Friday, 16 July 2021

Davor Nađi Interview: "Fokus Party Not for American-style Economy, Dutch or Scandinavian Preferred"

July 16, 2021 - One month after the local elections in Croatia, the liberal/center Fokus party president shares with TCN reflections of his Zagreb mayor candidacy, details on political views, plans, and hope for the future of Croatia. Learn more about the Fokus party in an exclusive Davor Nađi interview conducted by TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac.

2021 local elections for Croatia concluded back in June, and as with every local election, the majority of political parties whose candidates earned some new positions in the local governments managed to taste both victories and losses are overall happy. Some parties from both left and right political wings celebrated as scientists whose work won the Nobel prize. Even election losses were interpreted as victories, drawing attention to the number of votes, that although they may not score political roles, show growing support. If there is a once in four years occasion when political parties have as much optimism as the Croatian Adriatic has drops of water, it’s the local elections. 

Currently in parliamentary opposition, Davor Nađi, president of the Fokus political party, politically declared as center-oriented, also doesn't hide his optimism following the result, but it seems he is a bit more toned down in that excitement than some of his political competitors. Satisfied to see his colleagues from the party keeping their previous positions, and some even selected for new ones, he is expecting the Fokus party to grow in the future while remaining aware of Fokus being new and young on the scene - is careful to say more than he can bargain for. Nađi ran for Zagreb mayor, but in the end, didn't manage to win neither the "main prize" nor a seat in the Zagreb Assembly. He noted, however, that his candidacy helped to attract new Fokus members in Zagreb, but again stating it without grandiose announcements, rather with mild optimism, careful not to step out of the line of realism. 

In an e-mail interview, Nađi commented what happened in the Zagreb elections, did NGOs stepped out of line in supporting current mayor Tomislav Tomašević, and what do Fokus voters find attractive in the political party best known for reforming the town of Sveta Nedelja. Are they American-styles libertarians as described by some, and what European politicians are in line with Fokus’s ideas, are just some of the things Nađi revealed in the interview.  

davor_nađi_n1_cut.jpg

screenshot / N1

You are the president of the Fokus party, and candidates from your party had won in Sv. Nedelja, Samobor, Sv. Ivan Zelina and Dugo Selo. So, your party currently has four mayors. Can you list for our readers where your party had candidates for mayors, assemblies, and counties? How do you comment on „your mayor's" first-month post-election, and what moves would you point out as excellent in that time?

Except for these four cities, we also won in the municipalities of Križ and Pirovac. We ran for mayors and local and regional assemblies mostly in central Croatia (Zagreb and Zagreb county) but also in Čakovec, Slatina, Petrinja, Pirovac. We won 50 members of local and regional assemblies, including the president of assembly in Čakovec.

Most of our mayors were reelected, so they just continued working on projects. However, I would like to point out our new mayor of the city of Samobor, Petra Škrobot, who already contracted procurement of software for transparency of city budget and public procurement, which is one of the flagship policies of the Fokus party.

How would you briefly explain to our readers what your party represents and advocates politically? What politicians, foreign or Croatians are your role models, and why?

We represent the fight for lower taxes and fewer regulations for citizens and the private sector and for a more efficient public sector. That means that we want that people and companies can keep more of the money they earn for themselves and decide on what they want to spend it. For example, that is the only correct way to solve the housing problem – to make sure that people earn and keep more money. Further on, that means that the private sector gets better value for money through better service of the public sector where, in our vision, worst or/and unnecessary public servants would be let go, and the best workers would get a financial reward. We also talk and act on investments in infrastructure, which is important for preparing for future climate change challenges.

I can’t say I have some role models in politics, but I like the politics of Dutch PM regarding the economy because they have a small and efficient public sector that provides good service to their citizens. That allows them to keep their economy very competitive, which results in a better life for their people.

You express deep care for private investments, lowering taxes, and overall creating a better environment for private business and entrepreneurship. But, when talking about entrepreneurs in Croatia, people roll their eyes as many of our famous „entrepreneurs“ are associated with crime, corruption ties to politics, and unfair privatization that ended up in many people losing their job. What is your opinion on these entrepreneurs, such as Todorić or Horvatinčić? How to fix that negative perception of entrepreneurs?

Yes, the private sector is very important to us. We care about entrepreneurs but also about their employees. We also care about the best public servants too. 

I think that public opinion on entrepreneurs is changing in a good way because of a new generation of successful entrepreneurs that succeeded in the global market with no connections to the government. Todorić and Horvatinčić are the exact opposite of them and represent everything that is wrong with this country. It’s wrong to call them entrepreneurs because they are a product of crony capitalism. The only cure to fight people like them is an independent and efficient judiciary.    

New option for liberals in Croatia 

You ran for mayor in Zagreb. The polls didn't give you too much of a chance, but libertarian (classical liberal) oriented site Liberal.hr said that you could be „the biggest surprise of the Zagreb elections“. To tell you the truth, it didn't seem likely you will become a mayor, but I was very surprised you didn't win a seat in the assembly. What went wrong in Zagreb, and how is it possible that the city with the most developed business climate and entrepreneurship (and with a lot of entrepreneurs) didn't reward your entrepreneurship-oriented ideas, at least with the seat in the assembly?

