Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Homeland Movement Accepts Miroslav Škoro's Resignation

ZAGREB, 28 July, 2021 - The presidency of the Homeland Movement (DP) party on Wednesday unanimously accepted party leader Miroslav Škoro's irrevocable resignation as well as the resignation of secretary-general Dario Žepina, launching disciplinary proceedings against DP MP Vesna Vučemilović, who is Škoro's sister.

DP vice-president Mario Radić said that the party leadership concluded that preserving DP's stability was of the utmost importance at present and that "the party's unity was not in question at any moment, despite media reports to the contrary."

He added that disciplinary proceedings were launched against DP member and MP Vesna Vučemilović because she had abused her position in the party and caused harm to the party's reputation.

The disciplinary proceedings should be completed in 90 days and until then, Vučemilović's status and rights are suspended, it was said.

DP MP Stephen Nikola Bartulica said that he was sorry Vučemilović had walked out of today's party meeting, dismissing her claim, posted on her Facebook wall, that there had been attempts to silence and intimidate her.

DP Presidency member Igor Peternel expressed confidence that the party's future was not in question.

The DP will decide about its new leader in the autumn.

Radić reiterated that he would not run for DP president and that he was also not considering reactivating his term as a member of parliament.

DP officials said they did not expect their party group in the parliament to fall apart.

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

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

SDP Expels Six Prominent Members

ZAGREB, 28 July, 2021 - Six prominent members of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) have not had their membership renewed following membership reviews in the party's Zagreb and Slavonski Brod branches, Hina learned unofficially.

The members in question are: MP and former cabinet minister Ranko Ostojić, MPs and former secretaries-general Zvane Brumnić and Nikša Vukas, MP Marina Opačak Bilić from Slavonski Brod, who was involved in a financial scandal, former head of the Zagreb branch Gordan Maras, and Tihomir Barišić, best man to former party leader Davor Bernardić.

The reasons for their expulsion are of a political nature. They were told that people who did damage to the party or refused to take an active part in recent local elections could not keep their membership cards.

With these decisions, the SDP has been left without four MPs and now holds 28 seats in the 151-seat parliament. The question is whether there will be more expulsions and how Bernardić will react, given that these are mainly his associates.

According to unofficial sources, the six expelled members were called by SDP leader Peđa Grbin to tell them that their membership would not be renewed.

After the membership review in Zagreb, it is estimated that of the previous 4,000 members about 1,700 are left now, as members who could not be contacted or have not paid their membership fees for more than a year have also been expelled.

Writing in a Facebook post, Maras said that he would never sell his views to win anyone's favours. "What matters the most to me is you who support me without any interest and just because you know that i am OK. There are stages in life and nothing happens without a reason. I believe i didn't let you down," Maras said in a message to his followers.

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

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Defense Minister Mario Banožić: Problem of Substance Abuse Among Military Personnel Under Scrutiny

ZAGREB, 28 July, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Božinović said on Wednesday the Croatian Armed Forces had zero tolerance for drug abuse, and in the context of the latest drug abuse cases, the minister announced stricter control and disciplinary measures aimed at reducing drug abuse to a minimum and protecting the reputation of the Croatian Armed Forces.

Speaking to the press ahead of an inner cabinet meeting, Banožić said that in accordance with the Drug Abuse Prevention Act, the military police were implementing emergency control measures.

He confirmed that along with the four soldiers who had tested positive for drugs in early July, another three soldiers tested positive for illegal substances last Friday while one more soldier tried to avoid testing.

A total of 30 soldiers in barracks in Split, Ploče, Udbina, Delnice, Vinkovci and  Velika Gorica have been tested so far and drug testing will continue.

The minister expects everyone in the Armed Forces to make joint efforts to prevent drug abuse, announcing a set of measures to deal with this problem.

Banožić said the military police were still investigating recent suicide cases in the Armed Forces and that the public would be notified of the results of the investigation in due course.

The minister also announced increased counselling for members of the Armed Forces.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Minister Tomo Medved: Central Celebration of Operation Storm to be Held at Knin Stadium

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - The 26th anniversary of Operation Storm will be organised in accordance with epidemiological measures and the central celebration will be held at the football stadium in Knin, while the ceremonial part will take place at the Knin Fortress, Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved said on Tuesday.

Based on guidance from the Croatian Public Health Institute on compliance with coronavirus restrictions, it has been assessed that the Knin stadium is the best place to organise a dignified commemoration of this important date in our recent history while respecting the epidemiological measures, Medved told a press conference after a meeting of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and relevant cabinet ministers with representatives of the association of retired Croatian army generals.

