Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Action Plan to Restructure, Improve Social Welfare System Announced

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The founder of the #Spasime (Save me) initiative, Jelena Veljača, said on Tuesday it was agreed at today's meeting with Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović that an action plan to restructure and improve the system should be urgently adopted.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Veljača said she was sorry if she had contributed to a campaign against social workers with a recent statement which she said "was prompted by the outcome of the monstrous event in Nova Gradiška."

In a recent Facebook post, she pushed for sacking and revoking the licences of the whole "expert" team from the social welfare centre in Nova Gradiška and establishing if they were criminally accountable for the death of a girl of two and a half who had been severely beaten by her mother.

Veljača said today "we must not ignore problems" and that this case "is not an incident," adding that the initiative had wanted to warn about problematic cases that did not end in death.

She said she was pleased that the initiative had been in dialogue with Minister Aladrović since November and that he had shown the political will and personal desire to improve the social welfare system.

She said child rights must come first, before parental rights. "We agreed that the ministry should draft an action plan to improve the system."

Veljača said decisions must be made within the system and that she hoped someone would be held to account for this "absolutely unnecessary death and that no one will hide behind the system."

#Spasime representatives said it was agreed with Justice Ministry officials that a register of domestic abuse cases should be made that would give access to everyone dealing with the problem - social services, courts and prosecutors.

Last week Aladrović's ministry instructed directors of social welfare centres that in cases of domestic violence, professionals must apply the Istanbul Convention and violence protocols. This means that in evaluating parental competence, a parent's history of violence is taken as an aggravating circumstance and that a child's interest must come before that of parents.

At today's meeting it was also agreed that oversight of social services' actions should be conducted regularly.

Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić of the Justice Ministry said it was agreed to define as a separate crime when an official, through inaction or wrong action, failed to protect a child's rights and this had consequences

"The law already envisages punishing someone who does not execute a decision to protect a child's well-being and rights, but in (the Nova Gradiška case) we don't have failure to execute a decision, but to make it. That would be prosecuted as a separate crime."

The head of the Family and Social Policy Administration, Marija Barilić, said the Family and Social Policy Ministry had begun making analyses of children in foster care and care homes "so that we can see their situation, if they should stay in the system."

Minister Aladrović said the ministry was very determined to change the system and that he was confident the system could be improved through the joint efforts of everyone in society.

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

Thursday, 10 September 2020

The Count of Signatures to Revoke the Istanbul Convention was Public and Transparent

ZAGREB, Sept 10, 2020 - Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said on Thursday that the count of signatures to revoke the Istanbul Convention was public and transparent and that the procedure had been over.

Recalling that representatives of the Administration Ministry, Interior Affairs Ministry, Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, and the Apis IT company participated in the signature count, Malenica denied any doubts expressed by the civil initiative "The Truth about the Istanbul Convention," regarding the signature count for a referendum on revoking the Istanbul convention.

"The report is public and transparent and representatives of those referendum initiatives were invited for a follow-up check of invalid signatures," Malenica told reporters when asked by reporters about a demand by the initiative for the signatures to be recounted.

He said that the signature counting procedure was conducted transparently and that a conclusion has been adopted in that regard. "Hence that procedure is considered to be finished," he said.

Apart from the referendum initiative groups' activists, also opposition politician Miroslav Skoro on Thursday demanded the recounting of the signatures which had been collected in a bid to call the referendum against the Istanbul Convention.

Skoro accused the authorities of deviations and political maneuvers in that process.

Minister and county prefects to discuss decentralization next week

Asked whether a recent statement by President Zoran Milanovic that abolishing counties would not bring anything good and whether that was actually conducive to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) policy, Malenica said this certainly supported HDZ's policy in empowering counties. "Counties that have a certain tradition are in this government's interest," said Malenica.

He announced a meeting with all county heads next week in Gospic to talk about active recovery plans, regional development, and the further process of decentralization.

Malenica did not wish to comment on whether the government was considering allowing homosexual couples to adopt children now that they have been approved as foster carers. "I would not like to comment on that for the time being," he said.