Well, Fokus is a new party, and I’m relatively new in politics, so a lot of people weren’t informed about our program and achievements. Fokus party didn’t exist in Zagreb until this year, while other parties were building their organization for many years, so it was hard to catch up in just a few months period during a partial lockdown. However, even though we didn’t win a seat in the assembly, we achieved some other goals. Now we have a lot of new members, and a strong organization in Zagreb and a lot of people have heard about FOKUS for the first time. Further on, we are the strongest liberal party in Zagreb, and we had better results than a lot of old traditional parties. So I believe that in the future, our support will only grow in Zagreb.

Davor_during_his_campaing_in_Zagreb_23.jpg

Davor Nađi during his campaign in Zagreb © Davor Nađi

You said on your Facebook site that you didn't receive enough media attention, and indeed you weren't invited to the debates (with the explanation being that only those who earned 5% in polls will be invited). However, you had banners and posters across Zagreb where you talked about how you are experienced to be a mayor because of Sveta Nedelja, where you were a deputy mayor, and the town did receive media attention few years back for amazing changes introduced there. What was your contribution to the transparency of public servants, lowering taxes, and canceling the subtax in Sveta Nedelja as deputy mayor? 

I was the designer of those policies with the strong support of mayor Zurovec and the city council, and I was working on these policies from the beginning until the implementation. I’m very proud of that because Sveta Nedelja did the biggest tax cut in Croatia, became the most transparent city in Croatia, and received a reward for the best local economy three years in a row.   

You criticized some of the moves by the new Zagreb mayor Tomislav Tomašević. Can you repeat what do you find problematic in his governance so far, but also, is there anything positive, something you would support him in if you made it to the Zagreb assembly?

There are some things that are good, and some are not. I reacted on one occasion, but let's wait a little bit more time before I can comment general impression so far.

However, for our readers who are foreign and didn't have the chance to see your comment in Croatian, can you briefly explain what did you found problematic with Tomašević early on to the point that you had to react publicly?

He stopped most of the public procurement. Even though I understand his concern that there might be corruption problems, that is not the way to solve that problem. That problem should be solved with better process and clear guidance from the mayor to the city administration because if public procurement is stopped for too long, there will be problems for citizens. On the other hand, in a short period of time new mayor will not be able to change much if he doesn’t make the process of public procurement more transparent and efficient. 

Far from the US philosophy

 Once on N1, you said political parties in Croatia are still pretty socialistic. Since on that occasion you were a guest at N1 regarding Zagreb Reconstruction Bill, did you mean they were socialistic just in that regard or in general? Are Croatians also socialistic too?

They are socialistic in general, and that bill was just the latest example. That orientation of political parties in Croatia resulted in a situation in which an enormous part of the economy depends on the state so we actually have crony capitalism. That sends the wrong message to the people, so people lose self-confidence and think they can’t earn for themselves and their families, and instead, they rely on the state to help them in every aspect of their life. They simply don’t take into account the fact that the state is corrupt and inefficient, which may be because of inadequate financial literacy.

However, it seems to me that the tide is changing with the lead from the local level from cites like Sveta Nedelja and that people are beginning to see the benefits of liberal policies.

When you say the parties are socialistic, some could think this is the heritage of Yugoslavia. However, aside from the communist experiences of South-Eastern Europe, the overall European political culture and tradition goes along the way „yes to democracy, yes to free market, yes to the individual freedoms“ but also „yes to social care, yes to free health, yes to free education, yes to supporting cultural and artistic projects, scientific research, etc“. Many people see Fokus as being against that and wanting to dismantle that European political culture with American political culture, which seems to be notorious in Europe for its health and education system, which as people see it, „is alright if you have cash, but not for the poor“. Are you indeed into „making Croatia American rather than European?“ and if so, how would you address the mentioned sectors of health, education, culture, and science? What about HRT in that context (as the idea of a public TV financed by the state is a European invention in the media landscape)?

Of course, we are not for an American-style economy. We prefer the Dutch or Scandinavian style with high economic freedom and adequate social benefits. Some people don’t understand that “free” health care doesn’t exist. Taxpayers pay for that. And if we think a little bit more about our health care system, do we really have health care that is accessible to the poor? How long are the waiting lists? People pay taxes for health care, and when they need it, then they don’t get it. That is not free health care! Almost the same is for everything else. I believe that vouchers would solve that problem because then even poor people could afford health care service from the private sector, and the public health care system would have to be more efficient and provide better value for money. The same thing is possible with education. HRT should be significantly downsized, and subscriptions decreased with the option to opt-out from their service.

When it comes to the overall Croatian political landscape, Fokus does offer something truly different from other political options, and it seems quite right to expect that Fokus will continue to grow. But, what do you think made Fokus uprise to start in central Croatia, in Sveta Nedelja, Samobor, Dugo Selo, and Sv. Ivan Zelina? Is there something that makes the culture and society in these areas different comparing to the rest of Croatia that they were the first to recognize and give a chance to your program?

Fokus also has a mayor of Pirovac in Dalmatia and president of the city council in Čakovec, members of City council in Slatina, etc, so I wouldn’t say that our policies are only recognized in central Croatia. However, we have better support in parts of Croatia, where fewer people work in the public sector and more in the private sector. That is not surprising since we promote policies that would result in a more efficient public sector and less red tape and taxation for the private sector. 

 Davor_during_his_campaing_in_Zagreb.jpg© Davor Nađi

 Up next: European elections and Croatian Parliament 

On the note of local success, many view local elections as a forecast for what can happen in parliamentary elections. How would you rate your chances on the next parliament elections based on local results?

