Wednesday, 20 April 2022

SDP Chief, PM Trade Accusations Over Perković and Mustač, Allowances

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - The request for a pardon for two Yugoslav-era secret service officials came at an opportune time for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković so that he would not have to deal with real problems in the country, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said in Parliament on Wednesday.

"This whole story with Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač comes as if on order for the prime minister, or was possibly even ordered by him, so that he would not have to deal with real problems in the country," Grbin said during Question Time, asking the prime minister when the government would be reshuffled and whether he would step down or start doing his job.

"You are so rude and so low to impute to us that we instigated the story with Perković and Mustač. Are you in your right mind? What's the matter with you?" Plenković responded.

Plenković called Grbin "a scammer" who had used an allowance for living apart from his family and later portrayed himself as a humanitarian by donating this government money to no one knows whom. He said that Grbin should be ashamed and should keep his mouth shut for a year so that people would forget he existed and should stop coming to Parliament until this was forgotten.

Pointing at the ministers in the Parliament chamber, Grbin recalled the scandals they were suspected of. "Your government is not functioning and is corrupt, but you don't bother about that," he said, adding that by avoiding an answer the PM did not spat in his face but in the faces of those he was supposed to represent and whose interests he should be serving.

Grbin warned that many businesses were facing higher electricity bills, which would lead to higher prices of bread and other staples, adding that government measures were not enough any more.

Plenković said that Croatia was not facing any shortages. "We are quite stable both with regard to reserves and with regard to production and imports," he said, noting that food prices were increasing on account of increasing energy prices.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Grbin Says Health Minister Did Not Make Any Reforms, SDP to Put Forward its Proposal

ZAGREB, 15 April (2022) - SDP leader Peđa Grbin has criticised Health Minister Vili Beroš for not implementing any real reforms to deal with problems in the health sector, noting that the SDP will present its own reform proposal to prevent one of the worst possible consequences of Beroš's inaction - privatisation of healthcare.

"The possible privatisation of healthcare could lead to polarisation in society, dividing people into those who can afford healthcare and those who can't. The SDP will strongly oppose that with its own health reform proposal," Grbin said.

Since early 2021 billions of kuna have been given to the Health Ministry to settle debts which despite that have continued to grow because the government has not done anything to stop their growth but has reduced healthcare outlays, he said.

The SDP leader warned that the coronavirus pandemic had revealed numerous problems in the health care system, from the large number of people with diseases, including malignancies, to the fact that healthcare is not equally available to everyone.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic is waning, we will realise how much the system is inefficient and healthcare inadequate, he said.

Instead of dealing with how to reform the system, the minister again has to deal with anti-corruption investigators who are "combing his ministry's records on the suspicion that some of the contracts awarded to the Cuspis company were overpaid and on the suspicion of conflict of interest," he said.

USKOK is also investigating the procurement of a radiation apparatus worth HRK 11.2 million, which is also suspected of having been overpaid, Grbin said, calling out PM Andrej Plenković over failure to make the health system functional.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

SDP Leader Says Will Donate Money From LAFHA to Charitable Cause

ZAGREB, 20 Feb 2022 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) president, Peđa Grbin, said on Sunday that 50,000 kuna (€6,700), which is equivalent to the sum he has received as a member of parliament through Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA) since 2016, would be donated to the charitable cause.

During his interview with the HTV national television, Grbin admitted that it was not fair to keep that money and that it was wrong of him to accept that allowance after he married his wife in 2016 and started living together both in Pula and Zagreb.

The case of LAFHA for the SDP chief grabbed the media limelight after it was revealed that Grbin did not live only in his hometown of Pula, and that his family is now staying in Zagreb where he intends to enroll his child in a kindergarten.

Grbin said that he himself decided recently to waive that allowance before the case was exposed to the public.

Grbin insisted that he had received the allowance in compliance with laws and the parliament's rule book, and added that currently over 80 MPs in the 151-seat parliament received LAFHA.

The opposition leader said that he would push for better regulation of the perks for lawmakers.

Commenting on Minister Darko Horvat's arrest on the abuse of office charges, who resigned after the apprehension, the SDP chief said that the matter did not concern Horvat only but the whole government.