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Thursday, 12 March 2020

Civil Initiative Files Application with ECHR over Istanbul Convention

ZAGREB, March 12, 2020 - "The Truth about the Istanbul Convention" NGO filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday after the Constitutional Court dismissed its complaints about signature verification and obstruction in certain areas of gathering signatures for a referendum on the Convention.

"We consider the opinion of the Constitutional Court to be completely inadequate, even wrong, as confirmed by the dissenting opinion of Judge Miroslav Šumanović. The Constitutional Court either did not address our key complaints or dismissed them without a valid explanation," the group says in a leaflet which its activists handed out to reporters outside the government offices.

"We expect the European Court of Human Rights ((ECHR) to consider the situation in Croatia, which basically set a precedent. I don't think that it happened anywhere else that the ruling elites actually worked against their own citizens and their constitutional rights to a referendum," the coordinator of the initiative, Kristina Pavlović, told the press.

Asked what they were going to do if the ECHR told them they were wrong, Pavlović said that they had been fighting their legal battle for a year or two already. "We believe we have the arguments, the arguments are on our side, and we will fight as long as we can," she said.

More news about Istanbul Convention can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

“No Lies Against Istanbul Convention Ratification Have Come True”

ZAGREB, June 19, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that no objection had been sent from other countries-signatories of the Istanbul Convention to Croatia regarding the interpretative statement accompanying the ratification law, which was why Plenković underscored that no lies or fears disseminated during the anti-ratification campaign had come true.

On 13 April 2018, Croatia ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence with 110 votes in favour, 30 against and two abstentions, and along with ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the 151-seat parliament also adopted an interpretive statement which states that the purpose of the convention is protection of women against any form of violence, that its provisions do not contain any obligation to introduce 'gender ideology' in Croatia's legal and education system, and that the convention is in line with Croatian constitutional provisions, notably those concerning protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the definition of marriage.

A deadline for submitting objections to the Interpretative Statement passed on Saturday, 15 June.

The fact that there is no objection from other signatories means that they agree with that statement and this proves that the statement has been prepared in a careful, responsible manner in consultation with Croatian legal experts and the legal service of the Council of Europe, Plenković said.

This also shows that Croatia has a responsible government and those who are well versed with international regulations and that the awareness of domestic violence is raised, he added.

The problem of family violence is something that should be addressed not only by nongovernmental authorities but also by the authorities, political parties and institutions, he underscored.

During today's meeting, the Plenković cabinet adopted a protocol for conduct in cases of domestic violence and the document will be available on the websites of several ministries.

More news about Istanbul Convention can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

CoE Head Commends Croatia for Istanbul Convention Ratification

ZAGREB, March 7, 2019 - Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said on the occasion of International Women's Day, March 8, that vital goals were being achieved to end violence against women but that more progress was needed. In that context, he commended Croatia for ratifying the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

"The Istanbul Convention requires criminalising and legally sanctioning different forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment and psychological violence," Jagland said but noted that despite the progress, there were still problems concerning its ratification in some countries.

"In some cases, such as Bulgaria, ratification has been blocked due to concerns and misconceptions over the term 'gender'. However, I believe such misinterpretations can be clarified if the correct information is duly provided and there is the political will to do so, for example in Croatia, which ratified the Istanbul Convention in June last year," said Jagland.

"Azerbaijan and Russia still have not signed our treaty. And 11 Council of Europe member states – Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Hungary, Moldova, the Slovak Republic, Ukraine and the UK – have signed, but not yet ratified," Jagland said, noting that monitoring the countries that have ratified the convention was important for ensuring compliance with its guidelines.

"Our Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) regularly goes on location to research how member states live up to convention requirements. Through GREVIO, we reinforce both cooperation with member states and identify areas for improvement.

"Earlier this year for example, GREVIO recognised progress in a report published about Portugal, which has developed comprehensive policies and preventive measures, especially to promote gender equality and combat gender stereotypes. In Sweden, GREVIO highlighted numerous legislative and policy measures adopted over the past 40 years that clearly demonstrate this member state's commitment to prevent and combat violence against women," the Council of Europe head said but noted that despite the progress, there was no room for complacency.

