Friday, 14 October 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - INA, Russians and Sylvester Stallone

October the 14th, 2022 - Let's have a look at the past week in Croatian politics with just some of the stories from the political stage, the bad, the embarrassing, and the just plain weird.

HDZ earns its second worst rating since Andrej Plenkovic has been at the helm of the party

HDZ hasnt done brilliantly in its latest rating, with it being the second worst one since Plenkovic has been top dog. Index reports that in cooperation with Promocija (Promotion) plus, RTL published the CRO Demoskop for the month of October 2022. The survey was conducted from October the 3rd to thr 6th on a sample of 1,300 respondents. The standard error of the sample was +/- 2.77 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.

For most people, the INA situation is the most important issue within Croatian politics and in the country at this moment in time, and this continues to affect the rating of the ruling party and of the prime minister himself.

Although HDZ is still the first choice when it comes to political parties for almost a quarter of respondents, this is HDZ's second lowest rating since the arrival of Andrej Plenkovic at as head of the party (October 24.4 percent - September 24.2 percent). SDP (October 16.7 percent - September 16.6 percent) and Mozemo! (We Can!) also have similar support as they did back in September. (October 10.6 percent - September 10.6 percent.

With a slight drop, the fourth choice of the respondents was Most (Bridge), slightly above 9 percent (October 9.2 percent - September 9.4 percent), and another right-wing option, Domovinski pokret (Homeland Movement), which is growing when compared to September (October 6 percent - September 5.5 percent).

The Croatian Government apparently wants to go ahead with the much talked about plans to build the country's national stadium in Zagreb, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport says no, and the City of Zagreb has been left in the dark

If you follow the world of sport, particularly football, you've probably wondered why a country so famed for its sportsmanship and for churning out top class athletes doesn't actually have its own national football stadium. You wouldn't be the only one who has asked that question. It is a subject that people have gone back and forth on for years now, and it appears that the situation is as clear as it has ever been (clear like mud, that is), as the government says we're set to go ahead with the stadium's construction, but the Ministry of Tourism and Sport says no.

A spokesperson for the Croatian Government, Marko Milic, has said that a stadium is going to be built, finally, and that it is a priority, but in just as much time as it took him to make the statement, the aforementioned ministry said that wasn't going to be the case. To say he is a government spokeperson, Milic doesn't take the stand as it were very often, and his confidence surrounding this matter has obviously confused some.

"Soon it could be a reality. And yes, I can tell you that we are going to build a stadium in Zagreb," said Milic, adding that addition to the state, other stakeholders will participate in the work, without specifying who exactly those stakeholders actually are.

Milic also said that preparations and consultations for the new budget year are currently underway, and that investments for the apparently upcoming stadium are also being taken into account in these calculations. Hr also noted that a financial framework is being sought for the construction of a stadium in Zagreb where Dinamo would play. Milic later mentioned other larger cities such as Rijeka and Split, where there are stadiums that have "national significance".

"The priority is to build the stadium in Zagreb, which is in a bad condition," said Milic, adding at the end that both Dinamo and the Croatian national team have shown that they deserve an adequate stadium.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sport was quick to deny what Milic had stated. 

"The state isn't building the stadium, nor is it financing the stadium independently, nor is this the model we're thinking about, but the state could potentially co-finance the construction and equipping of sports buildings, according to clearly developed criteria and based on the conducted tender," the Ministry led by Nikolina Brnjac stated in response.

As she explained, the draft Law on Sport will give the government the opportunity to declare certain sports buildings as buildings of national interest, but it is, in typical Croatian style, entirely unclear what the criteria for something to be of national interest actually are. Also in typical Croatian style, the City of Zagreb apparently has absolutely no idea of any of these plans. ''We know absolutely nothing about any of these government plans,'' Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic's office stated.

It also begs the question as to why this is even a topic within Croatian politics when parts of Zagreb and particularly Sisak-Moslavina County are still waiting for renovations and reconstruction following the earthquakes of 2020.

Most tries to twist the knife with HDZ by publishing a list of the party's apparently ''forgotten'' ties with Russia

Most took to good old Facebook to respond to PM Andrej Plenkovic, who, just to quickly remind you, rejected the opposition's claims that the government and HDZ were to blame for the catastrophically embarrassing and expensive INA affair, and said that the opposition is attempting to come together and overthrow the government in a joint operation.

