Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Parliamentary Majority Rejects Workers' Front Bill on Digital Services Tax

ZAGREB, 5 May, 2021 - The parliamentary majority on Wednesday rejected a bill by MP Katarina Peović of the Workers' Front party proposing the introduction of a tax on digital services, saying that Croatia advocated a global solution rather than unilateral measures.

"The government has from the start advocated a global solution because it believes that unilateral measures cause distortion in the EU market and disrupt competition, which is why it did not launch an initiative to tax digital services," Finance Ministry State Secretary Zdravko Zrinušić said.

The deadline for an international consensus on the matter was moved because of the coronavirus pandemic to the middle of this year, he said.

"One should propose a balanced and stimulating tax policy rather than a restrictive one that would reduce Croatia's competitiveness," said Darko Klasić of the HSLS/Reformists caucus during a debate on the bill.

The purpose of the bill is not to tax small and development-oriented digital companies, but only technological giants whose revenue, from the global perspective, exceeds HRK 5.6 billion and who have not suffered any damage due to the coronavirus crisis but have seen an increase in revenue, Peović said while presenting the bill.

She said that several EU countries had introduced such a law and that her party was proposing the same for Croatia.

"The basic purpose of the tax would be to ensure additional budget revenue, which would be used to develop telecommunications infrastructure in Croatia, because we know that the internet here is among the slowest in the EU," said Peović.

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

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Opposition Parties File Motion of No Confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - Parliamentary opposition parties have filed a joint motion for a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš over the accumulated problems in the healthcare sector and scandals related to the minister, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Tuesday.

"The reasons for this move are clear to all citizens - the accumulated debts in the healthcare system resulted in the suspension of deliveries of medicines to hospitals at the height of the pandemic. There are also huge problems with the vaccination system, and we have learned of favourable treatment in the development of the cijepise.hr vaccination registration system," Grbin said.

"The development of this non-functioning system was awarded to people connected with Minister Beroš. There are also suspicious public procurement procedures at the Health Ministry such as one where IT services were awarded to a florist and tenders were fixed for former HDZ health ministers Andrija Hebrang and Neven Ljubičić, which have been cancelled but only after media started writing about them," he added.

"The Health Ministry is simply not functioning. There are no reforms, and the extent to which this affects people's lives could best be seen in a recent case at the Clinic for Tumors where citizens suffering from malignant diseases could not receive adequate care," Grbin said, naming Beroš as the person most responsible for this.

"We want Beroš to go because right now he has done nothing positive for the healthcare system, and all the negative things he has done pose a direct threat to people's health and lives," the SDP leader said. "His departure, however, will not be enough and we will all have to come to grips with the accumulated problems together."

Grbin said that a discussion on Beroš must be held within 30 days, and whether it will be held before or after the 16 May local elections "depends on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković."

The initiative was signed by all opposition groups in parliament except the Croatian Sovereignists, but they have announced that they will vote in favour Beroš's resignation, Grbin said.

MOST's Nikola Grmoja said that his party had been warning for a long time about the problems faced by the healthcare system, including huge debts to drug wholesalers and long waiting lists.

"Beroš, of course, is not the only one to blame, the whole government is responsible. With our signatures we also want to encourage a reform of the healthcare system. All of us in the opposition agree that changes are necessary and should be launched urgently," Grmoja noted.

Sandra Benčić of the green-left We Can! platform said that they supported all the reasons for a no-confidence vote in Beroš, but stressed that the responsibility for the crisis in the healthcare system and the poor management of the coronavirus pandemic mostly lay with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"None of the ministers, and certainly not Minister Beroš, makes decisions on their own. They were not chosen as competent persons in their departments but were chosen based on their loyalty to the prime minister who ultimately makes all decisions. The prime minister cannot be exonerated by his purported unawareness of the scandals for which we seek Beroš's resignation. That's why we ask whether the country can be run by a prime minister who does not know or who does not get key information," Benčić said.

Homeland Movement MP Stjepo Bartulica said that the Croatian healthcare system was too politicised. "There are countless problems and the possible resignation of Minister Beroš will not change things much. We have insisted from the start that the healthcare system should be governed by market principles because now we don't see any mechanisms that will bring about change to the system as this government resists structural reforms," he said.

