Friday, 11 February 2022

Man Arrested for Begging in Nova Gradiška, Sentenced to Prison

February 11th, 2022 - The Croatian justice system is said to be slow and ineffective, but it sure acts swiftly in some cases.

A 28-year-old man named Petar was declared guilty and sentenced to prison for having begged for money in front of a Konzum store in Nova Gradiška.

Petar was asking passersby for money in November last year. The judge sentenced him to five days in prison, and the money he had earned that day was confiscated, 24sata reports.

It’s described in the verdict that the beggar was ‘standing at the front door, holding out the palm of his left hand with some coins, begging citizens who were entering or leaving [the store] for money, saying he had no income or anything to eat, eliciting compassion from citizens.'

The court declared him guilty of committing a violation of the Act on Misdemeanors against Public Order and Peace, which classifies the act of begging as a misdemeanor punishable by fine or up to 30 days in prison. Petar must report to prison when summoned by the court, when the verdict becomes final.

It is also said in the verdict that the proceeds of the misdemeanor in the amount of HRK 84.30 are to be seized from the defendant and must be paid into the State Budget of the Republic of Croatia within 15 days.

Petar also has to reimburse the costs of misdemeanor court proceedings in the amount of 100 kuna; failure to do so will result in enforcement proceedings. He did not appear in court, did not send a defense lawyer to represent him, and did not inform the court of a change of address.

A police officer who was questioned in the proceedings said that on the day in question the citizens reported that the man was begging in front of the entrance to Konzum.

He described going to the site of the reported misdemeanor and finding Petar in front of the entrance with the outstretched palm of his left hand containing the coins he received from citizens.

The police officer added that Petar was invoking his difficult living conditions in order to elicit compassion.

‘I found 84.30 kuna in coins on the defendant which he received from citizens. I confiscated them and they were paid into the state budget. The defendant often begs at Konzum and in the passage near the open market’, the officer said.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Aladrović: Ministry Stands Behind Administrative Findings in Little Girl's Case

ZAGREB, 26 April, 2021 - Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović said on Monday he supports a ministry report that identified omissions by welfare services in Nova Gradiška in the case of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who died as a consequence of domestic violence, a report which contradicts expert reports.

The Chamber of Social Workers and Croatian Chamber of Psychologists conducted separate expert analyses of the case and concluded that the social workers and psychologists working on the case acted according to standards, while the ministry last Friday said that it would examine the findings and forward everything to the County Prosecutor in Slavonski Brod.

"We, as the ministry, support the administrative oversight findings. The oversight identified certain mistakes in procedure and the findings have been submitted to the County Prosecutor as will the results of the expert analysis. I cannot comment on who was wrong, the chamber or the ministry," said Minister Aladrović while presenting an action plan to improve the social welfare system.

He said that the ministry had immediately sent a supervision team which compiled a report that, he said, is an indicator of the efficient work of public administration and not hasty decision making. One of the reasons why the Chamber of Social Workers' report took longer was because the social worker involved in the case was COVID positive, he added.

He said the omissions identified by the ministry's supervision team were sufficient to dismiss the director of the welfare centre in Nova Gradiška. The ministry does not want to impact the chamber's findings but there isn't any third body that could determine any further procedures, he added.

"There currently isn't any legal framework on how to reconcile those two findings and conflicts," said Aladrović and added that the only thing he can do is to send all the findings to the County Prosecutor to see if there is cause for any other kind of responsibility.

Amendments to the Family Law not planned for this year

As far as amendments to the Family Law are concerned with regard to taking children from their birth parents, Aladrović said that that is a complex bill that wasn't planned in the government's legislative activities for this year and is not a priority, but "we are not unwilling to discuss the Family Law as well in the following period" because there is room for improvement.

To read more about politics in Croatia, follow our dedicated page.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Chamber: Social Worker Didn't Error in Case of 2.5-Year-Old Child

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Findings of an inspection in the work of the social worker involved in the supervision of a family whose child died of injuries in the town of Nova Gradiška show that the social worker concerned did no make professional mistakes and that she acted in line with professional protocols.

The expert evaluation of the work of the social worker shows that she did not make mistakes or omissions which could have been conducive to the lethal outcome.

The 2.5-year-old child recently died of the grave injuries caused by domestic violence. The child had been admitted to a Zagreb-based hospital in very serious condition, and despite the efforts of the hospital's staff during her treatment, she succumbed to the injuries.

