Monday, 8 November 2021

Zagreb Opposition Strongly Against Plans To Cancel Stay-at-Home Parent Scheme

ZAGREB, 8 Nov, 2021 - Opposition parties in the Zagreb City Assembly - the HDZ, the HSLS, Bridge and the Homeland Movement - on Monday strongly opposed plans to abolish a grant scheme for stay-at-home parents as well as reduce grants for layettes for newborn babies.

HDZ deputy and HDZ Zagreb city branch leader Mislav Herman said on behalf of the HDZ/HSLS group that the announced drastic cut in grants for stay-at-home parents and the proposal to shorten the period during which they receive them was tantamount to their abolishment.

The City of Zagreb last Friday put to public consultation a decision abolishing grants for stay-at-home parents after their child reaches the age of seven, and the grant for those with younger children is reduced to HRK 1,000 per month, from 65% of the gross average pay in Zagreb.

Herman said "the abolishment of the grants was accompanied with a bizarre explanation that it was a huge cost."

"Does demography in the 21st century in Croatia and the whole of Western Europe have a price? We believe it does not, and that the benefit of this demographic measure was great," said Herman.

He added that the measure currently costs HRK 44 million a month, while city subsidies for kindergartens amount to HRK 45 million a month, which, he said, could result in the cost of kindergarten subsidies going up because of children who will return to pre-school institutions due to the cancellation of grants for stay-at-home parents.

Herman also believes that Deputy Mayor Danijela Dolenec's view that the grants had yielded insignificant results "is not competent as no concrete figures have been provided."

He claimed that the scheme had stopped negative demographic trends in the city, concluding that Mayor Tomislav Tomašević was guided by "ideological and not by financial interests."

Bridge: 2,700 Zagreb children left without kindergarten care in 2020 

Bridge deputy Lovro Marković said that the city had not made a thorough analysis of demographic and economic effects of the scheme, introduced by former mayor Milan Bandić, and that it did not know how its cancellation would affect the filling of kindergarten capacity in Zagreb, adding that in 2020, 2,700 children could not enroll in kindergartens.

"The scheme for stay-at-home parents covers more than 6,000 children, and according to current rules, coming from families with more than one child, those children will have advantage when enrolling," he said.

His Bridge party also strongly criticises the reduction of grants for layettes, stressing that that measure was a way for taxpayers to get back the money paid into the city budget in the form of local rates.

Peternel: Tomašević attacking foundations of Croatian society

Homeland Movement deputy Igor Peternel said the abolishment of the scheme was "outrageous", causing complete mistrust in state institutions.

"We consider this to be a worldview-motivated decision which symbolically strikes at the foundations of the Croatian society, namely at the family," said Peternel, condemning also the reduction of grants for layettes.

Last Friday, the city administration submitted for 30-day public consultation its proposal to abolish grants for stay-at-home parents, as well as reduce allowances for layettes for newborn babies.

A document has been released analysing the demographic and financial effects of the scheme, as well as its effects on the inclusion of women in the labour market and children in educational institutions.

"There will no longer be new applications for the scheme, only regulating the rights of existing beneficiaries, and the right to use the measure is reduced to seven years of age of the child," Deputy Mayor Dolenec said.

This means that the beneficiaries whose children have already reached the age of seven or more will no longer be eligible for the grant as of 30 April 2022, which creates a period in which they can adapt to the new circumstances, that is, they can look for a job and get a job while they are still using the grant.

The grant for beneficiaries who have children under the age of seven will be reduced to HRK 1,000 per month as of 1 May.

They can use the measure until their child reaches the age of seven, but they can also find a job immediately and they are also allowed to enroll their child in kindergarten in May, said Dolenec.

The analysis attached to the public debate shows that the City of Zagreb has spent HRK 1.8 billion on this scheme since 2016, and if applications had not been suspended in August, the monthly budget expense for that measure would be HRK 700 million.

"The amount is equivalent to the construction of 27 new kindergartens in Zagreb", said Dolenec, adding that the measure was unsustainable for the budget.

She underscored that the demographic effect of the measure was small, that is, dubious.

"For families with three and more children there is a small increase in the period when the measure was introduced, but the total number of live births has not risen," she pointed out.

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Sunday, 7 November 2021

DP Condemns Plan to Require COVID Certificates for Entry Into Parliament Building

ZAGREB, 7 Nov 2021 - The Homeland Movement (DP) party on Sunday condemned the plan to require COVID certificates and testing for entry into the Croatian Parliament building, saying that under the Constitution power derives from the people and not from the national coronavirus response team.

"The Homeland Movement considers the announced violent introduction of so-called COVID certificates and testing in the Croatian Parliament by a para-state body called the national response team as the nullification of the will of the people expressed in elections and the most dangerous encroachment yet upon basic human and political freedoms, civil rights and the most important values of Croatian parliamentary democracy," the party said in a statement.

The DP said that decisions by the national coronavirus response team can by no means be above Croatian laws, in particular the Constitution, condemning any form of segregation of citizens on any grounds, including on the grounds of whether someone has been vaccinated or not.

