Friday, 24 July 2020

Gov't Sends 3 Loan Agreements with Int'l Institutions to Parliament for Ratification

ZAGREB, July 24, 2020 - The government on Friday sent to parliament for ratification three loan agreements with international financial institutions worth €660 million to respond to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, for post-earthquake reconstruction and for strengthening healthcare.

One agreement refers to a €275.9 million World Bank loan for crisis response and recovery support and another for a €183.9 million World Bank loan for post-earthquake reconstruction in the Zagreb area and for strengthening public health preparedness.

In early June, the government endorsed reports on negotiations on the two agreements, which were approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors at the end of June and signed at the beginning of this month.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said at a cabinet meeting that the repayment period for both loans was 14 and a half years with five years' grace and a variable interest rate tied to six-month Euribor plus 0.75% of the fixed interest margin.

The €183.9 million loan envisages the establishment of institutional and coordination capacities for planning and implementing the reconstruction of public buildings damaged in the earthquake, facilitating the restoration of key healthcare and education services after the earthquake, and improving the public health sector's preparedness for communicable diseases in the future, Maric said.

The government also sent to parliament for ratification a €200 million loan agreement from the Council of Europe Development Bank.

Maric said the repayment period was 12 years with three years' grace and a fixed interest of 0.24% or a variable interest rate based on six-month Euribor plus 0.36% of the fixed interest margin.

He said the loan would be used to reduce the contagion and effects of the pandemic and ensure the availability of medical services and supplies as well as drugs and protective equipment, among other things.

Croatian companies could receive €800m from Pan-European Guarantee Fund

The government also decided to initiate the signing of a contribution agreement with the European Investment Bank on the Pan-European Guarantee Fund in response to COVID-19.

The fund is part of the €540 million packages agreed by the European Council to help businesses, together with the SURE programme to help workers and the European Stabilisation Mechanism to help states, said Maric.

The aim of the fund is to ensure liquidity so that eligible businesses, notably SMEs, can deal with the crisis and continue to develop in the medium and long terms.

The target value of the fund is €25 billion and it is formed on the basis of member states' guarantees, while short term liquidity is ensured by the European Investment Bank. These guarantees cover losses and operating expenses, said Maric.

It is estimated that the fund will mobilise €200 billion in additional investment.

Maric said Croatia's contribution to the fund would be €106.7 million and that Croatian companies, notably SMEs, could receive €800 million from it, depending on the absorption by other member sates.

"Participation in the fund will give the economy, notably small and medium-sized enterprises which have been significantly affected by the crisis, access to additional capacities of the EIB group as part of emergency financial aid in the pandemic."

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Opposition: It's Unacceptable for Programme to Be Distributed Hour Before Discussion

ZAGREB, July 23, 2020 - The Croatian parliament opened its session on Thursday with demands by opposition groups for an hour-long break to allow them to study the programme of the new government before discussing it and voting on it.

After nearly all opposition groups voiced their satisfaction because they had been presented with the programme of the new government less than an hour before the discussion, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic approved a 15-minute break.

He said that the programme could not have been distributed before Wednesday evening because Parliament adopted a law on the new government only then.

"The programme was distributed this morning, but it will be presented by the prime minister-designate and you will be able to hear what has to say," Jandrokovic said in response to objections from opposition MPs.

Not good practice

Milan Vrkljan of the Homeland Movement said that it was not good practice for the opposition to be presented with the programme half an hour before the discussion. He warned that the opposition might agree during the break not to take part in further discussion.

The late distribution of the government programme was criticised by the Social Democratic Party, the green-left coalition, Bridge, the SSIP, Pametnto and GLAS group and the Croatian Sovereignists.

Programme presented during election campaign

Branko Bacic of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that the government's programme was the programme with which the HDZ had won the election and that it had been expanded to include projects proposed by its coalition partners.

Bacic said that the opposition had had enough time to study the programme because it was presented on a daily basis during the election campaign. "I see this as a performance and not as a serious complaint," Bacic said.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Ruling Majority to Chair 16 Parliamentary Committees, Opposition Gets 14

 ZAGREB, July 20, 2020  - Branko Bacic, the head of the 66-strong Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) parliamentary group, said on Monday after meeting with Opposition MPs that the  HDZ would chair 16 parliamentary committees and the remaining 14 would be chaired by the Opposition.

Bacic expressed satisfaction with today's meeting at which he informed the elected MPs about the work schedule of the 10th 151-seat national legislature and the distribution of chairpersons.

Of the three Croatian Parliament delegations, the delegations for NATO and the Council of Europe will be led by lawmakers from the ruling majority and the delegation to the OSCE Assembly will be headed by a representative of the Opposition.

Bacic said that the distribution of the duties and the makeup of the parliamentary committees were similar to those of the previous parliament, the only change being that the Agriculture Committee will be chaired by the majority whereas the European Affairs Committee will now be chaired by the Opposition.

