Saturday, 5 January 2019

MOST Looking Forward to Presidential Elections

ZAGREB, January 5, 2019 - The president of the opposition MOST party, Božo Petrov, told Hina in an interview it would be interesting to see former prime minister and ex-SDP leader Zoran Milanović as a presidential candidate.

"It would be interesting to see the political arena with Zoran Milanović in the role of a presidential candidate. The only question is whether or not he will take that step because it is not the same to be a candidate of a political party and to run as an independent candidate. I believe it could be an interesting race," Petrov said, adding that MOST would not support his candidacy or the candidacy of the incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

Asked about his party's lower ratings, Petrov the best day for polls was the election day.

Commenting on claims that his party had taken a sharp turn to the right, Petrov said the easiest thing to do was to label people. "I believe that many people could not wait to label us in order to remove us from the political sphere. From the very beginning, MOST has been a thorn in the side of those who were governing Croatia," Petrov said.

Asked to comment on the fact that he has to answer questions before the Conflict of Interest Commission, after the Živi Zid party raised the issue of his involvement in the Agrokor case, Petrov said he had already been in front of the Commission twice, as a witness, and that he would only tell the truth.

Asked to comment on a possible cooperation between his party and the Živi Zid Party, Petrov said MOST would support all constructive proposals that were in the interest of Croatian citizens. "Unfortunately, such proposals are very rare," he added.

More news on the activities of MOST can be found in our Politics section.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

MOST Party Presents Health Care Bill Proposal

ZAGREB, December 27, 2018 - The opposition MOST party on Thursday presented a draft law on preventing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD), saying their health care bill was revolutionary and that it would raise the quality of life in Croatia.

The bill regulates measures of preventive health care as well as the responsibilities of those in charge of its implementation – the state, health system employees and patients, Ivan Bekavac told a news conference, adding it was critical for citizens to accept responsibility for themselves.

The draft law is unique, expert, sustainable, necessary to change the grim statistics according to which Croatia is on the top of European rankings.

The proposed law is based on facts and recommendations written by experts and not politicians and some of the preventing measures include better eating habits, especially for school children, intergenerational solidarity, volunteering.

Croatia has a law on communicable diseases but it does not have a law on chronic non-communicable diseases, of which over 40 million people die each year in the world and 23,000 in Croatia.

MOST MP Ines Strenja Linić stressed that Croatia did not yet have a national plan for fighting cancer, although it is high on the European list of malignant diseases patients.

Croatia today is among the top three countries according to chronic non-communicable diseases risk, namely cardiovascular diseases, tumours, etc.

More news on Croatia’s health system can be found in our Politics section.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Sisak Refinery Closure Criticised by Opposition

ZAGREB, December 22, 2018 - The MOST party said on Friday that by "stalling and abandoning plans for INA's buyout, the Plenković cabinet is making it possible for Hungarian oil and gas group MOL to blackmail Croatia into the announced closing of the Sisak refinery."

Asking Prime Minister Andrej Plenković what his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban had blackmailed him with, MOST wonders in a statement what "Croatia will get if Plenković has allowed Hungarians to close the refinery in Sisak and let them enter Petrokemija's management. They will soon start exporting INA's gas to themselves and who knows what else is in the offing? Isn't the price of Hungary's merciful blackmailer involvement in the LNG terminal, whereby Plenković is showing his commitment to the EU by seeking a future office in the Commission, too high?"

MOST further says that Prime Minister Plenković has personally appointed the Croatian members of the management of the INA oil company (jointly owned by Croatia and MOL) but that they are not representing INA's interests.

In the shareholders agreement on INA, MOL has undertaken to be a strategic partner but it has taken over INA's market and turned the company into an oil retailer, MOST says, claiming that Hungary is protecting its interests in a sovereign way while the Croatian government is incapable of organising a tender to buy back MOL's stake in INA.

SDP president Davor Bernardić visited Sisak to meet with Predrag Sekulić, unionist and spokesman for Sisak refinery workers, for talks on the current situation in the refinery following a decision by the INA oil company to stop refining oil in Sisak.

INA, which is owned jointly by Croatia and the Hungarian oil and gas group MOL, announced on Wednesday that it would concentrate its refining business in Rijeka, while the Sisak refinery would be converted into an industrial centre focusing on other activities.