"We must continue to fight for ratification in all Council of Europe member states because women and girls cannot be deprived of their most basic human right: a life free from violence," he said, urging all member states to ratify without delay the Istanbul Convention.

More news on the Istanbul Convention ratification can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Parliament Declines to Call Referendums on Election Law, Istanbul Convention

ZAGREB, February 15, 2019 - There will be no referendums on changes to the election law or on repealing the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Croatian parliament decided by a majority vote on Friday.

With 105 votes in favour, 16 against and two abstentions, the parliament upheld the conclusion of its Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System which said that conditions had not been met to call the two nation-wide referendums, initiated by two civil society groups - The People Decide and The Truth About the Istanbul Convention.

Explaining its conclusion, the committee recalled that in July 2018 the parliament called on the government to check the number and authenticity of the collected signatures and the lawfulness of their collection, noting that the government has submitted a report from which it arises that the number of signatures required to call a referendum was not collected for either referendum.

"Those of us who have voted against, on behalf of the MOST party, will walk out of the session," said MOST MP Robert Podolnjak.

The Constitution and the Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court, under which the parliament must address the Constitutional Court on the matter and does not have the right to decide autonomously not to call a national referendum or that conditions for it have not been met, have been breached, said Podolnjak.

The parliamentary vote on the two referendums was also observed by representatives of the two civil society groups which over the past few months had been accusing the government of doing all in its power to prevent the two referendums.

The parliament's vote prompted an ironic round of applause from observers of the two civil society groups.

There is significant difference between politicians, members of parliament and voyeurs, independent MP Marko Vučetić responded. "Voyeurs think that they can enter the area of other people's privacy and personal information, they think that the status of an MP gives them the right to violate others' right to privacy," Vučetić said.

Boris Milošević of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), too, said that not enough signatures had been collected and referred those dissatisfied with that to the Personal Data Protection Agency (AZOP). "I regret that the referendum questions will not be discussed by the Constitutional Court because they would not pass the test of constitutionality," said Milošević.

Among other things, the referendum petition for changing the election law proposed reducing the number of parliamentary seats for the Serb minority from three, which is how many seats the minority is now entitled to, to one seat.

Milorad Batinić of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), a partner in the ruling majority, said that back in October last year his party had filed a report over unlawful activities during the campaign to collect signatures for the two referendums and signature forgery.

MP Hrvoje Zekanović of the HRAST party used the vote on repealing the Istanbul Convention to approach the speaker's desk and put on it a T-shirt with the message "Two sexes, two genders".

"Here is a T-shirt, not for you but for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as a memento of the Istanbul Convention," Zekanović told Speaker Gordan Jandroković. "You can wear it yourself, it will fit you nicely," Jandroković countered.

More news on the referendums in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Istanbul Convention Reservations Should Be Lifted, Says SDP Women’s Forum

ZAGREB, January 13, 2019 - The Croatian government should withdraw its reservations on the Istanbul Convention's articles regulating civil lawsuits, remedies and compensation for victims so that the document does not remain a dead letter, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Women's Forum said on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference, they said they were asking a key question: Is there political will that the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which Croatia ratified, should not remain a dead letter?

Forum president Maja Sporiš said perpetrators were not the only ones responsible for the violence because the state was responsible too. She said the government opted to put a reservation on the Convention's articles 29 and 30 which regulated civil lawsuits, remedies and compensation for victims.

Sporiš recalled that Article 30 states that "adequate state compensation shall be awarded to those who have sustained serious bodily injury or impairment of health, to the extent that the damage is not covered by other sources such as the perpetrator, insurance or State‐funded health and social provisions. This does not preclude Parties from claiming regress for compensation awarded from the perpetrator, as long as due regard is paid to the victim’s safety."

Sporiš recalled that victims were entitled to compensation also under Croatia's 2013 law on monetary compensation for victims of crimes. She said the only data available showed that 44,000 kuna was paid by the end of 2015, without specifying to whom. She wondered if victims were even aware of such options.

