Tuesday, 19 July 2022

102 Million Kuna Being Provided for Croatian Local Self-Government Units

July the 19th, 2022 - The state is set to ensure a massive 102 million kuna payout to Croatian local self-government units across the country in order to raise the overall quality of life of their residents.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, the state will help improve the quality of life in cities and municipalities with a total payment of 102 million kuna to various Croatian local self-government units, which is the total value of approved projects for co-financing at the public tender of the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and State Property.

This amount will be divided into a total of 353 projects submitted by cities and municipalities from all counties, with the exception of the City of Zagreb. The projects themselves have a total value of 366 million kuna, and the state, depending on the level of development, will cover from 20,000 kuna to 120,000 kuna. The projects were chosen by the Croatian local self-government units themselves, so it is interesting to see what was considered a priority in this situation.

More than 100 projects involve the reconstruction and improvement of the roads, and about 50 projects pertain to the improvement of pavements and footpaths, as well as the procurement of communal equipment and machinery, from lawn mowers to snow plows and farm machines such as tractors. The arrangement of public lighting, most often replacing the classic bulbs with LED lighting, was requested by about forty Croatian local self-government units, and more than 20 of them see the arrangement of carparks and cemeteries as paramount. Community homes, playgrounds and kindergartens will also be arranged with the help of the state in ten cities and municipalities across the nation.

The lowest amount, 20,000 kuna, will go to Blato on the island of Korcula for setting up some new bus stops, and with the highest amounts of support, some will be able to arrange their central squares, such as the municipalities of Martijanec (near Varazdin) and Ribnik in Karlovac County, while Orebic and Komiza down on the coast will also repair their own squares.

Janjina down in Dubrovnik-Neretva County will be helped with the improvement of their local waterfront, and Sucuraj will see the improvement of their beach fully co-financed as part of the move. Djurdjevac will arrange their town's market with this government support, and the only project in an entrepreneurial zone is found in the municipality of Velika in Pozega-Slavonia County, where the road and pedestrian path will both be arranged. The richest of all, Istria County, has the fewest projects to speak of, only three of them in total, and they relate to smaller projects on cemetery walls, landscaping and public lighting.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Spokesman: FinMin to Comment on his Decision Thursday, Government Stable

ZAGREB, 6 July 2022 - Government spokesman Marko Milić said on Wednesday that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić would speak about the reasons for his resignation in greater detail on Thursday, before or after a government session, and that his departure had not shaken the government or the ruling coalition, which were stable.

In an interview with the N1 broadcaster, Milić said that Marić had informed Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of his plan to leave the government a few weeks ago and that he attended today's meeting of the inner cabinet and would address members of the parliamentary majority and HDZ party leadership later today.

"He had an emotional address before the government and said that his decision was difficult for him," Milić said, noting that with regard to the reasons and circumstances of his departure, Marić would be available for comment on Thursday, before or after the regular government session.

Milić said that the government would "continue to work as it has so far", adding that the choice of Marić's successor - Marko Primorac of the Zagreb Faculty of Economics, "is a message of stability and continuity".

He said that Primorac's appointment would be completed by the start of the parliament's summer recess, July 15.

Meanwhile, Minister Marić will travel to Brussels to attend a session of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), which will complete the process of Croatia's accession to the euro area. ECOFIN's decision is expected on 12 July.

Asked if Marić had told the PM the reason for his decision to leave the government, Milić did not give an explicit answer, calling for calming down and "not generating panic or chaos."

The government spokesman does not believe Marić's decision to leave is reason for an early election, adding that the Opposition "should pray God we do not go to elections" considering the state it is in.

He said that the government was grateful to Marić but that it had to move on because the challenges were big, with a difficult yet not cataclysmic autumn ahead.

Speaking of Croatia's having lost an arbitration case brought by MOL, which alleged that the Croatian government did not honour its obligations from a gas business agreement, Milić said the report about the loss of the case was not carried in its integral form and that a large part of MOL's demands had been rejected, that the potential financial damage of $1.1 billion had been reduced to €184 million, and that with interest it amounted to just above $200 million.

Milić said the government accepted the arbitration decision but would continue to use the legal instruments at its disposal and that the payment of damages to MOL would not pose a major problem for the state budget.

As for a possible new set of measures to help citizens and the business sector with rising prices, Milić said the government would "be with citizens and the business sector as long as necessary" but that it was not the only market actor and that others, too, had to shoulder some of the burden.

