Monday, 1 July 2019

Plenković Rejects Ultimatum over Minister Kuščević

ZAGREB, July 1, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Sunday that he would meet his coalition partners to discuss a demand by the Croatian People's Party (HNS) for the dismissal of Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević.

"I will meet the coalition partners whenever necessary. I guess the public and voters know me so well by know that they are aware that if there's anything I can't stand, it's ultimatums," Plenković said in response to questions from the press.

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

Minister 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.

Also on Sunday, Milorad Pupovac, the leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), also a member of the ruling coalition, said the government should not carry the burden associated with Minister Kuščević and that the coalition should not fall apart because of this problem.

"I repeat once again, the burden connected with Minister Kuščević weighs on the coalition and the government. We shouldn't be carrying this burden," Pupovac told the RTL commercial television channel.

Speaking of the HNS's demand for Kuščević's dismissal, Pupovac said he did not think it was an ultimatum. "None of us generally functions by setting ultimatums," he said.

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

Sunday, 30 June 2019

HNS Officially Proposes Dismissal of Administration Minister Kuščević

ZAGREB, June 30, 2019 - Croatian People's Party (HNS) vice-president and Deputy Prime Minister Predrag Štromar said on Sunday that the HNS wanted to a meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković at which it would propose the replacement of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević who the party considers used political influence for personal gain.

"We concluded yesterday that we should invite Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the HDZ to a meeting at which we will propose that Minister Lovro Kuščević be replaced. We are not insisting on his criminal liability, that is up to the relevant institutions to determine, but according to publicly available information, Kuščević most probably used his political influence for personal gain, and the HNS considers that unacceptable," Štromar told a news conference in the northern municipality of Sveti Martin na Muri, where party members met for a conference of the HNS Political Academy.

Minister Kuščević has come under severe criticism in the media over scandals that concern his amassing of wealth and buying, repurposing and selling land at the time when he was the mayor of Nerežišća on the island of Brač.

Asked by a reporter how firm the HNS would be in its demand to the prime minister, Štromar said that he was "certain there will be enough political wisdom to make the right move."

Asked why the HNS was insisting on Kuščević's departure and what was the difference between him and property-related affairs involving Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić and State Assets Minister Goran Marić, Štromar repeated that Kuščević had used his political influence for personal gain.

"That can be seen in all media reports now and that makes a big difference in relation to the other ministers," he said.

Asked about President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and the HSLS party's comments on the case, Štromar said briefly that he was glad "they agree with our proposal for the minister's replacement."

Asked if he was prepared to leave the government if the prime minister did not dismiss Kuščević, Štromar said that he was confident the prime minister would make the right move.

He also gave a brief comment on speculation that Plenković could accept a post in the EU. "If I were Prime Minister, I would be flattered by such an invitation, but I would never accept it," he said.

Asked about the HNS's support for a possible new prime minister-designate, Štromar said that it was a hypothetical question and that in case of such developments, the matter would first be discussed by the party bodies.

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

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Government Rejects Coalition Partner’s Ultimatum

ZAGREB, June 30, 2019 - Following the announcement by the Croatian People's Party (HNS), a junior partner in the ruling coalition, that it would formally demand the resignation of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević, the government said on Saturday that the matter would be discussed at a regular coalition meeting.

"We will discuss this at a regular coalition meeting this week or the next. Ultimatums are out of the question. In the end, a decision on each cabinet minister is made by the prime minister," the government press service briefly told Hina.

Minister Kuščević has come under severe criticism in 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.

Kuščević on Saturday declined to comment on increasing calls for his resignation. "The (present) mayor of Nerežišća has said everything there is to say about the amendments to the local development plan," he told Hina in Supetar on Brač island.

The mayor of Nerežišća, Svemir Obilinović, said on Friday that the changes to the local development plan and land use had been done for the sake of the municipality's development and tourism as a strategic branch of the local economy. He denied media reports saying that Kuščević, while serving as mayor, had allowed land-use changes to favour his family and help them make huge profits.

Milorad Pupovac, the leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), also a partner in the ruling coalition, was reserved in his comment, saying that his party would discuss the matter early next week and take an official stance.

"I cannot say at this point what our stance will be. The very fact that this matter will be discussed should be enough," Pupovac told Hina on Saturday.

Coalition partners from the Work and Solidarity party of Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić did not return calls and text messages from Hina.

Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) leader Darinko Kosor said on Saturday that both Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Croatian People's Party (HNS) should leave the government.

