Thursday, 18 July 2019

Incoming Ministers Present Their Projects

ZAGREB, July 18, 2019 - Ivan Malenica who has been nominated to replace Lovro Kuščević at the helm of the pulic administration ministry, on Thursday said that he would continue implementing projects of the digitisation of public administration and merger of state administration offices with county governments.

Ahead of meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Malenica told the press that his predecessor Kuščević had managed to complete some activities and that he will continue the job until the end of this term.

"I think that it will be possible to finish all that in the next year, so that we demystify public administration in Croatia and restore citizens' trust," Malenica said.

Asked whether he would scale down the powers of the Conflict of Interest Commission, Malenica said that he will see. "There is bill on the matter and we will see what they refer to."

He underscores that he has a vision of what public administration should look like and that it is meant to be at the service of citizens who can be satisfied with civil servants, with their efficiency and performance.

Commenting on the Constitutional Court decision that the rights of the ethnic Serb minority in Vukovar should be improved, he said that that is a Constitutional Court decision and as such it needs to be respected. He announced that he would discuss that matter with the Vukovar authorities.

Malenica said that he accepted the ministerial position because it was challenge in his career and that he can also do something for Croatia in the area of public administration. He dealt with this area of work during his work as a researcher and believes that that can be applied to public administration.

"I will see just how different practical work is compared to research when I step into office but I think that there should not be any problems," said Malenica.

The candidate for the new State Assets Minister, Mario Banožić, said on Thursday that the state should keep control over the companies that make it competitive.

I cannot now say whether the state should have five or six strategic companies and whether others should be on the market. I have to get an insight, however, I believe that the state should have control over those companies that make the state competitive, Banožić told reporters while coming to Government House for talks with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who yesterday nominated him for the new state assets minister after Goran Marić resigned this past Monday over media reports on his involvement in murky real estate deals.

Banožić praised Marić for having made a great step forward in state property management, notably in cases where ownership was unclear and in the registration of state assets.

Addressing the press ahead of a meeting in Government House with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Labour and Pension System Minister nominee, Josip Aladrović, on Thursday said that he would invite social partners, unions and employers, to a social dialogue and to revive the Economic-Social Council (GSV).

"I would like to first mention that we will call social partners to a dialogue and to resume activities within the GSV," Aladrović said, adding that he considers that most of the matters tended to in the department of labour and pension system under outgoing minister Marko Pavić were handled well.

Aladrović did not wish to comment on the union initiative to call a referendum against the proposed pension reform after the unions collected more than 700,000 signatures.

"Considering the number of signatures and all the work done prior to that, I would say that that was the democratic will of the people. In future we will attempt to anticipate and launch social dialogue," he said.

He believes that it is necessary to allow the government and the public administration ministry to do their job and to see if there is a sufficient number of votes for a referendum and the Constitutional Court needs to determine whether the referendum question is in accordance with the Constitution.

"I would not like to interpret something that the Constitutional Court will interpret considering that we achieved what we wanted with the pension reform and that is long term sustainability of the pension system and adequate pensions."

Aladrović also said that the Conflict of Interest Commission had launched proceedings against him due to a "minor oversight" and that he will accept any decision the commission makes. He apparently did not enter a car he possesses into his declaration of assets.

He said that he joined the HDZ when he was 16 or 17 and thanked Prime MInister Plenković for showing his confidence and giving him the honour to be a minister.

"I am certain that I will justify that trust and that I will do my job responsibly and that the results of the Ministry of Labour and Pension System will be visible in a very short time," he said.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Public Administration Minister Nominee Pledges to Cut Red Tape!

ZAGREB, July 13, 2019 - The candidate for the Public Administration Minister, Ivan Malenica, has said in an interview with the Vecernji List daily newspaper that if he becomes the minister, he will work on cutting the bureaucracy because the public administration is meant to be at the service of citizens.

The 34-year-old Malenica, who is the Dean of Šibenik Polytechnic,says that he will hold talks with his predecessor, Lovro Kuščević, on the ongoing projects in the ministry.

There are many things which the Public Administration Ministry has been working on, Malenica said in the interview published on Saturday.

In this context he points out the ministry's work on the legislation regulating institutions, agencies and public administration digitisation.

"Those are important things. There are also the bills on referendum and on prevention of conflict of interest," the nominee said adding that he will have to get an insight into the processes of the preparation of those bills and other things this summer so that he can start dealing with the issues in the autumn, in the event of his appointment.