In that context, he announced the continuation of talks with small fuel distributors, describing their announcement that they would have to close down as an instrument of pressure.

The government's decree on fuel wholesale prices is not a blow to small distributors but will affect their profit, he said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Lika-Senj Prefect Ernest Petry Reveals Plans in Works for Region

June the 1st, 2022 - Lika-Senj Prefect Ernest Petry has revealed the plans which are currently in the works for this beautiful region of the country.

As Novi list/Marin Smolcic writes, one entire year has passed since Lika-Senj Prefect Ernest Petry (HDZ) took over the helm. It is well known that this period has been very rich in meetings, field trips, decisions and efforts to make up for this part of Croatia which many deem to have been lost and forgotten about many years ago. Add in the global COVID-19 pandemic, and recently market changes caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine, the situation continues to be problematic for all. Lika-Senj Prefect Ernest Petry was asked whether or not he was satisfied with the results of the work done so far:

''Of course, the first year of my mandate is now behind me, during which I tackled many problems with my associates and worked diligently and purposefully. It's certainly important to note that I found an extremely small number of started, concrete projects, so I carefully determined the priorities and plan for the development and launch of Lika-Senj County. Time just flies and I'm aware of all the challenges we've got to face, but I'm also very optimistic and believe in the great future of our region.''

The Croatian Government has launched many projects across Lika-Senj County. What would you single out as being crucial?

''The level of cooperation with the Croatian Government, PM Andrej Plenkovic, all of the ministries and their ministers here has reached an enviable level and it's become clear that without their wholehearted support, assistance and targeted investments, Lika-Senj County would be in big trouble. I'd like to therefore highlight a number of excellent, developmental and strategic projects: the construction of the Plitvice bypass, the construction of the western and eastern bypasses in Gospic, the construction of a water supply for settlements south of Karlobag, investment in road infrastructure and the construction of pavements in Brinje, Lovinac and Vrhovine, investments in Senj, Karlobag , Zigljen, Metajna, the Municipal Port of Novalja, the Fishing Port in Novalja, the construction of a new ramp in the Port of Stinica, the construction of an agglomeration for the Plitvice Lakes area, the construction of the Kosinj/Senj 2 hydropower system, the construction of numerous power plants and the energy renovation of a number of schools.

 A project is also being prepared for the construction of the Centre for Mountainous Agriculture and Livestock, we're improving access to primary healthcare at the Health Centres in Otocac, Senj, Korenica, Gospic and clinics in Donji Lapac, we're equipping the Centre of Excellence for Gifted Children, constructing a building for the Central Land Registry Of the Republic of Croatia in Gospic, and there are many other investments going on in all cities and municipalities in this county. In addition to all of the above, the Homeland War Memorial Centre in Gospic and the Veterans' Institution for the Care of Homeland War Veterans in Otocac will be built, a children's playground will be built in Donji Lapac, a care home will be constructed in Senj, and a new fire station and a water supply network will be built.''

Some places near Karlobag will get a water supply for the first time. How do you assess this project, with the construction of new waterfronts, is there any mention of new ferry docks or ports?

''Small but valuable municipalities in Lika-Senj County require careful reconstruction, so in terms of the Municipality of Karlobag, when it comes to infrastructure - yes, the construction and the rehabilitation of ports, waterfronts and beaches are necessary. Following the position of Croatia being a country rich in tourist offers, customs and tradition, the existing infrastructure must be renovated and as such, so will the necessary sites you mentioned. Nowadays, it's impossible to develop tourism without basic communal infrastructure, without a water supply, so I'm glad that we recently finally got issued a location permit for the construction of the water supply for settlements south of Karlobag that will be built all the way to Starigrad.''

What do you expect from the construction of infrastructure projects in the Lika area (Plitvice Lakes, Gospic, Korenica, Perusic)?

''They're certainly strategic projects in terms of strengthening Lika-Senj County in the economic, demographic and every other sense. The recognisability of this county must become visible in the economic sense, and in entrepreneurship, the potential development of the little man, God-given tourism opportunities and all the natural and other resources we've inherited. The Lika-Senj brand should become recognisable for its quality and durability.''

Do you have any comment on the HES Kosinj and HPP Senj 2 projects?

