those are the facts," he said.

"Ivo Sanader fell like the greedy private thief he was, but he stole for himself. He was accused in the way in which he stole. HDZ was declared to be an organisation of robbers. They didn't learn anything [from matters involving Sanader], they just improved their techniques when it comes to robbing. Plenkovic ignores it all, but to me that just means he supports it," Milanovic said.

For more on Croatian politics, keep up with our Week in Croatian Politics articles which will be published every Friday.

Friday, 9 September 2022

PM Plenkovic Talks Anti-Inflation Measures: We'll Cap Price of Electricity

September the 9th, 2022 - Ongoing inflation is continuing to spiral, and with countries across Europe making various arrangements and creating measures to help citizens and companies through this extremely difficult period, Croatia's PM Plenkovic has now spoken out, confirming that the Croatian Government will cap electricity prices as energy bills are set to soar.

The Croatian Government was very quick in stepping in with a package of various measures when the global coronavirus pandemic reached the country and began disrupting life as we've never known it before. Many sectors across the economy are hoping for the same rapid response as inflation rises, taking the cost of energy with it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, PM Plenkovic stated that this recently held session was entirely dedicated to the autumn package of measures the government intends to put into place to protect households, companies and the domestic economy from continually rising prices.

''We've dedicated as many as the first twenty points of the government session solely to this," PM Plenkovic assured.

"We are going to be opting for a very strong intervention, as we've always done until now for the benefit of the Republic of Croatia and for our citizens," he said, adding that ''we are in a time of global disruption," before showing a presentation in which the graphs clearly show an extreme rise in oil, gas and electricity prices.

"The first part of the package we're going to introduce will be to mitigate the rise in energy prices, and we've primarily concentrated on electricity costs. When it comes to households, we're going to be capping electricity prices. This measure will be fixed for the period from October the 1st to March the 1st, and as such it will cover the autumn-winter period," he said.

"Whoever spends less will of course pay a lower price. Those who use more will be put into a higher price class," Plenkovic said.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

What Does Proposed New Law on Maritime Property Bring?

August the 23rd, 2022 - What exactly does the new proposal for the Law on Maritime Property bring with it? There are some concerning items to be aware of, and Otoci.eu/Islands.eu has a message for the powers that be.

As Andrea Beader/Otoci.eu writes, does the new proposal of the Law on Maritime Property and Sea Ports bring us any restrictions or the fencing off of sea beaches to the public?

Reviewing the new proposal of the Law on Maritime Property and Sea Ports, we were taken aback by the proposed items that explicitly enable the limitation of the general use of maritime property, its fencing off and even the potential charging for access to sea beaches along the coast of the mainland and on the islands, which would prevent all citizens of the Republic of Croatia, as well as the rest of the public, from enjoying unhindered public use of maritime property and sea beaches.

We consider parts of the proposed law inadmissible and completely contradictory to everything we have advocated for and communicated all these years, emphasising the importance of protecting Croatia's greatest social, touristic and economic potential - its maritime assets, which historically and culturally represents an extremely important resource for everyone.

Maritime resource management with an emphasis placed on sea beaches

Five years ago, together with numerous stakeholders in the working group for the drafting of the proposal of the Law on Maritime Property, we worked out the best models for the use of maritime property with a special emphasis placed on beaches, with shared knowledge and experience.

We all had the goal of protecting Croatia's maritime assets from devastation, the restriction of access and privatisation, and maintaining the concept of public good in order to enable all residents and visitors to swim and relax on the Croatian coast and on the islands. With the departure of Maja Markovcic Kostelac to another job, unfortunately the whole process was suddenly interrupted and the then proposal of the Law ended up stuffed down into a drawer after many hours of work.

Recently, this topic and the decision on the adoption of the new Law on Maritime Property and Sea Ports has been brought up to date again. A new working group was formed, to which we weren't invited as representatives of both citizens and civil society organisations, despite our continuous work and advocacy for the preservation of maritime property and its public use, especially regarding sea beaches. A few months ago, we were contacted by phone and our opinion was sought.

