Saturday, 5 February 2022

Conflict of Interest Commission Looking Into Parliament Speaker Jandroković

ZAGREB, 5 Feb 2022 - The chair of the Conflict of Interest Commission, Nataša Novaković, said on Friday they were looking into media reports concerning Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

"The Commission is investigating facts concerning Mr Jandroković, and that's all I can say. I can't go into details. We are focusing on everything that has been published in the media, the relevance and truthfulness of those reports," Novaković told Nova TV.

The Commission is investigating the link between Jandroković and businessman Vedran Gajski. Jandroković has confirmed that Gajski contacted him because he was paying rent to the Državne Nekretnine state property management company for business premises that were not connected to the power grid and that Gajski then contacted the then state secretary in charge of state property, Krunoslav Katičić, and informed him of the problem.

Novaković said that the Commission is also gathering facts regarding the case of the prime minister's chief of staff Zvonimir Frka Petešić, after which they will decide on further steps.

The Commission is also looking into the case of Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

Nova TV said that Vanja Bilić, former assistant justice minister in the government of Zoran Milanović, had used a state-owned apartment even though he had a permanent address in Zagreb at the time.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

Committee on Constitution Distributes HRK 54.9m Among Parties and Independent MPs

ZAGREB, 30 Jan 2022 - The Croatian Parliament's Committee on the Constitution and Rules of Procedure have decided on the distribution of HRK 54.9 million (€7.32m) for the work of political parties and independent members of Parliament, as provided for in this year's budget.

The money will be divided according to election results, and the parties will receive HRK 352,351 per male MP and 387,587 per female MP due to their underrepresentation.

The largest amount of HRK 22.4 million will be distributed to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which has 45 male and 16 female lawmakers in the present 151-seat parliament. 

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has 19 male and 15 female MPs and will receive HRK 12.5 million, while the Homeland Movement (DP) will get HRK 3.9 million for eight male and three female MPs. This is despite the fact that 18 lawmakers who were expelled from the SDP have since formed the Social Democrats group, while the DP has been left without their founder, Miroslav Škoro.

Bridge, with seven male MPs and one female, will receive HRK 2.8 million. HRK 1.8 million will go to the We Can! platform (3 male and 2 female MPs), HRK 1.1 million to the Independent Democratic Serb Party (1 male and 2 female MPs), and HRK 1.09 million to the Istrian Democratic Party (2 male and 1 female MPs).

The Croatian Social Liberal Party, Croatian Peasant Party and Croatian Conservative Party have two MPs each and will receive HRK 704,000 per party.

The New Left, the Workers Front, the Civic and Liberal Alliance (GLAS), the Party with a First and Last Name, Centre, and the Reformists each have one female MP and will each receive HRK 387,587. The same amount will also go to independent Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj.

The HRK 54.9 million will be paid out quarterly in equal amounts into the bank accounts of the political parties and independent MPs.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

HANFA Head: 1,188 Accounts of Former, Current HNB Employees Being Checked

ZAGREB, 27 Jan 2022 - The HANFA regulator is checking the accounts of 725 current and 463 former employees of the central bank as well as other available accounts, with 529 transfers involving 26,940 stocks of credit institutions having been determined for 58 of the 1,188 former and current employees.

This was stated on Thursday by the head of the Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (HANFA), Ante Žigman, at a thematic session of the parliament's Finance and State Budget Committee, entitled "HNB employees' trading in securities of banks supervised by the central bank", which was also attended by Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić and his deputy Sandra Švaljek.

Žigman said that those transfers, registered by the Croatian depository agency SKDD, did not mean that all those stocks were traded but rather that the SKDD registered any change to the legal status of a transaction, such as transfer from one broker to another.

"That should be underlined, so that one does not think that all those stocks were traded," he said.

On 10 January, the Index news portal said that in the past 20 years more than 40 HNB employees had traded in the securities of banks supervised by the HNB, with more than 400 transactions worth more than HRK 10 million having been registered.

After that, on 12 January, HANFA launched an inspection to determine if HNB employees had violated the Market Abuse Regulation and the Capital Market Act, and if they had traded in banks' securities based on insider information.