"Had Plenković stuck to his pre-election promise of two years ago and restored Croatian ownership of INA, the Sisak refinery would not be facing closure. This government has not done anything in that regard and will be remembered for making the workers of Uljanik, 3. Maj and the Sisak refinery jobless," Bernardić said.

The SDP leader also wondered if the closure of the Sisak refinery and possible dropping of an indictment proposal against MOL executive Zsolt Hernadi had been agreed at recent talks between Plenković and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in exchange for Hungary's withdrawal of an arbitration lawsuit against Croatia in the INA case.

More news on the INA-MOL case can be found in our Business section.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Global Compact on Migration Causes a Split in Croatian Parliament

ZAGREB, December 10, 2018 - Social Democratic Party president Davor Bernardić and MOST leader Božo Petrov agreed on Monday that parliament should have discussed the Global Compact on Migration, but while Bernardić strongly pushed for it, Petrov said it represented a threat to Croatia's security, and Miro Kovač of the ruling HDZ told them they failed to launch a discussion on the document and that they were manipulating and misleading the public.

Bernardić said that when the agenda included topics on which the HDZ could not ideologically agree within its ranks, those topics were pushed aside. He said parliament could still discuss "such an important global agreement." He said that by avoiding a debate, some were bringing unrest into the public sphere, scaring citizens with migrants and trying to score political points. He said migrants did not wish to stay in Croatia.

Bernardić said the Global Compact was not a typical agreement. "It is not signed and it is not ratified, but is a catalogue of measures referring to legal migration and UN member states can choose whether to incorporate them and which are the most acceptable to them."

He said discussing the Global Compact did not suit the HDZ-led ruling majority "because they don't want to confront the radically conservative citizens who voted for them and who see the agreement differently than the government."

Petrov said the Global Compact was a threat to the security of Croatia and its citizens. "Since 2015, our neighbouring countries dealt with the migrant problem together with Croatia, yet today they refuse to go to Marrakesh. Why, if everything about this agreement is all right?"

He said the US, which was Croatia's partner on its journey to independence, did not want to be part of the Global Compact. "Who will we ask for help when all neighbouring countries don't want to be part of that pact? Juncker, whose idea is that not all EU member states are equal?" Petrov wondered why the Global Compact was not discussed at a parliamentary plenary session.

Kovač said Bernardić and Petrov could have submitted an interpellation or asked that a discussion on the Global Compact be put on parliament's agenda. He added that a discussion on the document was organised by the Foreign Affairs Committee at his initiative, and accused Petrov and Bernardić of manipulation and disinformation.

For more news on Croatia’s migrant policies, follow our Politics section.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

MOST Against Giving Same-Sex Couples Right to Provide Foster Care

ZAGREB, November 25, 2018 – MOST party leader Božo Petrov said on Saturday that children are born and raised in an emotional and physical union of a man and a woman and that the parliament should take that into account when making decisions on adoption and foster care. Commenting on a bill on foster care and the possibility of giving same-sex couples right to provide foster care, Petrov said that children's interests should be above any other interests. He stressed that children raised by "substitute parents" were stigmatised and that if raised by same-sex couples, they would be stigmatised even more.

If homosexuality was generally accepted in society, there would be no need for gay parades, he added.

Petrov also commented on the decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission to launch proceedings against Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who failed to declare his relationship with Igor Pokaz at the time of his appointment as ambassador to the United Kingdom and the fact that he was the best man at Pokaz's wedding, as well as on the Commission's decision to launch proceedings against Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić.

"I believe that an office-holder must not use their position to help people close to them get hired," Petrov said, adding that he hoped the commission would do its job at least in that case and that its decision would not be influenced by political pressure.

Petrov also said that considering the way the commission was formed, the latest case seemed to be more about power games within the ruling coalition than about a serious approach to dealing with conflict of interest.

As for current disputes in the ruling coalition, Petrov said that politics should not be about "blackmail potential".

For more on the MOST activities pn these and other issues, click here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

MOST Wants to Lower Voting Age to 16

ZAGREB, November 13, 2018 - The opposition MOST party presented on Tuesday a constitutional initiative to enhance voting rights and change the voting age, proposing that the election law be amended to allow 16-year olds to vote and to introduce postal and on-line voting.

"The constitutional initiative concerns enhancing voting rights. It involves lowering the age of eligibility to vote from 18 to 16 years and the introduction of postal and on-line voting. Young people need to be included in political life and voting should be ensured for all citizens, particularly those have difficulty in exercising their voting right," MOST leader Božo Petrov said.