Before the commemoration, senior state officials will lay wreaths in front of the monument to the casualties and the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Asked whether he expected representatives of the Serb minority to attend, after Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS) attended last year's ceremony, Medved said that an agreement had not yet been reached as to which cabinet members would be attending.

Reporters were also interested in hearing whether anyone from the Croatian Defence Force (HOS), the paramilitary arm of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights,  would attend, Medved said that the position of the Council for Facing the Past was clear and that all components of the Croatian army and police, as well as associations of Homeland War veterans and casualties, would be invited to attend that important anniversary.

Miljavac: The problem is that young people are being recruited with HOS insignia

The head of the association of retired army generals, Pavao Miljavac, said that the association supports the idea for the commemoration to be held at the stadium due to the COVID-19 situation.

As for HOS's participation in the war, Miljavac said that its members need to be honoured as they went to defend Croatia without any ideology.

"The problem to me is that young people, 19 or 20 year olds,  are again being recruited with HOS insignia," said Miljavac and quoted the late president Franjo Tuđman as saying: "Had we continued down that path, Croatia would hardly have been recognised."

During the meeting, the participants discussed disagreements over the Civilian Casualties of the Homeland War Act.

Miljavac underscored that the minister assured them that the law would be implemented in such a way that it will minimise any possible abuse of the law.

"Strict coordination will be conducted between the Interior Ministry and Croatian defenders. We have a list of who was where - almost 95%, so that it will be strictly implemented, and there shouldn't be any abuse," he said.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević: 11 of 27 Department Heads no Longer in Their Positions

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Eleven of 27 heads of city departments in Zagreb are no longer in their positions and acting heads will be appointed in their stead from among administration staff, Mayor Tomislav Tomašević announced on Tuesday, saying that this transition will last until the reorganisation of the city administration. 

"It was important to us that some of them no longer hold those positions and that they do not have the authority to sign (contracts)," Tomašević told a press conference while speaking about moves by the new city administration in the last two months.

The mayor said that some of the department heads were leaving while the majority had been reassigned to other jobs. Noting that the transition period would be temporary, he said that a call for new department heads would be issued as part of the reorganisation of the city administration, which takes effect on 31 October, and there would be a revision of job classification for each department. 

Speaking of the pace of post-earthquake reconstruction, Tomašević said that no one could be satisfied with it and that no progress would be possible without a systematic solution at state level.

"We can say what we have done each week for the last two months to speed up the reconstruction process. Since the City of Zagreb is not fully responsible for reconstruction, good cooperation (with the central government) is imperative," he stressed, adding that this would most likely require amending the Reconstruction Act.

Tomašević said that calls for one-off grants to non-governmental organisations would be suspended as of 31 July as part of budget cuts.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Tax Relief Proposals by Hospitality Sector Reps not Accepted

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić on Tuesday did not accept proposals for a lower VAT rate on beverages and to treat labour costs as a tax deduction, while a representative of restaurant and bar owners said they would have to fend for themselves the best way they can regarding future challenges.

"My message to all restaurant and bar owners in the country, notably those who run bars, is that a very demanding period is ahead of us and that they will have to seek new loans and funding, despite the fact that we had yet another constructive meeting with the finance minister today. We can hope that in a couple of years we will have better working conditions because now that is not the case and we have not come across any understanding in regard to our proposals," Jelena Tabak, who heads the NUU association of restaurateurs, said after the meeting.

Marić recalled that a lower VAT rate was already in place in the tourism sector for accommodation, food and for the serving of food and that beverages were the only products for which VAT had not been reduced.

Commenting on the proposal to exclude labour costs from the base amount for the calculation of the VAT rate in the hospitality sector, the minister said that neither Croatia's nor the EU's tax systems recognised such a measure.

"In terms of taxation, labour costs are indeed recognised costs but in systems in which they should be recognised - the income and profit tax systems. We cannot mix direct taxes with indirect taxes such as VAT," he explained.

Marić recalled the government's measures to help the business sector, from lower taxes to the cancellation of individual contributions, as well as expanding the scope of nontaxable income, which, he said, had resulted in a rise in employment and wages, as evidenced by statistical data.

He recalled the government's job-keeping measures and coverage of fixed costs in the hospitality sector, stressing that data on fiscalisation showed that the hospitality sector had solid results and that the real peak of the tourist season was yet to come.