HANFA said at the time that violation of the HNB Act and HNB's internal rules by HNB employees by trading in credit institutions' securities does not necessarily constitute market abuse in the sense of the Capital Market Act and Market Abuse Regulation.

As for possible violation of the HNB Act and HNB's internal rules, HANFA does not have the authority to launch an inspection, the agency said at the time.

Vujčić: No indication of insider trading

HNB Governor Vujčić said in his introductory address today that the HNB does not have indications that its employees had traded in securities based on insider information, which is a criminal offence, but he recalled having called on HANFA to investigate the matter and also having asked for internal checks to be made for 41 persons.

An internal inspection is currently under way into 31 persons, but it is not as nearly as thorough as inspections by HANFA because the HNB does not have access to SKDD data, said Vujčić.

On the other hand, five HNB employees who hold stocks and are not among the 41 employees have also come forward, Vujčić said.

There is no legal ban on holding bonds, says Švaljek

The current deputy governor, Sandra Švaljek, was in 2012 an external member of the HNB Council and at the time she invested in the Erste Bank corporate bonds. She said at today's session that neither at that time nor currently there were any legal restrictions for the Council's members to hold bonds.

Švaljek said there was a significant difference between shares and bonds and that possessing bonds has the nature of saving, explaining that she had not traded in those bonds but held them until their maturity, and that the yield earned had been defined in the relevant prospectus.

Švaljek said that she had been informed by her personal banker about the possibility of purchasing those bonds, and emphasised that the HNB Council had never discussed such matters.

"I am confident that this case has nothing to do with market manipulation regarding the bonds that I used to hold at the time when I was not employed in the HNB."

Responding to media claims about possible wrongdoing, the central bank said recently that Vujčić bought stocks of Riječka Banka and Zagrebačka Banka in the 1990s, when he was still not HNB vice governor or HNB Council member, and when the HNB Act did not forbid the HNB governor and HNB Council members to own stocks of the banks supervised by the HNB.

The HNB emphasised that it was the new HNB leadership that in 2000 initiated changes to the HNB Act which forbid the governor, HNB Council members and HNB executive directors to own stocks and shares in banks supervised by the HNB. Vujčić thus sold his stocks of Erste&Steiermärkische Bank, which in the meantime bought Riječka Banka, and of Zagrebačka Banka, in March 2001, a month before the entry into force of the HNB Act, which was reported by the media at the time.

Švaljek, who between 2000 and 2013 was an external member of the HNB Council, bought corporate bonds of Erste&Steiermärkische Bank on 23 November 2012 and held them until their maturity in 2017.

"As already stated, there is no legal restriction that would forbid a member of the HNB Council to own bonds of legal persons to which the HNB issues operating licences or whose operations it oversees," the HNB said, adding that Švaljek did not violate any legal regulations.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Croatian Parliament Pays Tribute to Holocaust Victims

ZAGREB, 27 Jan 2022 - The Croatian Parliament started its session on Thursday with a minute of silence for Holocaust victims, with Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković saying that the Holocaust had begun with hate speech and ended in acts of evil.

"The Holocaust is an eternal reminder of what kind of evil may result from xenophobia and racism," Jandroković said in his address for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on 27 January.

On 27 January 1945, the Red Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, the infamous symbol of the Holocaust and genocide of six million Jews in the Second World War.

"Monstrous crimes were committed in Auschwitz, which has remained a lasting symbol of places where people were systematically tortured and brutally killed just because they belonged to a particular ethnic group," Jandroković said.

He recalled the Jasenovac camp in Croatia where members of the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime had killed Jews, Roma, Serbs and Croats.

"Today we also remember the victims of other genocides and unspeakable crimes. We remember Vukovar, Škabrnja, Srebrenica and other places where innocent people were killed" during the wars of the 1990s, Jandroković said.

He also recalled that during the dark times of the Holocaust there had been people who had risked their own lives to save others.  Among them were 120 people from Croatia who have been named Righteous among the Nations, he added.

Jandroković said that the theme of this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day was "remembrance, dignity and justice", underlining the importance of showing respect for the victims, safeguarding the historical facts and fighting against their distortion.

"These are the preconditions to ensure that justice is served and to prevent a repetition of such crimes in the future. The Holocaust is an eternal reminder of what kind of evil may result from xenophobia and racism," Jandroković said.