He says that he will work on eliminating unnecessary red tape and on facilitating doing business in Croatia and making communication between citizens and public administration easier.

Asked whether all that could be done until the end of the current term of the Andrej Plenković cabinet, the ministerial nominee answered that there was enough time.

This past Thursday, Prime Minister Plenković announced his decision to nominate Malenica as the new Public Administration Minister after Kuščević resigned following media reports about his alleged involvement in questionable land and real estate deals. Kuščević has denied any wrongdoing.

Plenković introduced Malenica as a young man, a lawyer, who is well versed in issues relating to public administration.

Ivan Malenica was born in Šibenik in 1985. He graduated from the Faculty of Law in Split, and in 2013 he enrolled in the Public Law and Administration postgraduate doctoral program at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb. He has held the post of Dean at Šibenik Polytechnic since October 2017.

His professional interests include public administration and administrative law.

More news about administration ministry can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Plenković Nominates Ivan Malenica for New Administration Minister

ZAGREB, July 12, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday evening that he would nominate Ivan Malenica, the Dean of Šibenik Polytechnic, as the new Administration Minister.

"Malenica is a young man, a lawyer, who is well versed in issues relating to public administration," Plenković told the press after a meeting with the coalition partners at government headquarters.

The PM said that consultations on other government posts would be held in the coming days, which would be followed by a vote of confidence in Malenica and other nominees.

Ivan Malenica was born in Šibenik in 1985. He graduated from the Faculty of Law in Split, and in 2013 he enrolled in the Public Law and Administration postgraduate doctoral program at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb. He has held the post of Dean at Šibenik Polytechnic since October 2017.

His professional interests include public administration and administrative law.

More news about the Ministry of Administration can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Ruling Coalition Survives Kuščević’s Dismissal

ZAGREB, July 9, 2019 - The Croatian People's Party (HNS) whip, Milorad Batinić on Tuesday said that the HNS was more than a fair coalition partner to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) despite the ultimatum it set with regard to replacing Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević, who stepped down on Monday evening, assessing Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's move as "correct and statesmanlike."

Asked whether HNS expects Plenković's retaliation seeing that with its publicly announced ultimatum they put him in an awkward position, Batinić said that more information about that would be provided after a meeting between coalition partners.

"That's a matter for coalition partners, coalition talks and we will discuss everything at the coalition meeting," he added.

He dismissed interpretations that HNS acted unfairly because it sent its message that Kuščević has to go through the media and now they are saying they will discuss it in the meeting of the coalition.

"You have totally distorted your arguments. Coalition talks have been continuing over the past four weeks. No one can deny anyone their right to their opinion regardless of the dispute in question," he told reporters.

He underscored that the HNS caucus was united. He added that he believes the prime minister will not oust the HNS from the government and that Plenković made a "correct and statesmanlike move."

Considering that the HNS in its press release mentioned Kuščević's criminal responsibility, Batinić said that they expect the relevant institutions to do their job.

"We pointed out the political responsibility and that was the main thing and now it is up to state institutions to assess whether there were any criminal wrongdoings and to handle that," he added.

Asked whether the HNS was perhaps aiming for a broader government reshuffle, Batinić said that there is certainly room for improvement and that in the last year of term in government, those minister who perhaps have not kept up with HNS ministers, will pick up and we can catch up to what we advocated when we entered into the coalition."

Asked whether ministers Grabrijela Žalac and Goran Maric should remain in government, Batinić reiterated, "that will be discussed at coalition meetings in addition to other matters that are discussed."

More news about HNS can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

MPs Talk Administration Minister's Resignation

ZAGREB, July 9, 2019 - Members of parliament on Tuesday discussed the resignation of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević, with the opposition saying he was not the only one, and the ruling HDZ party responding that they would not be lectured on morals by those who did not have the right to do so.

"If Kuščević were the only one, that would be news, but he isn't," said Mirando Mrsić on behalf of the HSS-Democrats caucus.

The HDZ holds Croatia firmly in "the shackles of conflict of interest, corruption and nepotism" which began with former president and HDZ leader Franjo Tuđman in the 1990s, he added.

Kuščević resigned last night as public administration minister and HDZ political secretary in the wake of alleged scandals involving real estate on the island of Brac.

Mrsić said Kuščević resigned "only because he let himself be caught and so as not to compromise other compromised ministers and the prime minister, who knows everything and is doing nothing about it."

