Friday, 2 July 2021

Ressler: We Mustn't Give in to Pressure Regarding Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 2 July 2021 - Croatia must not give in to political pressure aimed at changing the policy of preventing illegal migration, Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler said on Friday, adding that Social Democratic Party (SDP) MEPs had been known to be "fall" for "campaigns lambasting" Croatia.

"From the very start of this European Parliament, we have been exposed to political pressure because of our protection of the external border and because of our ambition to become a member of the Schengen Area," Ressler told a virtual press conference called "Asylum, migration and the Schengen Area's functioning" that was organised by the EP's office in Croatia.

Several NGO's and some MEPs claim that Croatia is illegally pushing back migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As we draw closer to joining the Schengen Area, the pressure in the EP has increased, said Ressler, adding that it is necessary to underline that there cannot be any double standards and that it is a duty to protect the EU's external border.

He added that that entails "respecting all human rights, all high Croatian, European and international standards."

Earlier this year four Italian MEPs (S&D) tried to get to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and they were prevented from doing so by Croatian police. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković then said that it was an attempt to mar Croatia's reputation. SDP leader Peđa Grbin and his deputy Biljana Borzan, who is also an MEP, then condemned the fact that the Italian MEPs were prevented from getting to the border.

Ressler said that strong awareness exists among European leaders and institutions that "there is no room in Europe for illegally crossing borders."

State-secretary in the Interior Ministry Terezija Gras said that due to the accusations against Croatia that it was violating the rights of migrants, Croatia would allow an "informal visit" to the Croatian border so that the Commission and member states could be convinced of what Croatia has done with regard to improving its technical equipment on the border with BiH and to strengthen its police capacities.

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

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

USKOK Indicts Nine Migrant Smugglers

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - The anti-corruption office USKOK has indicted an Afghan national and eight Croatian nationals for smuggling migrants.

The Afghan national, who is the principal defendant in the case, is charged with having organised a ring to smuggle migrants across the Croatian-Slovenian border.

The migrants were charged €600-800 for transport from the Croatian-Bosnian border to the border with Slovenia.

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

Friday, 23 April 2021

Croatian PM Andrej Plenković, European Commissioner Ylva Johansson Discuss Migration Issues

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday received European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson for talks on migration and Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area, the government said in a press release.

The officials discussed the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which aims to halt arrivals of irregular migrants since the migrant crisis of 2015 and 2016, and to make the Union and member states better prepared for efficient migration management, the press release said.

Prime Minister Plenković underlined that for Croatia, as a country of the EU's external border, it is exceptionally important that the talks on the new pact define key issues such as responsibility and solidarity, procedures on the external borders, strengthening cooperation with third countries, efficient implementation of readmission of migrants who are not entitled to stay in the European Union and legal migration paths.

Significant investments in technical equipment to supervise the border and its border police enables Croatia to successfully protect the EU external border and the country is ready to protect the external Schengen Area border, he underscored. 

Plenković and Johansson discussed Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area. At the the Home Affairs Council meeting on 12 March Commissioner Johansson confirmed that Croatia had successfully completed the evaluation process and ensured the full application of Schengen rules and she supported the adoption of the relevant political decision in that regard.

The two officials also discussed migration trends in neighbouring countries and underscored that in order to reduce the permanent migrant pressure on the Croatian border it is key to better manage migrations along the entire East-Mediterranean route, the press release concluded.

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

 

Monday, 15 February 2021

Turkish Migrant Drowned Attempting Illegal Croatia Border Crossing

February 15, 2021 – Tragedy on the Bosnia Croatia border yesterday as a lifeless body was found in the River Glina. The Turkish migrant drowned attempting an illegal crossing into Croatia

The body of a Turkish citizen was discovered at the river Glina in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The citizen had been missing for days and it was sadly already suspected the Turkish migrant drowned after becoming separated from a group they were travelling with.

Seven Turkish migrants had attempted to illegally cross the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia on the Glina River during the night of Thursday 11 February 2021 and the morning of Friday 12 February 2021. They believed the water level in the area was low. Alongside extremely cold temperatures, the nighttime darkness they used as a cover for the illegal border crossing attempt, must have made the journey treacherous. The tragic result is that one Turkish migrant drowned.

