Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Beros: Neither I Nor Prime Minister Influenced Selection of Hospital Director

ZAGREB, Aug 25, 2020 - Health Minister Vili Beros on Tuesday denied claims by the deputy director of the Sisters of Charity Hospital in Zagreb, Dijana Zadravec, that the selection process for the hospital's director was unlawful and that Beros and the prime minister influenced it.

He explained that a recording of a discussion between him and Zadravec that appeared on YouTube on Monday was, in fact, a call during which he turned the speakerphone on, at a meeting with five to six of the closest associates, so that he could show them the pressure, insinuations and even blackmail he was exposed to.

Beros said that he had previously professionally collaborated with Zadravec at the hospital without any disagreement and that the problems started with her dispute with another colleague when he pointed out that the problem should not be resolved through the media but within the hospital.

The problems escalated during the selection procedure for the hospital director, which was conducted absolutely in accordance with legal procedures, said Beros.

"That's when the pressure and very aggressive calls started and this discussion is just one in a series of similar ones and shows the attempts to influence me as someone who in fact cannot influence the selection process for the director," he added.

"The procedure was respected, a steering committee exists and it determines who the director will be based on very relevant criteria," he underscored.

Beros believes that it is "legitimate for everyone to fight for their personal progress, however, at the moment the line has been crossed."

He noted that he did not feel threatened and therefore did not request any institutional protection.

"That was electioneering time and I believed that when the situation calmed down, everyone, according to their role and position, would be satisfied," he added.

In response to an announcement by Zadravec that she would sue him for secretly recording her, which is illegal, Beros said that he did not record the discussion nor did he tell anyone to record it and so he cannot be personally held responsible, however, if the institutions assess that he is responsible, he will not run away from that.

He denied any unclarity with regard to his declaration of assets that Zadravec mentioned in the discussion, saying that the declaration was published and contained precise information on his assets.

Beros reiterated that the prime minister did not have any influence over the selection of the hospital director and that, as he said during the conversation with Zadravec, the party leadership had decided on the path and direction, which was a lawful way to deal with such matters.

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Thursday, 20 August 2020

PM Says Current Situation Regarding COVID-19 Requires Caution

ZAGREB, Aug 20, 2020 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that the current situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic required a cautious approach to protect the national economy and jobs, and he also called for caution in personal contact, notably among young people.

Addressing a government session, Plenkovic said that in the current situation, marked by a global increase in the number of new infections, including in Croatia, "we must continue to be very alert and cautious in order to protect public health, our economy, and jobs."

He noted that it was good that the new infections in Croatia were cases with mild symptoms.

"Only about 120 people are hospitalised and slightly more than ten are on ventilators. That fact is very important. We must bear in mind the difference between those who have been infected and those who have developed the symptoms," Plenkovic said.

"The new cases lately have been young people and people returning from holidays. That is why I call on all fellow citizens, notably young people, to act responsibly and avoid close contact that can lead to infection," he said.

Plenkovic also said that intensive work would continue on a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs and that a meeting would be held on the topic this afternoon. At the next government session, before the start of a new, extraordinary parliament sitting, the law will be submitted for a second reading, he said.

Plenkovic recalled that Croatia had received a decision from the European Commission on advance payment in the amount of €88.9 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for the reconstruction of Zagreb, and noted that the competent departments were working to provide accommodation for people whose homes were damaged in the March 22 quake and who are currently staying in Zagreb's Cvjetno Naselje student dormitory.

The PM also announced events commemorating the European day of remembrance for victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes on August 23, when he and Transport Minister Oleg Butkovic will visit Goli Otok.

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Sunday, 16 August 2020

PM Calls For Heightened Alert Over Coronavirus In Autumn

ZAGREB, Aug 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday that Croatia won the first halftime of the struggle against coronavirus and called for heightened alert in the autumn. 

Asked by the press about the current topics, including the developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Plenkovic said that Croatia could be satisfied with the tourist season given the circumstances.

