Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Hungarian Minority MP Leaves Parliamentary Group of Zagreb Mayor Bandić

ZAGREB, September 25, 2019 - The chairman of the Work and Solidarity Party's parliamentary group, led by Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, Robert Jankovics, told reporters on Wednesday that he had left the group, but would continue to support the parliamentary majority.

Jankovics, who represents the Hungarian minority in the Croatian parliament, said that from now on he would work solely through the group of lawmakers representing ethnic minorities.

"The differences among members of the group have become too great for me and they are no longer just conceptual but substantial as well," Jankovics said without revealing the reasons for his departure. He added that he did not want to speak badly of his colleagues.

The Work and Solidarity Party, led by Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić, now has 11 MPs in the 151-seat parliament.

Jankovics had said earlier that the only condition for him to join the party's group was to support the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovič.

The mayor of Zagreb and leader of the Labour and Solidarity Party, Milan Bandić, said on Wednesday that Robert Jankovics obviously did not feel well in his skin considering that the parliamentary group and therefore also its responsibility were great, noting that there were no problems in the parliamentary group.

Bandić said that he was not worried by Jankovics's departure or by the possibility that his parliamentary group might fall apart.

Noting that he had talked with Jankovics two days ago, Bandić said: "He chose to go his own way and I wish him well, just as I wish everyone else well. As for the reasons of his departure, you should ask him. I have no problem with Mr Jankovics or with anyone else."

He said that Kazimir Varda, who is also the vice-president of the Labour and Solidarity Party, would be the new head of the parliamentary group, succeeding Jankovics.

Considering that Jankovics sad that he was leaving because of substantial differences, reporters asked Bandić about the nature of those differences, to which he referred them to Jankovics, noting that as far as he was aware, there were no problems.

He would not speculate as to whether the ruling HDZ party was behind the latest developments, which, as the Opposition claims, wants to weaken Bandić's influence in the parliament.

More news about Zagreb Mayor Bandić can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Memo Between Zagreb and Eagle Hills Made Available to Public

ZAGREB, September 3, 2019 - The City of Zagreb on Tuesday released a Memorandum of Understanding concluded with the Eagle Hills Properties company regarding the "City within the City" project which Mayor Milan Bandić described as a response to recent pressure, announcing that a public debate on amendments to the General Urban Plan (GUP) would be held at the end of October.

The memorandum was officially made public on the City of Zagreb's website ahead of a meeting of the City Assembly on Wednesday which is expected to discuss this issue.

Mayor Bandić signed the non-binding memorandum on 12 March this year and addressing a press conference today, he said that the memorandum was published as a response to all the pressure because "it is difficult to withstand pressure."

He announced that a final proposal for changes to the GUP would be put on the agenda for the next City Assembly meeting schedule for late October.

The leader of the GLAS opposition party, Anka Mrak-Taritaš, on Tuesday cited a few reasons why Mayor Milan Bandić should abandon his plan to repurpose the location of the Zagreb Trade Fair and the Hipodrom racecourse in order to allow the construction of a high rise complex, dubbed "Zagreb's Manhattan" project.

Mrak-Taritaš urged the mayor not to touch Zagreb's "green lungs" on the banks of the River Sava, describing the location as "a small green enclave" in the city.

In the context of climate change, she underscored that it would never cross anyone's mind in urban centres worldwide to turn their existing green spaces into construction sites, except for Zagreb's mayor who is planning to repurpose the city's green space.

Furthermore, the existing infrastructure and water and sewage system cannot meet the current needs of that part of the city, she told a news conference, explaining that residents of the Novi Zagreb suburbs are often left without water supplies.

Mrak-Taritaš said that there were other locations in Zagreb that were more suitable for Bandić's plan for Zagreb's Manhattan project.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Association Urges Journalists to Boycott Zagreb Mayor Bandić after Sexist Outburst

ZAGREB, August 30, 2019 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) on Thursday asked Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić to apologise for a sexist attack on N1 Television reporter Matea Dominiković, calling on journalists and editors to boycott Bandić's public appearances.