''It's a strategic project, the implementation of which will contribute to the betterment of the entire region. The value of the investment of the entire upgrade is estimated at 3.45 billion kuna. In the circumstances of the current rise in energy and electricity prices on European and global markets and the European Union's decision to reduce dependence on gas imports from Russia, the decision to build new hydropower plants in the Senj Hydropower System - HES Kosinj and HPP Senj 2 - is becoming increasingly important.

The first and most important benefit for the local population is the prevention of floods in Kosinj. The HES Kosinj project will also enable the increase of agricultural and livestock production and the development of tourist and sport-recreational activities. As part of the project, the communal infrastructure in the wider area of ​​the project will be significantly improved. Several new roads with a total length of 17 kilometres are under construction, and a new water supply, electricity distribution and telecommunications infrastructure is being dealt with along most of the routes of these roads.

In the area of ​​the Municipality of Perusic, the electricity distribution network with a number of new substations and lines is being further reconstructed and upgraded with the aim of strengthening the overall network and increasing the level of security of the electricity supply to the local population. The investment value of the aforementioned projects, together with the residential building in Perusic, is around 150 million kuna. This is the amount that HEP will directly invest in improving the living conditions of the local population even before the start of production. In addition, when HES Kosinj starts production, the local self-government units will increase their permanent income from HEP in the name of compensation for the use of the space where the electricity generation facilities were built.

On top of all of that, HEP is financing a new cadastral survey conducted by the State Geodetic Administration in the wider Kosinj area, which will enable owners to clear up their long-standing unsettled ownership situations, which usually requires a lot of time and significant financial resources.''


For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Hungary's Viktor Orban Makes Bizarre Claim That Croatia "Took Their Sea"

May the 11th, 2022 - The Hungarian PM Viktor Orban is known for his rather unusual political sentiments, but this one probably takes the cake. He recently claimed that Croatia ''took Hungary's sea'', leaving it without ports. This was said in front of Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission's President.

As Morski writes, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban yesterday over Hungary's opposition to the European Union's joint embargo on Russian oil. Von der Leyen said after the meeting that progress had been made and that some issues with Orban had been clarified.

''We've made some progress, but there's still work to be done,'' she added, which actually means that no concrete agreement has yet been reached with Hungary, the leader of which is very reluctant to firmly join the EU on its stance against Russia.

As one European diplomat explained to France Presse, Hungary would need a new pipeline to secure its oil supply, connecting it to the Republic of Croatia, which has access to the sea. Therefore, it seeks guarantees that Zagreb will engage in the construction of this infrastructure, as well as guarantees of European Union funding to facilitate it financially.

''Those who have sea and ports are able to bring oil on tankers. If they hadn't taken it away from us (the sea), we would also have a port,'' Viktor Orban said in an interview with the Hungarian state radio last Friday, as reported by Politico, which explains that Orban was referring to the Dalmatian coast.

Hungary is otherwise the biggest opponent of the joint EU embargo on Russian oil, and Viktor Orban has been seen as a thorn in the side of many diplomats and politicians across the EU for some time now.

To briefly recall, all 27 EU member states must be unanimous in order for sanctions to be imposed against Russia. The sanctions proposal cites certain exceptions, but both Slovakia and Hungary consider them to be insufficient. Hungary is the country that strongly opposes the European embargo on Russian oil and has already asked for a five-year postponement.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday night that Hungary cannot accept the proposed package of European Union sanctions on Russia until its fears are resolved.

Earlier, Prime Minister Orban said that the European Commission's proposal would have the effect of an "atomic bomb for Hungary".

"It would destroy our stable energy supply," he added.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Jandroković: It's not time for political games but responsbile politics

ZAGREB, 29 March 2022 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Tuesday that "it isn't time for political games," but resolute and responsible politics and that any possible government reshuffle would first be discussed within the ruling party's bodies.

"I expect that we will discuss the government's work, the Sabor's activities and topics that interest the public. We will see what the (party leader) will have to say," Jandroković said ahead of a meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) presidency and national council scheduled for this afternoon in Karlovac.

He was responding to questions from Croatian reporters about a possible government reshuffle while attending a conference of EU parliament speakers in Slovenia.

Asked whether the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak should be replaced, Jandroković said that the "prime minister picks his team" and, as this refers to his closest associates, he will most certainly enjoy the party's support.

Asked about the other ministers, Jandroković said "they are probably doing their job."