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

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Željko Reiner: "Opposition's Motion to Impeach Beroš Won't Succeed"

ZAGREB, 28 April, 2021 - Deputy Parliament Speaker Željko Reiner (HDZ) said on Wednesday that the opposition's motion to replace Health Minister Vili Beroš will not succeed just as previous motions to impeach ministers did not.

"Today, I heard that the opposition will submit a motion on 4 or 5 May to impeach Minister Beroš. Just like all the previous motions to impeach ministers, this one won't succeed either," said Reiner.

Reiner announced that he would put the motion for a no confidence vote on the Parliament's agenda within the deadline foreseen in the Standing Orders.

Asked whether Beroš can make order in the process of vaccination, Reiner said that it would be put in order in the shortest time possible and that sufficient quantities of vaccines had been obtained.

Reiner said that Beroš is doing his job quite satisfactorily and that he needs to be left to do it in peace to the end.

Asked about accusations from the We Can! party that paid seminars are held on information from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and that some ministers participate in them, Reiner said that any such accusations need to be substantiated with arguments. "I haven't heard a single argument. Those are empty phrases, like many others," he said.

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

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

MP Says Citizens Will Replace PM Andrej Plenković If He Does Not Change

ZAGREB, 28 April, 2021 - MP Bojan Glavašević of the Green-Left Bloc said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković "has a very serious problem with ignorance", and that Croatia needs a prime minister who is knowledgeable and that if Plenković refuses to change, citizens will replace him. 

"Instead of realising that he should inform himself about the scandals his colleagues are involved in, the prime minister insists on ignorance," Glavašević said, noting that his ignorance was being paid for with citizens' money and health.

With money, as in the case of a loan approved to former minister Gabrijela Žalac by two incumbent ministers, and with health, as in the shameful scandal with the Cijepise.hr platform for COVID-19 vaccination, Glavašević said, stressing that Croatia needed a knowledgeable prime minister.

"Because this one, who does not know, does not see, does not hear and does not want to know, see or hear, evidently lacks the capacity for his post," he said.

"This country and its people deserve better. If the Prime Minister does not change, citizens will replace him, it's only a matter of time and the number of victims of ignorance," Glavašević said.

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

 

Friday, 23 April 2021

Parliament Adopts Report on Abridged Version of National Recovery and Resilience Plan

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - The Croatian parliament on Friday adopted a report on an abridged version of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) to 2026 with 76 lawmakers in the 151-seat legislature supporting the document about projects worth more than HRK 49 billion.

The 2021-2026 National Recovery and Resilience Plan contains project proposals in six areas worth HRK 49.08 billion. Its drafting and submission to the European Commission is a precondition for obtaining funds from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) for the period from 2021 to 2023. Under the RRF, Croatia has €6.3 billion in grants at its disposal, plus an additional €3.6 billion in potential loans.

The main components of the NPOO are enterprise sector; pubic administration; judiciary and state assets; education, science and research; labour market and social protection and health. Apart from the five components, there is also the initiative 'Building reconstruction' sector.

These components are divided into 22 topical sub-components that list specific reforms and investment needs.

"This is a generational opportunity," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored presenting the plan to the parliament.

The plan should help us overcome the crisis as soon as possible and reforms are essential in order to absorb the available funds and they are a constituent part of the plan.

All EU member states are obliged to present their national plans by the end of April and submit them to the European Commission. After the plans are adopted 10% of the funds foreseen for each member state will be paid out in the second half of this year. Croatia can thus tap €600 million in the second half of 2021.

The investments listed in the plan have to be implemented by 31 August 2026.

Opposition parties once again complained that they did not see the entire plan but just a shortened version and that they do not believe that the plan will result in recovery or resilience.

Parliament today adopted four semi-annual reports on the absorption of European structural and investment funds for 2020 and 2019.

If all four reports are combined, we agreed projects worth more than €5 billion, (which is 45% of the funds agreed to until then) €3.02 billion has been disbursed (which is 60% of what had been paid until then) and more than €2 billion has been certified.

A report on the situation in the territory of Croatia from 2013 to 2019 was adopted as was a semi-annual report by the Croatian National Bank on the financial situation, and a report on the work of the State Commission to Supervise Public Procurement Procedures in 2019 was also adopted. 

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

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Opposition: Health Minister Beroš Has To Go

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - Opposition parties in parliament on Wednesday unanimously agreed that Health Minister Vili Beroš has to go and they expressed readiness to support the Social Democratic Party's (SDP) motion for no confidence in the health minister.