"There are no doubts about any of this, it's all just an orchestrated operation and the actions of very clearly visible and recognisable actors, we just have to see how much of it is internal, and how much is external. That's the only question we still need to look at in a little more detail, but we'll examine that too," Plenkovic said.

Most then made a list of links between HDZ and Russia.

"Here are all of HDZ's ''forgotten' connections with the Russians. Since HDZ is trying to move away from the topic of its corruption and high treason in regard to INA to the topic of Russian players, mercenaries and Russian influence, we'll be very happy to oblige and remind them a little about their own connections:

- HDZ borrowed 4.2 million kuna from the company Gas trading d.o.o., owned by PPD, which in turn created its wealth from the sale of Russian gas.

- HDZ negotiated for a long time with Ivan Vrdoljak about ousting Most so that HNS, which was connected to Russian capital through Vrdoljak, would take its place. By the way, Ivan Vrdoljak asked the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) in a written document to give the Russian tycoons Grigory Edel and Mihail Zhukov Croatian citizenship, which they needed to break through Russian capital of dubious origins, which was, strangely enough, linked to Oksana Dvinski, HDZ's great "benefactor".

- HDZ minister Zdravko Maric came into his job [as finance minister] from Agrokor came and stayed with the government after securing Russian money from Russian banks for Agrokor. At the same time, Agrokor was a donor to HDZ through various different companies.

- HDZ's Minister of Construction Ivan Paladina has business ties to Russian tycoons, especially to Sergey Glyadelkin, who is connected to the Russian secret service.

- The Russian Foundation called ''New Generation'', led by the already mentioned Russian citizen Oksana Dvinski, the wife of Maksim Poletaev, was a donor to HDZ with 2.6 million kuna after completion.

- The HDZ government awarded the contract for the overhaul of the Mi-171Sh helicopter worth 206.9 million kuna to the Russians, and that overhaul turned out to be very problematic.

As you can see, HDZ members are the last ones who should be talking about Russian mercenaries," Most concluded in their rather damning Facebook post.

An HDZ parliamentarian claims that his role model is Sylvester Stallone

What does the world of Croatian politics and Hollywood have in common? Apparently more than you'd think, and not just because of the endless drama. HDZ Parliamentarian Ante Bacic Baco, who is enrolled in military school and attends it with HV officers, once told Dalmatinski portal that his role model is actor Sylvester Stallone.

"I like such people who don't really have the prerequisites to succeed, but still succeed with motivation and persistent effort," Ante explained, saying that Stallone inspires him because of that fact.

His life motto is, as he said in an interview: "Keep punching" - a statement from the classic Stallone movie, Rocky.

Aside from idolising Rocky, Baco has been quite the hot topic of sorts over more recent weeks. President Zoran Milanovic commented on his enrollment in the "Ban Josip Jelacic" War School, judging that it was "a criminal offense because there's no place in the war school for parliamentarians, who by definition are state officials".

"If they don't withdraw, we'll report them and I will personally forbid the entry of such people into the premises of the Croatian Army,'' Milanovic said of the matter.

Following Ivo Sanader's acquital, President Zoran Milanovic wasted no time in claiming that while Sanader was a thief ''solely for his own gain'', HDZ has advanced its tactics of theft

Zoran Milanovic and Andrej Plenkovic make very little effort (if any) to hide their utter disdain for each other. The pair frequently come to blows (not literally of course, Sylvester Stallone isn't involved in this particular feud), and Milanovic has quite the way with words when it comes to insults and being a troll. One may hope the pair would have more pressing issues to tackle, but I digress.

Milanovic was quick to hop on the band wagon in regard to the massive INA scandal, of course blaming HDZ entirely, and claiming that while Ivo Sanader was indeed a thief, he was in it for himself, unlike HDZ which he claims has ''improved its methods'' of theft.

"The story surrounding INA is the story of HDZ. All these slurs about Russian people are attempts by Plenkovic's martyrs to bury that story with whitewash. But that isn't going to work, it doesn't work because these things are just obvious. Did HDZ set up people there? Is Skugor connected to the top people within HDZ? Yes. Was he going to get rich in this underhanded way? Did he panic because he got too rich? Was the gas sold through the county company where Banozic is? Those are the facts," he said.