I’m very optimistic. Fokus has a very good position to grow and to achieve a great result. Fokus is already a success story and we have grown in a number of members in every part of Croatia. I believe that a new government after elections will not be formed without a strong party or coalition from the political center, and if we look at the results of local elections, Fokus is the fourth party by a number of mayors in Croatia. Also, we are the strongest party of the political center in national ratings, so that gives us reason to believe that we can gain even more support from our citizens in the future.

 Back to the Zagreb elections. The two main candidates represented Gree-left values and national, conservative, sovereign values. Tomašević not only got support from some of the other European mayors but, just as with Škoro's values, there are plenty of same-minded people in Europe sharing those values. You mentioned your appreciation for the Dutch Prime Minister, but are you as well in contact with like-minded parties and politicians in the EU?  

Fokus is a new party, so we still haven’t formed significant international alliances, but we can see ourselves working with other European liberal parties. Of course, the one with the best results is Dutch VVD that is in power on the state level. 

But when we talk about the support that Tomašević or some right-wing parties and NGOs in Croatia had in recent years from abroad; I would say that there is a thin line between support and meddling into elections, and I would say that that line was crossed.

But, can we expect that Fokus will try to be in communication with them? Any plans for running on European Parliament elections as a good point to meet with other think-alike politicians in the EU?

I said that we don't have some significant alliances with them. However, we are in contact with some of them. We will see where that will take us. EP elections could be the first opportunity to test eventual cooperation.

And regarding what you said about there being a thin line between support and meddling in elections and how that line was crossed in Zagreb elections by NGOs, is there a risk of entrepreneurs doing the same thing when supporting, either financially or with public influence, certain parties? How can we prevent such meddling legally but yet with respect to the right of political expression to organizations and individuals?

I don’t see the financial support of Croatian entrepreneurs to political parties as a problem. The problem is only if they receive privileged treatment after the election in return for giving financial support. I would go one step further and say that we should welcome donations of private individuals and companies to political parties because that would mean that political parties would be less dependant on public financing. That should be a normal part of the domestic election process. However, if foreign money is included in financing political parties or their leaders, direct or through other channels, then we as a state have a problem.

To conclude, you are MA of the economy, and you talk a lot about economic solutions. Are our economy and business truly the core issues politicians need to address? Additionally, what are your views and the views of Fokus on defense policy, diplomacy, international relations, emigration policy (asylum seekers trying to enter Croatia), Croatian veterans, diaspora, and the ideological, historical disputes among Croatians, which for better or worse seem to often resolve the elections on a parliamentary level?

It would take a much longer conversation to answer all these questions, but I will try to answer in few sentences. Yes, I believe that economy is the most important issue that needs to be addressed because that is the place where value is created and which provides a better life for people and necessary funding for all government programs. Without a strong economy, the state can’t finance defense or social benefits. Unfortunately, you are right that elections are, in the biggest part, decided on other issues that target emotions rather than reason. 

When it comes to defense policies, liberals believe that the basic tasks of the state are to provide to their citizen's rule of law and protection from foreign and domestic threats. So we should have adequate defense capabilities. On the other hand, we have no problem financing social benefits to real war veterans, however almost 30 years after the war, there shouldn’t be any new users of these benefits. Regarding international relations, our position is that Croatia should remain an EU and NATO member with strong relationships with the USA and with a clear position that China can’t be our partner until they don’t behave by the same rules like everyone else with the biggest concern regarding human rights issues.

Even though we are a small country, that doesn’t mean we can’t lead by example. It is up to us if we will stay on the bottom of every European statistic table or we will start going up. We have all the resources we need to thrive.

Learn more about Croatian politics and history since 1990 on our TC page.

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

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Highlights of the Week: 5 Big Events in Croatia from May 31- June 6, 2021

 June 6, 2021 - TCN's highlights of the week. A look at the events in Croatia from May 31 through the selection of TCN's reporter Ivor Kruljac. 

From significant political changes after the local elections to the losses and preparations in sport, the week was hyped by a strive for hope in Croatia. But, the tragic murder of Nino Čengić in Varaždin was a painful kick to the stomach. Here is another weekly selection of the news depicting the bittersweet life in Croatia. 

 Patrik_MacekPIXSELL_2.jpg

© Patrik Macek / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Tomislav Tomašević officially. becomes the new mayor of Zagreb

Zagreb local elections winner Tomislav Tomašević met with Jelena Pavičić Vukičević for an official ceremony of transferring power on Friday, which makes Tomašević officially the new mayor of Zagreb.

Media attention was also caught for the fact that Tomašević was four minutes late to the ceremony because he was waiting for the ambulance on Cibona because a woman fell ill in the middle of the street. But, for the bigger public interest, it's important to note today was the first time for Tomašević to have a detailed view on the financial situation of the City of Zagreb, giving him a clear picture of the debt problem Zagreb has. 

As TCN reported earlier, Tomašević told the press after the ceremony that the situation is not good, but there are solutions. Still, so far, no more details were given on the two-thousand-odd-page reports on the 2020 budget execution and preliminary figures. Additionally, the new city assembly would hold the founding meeting on 17 June.  

Slavko_MidzorPIXSELL.jpg

© Slavko Midzor / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Zlatko Dalić on Croatian National Football Team

The Croatian National Football Team is preparing for the friendly clash with Belgium. As reported by TCN, Zlatko Dalić faced the press on Friday ahead of the match. 

„I am satisfied with everything except the result. We had minor injury problems. We did the rest as expected, but the draw with Armenia left a bitter taste. In that game, we had to win 4-0 or 5-0, not draw 1-1. I am dissatisfied with this result. Plus, we created 5-6 percent chances, and we didn't do that in three games in a row at the beginning of the World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta. We were nonchalant and irresponsible and did not realize them. We were not specific, and that is a minus“, said Dalić to the press. 