Following her death, the relevant ministry ordered an expert evaluation of the work of the social welfare centre in Nova Gradiška..

On 19 April, the Croatian Psychological Chamber said that an inspection at that centre showed that the psychologists in charge of the case acted in line with professional standards and measures defined by that centre.

In the period when the violent death happened, the relevant social worker was in self-isolation due to coronavirus.

The child and her family were under the supervision of the social welfare centre in Nova Gradiška for several years.

The family has been under supervision since 2017 and the child, who was given to foster parents for some time, was returned from the foster family to her biological family in line with a decision by that centre.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Highlights of the Week: 5 Big Events in Croatia from April 5-11, 2021

April 11, 2021 - An overview of the big events in Croatia from April 5 to 11, 2021. 

The first week after Easter saw Croatia bitter on the tragic death of a 2-year-old girl, followed by a shock of heavy snow fastly coming and fading in Croatia's capital. Dinamo fans were disappointed by the Europa League loss at Maksimir stadium, while Pula is finally starting a big project of connecting its underground tunnels with an important surface site. Citizens of Split saw two candidates coalition together to unify liberal and progressive election bodies.

Highlights of the week: New headmaster of Social Service in Nova Gradiška marija_jugovic-c-Ivica_GalovicPIXSELL.jpg

© Ivica Galovic / PIXSELL

Following the tragic death of a 2-year-old girl who was heavily beaten by her mother and neglected by her parents resulted in Marija Jugović taking the position as the new headmaster of Social Welfare Centre Nova Gradiška on Monday. Jugović replaced the former headmaster Branko Medunić, following the controversial decision of returning the girl from her foster family back to her biological parents, who previously neglected and abused her, which ended fatally.

As Večernji List reported, Medunić is still employed in the Centre, and Jugović said on Monday that the investigation by the ministry would show if there were any misconducts in handling the case.

„Medunić is a social worker, and he is currently doing the job according to his occupation“, said Jugović.

Pending the results, Jugović announced lay-offs in the Nova Gradiška Centre. The investigation was expected to be complete by Wednesday.

„It's determined that there were mistakes in the procedure, which was the mistake of the headmaster. We are still waiting for professional findings from Croatian Social Workers chamber and Croatian Psychology Chamber“, said Josip Aladrović, Minister of family and social policies, on Wednesday as a guest On National Croatian Radiotelevision (HRT).

He added that restrictions in the Centre were done immediately based on those findings, and other results are expected to be complete by the end of the week.  

Highlights of the week: April snow in Zagreb brought shock and traffic 


© Bruno Fantulin / PIXSELL

The heavy snow, which was announced but still surprised the citizens of Zagreb thanks to its intensity, caused chaos on Zagreb streets on Tuesday. Traffic was jammed and several accidents occurred. Still, the snow quickly melted away and meteorologists announced warmer weather by the end of the week.  

Citizens of Zagreb were in disbelief of such heavy snowfall in early April, a day after it was a little under 20 degrees Celsius.

Highlights of the week: Ivica Puljak and Bojan Ivošević competing together in Split local elections


© Ivo Cagalj / PIXSELL

Mayoral candidate of Centre Party Ivica will compete in the upcoming local elections for Split Mayor with the independent candidate Bojan Ivošević who aims to be his vice-mayor. As Večernji List reported on Tuesday, the pair said this decision was easy for them as neither one had to betray their beliefs when agreeing to this collaboration.

„In this election, the civil, progressive Split we represent is waking up like never before. We united our teams, Split has a chance it didn't have in decades, and if we don't use it, we won't get another opportunity for four years, maybe even longer. We have to take this chance“, said Ivica Poljak.

Bojan Ivošević is confident they will win elections and „return freedom to the citizens of Split and end trading authority in Split“.

Highlights of the week: Construction of connecting Kaštel fort with underground tunnels ongoing in Pula


© Sasa Miljevic / PIXSELL

One of the most interesting tourist projects this year is taking place in Pula. Fort Kaštel is being connected with a network of underground tunnels that date back from the Austro-Hungarian times when Pula was the main military port. After the project was announced as early as 2019, the shaft where there will be a tourist elevator that will connect the fort with tunnels was finally been pierced last Friday.

Highlights of the week: Dinamo defeated by Villareal


© Goran Stanzl / PIXSELL

After the brilliant victory against Tottenham, Dinamo's luck and skill took a blow in the clash with Villareal on Thursday.  