Asked whether there were some HDZ MPs or others in the ruling coalition who could vote against a government reshuffle if Minister Tramišak were to be replaced, Jandroković said "these are serious times, very demanding, and they require big responsibility of politicians, bigger than when we do not have such crisis situations."

"The primary objective at the moment is political stability, a quality response to a series of security, socioeconomic and health issues, and this isn't a time for political games. This a time for serious and responsible politics," said Jandroković.

When it comes to media speculation about some HDZ MPs perhaps being opposed to a reshuffle, Jandroković said HDZ MPs are responsible people and will certainly think well about what to do and how.

"Do not expect HDZ MPs to act in a way that would go against what is important for Croatia," he underscored.

Jandroković, who, in public opinion, is considered to be the herald of change in the party, did not wish to answer whether it was time for the government to be refreshed and instead said that he would first say what he thinks to his party colleagues and then make that public.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Government's Agriculture Strategy Inapplicable To Croatia, Opposition Claims

ZAGREB, 17 Feb 2022 - The government's agriculture strategy up to 2030 resulted in a heated polemic in the Sabor on Thursday even prior to the official debate, with the opposition saying that it did not contain anything specific to Croatia and as such was inapplicable, yet the ruling HDZ commended the document.

The opposition called out the government for the agriculture policy, accusing it of not fulfilling the promises it made.

There was a list of your promises and what you would change, but what have you done? Božo Petrov (Bridge) asked, wanting to know what made the strategy specific to Croatia and adding that the government could well have given it to Zimbabwe.

The strategy is inapplicable to Croatian circumstances, Martina Vlašić Iljkić (Social Democratic Party) said.

Independent MP Marijana Petir in the HDZ group said that the strategy is an umbrella document that has been in waiting for 20 years.

The plan is to increase agricultural production to HRK 30 billion a year by 2030, productivity by 60%, and to provide stronger support to young farmers, to increase the number of pigs and cattle domestically bred, build 20 fruit and vegetable distribution centres, Petir went on to say.

Katarina Peović (Workers' Front) was interested to know how agricultural production could be increased from HRK 19 to 30 billion, adding that during Socialism, Croatia produced twice as much food as now.

Marijan Pavliček (Sovereiignists) noted that in the past 20 years Croatia's agriculture sector has been completely devastated and that the strategy is just another dead letter.

Ružica Vukovac (PZH) criticised the document, saying that it does not specify how to renew the cattle fund, nor is there any mention of how to limit subsidies or to regulate the market.

The document doesn't take into account Croatia's variety, from Istria via Dalmatia to Slavonia, MP Emil Daus (Istrian Democratic Party) said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Institutions Treat Croats Working Abroad Harshly, MP Bartulica Says

14 February, 2022 - The opposition Homeland Movement's whip said on Monday the taxation of Croatian residents who work abroad "discloses the institutions' harsh treatment of their own citizens."

"When the state wants to be efficient, as in this case, things are handled quickly, but when citizens depend on public administration, for example in (post-earthquake) reconstruction, the state is absent," Stephen Bartulica told the press.

He said many Croatians abroad had been calling him these days to complain about the Tax Administration.

"Enough of such oppression of one's own people! They have done nothing wrong. Many of them pay taxes in the states they are in and now Croatia, because the rates here are somewhat higher, wants to collect the difference."

Bartulica said Croatia's policy offered incentives to expats to come back, while on the other hand the Tax Administration's policy was forcing some people to even consider giving up their Croatian citizenship.

Those people didn't leave Croatia to avoid paying taxes but to survive economically, he said, adding that the ruling HDZ party should reduce the influence of politics on people's lives. "Then perhaps... those people might come back."

Bartulica did not rule out that some citizens might be evading taxes and using health insurance in Croatia despite living abroad but reiterated that they left because of the situation in Croatia, the state was partially responsible for them leaving.

He also said the state was very late in presenting measures to reduce the inflationary blow to citizens, and that one of the reasons for the current inflation was the green revolution.

Bartulica would not say if he supported the Bridge party's interpellation on the government's work on consumer protection due to energy price hikes.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Grbin: Incompetent Government Should be Forced to Make People's Lives Easier

ZAGREB, 12 Feb 2022 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Saturday that this incompetent government should be forced to do at least something to make people's lives easier in the present time of high inflation.

Speaking at a press conference in the southern coastal city of Split, Grbin said that the government should have acted four months ago rather than announce only yesterday measures that he did not expect would improve people's lives.