"This is about a systematic way for favouring certain people with connections with Horvat, (former minister Tomislav) Tolušić, or someone else. (Prime Minsiter Andrej) Plenković has been aware of that and tolerated that," said Grbin.

He again called for snap elections as the exit from the current situation.

Asked by the show's host whether he still nurtured the ambition to become the prime minister, Grbin said that it was his obligation as long as he was at the helm of the SDP.

Grbin extended condolences to Prime Minister Plenković on the death of his father who passed away in a hospital on Saturday evening.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

MPs Criticise Grbin for Taking a Living Away from Home Allowance

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - MPs on Wednesday criticised Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin after it transpired that he and his party colleague Arsen Bauk had used the most benefits as MPs.

"Everyone answers for themselves but how can Grbin claim that he can run the country if he can't say where he lives," said Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement after Grbin said that by using his living away from home allowance (LAFHA), he had not violated any law.

"In principle, politicians in Croatia are divorced from reality, they live in a parallel world", said Bartulica.

Marijan Pavliček of the Croatian Sovereignists said it was sad that some manipulated the living away from home allowance.

"You cannot live in both Pula and Zagreb, have your family both in Pula and in Zagreb," Pavliček said, adding that he was willing to be the first to give up his LAFHA if all MPs would do the same.

Romana Nikolić, a former SDP MP and now a member of the Social Democrats, too, criticised Grbin, noting that such conduct was why citizens did not trust politicians.

MPs who live outside Zagreb should be compensated for rent, travel expenses

"If you have relocated, there should be no allowance for living away from home," said Sandra Benčić of We Can!.

"MPs who live outside of Zagreb and come to Zagreb to attend sessions of the parliament three to four days a week should receive allowances of between HRK 2,000 and 2,500 for rent", she said.

"Those whose families live in other cities should be compensated only for the actual costs incurred, such as travel expenses", she said.

"The purpose of allowances is not for someone to earn additional income," she stressed.

Anka Mrak Taritaš of the GLAS party said that MPs living outside of Zagreb should have their rent and travel expenses covered by the state, and she considers the allowance for living away from home unnecessary.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

SDP Leader: I Didn't Violate Any Law, We Aren't All the Same

ZAGREB, 16 Feb (Hina) - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Wednesday that he did not breach any law for receiving a Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA), and rejected the claim that all politicians are the same when it comes to utilising perks.

"I am being accused today of using something that I have a right to by law. This is not an issue of whether I violated the law but whether my conduct was ethical and moral," Grbin said in the national parliament, reacting to an article in the daily press that he has been paid LAFHA as a lawmaker because his hometown is Pula yet he is living in Zagreb with his wife and child.

Grbin rejected the claim that all politicians are the same, saying that there are differences between him and for example, Defence Minister Mario Banožić or the Prime Minister's chief of staff Zvonimir Frka Petešić, with regards to violating the law.

Grbin explained that LAFHA is not related to family status or where one's family lives, but where you are from. He believes that MPs who are not from Zagreb should not be called out for these matters, because the Sabor cannot solely represent Zagreb and its inhabitants.

"I do not wish to renounce my hometown. Pula is my town while Zagreb is where I am performing my political duties," said Grbin.

Asked where he lives precisely, Grbin said he too would like to know because he is neither in Zagreb nor in Pula, but his work takes him everywhere.

He explained that his child is still not going to kindergarten because he is only eight months old and spends most of the time with his mother in Pula who is on maternity leave. Grbin added that he decided this year that his child would go to kindergarten in Zagreb and then asked for LAFHA to be ceased. "Not because I considered that I was not entitled to it, but rather because I thought it would not be fair to be paid that allowance," said Grbin.

Wednesday's edition of the Jutarnji List daily claimed that Social Democratic Party MPs Arsen Bauk and Peđa Grbin have mastered the art of utilising all the perks available for national legislator. Even though both have lived in Zagreb for more than 10 years, have their families with them in Zagreb, partners that are employed in Zagreb and children were born in Zagreb, neither of them have changed their registered residency. Bauk is still registered on Brač Island and Grbin in Pula. Until a month ago, Grbin was even paid LAFHA which he has now renounced so he can enrol his child in a kindergarten in Zagreb.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

SDP MPs Grbin and Bauk Champions in Using Parliamentary Perks, Jutarnji List Daily Reports

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - Social Democratic Party MPs Arsen Bauk and Peđa Grbin have mastered the art of utilising all perks available for legislators, Wednesday's edition of the Jutarnji List daily reported in an article.