"In our opinion, both Kuščević and the HNS should leave the government. But that should be decided by the prime minister," Kosor told Hina when asked to comment on the HNS's demand for Kuščević‘s resignation.

The HNS supports the Social Democratic Party's presidential candidate Zoran Milanović and is calling, through its Međimurje County prefect Matija Posavec, for departure from the ruling coalition, "so I don't see how they could be partners any more," said Kosor, whose party is a coalition partner in government.

Kosor said that Minister Kuščević should go "for reasons well known to the public."

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

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Coalition Partner Demanding Minister Kuščević’s Resignation

ZAGREB, June 29, 2019 - The Croatian People's Party (HNS), which is the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) strategic partner in the incumbent coalition government, will ask Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to convene an emergency meeting of the coalition because it insists that Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević of the HDZ should step down but it could also propose a bigger reshuffle, the Vecernji List daily of Saturday reported.

The bigger reshuffle would include the resignation of Health Minister Milan Kujundžić and of Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, according to the daily.

The daily reports that this was confirmed to it by the HNS leadership and that Deputy Prime Minister Predrag Štromar of the HNS will present his party's demand regarding Kuščević at a news conference to be held on Sunday at Sveti Martin na Muri, where the HNS Main Committee and Presidency are to hold a meeting.

The HNS will ask that the coalition meeting be held as early as Monday.

The party does not want to speculate about Kuščević's possible criminal liability with regard to scandals that concern his amassing his wealth and buying, repurposing and selling land at the time when he was the mayor of a community on the island of Brač, but it believes that he should have stepped down due to moral and political responsibility because scandals related to him burden and harm the government, the daily says.

"... we insist on Kuščević's resignation, and as regards a bigger reshuffle, which we are also proposing, (PM) Plenković will be the one to decide," a source in the HNS leadership told Vecernji List.

The HNS believes that Žalac should leave over scandals in which she is implicated and that Kujundžić should step down due to poor results in the health sector.

Since PM Plenković does not want the success of Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić, who was elected Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and is to take office on September 15, to be linked to a possible government reshuffle, the question that arises is what the HNS will do if Plenković rejects its demand for Kuščević's replacement and whether in that case, it will leave the government.

"We believe that Plenković will opt for a reshuffle, and if he does not, everything is possible in the autumn," the HNS source said.

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

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Kuščević: Somebody Will Have to Be Held to Account for Lying

ZAGREB, June 27, 2019 - Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said on Thursday that media reports implicating him in a series of scandals are "fabrications, lies and manipulation" and that he was a target of orchestrated attacks, adding that somebody will have to be held to account for that.

Coming to Government House for a cabinet meeting, Minister Kuščević told briefly the press that today media outlets published again a series of fabrications, lies, manipulations, photomontage and ill-intentioned conclusions explaining that he had already provided necessary documentation and even final court verdicts to counter those claims.

According to some media reports the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) has launched a preliminary investigation following reports about Kuščević's sale of a commercial office space at Supetar on the island of Brač and other properties.

Kuščević said that he had become the target of those orchestrated targets for being a minister and the political secretary of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Commenting that the attacks were also an attempt to damage his integrity and do harm to his family, Kuščević said that "somebody will very soon be held to account for that."

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Opposition Parties Call for Public Administration Minister's Dismissal

ZAGREB, June 27, 2019 - Some of the opposition parties in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday called for the dismissal of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević over his failure to declare his property holdings.

Social Democratic Party MP Peđa Grbin said that this was not just about two properties which the minister failed to register, but that Kuščević was a government official who had created a system marred by nepotism and corruption.

"This is a politician who extracted real estate from companies that later ended up in bankruptcy, while he made millions out of them, or as much money as they owed before going bankrupt. This is a politician who changed urban development plans so that his family and friends could rake in a lot of money," Grbin said, calling on the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party to "protect the minimum of decency and sack Kuščević."

Nikola Grmoja of the MOST party also called for Kuščević's resignation. "In a normal country, a scandal like this would result in the minister's resignation, but not in Plenković's Croatia, because if he applied such criteria he would have to renounce half his ministers."

Asked to comment on this matter in an interview with Croatian Radio on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that all allegations in the media against his ministers refer to the time before they became members of his government. As for Kuščević and his failure to enter his property in the land register, Plenković said: "This is not good, but it is certainly not so huge that it could jeopardise his human and political integrity as a minister."