Dalić also pointed out that the national team is aware of its obligation to the Croatian people. He spoke about the problems in the national team, the pros and cons of the draw against Armenia, and the expectations from players who are dissatisfied with their status. One of them is Andrej Kramarić, who, after 20 goals scored in the Bundesliga this season, is not safe among Dalić's starters. A few days ago, he advised the media to ask Davor Šuker what he would say after such a season. 

Expectionsare big ahead of the EURO championship, and no doubt fans will pay attention with close interest. 

Vjeran_Zganec_RoguljaPIXSELL.jpg

© Vjeran Zganec Rogulja / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Anđelko Stričak, new prefect

The power transfer ceremony on Friday also took place in Varaždin where Anđelko Stričak defeated current Varaždin prefect Radimir Čačić. 

„The victory is well deserved. In the past nine years as the president of Varaždin county organization of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and in six years as a member of the parliament, I've been to every corner of Varaždin county and talked to everybody. I heard the needs of our citizens, and I tried to solve them by cooperating with coalition partners on every level. Of course, I'm not the best, most capable or most perfect, but I will try with my team to give my best that everybody in the county feel changes for the better“, said the new Varaždin County prefect Stričak, as reported by Varaždin county's official website

Sanjin_StrukicPIXSELL.jpg

© Sanjin Strukic / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Croatia Loses to Spain in the Under-21 European Championship

Spain was better than Croatia after extra time in the Under-21 European Championship quarter-final in Maribor on Monday. The match ended 2:1. As reported by TCN, Croatia was solid in the first half and threatened the Spain goal on a few occasions. Despite Spain's high pressure, Ivanušec had a chance from 20 meters in the 7th minute, and in the 23rd, Bradarić's shot was blocked by the Spain defense. Spain retaliated with a Diaz shot from 20 meters, but Croatia's defense made it difficult for them to do much more. 

The young Croatia national team fought against Spain for a spot in the semifinals. 

Igor Bišćan's side met Spain at Ljudski Vrt stadium in Maribor. 

"The guys are aware that we have a great chance, they are motivated to do something, and we are all around them to give them that chance and be supportive. They have quality," Bišćan announced before the match.  

Vjeran_Zganec_RoguljaPIXSELL_2.jpg

© Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/ PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Nino Čengić funeral in Varaždin

The Funeral of the English professor Nino Čengić who passed away last Sunday, was held on Wednesday. Nino Gengić, a substitute English professor in one Varaždin school, was brutally beaten with bats and chains in front of the local club in Varaždin called Kulturana. He was 35 years old.

As Jutarnji List reports, four suspects aged 24-29 are currently in custody while the investigation is ongoing as to what lead to this attack. Suspect's apartments were searched, and one suspect illegally possessed a considerable amount of ammo and fire weapons to match. All suspects were previously known to the police for troubling behavior, and the most tragic was the fact that 15 people witnessed the beating, but nobody stopped it.

To learn more about Croatia, have a look at our TC website.

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

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Žarko Puhovski: "Is PM Plenković's Attack on Lalić More Significant Than President Milanović's On Me"?

ZAGREB, 1 June, 2021 - Professor and political analyst Žarko Puhovski said on Monday that he was shocked by the statement signed by the Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) and the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND), wondering if Plenković's attack on analyst Dražen Lalić was more significant than Milanović's on him.

"Is it really possible that (Prime Minister) Plenković's scandalous attack on Lalić is so much more significant than (President) Zoran Milanović's much dirtier continuous attacks on me in the past months, and in the former case you reacted in the blink of an eye, while in the latter not at all?" asked Puhovski in an open letter, adding that despite his years and experience, he is truly shocked by the statement the SNH co-signed today.

"I don't know if it's about likes/dislikes, ideology, stupidity or rudeness, but I didn't expect that from you at least," Puhovski told the SNH.

The HND and the SNH said earlier on Monday that they strongly condemned PM Andrej Plenković's attack on the media, interference in the editorial policy of commercial broadcasters RTL, Nova TV and N1 and criticism of the reporters and pundits covering campaigns in the run-up to the recent local election and the elections.

PM Andrej Plenković then said HND president Hrvoje Zovko's statement was "rude and inappropriate" and said he was "much quieter, slower and more evasive when it comes to criticising Milanović".

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

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Zagreb Local Elections 2021 Analysis: No "Ideological Referendums", Strictly Freedom And Solutions Wanted

May 30, 2021 - Following the turbulent public debate of the Zagreb mayor candidates that ended with Tomislav Tomašević winning the capital of Croatia, TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac brings you the Zagreb Local Elections 2021 Analysis, concluding that Zagreb is a city open for all ideologies but in constant search of quality solutions.

It's official – Tomislav Tomašević (seen on the lead image) is the new mayor of Zagreb, the 54th in a row when you look through Zagreb's history.  

As a brand new chapter in Zagreb's local politics is turned, many are still uncertain about whether the former mayor Milan Bandić would lose or win another mandate if he hadn't suddenly and prematurely passed away earlier this year. Still, as Jelena Pavičić Vukićević, Bandić's successor joined the mayoral race and came in third place (despite being perceived as the keeper of Bandić's tradition), we could argue that is the indication that Bandić being suspected of corruption (and taken to court on several occasions) could've been the political end for him, had he lived to see the fight. But, of course, given Bandić's strong personality, that indication needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as many believe that not only would Bandić get to the second round of elections - but he'd even win them.

milan_bandic.jpg

Former Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić, screenshot / Al Jazeera Balkans

A quick recap

In the first round, Tomislav Tomašević from the green-left platform We Can! (Mozemo!) earned a stunning 45,15 percent (147,631) votes. Not only was that twice as more than Škoro and Pavičić Vukičević combined, as N1 reported, but it was also more than with what Milan Bandić won in the second round of local elections back in 2017.