"Despite the media hype and censorship, it is an undeniable fact that the virus is spread both by people who have been vaccinated and by those who have not, so this cannot be used as an argument by the response team to nullify the will of the people," the statement said.

The party said that relevant studies questioned the efficiency of the vaccines and that this was also confirmed by case numbers. "We are not saying that the vaccine helps or does not help, but why are those who are imposing it by force not willing to accept responsibility in the event of possible side-effects?"

The Homeland Movement expects the president of the republic, church dignitaries, and all members of Parliament, regardless of their ideological views, to oppose this "violent act that is being prepared."

"Those who fail this test must be aware that by doing so they take their part of historic responsibility for nullifying the fundamental values on which the modern and democratic Croatia is based," the party said.

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Saturday, 6 November 2021

Homeland Movement MP Will Not Go to Parliament Until Further Notice

November 6, 2021 - 'It is my right to have a virus, I did not and I will not be vaccinated or tested', said Homeland Movement MP Zlatko Hasanbegovic, as he announces that he will not comply with the new measures imposed by the government, and will stop attending parliament indefinitely.

As reported by Net.hr, Homeland Movement MP Zlatko Hasanbegovic said after the introduction of new measures that include covid confirmations that he would no longer come to Parliament.

"That is impossible. Even if the deputies themselves made such a decision by a two-thirds majority, it would be marginal, and to prevent us from coming to Parliament on the basis of an administrative decision of some headquarters is completely unacceptable. Someone will certainly file a constitutional complaint because of that. The Constitutional Court will rule. I have not and will not be vaccinated, and I do not want to be tested. It is my right to have the virus. As long as these measures are in force, my foot will not step into Parliament'', Hasanbegovic told Novi list.

Measures apply to everyone

Let us remind you, after the Headquarters yesterday prescribed that COVID certificates are valid for all civil and public servants, Parliament Secretary Davor Orlović said that these measures would also be applied to MPs. Simply put, anyone who wants to be in Parliament will have to be vaccinated, tested, or recovered from the virus.

"It is known what will be the way to enter the Parliament building, either on the basis of COVID certificates or the appropriate test. There is absolutely no difference between officials and employees. No details are known yet, next week the Parliamentary Presidency will discuss new measures'', Orlović said.

''We can’t separate MPs from others'', he added.

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Saturday, 9 October 2021

Ivan Penava Elected Homeland Movement President

ZAGREB, 9 Oct, 2021 - Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava was elected president of the Homeland Movement on Saturday at an extraordinary assembly of this opposition party, saying he accepted the challenge to "claim Croatia back from those who took it."

Penava was the only candidate for the position and was elected unanimously.

He said he did not want the Homeland Movement to be just another party "because there's no more time for that."

"We are not here because this is the Croatia that thousands of generations fought for. We are here because we have no other homeland... We stood up against hopelessness and despondency, against a creeping occupation and hypocrisy. We stood up against those who have turned Our Beautiful (Homeland) into Their Sorrowful, a state which is not even their homeland," Penava said in his speech.

Croatia is not ruled by citizens, the government does not listen to them, he said, telling "self-aware Croatians, citizens... Don't listen to those who don't listen to you, don't choose those who don't choose you."

Penava also had a message for his former party, the ruling HDZ, saying "the policy they are pursuing is not the policy" of Franjo Tuđman, the party's founder and Croatia's first president.

He said the Homeland Movement would build Croatia only through work, commitment and honesty. "With this government, Croatia has no future because the best of us, our children, are leaving."

The Homeland Movement elected a new president after breaking up with its founder and former leader, Miroslav Škoro, who stepped down in July "for personal reasons."

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Wednesday, 15 September 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Truth About Homeland War Indisputable

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Answering Homeland Movement MP Stipe Mlinarić's question when he would seek war reparations from Serbia, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said during Question Time on Wednesday that the government was "working on this matter" and that the truth about the Homeland War was indisputable.

"The issue of war reparations and possible lawsuits against Serbia has been raised to the bilateral level, ministries and experts are involved in the process, we have not forgotten about it," he said, adding, "It is important that the truth about the Homeland War is beyond dispute in Croatia and internationally."

Plenković noted that people gone missing in the 1991-95 war and those who had been detained in prison camps had not been forgotten.

Serb minority MP Dragana Jeckov wanted to know about potential demographic measures, noting that there were fewer than 10 pupils each in 405 local schools and that those schools could soon be closed.

Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović said that Croatia was faced with challenging times in terms of demography, but that the government had been adopting a number of horizontal policies and that by the end of 2021 it would adopt a strategy for the country's demographic revitalisation and that favourable economic prospects would contribute to that.

"I am confident that in the period to come demographic indicators will be much better," he said.

Answering a question from Bridge MP Zvonimir Troskot, Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić said that after a recent accident, clear instructions had been issued in coordination with Karlovac County to establish an early warning system for residents living downstream the hydroelectric power plant "Lešće" on the river Donja Dobra to inform them when the plant releases water from its reservoir.