"Ivo Sanader fell like the greedy private thief he was, but he stole for himself. He was accused in the way in which he stole. HDZ was declared to be an organisation of robbers. They didn't learn anything [from matters involving Sanader], they just improved their techniques when it comes to robbing. Plenkovic ignores it all, but to me that just means he supports it," Milanovic said.

For more on Croatian politics, keep up with our Week in Croatian Politics articles which will be published every Friday.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Croatian MP Miro Bulj: There Could be No Worse Time for Eurozone Entry

June the 18th, 2022 - Croatian MP Miro Bulj has boldly claimed that there could be no worse time possible for Croatian Eurozone accession, for which it has had the green light and into which it will enter on the 1st of January 2023, replacing the kuna with the euro.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian MP Miro Bulj (MOST) spoke recently with N1 television about possible changes to the Law on Referendums. He says that MOST is against the way of defining which topics could be decided in a referendum. Bulj also believes that the imminent introduction of the euro couldn't be possibly coming at a worse time.

"In the sense of defining the topics [which could be decided in a referendum[, what they did with the constitutional referendum for which we collected 400 thousand signatures, is more than sad. We'll oppose it. We can change it to make it easier to collect signatures, not to limit them in advance and define the appropriate topics. We know that the Constitutional Court is under the control of HDZ, that these are the Godfathers and that it's a purely political body. That body is meaningless. We strongly oppose this and we will monitor how other political options will behave,'' warned Bulj, talking about the amendments to the Law on Referendums.

Croatian MP Miro Bulj also said that the HDZ had enjoyed great levels of support from other political parties when it came to the epidemiological measures introduced in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus, which had a hugely negative impact on the economy.

"It doesn't mean anything to them that we have more voters than we have residents, it's a disastrous proposal. This is a blow to the foundation of and the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia,'' believes Bulj.

"Where does one get the right to say that the constitutional changes for which MOST collected signatures aren't constitutional? They can't say what the people think about the Constitution. It was the same with the definition of marriage. This is a direct interference of HDZ and the Constitutional Court in the interest of Andrej Plenkovic, who has also taken over the judicial system. This isn't something new, it's a blow to democracy, it's shameful act and an anti-national blow to the Constitution,'' said Croatian MP Miro Bulj.

Bulj's beliefs on Croatian Eurozone accession

"It couldn't possibly be coming at a worse moment," Bulj said when asked if it was the right time to send the kuna to the history books and introduce the new currency, adding that we need to be taking care of our natural resources and as such, our farmers.

"We must help our farmers during these difficult times, not be spending our time on preparing to introduce the euro. It's clear to Finance Minister Zdravko Maric how much inflation will rise to and what will happen, but it's more important to listen to Brussels than the interest of the Croatian people. They've played games and it's obviously more important to Plenkovic to be the one to introduce the euro than listen to the interest of the people. Nobody knows what will happen when the euro is introduced,'' concluded Croatian MP Miro Bulj.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

PM Refutes Bridge's Claim on Connection Between Fighter Jets, EU Grants

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday dismissed the Bridge party's claim that he had promised President Emmanuel Macron that Zagreb would buy French fighter jets in return for the European Council's decision that €22.5 billion would be set aside for Croatia.

"This is an absurdity," Plenkovic said during Question Time in parliament after Bridge deputy Zvonimir Troskot asked if the premier had promised that Croatia would purchase French multipurpose military aircraft in exchange for EU grants.

Plenkovic said he was "fascinated by debutant lawmakers", calling on Troskot not to disseminate false and incorrect claims which, he added, made him "less credible" as a parliamentary deputy.

The premier also criticised the opposition Bridge party for pursuing "coffee-house politics" and for being ignorant.

He recalled that Croatia received four bids for the procurement of fighter jets.

Earlier this month the government stated that four bids for the procurement of fighter jets were received from Sweden, the USA, France, and Israel. Now the process of evaluation commences, and the interdepartmental commission on the purchase of military aircraft will recommend the best bid by December 12.

Sweden has offered its new Gripen C/D model, while the United States has offered its new F-16 block 70, France has offered its used Rafal model, and Israel its used F-16 block 30 fighter jets.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Bridge Says Will Turn Down Plenkovic's Invitation for Meeting

ZAGREB, July 14, 2020 - The Bridge party said on Tuesday that it would turn down Prime Minister's invitation for a meeting with that opposition party, explaining that it believes that only a joint meeting of Plenkovic with all opposition parliamentary parties would have some sense.