However, since we weren't presented with a new proposal for the Law on Maritime Property, we could only give our comments by generally repeating our well-known position - sea beaches in Croatia must remain for public use, and we will not support any restrictions on their use.

Of course, we understand the need for the economic use of maritime property, the improvement of the coastline and raising the quality of services offered on beaches, in ports and at sea. However, we believe that a way must be found so that the maritime asset remains a public asset and that everyone is satisfied with the management method.

As an example of good practice, we sent Mr. Bilaver the Rulebook on the Economic Use of Maritime Property, which we drafted back in 2017 with Split-Dalmatia County and which could serve as an example for everyone to find a way to reconcile private and public interest when concessioning sea beaches.

A dispute of Article 11 of the proposal for the Law on Maritime Property and Sea Ports

Finally, at the end of July of this year, we received the proposal of the new law from the state secretary, Mr. Bilaver, and a request to send our comments, which we did within a few days.

We consider the most controversial part of the proposal of the Law on Maritime Property and Sea Ports to be Article 11, which we'll transcribe in its entirety:

(1) On part of the maritime property, in accordance with this Law, the general use of the maritime property can be limited, and exceptionally excluded for a certain period of time on the basis of a concession, approval for special use, granting the right to the temporary use of the maritime property, and granting the management of a port.port administration which is open to public traffic.

(2) A restriction on the general use of maritime property is considered to be fencing off or otherwise preventing access to a part of the maritime property with or without charging [a free] for the use of the maritime property, when such a restriction is permitted by a valid concession agreement, a contract on special use or an agreement on the temporary use of the maritime property and by granting a port open for public transport to be placed under the management of the port authority.

(3) The exclusion of maritime property from general use is considered to be the use of a maritime asset in a way that completely or partially excludes the general use of a part of the maritime property, when such exclusion is permitted by a valid concession agreement, a special use agreement or an agreement on the temporary use of the maritime property.

(4) The degree of restriction and exclusion of maritime property from general use and the purpose achieved thereby is determined by the decision on awarding concessions, the decision on granting approval for special use and the decision on granting maritime property for temporary use.

Dear Prime Minister, Minister, Secretary of State and all other members of the working group who are responsible for the preparation of the proposal for this Law, we ask you - do you really intend to limit the use of maritime property, i.e. sea beaches for the public, with this proposal of the Law, and/or enable the installation of fences and the charging for entry to the beaches?

Are you aware of the negative practices of neighbouring countries, such as Italy, where the beaches are mostly under the concessions of catering/hospitality and hotel facilities, and the numerous sunbeds, umbrellas and other facilities don't allow unhindered access to the sea, even though, according to the law, the public use of maritime property in Italy cannot actually be restricted?

This is an Invitation to the responsible representatives of the institutions of the Republic of Croatia;
Prime Minister, Mr. Plenkovic
Honourable Minister of Maritime Affairs, Mr. Butkovic
State Secretary, Mr. Bilaver

We invite you to review and consider the comments and suggestions that we have sent on the draft law, and be sure to foresee the possibility that the beaches and the sea can be accessed unhindered, regardless of whether they are public or not.

We believe that additional facilities such as sunbeds, umbrellas and other props should incur charges when on the beaches, but they must not endanger and/or prevent unhindered public access to the sea and part of the sea coast. As an example of Split-Dalmatia County's rules for concessioned beaches, it is defined that it is necessary to leave 30% of the surface for public use and provide pedestrian corridors through which everyone who wants to can enter the sea unhindered.

Practice has shown that both private and public interests are satisfied in this way, and that companies and citizens, in places where the laws are respected, can live a quality co-existence. Any restriction of access to the sea and maritime property is a threat to human rights and will certainly cause a series of citizen complaints, public resistance and protests, which will damage community relations and investment potential on the coast and islands in the long term.

For more, make sure to check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

As Peljesac Bridge Opens, Does HDZ or SDP Deserve the Most Praise?

July the 26th, 2022 - As Peljesac bridge opens after what seems like an endless wait, which government actually deserves the most praise? While SDP is responsible in the most part for pushing forward with the EU, HDZ was the one to sign the final agreement.