Danijela Vukoša, president of the Forum's Zadar branch, said statistics showed that one in five perpetrators was punished and only 7% were sent to prison.

Between 2010 and 2017, 156 women were killed in Croatia, including 114 by husbands, partners, former husbands or partners, or close persons. Eighteen women were killed in 2018 alone, Vukoša said, adding that femicide accounts for 25-30% of all murders in the country and that 47% of perpetrators have a history of violence.

SDP Presidency member Ivana Posavac Krivec said funding for safe houses was insufficient and that victims were at the mercy of local governments, which set aside between 0.01 and 0.16% of their budgets for safe houses. She said it was also necessary to open more safe houses, describing the situation as alarming, and accused counties of being unable to withdraw European funds.

More news on the Istanbul Convention implementation in Croatia can be found in our Politics section.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Croatian Politics 2018: A Year in Review

Years pass, but some things never change in Croatian politics. The year which is about to end has again been full of drama and scandals, and just occasional good news. Remarkably, many of the same issues which you will read about here have featured prominently in our reviews for 2016 and 2017 as well, which just shows that most problems in Croatia are just swept under the rug and never solved. What follows is Croatian Politics 2018, a review of events which will be remembered from the past year, as reported by TCN.

The year began with tensions in the Bay of Piran, part of the Adriatic Sea which Croatia and Slovenia both claim. In late 2017, Slovenia decided to implement the decision by arbitration tribunal which awarded Slovenia most of the bay. However, Croatia has refused to accept the decision, saying that the arbitration process was compromised by Slovenian government representatives who were in collusion with a supposedly independent arbitrator. The tensions raged for a few weeks, with MEPs proposing military solutions and war veterans talking about organising a rather provocative regatta. Eventually, reason prevailed, and the tensions died down. However, the issue is still unresolved, despite assurances to the opposite, with Croatia calling for negotiations and Slovenia insisting on the implementation of the arbitration decision. You are sure to read about this dispute in our 2019 review as well, particularly given Slovenia’s decision to file a lawsuit against Croatia.

Relations with Serbia are always in the focus of interest, and this year was no exception. In January, the government was surprised to hear that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to visit Croatia officially. After a short argument over who is really leading Croatia’s foreign policy, Vučić arrived in Zagreb. While the visit mostly went well, the relations between the two countries deteriorated steadily throughout the year and the debate about whether Vučić should have been invited at all continued. Another turn for the worse took place in April when a Croatian parliamentary delegation’s visit to Belgrade was cut short after an incident in the Serbian parliament caused by a notorious Serbian MP and war criminal Vojislav Šešelj. Tension rose again in August when the anniversary of Operation Storm is traditionally celebrated, marking Croatia’s liberation of previously occupied territories in 1995. Serbian President Vučić gave a series of provocative statements, including comparing Croatia to Hitler.

As for the economy, January brought the first worrying signs about the future of Croatian shipyards, a low number of new orders, and about the government’s apparent unwillingness to continue to cover shipyards’ losses. Later in the year, the crisis in the Uljanik shipyard in Pula and its 3. Maj branch in Rijeka would feature prominently in our reporting. Workers spent months striking due to unpaid wages. As the year ends, the situation is still dire and “strategic partners” which the government hopes to find are nowhere to be seen.

“Reforms” is one of the most popular words of Croatian politicians. Every year in January we can hear officials saying that the year ahead is “the year of reforms” which will make Croatia much more prosperous. Needless to say, these promises are never fulfilled, and 2018 did not disappoint. The issue served the president well since she was able to attack the government for lack of reform efforts whenever it suited her.

Ideological debates and historical revisionism attempts continued in 2018 as well. In February, the government-appointed historical commission published its recommendations on issues related to the authoritarian regimes from Croatia’s past, but the conclusions did not satisfy anyone, except for the prime minister, who likes to pretend that the recommendations have solved the problem.

