Friday, 1 April 2022

Opposition Urges VAT, Fuel Excise Tax Cuts, Additional Measures

ZAGREB, 1 April (2022) - Bridge MP Zvonimir Troskot said on Friday the government had not used all the available instruments to cushion the impact of rising prices on citizens' living standards and on businesses or secure energy supply routes, calling for lower VAT and fuel excise taxes and for subsidies for enterprises.

Troskot recalled that Bridge MPs and 16 other MPs had submitted a motion to offer additional short and long-term solutions as, he claimed, the government had not used all the instruments at its disposal.

Asked about a government reshuffle, Bridge MP Nikola Grmoja said he did not want to comment on new candidates for ministerial posts "because it is clear that due to numerous scandals a whole set of government officials are under investigation by independent institutions and the only solution is a new election."

This is not a government reshuffle but an attempt to decriminalise the government, however, such an attempt can never succeed with the HDZ's partners because the ones to be appointed will probably also be compromised, said Grmoja.

Social Democrats expect additional measures for business sector

The Social Democrats group in the parliament today said they expected the government to introduce additional measures to consolidate the economy and help households, noting that a new election would be the best solution.

MP Ivana Posavec Krivec called on PM Andrej Plenković to consider appointing in the coming government reshuffle a minister of transition, noting that Croatia urgently needed transition to renewable energy sources and lower VAT for households and enterprises.

MP Domagoj Hajduković believes Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković should be replaced over inactivity in light of the rising prices.

We still do not know the state of commodity stockpiles and what kind of goods they contain, he said, adding the government had replenished the stockpiles only after the war in Ukraine broke out and prices started to soar.

Prices continue to rise despite cuts of VAT on certain products, he said, noting that unfavourable weather conditions, the rise in prices of mineral fertilisers and large areas of uncultivated land bode a very bad year, he said, fearing Croatia would not be self-sufficient.

MP Matko Kuzmanić warned about the high price of blue-dyed diesel used in fishing and called for subsidies for fishermen.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Opposition MPs Say One More Case in String of Probes in Ministers

ZAGREB, 19 Feb 2022 - Saturday's breaking news about a police investigation in Minister Darko Horvat and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević over alleged abuse of power in grant disbursement prompted Opposition politicians to make immediate comments about the developments on social networks.

Anka Mrak Taritaš of the GLAS party ironically tweeted that "a new curse has appeared: Avoid Anka Mrak-Taritaš-sponsored motions of no confidence!" She thus referred to the fact that the motion of no confidence against Minister Horvat, she tabled in the parliament, would be on the parlaiment's agenda next week.

Bojan Glavašević of the Green-Left parliamentary bloc, also commented that it could be (in)suitable to have that motion of no confidence next week.

According to unofficial information, the probe is about Horvat's alleged abuse of power in the case of awarding grants to businesses when he served as economy minister, while the opposition now demands his resignation over his incompetence in conducting the post-quake reconstruction.

Krešo Beljak of the HSS party said that the news about a minister of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) cabinet being implicated in a scandal is nothing new.

Nikola Grmoja of the Bridge party writes on his Facebook account that Horvat will soon be fired and that the next minister to be fired is (Economy Minister Tomislav) Ćorić "against whom we have initiated a vote of no confidence".

It is high time this corrupt government led by Plenković should be ousted and new elections should be called, Grmoja said.

Dalija Orešković of the Centre party called for timely and effective investigations rather than follow-ups to some old stories.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Opposition Criticises Report on European Council Meetings in 2021

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Opposition MPs on Wednesday criticized a report on European Council meetings in 2021, warning about population problems, the poor status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, higher energy prices, and inflation, while the majority said Croatia's interests were defended well at those meetings.

The report was presented by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Nino Raspudić (Bridge) said the Council of the EU rejected Croatia's amendments on legitimate political representation and the equality of three constituent peoples in BiH through an electoral reform ahead of a vote due in October.

He said that instead of Croatia blocking those conclusions in line with its national interest, the Plenković cabinet "coldly betrayed Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Croatian interest overall."

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said the Council of the EU conclusions were the incumbent government's biggest success. "If anyone has done something for Croats in BiH, then it's Plenković and all of us who were there with him."

Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said that last year the European Council called on the member states and the Commission to help the most vulnerable citizens and companies, to design medium and long-term measures to cut energy prices, and to cut taxes.

"Croatia has done none of that. The only measure was that freezing of fuel prices," he said, adding that Croatia could do a lot to help citizens and businesses.

Grbin said that at the European Council Croatia joined France and some other member states in pushing for nuclear energy, asking why Croatia was not joining countries that pushed for alternative sources. In the long term, he said, Croatia must deal with energy sources and achieving the biggest autonomy possible on that front.

