Monday, 11 October 2021

Božinović Says Waiting for Results of Investigation Into Violence Against Migrants

ZAGREB, 11 Oct 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Monday said that he did not have any new information related to videos of police violence against migrants and that it is necessary to wait for the results of the investigation.

"We'll wait and see what the results of the investigation show. Everything that will happen as part of the relevant procedures will be in line with what the police chief said on Friday," Božinović told reporters.

Protecting the borders in line with the law

Asked about responsibility in the chain of command, Božinović underscored that the orders are to protect the state borders in line with the law.

"There cannot be any order that is not in line with the law. As soon as I receive the report from the police directorate, I will forward it to the prime minister, even though we have already discussed all this," said Božinović.

He said that police officers, particularly those assigned to border control, doing one of the most difficult jobs.

He added that there were cases when the police themselves identified cases of police officers overstepping their powers or unlawful conduct.

He said that disciplinary procedures had been underway from before against eight police officers and that 22 cases had been documented and submitted to the State Attorney's Office (DORH).

"When someone individually breaches or oversteps their authority anywhere, there are services in the police directorate and internal controls to conduct investigations and decide on the penalties," he said.

Commenting on an anonymous letter by a police officer who claimed two years ago that an order existed for violent pushbacks, Božinović reiterated that anything that was reported was always investigated. DORH rejected 13 of the 22 cases for lack of evidence, he said.

The anonymous police officer's letter refers to a specific case, with a specific location and date, which previously was not the case, said Božinović and added that a prompt reaction followed the anonymous letter and that the matter was still being investigated.

Božinović also commented on a recent drug incident in the Croatian Army, underscoring that police offices were exceptionally active regarding the fight against drug smuggling.

"The cocaine market is expanding into the general population, which is concerning. We will meet with the anti-drug commission in the next few days. In 2020, 60 kilograms of cocaine were confiscated whereas in the first eight months of this year more than 667 kilograms were seized," he said.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović Praises Police For Their Irreplaceable Role in Many Segments

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - Addressing the central ceremony of Croatian Police Day, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that the police were "engaged in all areas of national security" and that their role in many other segments was irreplaceable.

During the ceremony held in Zagreb, when the police observed their day on 29 September, the feast of their patron saint, St. Michael, Minister Božinović said that until the end of the term of the current government, all the working processes of the law enforcement authorities would be digitalised.

Police Director Nikola Milina said that police work had focused on detecting tax frauds and evasion, money laundering, and crimes affecting the state budget.

In the first eight months of 2021, the law enforcement authorities had detected 85% more corruption crimes, the number of reports concerning suspected white collar crimes increased by 20%, and the number of detected conspiracies to perpetrate crimes went up by 43%.

All that is not by chance, it is a result of well thought-out strategic planning and our commitment to conducting investigations into economic crimes and corruption, Milina said at the central ceremony.

As for organised crime, so far this year Croatian police officers have arrested 661 people smugglers.

When it comes to the protection of the Croatian and the EU border, it has been established that we have met all the technical and legal requirements which has made our border the best protected external border, he added.

Milina said that significant results had been achieved in raising cyber security, and that the police were ready to respond to all the challenges and threats stemming from the use of new technologies.

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

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.

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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.

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

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović: Clear Link Between Croatia's Schengen Membership And EU Security

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - The Strategy for the Schengen Area for the first time clearly articulates the link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and the EU's security, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

“The debate today on the Strategy for the Schengen Area is especially significant for us because for the first time it has identified a clear link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and security for the EU as a whole," Božinović said ahead of a meeting of the EU's Home Affairs Council.

The interior ministers of EU member states met in Luxembourg on Tuesday for an initial discussion on the Schengen strategy that was presented by the European Commission last week. The agenda also includes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fight against organised crime, the internal security outlook in terms of artificial intelligence, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and exchanging opinions on the current status in the discussion on the new migration and asylum pact.

Last week the Commission presented the strategy towards a "stronger and more resilient" Schengen Area, which includes enlargement to EU member states that are still not part of the area, and called for Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to be admitted into the Schengen Area as they had met the technical criteria for the application of the Schengen acquis. 