According to Svevlad Hoffman, advisor to the director of the BiH Border Police, six migrants were saved from drowning at the time of the crossing, but one of the group disappeared. This Turkish migrant drowned.

"It was suspected that there was a drowning, which was unfortunately confirmed today," Hoffman said. He explained that the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, whose members had found the Turkish migrant drowned, had informed them about the discovery of the body. Police from Bosnia and Herzegovina had informed Croatian counterparts about the situation at the time of the migrant's disappearance.

Investigation of the case was taken over by the State Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and six Turkish citizens were handed over to the jurisdiction of the Service for Foreigners Affairs of BiH.

The river Glina, where the Turkish migrant drowned, forms a natural border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the Croatian side of the border lie Karlovac County and Sisak-Moslavina County. On the Bosnian side of the border, many large camps have sprung up containing migrants who wish to attempt an illegal crossing into Croatia. Croatia is rarely their intended destination. Most are hoping to travel further west into the European Union.

The crossing where the Turkish migrant drowned is not the only border through which migrants try to enter. On Friday 12 February 2021, Osijek-Baranja police rescued a Syrian migrant family from inaccessible Slavonia wetlands. They had become cut off on an island and surrounded by swollen waters in the area around Kopacki rit Nature Park after crossing the border from Serbia.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Above Board or Below Board, Croatia's Employment Issues Continue

Croatia's employment issues are somewhat perplexing to many, and although there has apparently been a massive drop in unemployment, there's only been a very slight jump in those registering as newly employed. The maths doesn't always really add up, but unfortunately the demographic picture of the country explains it all.

As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 10th of April, 2019, at this time of year, official data on employment levels tends to heavily reflect the huge levels of seasonality Croatia's labour market is affected by with every passing year, of course, this is primarily owing to the increased employment levels of seasonal workers before the start of the main tourist season in summer. The latest figures from HZMO (Croatian Pension Insurance Fund) from March show some growth in the number of insured persons, both on a monthly and an annual basis, with positive annual rates having continued to some degree or another since March 2015, while monthly growth began in only in February, according to analysts from Raiffeisen Bank (RBA).

Last month, the number of insured persons increased by 14,000, to a total of 1.52 million people, and it is realistic to expect that the number of insured persons will increase even more owing to the opening up of seasonal positions in preparation for the tourist season, an economic trend which could easily continue until September. When compared to March last year, the number of insured persons more than 32,000 or 2.2 percent higher.

Along with the pretty positive indicators from HZMO's labour market information, the Croatian Bureau of Statistic's labour force surveys are more in line with the process of the huge problem of the mass emigration of Croatia's fit, healthy, working-age population and the demographic of an aging general population. The latest survey, in which the last quarter of 2018 was included, indicates an annual drop in Croatia's working-age population from 3.54 to 3.52 million.

Those who are economically active in Croatia, whether they're already working or actively looking for a job, numbered just 1.8 million at the end of 2018, which is 42,000 people or 2.3 percent less than the year before. Despite the positive economic data, the activity rate dropped from 52 to 51 percent. Activity and employment rates have, at least for some time now, been indicative of much more than just the general rate of unemployment. This applies in particular to activities that are needed in more economically developed EU countries, and jobs that tend to be given to (highly) skilled staff.

Economists have been warning for a long time that recent developments in reduce the potential for growth in Croatia in the long term. The number of unemployed people in Croatia in the last quarter of the year, according to the results of the survey conducted in the last quarter of 2018, dropped when compared to the previous year by 46,000 people, or 23 percent, to 154,000 people. At the same time, however, the number of employees increased only very slightly, by 0.3 percent, meaning just 5,000 people more, to 1.64 million. In the fourth quarter, the activity rate and the employment rate recorded lower values ​​(51 percent and 46.6 percent), according to RBA.