The year which is about to end has again brought us the problem of censorship, questions about media freedoms, warnings about the rise of the far right, separate commemorations held in Jasenovac, the parliament refusing to sponsor anti-fascism events, people destroying flower beds because they reminded them of communism, historical revisionism on the public television, assaults on journalists, satirists receiving death threats, “suspect” politicians being assaulted, photos of Tito slipping from under Croatia’s coat of arms, former prime ministers being sentenced for corruption, and media regulators receiving death threats.

The Catholic Church is undoubtedly part of the political life in Croatia, so it is no wonder that rumours about changes coming to its leadership draw considerable attention. While nothing has been confirmed, it is expected that the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, could be replaced in the new year. In the meantime, the church has continued to receive vast amounts of money from the state budget, meddle in politics, as well as advise the government on the new abortion law, 

The demographic crisis continued, with high emigration and low birth rates bringing down the number of inhabitants. The president and the government argued about who and what was to blame. The president even presented her measures to solve the problem, which were soon forgotten, and demanded a special session of the government, which never took place. Proposals were presented on how to convince people not to move, as many sectors faced a lack of workers, while many schools started closing down. The extent of the crisis was such that even Serbian President Vučić became "worried." The only “good news” came at the end of the year when reports claimed that the emigration wave was calming down because everybody who wanted and could have left already did.

One of the issues we write regularly in these annual reviews is the construction of Pelješac Bridge, which will connect the Dubrovnik area with the rest of Croatia without the need for travellers to pass through a short stretch of Bosnian territory. After many years of delays, the project has finally moved into the implementation phase. Early in the year, a decision was made to award the tender for the construction to a Chinese consortium, despite protests made by Bosnia and Herzegovina that the bridge could not be constructed before the border between the two countries in the area is defined. The decision to award the contract to a Chinese bidder also brought about a marked change in relations between Croatia and China, which were later further improved by high-level meetings and visits.

Another perennial issue is the future of INA, Croatia’s national oil company, which is owned jointly by the Croatian government and MOL, Hungarian national oil company. In 2016, the prime minister announced that Croatia would buy back MOL’s share of INA. Two years later, nothing has changed. Earlier this year, the government selected financial advisors for the buyback, but the contract with them was never signed. One of the main issues is the future of the INA refinery in Sisak. While in January the relevant minister said he was optimistic about the refinery’s future, by the end of the year he apparently changed his opinion. Another issue is Croatia’s arrest warrant for MOL’s CEO, which Hungary does not want to implement.

Another year has passed, and the supposedly “strategic” project of an LNG terminal on the island of Krk has again gone nowhere. Multi-year delays have continued. The government announced two tenders trying to find out who would be interested in using the terminal once it is built (if that ever happens), but the results were dismal. Just two government-owned companies applied, presumably after receiving a nudge from officials to send their applications and help the government avoid a total disaster. While the project receives verbal support from foreign governments, no one seems to be interested in sending binding offers to use its capacity.

One piece of good business news was the apparently successful conclusion to the worst part of the crisis in Agrokor, one of Croatia’s largest and most important companies. The agreement between creditors was concluded, thanks mostly to Russian banks, although not without an accompanying scandal about high fees paid to consultants, some of whom actually took part in the secretive process of writing the special law which the government adopted to save the company from collapse. The scandal took out Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalić and government-appointed commissioner Ante Ramljak, who had to resign under pressure. E-mails were published which showed that the prime minister knew more about the dealings than he initially admitted, but he managed to escape more or less unharmed. Agrokor’s former owner Ivica Todorić, who fled earlier to London to avoid arrest, was extradited to Croatia late in the year, after multiple delays and court proceedings. Even Tony Blair’s wife could not help him. He has since been released on bail and is currently awaiting possible indictment. The legal proceedings are expected to last for many years.