Božinović said that it was becoming more and more clear that Europe's security was not the sum of security capacities of member states but that it was cooperation, interoperability and solidarity.

"These are the principles that Croatia has insisted upon in European forums for years," said Božinović.

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

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović : Croatia's Schengen membership in interest of EU

ZAGREB, 2 June, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that Croatia's entry to the passport-free Schengen Area was in the national interest as well as in the interest of the European Union.

Earlier on Wednesday the European Commission called for the enlargement of the Schengen area to include Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, which have met all technical criteria for membership.

"Schengen's future must be marked by the expansion to those EU Member States that are not yet part of the Schengen area," the EC said while presenting the strategy for making the Schengen area stronger and more resilient.

Božinović recalled that Croatia had met 281 requirements in eight different segments concerning the membership criteria.

The minister is confident that Croatia will be admitted to the Schengen area in the next 12 months.

He said that he was glad to see that in Europe awareness was being raised about the importance of accession of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

40,000 EU Digital COVID certificates issued in Croatia since first day of issuance

Since yesterday, when the issuance of EU Digital COVID certificates started in Croatia, as many as 40,000 such travel passes have been issued.

Božinović said that Croatia was among the first EU countries to make this system operational.

The minister, who visited the Bregana border crossing to get acquainted with the functioning of the system of checking those certificates, said that it took only 10 seconds to check those certificates.

One million kuna has been invested in this project, which included IT solutions, the necessary equipment of border crossings to be able to read the codes from the certificates, and other equipment for the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO), he said.

Croatia tapped EU funds for this purpose, Božinović said at Bregana.

ENTER Croatia application available to people travelling to Croatia

The minister said that people traveling to Croatia can fill in the ENTER Croatia application which will also facilitate passage across the border.

New, relaxed rules for arrivals in Croatia

As of today, some relaxed rules go into force for arrivals in Croatia, including a negative PCR test for coronavirus not older than 72 hours, while travellers who have received at least one vaccine dose at least 22 days before their arrival do not need to self-isolate.

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

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Remaining Mine-Infested Areas to be Cleared of Mines By Mid-2026

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday that until the spring of 2026 the remaining 250 square kilometres of land believed to be infested with landmines left over from the 1991-1995 Homeland War would be cleared of those explosive devices.

Božinović commented on the plan for a mine-free Croatia at a ceremony in the town of Josipdol, where he presented a HRK 241 million project, Karlovac KARST, for the removal of mines from forests in the areas of Karlovac and Josipdol.

The implementation of the project will create prospects for job creation in the region, he added.

Karlovac County Prefect Martina Furdek Hajdin said that HRK 188 million had been absorbed from the European Union for the Karlovac KARST project.

In the next few years, 17.1 square metres of forest land in Tounj, Josipdol, Plaški, Saborsko and Rakovica will be cleared of landmines, she added.

The county prefect added that Karlovac County had already tapped HRK 29 million from the EU funds to remove landmines from 3.8 square-metre-large farmland.

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

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Health Minister Vili Beroš Says 230,000 Vaccine Doses to Arrive Weekly As of May

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš said at a government session on Thursday that as of 1 May, 230,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines would be arriving in Croatia on a weekly basis, calling on citizens to register for vaccination.

"The pressure on hospitals has been growing, notably by younger patients. The number of hospitalisations and patients on ventilators continues to grow. The average age of hospitalised patients is 66.7, 15% are people under the age of 50, 15% are people aged 50-59 while the rest are people above 60," said Beroš.

Third vaccination phase to start soon

The minister noted that the arrival of a larger quantity of vaccines during May and June would facilitate the process of vaccination.

Public health institutes have been instructed to include in the vaccination process all health institutions and private medical workers in the public health service network, and to organise, along with vaccination in family medicine offices, mobile vaccination teams and a sufficient number of vaccination points as well as to use civil protection, army and other resources in the process.

The vaccination plan for priority groups will be finished next week and the third phase of vaccination will begin, Beroš said.