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

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Plenković Stands by His Controversial Minister

ZAGREB, June 25, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that the whole "guilt" of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević was actually his omission to enter his two properties in the local geodetic registry, and that since the very beginning his cabinet had been exposed to criticism orchestrated by "prompters".

"The fact that somebody has omitted to register two properties in the geodetic registry is omission. However, this omission does not have such proportions to make us question his (Kuščević's) political and human integrity," Plenković said, while responding to questions from the press after a wreath-laying ceremony on the occasion of Croatian Statehood Day.

Plenković said that he had talked lately with Kuščević about the recent developments and media reports, and insisted that arguments given by Kuščević and his declaration of assets show that Kuščević could only be blamed for failing to register the properties with the local geodetic office.

In this context, Plenković noted that Kuščević was the 10th minister from his cabinet who has become the target of some people whom he labelled as prompters who choose an opportune moment to disseminate information they find interesting to media in a bid to create an impression that there are problems.

"Those prompters have clear political intentions of causing destabilisation, destruction and collapse," the premier said adding that since the very beginning his cabinet has been faced with such attempts.

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

Monday, 24 June 2019

Conflict of Interest Commission Opens Case into Administration Minister

ZAGREB, June 24, 2019 - The parliamentary Conflict of Interest Commission has opened a case into Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević based on a report concerning his failure to register his property in Nerežišća on the southern island of Brač.

The report also concerns an alteration of the urban development plan allowing him to build a residential property instead of a barn, an incorrectly filled declaration of assets, and a permit for house rental.

After checking the allegations from the report, the Commission will decide whether or not it will take action against the minister, the Commission's secretary Majda Uzelac said on Monday.

She would not reveal the name of the person who filed the report, but said that it referred to last week's media reports on the minister's property holdings.

Kuščević said on Sunday that the media reports about the registration and declaration of his property were fabrications based on false documents. "This is a recycling of old themes," he said, adding that he never tried to conceal how much property he owns.

More news about conflict on interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Counties to Take Over More Administrative Duties

ZAGREB, April 17, 2019 - Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević on Wednesday met with county prefects and discussed reform measures under which state administration tasks would be transferred to counties as of 1 January 2020.

Kuščević that he has three goals during his term in office - better state administration, decentralisation and digitisation. He added that the State Administration Act will help achieve two of the goals, raising the efficiency of state administration and decentralisation.

Asked about downsizing of state administration, Kuščević said that today there are about 2,500 public servants working in state administration and about 2,000 working in county administration, where he said more will be hired. He, however, added that following the principle of rationality they will try to ensure that as few staff as possible are transferred to counties.

"In cooperation with the Finance Ministry, we have prepared a redundancy programme and expect about 500 to 600 public servants to take advantage of severance packages, which means counties will have that many fewer staff. In the end that calculation will be negligible for the state budget and costs will remain at the present level," the minister said.

This meeting was held with a view to preparing the counties for technical matters so that the system is up and running by 1 January 2020, Kuščević said.

"The agreement that the government will reach with the counties will secure funds for wages for the staff transferring to the counties. They won't be ensured funds for additional hiring and would have to pay any additional staff from their own budgets," Kuščević explained.

More news about administrative system can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Croatia without Open Access to Data on Functioning of Public Authorities

ZAGREB, March 1, 2019 - Croatian citizens are still denied access to data on the functioning of public authorities, registers of beneficial owners of the media or judges' declarations of assets, the Open Data Day conference was told in Zagreb on Friday.

The European Commission is working on increasing access to data financed by public funds, but it is not quite clear whether Croatia will follow this trend, primarily because of personal data protection, said the executive director of the non-governmental election-monitoring organisation GONG, Jelena Berković.

Berković said that access to open data provides basic information about what is going on in the country so that voters can make informed decisions at the ballot box. She said that GONG would like to see the results of various inspections, including food quality inspections and school inspections prompted by peer violence.

She said that in Croatia there is still no open access to registers of development, building and occupancy permits, no searchable register of state assets, or schedules of court hearings.

"We would like to see all loans granted by the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the register of lobbyists, how EU money is spent in Croatia, and open data on the funding of candidate for the forthcoming European Parliament elections," Berković said.

During a panel discussion, Melisa Skender of GONG said that the Freedom of Information Act was the main tool in the fight to ensure open access to data from public authorities. "However, practice shows that public authorities often ignore decisions made by the Information Commissioner," she said.

The conference brought together representatives of public authorities, the Information Commissioner's Office, the State Election Commission, the Central State Office for Digital Society Development, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the European Parliament Office in Zagreb and civil society organisations.

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

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