He said that the present, fast-changing world is facing a pandemic, natural disasters and an economic crisis, along with the increase in fake news, misinformation, hate speech, xenophobia, racism and intolerance on social networks. "That is contrary to the values of peace and freedom, inviolability of human dignity, equality and respect for human and minority rights."

Jandroković said that the messages for International Holocaust Remembrance Day remind us that we can overcome hatred and evil through individual and collective efforts and remain committed to safeguarding the historical truths and the dignity of every person. He stressed the importance of fostering the culture of remembrance and spreading messages of peace, solidarity and acceptance of others.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Sabor Supports Scheme of Incentives for Adult Education

ZAGREB, 10 Dec 2021 - Lawmakers on Friday supported the better regulation of  adult education and life-long learning, expressing hope that new act under which vouchers to finance adult education and training will be introduced, will encourage adult education and retraining.

The 2030 target is to reach the EU average of 10.8% adult population covered by education, while Croatia's average is now 3.5% Science and Education Ministry's State Secretary, Tomislav Paljak told the parliament.

The bill has been proposed so that every adult citizen in the country can have access to education and retraining that will provide them with a better position on the labour market and consequently better social status, underscored Paljak.

One of the novelties in the bill is the introduction of vouchers to finance adult education and HRK 300 million has been earmarked for this scheme that will encompass about 30,000 beneficiaries by 2026. The vouchers can be used for all education levels of both employed and unemployed people, he explained.

Independent MP Marijana Petir asked if the measure would be available for residents in rural areas, with Paljak saying that that would be a difficult challenge but he believes, once the campaign starts it will reach everyone.

Dragana Jeckov (SDSS) said that there are about 600 institutions providing adult education with about 11,000 different programmes but they are obviously not achieving their set objectives. The labour market is yearning for certain occupations yet at the same time we have a lot of unemployed people.

The bill also regulates the obligation for permanent adaptation of adult education programmes in order to address the needs of the labour market and to monitor the quality of implementing programmes.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 3 December 2021

MPs to Fast-Track Fines for Flouting COVID Certificate Mandate

ZAGREB, 3 Dec 2021- The Croatian Parliament on Friday added 19 items to its agenda, including amendments that would impose fines of up to HRK 50,000 on responsible persons in public bodies who fail to comply with the COVID certificate mandate.

Parliament will fast-track the amendments to the law protecting the population from infectious diseases, despite objections from the opposition Green-Left Bloc, whose Sandra Benčić requested that a two-thirds majority be required to change the law.

However, 77 MPs voted for fast-tracking, while 45 were against.

MPs will also fast-track amendments to the Criminal Code and the Civil Protection System Act.

Parliament is due to wrap up its autumn session on 15 December and there are more than 130 items on the agenda left.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated politics page.

Friday, 29 October 2021

Parliament Amends Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Law

ZAGREB, 29 Oct 2021 - The Croatian parliament amended the Reconstruction Act on Friday, paving the way for simplifying and speeding up the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb and surrounding counties and removing the bottlenecks that have emerged in the reconstruction process.

The amendments were passed by 76 votes in favour, 7 against and 35 abstentions.

As a result, citizens will no longer be required to cover 20% of the cost of structural reconstruction. In Zagreb, the government will cover 80% of the cost and the City 20%, while in the Banovina region, the cost will be fully covered by the government.

It will no longer be necessary to establish property rights which have until now hampered the reconstruction process, and the ban on disposal of rebuilt property and the obligation to register a lien on the property were revoked.

Public procurement procedures will be accelerated and rules will be adopted on the procurement of goods, services and works whose estimated value is lower than EU limits.

It will be easier to demolish buildings and build new apartment buildings.

Owners of damaged blocks of flats, commercial buildings and family homes will be allowed to perform structural reconstruction work on their own while adhering to the law regulating physical planning and construction. They will then be compensated for the eligible costs of the reconstruction.

Owners will also be able to conduct retrofitting above the level of technical regulations as well as integral reconstruction and then claim financial compensation for eligible costs.

All land title applications for properties damaged in the earthquakes will be processed on fast track.