The HND strongly condemned Bandić's latest sexist outburst and joined journalists in their request that he apologise.

The HND said that with his latest comments, Bandić, who is also the president of the BM 365 Work and Solidarity Party, did not want to humiliate only Dominiković but journalists in general, and that this was not his first shameful outburst before the press, especially women journalists.

On Tuesday, Dominiković was asking Bandić about Zagreb's zoning plan and other topics and his response was: "You again. You nag. If only you knew how you excite me, how you delight me, how you entertain me."

The response has been strongly condemned by the city's Gender Equality Commission and Gender Equality Ombudswoman Višnja Ljubičić, who called it sexual harassment.

More news about Zagreb mayor can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

MP Milanka Opačić Joins Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić's Party

ZAGREB, August 15, 2019 - A member of parliament and former Social Democrat deputy prime minister and social policy minister, Milanka Opačić, has joined the Labour and Solidarity Party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

According to information available on the parliament's website, Opačić ceased to be an independent member of parliament on August 12, continuing her term as a member of Bandić's party.

Opacic left the Social Democratic Party in 2018. A month after her departure, she joined the parliamentary group of Bandić's party as an independent member of parliament.

She was unavailable for comment on the reason for her decision to join Bandić's party.

Former Social Democrat health minister and former SDP member Siniša Varga, too, has joined Bandić's party.

On Tuesday, Varga wrote on his Facebook wall that he would be appointed the head of the steering board of the City of Zagreb emergency medical service.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Zagreb Mayor Dismisses Criticism of Changes to City Plan

ZAGREB, August 13, 2019 - Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić on Tuesday dismissed criticism that he was ignoring the opinions of experts and of a general public in connection with the planned changes of Zagreb's city plan.

Being met with criticism that the proposed changes were put up for public consultation during the summer when there are fewer people in the city, Mayor Bandić said today that he "remains accountable to voters" and that he complied with laws and with procedures.

"I respect that, and it is on the City Assembly to adopt the city plan or not. My proposal is to amend it in accordance with the procedure," he said at a news conference.

As for criticism that he is serving the interests of certain groups considering the amending of the city's urban development plan, Bandić called on those critics to specify exactly whose interest he protected.

The Labour and Solidarity Party led by Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić has recently got one more independent lawmaker, Siniša Varga, who also used to be a Social Democratic Party parliamentarian (SDP).

Varga, a former SDP health minister, left that Opposition party in mid-March this year and on that occasion said that he would work in the legislature as an independent lawmaker. However, since recently the information on the official website of the Sabor says that Varga is a member of the Labour and Solidarity Party.

During a news conference in Zagreb on Tuesday, Bandić said that he did not know when exactly Varga had joined his party.

"We do not refuse any fair, skilful and competent person, and we do not run for anybody," Bandić said when asked when Varga became a member of his party.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Bandić's Party Dismisses Findings about Covert Electioneering

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Slavko Kojić of the Labour and Solidarity Party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić on Sunday dismissed the findings by the State Election Commission (DIP) that the City of Zagreb's billboards used during campaigning for May's European Parliament election covertly promoted Bandić's political party and were paid for with money from the city budget.

In a report on an inspection of campaign financing in the EU election, DIP said that jumbo posters with information about the City of Zagreb were paid for from the city budget and were in fact covert electioneering by Bandić's party.

City authorities put up 175 jumbo posters on billboards during the election campaign which all carried the City of Zagreb logo and promoted various events and achievements by the city.

The DIP said that the number of posters displayed in 2019 was disproportionately higher than in previous years.

Kojic told a news conference on Sunday that DIP had not asked the Labour and Solidarity Party for its position on the matter, which was why the party had to make it public.