The 10th parliament is due to hold its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, with Bacic saying that it would be definitely sitting this and next week.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

PM Calls on All to Get to Work Due to Current Situation, Parliament to Sit in Summer

ZAGREB, July 9, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that due to the current circumstances everyone should leave the recent parliamentary elections behind and get to work, adding that parliament would sit this summer without having a usual summer recess.

"I believe that because of all the public health, financial and economic circumstances in which we are now, it will be good for us to leave the elections behind us and get to work in the interest of Croatian citizens," Plenkovic said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting.

This means that parliament will also sit during summer even though the constitution provides for a summer recess. However, it is always possible to hold extraordinary sessions of parliament, and this will be necessary now because of its inaugural session and a set of laws that need to be adopted, the prime minister said.

Plenkovic thanked all the citizens who had gone to the polls to elect the new parliament and voted for those deputies they deemed to be the best representatives of their views in the Croatian parliament.

Voting has to be repeated at a polling station in Rasa, Istria, after which the final results of the vote for the new 151-seat legislature will be confirmed. After that, the 10th parliament can hold its inaugural session and appoint the new government.

 Plenkovic's Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is the winner of the elections, having secured 66 seats.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Parliament Ignoring Constitutional Court For 10 Yrs, Paper Says

ZAGREB, June 8, 2020 - The Constitutional Court is dissatisfied that the coming parliamentary election will again be held without the constituencies having been changed, which the court requested ten years ago, Jutarnji List daily said on Monday.

The election will be legal but the question is to what extent will it be legitimate because the difference in the number of voters per constituency remains much higher than the envisaged five percent. For example, 14 MPs will be elected by 329,000 voters in the fourth constituency, by 344,000 in the first, by 422,000 in the ninth, and by 400,000 in the tenth.

Constitutional Court president Miroslav Separovic recalled in the paper that the court sent a report to parliament in 2010 on instances that were not in line with the constitution and the law, and that parliament did nothing about it.

"The report isn't legally binding but has importance because the authority of the Constitutional Court stands behind it," he was quoted as saying.

In the unanimously adopted report, the court warned the legislature that the number of voters per constituency was not in line with the law. Under the law, the difference in the number must not exceed five percent. In reality, however, the differences were up to 25%, making the weight of a vote in one constituency bigger than in another.

The court warned on that occasion that that could bring into question the legality of the next election and that the deadline by which parliament should pass a new law on constituencies was 11 March 2011.

Ten years have gone by and nothing has happened and Separovic believes this is a case of obvious disrespect of the Constitutional Court by every parliament since 2010.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Divjak To Run For Seat In Parliament As Independent On HNS Slate

ZAGREB, June 7, 2020 - Science and Education Minister Blazenka Divjak will be running in the forthcoming parliamentary election as an independent candidate on the Croatian People's Party (HNS) slate in Constituency 3, which covers the northern counties of Krapina-Zagorje, Varazdin, and Medjimurje.

"Behind us, behind me, are indeed three demanding and challenging years in government during which we launched education reforms and investments in education and science, and we also successfully coped with the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic, the (March 22) earthquake, and teachers' strike," Divjak told a press conference in Varazdin on Sunday, with HNS leader Predrag Stromar at her side.

Divjak recalled that she had taken up the ministerial post as an independent with the HNS's political backing with the aim of implementing four reforms - a curricular reform, a vocational education reform, to promote excellence and increase investment in science, and make higher education more relevant.

She said she was pleased with the accomplishment of the first three goals, but not with the fourth, the purpose of which was to ensure that higher education better reflected the needs of the economy and society. 

"The reasons for this are many. Among other things, it's because there are powerful academic cliques led by rectors who stick closely together and stop those who can change the system and who can give a chance not just to young people but also to the economy in general, from going forward," the minister said, adding that these cliques "often have support in political circles."

Divjak said that the reform process should continue.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Parliament Speaker Extends Greetings On Ramadan Bayram

ZAGREB, May 23, 2020  - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic on Saturday extended greetings on the occasion of Ramadan Bayram to the head of the Islamic Community in Croatia, Mufti Aziz Hasanovic, and all Islamic believers.

Ramadan is a holy month for all Muslim believers during which you reinforce the values of Islam through fasting, abstinence, prayer, solidarity, and care for the fellow man, Jandrokovic said in a note sent on his and parliament's behalf.

Unfortunately, you lived this year's Ramadan time of spiritual well-being in different circumstances because of the pandemic. I am convinced that, despite the absence of traditional joint prayers and sharing of iftar, you managed to find sufficient interior spiritual strength, patience, peace, harmony, and joy, Jandrokovic said.

"May the holy day of Ramadan Bayram, therefore, reward you for all the abstinence and sacrifice and bring you blessings, serenity, family community, and love as well as joint hope for a better tomorrow. Bayram Serif Mubarek Olsun!"

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