Despite Dinamo handling well against the first attempt of Villareal and few risky shots aimed at Zagreb's gate, it all went well until the very end of half-time when Moreno scored for the Spanish club, taking advantage of a penalty Dinamo received for Theophile's handball.

Dinamo didn't manage to level the result or turnover the game but reduced the loss to the lowest possible outcome. Whether Dinamo is able to come on top against Villareal will be known next Thursday when they visit Villareal in Spain.

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Wednesday, 7 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Decision to Return Child to Biological Family Was Bad"

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday, in a comment on the death of a 2.5-year-old girl caused by domestic violence, that the decision to return the child to its biological family was bad and that those who made it should bear the consequences, noting that social care did not require a separate ministry.

"I don't know why the proposal to separate social care from the 'mega-ministry' is being made," Plenković told reporters in the parliament.

He recalled that in 2013, during the term of the Zoran Milanović government, a case similar to the last one happened in Slavonski Brod, and at the time there was a separate ministry of social care.

When they lack arguments, people make banal, nonsensical statements, Plenković said, adding that Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović was capable of heading the ministry because the ministry had its services, directors, state secretaries and social welfare centres across Croatia.

"In this specific case with a fatal outcome, the assessment and decision to return the little girl to her biological family was a bad one and for that kind of professional mistake responsibility lies with those who make it," he said.

Plenković went on to say that since the case of an incident on Pag Island in 2019, when a father threw his four underage children from the first-storey balcony of his house, a lot had changed in the social care system.

"During the terms of ministers (Nada) Murganić, (Vesna) Bedeković and now Minister Aladrović, we have worked to strengthen the system of social care. We have worked to raise social workers' wages as well as standards of physical and technical security, so now welfare centres have guards," he said.

The government has increased outlays for social care and allowances and it expects the system to function better and to the benefit of children, he said.

Unfortunately, there are problems, there are dysfunctional families, horrible things are done by biological parents but they will all answer for their actions in a legal procedure, Plenković said, adding that he was appalled and extremely saddened by the latest case.

Speaking of illogical provisions in the foster care law, adopted by his government, Plenković said that every legal solution could be improved.

It is important to speed up foster care procedures and that all children who live in environments that are not appropriate and not safe find a safe place to live. We will improve the law. There is always something to improve, he said.

AstraZeneca vaccine

Plenković also talked about a decision the European Medicines Agency is expected to make on the age groups for which the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is acceptable.

He said he would meet today with Health Minister Vili Beroš and the directors of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Croatian agency for medicinal products to discuss the information they had, and that later today Beroš would participate in a video conference of EU health ministers.

"The most important thing is that the member states' ministers of health have a consolidated position, whatever the EMA's recommendation, and that there are no different practices. Different practices undermine the reputation of a vaccine, whatever its quality, which has happened with AstraZeneca from the start, unfortunately."

Plenković said the confusion about that vaccine had resulted in some people refusing it, which was not pleasant either for the company or anyone involved in vaccination.

He also responded to criticism that he had promised that a majority of the Croatian population would be vaccinated by spring yet had now postponed this until July.

He said AstraZeneca had promised to deliver 120 million doses to the EU in the first quarter but delivered 30 million. Croatia was to have received 1.7 million doses by 31 March and vaccinated more than 800,000 people, he added.

Plenković said 600,000 doses had been delivered and that 2.6 million would be by 30 June, adding that the government was working on having other vaccines available in case of more problems with AstraZeneca.

"Had we ordered 100% from each company and paid for 25 million doses, then all questions would have been - whose money are we spending and why are we buying three or four times as many doses as we need?"

He said an unforeseen thing had happened, not with a no-name company but one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Central bank governor, fighter jets, former JANAF CEO's arrest

Asked if he had known about central bank governor Boris Vujčić's correspondence with representatives of the Knighthead fund concerning the Agrokor conglomerate, Plenković said the question should be put to Vujčić.

Speaking of the procurement of fighter jets, he said consultations were under way and that a decision would be made in time. All offers are valid and we'll take some more time to decide, he added.

Asked to comment on the new arrest of Dragan Kovačević, former CEO of the JANAF oil pipeline operator, Plenković said everything about it should be said by the USKOK anti-corruption office and the State Attorney's Office.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

President Zoran Milanović: Social Care Must Be a Separate Department

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that people in charge of the social care system should admit mistakes and take the responsibility for the death of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl caused by domestic violence, adding that there should be a separate government department for social care.