"There is a consensus among the opposition that Health Minister Vili Beroš has to go," SDP leader Peđa Grbin said after a meeting of opposition parties.

Grbin: We are giving Beroš an opportunity to step down

The motion will be launched soon but we will allow Beroš some time to think about everything that has occurred in healthcare and give him an opportunity to step down, said Grbin.

He denied that the motion was being launched as part of SDP's electioneering ahead of the 16 May elections, saying that this had to do with the health of Croatian citizens.

"The man who allowed hospitals to not be delivered medicines, for the debt in healthcare to escalate and who is being connected to numerous wrongdoings in public procurement in the hospital system, simply cannot be the health minister," underscored Grbin.

Grbin said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković should think carefully in future about his criteria when selecting cabinet ministers.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left bloc said that she supports the no-confidence motion against Beroš but that Plenković too should be held responsible, who in the end is responsible for the entire situation in healthcare.

"It's clear that the prime minister will fervently defend his minister and then a month or two later when it is more politically opportune, he will call for his resignation. That is the prime minister's modus operandi. He expends people and then throws them out like an old rag and covers up his bad decisions with them," said Benčić.

Benčić: Opposition will prepare an expert analysis

She announced that in preparing the no-confidence motion, the opposition will prepare an expert analysis regarding access to therapy, medicines, the way the system is managed and of the Cijepise (Get vaccinated) application.

"Spending money in healthcare that way during the greatest ever crisis is equal to war profiteering," she claimed.

She too denied that this is all part of electioneering ahead of the local election.

Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said (DP) said that: "we are opening important topics and it is up to the prime minister to make serious moves. Instead of being a statesman and making courageous decisions he is a 'spin doctor' in Government House and releases cheap spins to the public every day."

The healthcare system is not being managed well and that practice has to change and reforms need to be urgently implemented, he added.

Hrelja: HSU supports motion to oust Beroš

Silvano Hrelja of the Pensioners' Party (HSU) said that the party supports the motion to oust Beroš, denying speculation that HSU would join the ruling majority.

"Cooperation on projects exists but there is no coalition there," said Hrelja.

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

Friday, 16 April 2021

Parliament Debates Work of State Commission for Public Procurement Supervision

ZAGREB, 16 April, 2021 - The Homeland Movement (DP) on Friday strongly criticised the State Commission for Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM), saying its head Maja Kuhar "built her career during the term of the (Zoran) Milanović government" and calling Croatia one of the most corrupt countries globally.

"The key problem with the DKOM is that its name does not befit it. It does not supervise public procurement procedures but only resolves appeals in those procedures," DP MP Daniel Spajić said during a debate on the commission's work in 2019.

He claims that many evidently corrupt procedures, like the one for the digitisation of the health system, were not appealed against and are therefore not handled by the DKOM.

Spajić claims that Croatia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

That would not be possible if we had a proper public procurement procedure, he says.

While other caucuses commended the DKOM's work and its report, MP Bojan Glavašević of the Green-Left Bloc (ZLB) said the report was a technical document without any data on effects. There is little information regarding the DKOM's anti-corruption activities and there is not one conclusion, description of activities, or recommendation, he said.

MP Marija Selak Raspudić (MOST Party) commended the report, adding that further improvement is possible.

A fundamental improvement would be to see how much state administration bodies had to pay appellants due to poorly conducted public procurement procedures, she said.

We also want a black list of public administration bodies which have made the most errors in absorbing EU funds and we want to know who the professional appellants are, Selak Raspudić said.

MP Rada Borić (ZLB) warned of the large number of procedures with just one bidder, saying this was the greatest corruption risk.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Željko Pavić referred to the detail that there was an increasing number of appeals to documentation on public procurement and asked whether that problem could be resolved if there was a special department at the DKOM in charge of checking documents.

MPs from the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) praised the document. MP Branka Juričev Martinčev (HDZ) was pleased with the increased number of projects using EU funds and that the DKOM had handled these procedures well.

Systematic training necessary

Most lawmakers agreed that systematic training is necessary for participants in public procurement procedures to avoid errors.

In 2019 the DKOM had 1,365 appeals, including 1,209 new ones, which is a mild increase compared to 2018.

