Friday, 29 January 2021

No Voting in Parliament Due to Lack of Quorum

ZAGREB, 29 January, 2021 - Due to the lack of quorum in parliament on Friday the usual voting on discussed items was postponed, including on amendments to legislation related to post-earthquake reconstruction, the declaration of an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Adratic and so on.

Voting is postponed until conditions allow and that won't be today, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic said after establishing that conditions to conduct voting did not exist as only 75 MPs were present instead of the necessary 76.

Prior to that, MP Zvonimir Troskot (MOST) called out Jandroković for allowing the parliament to turn into a circus because he did not allow voting on MOST's motion to abolish the mandatory membership fee paid by members of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), thus reducing the burden on entrepreneurs.

"We did everything according to the relevant procedure but you put the debate on our motion on the agenda late last night," Troskot said, accusing Jandroković of not allowing the vote on his party's bill.

Jandroković denied the claims, reiterating that the bill would be put to the vote after party groups making up the parliamentary majority completed their consultations on the matter.

Earlier Jandroković underlined that it was the Speaker who decided on the agenda and voting.

The item regarding amendments to the HGK Act was put on the agenda after a long debate on the National Development Strategy, Jandroković told Troskot.

Monday, 14 December 2020

MPs: Completion of Corridor Vc Motorway Important for East Croatia

ZAGREB, Dec 14, 2020 - Members of parliament on Monday backed a loan for the completion of the motorway to the border with Hungary within the pan-European Corridor Vc, stressing that this is an important project for the development of eastern Croatia.

The parliament is expected to ratify the state guarantee agreement between Croatia and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for financing a portion of the project for the completion of the said motorway.

That is a priority project important for the development and progress of Slavonia and Baranja, and it is also important for the port of Ploce which will become an EU port of entry, HDZ MPs Branko Bacic and Ivan Radic said during the discussion.

SDP MP Domagoj Hajdukovic agreed with them, underscoring that the port of Ploce would gain in importance and be connected with Budapest and the rest of Europe.

The €55 million loan will be used to complete the construction of a 17.5-km-long section between Halasica Bridge and Beli Manastir and a 5-km-long stretch between Beli Manastir and the Hungarian border.

The loan agreement is repayable over 15 years, including a 3-year grace period, at a variable interest rate of six-month Euribor plus a spread of 1%.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Parliament Debates Bill Regulating Residence Registration for UK Nationals

ZAGREB, Dec 11, 2020 - In a brief debate at the end of the working week on Friday, Croatian MPs endorsed amendments that regulate the registration of residence for UK nationals due to the country's exit from the EU.

The bill on nationals of the European Economic Area member-countries and their family members regulates procedures to apply for temporary/permanent residence for UK citizens and their families and related matters, said Zarko Katic, a state secretary at the Ministry of the Interior.

According to the ministry's data, on 10 December 1,133 UK nationals were living in Croatia, of whom 773 had temporary residence and 360 permanent.

The deadline to regulate one's residence status is 30 June 2021 and temporary residence permits will be issued as they are issued for third-country nationals, Katic said.

Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said during the debate that Brexit had occurred because Brits were dissatisfied with the functioning of EU institutions, could not accept the erosion of their sovereignty and had noticed that the European project had diverged towards centralisation of powers.

"Even in the pandemic Brexit has had its advantages, they are getting vaccinated first and are not waiting for decisions of the regulatory bodies in Brussels," said Bartulica.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Government: St Mark's Square Designated a Guarded Area

ZAGREB, November 26, 2020 - The government on Thursday amended the decree on designation of protected persons and buildings, designating St Mark's Square, the location of the buildings housing the government offices, parliament and the Constitutional Court, as a category 1 guarded area.

The amendment came after a 12 October shooting incident in which a police officer guarding the entrance to the government building was shot and wounded and the perpetrator later committed suicide.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said that the designation of the area as a guarded area created the legal grounds for stepping up security measures in order to reduce the possibilities of direct access and undermining the safety and security of the persons and buildings concerned.

He said that the rights to public assembly and peaceful protests would not be restricted and would be in compliance with the relevant legislation.

Access and movement for all persons, employees, office-holders, lawmakers, Constitutional Court judges, people living in the buildings in the square, worshippers visiting St Mark's Church and participants in public rallies will not be restricted.

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.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Opposition Supports New Measures in Parliament But is Critical Too

ZAGREB, September 1, 2020 - Parliamentary party whips, both right and left wing, said on Tuesday they would honour the obligations regarding wearing masks in parliament, remote voting and a reduced number of MPs in the chamber, although some criticised how decisions were made.

Deputy Speaker and Homeland Movement president Miroslav Skoro told press that parliament's presidency "unanimously decided to introduce the obligation to wear masks during sittings at the advice of all experts, epidemiologists."