The mayoral race in Zagreb was highlighted with the question of who will succeed Milan Bandić and who will properly address all the debts and unfairly earned employment in the city administration as well as the overpricing of numerous city projects (such as the many fountains and the plagued Sljeme cable car). Additionally, there were the issues of the handling the mess of the Jakuševec junkyard, as well as handling the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb's very heart. The only thing the majority of the candidates agreed to be good were the city's social policies, but they can still be improved.

However, as TCN previously reported, before even officially entering the second round, Miroslav Škoro turned the elections from practical questions of handling corruption to the age old and frankly boring ideological battle, accusing Tomašević and the We Can! (Mozemo!) platform of wanting to revive Yugoslavia.

''That's the extreme left, and it will be stopped in the second round, so help me God“, said Škoro on the night of the first election results.

miroslav_skoro.jpg

Miroslav Škoro, screenshot / Domovinski Pokret

This sort of rhetoric took everyone by surprise. Dražen Lalić, a sociologist and a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Zagreb, commented for RTL that Škoro himself is a radical candidate and that We Can! (Mozemo!) are neither extreme nor are they the radical left.

''Regardless of Škoro having a doctorate in economis, he's illiterate in the political sense; he doesn't know even the most basic terms. Extreme means outside of the system and not going to the elections. Radical actors are inside the system, and I think Škoro is radical. On the other hand, Tomašević and We Can! (Mozemo!) are very moderate in their attitudes; they're young people. There were no incidents and they are were moderate,'' said Lalić for RTL. He added that Škoro is probably aware that he had absolutely chance of winning but was still trying to reach the far-right electoral body.

24sata columnist Tomislav Klauški wrote about how Škoro's war with the perceived ''extreme left'' is quite literally the only thing in his entire programme. He concluded that such a move isn't going to work for Zagreb, which has never voted for far right options, and he also reminded that former mayor Milan Bandić, despite his many flaws, also came from the social-democratic political option.

''His filthy campaign from the first round, where his agency spread lies that Škare Ožbolt works ''for the Serbs'', where his news sites spread stories that Filipović's father is Serbian, and warned that Tomašević is a concealed right-winger, Škoro is now going further with that into the second wrong. As if Zagreb doesn't have enough problems to talk about,'' wrote Klauški on Monday after the first round.   

drazen_lalic.jpg

Dražen Lalić, screenshot / N1

Škoro then continued to push the narrative of these elections, declaring them an ideological referendum among right-wing and conservative circles. Škoro also accused We Can! (Mozemo!) of being foreign mercenaries working for famous philanthropist George Soros or wanting to revitalise Yugoslavia, and Škoro's associate Zlatko Hasanbegović stepped out into the Croatian public space calling the party a lesbian syndicate - weird indeed. Additionally, Nikola Grmoja (Most) stated for N1 that Mozemo are iPhone Soroshians, and accusations accompanied by rather odd name-calling saw a random generator on the internet designed to mock these terms by random options. Meanwhile, Tomašević continued his campaign by talking about solutions to the problems Zagreb is currently facing but occasionally making remarks on the accusations by his opponents and sometimes even throwing some accusations in Škoro's direction in return.

67% : 33% K.O.

This focus on actual problems Zagreb is facing and the refusal to dwell into ideological issues, along with the experience of activism for Zagreb's interests, proved to be the winning formula for Tomašević, beating Škoro with amazing 199,630 votes compared to Škoro's 106.300 votes. Not only did Tomašević beat Škoro by far, he also earned more than former mayor Milan Bandić did, and nobody has had more votes in Zagreb's mayoral elections to date. 

Škoro lost his own so-called ideological referendum, but let's imagine for a moment that he actually won. Whether Škoro (or some other analysts who believed these elections would finally prove how Zagreb looks at things with an ideological eye) likes it or not, this "referendum" neither proves that Zagreb has turned to some radical left nor does it prove the opposite. First of all, only 45.7% of people voted on the second round of these elections. That's not even half of the total number of citizens that have the right to vote in Zagreb. Secondly, the culture and overall vibe of Zagreb truly tells us that Zagreb is diverse and very much open for everybody.

Zagreb - The pioneer liberal city for every idea

One thing we can say for certain about Zagreb's philosophy, if you will, is that Zagreb is proud to be a pioneer of development and a role model for the rest of the country. To illustrate that, Zagreb was proud that they'd be the first to use telecom lines, and by the time the rest of Croatia got telephones, Zagreb already had mobile phones. Being the capital city of Croatia, and the biggest city in the country, a centre of politics, education, science, culture, and more, Zagreb attracts people from all over the country and abroad, having bloomed into a multi-cultural city whose people have various ideologies and convictions.

When you look at ideological conflict in Croatia, which sadly doesn't seem to be anywhere near its end, it is often perceived that if you're a Croatian nationalist and conservative in Istria, you'll feel quite lonely indeed. On the other hand, left leaning progressives and liberals living in Dalmatia or Slavonia, areas that are known to be quite conservative, can't wait for a chance to leave those areas.