Dražen Biljan of the bar owners' association of the NUU Zagreb branch said that they were not happy that their proposals were not accepted and that lowering VAT on drinks would not cost the state too much, around HRK 400 million. It would, however, mean a lot for restaurant and bar owners, he said.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Contracts For Higher Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Industries Signed

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Economy Ministry officials on Tuesday presented contracts awarded as part of the HRK 326.3 million public call "Increasing Energy Efficiency and the Use of Renewables in Manufacturing Industries", with the total value of the projects to be implemented standing at HRK 672 million.

340 businesses applied to the call, and 28 - five micro and small businesses, six medium-size businesses and 17 big companies - were awarded money from the EU Competitiveness and Cohesion Fund.

Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić said he expected the companies that were given grants to increase their energy efficiency as well as competitiveness as a result of lower energy consumption and increased production efficiency.

He noted that significant funds were envisaged for that purpose also under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and that domestic businesses could expect new calls for applications by the end of this year and the beginning of 2022.

The approved grants must be invested in the next one to two years.

As a small, open economy, in the previous decades Croatia mostly exploited its development capacity in the services sector, including tourism, while now national plans and strategies should put special emphasis on manufacturing industries so that the country can catch up with EU standards, Ćorić said, adding that domestic producers could impact export as one of the key variables of the national economy.

"There will be more calls like this one in the period to come," he said.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

GLAS Slams Gov't Proposal to Restrict Sunday Trading

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - The parliamentary opposition GLAS party said on Tuesday that a government proposal to restrict Sunday trading was "harmful populism and hypocrisy" by the ruling HDZ party, noting that the government had not thought about fair remuneration for Sunday work.

"(Economy) Minister (Tomislav) Ćorić of the HDZ and Prime Minister Plenković himself have been insisting lately on banning Sunday trading so strongly that uninformed onlookers might conclude that their government has nothing better to do. And they have been doing so amidst a pandemic and crisis and after two disastrous earthquakes," the party said in a statement.

It noted that the government was not thinking about how to ensure fair remuneration for people who work on Sundays in the retail sector.

"If the government were really interested in solving the problem, it would accept GLAS's proposal for fair pay for Sunday work, instead of turning it down several times," the party said, adding that its MP Anka Mrak Taritaš would again submit a proposal to that effect to the parliament.

"It is also interesting how the HDZ sees the development of Croatia's tourism - shops would be allowed to work 16 Sundays a year, which means that the government restricts in advance the tourist season to that many weeks," GLAS said.

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

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Roma People COVID-19 Vaccination in Croatia: Will Crushed by Disinformation

July 22, 2021 - With the overall struggle to get Croatians to take the coronavirus vaccine, it is often overlooked regarding Roma people COVID-19 vaccination in Croatia.

Despite coronavirus infections being low at the moment, the situation is tense. On July 5, as TCN reported, only 35% of the Croatian population was vaccinated as the Delta strain spreads globally and in the country.

"Unfortunately, we aren't satisfied with the percentage of vaccinated people we hoped to have. We all wanted to vaccinate more than 50 percent of the total Croatian population during June, but sadly our numbers in that regard are much lower. Only about 35 percent of the total Croatian population has been vaccinated, which isn't enough for them to be calm and to be able to live according to the old normal,'' said epidemiologist Dijana Mayer back then. This was punished with the Croatian coast no longer being in the green, and without bigger vaccination interest, things can turn red. As TCN wrote, there are 5-6 Positive Cases at Split Airport every day, and new measures are introduced to British tourists as the Delta strain is booming there (but in a less fatal manner because of vaccines). Stricter measures, in general, can be excepted by the end of the month in Croatia too.

Fortunately, things got better in July. As reported on Wednesday, „Croatia administered nearly three million vaccine doses. Thus, 1.6 million people have received at least one dose of vaccines against COVID-19, and 1,388,674 have fully been vaccinated (1,349,652 have been double-jabbed plus 39,022 who have received a single-dose Jannsen vaccine), and this makes up 41.24% of the adult population“.

But, disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is vividly spread (just as disinformation about COVID-19), leaving Croatian fact-checking site Faktograf knee-deep in debunking work. Many Croatians sadly believe the fake news of the anti-vaxxers, and the situation culminated to the point where the Croatian officials (as officials in many other EU countries that also struggle with anti-vax propaganda) seriously discuss obligatory vaccination. Will it happen? Some politicians are up for it, others no, but overall, the situation is uncertain as the fourth infection wave approaches, and the season could potentially be in jeopardy in mid-August, as 24 Sata writes.

vaccine-6165772_1280.jpg

COVID-19 vaccine © Pixabay

In summary, there are currently more vaccines in Croatia than there are people interested in. It's hard to believe how things progressed from the start of the year when we witnessed a delay in vaccine shipments, outrage by the public when people such as Zagreb University Rector Damir Boras received the vaccine ahead of time and schedule. From the malfunctioning Cijepi se (Vaccinate yourself) website where you had to register for an appointment (which took forever to get) to a family doctor being able to sign you up, all the way to be able to take a shot without an appointment today, vaccines truly became accessible for everyone. There were even buses bringing vaccines and performing vaccinations in remote villages. So vaccines are for everyone to take, but is it really so?