Although both MPs have lived in Zagreb for more than 10 years, including have their families living with them, partners that are employed in Zagreb and children born in Zagreb, neither of them has changed their residency. Bauk is still registered on Brač Island, while Grbin in the City of Pula.

The Sabor is paying their rent in Zagreb and both of them are paid tens of thousands of kuna for travel expenses to and from Brač and Pula. Until a month ago, Grbin was even paid a "living away from home allowance" (LAFHA), which he has now renounced so he can enrol his child in a kindergarten in Zagreb.

In the fifteen years that Bauk has been a member of parliament and office-holder, he has managed to deposit about HRK 5.5 million kuna in his bank account and about 40% of his income or HRK 627,000 (€82,919) is deposited in savings. His savings amount to just a little more than the budget paid to cover Bauk's rental costs.

Despite the fact that his wife is a Zagreb local and his child was born in Zagreb about two years ago, Bauk claims that he is living at the government's expense in Zagreb only temporarily.

Bauk admits that he does not receive LAFHA in the amount of 1,000 per month. telling the daily that it would be 'stupid' to receive that perk as he did not live separately from his partner.

However, Bauk doesn't consider it to be stupid that his party leader, Grbin, is in a similar situation and has lived in Zagreb for years and yet taxpayers are not only paying for his rent in Zagreb, but also for each time he travels to his hometown to Pula.

Explaining his entitlement to LAFHA, Grbin said that the parliament decided that that allowance is paid to MPs who do not live in Zagreb, but come from other cities and it is an allowance paid to MPs because of a requirement to live away from their usual place of residence to do their job.

He admitted however that in order to "enrol our child in kindergarten, I have requested the Sabor to cease paying me that allowance and as of 1 January, I am no longer receiving it," said Grbin.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 10 January 2022

SDP Leader: New Anti-epidemic Rules Have Neither Been Announced nor Explained

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Social Democratic Party leader Peđa Grbin said on Monday that new restrictions that were to have entered into force on Monday had not yet been released in the Official Gazette nor on the COVID response team's website, nor had the authorities explained to them as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

In a post on his Facebook profile, Grbin recalled that last week Interior Minister Davor Božinović, who is at the helm of the national COVID response team, stated that a surge in the number of infections caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, compelled the authorities to introduce new measures as of Monday which would additionally limit numbers at public gatherings.

"Today, on Monday, when they are supposed to enter into force, the new measures have not yet been advertised in the Official Gazette nor on the response team's website. Not only have they not been explained, as stipulated in the Constitutional Court ruling of 21 December 2021, but they also haven't even been released yet as I am writing this post. They do not exist and no one knows their content, what is written in them, how to act according to them, and yet they were to be implemented as of today," posted Grbin.

Grbin said that that showed how inconsistent and incompetent the government is in fighting the challenges facing Croatia and "when the numbers of those infected and deaths increase again, Plenković and co will blame the people."

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

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Ousted SDP Members Can’t Be in Parliamentary Group, Main Committee Decides

ZAGREB, 2 Oct, 2021 - The Social Democratic Party's Main Committee decided on Saturday that the four MPs ousted from the SDP could no longer be members of its parliamentary group and that this would also apply to all members of representative bodies at all levels who did not implement decisions of the party's bodies.

Main Committee chair Marija Lugarić told the press that 58 members voted for the decision, eight were against and five abstained.

She would not say what would happen to the MPs who voted against the ousting of Nikša Vukas, Zvane Brumnić, Rajko Ostojić and Marina Opačak Bilić from the parliamentary group at a group meeting expected on Wednesday nor if they too would be ousted from the party.

Besides those four, another 14 SDP MPs signed a document against ousting the four from the parliamentary group, which means that SDP leader Peđa Grbin has 18 of the party's 32 MPs against him.