In its statement, the party said that Bandić was not an office-holder or candidate running in the election, which, it said, was the legal precondition for DIP's assessment and therefore the party considered DIP's accusation unfounded.

Asked if Bandić had used a legal loophole to pay for his party election campaigning with taxpayers' money without actually violating the law, Kojic said that the mayor had only wanted to mark the city's day and inform citizens of the progress made.

He added that the messages on the billboards did not contain any party or election symbols and that DIP's accusation was based on an impression.

More news about Milan Bandić can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Zagreb Mayor Bandić Used City Billboards to Promote His Own Party

ZAGREB, August 2, 2019 - The City of Zagreb's billboards were used during campaigning for May's European Parliament election to covertly promote the political party of Mayor Milan Bandić and were paid for with money from the city budget, the State Electoral Commission (DIP) said in a report on Friday.

The report said that an inspection of campaign financing had found that jumbo posters with information about the City of Zagreb, were paid for from the city budget and were in fact covert electioneering by Bandić's party.

City authorities put up 175 jumbo posters on billboards during the election campaign which all carried the City of Zagreb logo and promoted various events and achievements by the city.

The DIP said that the number of posters displayed in 2019 was disproportionately higher than in 2018. Last year 20 jumbo posters were displayed while in 2017 that number was 60.

"It was observed that in an election year the City of Zagreb advertised a considerably larger number of posters than it has done normally in previous years (...) which leads to the conclusion that advertising during electioneering cannot be considered as the normal provision of information to the citizens of Zagreb about the city authority's activities," the DIP concluded, adding that it was obvious that this was covert electioneering.

The report further notes that Mislav Kolakušić's slate used funding from the Anti-Corruption Platform NGO, of which he himself is the president.

Kolakušić used stands issued to the NGO to promote his slate during the election, and the DIP decided that this was an impermissible method of financing.

Kolakušić's election financing report noted that his slate had bought one information stand, yet during the electioneering several were used.

The DIP also ascertained that the Živi Zid party did not pay donations exceeding 5,000 kuna into the state budget as prescribed by the law and that contracts that the party concluded were not in accordance with the law.

The Independents for Croatia party and the Work and Solidarity Party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić did not pay funding obtained from unallowable sources into the state budget, the report said.

The DIP further noted that none of the participants in the European election exceeded the amount prescribed for electioneering of 4 million kuna. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) spent the most - a little more than 3,970,000 kuna, while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) spent almost 3,500,000 kuna. Bandić's Work and Solidarity Party spent a little more than 2 million kuna.

The DIP found that 33 participants in the election spent almost 17 million kuna, while total income from all those participating in the election amounted to just over 15,300,000 kuna, and 2,100,000 kuna was raised in donations.

More news about elections in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

HDZ Zagreb City Councillors Opposed to High Rise Complex on Sava River Bank

ZAGREB, July 10, 2019 - President of the Zagreb City Assembly Drago Prgomet of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) on Wednesday said that HDZ councillors do not wish to see amendments to the city's town planning that would envisage building a high rise complex where the Zagreb Trade Fair and racecourse are located.

He said that the HDZ will demand that whatever is to be built in that locality is appropriate for a city that is a central European metropolis. "We don't want to build a New York here, nor do we want to build a Belgrade on the Sava River," he underscored.

Reporters asked Progmet what HDZ's attitude would be toward the project dubbed "Zagreb's Manhattan" if the people were against it, and he said that HDZ would respect the will of the people.

"If citizens say they agree or don't agree with something at a referendum, then that is literally binding for us. Until there is a referendum, the City Assembly will make decisions, including regarding town planning, which only sets out prerequisites for certain changes regarding construction in Zagreb," he said.

He asserted that HDZ was very responsible in the process of adopting the city's town plan and that it is generally for adopting a new one, provided procedure is respected.