Empower the voice of youth

MOST has put its proposal for amendments to the Elections Act up for public consultation, after which it will forward it to parliament. "We recommend that the age limit for voting at all elections, including referendums, be lowered from 18 years because we want to empower the voice of youth, and that means about 100,000 people aged between 16 and 18, in the political life of the country," MOST MP and constitutional law professor Robert Podolnjak said.

He underscored that the proposal to lower the voting age was in line with trends in other EU member states.

In order to enable a new way of voting, it is necessary to amend the constitution, which says that Croatian citizens who are resident abroad can vote at diplomatic-consular missions. Postal and e-voting should be made possible for all citizens, Podolnjak said.

MOST has proposed the initiative because currently about 50% of the electorate votes at parliamentary elections and in other elections that percentage is even lower, which is a significant democratic deficiency, Podolnjak said.

Podolnjak said that MOST was also motivated in light of the uncertainty of the constitutional referendum initiative to reform the election system.

"The most important changes include: reducing the number of lawmakers in parliament (from the present 151) to 120, of whom six would be national minority representatives and three MPs would represent citizens living outside the country. In general election constituencies, 111 lawmakers would be elected. Constituencies would follow the boundaries of counties and the City of Zagreb and at least 15 deputies would be elected in each constituency. The election threshold for a seat in parliament would be reduced from 5% to 4%. Voters would have the right to three preferential votes and the order of elected delegates would be based on the number of preferential votes won," Podolnjak said.

For more on MOST’s initiatives, click here.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

MOST Accuses Government of Squandering Taxpayers' Money

ZAGREB, November 10, 2018 - The MOST opposition party accused the Andrej Plenković cabinet on Saturday of squandering taxpayers' money as budget expenditures grew faster than the economy.

Nearly all macroeconomists say that, due to the high public debt, the budget's expenditures side must be put under control, the party said in a press release, adding that it was unacceptable that expenditures were rising 5.2% without any strategy and that GDP growth was projected at only 2.8%.

It is absurd that the population is drastically decreasing yet the budget is increasing uncontrollably, MOST said, adding that when it had been part of government, it started a trend of rational budget management, yet now the ruling HDZ and its new coalition partners were squandering money again. "Mr Plenković, you are pumping the budget without any strategic goal, which will hit us in the head like a boomerang."

MOST said Croatia's GDP growth lagged behind comparable countries, pushing it to the very bottom of the European Union. In September, industrial production fell 1.5% on the month and decreased over nine months this year, it added.

Salary growth in 2019 will total only 1.1 billion kuna at a time when 180 people are leaving Croatia on a daily basis, which is a glaring example of irresponsibility towards taxpayers' money, said MOST, wondering who would generate that amount and make up for the huge difference between revenues and expenditures.

In the best case scenario, tourism results for this year will be stable and nights in the peak seasons will drop 3% on the year, MOST said.

Enterprise will hardly pull us through with the structural workforce deficit, to which the government is not offering any solutions, and a new entrepreneur must pay 22,824 kuna in annual contributions even before opening a business, the party said.

For more on the activities of MOST, click here.

Monday, 5 November 2018

"Stagnation of Economy Direct Consequence of Ruling Coalition Trade-Offs”

ZAGREB, November 5, 2018 - Croatia's economic stagnation is a direct consequence of the fact that its ruling coalition is the result of political trade-offs, the opposition MOST party said on Monday, calling on the governing parties to accept its proposals if they wanted Croatia to join the top 30 countries in the Doing Business ranking.

"Since 2017, Croatia has fallen from 43rd to 58th place in the Doing Business ranking. Croatia is growing very slowly, while all countries in its neighbourhood are growing much faster. The problem of issuing building permits in Zagreb is one of the reasons for such a poor showing. There is also a problem with the public electricity utility HEP and its 50 percent higher costs of connection than in other transition countries," said Vedran Jerković, the head of the party's economic council, while discussing the issue of stagnation.

The party recalled that it had left a finalised action plan for public administration to the present government and 887 million kuna from EU funds. "Why aren't you implementing it? Why don't you tell the public how much money you have absorbed so far from the EU? The Doing Business ranking for 2019 will be even worse for Croatia. What does Mr Plenković say about that? What will be his excuse?" MOST leader Božo Petrov said.