Nothing in the world is perfect, and neither is Croatia. From time to time, we can see that some groups in Croatian society do get discriminated against or suffer negative stereotypes. For example, with significant progress in accepting the LGBTQ community, sadly homophobic attacks still happen. The tensions with the Serbian minority vary from the day-to-day political agenda, but it is safe to say no one has it worse than the Roma people in Croatia.

As TCN previously wrote, following the 2020 report by Human Rights House in Zagreb, Roma people in Croatia are still facing many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the education system too. Either perceived as thieves, criminals, beggars or completely ignored in Croatia, the question of how many Roma people in Croatia received the vaccine and how many Roma people want the vaccine in the first place, can't be left aside, as it shows how much the vaccine rollout truly is fair for every citizen in the country.

Disinformation crippled 80% of those willing to get the vaccine

Veljko Kajtazi, a member of the Croatian parliament, elected as a representative of the Roma community, says that official research of percentage of vaccinated Roma people hasn't been conducted, but he frequently goes „to the field“, and sees that the situation isn't good.

„If 45% of the Croatian population is vaccinated, I can say that Roma people are a very small percentage of that number“, commented Kajtazi, then on a relevant number of vaccinated people.

He supports the talk of obligatory vaccines and finds disinformation and fake news regarding vaccines to be the cause of low interest.

veljko_kajtazi_Hrvatska_radiotelevizija.jpgVeljko Kajtazi, screenshot / Hrvatska radiotelevizija

„Roma people have a very social culture, love gatherings, and live in big families. When the pandemic started, I cooperated with authorities in ensuring that social distancing measures are respected in Roma settlements and that we educate people on the dangers of coronavirus“, recalled Kajtazi.

While Roma people can be found living anywhere, the majority is often ghettoized. An example is in Zagreb, where the Kozari Bok neighborhood on the east side of the city is famous for its big Roma population. When looking outside of the capital city, there are many Roma villages and settlements which count more people than other Croatian villages.

One such place is Piškorovec in Međimurje, which the Lupiga news site referred to as „the biggest Croatian ghetto“. Their article detailed both living in Piškorovec and tensions with the nearby town of Čakovec underlining incidents and division between Roma and Croatians (as Roma People are often perceived as thieves or beggars).

„Last year 80% of Roma people wanted to take the vaccine, but today, they are scared and believe various conspiracy theories. People are not informed, and social networks spread so much disinformation“, Kajtazi pictured how wishing for a vaccine turned sideways.

In the end, he added that he is regularly in contact with the government and institutions to provide information on vaccines to the community. Katja also hopes the vaccine buses will come to Roma villages too.

Questions for HZJZ

The lack of information, geographical isolation, and the overall achievement of social rights (such as health insurance) like other Croatian citizens that the Human Rights House in Zagreb expressed in their report left a lot of open questions regarding Roma people vaccination. Particularly, are there any statistics on how many people vaccinated that the health officials might have, what is the mood towards vaccines in Roma communities in their view, and can buses come to isolated areas to vaccinate Roma people? The inquiry was sent to the Health Ministry and to the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ). Health Ministry very quickly forwarded the inquiry to the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) as these questions are part of their domain. The health ministry even forwarded the questions directly to the HZJZ headmaster Krunoslav Capak himself and other close associates on e-mail addresses not visible on the HZJZ website. But, HZJZ hasn't responded yet. Whether I tried to remind them and ask when can they answer via e-mail or phone calls, none left a response (although a phone call with HZJZ PR service confirmed there are experts in HZJZ that deal with the health of vulnerable social groups, which includes Roma People).

When the answer that can be expected for the moment remains unknown, but TCN will publish HZJZ's response when we receive it.

In the meantime, as we can see, despite vaccine skepticism being strong, there is nevertheless a slow but steady daily rise of vaccinated people in Croatia. 

Let's hope for the sake of public health that disinformation and fake news that turn people away from the vaccines will lower its influence on all the cultural groups and identities you can find in Croatia.

Learn more about travelling to Croatia during the COVID-19 pandemic on our TC page.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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