That being said, apologetics of all ideologies head to Zagreb, and Zagreb is a place where looking straightly from an ideological view, everyone is equally happy and miserable at the same time, but overall they're in a better position than in the rest of Croatia is. Before the pandemic, you had a regular event called ''Coffee with non-believers'' hosted by various venues such as Spunk bar or No Sikiriki. The event allowed for all atheists, agnostics, or even religious people unhappy with the breach of secularity by the Catholic Church in Croatia – to find those who think like they do, meet in person, talk, and have a good time.

On the other hand, in the Veliki Tolk pub in Opatovina, you have ''Right-wingers in the Pub'' which provides the same comfort and good times for the conservative-oriented people.

Regardless of what kind of genre of music you listen to, what movies you want to see, what kind of clubs you want to go to, mainstream pop, alternative rock, electronics, jazz... Zagreb's public sphere offers something for everyone.

Zagreb does have hospitals whose doctors refuse to perform abortions, but if there is any place a woman can have her reproductive rights respected in Croatia, then that place is Zagreb. Despite several violent homophobic incidents, the relaxing atmosphere of the LGBTQ Pride picnic on Ribnjak Park, and the support coming for the parade from the windows of Zagreb's buildings show that Zagreb is a safe place, and you won't feel alone because of your sexual preferences.

How these ideologies co-exist in being equally happy and miserable at the same time was perfectly demonstrated over the last two weeks. LGBTQ flags put out for the International Day Against Transphobia were torn down by vandals on the Victims of Fascism Square. A few days later, a pro-life initiative, Hod za Život“ (Walk for life) flags displayed on Ban Jelačić Square, were also quite quickly torn down. And the culmination of that event was seen on Saturday when the pro-life Walk For Life march was met with counter-protesters from Crveni Otpor (Red Resistance), which is pro-choice. So, as we can see, these ideologies create conflict at times, but more often, it's a peaceful co-existence. Equally miserable and happy at the same time, and still in a better position than the rest of the country.

Hod_za_život_-_Zagreb.jpg

Pro-life march in Zagreb © Hod za život - Zagreb

 

Faktiv.jpg

Pro-choice protesters waiting for pro-life march in Zagreb © Faktiv

Zagreb is liberal in its nature, courtesy of the growth and development it has seen, and even in the event that a conservative or even a radical conservative ever took the mayoral position, Zagreb wouldn't lose what it is in its soul.

Those who vote in Zagreb proved that ideological disputes are irrelevant, as long as freedom is respected by the candidate, and as long as you are not a radical and have a good solution for the city's problems, you're more than welcome to try and be a mayor.

Democracy is yet to be understood

That being said, there are some issues these elections highlighted for the political culture of Zagreb. First, Zagreb citizens that don't vote need to understand that voting is very important as our democratic right to have our say in what we want in Zagreb (as in the entire country). The freedom and all of the perks of living in Zagreb that citizens enjoy or don't enjoy are the direct results of politics, and any improvements or downfall in the city will come from politics. Having your say in these dynamic events is something that shouldn't be missed.

Democracy isn't a once-every-four-year event but a continuous practice of civic participation to make sure that promises before the election don't end up forgotten after the celebration.

Tomašević has said that "Zagreb is ours" (as is the name of one of the political parties in the Mozemo! platform), and so it's important for him to be open for the city's citizens, but also for citizens to be open to communicate with the local authorities to make a better community.    

Learn more about Zagreb on our TC page.

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

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Tomislav Tomašević: War Veterans Programmes Won't be Halted, City Offices to be Merged

ZAGREB, 26 May, 2021 - Zagreb mayoral candidate Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday it was not true that city programmes for war veterans would be halted once his We Can! party came to power but that rather city offices would be merged to improve coordination of city programmes.

"As regards accusations that programmes intended for war veterans would stop if we come to power, I can say that that is not true. I have said on more than one occasion that we will merge offices, I was not speaking about the cancellation of programmes, because I do not know of any other capital city in the world that has 27 departments," Tomašević told a news conference.

On being given police protection

Asked by reporters if he had been given police protection, Tomašević told reporters to ask police about that because security assessment was not what he and his colleagues did.

"We have been in touch with police regarding security risks. But the police are the ones to make decisions on the matter, and I cannot speak on their bahalf about that," Tomašević said.

Asked about the Otvoreno political programme on Croatian Television of Tuesday, in which he faced off against his rival in the 30 May runoff for Zagreb mayor, Miroslav Škoro of the Homeland Movement, and if he would sue him for false claims, Tomašević said that he was focused on his campaign now.

"That did not happen only yesterday. We are talking about an unbelievable misrepresentation of facts, someone is accusing you of covert campaign financing while at the same time they report zero donations," said Tomašević.

He noted that the internet was full of paid advertisements with false information on the We Can! platform and his family.

He added that Željka Markić of the In the Name of the Family civil society group yesterday made one more slanderous claim against him, saying that he had a gross salary of HRK 25,000 in a nongovernmental organisation.

"She should say which NGO she was referring to and when it happened," he said, noting that an unprecedented hate-mongering campaign was under way on the political scene in Croatia.

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

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

87 Municipalities, 57 Cities, 14 Counties to Hold Runoffs on Sunday

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - After the repeat of local polls in seven municipalities and cities last Sunday, the State Electoral Commission (DIP) on Tuesday said that the second round of the election would be held for 87 municipal mayors, 57 city mayors including the mayor of the capital city of Zagreb and 14 county prefects on 30 May.