In the last quarter of 2018, the numbers of economically inactive people older than fifteen increased by just one percent. Finally, the year ended with the fall of Croatia's unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, which is also the first drop below 10 percent since 2009, the year which followed the 2008 recession, but unfortunately this is partly a consequence of Croatia's negative demographic trend.

Although Croatia's growth in employment is of course very encouraging, analysts warn that it should be noted that the number of employees has been growing at a mild rate for the last five years, and that the average number of employees is still 6.5 percent lower than in before the crisis back in 2008. Overall, they conclude, Croatia's labour market remains very fragile and is burdened with some extremely serious structural problems, especially in terms of the total mismatch of supply and demand, long-term unemployment, and the falling number of working-age people for the ninth year in a row.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics and business pages for much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Jadranka Dozan for Poslovni Dnevnik

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Vlaho Orepić Talks Police, MOST and New Political Party - Nova Politika

Vlaho Orepić has seen his fair share of political alterations in Croatia, from becoming minister of the interior during Tihomir Orešković's government, to being shockingly dismissed by Andrej Plenković, to stepping down as an MP for MOST, one of the partners of the former ruling coalition, eventually breaking away entirely and forming a new party of his own - Nova Politika.

Known for not only his position as the minister of the interior, but for his achievements in the sporting world and his political activities in his beloved town of Ploče, Konavle-born Orepić sat down with us to discuss the past, the present, and the future, including his new party.

Why did you decide to set up a brand new political party? What values ​​does it, and you, represent?

Through the experiences I gained through my civic activism, and then through my direct participation in the work of the Government and the Parliament of Croatia I realised that politics in Croatia is not what should be expected of it. It doesn't do the work of the people. On the contrary, all the policies of the past have disrupted the [lives of the] Croatian people, and has impoverished the Croatian economy.

So, we need something new, that is Nova Politika, which will be what people expect it to be, and that means working for the people. This need, this message, and these values ​​are contained in the idea and the very name Nova Politika.

How will your party differ from the countless others who are already operating in Croatia?

We simply need order in the country, as well as in political and social relations because we as a country aren't in a crisis, but we are in disorder. The basic two goals of Nova Politika are the protection of democratic principles and procedures in political relations and the institutional arrangement, as well as the optimisation of the state. Nova Politika as a party is, unlike others, a project. A project of getting together with the aim of institutional convergence from the current disorder putting the country in order.

There are many challenges which require ambitious structural reforms, so new, life-motivated policies are needed.

First and foremost, what we're going to invest a huge amount of energy into is the struggle for the legitimacy of elections. The outcomes of the entire series of electoral processes in Croatia are crucially influenced by the voices of those who have filed a false residence in the Republic of Croatia, and as such gain a whole range of substantive rights, as well as voting rights. In its electoral register, Croatia has at least 150,000 such fictional voters. Parliament has a minimum of 4-6 parliamentarians who base their mandate on those fictional voters. That's been going on for far too long and it needs to stop.

Why did not you take advantage of this opportunity and as the minister of the interior, solve this problem?

I didn't manage to. They dismissed me. I believe that you're familiar with the fact that I uncompromisingly tried to solve this problem. In just two and a half months, the police, to whom the law prescribed that obligation, prompted the deletion of 45,000 fictional residences. Very rapidly this figure has grown to 75,000. This issue, because of political incitement and abuse, is an exceptional problem in our society.

What is especially disturbing is that this is intractable abuse and a kind of blackmail of people in need. People who, because of realistic, existential problems, engage in illegal behavior such as the fictitious reporting of residence in the Republic of Croatia. The Republic of Croatia should systematically and legally care about its emigrants and not just keep tolerating this crime.

You've endured huge political resistance to this engagement of yours and even personal discreditation. Judging from your findings, which parties have encouraged fictitious voters to participate in the elections in the Republic of Croatia?

Fictitious voters' transport from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina was organised by the HDZ, SDSS and even MOST, which was concealing it from me as its minister. Even the activists engaged in the recent referendum initiatives have also collected signatures in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the pre-election campaign for local elections in Vrgorac, HDZ had a poster with a cross marked over my face which they stuck in neighbouring places and cities in western Herzegovina. With which they called "their" fictional voters to come to the elections.