Good economic news brought us the first upgrade in Croatia’s credit rating since 2004. Unemployment numbers were also down, although more due to mass emigration than to economic revival. Good tourism results, especially in the pre-season and post-season, helped Croatia achieve planned economic growth for 2018 (still among the lowest in the EU). Slightly more moderate growth is expected in 2019, with the lack of reforms being the main culprit. The budget recorded another good year, with spending and revenues being more or less balanced, while the public debt has continued to decline. The year ended with another round of tax cuts and pension reform. Croatia has also announced plans that it will adopt the euro as its currency. The process is expected to last many years.

The ratification of the convention on preventing violence against women, the so-called Istanbul Convention, somewhat unexpectedly turned into a crisis for the government in April when a large group of HDZ MPs decided to vote against the proposal, despite prime minister’s insistence that it should be ratified. While the convention was easily adopted thanks to opposition support, it turned into another attempt by HDZ’s right wing to weaken or possibly topple Plenković as party leader and prime minister. Just like several other similar attempts, it did not succeed.

A national security issue which has drawn a lot of media attention throughout the year is the acquisition of military fighter jets. The decision was first delayed for years, then it was supposed to be made in 2017, but again delayed first to early 2018, and then beyond. After much lobbying, the government finally decided to buy 12 F-16s from Israel. The questions about the deal persisted, with many asking why Croatia was “rejuvenating” its air force with ancient aircraft. By the end of the year, the contract for the deal has not yet been signed, amid disputes between the United States and Israel about what equipment Israel can legally sell to Croatia. Grand plans about “strategic cooperation” with Israel also appear to be on hold. Defence Minister Damir Krstičević has invested a great deal of personal effort in the deal, but the acquisition is still in question, and its final fate is yet to be determined.

As expected, the political circus took a break in June due to the World Cup in Russia. While the break was initially expected to last just a couple of weeks, until the Croatian national team is eliminated in the first phase of the competition as usual, its spectacular success extended the political break to a full month and more. Of course, leading politicians did not miss this opportunity to travel to Russia and have their picture taken with footballers and fans. Needless to say, even this occasion, which was supposed to unite the country, brought divisions, primarily due to an appearance by a controversial singer at the homecoming ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

The Istanbul Convention ratification prompted one of this year’s two referendum initiatives to be launched. The other effort involved proposed changes to the election laws, which would substantially reduce the rights of national minorities to elect their MPs. The government was against the referendums, while the president seemed to be of a different opinion. While both initiatives claimed they had gathered enough signatures for the referendums to be held, the government checked the signatures and conveniently found enough irregularities to lower the number of accepted signatures below the required threshold. This was just one of several attempts to pressure the government from the right.

One of the rare reforms which have begun, at least nominally, is the reform of Croatia’s education system, the so-called “curricular reform.” The issue has caused conflicts between coalition partners, with HNS repeatedly threatening to leave the government if their proposals are not accepted. Their threats were not taken seriously by anyone since it is clear that early parliamentary elections would probably bring about an end for the party.

A scandal broke in September whose consequences are still unclear at this time. A ministerial driver was arrested under suspicion that he had informed a suspect about a police investigation against him. Interestingly, the driver is a close friend of Milijan Brkić, HDZ deputy president and Prime Minister Plenković’s chief intraparty nemesis. While Brkić has denied having any role in the scandal or leaking the information about the investigation, he has been conspicuously absent from public affairs in recent months. Other scandals involving Brkić have also resurfaced, prompting allegations that his opponents were trying to eliminate him politically. On the other hand, some potentially embarrassing documents about him suddenly disappeared. The scandal has even reached the president’s office, with the national security advisor resigning in December under still unclear circumstances.

Relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the connected issue of the status of Croats in the neighbouring country, were at the forefront of Croatia’s foreign policy efforts in 2018. With October elections looming, the year began with Bosnian Croats warning that the election law was unfair and that it could lead to a Croat representative in the Bosnian presidency being elected by more numerous Bosniaks. That is precisely what happened, with candidate Željko Komšić winning the post, although he apparently did not have the support of the majority of Bosnian Croats. This prompted Croatia’s government to launch a campaign within the EU to pressure Bosnia into changing its election law, which then brought accusations about meddling in internal affairs of the neighbouring country.