Answering a question from Hungarian minority and independent MP Robert Jankovics about the border with Serbia on the Danube, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said that talks to finally determine the Croatian-Serbian border were ongoing and that at the last meeting of the joint border commission in Belgrade in June 2019 it had been concluded that current inconsistencies regarding the cadastral border were not that big so as to prevent an attempt to regulate the matter by a bilateral agreement.

"Should that not be possible, there is the International Court of Justice," the minister said.

Speaking of EU funds, EU Funds and Regional Development Minister Nataša Tramišak said that the new statistical division into regions had increased grants for all businesses in Croatia and in all regions.

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Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Homeland Movement Accepts Miroslav Škoro's Resignation

ZAGREB, 28 July, 2021 - The presidency of the Homeland Movement (DP) party on Wednesday unanimously accepted party leader Miroslav Škoro's irrevocable resignation as well as the resignation of secretary-general Dario Žepina, launching disciplinary proceedings against DP MP Vesna Vučemilović, who is Škoro's sister.

DP vice-president Mario Radić said that the party leadership concluded that preserving DP's stability was of the utmost importance at present and that "the party's unity was not in question at any moment, despite media reports to the contrary."

He added that disciplinary proceedings were launched against DP member and MP Vesna Vučemilović because she had abused her position in the party and caused harm to the party's reputation.

The disciplinary proceedings should be completed in 90 days and until then, Vučemilović's status and rights are suspended, it was said.

DP MP Stephen Nikola Bartulica said that he was sorry Vučemilović had walked out of today's party meeting, dismissing her claim, posted on her Facebook wall, that there had been attempts to silence and intimidate her.

DP Presidency member Igor Peternel expressed confidence that the party's future was not in question.

The DP will decide about its new leader in the autumn.

Radić reiterated that he would not run for DP president and that he was also not considering reactivating his term as a member of parliament.

DP officials said they did not expect their party group in the parliament to fall apart.

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Homeland Movement Acting President Mario Radić Will Run Party Until Autumn

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Homeland Movement acting president Mario Radić said on Wednesday he would lead the opposition party until intra-party elections in the autumn but that he would not run for president who, he added, would be a person who brought people together and had a winning mentality.

Miroslav Škoro on Tuesday tendered his irrevocable resignation as leader of the Homeland Movement.

Radić said that although Škoro's resignation "has surprised many... it was first of all a highly moral act," a demonstration of responsibility to the party's members, sympathisers and voters.

He said he was glad that Škoro decided to stay in politics and contribute to the party's and especially national interests, both as a deputy parliament speaker and a member of the Homeland Movement.

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Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Miroslav Škoro Resigns as Homeland Movement Leader

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - Miroslav Škoro on Tuesday tendered his irrevocable resignation as leader of the opposition Homeland Movement.

"I hereby irrevocably resign from the position of president of the Homeland Movement and from all other duties in the party, effective from 20 July 2021," Škoro announced in a Facebook post.

"I resign because I think that the time has come for the Homeland Movement to continue its successful political activity under new leadership. I am proud that we managed to form a political party that the Croatian people have recognised as being one that can preserve the Croatian national interests and values that are enshrined in the foundations of our state and our people," Škoro said.

He noted that in slightly over a year since its formation, the Homeland Movement had managed to achieve great successes in national and local elections, emerging as the third strongest political group in the country.

Škoro said that he would remain a faithful member of the party and would help it in achieving its interests.

The Homeland Movement said they were surprised by Škoro's resignation, but accepted it "with understanding", thanking him for his contribution.

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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

MP Jeckov: There Are Definitely No Segregated Schools in Croatia

ZAGREB, 7 July, 2021 - MP Dragana Jeckov of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said on Wednesday that there are "definitely" no segregated schools or exclusively Serb schools in Croatia, let alone a segregated state education system.

Jeckov made the statement in parliament following statements in the media by "quasi-reformists of minority education," primarily the one conducted in the Serbian language and Cyrillic script.

"Certain myths need to be debunked," she said, including the one that Serbs in Croatia have separate schools and that they are being taught from textbooks from Serbia, based on the so-called Serbian programme.

"In Croatia, there are definitely no segregated schools, there are no exclusively Serb schools, let alone schools that are segregated from the state education system," said Jeckov.

The truth is that students go to school within the same building, that they usually go in the same shift, that they have extra-curricula activities together. The only difference is that members of the minority community are taught in their mother tongue and only if their parents decide so.

"Model A is used by the Italian and Hungarian and Czech minorities and they enjoy their minority rights to a greater extent than Serbs because their schools are registered as minority schools, unlike those for Serbs," she said.

She said that the Serb minority is not asking for more than others but it hasn't achieved the level of rights that others have, and that there is no alternative to education in the mother tongue and script.

MP Stipo MIinarić, of the Homeland Movement (DP) retorted that she was not telling the truth.

"Schools are segregated. Children are segregated from kindergarten age to secondary school. That is not good for Vukovar, the Serb community, the Croatian people, for anyone. Why are children being segregated?" he asked.

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Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.

ivan_penava_n1_screen.jpg

screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full.
Index.hr columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.

vukovar_watr_tower.jpg

Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

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