But that doesn't matter anymore. It's important to realise the magnitude of this problem and to get credible electoral registers as soon as possible in order to guarantee the legality of elections in the Republic of Croatia. We need to get that in order. To move forward, we need to be able to count the results of the elections to match the real will of the citizens. That's Nova Politika.

Will someone who is already active in political or public life enter your party? Maybe one of the members of MOST? 

I hope we'll all be able get together around the goal as Nova Politika is focused on its political goal, and all those who see Croatia as a decent and well-regulated state are welcome. Let's say that proper order in the area of [registering] ​​residence should be the target of everyone who wishes our homeland well.  This is what I expect especially from those who ran their election campaigns based on fictional voters and who claim they're sovereign.

Will you participate in the forthcoming European Parliament elections, and will you have your candidate for the president of the Republic of Croatia?

The focus is on parliamentary elections. But Nova Politika partaking either alone or in cooperation with someone else in all the upcoming elections hasn't been ruled out.

What's your opinion on the work of current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Will you back her for a second term?

She failed to portray herself as the president of all citizens. We definitely need a new president.

At the moment, the most current issue is the collapse of an Israeli jet plane purchase. Do you think Croatia needs war planes? If so, how much money would you be willing to invest in their purchase?

We don't need to call the need for war planes into question. But what we need to take into account is our financial situation. At this point, we have no money for that. We have a whole series of challenges that are related to our bare existence. We must take into account the life priorities that hav arisen from the situation in which we're in and live within our means. Aircraft, at this time, aren't something we can afford and aren't a priority.

MOST has been looking like a conservative party recently, more and more. Do you share such a vision? If not, why were you in that party at all?

I don't share the current worldview of MOST, which is significantly different from the one they were trying to show, and which dominated while I was in MOST. The leaders of MOST have repositioned MOST within the frameworks of their own personal worldviews. It isn't mature, and it is a type of conflict politics, this is a political environment which I can't identify with.

Why did you leave MOST?

MOST as a party abandoned the very idea of ​​MOST, so I left MOST.

In two HDZ-MOST coalition governments, you were the interior minister. Would you enter into a coalition with HDZ again? Will you remain in the Parliament as an opposition representative until the end of your mandate or does a possibility for you to support the current government exist?

I'm going to remain an opposition MP.

Which parties would you potentially enter into a coalition with?

With this very question you've addressed a big problem in the functioning of politics in the Republic of Croatia. Nobody asks you what your suggestions are. What are your political goals, etc. People are already accepting or rejecting you on the basis of your ideological orientation. This approach to politics is wrong and that's why we need Nova Politika. A policy that highlights clear goals and their implementation brings together the necessary majority. We need to evolve current politics into realistic politics. Politics that can and should be measurable. Politics which will be conditioned by the mutual interaction of the principles of trust and responsibility.

Davor Božinović succeeded you as the minister of the interior. How do you evaluate his work?

He's completely unambiguous in his approach in these circumstances we're in and his root changes make him look superficial. Manipulation with fictitious residences and some staffing solutions paralysed the operational work of the police and indicated a lack of workability. He acts unambiguously because he has no ambition and therefore no actual results.

What do you think about the Croatian police's treatment in relation to migrants on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina? Does the behavior of the police differ now than from when you were minister?

The migrant policy of Croatia, of which a lot is dealt with by the police I consider to be good. The work on the frontier is on the line of the one that was designed and established during my mandate. There is no leg room when it comes to illegal border crossings but there's also a very human approach when it comes to caring for people in need. Some isolated failures in treatment can't diminish the significance of the police work done.

When talking about migration policy, every day Croatia that it is a responsible member of the EU, because don't forget that the Croatian police, in protecting the borders of the Republic of Croatia, are also working to protect the EU's external borders.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for more.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Croatian Demographic Crisis: Documenting Šibenik's Losses

The Croatian demographic crisis is something that is making all the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, but just how ''new'' is this negative and concerning trend? It would appear that the tap has been trickling for a great number of years. The popular historic Dalmatian city of Šibenik is an unlikely but excellent example of this.