He went on to say that the country won the first halftime of the match against COVID-19, and "we must be on high alert in the autumn."

Commenting on the outcome of the current tourist season, Plenkovic said that the results seemed better than expected, considering the projections made a few months ago.

 As for a resurgence of new cases over the recent weeks, Plenkovic said that it could have been expected in a certain sense, given a higher number of people staying now in Croatia.

"We have appealed all the time, for responsible behaviour, particularly among young people, and for keeping a distance. This obviously has not been observed in nightclubs," the premier said in his comment on indications that a majority of the newly diagnosed patients are young people.

Asked how all that could impact the remainder of the tourist season due to warnings from Austria and Slovenia concerning the arrivals from Croatia, Plenkovic said he had talked with his counterparts from those countries about that topic.

Those countries look at the issue through their statistical figures, they have their scales, they count how many of those who have returned from holidays abroad are infected. Having in mind the fact that their school year starts on 1 September, they are afraid of the spread of the infection in schools, the premier said.

He expects the Croatian diplomatic network, the ministries of tourism and health to communicate the epidemiological picture in greater detail, broken down by counties.

Plenkovic, who was on a visit to the Marian shrine of Trsat in Rijeka, on the Feast of the Assumption, said that the situation in that Primorje-Gorski Kotar County as well as in Istria and Lika was satisfactory.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Plenkovic: Respects Are Due to Every Innocent Victim Regardless of Their Ethnicity

ZAGREB, Aug 5, 2020 - Any innocent victim of the war, be they of Croat, Serb or any other ethnicity, deserves respect, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin on Wednesday.

In his address, he recalled a message of reconciliation addressed by the late President Franjo Tudjman in Vukovar in June 1997 to Croatian returnees and the local Serb population: "A victor who cannot forgive sows the seeds of future rifts and evils, and the Croatian people do not want that."

Plenkovic said that this message should be borne in mind in building an inclusive, tolerant, and forward-looking Croatia. "As a country that won a war that was imposed on it, with numerous innocent civilian victims, we regret all the casualties, especially civilians, and not just Croats, but Serbs and members of all other ethnic communities as well."

Legitimate right to defence is not and cannot be excused for wrongdoing

Plenkovic expressed regret for war crimes committed by Croats, saying that "a legitimate right to defence is not and cannot be an excuse for wrongdoing." "Any such act is painful for the families of the victims and an ugly scar on the righteous face and defensive nature of the Homeland War," he added.

"We are aware that our victory in Operation Storm was traumatic for many Croatian Serbs who primarily associate it with the departure of a portion of the Serb population from their homes in what were previously occupied areas. While for the majority of Croats this was a forced exodus organised and ordered by leaders of the Serb rebellion in Knin, many Serbs still see it as an exodus before Croatian forces," the prime minister said.

Plenkovic said that 25 years on it was time to look at the complexity of what had happened then with equanimity. After Operation Storm, the Croatian state has made great efforts to ensure that Serb refugees who so wish a return to their homeland and much has been done in that regard, There are still difficulties that need to be removed so that they can feel equal and live in dignity, he added.

"We know that the whole time many Croatian Serbs in free areas of the country shared the fate of their Croatian compatriots, and many of them were in the Croatian army, of which we should be proud," Plenkovic stressed.

It is important that in Operation Storm the Croatian Serbs do not see only the exodus of their people but also the end of the war that paved the way for their return to Croatia, for everyone who so wishes.

"Finally, respects are due to every innocent victim, be they of Croat, Serb, or any other ethnicity. Respects to thousands of innocent Croat victims from Vukovar to Dubrovnik ... Respects to innocent Serb victims from Paulin Dvor to Varivode," Plenkovic said.

"We do not question the legitimacy or righteousness of the Homeland War nor do we downplay the victory won in Operation Storm," he added.

The humanity of a victor who regrets every lapse or war crime not prevented 

Plenkovic said that this shows the magnanimity and humanity of a victor "who, despite everything, regrets every lapse or war crime that was not prevented."