"Plenković has said that the aim of his government is for Croatia to make it into the top 30 in the Doing Business ranking, and Croatia is backsliding. The government doesn't understand what the word 'reform' means. I call on the ruling parties to accept MOST's proposals if they really want Croatia to make it into the top 30," Petrov said.

Apart from the reform of public administration, MOST also proposes adopting a law on start-ups and reviewing profit tax as "a classic example of double taxation".

"The biggest problem for Croatia is a cumbersome public apparatus for which nearly 28 billion kuna is set aside annually. Another problem is a large number of procedures and steps in procedures, as well as messy public registers," MOST MP Sonja Čikotić said.

If you want to know more about MOST’s activities, click here.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

MOST Wants Stronger Protection of Borders

ZAGREB, November 4, 2018 - The MOST party's political secretary and lawmaker Nikola Grmoja, and a member of the party's main committee Nizar Shoukry, a Croatian citizen of Syrian descent, said on Saturday at a news conference dedicated to migrations that Croatia was a humane country but that it was also supposed to defend its borders from the flow of migrants.

"For us, two things are essential, to protect our state borders and to keep Croatian citizens safe," said Shoukry, a doctor who has been living in Croatia for 35 years and who has been decorated for his humanitarian work during the migrant crisis in 2015.

Shoukry, a vice-chairman of the Vukovar-Srijem County Assembly, said that he was in contact with migrants on a daily basis and praised the Croatian police for how they handle the situation along the borders. The police are doing a great job and prevent illegal crossings of migrants from Serbia, he said, underscoring that "while the migrants sleep in the open, police officers stand in the open."

"Migrants are given hot meals, whereas the police are given bread and pate, and that has been going on for three years."

Shoukry said that Croatia was in an unenviable position. "Being a Croat who also knows the mentality of those from the East, I propose that we immediately start working on fortification barriers, first along the southern border and then on the east," the MOST official said.

He said that the southern border should be safeguarded so as to create conditions for the next tourist season, explaining that tourists won't come to Croatia if they hear that migrants are entering the country without control.

He also criticised the foreign ministry for not having a firm stance towards Germany and the European Union, which he said had caused havoc and now they should find a solution for "all those unfortunate people who have passed thousands and thousands of kilometres in pursuit of peace and security."

Grmoja criticised both the foreign ministry and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović over their attitude of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. He said that the MOST party would like to know why the president changed her mind and decided not to go to Marrakesh for a conference on that document.

He also criticised Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinovic Burić for claiming that the Global Compact was not meant to be signed but that she kept silent about the information that the document should be adopted.

For more on migrant crisis in Croatia, read here.

Monday, 29 October 2018

MOST Leader Mocks Former Economy Minister’s Agrokor Book

ZAGREB, October 29, 2018 - The leader of the opposition MOST party Božo Petrov said on Monday in a mocking comment on the book entitled "Agrokor: Slom Ortačkog Kapitalizma (Agrokor: The Collapse of Crony Capitalism, in an unofficial translation) by Martina Dalić, former economy minister, that it in fact presented the "beatification of Saint Martina, the patron of free market."

The book is to be officially launched on Monday afternoon, and the event prompted Petrov to say that the whole story is "about the beatification of the patron saint of free market."

Petrov also ironically commented that the process of "beatification" was led by Gojko Drljača, a reporter and columnist in the Jutarnji List daily of the Hanza Media publishing house which was why it would offer 45,000 free-of-charges copies of that "hagiography" about Martina Dalić.

When the Agrokor crisis broke out, the MOST party was a junior partner in the ruling coalition, and in her book Martina Dalić writes that it was Božo Petrov of the MOST who had proposed that money collected from taxpayers should be used to bail out the Konzum retail chain in the Agrokor Group.

In response to these claims, Petrov said today that there had been several models proposed how to salvage the group, however, the model proposed by Dalić, who was at the time economy minister, prevailed. "In comparison to all other models, our model did not include the services of consultants, favouritism in awarding jobs and roll-up loans. And, let us not be beguiled by their arguments, each model is in fact state interventionism, including what they those in power have done in addressing the Agrokor crisis," said Petrov.

As for the announced participation of the Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić at today's launch of the book, Petrov said "they are all the same." "What we could see from statements by 'Saint Martina', Governor Vujčić also cooperated with them, while we had no idea about that. They are all the same," the MOST party chief said.

If you are interested in reading more about the Agrokor affair, click here.

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