Mrsić said Labour and Pension System Minister Marko Pavić, Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, and State Assets Minister Goran Marić should also resign because of the scandals they were involved them.

He called them "vermin that are irreversibly destroying the future of this country, and they are all protected by the prime minister who is fighting tooth and nail to land a job outside of Croatia." He said it was time PM Andrej Plenković resigned and that "elections are Croatia's only option."

Božo Petrov of the MOST caucus said Plenković "can do what he wants but not as long as he wants." He said Kuščević did not resign out of political and moral responsibility but to minimise the media damage his case was causing the HDZ.

"One gets the impression that Kuščević is leaving as an innocent man who doesn't deserve any criticism, and this is the message this government is sending," Petrov said, wondering how a person who was not honourable enough to be a minister was honourable enough to be an MP.

"The Croatian parliament is not a reformatory," he said, adding that what Kuščević had done was unacceptable and that the people would be able to have its say in elections.

The rest of us have to show citizens that corruption and clientelism cannot rule Croatia. That must end. We either stamp out corruption and clientelism or we eventually disappear as a nation, Petrov said.

Speaking on behalf of the HDZ caucus, Branko Bačić said the "usual moralists in parliament" were using defamation and unfounded accusations to inflict political damage on the HDZ, the government and the prime minister, but "they won't succeed."

He asked Mrsić where his "moral standards were" when his wife, while he served as a minister, "owed a huge amount" to the Croatian Health Insurance Fund. "Why didn't you talk then about moral standards and concern for state interests and, as a sign of responsibility, resign?"

Bačić accused Petrov of having tried to change the statute of Croatian Waters so that he could appoint a close friend to the company. "One should have the same approach and not demonise someone while passing over one's own sins as though they never happened."

He said it did not matter when Kuščević resigned but that the HDZ was setting high standards in Croatian politics. "But we won't allow those without the moral right to do so, to attack the HDZ and give us moral slaps on the wrist here."

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Administration Minister Kuščević Resigns

ZAGREB, July 9, 2019 - Public Administration Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) political secretary Lovro Kuščević resigned from both posts on Monday, and Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenković told reporters after a marathon meeting in the party's headquarters that he had accepted Kuščević's resignations.

"Minister Kuščević and I talked upon my return from Poland and over the weekend and today. He tendered his resignation as both public administration minister and as the HDZ's political secretary. As prime minister and party president, I accepted his resignation and... he will return to parliament," said Plenković.

"Given all the activities in recent weeks in public and the media, we estimated that a lot of damage is being done to him personally and, of course, to the government and the HDZ, and that there's no point anymore," Plenković said, adding that it was now up to Kuščević "to resolve all the doubts that appear in public and make his political activity possible."

"I'm a responsible politician. I've been in politics a long time," Kuščević said, adding that "it's clear to me that this negative perception in the media, the basis of all the unfounded attacks on me, represents a big burden on both the party and the government."

"I don't want to be a burden to this government, which is doing a good job and has excellent results, so that these results can be even better," Kuščević added.

The opposition and the government's coalition partners had been calling for Kuščević's resignation due to alleged scandals involving real estate on the island of Brač.

Last Thursday, the parliament added to the agenda a motion by the opposition, which collected 43 signatures, for a vote of no confidence in Kuščević.

The opposition claimed that while Kuščević was the head of Nerežišće municipality on Brač island, and later as minister, he showed that the protection of public interest was not important for him, that he continually put his own private property interests before public interest, and that he abused his position, gaining millions of kuna."

The Croatian People's Party (HNS), which recently proposed that Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević be replaced, welcomed his resignation on Monday and said that no one who used political influence for personal gain must hold a public office.

"For us in the HNS, it's a question of every politician's moral and political responsibility, while possible criminal accountability will be established by the relevant authorities," the HDZ's ruling coalition partner said in a press release.

The HNS said it would continue to talk with its coalition partners, starting at Tuesday's ruling coalition meeting, about relations with the HDZ in future and its own political priorities, such as raising salaries for 68,000 employees in elementary and high schools.

More news about former minister Kuščević can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Kuščević Says His Resignation Is a Matter Between Him and Prime Minister

ZAGREB, July 7, 2019 - Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said on Saturday that his tendering his resignation, as demanded lately by the opposition and partners in the ruling coalition over his alleged involvement in property-related scandals, was a matter between him and the prime minister.