Asked what would happen if Homeland Movement MP Karolina Vidovic Kristo continued to refuse to wear a mask, Skoro said that if someone disregarded the obligation, "they will be removed from the sitting."

As for electronic voting, he said that since a number of MPs might end up in self-isolation, the functioning of parliament must be ensured.


Petrov: Bridge called for electronic voting six months ago

Bridge leader Bozo Petrov said he asked for electronic voting six months ago as well as for all parliamentary work to be possible online so that all MPs could participate in it.

That should be ensured for those who can't be in parliament because they are ill, though not just for voting but for debates too, he added.

"It makes no sense for parliament to change its Standing Orders, which are at the level of a law, according to measures proposed by the national COVID response team which have not been adopted in any way, nor did the team come to parliament to explain on the basis of which decisions, information and views it is adopting such measures."

A body created by the government is adopting measures which are not included in a law and then parliament, which should be a legislative body independent of the government, adopts those measures as a law under which we should all behave, Petrov said.

The way in which COVID measures are being adopted recalls "the dictatorship Croatia went through," he said. That's crazy and everyone should have the right to ask why and receive a well-argued response, not 'because I say so,' he added.

Petrov said the team should have come to parliament to explain why masks must be mandatory in a well-argued and scientific way, not provisorily and arbitrarily, and asked for MPs' confirmation.


Tomasevic: We support presidency's measures

The leader of the We Can! platform, Tomislav Tomasevic, said his parliamentary group supported the measures established by parliament's presidency, including the obligation for MPs to wear masks.

He added, however, that a political debate on the legal aspect of the COVID response team's decisions which restricted human rights was legitimate.

Social Democratic Party whip Arsen Bauk said their group had no problem with the obligation to wear masks in parliament, remote voting or the reduced number of MPs in the chamber due to COVID measures.


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Monday, 24 August 2020

Pensioners Call on Government To Restore Work Of National Council For Pensioners

ZAGREB, Aug 24, 2020 - The MUH pensioners association ad the Croatian Pensioners Union (SUH) on Monday called on the government to urgently restore the work of the National Council for Pensioners and the Elderly so that dialogue on problems faced by needy pensioners could continue.

"Dealing with the problem of a growing number of poor pensioners cannot be postponed because MUH and SUH consider it a priority issue. We propose that a more favorable formula be defined to adjust pensions in order to prevent a drastic drop of the average pension in relation to the average wage in Croatia, as the average pension now accounts for only 37.9% of the average wage," the two organizations said in an open letter to the government.

They warn that the at-risk-of-poverty threshold in Croatia is HRK 2,710. Since the average pension amounts to only HRK 2,525, that shows that most pensioners already live below the poverty line, the two organizations said.

More than 703,000 or 61% of all pensioners, not including those who have acquired their pensions in line with special rules and privileges, have pension allowances that are below the poverty line. "Every retired single, and those are mostly women, with a pension of below HRK 2,710, is officially a poor person," the two organizations say.

They recall that under a plan adopted by the parliament, pensions in the next four-year term would be increased by 10%, which would make the average pension rise to only HRK 2,777 in four years' time, and this would make the difference between the average pension and the average wage amount to HRK 4,823.

"The latest figures on pension indexation of a mere 1.41% make it clear that it will be difficult to achieve the promised adjustment. That means that pensions will continue to go down in relation to both the average and the minimum wage. By the end of the current government's term, the average pension would account for a miserly 36.5% of the average net pay," the two organizations warn, recalling that Croatia is at the very bottom of the EU rankings in terms of pensions.

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Friday, 31 July 2020

Croatian Parliament Adopts Reports on EU Presidency and Emergency Summit

ZAGREB, July 31, 2020 - The Croatian parliament on Friday adopted the report on the activities and results of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union and the prime minister's report on the July 17-21 emergency EU summit. 

Both reports were backed by the ruling majority parties, which command 76 seats in the 151-member legislature.

Presenting the report on the EU summit, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic highlighted the fact that Croatia had won a considerable package of financial aid both under the Multiannual Financial Framework and under the new economic recovery instrument called Next Generation EU, adding that this would have "far-reaching consequences for our economic development, social cohesion as well as for the progress of Croatia and the European Union."

"We are talking about €1.824 trillion, of which Croatia will have access to over €22 billion, or HRK 165 billion, over the next four and seven years respectively," Plenkovic said, noting that this was double the amount made available to Croatia in the 2014-2020 period.

Plenkovic said that this was one of the largest amounts per capita "which will ensure that for each euro invested we get more than 4.5 euros from the EU budget."

Presenting the report on the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of the year, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said that this was the crown of Croatia's European journey and a historic moment.

The first Croatian presidency took place at a time of two unpredictable crises - migrant pressure and the COVID-19 pandemic in which "Croatia has successfully adapted," the minister said.