"Yet another tragedy, the death of a girl from Nova Gradiška, caused by domestic violence, has again raised the issue of the efficiency and quality of the social care system in Croatia, in particular care for children," Milanović wrote on Facebook.

He said that this case, for which full responsibility is yet to be established, requires a "serious, systematic and immediate intervention" in the regulation governing social care for those most vulnerable, the children.

"It is questionable whether the present system, which is neglected, can achieve that. The fusion of government departments to give an impression of efficiency has brought about even greater negligence and an absence of supervision from the political, ministerial level," the President said.

He expressed hope that the people in charge of the social care system would have the strength to admit mistakes and take the responsibility, adding that this would be a clear signal that they recognised the problem and wanted to deal with it.

He said that the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy should finally start listening to and respecting the opinions and advice of educated and experienced people in caring for the wellbeing of children. The laws and regulations that will be enacted in the future must give priority to children's safety, Milanović said.

He concluded by saying that he was deeply convinced that social care should be a department unto itself rather than integrated into a "non-functioning mega-ministry" as was now the case.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Action Plan to Restructure, Improve Social Welfare System Announced

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The founder of the #Spasime (Save me) initiative, Jelena Veljača, said on Tuesday it was agreed at today's meeting with Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović that an action plan to restructure and improve the system should be urgently adopted.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Veljača said she was sorry if she had contributed to a campaign against social workers with a recent statement which she said "was prompted by the outcome of the monstrous event in Nova Gradiška."

In a recent Facebook post, she pushed for sacking and revoking the licences of the whole "expert" team from the social welfare centre in Nova Gradiška and establishing if they were criminally accountable for the death of a girl of two and a half who had been severely beaten by her mother.

Veljača said today "we must not ignore problems" and that this case "is not an incident," adding that the initiative had wanted to warn about problematic cases that did not end in death.

She said she was pleased that the initiative had been in dialogue with Minister Aladrović since November and that he had shown the political will and personal desire to improve the social welfare system.

She said child rights must come first, before parental rights. "We agreed that the ministry should draft an action plan to improve the system."

Veljača said decisions must be made within the system and that she hoped someone would be held to account for this "absolutely unnecessary death and that no one will hide behind the system."

#Spasime representatives said it was agreed with Justice Ministry officials that a register of domestic abuse cases should be made that would give access to everyone dealing with the problem - social services, courts and prosecutors.

Last week Aladrović's ministry instructed directors of social welfare centres that in cases of domestic violence, professionals must apply the Istanbul Convention and violence protocols. This means that in evaluating parental competence, a parent's history of violence is taken as an aggravating circumstance and that a child's interest must come before that of parents.

At today's meeting it was also agreed that oversight of social services' actions should be conducted regularly.

Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić of the Justice Ministry said it was agreed to define as a separate crime when an official, through inaction or wrong action, failed to protect a child's rights and this had consequences

"The law already envisages punishing someone who does not execute a decision to protect a child's well-being and rights, but in (the Nova Gradiška case) we don't have failure to execute a decision, but to make it. That would be prosecuted as a separate crime."

The head of the Family and Social Policy Administration, Marija Barilić, said the Family and Social Policy Ministry had begun making analyses of children in foster care and care homes "so that we can see their situation, if they should stay in the system."

Minister Aladrović said the ministry was very determined to change the system and that he was confident the system could be improved through the joint efforts of everyone in society.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Josip Aladrović: "Law Will Be Changed to Facilitate Foster Care"

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The Minister of Family and Social Policy, Josip Aladrović, on Tuesday announced amendments to the Foster Care Act to facilitate foster care for children.

The minister made the announcement after meeting with representatives of the "We Have Something to Tell You" initiative Marta Divjak and Antonija Skender. Divjak and Skender were also received by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Aladrović said that the two representatives presented a good initiative to address several key issues to relax adoption and foster care procedures.

Aladrović said that the duration of adoption or foster care cases showed how difficult it was to adopt or foster a child in Croatia. He said that he would initiate amendments to the 2019 Foster Care Act to promote deinstitutionalisation and make it easier for children staying in care homes to be taken into foster care.

As for the adoption of children by same-sex couples, Aladrović said that this issue would be put to public consultation. "The child's interest comes first and that's how it will be with the social care system."

Aladrović said that the meeting also focused on possible legislative and procedural changes concerning the social care system, as well as future cooperation on legislative amendments and ideas.