So far, 902,670 vaccine doses have arrived in Croatia and 80% of them have been administered. A vaccination rate of above the average 14.2% has been achieved in age groups above 60, he said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković called on elderly people to register for vaccination, saying that a half of the country's adult population should be vaccinated by June 30.

"There will be enough vaccines, I call on all citizens to call their family doctors, register on the vaccination platform so that we can contribute together to health security," Plenković said.

"As many as 77% of people who have died of COVID-19 in Croatia since the start of the pandemic were aged above 70 and 93% were people older than 60. We call on all citizens who are above the age of 60, 70 to register for vaccination," the PM said.

The head of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, said that there had been no changes to epidemiological restrictions at the national level, that existing restrictions had been extended, as had been most of those introduced by local crisis management teams.

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

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Croatia to Extend Current Epidemiological Restrictions

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - The head of the national COVID response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said on Thursday that the epidemiological measures in force until midnight tonight would be extended, underscoring that the restrictions would not be tightened at the national level, but as necessary from county to county.

Speaking to the press after a meeting of the government's Scientific Advisory Council, Božinović said that meeting mostly focused on the current situation with the spread of coronavirus.

County response teams, he added, will adopt stricter measures depending on the epidemiological situation which at the moment will not be ramped up at the national level.

He said that the situation varies from county to county, adding that currently Primorje-Gorski Kotar has the strictest measures.

Vaccines no longer doubtful in Croatia 

Božinović announced that an additional 50 million doses of vaccines were arriving in the EU in the second quarter and he expressed hope that the number of doses for Croatia would not be brought into question.

He added that the experts had different opinions regarding school lessons but there is no reason now to change the decision for schools to go online as the number of those infected is not falling but actually increasing.

Asked what number would be required to ramp up restrictions according to the experts, Božinović said that some countries that introduced so-called traffic lights had tied their own hands in some situations.

"We are referring to trends here. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and applying measures on a county to county basis. I think that we won't refrain from that approach as it has shown to be correct so far," he underscored.

Croatia has not registered the experiences with AstraZeneca's vaccination like in other countries

As far as mistrust towards the AstraZeneca vaccine is concerned, Božinović said that reports by the HALMED medical agency and the Croatian Institute for Public Health "have not had any experiences that are being referred to in other countries."

However, it will be necessary to improve the trust in that vaccine through communication with the public, recalling that government members, including the Prime Minister, were inoculated with that vaccine.

"It is important for the overall public to realise that the pandemic has affected all four corners of the earth and that we will come out of this situation when an adequate solution is applied in all the countries affected by COVID," Božinović underlined, adding that it was important for the vaccine to be available everywhere.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

New Coronavirus Restrictions to be in Force Until 15 April

ZAGREB, 31 March, 2021 - The national coronavirus crisis management team on Wednesday announced new epidemiological restrictions to be in force until 15 April, including a ban on indoor training, restrictions on the work of children playrooms and a temporary ban and restriction of cross-border travel.

The ban on indoor training does not apply to top competitions and athletes.

Certificates of vaccination with Russian, Chinese vaccines valid

Croatian border authorities will accept fast antigen tests as well as certificates about vaccination with the Russian and Chinese vaccines, and certificates proving their holders' recovery from COVID-19 and those certificates will be considered valid for 180 days, the team's head, Davor Božinović, said.

Border crossing has been regulated due to tourist visits, the exception being digital nomads and children.

"Considering restrictions in neighbouring countries, we do not expect a large number of arrivals," said Božinović.

He noted that the tighter restrictions were being introduced following a proposal to that effect by county COVID-19 response teams.

Apart from nationwide restrictions, the national team also made decisions on restrictions for Šibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia counties.

In Split-Dalmatia County, which has seen a big increase in new infections, the mandatory wearing of face masks at outdoor venues with an increased flow of people will be introduced, as will a ban on the sale of alcohol from 8pm to 6am. The work of cafes will be restricted until 8pm, and it will be possible to serve food and drinks only in the open. Foreign language schools will switch to online classes again.

Božinović said that restrictions could be additionally tightened since the epidemiological situation was not good.