In March this year, the city authorities said that Eagle Hills, a group of investors from Abu Dhabi, was the likely strategic investor in a possible development project colloquially called Manhattan.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

INURA Association Raises Voice against "Zagreb Manhattan Project”

ZAGREB, July 9, 2019 - International university professors and experts for urban planning have sent an appeal to members of the Zagreb City Council urging them to reject the proposed amendments to the city's general spatial plan that envisage the implementation of the so-called "Zagreb Manhattan" project on the banks of the Sava River.

INURA presents itself as "a network of people involved in action and research in localities and cities" and the network "consists of activists and researchers from community and environmental groups, universities, and local administrations, who wish to share experiences and to participate in common research". INURA, founded in 1991 in Salecina, Switzerland is a network with a self-organizing, non-hierarchical, decentralized structure.

The network expresses concern over the information that Zagreb may follow the example of cities that have privatised and partly damaged their belts along coasts or river banks.

They also warn that the project was being agreed to behind closed doors and that the general public has not been provided with sufficient information.

In March this year, the city authorities said that Eagle Hills, a group of investors from Abu Dhabi, was the likely strategic investor in a possible development project colloquially called Zagreb's Manhattan.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Protest Held against Closing Down of Zagreb Horse Racing Venue

ZAGREB, June 8, 2019 - Several hundred citizens rallied in Zagreb on Saturday outside the entrance to the city's horse racing venue to protest against Mayor Milan Bandić's decision to build what is colloquially called the Zagreb Manhattan project in that part of the city, warning the city authorities not to deprive them of that green area and the mayor to let them be.

Not long after Bandić announced that the Zagreb Manhattan project would be implemented in the area between Zagreb's Jadranski Most bridge to the west, the Sava River to the north, the Zagreb Trade Fair to the south and the INA company headquarters and the Most Slobode bridge to the east, equestrian associations and horse owners were informed that they had to move all of 147 horses from the city's racing venue.

Today's protest was organised by civic associations, and among the protesters were numerous children.

One of the banners displayed by the protesters carried Bandić's statement from 2018 in which he said that the city racecourse would not be touched as long as he was the mayor.

Ivana Ljubić, head of the Pony Express equestrian club, said that the racecourse was a second home to more than 500 children who did not own a horse and came there to ride.

Ninety percent of equestrian events in the country are held on the Zagreb racecourse and the place "is much more than a big meadow suitable for building commercial buildings with a high tower like the one in Mordor, offering a good view of subjects."

Ljubić recalled that town planners, too, opposed the project, that the racecourse was of strategic importance for children and the city, and that civic associations would not give up their fight for it.

As for the mayor's announcement that horses would be relocated from the racecourse to two equestrian venues in the area of Zagreb, Ljubic said that no private racecourse, regardless of its capacity, could take over the role of the city's main racing venue as the equestrian centre.

Another activist, Vesna Grgić, said that Bandić was behaving as a farmers' market vendor, "selling parts of Zagreb to whomever gives the highest bid."

In a comment on Bandić's statement that the city would not finance anyone's hobbies, a remark directed at people protesting against the closing down of the racecourse, activist Tomislav Vukoja said: "Nobody has asked us - the taxpayers who fill the city budget - what we think about the plan. If the city money was not spent on the unlawful hiring of 'relatives' who are incompetent but receive pay - there would be money for various hobbies."

The organisers of the protest said that until June 22 they would be collecting signatures for a petition to be given to the mayor, and activist Gordana Pasanec of the New Left party said the next protest would be held outside the city assembly.

According to the organisers, the protest was attended by more than 1,000 people, while police did not give any information on their number, saying only that there were no reports of incidents.

The protest was also supported by members of the Opposition in the Zagreb City Assembly - Renato Petek of the Forward Croatia - Progressive Alliance party and Gordan Maras of the Social Democratic Party.

In March this year, the city authorities said that Eagle Hills, a group of investors from Abu Dhabi, was the likely strategic investor in a possible development project colloquially called the Zagreb Manhattan.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Politics section.

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