There are total of of 432 cities and municipalities where the second round of the elections is to be held or at 5,497 polling stations on Sunday, 30 May.

DIP recalls that the local elections will be repeated at eight polling stations in the Municipality of Kneževi Vinogradi as well as at one polling station in the election for city councillors in the Varaždin City Assembly on 30 May.

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

 

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Highlights of the Week: 5 Big Events in Croatia from May 17-23, 2021

May 23, 2021 - TCN's highlights of the week. A look at the events in Croatia from May 17 through the selection of TCN's reporter Ivor Kruljac. 

From Local elections to released details of the Euro 2020 championship strategy to the release of Zoran Mamić. Add Besana company attempting to boost its position in Croatia, and you have a truly exciting week. Here are the highlights.

screenshot_Jutarnji_list.jpg

 screenshot / Jutarnji list

Highlights of the Week: Zagreb mayor candidates Tomašević and Škoro had a debate ahead of the second round of elections

Jutarnji List invited on Friday mayoral candidates Miroslav Škoro (Homeland Movement), and Tomislav Tomašević of the green-left party We Can! to debate ahead of new elections.

In the first round of the elections, We Can! earned 147.631 votes (45.15%), while Homeland Movement had 39.789 votes (12.16%). Before officially entering the second round, Škoro declared Tomašević and We Can! party extreme left and pushed the narrative of elections as an ideological referendum among right-wing and conservative circles. Škoro also accused We Can! of being foreign mercenaries working for a philanthropist George Soros or wanting to revitalize Yugoslavia and Škoro's associate Zlatko Hasanbegović earlier in the week called We Can! a lesbian syndicate. Additionally, Nikola Grmoja (Most Party) stated for N1 that We Can! are Soroshians and accusations of their weird name-calling saw a random generator on the internet designed to mock these terms by random options of name-calling. Meanwhile, Tomašević continued the campaign talking about solutions to the problems Zagreb is currently facing but occasionally makes remark accusations while keeping it clean. The debate on Jutarnji List saw similar rhetoric from both candidates in their public performances, and overall, at least for the people of Zagreb, May 30 can't come soon enough.Hrvatski_nogometni_savez.jpg

screenshot / Hrvatski nogometni savez

Highlights of the Week: Zlatko Dalić announces preliminary EURO 2020 Croatia player list

Coach Zlatko Dalic has announced the preliminary EURO 2020 Croatia player list on Monday. Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea) are some of the names that made it on the list.

The Croatia national team has entered the last month of preparations for the European Championship, which opens on June 13 at Wembley against England at 3 pm.

RTL.jpg

screenshot / RTL

Highlights of the Week: Zoran Mamić released from custody

Former Dinamo football coach Zoran Mamić will remain free while in Bosnia and Herzegovina; however, he will have to report to the police once a week, and his personal documents have been temporarily confiscated, the court in Bosnia and Herzegovina decided on Wednesday.

Zoran Mamić was arrested early Wednesday morning by officers from the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) based on an arrest warrant issued against him in Croatia.

After that, Mamić was handed over to the court in Sarajevo. Judge Branko Perić determined his status, including his citizenship of BiH. The judge ruled that Mamić would remain free with precautionary measures and was ordered to give in his personal identification documents.

The court did not discuss the matter of Mamić's extradition, considering that Croatia has not sent a formal request yet.

Radio_Labin.jpg

screenshot / Radio Labin

Highlights of the Week: Former football player Vedran Ćorluka new Croatian assistant coach

The new Croatia national team assistant coach Vedran Ćorluka was officially presented by coach Zlatko Dalić at a press conference in Zagreb ahead of EURO 2020.

Although there was a lot of speculation, Croatian football player Vedran Ćorluka officially announced the end of his playing career and was confirmed as the new Croatia assistant coach on Monday.

"I did not plan it, but the moment has come," said Ćorluka at the press conference at which coach Zlatko Dalić presented the list of players for the upcoming European Championship.

hazelnuts.jpg

Pixabay

Highlights of the Week: Italian company Besana strengthening position in Croatia

The Italian company Besana, which is otherwise one of the strongest European companies in the production and processing of nuts and dried fruit, is working to further strengthen its position here in Croatia.

As TCN reported on Monday, the Italian company Besana currently has 50 subcontractors located in Croatia, from whom it buys about 100 tonnes of hazelnuts per year. But, much more can be expected if their plans go well.

To learn more about Croatia, have a look at our newly launched TC website.

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

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

President Zoran Milanović Comments on Outcome of Local Elections, Sources of Parties Funding

ZAGREB, 19 May (Hina) - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that he could agree with comments that the Social Democratic Party (SDP), whose member he used to be before he became the president, had experienced a fiasco in the elections for Zagreb mayor and the city assembly.

When it come to the performance of the SDP and other political parties in the local elections in other cities and municipalities in Croatia, Milanović said that there would be interesting things and that one should wait for the outcome of the second round of the voting on 30 May.

As for insinuations by the Homeland Movement (DP) party that the We Can political party and its coalition partners had received financial support from abroad, Milanovć said that the claims "are insane."

That can be claimed by people whose whole life is focused on earning money and royalties. This is not only insulting but also insane for Croatia in the 21st century, said Milanović.

He went to on to say that the recent campaigns by political parties were much cheaper than, for instance, the campaign conducted by the deceased mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, in 2009.

Milanović accused Bandić of "having robbed the SDP which I led at the time." Millions were spent then. That was paid by private donors, clients, mobsters of every sort, and in the end the party had to settle the bills, Milanović said.