Restrictions to be tightened if number of infections continues to grow

"We have a significant increase today and we cannot ignore the possibility of the scenario in neighbouring countries happening here as well. These restrictions will be in force for a few days but should statistics be worrying, we will introduce new measures," said Božinović.

The latest restrictions go into force on Thursday and will be in force until 15 April.

In the last 24 hours, 2,623 new coronavirus cases and 19 COVID-related deaths have been registered in Croatia, the national coronavirus response team said earlier in the day.

The number of active cases now stands at 11,306. Among them are 1,337 people receiving hospital treatment, of whom 144 are placed on ventilators.

Croatian Public Health Institute head Krunoslav Capak warned that today the number of new infections was 47% higher than last week.

Istria County has the lowest incidence, while Primorje-Gorski Kotar County has the highest. Croatia is currently 18th in the EU in terms of the number of deaths per one million inhabitants, while in terms of the 14-day incidence it is 12th.

Speaking about the start of the third phase of vaccination, Capak said that care would be taken of the order in which people had registered for vaccination at the cijepi.se online platform.

"All people older than 16 can be inoculated in the third phase, but a certain priority will be given to people in services in which they come into contact with a large number of people," he said, adding that the third phase could start in May.

He noted that cases of infection with coronavirus after vaccination had been reported. "We have about 20 such cases. Forty-four people in aged care homes got infected after receiving the first dose and 22 got infected after the second dose, but the symptoms were mild."

Commenting on an announcement by the Zagreb COVID-19 response team about the wearing of face masks outdoors, Capak said: "If you are outdoors and alone, there is no need to wear a mask."

"Outdoor mask wearing refers to places where there are a lot of people, in the farmers' market, on the waterfront," he said, noting that the recommendation to wear a mask outdoors had been in force so far for places where physical distancing was not possible.

For more about Covid-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović Says Zoran Mamić Being Able to Cross Border Not Logical

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that he did not consider it logical for former Dinamo football club coach Zoran Mamić, who was given a final verdict for corruption, to be able to cross the state border, adding that police acted in line with rules regulating the work of border police.

"The police acted the only way they could, and as to whether the court could and should have issued some order regarding Mamić, courts are the third branch of government. Personally I don't consider it logical, but that's not up to police because in this case police had no reason to act differently than they did, complying with rules that regulate the work of border police," Božinović said at a session of the national COVID-19 response team, which he heads.

Zoran Mamić on Tuesday left the country for Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where he returned to Croatia on Wednesday morning, after, as he said, he visited his brother Zdravko whom he had not seen for seven months.

"I travelled there while I still had the opportunity, until the procedure is finished," he said, adding that it was difficult for him to say if he would again travel to BiH.

In an interview with N1 Zoran Mamić noted that he had to take care of his family before starting to serve his sentence.

Even though together with his brother Zdravko he was given a final verdict for siphoning money from Dinamo, Zoran Mamić travelled to the neighbouring country without any problems because he still has not received a call from the Zagreb County Court judge in charge of the execution of prison sentences.

The Supreme Court last week upheld a ruling by the Osijek County Court sentencing Zdravko Mamić to six and a half years in prison for siphoning HRK 116 million from Dinamo. 

It reduced the prison sentence for his brother Zoran from four years and 11 months to four years and eight months, while former tax official Milan Pernar's sentence was reduced from four years and two months to three years and two months.

The Supreme Court upheld the first-instance judgement for former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović sentencing him to three years in prison.

Zdravko Mamić, who holds dual Croatian and Bosnian citizenship, fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2018, the day before the Osijek County Court announced the verdict sentencing him to six and a half years in prison.

He has said that he is willing to serve his sentence only in Bosnia and Herzegovina while Zoran Mamić has said that he is ready to start serving his sentence as soon as possible.

The State Secretary at the Croatian Justice Ministry, Juro Martinović, said earlier that if Zdravko Mamić did not return to Croatia after his sentence became final and Bosnia and Herzegovina did not extradite him, the Justice Ministry could launch a procedure to have him serve his sentence in the neighbouring country.

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

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