One of the potentially most explosive events of this year was a war veterans’ protest held in Vukovar in October. The veterans complained about the lack of prosecution of persons suspected of committing war crimes against Croats in the Vukovar area in 1991, which was a problem which they discussed earlier in the year as well. However, many believed that the protest was actually just a guise for a right-wing attempt to bring down the government led by moderate Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and replace him as HDZ president with a more extremist candidate. Plenković and his team appeared at first worried that the attempt might succeed, but with time they managed to limit its consequences. Once held, the protest passed without incident and has been more or less forgotten, except when occasional arrests in the area do happen, which then draw condemnation from local Serbs who say the police is arresting then just to satisfy the Croat war veterans. In the meantime, tensions in the town continue.

Throughout the year, rumours about impending ruling coalition reshuffle and/or early parliamentary elections continued. However, unlike in 2017, which brought about a change in the ruling coalition composition, with MOST being replaced by HNS, this year the government was more or less stable. One potential candidate for another reshuffle was Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, whose parliamentary group somehow manages to “convince” previously opposition MPs to switch parties and cross to his side. Numerous legal proceedings against him have not made him any less desirable patron. The substantial Zagreb city budget which he controls probably has something to do with it. In two years, he has managed to increase the number of his MPs from 1 to 12, with additional expansion of his parliamentary group expected early in the new year. The fact that people did not vote for his party did not discourage him at all. There are rumours that Bandić will use the increase in the number of his MPs, who are crucial for the parliamentary majority, to demand several ministerial posts in the new year.

As for the opposition, turmoil in SDP continued, with several attempts being made to topple the party president and “the leader of the opposition” Davor Bernardić. Fortunately for SDP opponents, these attempts have been unsuccessful, so Bernardić remains in his seat while his party’s popularity continues to plummet, with the latest polls showing it dropping to the third position, behind HDZ and Živi Zid. An increasing number of SDP MPs are leaving the party, with some of them joining the government ranks.

The migrant crisis continued, particularly on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the police employing ever harsher measures to control the borders and NGOs publishing increasingly critical reports about the alleged police violence and irregularities. The police have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, despite video evidence to the contrary.

The migration issue also brought us another controversy, this time with the signing of the Global Compact for Migration in December. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who this year marked three years in office, initially supported the agreement, but then suddenly changed her mind, announcing she would not travel to Marrakesh where the UN conference was held. The government immediately said that Croatia would support the declaration nevertheless, which caused protests from right-wing circles. In the end, the non-binding resolution was supported by Croatia, but no-one really expects it will be implemented.

The final few days of the year brought us another major scandal, whose consequences will become clear in the following months. The president decided to dismiss her domestic policy adviser Mate Radeljić, who many believed had influenced the president to take a more critical position towards the government. After he was dismissed, Radeljić said he was threatened by a Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) official not to try to damage the president politically after being dismissed. He was allegedly told that the agency was ready to run into him with a car if necessary. The president’s office and the SOA issued statements saying they had acted legally, but interestingly they did not outright deny all of Radeljić’s claims. It is expected that Radeljić’s dismissal will result in better relations between the president on the one side and the government and HDZ leadership on the other, just in time for the presidential elections next year.

Another exciting political year is ahead of us. It will include at least two elections (for European Parliament in May, and for president probably in December), and there is always a possibility the early parliamentary elections might take place. Stay with TCN for all the latest political and business news.


Thursday, 4 October 2018

Government Promises Istanbul Convention Implementation

ZAGREB, October 4, 2018 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he expected the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, which went into force this week, to strengthen Croatia's institutional, operational and financial capabilities so that the highest standards could be achieved in fighting against domestic violence and violence against women.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Who Removed Gender from School Report Cards?

ZAGREB, October 2, 2018 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak on Tuesday rejected claims that the contents of report cards were changed because of the Istanbul Convention, saying that this was an "ugly lie," and underscored that report cards were changed long before the Istanbul Convention was ratified, during the term of minister Pavo Barišić when the state-secretary was Hrvoje Slezak, who was a member of the presidency of the HRAST party.

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