"We expect the same from all sections of Croatian society, especially from representatives of the Serbs in Croatia, who should also clearly condemn all the war crimes committed against Croats," he stressed.

True reconciliation can only be built on the truth that is based on fact, on full cooperation in discovering all those still listed as missing and in seeking justice for all the victims, Plenkovic said, adding that all war crimes that do not fall under a statute of limitations will continue to be prosecuted regardless of the ethnicity of the victim or the perpetrator.

"Today, as the world copes with the biggest health threat in the last hundred years and with the gravest economic crisis since the Second World War, we must again strengthen our national unity around Croatian strategic goals. That's why we should be inspired by the courage and self-abnegation of Croatian defenders and we will be able to cope with the great challenges facing us," the prime minister said.

Plenkovic reiterated that Operation Storm was "legally legitimate, militarily inevitable and politically necessary," adding that it was imperative for the Croatian leadership at the time to make it possible for displaced Croats to return to their homes and to reconnect parts of the country that had been severed until then.

With more than 20,000 dead and 15% of the housing stock damaged, Croatia suffered huge damage in the war which set it back 15 years in terms of development, Plenkovic said, noting that Operation Storm was also a turning point for peace and stability in southeastern Europe "which is why we can rightfully regard it as our greatest victory."

The prime minister announced that a special law on civilian casualties of the Homeland War would be adopted to resolve painful issues still burdening Croatian society.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

PM Plenkovic Lays Wreaths at Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, Aug 4, 2020 - On the eve of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day and the central commemoration in Knin, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic laid wreaths at Zagreb's central Mirogoj cemetery with the message that the government is paying tribute to all who gave the most for the country's freedom.

PM Plenkovic, Deputy Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner and the head of the prime minister's office, Zvonimir Frka-Petesic, laid wreaths at the Wall of Pain monument, the Central Cross in the Alley of Fallen Croatian Homeland War Defenders, the grave of Croatia's first president Franjo Tudjman, and at the common grave of unidentified victims of the 1991-95 war.

Plenkovic said the government especially remembered the operation that enabled the liberation of the then occupied areas and helped create conditions for the subsequent reintegration of the Croatian Danube River region and restoration of Croatia's territorial integrity.

"That is why I'm glad that tomorrow we will all be in Knin to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm," he said.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Milanovic: Reducing Number of Ministries Good, that's PM's Right

ZAGREB, July 16, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic on Thursday said he believes that reducing the number of ministries from 20 to 16 is good because that will facilitate doing the job and that decision is the prime minister's discretionary right.

"If it will be easier for the prime minister to work, then that is good and that is his right. That is a reduction in the number of ministers and not the number of ministries, several plaques will be changed. That is the prime minister's discretionary right," Milanovic told reporters in the president's office after appointing Andrej Plenkovic prime minister-designate.

Milanovic said that the number of employees would remain the same as will the number of administrations, adding that it is difficult to talk of downsizing when are faced with difficult financial time.

I have supported most of the government's measures

"In my opinion, the government doesn't need to look at how much people are being paid but what they are doing for that salary, what their productivity is like. That is more difficult to measure than it is in the private sector. It is more difficult to gauge the productivity of diplomats, tax officers, police officers, and all those who constitute the state administration and public sector. If that will help the prime minister, and it will because 16 people are easier to work with than 20, all the better then," said Milanovic.

Asked about a "tough cohabitation" between him and the prime minister, Milanovic said that he has supported most of the government's measures and that he has supported the government.

"The things we didn't agree or perhaps didn't understand are some symbolic events. My stance about that is known. It will not change. It is hardly likely to change after all these years and hard to believe it will change in the next few years while I am the president. If I consider that something is not good, not right, that it is damaging, I will react. I have said some things," said Milanovic. 

He underscored that he is pleased that one deputy prime minister will be a member of ethnic minorities and that that is the continuation of a "practice of good spirit" which he always supported and implemented.