He went on to say that political parties were financed from the state budget and not by some fanatic sects or Soros, alluding to the Hungarian-born American billionaire investor George Soros who founded the Open Society Foundations and who is perceived as a supporter of progressive and liberal political causes.

Milanović recalled that the We Can party won seats in the parliament in the 2020 elections, and this (the state budget) was the source of "legal and abundant financing", the president elaborated adding that any other source of financing of political parties is suspicious.

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

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

70 Cities Elect Mayors in 1st Round of Elections

ZAGREB, 18 May, 2021 - During the local elections held throughout Croatia on 16 May, a total of 70 cities managed to elect their heads in the first round of voting, while others will have mayoral runoffs on 30 May.

Of those 70 mayors, who clinched the victory in the first round of voting when they gained the support of more than 50% of the voters who turned out for the elections, 36 winners are from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), or six fewer than in 2017, whereas 13 Social Democratic Party (SDP) mayoral candidates gained outright victory, or one more than in the first round of the local elections in 2017.

Seven female mayors winners in first round

Of those 70 mayors elected in the first round of the elections, seven are women.

According to the report provided by the gradonačelnik.hr portal, there is a rising trend in the election of mayoral candidates who are not members of political parties and who are introduced as independent candidates. Ten independent mayors were elected on Sunday.

Donja Stubica mayor reelected with support of more than 83% of voters

Of the winners with an outright victory on 16 May, the most successful mayor who managed to gain the largest support was independent Nikola Gospočić, who was reelected for another term in Donja Stubica with 83.01% of the voters who went to the polls voting for him. In the previous term, he was a member of the SDP party and left it before these elections.

Another independent mayor, Dinko Burić, won 82.15% of the support for his new mayoral term in the eastern city of Belišće.

In terms of the percentage of support, Darijo Vasilić of the regional PGS party ranks third, winning 80.26% of votes for another mayoral term in the City of Krk.

Of the regional parties, the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) remains the strongest. In the first round of the voting, five IDS candidates were elected mayors.

Four biggest cities to have mayoral runoffs

Zagreb

Tomislav Tomašević of the We Can!, New Left, ORAH and For the City coalition took the lead in the mayoral race for Zagreb on Sunday, winning 45% of votes, and will face-off with Miroslav Škoro of the Homeland Movement party (12%) in the second round of the elections.

Split

In the biggest Croatian Adriatic city, Ivica Puljak (Centre) and Vice Mihanović (HDZ) will face off in the 30 May runoff. Puljak won 26.82% and Mihanović 23.23%.

Rijeka

In the northern coastal city of Rijeka, the current deputy mayor Marko Filipović (SDP, HSU, IDS, HSS) won 30.25% of votes, followed by independent Davor Štimac (16.10%).

Osijek

In the eastern city of Osijek, Ivan Radić (HDZ) won nearly 39% of votes, ahead of independent Berislav Mlinarević, backed by the Homeland Movement and Bridge (about 20%), and they will vie in the second round of the elections on 30 May.

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

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Tomislav Tomašević Pledges Reorganisation of Zagreb City Administration

ZAGREB, 18 May, 2021 - The Green-Left Coalition's candidate for the mayor of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomašević, said on Tuesday that after the 30 May runoff, which he expects to win, the coalition would embark on a reorganisation of the city administration and ask the heads of its 27 departments to offer their resignation.

"If we want a change, it is our right to ask the city ministers, as well as directors of city-owned companies... to offer their resignation," Tomašević said at a news conference.

He noted that he would ask current office-holders to submit reports and evaluate their work, while new department heads would be chosen in public procedures and the number of city departments would be reduced due to reorganisation.

Tomašević said that he would not make any rash moves and would hold meetings with all department heads and ask them to report on what had been done so far.

"The only criterion will be one's performance, and I have been familiar with that, having been a city councillor for the past four years," he said.

Citizens urged to apply

He called on citizens who believe they have the necessary qualifications to apply once vacancies are advertised, noting that they would be expected to implement the political goals of the Green-Left Coalition's platform.

Tomašević also commented on the statement by his rival Miroslav Škoro of the Homeland Movement, who on election day, 16 May, referred to him and his coalition as the far left.

"That kind of tactic does not and will not work in Zagreb, as shown by the election outcome," Tomašević said, noting that he did not intend to demonise his political rivals.

He noted that in the first round of the election Škoro had led a smear campaign.

This was proved by the Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM) as it has turned out that Škoro had hired an agency that phoned voters and vilified his rivals, Tomašević said, noting that he would continue a positive election campaign.

He called on voters to give him the largest possible support in the runoff, adding that every vote would count as it would enhance the legitimacy of the planned changes.

The coalition of the We Can! platform and its partners won 23 of the 47 seats in the Zagreb City Assembly, and Tomašević said that they would discuss forming the majority, based on programme cooperation, with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) but not before the runoff.

He noted that he had already discussed this with the SDP's mayoral candidate, Joško Klisović, and that he did not expect any problems with the formation of a stable majority.

Tomašević said that he expected to be supported in the runoff by candidates from the centre to the left, which Klisović already did after the first round of the election, calling on SDP voters to support Tomašević in the 30 May runoff.

Danijela Dolenec, a candidate for Tomašević's deputy, said that the results of elections for local government units, showing that their slate was the strongest in 16 of the 17 of Zagreb's districts, proved that citizens had recognised that their coalition's relationship with citizens was based on partnership.

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

Page 1 of 4

Search