He also mentioned a strong earthquake that struck Zagreb on March 22. "It was the first time that the capital of a presiding country had been hit by an earthquake," Grlic Radman noted.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

PM Praises Results on Recent EU Summit in Report to Parliament

ZAGREB, July 29, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday reported to the Croatian parliament on the recent EU summit at which Croatia was granted access to €22 billion over the next seven years, which he said was a strong lever for economic recovery.

Plenkovic reported on the results of the marathon summit of EU leaders that ended on July 21 with an agreement on the post-pandemic recovery plan and seven-year budget, after which Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman presented the results of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of the year.

"Never before has the government presented to parliament a report of such great financial importance and with such far-reaching consequences for our economic development, our social cohesion, for the progress of Croatia and the entire European project," Plenkovic said.

Of the €1.824 trillion agreed at the summit, Croatia will have access to €22 billion, which is €165 billion over the next four, i.e. seven years, he said. "That is double the amount that was made available to us in the Multiannual Finance Framework for the past 2014-2020 period," he added.

He said that this is one of the largest amounts per capita "which will ensure that for each euro invested we get more than 4.5 euros from the EU budget."

"For Croatia, for its citizens and economy, we have ensured a strong lever for economic development over the next four, that is seven years," Plenkovic said, stressing that in this way his government had defended Croatian interests.

He said that Croatia had shown that "it is a strong state that protects its national interests, utilises its strength for the benefit of its citizens and its economy, improving its international standing through EU membership."

"Croatian citizens have seen this, they understand it and recognise it better than those who missed out on this topic 30 years ago," the prime minister said.

Financial package

The EU financial package is based on two strategically designed and related pillars: the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and the recovery plan called Next Generation EU.

Plenkovic said that Croatia had wanted the agreement to be reached because "the political responsibility of EU leaders at this point is of paramount importance." He said that Croatia had managed to ensure that the other EU member states took into account the specific position of Croatia which has so far used only one seven-year budget.

"We managed to achieve several objectives on which we had been working for months," the PM said, adding that Croatia managed to keep the national co-financing rate for cohesion and rural development at 15%, and not at 25%.

"At the same time we advocated that the rule on automatic decommitment of cohesion funds three years after their allocation, the so-called N+3 rule, should remain in place. The idea initially was that it should be N+2, but at this stage N+3 still suits us and we managed to keep it," Plenkovic said.

This gives Croatian beneficiaries a longer, three-year period to use budget funds and reduces the risk of loss and paying the money back into the EU treasury, he added.

In the next seven-year EU budget, Croatia will be have access to €12.7 billion in three envelopes: €7.5 billion for cohesion, €2.5 billion for direct payments for agriculture and €2 billion for rural development. Added to this should also be funding from different EU instruments: €270 million for fisheries, €250 million for internal security and migration, as well as funding for a fair and just green transition, research, health, education, transport and digital infrastructure.

Plenkovic said that Croatia had also managed to present to the European Union to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic had affected its tourism and other economic sectors. In this context, he also mentioned the March 22 earthquake that struck Zagreb and its environs, causing extensive damage.

Plenkovic said that Croatia had also highlighted the specific economic and demographic situation in eight of its counties that make up the Pannonian Croatia region.

"In addition to this 400 million, we also insisted on and were granted 100 million euros as aid for rural development because of specific structural challenges faced by the agricultural sector," he said and added that these arguments were part of efforts to reduce the negative demographic trends and keep young people in rural areas and in the agricultural sector.

Croatia also managed to ensure an advance of 10% of grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility which will be paid out in 2021. These nearly 600 million euros will ease the burden on the state budget, the prime minister said.

This is important for the sake of macroeconomic stability, particularly in the light of the recent accession of Croatia to Exchange Rate Mechanism 2, a sort of waiting room membership of for the euro area.

In order for member states to obtain EU funding, they must draw up national plans in compliance with the the objectives of the EU's digital and green transition.

"A positive evaluation for disbursement of funds will be tied to the fulfilment of the relevant criteria" from plans which will be approved by the European Commission and the Council, Plenkovic said.

Croatia will prepare its plan by the end of the year and present it to parliament. On Thursday, the government will set up a special task force to solely deal with this matter, Plenkovic said, adding that he personally will chair this coordinating body.  

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Croatian Parliament Unanimously Appoints Defence Committee

ZAGREB, July 29, 2020 - The Croatian Parliament unanimously appointed its Defence Committee on Wednesday, choosing Franko Vidovic (SDP) as chair and Mladen Stricak (HDZ) as deputy chair. 

The committee has 10 members, including five from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), one from the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), three from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and one from the Croatian Sovereignists.

The appointment of the Defence Committee was necessary so that it could state its opinion on the participation of the Croatian armed forces in the peacekeeping operation Sea Guardian in the Mediterranean. Croatia would contribute 35 personnel to the operation.

The new Parliament has so far chosen the committees on the constitution, legislation, European affairs, finance, construction, and selection and appointments. The remaining committees will be appointed on Friday.

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