"The fate of any minister is in the hands of the prime minister," Kuščević, who has come under severe criticism from the media after it emerged that he was involved in a string of property-related scandals during his term as mayor of Nerežišća on the southern island of Brač, said in an interview with Nova TV.

The minister added that he would not hesitate a single moment if Prime Minister Andrej Plenković asked him to leave.

He would not give a straightforward answer when asked if PM Plenković had told him that he had caused harm to the government and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, as reported by the media.

"I have explained each of my actions to both the prime minister and the (HDZ) presidency, provided evidence, arguments and final court rulings," Kuščević said, adding that his conscience was clear.

The minister claims that the fake scandals of which he is being accused have primarily caused harm to him and his family.

"... the HDZ is a strong party. This government is doing a good job and its results are so good that fake scandals cannot harm the party," said Kuščević.

Asked about allegations of fraudulent behaviour on the part of his advisor Željko Holik in connection with land on Brač that has ended up owned by mysterious offshore companies, Kuščević said that he was unpleasantly surprised by media reports saying that Holik still maintained business relations with those companies.

"I will talk to him on Monday to hear his side of the story and then we will make a decision," said the minister.

The media have reported that Holik, Kuščević's main advisor at the Public Administration Ministry, has found himself in the centre of a scandal involving land in Nerežišća and that the companies he used to run significantly profited from changes to the physical plan of Nerežišća, which were adopted in 2015 and which Kuščević had allegedly pushed for as head of Nerežišća municipality.

The media have also reported that hundreds of thousands of square metres of land on the island of Brač have thus ended up owned by mysterious offshore companies under the pretext of a medical tourism project that was never implemented.

More news about the Kuščević affair can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Motion for Vote of No Confidence in Kuščević Added to Agenda

ZAGREB, July 4, 2019 - The Croatian parliament on Thursday added to its agenda an opposition motion for a vote of no confidence in Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević.

The motion was signed by 43 deputies, Speaker Gordan Jandroković said.

The opposition has called for a vote of no confidence in Kuščević "because during his term as the mayor of Nerežišća municipality, and later as minister he has shown that he does not care about public interest and because he has put his private, property-related interests before public interest, abusing his powers to make personal gain worth millions of kuna."

The motion, put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was supported also by deputies of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), the GLAS party, the group of independent members of parliament, SNAGA party MP Goran Aleksić, and MP Ivan Lovrinović of the Let's Change Croatia party.

The government has the duty to state its position on the motion within eight days from its being tabled. A no-confidence motion is voted on seven days from the day of its submission at the earliest and 30 days from its submission at the latest.

After a meeting of the ruling coalition partners - Branko Bačić of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Milorad Batinić of the Croatian People's Party (HNS) and Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) - Pupovac expressed hope that a parliamentary debate on a vote of no confidence in Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević, moved by the opposition, would not have to be held.

Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Pupovac said that "someone should leave the government but I hope that won't be the coalition partners."

Pupovac, who is known for choosing his words carefully, thus gave reporters reason to conclude that Kuščević will eventually leave the government before the parliamentary debate and will either resign or be replaced by the prime minister.

"We have just had a meeting of the coalition partners and discussed ways to deal with everything that is behind us and that we are faced with. If people talk, it means that there is some kind of common ground for talks... We had an open and good discussion on how to proceed with regard to all outstanding issues," Pupovac said when asked if the ruling coalition was stable.

Asked who would give in, the HDZ or its coalition partners, Pupovac said, "This is not about giving in but about an agreement on how to function and find a solution."

The HDZ did not speak about Kuščević's political fate, the prime minister is in charge of that and we are agreed that that role belongs to him, he added. "As for the debate on a no-confidence vote in Kuščević, we hope it will not have to be held," he said, adding that "someone should leave the government and I hope that won't be the coalition partners."

Pupovac said that he was not insulted by Kuščević 's statement that a party with 2.5% voter support was not one to decide on the composition of the government, but that that was an insult to common sense.

Asked if his HNS party could leave the government, Batinić said that everything would be communicated to the prime minister, adding "See you next week after the meeting with the prime minister."

Social Democrat Peđa Grbin, whose party on Wednesday filed a motion for a vote of no confidence in Kuščević, said earlier today that the HDZ had assumed responsibility for Kuščević's behaviour.