"That isn't just a symbolic thing. That is something that distinguishes Croatia as a society, as a community, as a political community from many its neighbours, unfortunately many," he added.

"For the homeland ready" should be penalised as hate speech

Asked about banning the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready," he said the question is whether we will continue to treat it as disturbing the peace or penalise it as hate speech.

"I am not one for bans, nor punishment, but there is no choice here. That needs to be penalised as a criminal offence but with a mild sentence that will leave a mark on whoever intends to entertain that idea, so that that is known, but it should be punishable. It hurts a lot of people but I will not put pressure on that topic. That is up to the will and conscience of those who can change that," he underscored.

Speaking about a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb, Milanovic claimed that Zagreb has been the most neglected city, with a significant and serious historical urban centre, and that now is the opportunity to change that.

"It is our city. It is the capital of all Croats. It is Croatia's Jerusalem in a way. That city has been neglected. There was money for reconstruction. However, nothing was done. This is an opportunity for the City of Zagreb and the government to do a lot. That, above all, has been the responsibility of the City of Zagreb," he said.

Crossing the floor will require answering more than just one question

Milanovic believes that the support of 76 lawmakers in the 151-seat parliament is sufficient for a stable government and he wished the prime minister all the best, adding that he would have liked for those people who were ideologically and programme-wise close to him to have spontaneously supported Plenkovic as well.

"It's obvious that cooperation will not happen. I expect anyone who in the future decides to support the government to explain that very well, given the mild micro-traumas we experienced with people crossing the floor in the past four years. Anyone who decides to do something like that in the future has to answer more than one question," claimed Milanovic.

He said that he expects a clearer and more precise legal framework from the perspective of the Constitution related to the national COVID-19 response team, such as defining powers for adopting measures and their duration, adding that the current legislation does not define that.

"That can be resolved so that the government or parliamentary majority, pursuant to Article 17 of the Constitution, decides to suspend human rights to a certain degree for a certain period of time in cases like this. That way we would have a clearer legal situation. We are a law-based state. We know what can be done and for how long. Such a decision would make the legal regime we live in a lot clearer and make it easier for the government to do that. I call on all lawmakers to support such a motion if it is put forward," said Milanovic.

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.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

PM Says Croatia's Goals During EU Presidency Achieved As Much As Possible

ZAGREB, July 1, 2020 - During its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020, Croatia has shown leadership and secured the best possible results under the conditions unprecedented in history, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic says in an interview for Hina.

Croatia took over the EU presidency only six and a half years after it was admitted to the bloc, however, the chairmanship could not unfold as planned, due to the coronavirus pandemic, which had affected the usual functioning of EU institutions and the everyday life of the Europeans.

PM Plenkovic underscored that before it took the helm of the EU on 1 January, Croatia had worked in a committed manner on preparations for this duty, and the slogan of the Croatian presidency was "A strong Europe in a world of challenges".

However, no one could have foreseen so many challenges we have been facing in recent times, including the COVID pandemic, the premier said explaining that therefore the focus was shifted from the Croatian presidency agenda's priorities to the top priority: the safety and security of European citizens.

Furthermore, Zagreb was hit by a 5.5-strong earthquake on 22 March, he recalled adding that the most experienced and oldest EU member-states cannot remember that anybody's presidency had been conducted under such complex circumstances.

"Therefore commendations and recognition we are receiving from older members for a job well done are more than a matter of courtesy, they mean their sincere appreciation of our huge efforts we have invested and results we have achieved."

"Despite the unprecedented circumstances, we have achieved many goals we had set, and Croatia enjoys the status and reputation it never had before," Plenkovic said.

In mid-March, virtual meetings and video conferences started replacing physical meetings at the political level.

In these circumstances, our task was to coordinate a joint response to the crisis caused by COVID-19, Plenkovic said.