Opposition: Some solutions are good, some problems remain 

The opposition said that some improvements have been made, that some problems remain.

The dispute between the Construction Ministry and the Reconstruction Fund, namely between  Minister Darko Horvat and Damir Vanđelić, is continuing and it is directly delaying reconstruction, said Peđa Grbin (SDP).

The limits for public procurement have been raised while finance for public buildings has been abolished, which is alarming, added Grbin.

MP Sandra Benčić (Green-Left Bloc) admitted that the amendments added some improvements, but questioned the fact that local government was not allowed to finance reconstruction by taking loans and there were no incentives for self-reconstruction. The greatest risk remains in the area of public procurement, she said.

MP Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge), said that earthquake damage is estimated at HRK 128 billion, yet only three percent of applications have been resolved.

The Sabor did not uphold a conclusion by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) group which would oblige the government to report to the Sabor every six months on the effects of the post-earthquake reconstruction law.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Independent MP Collects 34 Signatures for No-Confidence Motion Against FinMin

ZAGREB, 15 Oct 2021 - Independent member of parliament Karolina Vidović Krišto said on Friday she had collected signatures of 34 lawmakers for her initiative to launch a no-confidence vote in Finance Minister Zdravko Marić because he had stayed on a yacht owned by a private businessman this summer.

Vidović-Krišto said that she was glad that the initiative was supported by 34 MPs from different ideological groups.

"This is great news for citizens, as the MPs have overcome their partisan frameworks and are fighting for the common good, and that is the fight against corruption," she told a news conference in the parliament.

She said that when it came to the Opposition, only lawmakers from the We Can party and the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) had not signed her petition.

Vidović Krišto accused Marić of serving "the interests of power centres" rather than working for the benefit of Croatian citizens.

The case of Marić staying on a yacht of a businessman grabbed the limelight in mid-August after some media outlets started speculating whether the minister's short travel on a private yacht constituted a conflict of interest.

The minister said then that the yacht was owned by his friend Blaž Pavičić and that Pavičić had not used any tax breaks or a loan from the Croatian development bank (HBOR) and that he had no tax debt written off during Marić's ministerial term.

During today's news conference, Vidović Krišto accused Marić of lying that the businessman concerned had no business deals with the Croatian state.

She criticised Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for his failure to sack Marić over this case, and accused the prime minister of ignoring the Croatian laws, obstructing the Croatian institutions and disenfranchising the Croatians.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.


Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Gordan Maras' Post-Political Life: From Politics to Business

September 29, 2021 - Gordan Maras' post-political life sees the former economy minister and MP going into private business.

Croats often discuss politics, whether on social media or in bars over coffee or something stronger. As such, one could say they love politics but despise politicians.

If you regularly read TCN's political section, you can see why. Numerous instances of corruption among political elites or an inadequate bureaucratic system are just the tip of the iceberg. Add-in politicians (for a year, most notably President Zoran Milanović and Prime minister Andrej Plenković) spending more time insulting each other than dealing with the many problems Croatian people have, and you can really understand the constant trash-talking about politicians that Croats almost constantly do.

Some Croatian politicians, such as the late Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, despite heavy criticism, remain in power till the end of their lives. In contrast, others, such as former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, eventually retire from politics (and then spend time writing for TCN, no less).

One such politician who recently said goodbye to politics is Gordan Maras.

Many Croatian media outlets, such as reported on Maras's social media post that his 20-year-old long political career doesn't mean the end of his working days.

After briefly being unemployed, Gordan Maras came with a business plan and became an entrepreneur. More precisely, he will be a consultant for European Funds, as well as a project financing advisor. Basically, if you have an idea to start a business, but you don't know how to start it, Maras is now the guy to talk to.

''I feel full of energy, thirsty to work and aware that I have a fresh start in front of me and I'll do everything I can to use this opportunity,'' Maras said, as noted by

In general, apart from receiving edgy humour and cynicism at your expense from the public, the end of a political career may not be so bad after all. If your political endeavor brought you to parliamentary level politics, you're in line to receive a parliamentary pension. As writes, a parliamentary pension is 10,077 kuna, allowing for a more than pleasant life.