"The HDZ yesterday supported a common thief thus sending the message that in Croatia it is permitted to steal while holding a public office," said Grbin. "We expect all members of parliament to say 'No' to Lovro Kuščević and to thievery. If the HNS will join in - good, but if not, it will only demonstrate consistency with everything it has been doing in the last two years since it joined this government of crooks," Grbin said.

He noted that many HDZ deputies admitted in private conversations that Kuščević's conduct was unacceptable. "Now they will have a chance to show if they practice what they preach," he added.

More news about the Kuščević affair can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

HDZ Still Supporting Administration of Minister Kuščević

ZAGREB, July 4, 2019 - Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković said after a party meeting on Wednesday evening that Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević was doing his job, that media attacks against him referred to the period before Kuščević was appointed minister and that he would most probably hold talks on Kuščević with all partners in the ruling coalition next week.

Kuščević has come under severe criticism from the media after it emerged that he was involved in a string of property-related scandals during his term as mayor of Nerežišća on the southern island of Brač.

The deputy leader of the HNS and Deputy Prime Minister, Predrag Štromar, said over the weekend that the HNS wanted a meeting with Plenković to propose the dismissal of Kuščević because he had used his political position to amass wealth for himself.

"As for the minister, he presented at the meeting his arguments and facts that are currently in the focus of media attention so that the party leadership could hear his side of the story too," Plenković told reporters after the HDZ leadership discussed the HNS's demand that Kuščević be replaced.

Instead of using the media to trade shots, we will hold talks with all partners in the parliamentary majority, and that will happen most probably next week, Plenković said, adding that all further activities regarding the case would be discussed by Minister Kuščević and himself.

"We will talk, Minister Kuščević is doing his job and the topics from the media campaign against him refer to the time long before he was appointed minister. As for his work as minister, I think that he has been maximally involved and motivated to work on the government's programme and on everything from the Public Administration Ministry's remit," said the PM.

Asked about the HNS's demand that Kuščević be replaced and its claims that otherwise, it would leave the ruling coalition, Plenković said: "No one is indispensable."

Asked if the HDZ had a plan B in that case, he added: "Don't you worry about us."

More news about the latest crisis in the ruling coalition can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Contrary to Expectations, Minister Kuščević Does Not Resign

ZAGREB, July 3, 2019 - Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević on Wednesday told reporters after being asked if he would step down that his assets have been transparently listed in his Declaration of Assets and that there have been no violations or murky dealings.

"All my assets are transparently presented in my Declaration of Assets and there have been absolutely no violations or suspicions of misconduct. I am staying on," Kuščević told reporters outside Government House after meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Croatian Democratic Union (HDU) whip Branko Bačić.

He said that he would see on Thursday what the Social Democratic Party's motion for his removal would look like and whether there would be any serious criticism. "I think that once again that will be just another series of false accusations like those we have seen in the media recently," he said.

Asked if he was too heavy a burden on the government seeing that the Croatian People's Party, a partner in the ruling coalition, was calling for his resignation, Kuščević said that a party supported by 2.5 percent of the electorate "isn't one to decide on the composition of the Croatian government."

The parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) announced on Wednesday that in cooperation with other opposition parties it would file a motion for a vote of no confidence in Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević following his role in the numerous real estate scandals that have emerged recently.

"It is obvious that there is hardly any minister in this government who is not suspected of corruption and citizens have had enough. This is not a call for dismissal due to political responsibility but rather due to grave suspicion of corruption, abuse and violation of power. In any normal country, where the government is not corrupt, cases like this would have been forwarded to the state prosecutor long ago," SDP leader Davor Bernardić told a press conference.

He said that the SDP was continuing the fight against corruption with its own set of anti-corruption bills that will be presented soon.

"It will be interesting to see whether the coalition partners in government will side with the citizens and the interests of Croatia or they will side with Minister Kuscevic and the most corrupt government in Croatia's history," he underscored, alluding to the junior coalition partner the Croatian People's Party (HNS).

MP Saša Đujić (SDP) said that Kuščević was acting along the lines of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's statement "I can do want I want."

"This morning after the meeting in the government offices we expected Kuščević to address the media and say his term was over and he was leaving. However, just the opposite, not only did he not show any dose of self-criticism but he continued to behave arrogantly just as he and the government have behaved so far," Đujić said.

He said that Kuščević is suspected of unlawful construction, re-zoning, embezzlement and conflict of interest while at the same time leading attacks on the Conflict of Interest Commission and proposing reducing the Commission's powers.

More news about the administration minister can be found in the Politics section.

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