Divjak said that she herself had been adopted and her colleague Skender had been raised in a foster family. They had launched this initiative to raise public awareness of problems faced by fostered and adopted children.

Divjak said that they raised nine issues and that Prime Minister Plenković said that Minister Aladrović would take a position on them within the next three weeks. Among the issues raised, she cited the need to speed up the adoption procedure, establish a family court to deal with the interests of children, and promote foster care.

"We are leaving this meeting with a lot of expectations and hope that this will be the first government that will manage to fully reform the social care system," Skender said. 

Speaking of the case of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl from Nova Gradiška who had died from severe head and bodily injuries inflicted by her mother, Skender said that they could not speculate what had gone wrong because they did not have the information on the criteria the biological family had to fulfil.

"It is certainly not encouraging to take a child from a foster family in which it feels good and send it back to the medium-risk biological family," she added.

Aladrović condemned the graffiti on the wall of the Social Welfare Centre in Nova Gradiška calling social workers "murderers". He said that such calls for a lynching were inappropriate and would not help improve the system.

"The system needs reforming, but reforms will not happen by lynching and violence. Reforms will not be successful unless all social stakeholders are satisfied," the minister said.

The adoption support organisation Adopta issued a statement on Tuesday emphasising the need for a comprehensive reform of the social care system that would include regular annual reports on its work, civil oversight and amending the 2015 Family Act.

"Croatia needs a comprehensive reform of the system so that any child without adequate family care can get maximum government support in seeking a family," Adopta said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Croatian Social Workers Association Head: Where is Minister's Responsibility?

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The president of the Croatian Association of Social Workers, Štefica Karačić, asked on Monday where the responsibility of Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović was in the case of the deceased two-and-a-half-year-old girl from Nova Gradiška.

The (local welfare centre's) director was dismissed and then, in a week, it was forgotten that the centre needs other forms of help and support to work in such a complex and difficult area of activity as child protection, Karačić told the Nova TV commercial broadcaster, and she asked why the minister wouldn't also be removed, if the responsibility was hierarchical.

She told Nova TV that the minister had made the same move as the previous one, so "by dismissing the director, he thinks that he has solved all his problems in the social welfare system".

Asked what has changed in the social welfare system after several difficult cases -- of a father who threw four children from the balcony of his house on Pag island and of a beneficiary who killed two of her colleagues in Đakovo, Karačić said that nothing had changed.

"Nothing has changed, the voice of various activists who have an easier and simpler access to policy makers than experts can be heard. We are always under suspicion, we are always the ones responsible. If the director is responsible hierarchically, then I wonder -- where is the minister's responsibility," Karačić asked.

She suggested that before meeting Jelena Veljača and her colleagues from the #spasi me (Save Me) initiative tomorrow, Minister Aladrović should have a look at what she had posted on her profile regarding the social welfare system and that he keep in mind that he is also a part of that system.

Asked whether an inspection has found any irregularities in the work of the centre in Nova Gradiška, she said that she and a colleague had been in the Centre for Social Welfare in Nova Gradiška on Friday and that they had not completed the inspection yet.

"Our preliminary inspection... does not indicate there were gross omissions in the work of the centre. However, I cannot say there weren't any until the procedure is completed," she noted.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

E.ON Buys Gas Distribution Companies from Nova Gradiska and Kutina

ZAGREB, July 9, 2020 - The E.ON Croatia energy company on Thursday acquired two gas distribution and retail companies - Plin-Projekt from Nova Gradiska and Moslavina Plin from Kutina, becoming the third-largest gas distributor in Croatia with 43,000 customers.

With the acquisition of Plin-Projekt and Moslavina Plin, E.ON Croatia has become the 100% owner of another two gas distribution and retail companies with 19,000 customers, the company said in a statement on Thursday without disclosing the value of the transaction.

In recent years, E.ON has taken over two gas companies in Croatia - Koprivnica Plin and Montcogim Plinara. With the latest acquisitions, E.ON has become the largest gas distributor in the country, with 43,000 customers within the 1,650-km gas network.

"We are successfully continuing to achieve our strategy to become one of the leading companies on the Croatian gas distribution market," CEO Karl Kraus said in the statement.

Until this year E.ON Croatia had operated under the name RWE. As a result of the reshuffling of the European energy market, German energy giant E.ON took over RWE's subsidiary Innogy, of which RWE Croatia and its affiliates were part.

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