Grbin said the SDP was for Croatia's entering Schengen and for using money from the EU Solidarity Fund for post-earthquake reconstruction.

He called on the government to give an estimate, based on the current inflation, of what awaits Croatia with the introduction of the euro and of how to alleviate the inflation blow to citizens.

Bojan Glavašević (Green-Left Bloc) said Croatia received a lot of money from the EU because it was undeveloped and poor, not because of the prime minister's efforts.

He said the results of Croatia's efforts regarding EU enlargement were such that North Macedonia continued to have a shameful blockade of its accession negotiations, Serbia was adopting laws that were the opposite of the EU acquis and values, and Montenegro was going backward.

The EU has no understanding for BiH and the Croats there nor a big interest in the Croatian government's positions in that regard, Glavašević added.

Marko Pavić of the ruling HDZ said that while Bridge wanted to isolate Croatia in the EU and the Sovereignists were against the euro, even though a majority of citizens were for, the HDZ was pushing for modern sovereignism and not isolating Croatia in the European Council.

He said the government and Plenković knew how to defend Croatia's interests, as evidenced in their ensuring €25 billion from European funds for the country's development over the next ten years.

Croatia came out of the recent crisis in just 18 months, and not in ten years as it took after the 2008 crisis, Pavić said, adding that despite the recent crisis, Croatia's credit rating was upgraded and it had a successful tourist season.

He wondered why Grbin was afraid of nuclear energy and why Croatia, as a co-owner of the Krško nuclear plant, should not be part of the initiative to have nuclear energy recognized as green energy.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Opposition Slams Liberalisation of Tourist Guide Market

ZAGREB, 18 March, 2021 - The parliamentary opposition on Thursday strongly criticised the opening of the domestic labour market to tourist guides from other EU countries, saying they often did not have the required qualifications nor could they do as good a job as domestic guides.

Marin Miletić (Bridge) said a bill of amendments to the law on tourism services would allow foreign guides to present Croatia without sufficient education. "Such a presentation will be superficial and disorganised, and the tourist experience incomplete."

Hrvoje Zekanović (Sovereignists) said what guides said was important but that the way they spoke about a locality, whether it was with love, a stand and empathy, was much more important.

Katica Glamuzina (Social Democrats) said the bill did not take into accounts the remarks made by tourist guides and professionals, while her party colleague Boška Ban Vlahek said it destroyed the profession of Croatia's 5,500 guides.

Mato Franković of the ruling HDZ said that although he felt that Croatia should align with European regulations, the bill was not fully worked out regarding tourist guides.

"It's not unimportant who will guide groups in protected localities and how, nor is it enough to pass an exam in a couple of months and guide, for example, the sightseeing of Dubrovnik," he said, announcing amendments for stricter educational requirements for foreign guides.

Marijana Balić (HDZ) said it was important to prevent a potential misinterpretation of Croatian history and that special attention should be paid to localities of special respect such as Vukovar.

Only guides who pass Croatian language exam at protected localities

Tourism Ministry state secretary Tonči Glavina said only licenced guides who pass a Croatian language exam would be able to work in Croatia's 550-plus protected localities.

"That course will be available only in Croatia and the exam will be only in Croatian in front of a commission including our tourist guides," he said, defending the bill.

He said that guides coming with a group, from Germany for example, would be able to guide the group only in a general public area, talking about Split or Šibenik in general, for example, while only licenced guides would be allowed to work in protected localities.

The only change the bill brings is that foreign guides will not have to pass a special exam for Croatia's 21 counties but for regions, or another model will be used, Glavina said.

About 70 foreign guides stay in Croatia annually and they do so for two to three weeks, he said.

The law on tourism services is being amended due to two violations of EU law regarding package travel and the regulation of the profession of tourist guide.

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

Friday, 5 March 2021

Opposition Turn Away From Parl. Majority for not Supporting Changes to Penal Code

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Opposition MPs on Friday protested by turning away from members of majority lawmakers after the parliament rejected a motion put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to have sexual harassment prosecuted ex officio instead of after it is reported, the deadline for it being three months. 

After the parliament rejected the SDP's amendments to the Penal Code, with 74 votes against, 51 in favour and two abstentions, opposition MPs stood up and turned their backs on the section of the parliament chamber where members of the parliamentary majority sit.

Before the vote, opposition MPs Sabina Glasovac (SDP), Marijana Puljak (Centar), Sandra Benčić (We Can!), Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) and Ružica Vukovac (Homeland Movement) called once again on the parliamentary majority not to "turn their backs on the victims" and to endorse the amendments for the sake of protection of victims of sexual violence.

"The statute of limitations on sexual violence will expire if female students, workers, housewives, all women who suffer sexual violence, fail to report it within three months," said Glasovac.