As Faktograf/Sanja Despot writes, with both HDZ and SDP having played their respective roles, Peljesac bridge opens not only itself, but many questions about precisely who the most praise should be directed at. Competitive discussions about whose government is most responsible for its construction have started up again.

President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) stated that he started working on the bridge's implementation back in 2012, claiming that it is indeed true that he questioned whether or not it was a profitable investment, but that he asked those questions during the period from 2005 to 2011, and not back in 2012.

"My team and I participated in the realisation of this bridge, practically in a 95 percent way. Everything was over when I handed over the post of prime minister," he said and added that it all started with Ivan Sprlje, the former prefect of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, who spoke about the idea way back during his 1997 campaign.

When asked to comment on the president's statement that SDP is responsible for this enormous project, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said: "They're one hundred percent responsible. They messed around to try to ensure that nothing came of it,''

It's fairly easy to find Milanovic's quote from back in July 2015 on the Croatian Government's website, on the eve of the parliamentary elections that took place that year. Milanovic then said that "Peljesac bridge will be built regardless of who wins the elections", and that, as he said, "no one can blow it anymore, and they blew it for five years straight".

It's worth noting that the European Union (EU) didn't simply decide out of nowhere to provide the funds for the construction of the bridge back in 2016 when HDZ returned to power.

Back in July 2015, then Prime Minister Milanovic, together with ministers Branko Grcic and Sinisa Hajdas Doncic, presented the project to connect the extreme south of Croatia with the Peljesac bridge, saying that the idea of a bridge was chosen as the best option by those who decided on it all in the European Union.

The then Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Hajdas Doncic, said that the Peljesac bridge construction project inherited from the previous government was oversized and too expensive, which is why Milanovic's government terminated the contracts with the contractors in 2012. He added that after that, through OP traffic in 2007-2013, they were provided money for the pre-feasibility study and said that in parallel, through OP Cohesion and Competitiveness, in the part concerning transport for the financial period 2014-2020, funds were provided for connecting the isolated part of the Republic of Croatia (southern Dalmatia) to the rest of the country. Through European Union funding, Croatian Roads (Hrvatske ceste), as the project holder, contracted the feasibility studies.

On that occasion, Hajdas Doncic recalled that several connection solutions were considered, stressing that as the best solution, the Peljesac bridge project with all of its connecting roads received the best marks and was identified as a project that would meet all the set goals.

"The bridge can apply for cash from European Union funds on the condition that we prepare the studies that show that this is the best solution", said the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusic back in 2012, before Croatia formally entered the European Union on July the 1st, 2013, which was also during the mandate of former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic. Pusic had then hoped that it could be financed from the IPA pre-accession fund.

In 2013, a preliminary feasibility study was carried out, financed by the European Commission (EC), which concluded that the best solution of all options for connecting the extreme south of the country was indeed a bridge.

During 2014 and 2015, once again during the mandate of Milanovic's government, a feasibility study was carried out, which was financed by EU funds, and which also confirmed that the best solution was the construction of Peljesac bridge. Then, at the end of 2016, confirmation was received from the EU that the project was ready for application for co-financing in the maximum amount of 85 percent. Finally, on June the 7th, 2017, a formal decision was made by the European Commission to co-finance the construction of the huge structure with 357 million euros.

In the spring of 2018, the then HDZ Minister of Regional Funds, Gabrijela Zalac, signed the contract on the construction of the bridge, which was worth over 2 billion kuna, between Croatian Roads and the Chinese consortium led by the China Road and Bridge Corporation.

Regarding the part of Milanovic's statement that Ivan Sprlje, the late SDP prefect of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, was the initiator of the idea of ​​building the bridge, it should be noted that SDP and HDZ are persistently competing for the right of precedence, each with their own arguments. SDP claimed that Sprlje was the first to present the idea in his campaign, that is, they refer to the exact information that he was the first to draw up the bridge in the spatial plan, and from HDZ, they highlight the role of Luka Bebic, who was the first to speak about it in Parliament for HDZ in 1998.