He acknowledged that the only thing the government had done then was cap fuel prices, which  increased again as soon as the prices were unfrozen.

Grbin said that fuel prices could only jump unless there were other measures, such as those proposed by the SDP, including the new method of VAT calculation for fuel, reduction of excise taxes, and floating excise taxes.

Speaking of the measures for combating inflation, he said that the government should show empathy and responsibility and change the present system. There are a lot of measures that can be taken, such as tax cuts on food and introducing an inflation allowance for pensioners, he added.

A s a long-term measures, the SDP proposes a change to the method of pension indexation to at least slightly improve life for pensioners and make their life more decent.

MP Branko Grčić said that the government was slow in responding to inflation and that it should change the method of VAT calculation for fuel and introduce an inflation allowance for pensioners because as many as 600,000 of them lived on the brink of poverty.

Commenting on a recent threat by Split's deputy mayor, Bojan Ivošević, to a Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper editor, Grbin said that in a country where the prime minister treats reporters arrogantly such behaviour has become normal rather than the exception. 

Grbin said that what Ivošević had done was unacceptable and should never happen. "A threat in itself is unacceptable, and making a threat just because an official is not satisfied with the way a newspaper writes about him is a step beyond that," Grbin said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Number of Local Government Employees Up 78% From 2001

ZAGREB, 12 Feb 2022 - Croatia's population has shrunk by more than half a million since 2001 but the number of employees in local government units has swollen in the past 20 years, the Večernji List daily reported on Saturday.

In municipalities, the number of local government employees has increased by 2.5 times, in cities it has increased by 50% while in counties it has doubled.

"The number of local and regional government employees has increased from 10,692 to 19,047, that is, by as much as 78.4%. The same trend can be noticed as regards employment in the state and public sectors, where in the last 13 years outlays for employees have increased by HRK 11.8 billion or 68%," MP Natalija Martinčević of the People's Party - Reformists said in parliament, calling for prompt action to change the system.

"The century we live in is a century of informatisation and digitalisation, which enables all users to obtain a whole set of services on their own and that significantly reduces the scope of work of the existing public administration," she said.

In 2020 there were 19,047 local government employees in 576 local and regional government units (428 municipalities, 127 cities, 20 counties and the City of Zagreb).

An analysis by former public administration minister Dubravka Jurlina Alibegović, a lecturer at the Zagreb Faculty of Economics, shows that in 2019, 2,409 people were employed in county government bodies, 10,777 were employed in city government bodies, and 5,861 in municipal government bodies.

That means that a county administration employs an average 120 people, a city administration close to 85, and a municipal administration 14. Comparing data for 2018 and 2019, Jurlina Alibegović showed that in that period the number of employees in municipal administration rose by as much as 7.3%, the number of county administration employees grew by 2.3% and the number of those working in city administration bodies rose by 11% in 2018 compared to 2017.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 10 February 2022

President Says He Did Not Request Refurbishment of Summer Villa

ZAGREB, 10 Feb 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Thursday he had not requested the refurbishment of a presidential summer residence on the southern island of Hvar, as claimed by Defence Minister Mario Banožić, and would therefore demand a probe.

Following Defence Minister Mario Banožić's statement on Wednesday evening in which he called out Milanović for the refurbishment and investments in the state-owned villa on the island of Hvar, which cost several hundred thousand kuna, the President today denied the allegations that he had demanded the renovation of the building.

The President neither requested the renovation nor had he any knowledge of the refurbishment and investment, performed obviously by the Državne Nekretnine state property management company during Banožić's term as the State Assets Minister, the President's Office said in a press release.

Milanović demanded specifications of the costs of the refurbishment since there could be seen no signs of renovation or investment in the villa that would warrant such an amount.

The President wondered ironically whether during his term as the State Assets Minister, Banožić had got the villa refurbished at his own initiative in order to obtain the President's favour.

Đerek responds to Banožić's accusations

Maja Đerek, a former employee at the Državne Nekretnine company who was accused by Banožić of misappropriating funds for the refurbishment of the villa, counterclaimed on Thursday that it would be useful for Banožić to recall that it was the company's acting director Renata Sabo who was responsible for the management of the Kovač Vila.

Đerek said ironically that Banožić's personal "realtor" Sabo was the person responsible for the case.

Đerek said it was evident from the relevant documents that the refurbishment had been done on 21 May 2020 when Banožić served as the State Assets Minister and when her superior was Sabo.


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