As SibenikIN writes on the 8th of January, 2019, in the face of the Croatian demographic crisis, in his latest blog post, Ivo Jakovljević has written about the gradual reduction of the Šibenik population since the beginning of the Homeland War, the largest reduction caused by the plague back in 1649. All this, as Jakovljević writes in his blog post, has influenced Šibenik's age and education composition with long-term consequences, even in terms of the local surname composition.

The largest demographic changes in 300 years occurred in the area of ​​Šibenik-Knin County during the Homeland War between the years 1991-1995 this was highlighted by the population census taken in 1991, and then again in 2001. Not only did the total number of inhabitants decrease significantly (in part due to deaths on both the Croatian and the Serbian side, and mainly in the face of forced migration), but there were also changes in many other areas, too.

As opposed to the economy being the main driving force for the negative trends the country is experiencing today, war migrations played a huge role in the Croatian demographic crisis back then. During the Homeland War, from the summer of 1991 onwards, a lot of movement could be witnessed. These displaced people were predominantly Croats, and also some Serbs who didn't agree with Greater Serbian politics. Individuals and families were expelled from their places of residence in many cases during the war, and many of these people moved to Šibenik and the unoccupied areas of Šibenik-Knin County, while a smaller number went abroad.

As of mid-1992, amid the continual spread of the war in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, many refugees, made up mainly of Croats and Bosnians, also arrived in the wider Šibenik area. At the beginning of August 1995, a significant number of Serbs left not only Šibenik-Knin County but Croatia as a whole, heading generally in the direction of the Banja Luka area and towards Belgrade, and from those areas they were displaced in all directions, with some even heading towards the north of Kosovo.

Hundreds of them (mostly younger, more mobile and better educated people) then continued moving onwards to Central Europe, with some of them even heading much further afield, outside of Europe to Canada and Australia. During the time of the pre-war crisis in Kosovo, after 1995, many people from Janjevo arrived in the village of Kistanje, and later settled and declared themselves as Catholics.

At the end of this pattern of deep demographic shock, the total number of inhabitants in Šibenik-Knin County during the period between 1991 to 2001 decreased from 152,125 to just 109,799. According to the latest estimates by the Central Bureau of Statistics (due to the chronic low birth rate and the somewhat new trend of economic emigration - predominantly to Zagreb, Germany, and Ireland) in 2019, there may be less than 100,000 in total.

Thus, from 1991 to 2001 the total number of inhabitants in the aforementioned county decreased by 42,326 persons - almost one third! Then, from 2001 to 2019, by about ten thousand. Among the emigrants from 1991 to 2001, almost three quarters (or 74 percent of them) were Serbs.

In Šibenik-Knin County, Serbs once made up as much as 40.7 percent of the population. Just ten years later, Serbs were no longer a majority in any one of the counties. This trend continued, and in 2011, the number of Serbs in the county decreased from 60,800 in 1991 to 11,518 in 2011, and in Šibenik, there were 1,434 Serbs recorded in 2011. On the other side of that same medal, the number of Croats in the total composition the population in the county increased from 58.42 percent in 1991, to 83.80 percent in 2001, and then to 85 percent in 2011.

The same trend changed the confessional composition of Šibenik-Knin County. The number of Catholics increased from 54.9 percent in 1991 to 82.8 percent in 2001, while the share of those of the Orthodox faith decreased from 38.02 to 7.31 percent.

The long-term consequences of war victims, forced and voluntary emigrations, and war and transitional economic damage in the broader Šibenik hinterland, right up to Drniš and Knin, have resulted in some significant changes in the area's surname structure, which - judging from both from the 2001 census and from the much later 2011 census, has seen the apparent disappearance of a subset of traditional Croatian and Serbian surnames from the Šibenik hinterland.

Want to find out more about the Croatian demographic crisis and much more? Give our dedicated lifestyle and politics pages a follow.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Why You Should Leave Croatia, Now

June 20, 2018 — A treatise defending the folks seeking a better life away from home.
I was one of you, after all.

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