It's a fact that in the years leading up to the moment when Peljesac bridge finally opens, SDP wasn't entirely sure whether or not it should dive in with that project, until the party took over the government, that is. It's also true that former HDZ Prime Minister Ivo Sanader "rather emptily" started his work on the bridge as part of his PR campaigns.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

HDZ Member Franjo Lucic to be Jailed for Attempts to Bribe Journalist

July the 21st, 2022 - Influential HDZ member Franjo Lucic, HDZ a member of parliament in the last convocation, is set to be imprisoned for one year for bribing Telegram journalist Drago Hedl, the Supreme Court has decided.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, in a session which was held back on June the 7th, 2022, the Council of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia accepted the appeal of the state attorney, and the verdict of the first-instance court in the sentencing decision of HDZ member Franjo Lucic was changed in such a way that the accused was sentenced to a prison term of one year for offering a bribe to the aforementioned journalist, instead of being given community service.

With that decision, the defendant's appeal was rejected as unfounded, the Supreme Court announced.

The Supreme Court considers that the first-instance court, after correctly determining mitigating circumstances on the part of the accused (who has no criminal record otherwise), overestimated the circumstances, ignoring the fact that the accused committed a serious crime of corruption against a journalist, thereby grossly violating the provisions of Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, which guarantees the freedom of thought and expression, which includes, in particular, freedom of the press and other means of communication, freedom of speech and public speaking, although as a member of the Croatian Parliament he (Franjo Lucic) was obliged to protect and promote the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia.

For not writing and publishing a certain text, HDZ member Franjo Lucic offered the journalist three times more compensation than the media company would be paying him.

As a reminder, in the indictment from back in March 2018, USKOK accused HDZ member Franjo Lucic that on July the 26th, 2017 in Pozega, he offered Telegram journalist Drago Hedl, who was collecting information about his business and financial transactions as a representative of the Croatian Parliament and his companies, a monetary reward to not write about information that he collected because the article would harm him as a member of parliament and as an entrepreneur.

Lucic was accused of telling the journalist in a telephone conversation, which Hedl recorded, that for not writing the text he would pay him three times more than the compensation he would receive from the media company and that the payout of said money was "not in question", as long as the gathering of information about him and his companies would not be made public.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Friday, 8 July 2022

Former Agrokor Boss Ivica Todoric Comments on Zdravko Maric's Departure

July the 8th, 2022 - Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who was with the government in that position for six years, seemingly suddenly stepped down of his own accord recently, and former Agrokor boss Ivica Todoric, with whom the now former finance minister was embroiled back in 2017, has made a comment.

If you'd like to learn more about Zdravko Maric's history and the reasons behind him stepping down from his longtime position within Andrej Plenkovic's government (HDZ), you can do so here.

The article also details Zdravko Maric's close involvement with the Agrokor saga which threatened to bring the Croatian economy to its knees back in 2017 when certain goings on among its leading names and former boss Ivica Todoric came to light. Maric came to work within the government from Agrokor, and naturally, Ivica Todoric had a lot to say about the otherwise rather unassuming former minister back then, and now.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, ex Agrokor founder and boss Ivica Todoric says that he has analysed everything to do with the current political situation and that he is very much inclined to believe that the reason for Zdravko Maric stepping down from his position within the government is the loss of the Republic of Croatia's dispute against Hungary's MOL, an issue which has otherwise been plaguing the government for a significant amount of time now.

"The dispute was initiated by MOL. Croatia will now have to pay an amount between 250-300 million euros, plus interest. A thorough analysis of this case would reveal many facts that would lead one to accuse Andrej Plenkovic of simply handing Croatia's INA over to MOL, and this should of course be avoided at all costs.

In the same sense, it would open up the story of the arbitration related to Agrokor once again, which would only further complicate Plenkovic's position even more. In order to avoid dramatic evidence against himself coming to light (he's trying to sweep everything under the rug), Andrej Plenkovic planned and prepared the strongest possible media bomb to save his own skin. So Maric is now leaving to try to save Plenkovic," Ivica Todoric wrote on Facebook.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric Steps Down, Marko Primorac New Candidate

July the 6th, 2022 - Finance Minister Zdravko Maric has stepped down from his longtime role at his own request, it has emerged. Marko Primorac will step in as the country's new Minister of Finance.