Although the Bridge party was initially ready to forget all political differences when it comes to Croatia's interests, and therefore it had accepted the invitation for a meeting in the government, now that party believes "that there is no willingness to ensure a joint and constructive meeting with the whole Opposition."

Bridge writes on its Facebook that separate meetings with each of the Opposition parties would not make any sense and therefore this party is against such talks.

Bridge says that it has already presented its platform's economic plank to the public and that the implementation requires courage and political will.

The party goes on to say that it expects the new government to present its platform in the parliament and to organise a joint meeting with the Opposition.

Last week, Plenkovic, who is to be the prime minister-designate after the results of the July 5  elections, announced meetings with representatives of parliamentary parties so as to reach a consensus on key issues for the country.

 A majority of opposition parties seem to be against separate meetings.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Bridge: State Attorney's Office Administers Selective Justice in Line with Politics

ZAGREB, June 30 (Hina) - The Bridge party on Tuesday called out the State Attorney's Office (DORH) for administering "selective justice", saying that it does not adhere to the law but follows political instructions, which is why it is necessary to change the way state attorneys are selected.

"DORH is often in the service of politics. It is not fulfilling its purpose and it is necessary to change the way the chief state prosecutor is selected," Bridge's political secretary Nikola Grmoja told a press conference.

He said that there are two possible selection procedures, one being a two-thirds majority vote in the Sabor, "even though we select constitutional court judges that way which hasn't proven to be that efficient," he admitted.

"We all know that constitutional court judges are chosen by agreement between the HDZ and SDP which then leaves room for political bartering," Grmoja noted.

The other way is through direct election just like the president is elected.

"We have seen that until now DORH has behaved by turning a blind eye to some, while some people are arrested ahead of an election in an effort to curry favour with this or that political group. That has to change. We need an independent judiciary and institutions," Grmoja said.

Party colleague Tomislav Jelic said the DORH administers "selective justice", citing the Croatia Osiguranje (CO) insurance scandal in 2013 and 2014. Experts are preparing a suit which will prove that Croatian citizens - as owners of CO - were robbed of HRK 3.5 billion (about €450 million) "when CO was given away to the Adris Group in a scandalous way."

Even though a state audit found that the privatisation of CO was illegal, DORH has done nothing about it, Jelic said.

County attorneys have not been replaced for years and it is "high time after the election for some people in DORH to be charged for their inaction and covering up crimes," Jelic said.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Bridge Calls On Gov't To Explain How Election Will Be Held

ZAGREB, June 27, 2020 - The Bridge party said on Saturday the government, having organised an early parliamentary election, should instruct citizens on how it would be held and under which coronavirus protection measures.

Marija Selak Raspudic told reporters the election was seven days away and that citizens still did not know how to vote safely given "the epidemiological situation and the fact that Croatia, primarily because of the prime minister, has become anything but a safe country."

She said it was necessary to make sure that polling committee members and observers would come to the polling stations, otherwise, the election risked being "illegal." She also wondered how many diaspora voters would be prevented from voting and if, because of that, the election might be declared unconstitutional.

Asked if Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should be self-isolating after a recent tennis tournament in Zadar, where an outbreak of coronavirus occurred, Nino Raspudic said it was very clear that one set of rules applied to the prime minister and another to the rest of the population.

He said the decision to hold the election early had been rushed to use the then popularity of the coronavirus crisis management team for political gain. "Now we see how many of the team's members are on HDZ slates. It's difficult to distinguish between the HDZ's election campaign and the team's press releases."

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Bridge Blames National Response Team And Government For Spike In Coronavirus Cases

ZAGREB, June 25, 2020 - The number of coronavirus cases in Croatia is on the rise because members of the national crisis response team and the prime minister set a bad example and because recommendations from the Public Health Institute (HZJZ) are being ignored, Ivan Bekavac of the Bridge party said on Thursday.

Bekavac was presenting the party's healthcare programme for the forthcoming parliamentary election.

He wondered how it was possible to organise a concert for 600 people in Knin, where the singer was infected with the coronavirus, without the HZJZ measures being observed.

He said that yesterday's decision to impose a 14-day quarantine for people coming to Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia was not based on the medical profession and law but was a political decision aimed at shifting the public focus from the responsibility of the ruling parties to citizens of the neighbouring countries.