''If an MP has held office for three consecutive years, in each term longer than half, he may retire with 15 years of service. His pension is 55 percent of his base salary (parliamentary net salary), increased by two percent per year of service,'' informs when stating the conditions you need to satisfy for a Croatian parliamentary pension.

Gordan Maras, having been an MP from 2007 and economy minister from 2011 to 2016, certainly has the right to this luxurious pension. Not to mention the fact that his last job was being the head of Zagreb's local SDP branch.

Maras stated how ''a parliamentary pension was never an option'' and despite corruption scandals he was allegedly involved in, that is a praiseworthy decision on his part. But the downside is that he still received state aid for his new private business adventure. Let's just hope he will pay his taxes.

Gordan Maras's career change is followed by the tensions in the Croatian Socialdemocratic party (SDP) after new party president Peđa Grbin removed Maras and three other (in)famous party members: Rajko Ostojić, Zvane Brumnić, and Nikša Vukas. As TCN reported, this decision caused an unbelievable tremble within SDP, the second biggest political force in all of Croatia.

Despite the current president Zoran Milanović (who is also the former prime minister and the head of the government which had Maras as a minister) starting his career in SDP, the party hasn't won any parliamentary elections since 2015. Grbin hoped to improve SDP's rating by removing those associated with ''less than top quality'' political work (or alleged criminal affairs) in the past from the party. He also believes these individuals are the result of less than satisfactory election results with Rijeka being the only big city an with SDP mayor.

With Maras now retired, new faces came to the parliament. From the green-left Možemo! Party (currently ruling Zagreb) or the Centre-party Fokus (who earned their name in handling Sveta Nedelja ) to conservative star Marin Miletić from the Most party. With new names for every political preference, there may be a glimmer of hope that these new names will work honorably and convince Croats that politicians aren't so bad after all. Who knows, maybe the millionth time's a charm?

Learn more about Croatian politics and history from the 1990s on our TC page.

For more news from SDP Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Parliament Observes Minute's Silence For Women Victims of Violence

ZAGREB, 22 Sept, 2021 - The Croatian parliament on Wednesday observed a minute's silence for all women victims of violence on the National Day of combating violence against women.

"On this day we also remember all the other women who lost their lives due to violence," Speaker Gordan Jandroković said, recalling that parliament declared 22 September National Day of combating violence against women after the murders which took place on this day in 1999.

On 22 September 1999, during a divorce hearing at the Zagreb Municipal Court, Mato Oraškić killed his wife Gordana, her attorney Hajra Prohić and judge Ljiljana Hvalec as well as wounding court reporter Sanja Cvetković.

By observing this day, we wish to additionally raise public awareness, point to this social problem and send a clear message about zero tolerance to violence and about the importance of protecting victims and punishing perpetrators, said Jandroković.

Special emphasis should be put on recognising and reporting violence, he added.

The crime of 22 September 1999 permanently obliges us to be loud in condemning violence and leaving a more tolerant society to younger generations, said Ljubica Maksimčuk of the ruling HDZ, adding that violence against women and girls was one of the most widespread forms of violence in the world, often going unreported.

This government is resolute in the fight against all forms of violence, she said, underlining the importance of education and prevention from the earliest age.

Ivana Posavec Krivec of the opposition SDP said the aim of observing this day must be to raise public awareness of the problem of violence and to send the message about zero tolerance.

It would be good if we introduced civic education, teaching from the earliest age that violence cannot be tolerated, she added.

Nothing is more pathetic than when a man hits a woman, than a man who commits any violence against a woman, said Marin Miletić of the opposition Most.

Violence against women is present in all societies and the low number of reports is a special problem, for which there are many reasons, he added.

Sexual violence is one of the least reported crimes and there are 15 to 20 unreported rapes to every reported one, he said.

Hrvoje Zekanović of the opposition Sovereignists said Croatia adopted the Istanbul Convention in April 2018, when Prime Minister Andrej Plenković assured that domestic and violence against women would go down.

"However, he lied, it hasn't decreased but has even increased," he said, adding that the convention was about something else, not protection from violence.

"The human species is divided into two sexes, male and female, and it is not divided into two genders. Gender is something fluid, subject to change when it crosses your mind. That's what the Istanbul Convention is about," he said.

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

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