As Index writes, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric is leaving his position within Plenkovic's government at his own request. He has already informed Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic about everything, and further information should be published later on today after the meeting of the cabinet of the government.

"It's true that Zdravko Maric is stepping down from his position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance on his own initiative. The Prime Minister will inform the members of the cabinet tomorrow about Maric's departure. We're grateful to him for the contribution he has made in the government over the past six years. The government will continue to work as it did before to solve all the challenges we're facing in the crisis, protecting people, and the economy. The Prime Minister will present Marko Primorac to the parliamentary majority as a candidate for the new Minister of Finance, and to the members of the Croatian Parliament during the next week," the government told Index.

Maric's biography

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric joined the government from his former position within the former Agrokor, he survived several situations and affairs and is the author and implementer of several rounds of tax reform.

Maric was born on February the 3rd, 1977 in Slavonski Brod and graduated from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb in 2000, majoring in finance. In 2004 he received his master's degree at the same faculty with the topic of his master's thesis entitled "An analysis of capital inflows to transition countries through the impact on investments".

In 2007, he completed the Executive Education Programme "Public Financial Management", at Harvard University, the J.F. Kennedy School of Government. He received his doctorate in 2008 at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb on the topic "The impact of foreign direct investment on the productivity of Croatian companies".

He worked as an assistant at the Institute of Economics in Zagreb, as an external associate - lecturer at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management, and as an external associate - lecturer at the International Graduate Business School in Zagreb.

From Agrokor to the Croatian Government

In 2006, he started working in the Ministry of Finance as Assistant Minister for Macroeconomic Analysis and Planning, and in 2008 he became State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance.

From 2012 to 2016, he worked at Agrokor as an executive director for strategy and capital markets. From that position, he came to the position of non-partisan finance minister in the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

After the fall of Agrokor and its longtime owner Ivica Todoric, the opposition demanded his departure in 2017 and initiated a no-confidence motion. The three ministers from MOST, who were part of the government at the time, were in favour of his departure, which is why they themselves were dismissed. The vote of no confidence did not pass in Parliament either.

A summer holiday at the Bellevue Hotel with question marks hovering above it...

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric is allegedly stepping down from his position after a recent story broke about his stay "over an extended weekend" at the Bellevue Hotel in Mali Losinj.

Back in June 2019, Maric stayed with his family in the luxurious Bellevue Hotel in Mali Losinj. For accommodation for two adults and two children, the Ostro portal revealed, he paid 291.20 euros (2153 kuna) per night, which is three times lower than the usual price for that period of the year. In other words, Minister Maric received a huge discount that not all hotel guests can count on.

"I didn't influence that decision, nor did I ask for any discounts. Privately, and long before I was a minister, it never once happened to me,'' Maric said of the event.

He was aboard the 800,000 euro yacht owned by entrepreneur Blaz Pavicic

Back in August 2021, Maric came under the scrutiny of the Commission for deciding on conflicts of interest after it was revealed that he had spent four to five days on the 800,000-euro yacht owned by entrepreneur Blaz Pavicic. At first, Maric refused to give the name of the owner of the yacht, and then, after revealing the name, he said that this entrepreneur had nothing to do with his department in terms of tax debt or HBOR loans, and that the concessions owned by Pavicic's companies were within the department of the Ministry of Transport.

It was said that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric deliberately forgot that his Ministry, more precisely the Customs Administration, is extremely important for the business of Pavicic's companies.

Maric is also accused that, together with the government, he knowingly misled the Commission for deciding on conflicts of interest three years earlier, when in connection with the Lex Agrokor case, i.e. the Borg affair, he said that he met with Ivica Todoric only twice, and on February the 26th and March the 3rd, 2017, while he failed to mention other meetings.

Maric would have remained innocent had it not been for Martina Dalic's testimony...