"In the context of the ongoing election campaign, this suits the HDZ," Bekavac said. "The rise in the number of infections shows that we should focus more on preventing a new wave of the coronavirus and less on political decisions at the expense of public health," he added.

Bekavac said that the Croatian hospital system needed reorganising and restructuring, calling for an end to the monopoly of the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZ). He said that Bridge advocated market-based health insurance because citizens have the right to choose a healthcare scheme that suits them best and be responsible for their own health.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Bridge Presents Its "Croatia Is Awakening" Election Platform

ZAGREB, June 17, 2020 - The fight against corruption and clientelism, boosting the economy and a better education system are the key points of the "Croatia is awakening" platform presented by the Bridge party for the July 5 election.

Our platform is a realistic framework unlike those of others who are offering fairy tales and promises and offending the people's intelligence. We are offering something that can be achieved and that Croatia needs - a decent life for every citizen and a just system, Bridge leader Bozo Petrov said presenting the party's platform.

Chief State Prosecutor should be appointed by a two-thirds majority in parliament

In addition to the three key points, Bridge's platform deals with other issues such as health, agriculture, and the status of pensioners. We have an answer to all those issues, said Petrov.

The party's political secretary, Nikola Grmoja, said that it was necessary to change the judiciary and speed up proceedings in order to attract foreign investments.

"We want to change the model of appointment of the chief state prosecutor, who is currently appointed by the ruling majority through corrupt bartering, and extend their term in office. They should be appointed by a two-thirds majority in the parliament," said Grmoja.

The Conflict of Interest Commission should have more powers and be transformed into an anti-corruption agency, Bridge representatives said, adding that they would insist on transparent spending by public officials and on making public the budgets of all government bodies.

Education sold to satisfy political interests

Heading the party's slate in  Constituency 1, Marija Selak Raspudic underscored that education is high on the list of Bridge's policies as is the problem of democracy deficit so that the shameful political trade-offs that occurred in the last government with the Croatian People's Party (HNS) could be prevented.

"We witnessed the sale of the education sector to satisfy one's own political interests," she said and added that the education reform needs to be impartially evaluated.

The deficit of democracy is evident in the fact that the parliamentary election was called in the midst of the pandemic, Selak Raspudic said, warning that electronic and postal voting was not possible and that referendums had been thwarted.

Bridge is offering amendments to the election law with more preferential votes, she said.

Responding to reporters' questions regarding failed negotiations with the Homeland Movement, Grmoja said that negotiations were held, however, Bridge could not come to terms with being on the same slates as defectors who joined Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic's Labour and Solidarity Party.

"Skoro has attracted a wide variety of people, while we are glad that we are going to the election with new, uncompromised people because only people like that can bring change," he said.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Bridge Party Presents Lead Candidates For Parliamentary Election

ZAGREB, June 13, 2020 - The leader of the conservative Bridge party, Bozo Petrov, on Saturday presented lead candidates for the July 5 parliamentary election, saying that these were the people fighting for a different Croatia than the one offered by those who have been running the country for the past 30 years.

"We will fight for a Croatia in which everyone is entitled to a decent life and has equal rights because no one should be more equal than the others," said Petrov, who will head the party's slate in Constituency 10 which covers a southern part of Split-Dalmatia County and the whole of Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

Petrov said that the number of seats won was not as important as the quality and integrity of people entering Parliament, adding that MPs should always have in mind the people they were elected to represent. "Quite a few of them, as we have seen in the last 30 years, forget this and lose their bearings," he noted.

Petrov said that the lists of candidates would be submitted to the Electoral Commission on Tuesday.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Bridge, Croatian Republican Party Together for Diaspora Slate

ZAGREB, June 12, 2020 - The Bridge party and the Croatian Republican Party (HRS), a non-parliamentary party active in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Friday, signed an agreement on their coalition for Croatia's parliamentary elections in constituency no.11 covering Croatian nationals abroad.

Bridge political secretary Nikola Grmoja said at a news conference that this alliance enables "the Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Diaspora to finally have their authentic representatives of integrity, who will represent the Croatian people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Diaspora in a coherent manner in the Sabor."

The leader of the HRS party, Slaven Raguz, said that they had acceded to the cooperation with the Bridge party "as for the first time in the history of the Sabor, a political group from Croatia has recognised the political subjectivity of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Diaspora."

"For the first time, Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in expatriate communities can now vote for people who will clearly and in articulated manner care for the real problems they are faced with," Raguz said.

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