The majority of appeals referred to the selection phase (66%), however, there was a growing trend in the number of appeals related to procurement documents (32%), which can largely be attributed to a single fee to launch an appeal of HRK 5,000, regardless of the value of the procurement.

The DKOM's decisions can be disputed before the High Administrative Court and in 2019 that court quashed less than 3% of the DKOM's decisions.

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

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Opposition Accuse Government of Trying to Buy Votes From Pensioners and Young People

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - Parliamentary opposition parties on Thursday criticised the government's plan to pay a COVID supplement to pensioners and a tax refund to young people in the run-up to local elections as vote buying.

Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) told reporters in the parliament building that the government "has obviously sorted its priorities to ensure the best possible election result" for the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

"We support a COVID supplement for pensioners, even before elections. I think the Croatian democracy is mature enough and that this will not result in voters voting en masse for the HDZ," Bauk said.

Homeland Movement MP Stjepo Bartulica said that Prime Minister Plenković often expressed his disdain for populists. "I see a great dose of populism in the timing of this measure," he said.

"We are all equal in Croatia, but obviously some groups are more equal than others, especially with elections coming up. In principle, I am not against helping the pensioners, but the way in which the government runs its policies actually increases cynicism in Croatia," Bartulica said.

Bridge's Božo Petrov noted that the government had promised several years ago that the living standards and monthly incomes of pensioners would rise considerably, suggesting that the measures proposed by the government should remain permanent.

Bojan Glavašević of the Green-Left Bloc said that "the pensioners and young people, as vulnerable groups, need systematic rather occasional assistance."

Unlike the opposition, the HDZ's Ivan Ćelić disagreed that this was an attempt at vote buying for local elections. "Let me remind you that a month before elections the (SDP) government of Zoran Milanović gave away electricity vouchers of HRK 200, which can be seen in the same way as the COVID supplement," he said.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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

 

Friday, 9 April 2021

Gov't Rep Accepts Amendments By HDZ Party Group to Local Elections Bill

ZAGREB, 9 April (Hina) - A government representative on Friday accepted amendments by the ruling HDZ party group to a bill on local elections which ease previously proposed stricter rules for the nomination of candidates in elections and reasons for the termination of a local official's term.

A regulation has been eased under which a person with a final court verdict sentencing them to a prison term of at least six months or whose verdict has been changed to community service and a conditional verdict will be banned from running in elections, starting already with the May 16 local election.

The HDZ parliamentary group proposed that the ban should not apply to persons sentenced to prison for an unintentional crime, if their sentence has been changed to community service or a conditional sentence.

Also accepted were amendments that relax reasons for the termination of the term of a member of a representative body, municipal head, mayor and county head and their deputies.

If those officials have committed an unintentional crime and have been sentenced to prison but their sentence has been changed to community service or a conditional sentence, the terms of those officials will not cease, government representative Sanjin Rukavina said.

He did not accept Social Democrat MP Arsen Bauk's amendment under which those officials' terms would end also in case the party which has nominated them and on whose slates they have been elected has been given a final court verdict for an offence.

The government partially accepted amendments by the SDP, GLAS and Centre party groups under which the term of a member of a representative body, municipal head, mayor and county head stops on the day when they deregister their residence in their local government unit.

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

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Parliament:The State Commission for Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures Pays Into State Budget More Than It Is Allocated

ZAGREB, 8 April, 2021 - The State Commission for Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM) received 1,194 appeals in 2019 and paid HRK 17 million into the state budget in respect of fees for launching appellate proceedings, which is 6.8 million more than the funds allocated for the Commission's work, the Croatian Parliament was told on Thursday.

The figures were presented by the State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy, Nataša Mikuš Žigman, while introducing amendments to the DKOM Act governing the rights and obligations of the Commission members.

The DKOM deals with appeals in public procurement procedures, grants concessions and selects private partners in public-private partnership projects. It has nine members, including a president and two vice-presidents, and they are appointed by parliament at the government's proposal for a term of five years.

The statutory deadline for processing cases is 30 days, and the Commission's average is 27 days, Mikuš Žigman said, adding that cases concerning the absorption of EU funding are dealt with in a shorter time because they are given priority.

The total value of public procurement is about HRK 43 billion annually, and between 47 and 53 percent of appeals are granted, MPs were told.

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

 

Page 2 of 4

Search