Puljak said that the parliamentary debate had shown that all 151 deputies were agreed that the victims should be helped, asking what was the harm of amending the law now.

Benčić said that the parliamentary majority's argument that work was underway on a new, more comprehensive law did not hold water.

"The procedure will last for the most part of the year and meanwhile the statute of limitations will expire on all cases of sexual violence about which we have been hearing in recent months," she warned.

"As far as the victims are concerned, it would be better to adopt the amendments now than later," said Selak Raspudić.

This is about whether we will support the victims or the abusers, said Vukovac.

HDZ MP Marija Jelkovac said that the HDZ was not against the goal of the SDP's motion but rather did not want to change the Penal Code twice in a short period of time.

Work on amending the Penal Code is under way and the amendments will cover all demands set by the SDP as well as other changes related to improving the protection of women against sexual harassment, Jelkovac said.

The parliament unanimously adopted, with 114 votes for, a conclusion by party groups making up the parliamentary majority entrusting the government with submitting to the parliament, no later than May 31, amendments to the Penal Code that will be in line with EU regulations and ensure stronger protection of victims of sexual harassment, by introducing ex-officio prosecution of such crimes.

Bošnjaković reassures opposition MPs that SDP Proposal will be added to amendments

HDZ lawmaker and former justice minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Friday afternoon that the SDP-sponsored motion would be incorporated later, explaining that the relevant law is organic and it is not advisable to change it too frequently.

He also underscored the fact that the cabinet of Prime Minister Andrej had introduced harsher  penalties for sexual offences.

He also reassured the Opposition that he statute of limitations would not expire, as claimed by some opposition MPs.

The parliament did not support the Bridge party's proposal to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Opposition Says Agricultural Production in Ruin

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - During Thursday's debate on amendments to the Agriculture Act, the parliamentary opposition said Croatia's agriculture was collapsing due to poor policies, while Minister Marija Vučković dismissed such claims and said that agricultural production was growing.

Željko Lenart (HSS-HSU) said 33,000 hectares of valuable farmland from the former Agrokor conglomerate was now owned by the foreign Fortenova and that pig farming and milk production were collapsing.

He said the Farmland Act was not being honoured, that a stay on the sale of farmland to foreigners would soon end, and that the smallest farmers were being destroyed because only 6.5% of the biggest producers received the bulk of the aid.

Mišel Jakšić (Social Democrats) said the state of agriculture showed that the policies to date had not produced results because import was high and there was no self-sufficiency despite the potential.

Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) said 88 million tonnes a year was thrown away due to expiration dates and pushed for donating food to the needy and establishing a food bank.

Vučković said cereal production and cattle-framing were up and that food donations had gone up 13%, adding that it was necessary to reduce food waste.

Marijana Petir (ruling HDZ) pushed for regulating the aid system to facilitate the development of small and medium farmers. She announced a call for applications for HRK 120 million to help farmers in earthquake-hit areas.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Opposition Welcomes Changes to Parliament's Rules of Procedure

ZAGREB, November 6, 2020 - The Opposition in the parliament on Friday welcomed changes to the parliament's rules of procedure enabling, in the current epidemic, all MPs to participate in parliament sessions by sitting in several halls and following sessions via video link.

The chair of the parliamentary committee on the constitution, rules of procedure and political system, Drazen Bosnjakovic, said that the changes were in line with a Constitutional Court decision, making sure MPs were not denied the right to participate in debates.

The changes also enable the parliament speaker to authorise an MP to chair over sessions if he and all his deputies end up in self-isolation.

Vesna Nadj of the Social Democratic Party welcomed the changes, stressing that the freedom of speech was at the core of democracy.

Hrvoje Zekanovic of the Croatian Sovereignists supported the changes as well, stressing that the parliament was a place of political battle and the most important political body.

Ljubica Vukovic of the Homeland Movement agreed with the need to make adjustments due to the coronavirus epidemic but objected that party whips could speak on behalf of their parties 10 instead of 15 minutes while individual addresses would last five instead of 10 minutes.

Tomislav Tomasevic of the We Can! party proposed gradually filling more parliamentary chambers with MPs to more rationally use the parliament's resources and that sessions of parliamentary committees as well as thematic sessions be held online.

Dalija Oreskovic (SSIP, Pametno, GLAS) proposed that the decision on the expiry of the special work regime of the parliament be made by the parliament and not its presidency and that the duration of the special regime be limited to six months and prolonged if necessary.

Marija Jelkovac of the ruling HDZ party said that considering the current extraordinary circumstances, the measures taken so far had not been aimed at restricting the freedom of speech but protecting MPs' health.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Opposition Set to Call for Inquiry Commission into Prosecutor's Office

ZAGREB, Sept 23, 2020 - After a meeting of left and right opposition parties regarding the launching of an inquiry commission into the work of the DORH state prosecutor's office on Wednesday, MP Nikola Grmoja (Bridge) said that the opposition would work together for a parliamentary inquiry commission to be established. 