Grbin: SDP's leadership and policy can be only one

He said the majority by which the Main Committee decision was adopted "shows that there are no doubts in the SDP as to the direction the party should take. That also shows that the SDP leadership is not divided and that the SDP's leadership and policy can be only one."

Grbin said he could not predict what would happen at the parliamentary group meeting, but that everyone would decide for themselves if they wanted to be part of the team or not.

Asked if he would see a possible rift within the parliamentary group as his political defeat, Grbin said he would be very sorry if any SDP member were to decide not to be part of the team any longer.

He said the MPs "who decide not to implement the Main Committee's decision will be saying that they don't want to be part of the team called the SDP." 

Grbin said Vukas, Brumnić, Ostojić and Opačak Bilić were ousted from the SDP because "we were faced with serious manipulation not befitting a serious political party."

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Sunday, 19 September 2021

SDP Leader Talks Conflict Within Party, COVID Certificates

ZAGREB, 19 Sept, 2021 - Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said on Saturday he was ready for radical measures against the caucus members who would be for the four ousted members staying in the caucus, adding that he would do his best to prevent a split within the party and that it was now up to the caucus.

The SDP parliamentary group has 32 members, of whom 18 demand that Grbin convene a caucus meeting to vote on the ousting of four caucus members - Rajko Ostojić, Zvane Brumnić, Nikša Vukas and Gordan Maras - who have been expelled from the party.

Speaking on Croatian Television, Grbin said the question was whether there was will in the caucus to resolve the situation through dialogue or continue the conflict.

He said it was now up to the parliamentary group to decide whether "the party will continue to deal with itself or start dealing with what citizens elected us for, which is to care for their interests and standard."

Asked if he was prepared to possibly have 12 or 14 MPs, Grbin said his goal was a strong SDP that was willing to stand up for people's interests.

He said there were many problems in Croatia and called the ruling HDZ "a clientelist organisation and a party which has done Croatia too much evil."

Grbin said if the situation in the SDP could not be solved through dialogue, he was prepared to take radical action, although he would rather not have to. He added that the situation was untenable and might become even more difficult if it was not solved shortly.

COVID certificates necessary because of negligence

Commenting on a protest against COVID rules held in Zagreb earlier in the day under the name Freedom Festival, Grbin said it was a festival of irresponsibility.

As for making COVID certificates a requirement in health and social care, he said Croatia's vaccination rate was the same as in India, Guyana and Colombia, and not as in Scandinavia as he would like.

Grbin said the certificates needed to be introduced "considering the inaction, negligence and poor government work," adding that "it's an indicator of failure and inaction."

He said the government should have but failed to assure people that nothing happened from vaccination, other than being safer.

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Grbin Says He Feels Stupid Because of SDP Member Suspected of Faking Threats

ZAGREB, 11 Sept, 2021 - Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said on Saturday he felt stupid because of SDP member Stjepan Kovač, who made up threats over which Grbin comforted him, but would not talk about his future in the party until he talked to him.

Grbin was responding to reporters who asked if Kovač would be punished by the party or even ousted after being arrested yesterday on suspicion of having staged death threats.

Grbin said he expected to have an answer in five to six days, adding that anyone who committed a crime must be held to account, regardless of which party they were from.

Asked if he felt deceived because he comforted a teary-eyed Kovač in front of the cameras over threats which Kovač allegedly made up, Grbin said he would do it again if a colleague told him that they were being threatened and if the police took the threats seriously enough to give them protection.

"A threat in politics is not allowed because it's not just a threat against a person, but is also a threat against the rule of law."

He said that if the charges against Kovač proved to be true, the colleagues who had been threatened for real would be brought in a "very unfavourable position because tomorrow everyone will question if the threat is real... making their life and work difficult."

Grbin said if Kovač was indeed guilty, "that's totally inappropriate." He added that he did not feel deceived. "But stupid? Certainly."

Reporters also asked him about Matija Posavec, who resigned as Međimurje County head today after admitting to bribe-taking. Posavec won a seat in parliament on the SDP slate and could now activate his term.

Grbin said a corrupt person who admitted to bribe-taking had no place in politics, including in the SDP and its parliamentary group.

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

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