Finance Minister Zdravko then told the Commission that at those two meetings with Todoric, he didn't present or convey any positions, opinions or proposals. He also said that no decisions or conclusions were made at those meetings, and also that his role was a passive one.

This was his key evidence that he wasn't in a conflict of interest in connection with the Todoric case, that is, Lex Agrokor. The commission acquitted him in that case.

Maric's claim would have remained the same if the statement to the USKOK of former vice-president Martina Dalic hadn't come to light, who admitted to the investigators that Maric was present at at least five meetings back during February 2017, which concerned not only the creation of Lex Agrokor but also meetings with the leadership of Agrokor. The crucial meeting is from February the 19th, when Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic ordered Dalic and Maric to go to a meeting with Todoric.

At that meeting, Todoric asked for the help of HBOR, and Maric was given a presentation of the current financial situation within the then enfeebled Agrokor. After this information came to light, and it was contrary to what Maric said the first time before the Commission, the Minister of Finance then defended himself, saying that he had not lied.

"I read and see a lot of constructions that I told some lies and untruths. This is all easily verifiable," said Maric, inviting journalists to check what he was asked before the Commission and what he answered.

But the Commission, which acquitted him in the first trial, decided back in August 2018 to renew the proceedings against both Maric and Dalic. At the end of 2018, they made a decision that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric and former Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalic had "violated the principle of public office in the case of Agrokor". Both Maric and Dalic appealed against that decision.

Marko Primorac is the new Finance Minister candidate

The Croatian Government has confirmed the information that Marko Primorac is the new candidate for the position of Finance Minister.

"The Prime Minister will present Marko Primorc as a candidate for the new Minister of Finance to the parliamentary majority, and to the members of the Croatian Parliament during the next week," Index was told.

"Marko Primorac (1984) is a professor at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, whose area of ​​expertise is financial management in the public sector, tax policy and fiscal decentralisation," added the Government. Marko Primorac was also an economic adviser to Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic back when she was president.

For more, make sure to keep up with our politics section.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Conflict of Interest Commission Fines Croatian PM Plenkovic 3000 Kuna

June the 19th, 2022 - At a recently held session, the Commission for Deciding on Conflict of Interest passed a unanimous decision according to which Croatian PM Plenkovic was fined 3,000 kuna for incompatibilities when listing his assets and income, which he can pay in three equal installments.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, this was confirmed by the President of the Commission, Natasa Novakovic, as reported by Dnevnik.hr, and the aforementioned commission launched proceedings against Croatian PM Plenkovic back in early October last year.

In the period from 2016 to 2018, he reported higher income for his wife than what was really the case. It was stated that her annual salary stood at 121,385 kuna, and during 2016, 2017 and 2018, she actually received significantly less than that because she was on maternity and then parental leave until the third year of their child's life.

In addition to that, Croatian PM Plenkovic failed to state that back in 1997, his wife inherited a third of a plot in the cadastral municipality of Makose near Dubrovnik, which spans a total of 759 square metres, with a house of 61 square metres also skipped.

Namely, the Prime Minister's wife is the co-owner of a third of the plot she inherited as a minor after her father's death and, as she claims, she didn't even know about the co-ownership share because she doesn't use the property whatsoever.

Officials are required to provide accurate information

Croatian PM Plenkovic did appealed against the decision of the Commission for Deciding on Conflict of Interest due to the proceedings initiated against him. In addition to his salary, his wife earned other income during that period, and she didn't consider it appropriate to report a smaller amount, it is stated in his statement, which was read on Friday at the session of the Commission.

As for not registering the property she acquired way back in 1997 in the municipality of Makose near Dubrovnik, it is stated that Ana Maslac Plenkovic didn't know that she had even become the co-owner of that property, so, as was stated in Plenkovic's statement, the Prime Minister himself couldn't have possibly known about it either.

It was explained at the session that this was only a very minor disparity, but it was also pointed out that officials are obliged to provide absolutely precise data.

Having in mind these two omissions, the Commission determined that there was indeed an issue, and that Croatian PM Plenkovic would have to pay a fine in the amount of three thousand kuna, which can be paid in three equal installments.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

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