Each opposition caucus will propose one MP and someone from the relevant expert services to prepare that framework, Grmoja, who initiated the idea, told reporters, adding that the commission would investigate the influence of politics and the executive government on the work of independent institutions.

"Our aim is find out what influence the executive government, primarily the prime minister and ministers, have on DORH and the police. The investigation we plan to conduct through the parliamentary inquiry commission will not exclude other stakeholders either, we do not intend to spare anyone," said Grmoja.

The entire Opposition has agreed and there are also those statement by President (Zoran Milanovic) who claims that he knew everything about investigations while he was prime minister, and that needs to be investigated too, the Bridge party's official said.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) whip Arsen Bauk said that his party will in principle support the idea to determine how information is being leaked from independent institutions.

He could not go into any more detail, saying that more will be said when the material is prepared to be submitted to the Sabor.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Sabor on Wednesday Debated a Bill on Workers Posted to Croatia

ZAGREB, Sept 9, 2020 - Lawmakers on Wednesday debated a bill on workers posted to Croatia as well as the implementation of a cross-border agreement on money fines in an attempt to protect their rights, and the Opposition also warned about the status of Croatian workers and that Croatia does not have a sensible industrial policy.

The bill refers to workers who are deployed by a foreign employer to temporarily work in Croatia, which is not their usual place of work, and the proposed bill on workers is being aligned with European legislation.

Davorko Vidovic (SDP bench) welcomed the implementation of EU legislation into Croatian law "because that protects workers and expands the convergence of labor and social rights, it ensures more order and introduces very concrete penalties in cases of abuse."

A Croatian worker in Germany should have at least the minimum rights of local workers, said Vidovic, noting that Croatia has very few workers posted from the European Union.

Sandra Bencic (Left-Green coalition) warned about the non-payment of overtime, the inability to use days-off, or the right to enforce dues from employers. We advocate the development of a sensible industrial policy that Croatia does not have, she claimed. "We do not have enough quality jobs in Croatia."

Bulj: Labor relations in Croatia completely destroyed 

Miro Bulj (Bridge) claimed that workers in Croatia have been completely destroyed yet it is the worker who creates. Responding to criticism by former labor minister Marko Pavic that he was talking out of context, Bulj said that he advocates protecting workers' rights, and added that Pavic is "known as a traveling salesman of expensive perfumes and wines at the ministry's expense" and that he entered parliament with only 200 preferential votes, which speaks for itself what sort of minister he was.

The bill regulates working conditions and rights that are more favorable and provides greater rights for posted workers deployed to Croatia for a longer period of time.

The bill also regulates wage issues for posted workers as well as defining accommodation and costs of a worker's mobility while posted in Croatia as well as the possibility of extending the period a worker can remain in Croatia.

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Thursday, 3 September 2020

Opposition Criticises Bill on Aliens

ZAGREB, September 3, 2020 - Part of the parliamentary opposition on Wednesday strongly criticised the aliens bill, under which an annual quota for the employment of foreigners will no longer be determined.

"We are passing a crucial law that will determine the demographic future of Croatia at an extraordinary session, during the coronavirus crisis, amid unfavourable demographic trends," said Miroslav Skoro, leader of the Homeland Movement, noting that the bill had not received support from the Domestic Policy and National Security Committee.

Zeljko Sacic (Sovereignists) said that such situations were rare in the parliament and that the the bill should be withdrawn due to its deficiencies or discussed.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic said the fact that the bill had not received support from the Committee did not mean it could not be discussed.

"It is the plenary session that decides whether the bill will be passed or not," he said.

Ahead of the discussion on the bill, Miro Bulj (Bridge) warned about worrying demographic trends in Croatia and noted that the number of work permits issued to foreigners rose from 9,000 in 2017 to as many as 108,000 this year.

"... we are heading towards a total demographic collapse, there will be no more Croats in Croatia," he said.

Marijana Puljak (Pametno) said that almost 10 percent of the working-age population had left Croatia, and that according to data by the national statistical office (DZS), 40,000 people emigrated last year and a record 37,000 immigrated, of whom only 9,000 were Croatian citizens.

She noted that there was a lack of quality labour and that one should not make employment procedures more complex for employers. If we make procedures for the issuance of work permits more complicated, it will affect the business sector, Puljak said. 

Under the aliens bill, which is in its first reading, there is no longer an annual quota for the employment of foreigners and employers in search of workforce can contact the Croatian Employment Service, which will issue an opinion on the employment of foreigners.


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