We can say that in a record short time the European Union managed to accomplish a lot of things. We can say that in many ways we have been a "digitised presidency". The first digital trialogue was held during the Croatian presidency and referred to the SMART-TEN-T topic, he added.

Until 13 March 2020, in Croatia 21 events and gatherings were held, bringing together experts and working groups, two events were within a parliamentary dimension plus 32 events under the auspices of the Croatian presidency. From March to the end of June, more than 70 video conferences were held, including discussions on the impact of the pandemic on the economy, public healthcare systems, borders, education, culture, employment, and mobility, he said.

The Council of the EU needed to act under extraordinary circumstances. Only COREPER continued to meet in a physical format, and I thank them for that, the Croatian premier said.

He commented on the full activation of integrated political crisis response (IPCR) arrangements during the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU to help the EU members to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

Croatia's greatest achievement its ability to act and meet its targets in most difficult circumstances

Asked about Croatia's greatest achievement during its presidency of the Council of the EU, Plenkovic said that "our greatest achievement is the fact that we continued to act and achieve our targets in the most difficult circumstances."

At the start of our presidency, we defined the Zagreb Summit and progress in the enlargement policy, preparations for launching the Conference on the Future of Europe, and orderly Brexit as our goals. In all three areas, we have met the targets he has set: thanks to the strong engagement and initiative from Croatia, the Council of the EU made a decision on opening the membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania, despite strong opposition from some of the EU member states. Also, a new methodology for the accession negotiations has been confirmed, he said.

After several months of intensive talks with member-states and advocacy for the strongest possible mandate of the Council, the Croatian EU Presidency has reached agreement on the Council's position for inter-institutional talks on a joint statement based on which the Conference on the Future of Europe should be launched by the end of this year, the Croatian government reported earlier on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

PM Discusses Conference On Future Of Europe With EP, EC Presidents

ZAGREB, July 1, 2020 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Tuesday held a video-conference with European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the Conference on the Future of Europe, stressing the importance of launching the conference as soon as possible.

After several months of intensive talks with member-states and advocacy for the strongest possible mandate of the Council, the Croatian EU Presidency has reached agreement on the Council's position for inter-institutional talks on a joint statement based on which the Conference on the Future of Europe should be launched by the end of this year, the Croatian government said in a statement.

That process has been launched by today's talks between Plenkovic and the representatives of the other two EU institutions and Croatia expressed interest in giving, also during Germany's EU presidency, which will continue the talks, its strong contribution to the organisation and work of the Conference at the European and national levels, the government said, adding that European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica would have an important role in the work of the Conference.

PM Plenkovic underlined the need to launch the Conference as soon as possible, as its significance has grown even more important in the context of the EU's recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of launching a broad and open political debate on the future of the EU.

The Conference should additionally bring the EU closer to citizens, strengthen its international position and contribute to building a modern vision of a united, more solidary and economically more sustainable Europe.

EP President Sassoli and EC President von der Leyen thanked PM Plenkovic and Croatia's EU Presidency for the great effort invested and success in agreeing the Council's mandate and for continuous strong messages regarding the Conference on the Future of Europe, on which there is a lot of agreement among EU institutions.

They welcomed PM Plenkovic's approach regarding the launching and further work of the Conference and expressed readiness for close cooperation with Croatia, said the government.

Monday, 29 June 2020

PM Announces Shorter Work Week

ZAGREB, June 29, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday the Croatian Employment Service was expected to adopt today a measure on a shorter workweek for employers with over ten employees and that it would amount to HRK 2,000 net per employee a month, announcing this measure for micro-enterprises too.

He told reporters the measure was aimed at retaining jobs in companies whose work volume was reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Eligible are employers that expect the monthly man-hours of all employees to drop by at least 10%. The measure may be used for at least 10% or 20% of the staff, depending on company size, provided they were employed as of May 31.

Another criterion is a drop in revenue of at least 20% from the same month last year. Manufacturing companies are eligible if the decrease is less than 20%.

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