Thursday, 17 March 2022

Opposition Says VAT Cuts Welcome, but Late

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - The government's proposal to cut VAT on food and gas is welcome but late and insufficient, the parliamentary opposition said on Thursday, while the ruling HDZ said the cut was timely and that it would help citizens weather the price rises.

"The government's proposal is going in the right direction, but the fact is that it's late and it's not enough," Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said ahead of a debate on amendments to the VAT Act whereby the government wishes to buffer the energy price hikes and protect living standards and the economy.

Grbin said the government should introduce other measures, too, and asked what it was doing to ensure incentives for enterprises so they could work in these crisis times.

Marijan Pavliček of the Sovereignists said they mostly agreed with the government's measures but asked why the amendments to the VAT Act did not go into force on 1 March.

"This blow is unbearable and the government should have reacted much sooner and much stronger," Nikola Grmoja of Bridge said, calling on the government to further cut excises on fuel.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said this was too little too late and that the government reacted only when it absolutely had to.

Marin Lertoić of the Istrian Democratic Party said they supported any relief of households and businesses.

Grozdana Perić of the HDZ said these amendments would help citizens weather the energy price hikes and that over the past six years the government had found solutions to crises and stabilised public finance.

The opposition fears that the VAT cuts on key foodstuffs and gas will not result in lower food prices.

Davor Bernardić of the Social Democrats said that when VAT was cut in 2018, food became more expensive.

He said foreign retail chains would have discounts for a week and then prices would soar, adding that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić would be responsible for millions of kuna ending in the pockets of foreign retailers, just as it was in 2018.

The government has proposed reducing VAT from 25% and 13% to 5% on children's food, edible oils and fats, butter and margarine, live animals, fresh meat and fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, seedlings, fertilisers and pesticides, fodder for animals, and tickets for concerts, sporting and cultural events.

The government also proposed a 13% VAT rate on natural gas supplies and heating from power stations, firewood, and menstrual products, among other things, and a 5% VAT rate on natural gas deliveries from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

The VAT cuts are estimated at HRK 2.1 billion.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Dunja Magaš to Head Construction Ministry Until New Minister is Appointed

21 February, 2022 - Until a new minister is appointed, state secretary Dunja Magaš will head the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković decided on Monday.

Prime Minister Plenković decided today that the state secretary in the ministry Magaš will manage the ministry until a new minister is appointed, government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina.

The prime minister's decision comes after Horvat stepped down in the wake of being arrested and being remanded in custody, accused by the USKOK anti-corruption office of abuse of office and powers.

With reference to Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević's resignation, the government referred to Plenković's statement on Saturday that ministerial positions were always in the remit of the prime minister, from the very first day, as they are in these circumstances, which also applies to Labour Minister Josip Aladrović and Milošević.

SDSS president Milorad Pupovac said earlier today that Milošević had tendered his resignation after unofficial information that he is suspected of being involved in a scandal of currying favour in issuing grants.

The government confirmed that a meeting of the parliamentary majority would be held on Tuesday to discuss the current political situation, adding that the parliamentary majority is firm and stable and there would not be any snap election.

The presidency and national council of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) are set to meet later today.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Left-Liberal Opposition Calls for Snap Election

21 February, 2022 - Left-liberal opposition MPs on Monday called for a snap election, announcing that they would sign a motion for parliament's dissolution following Minister Darko Horvat's arrest and an investigation into Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević.

The left-liberal opposition assessed Prime Minister Plenković's statement on Saturday, after Horvat was arrested on suspicion of illegally awarding HRK 2.6 million in grants, as scandalous and unprecedented pressure on the judiciary.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Plenković called out the State Attorney's Office (DORH) to explain its action regarding Horvat to the public, saying that it was disproportionate and that the timing of the arrest was odd.

Jakšić: SDP was the first to call for a snap election Saturday

SDP MP Mišel Jakšić said that his party was the first on Saturday to call for an early election. "The opposition has to show a high level of responsibility in this regard and that is for us to go together towards the objective of an early election and in that way show citizens that a country where ministers are arrested is not normal," he said.

Commenting on media reports that Milošević's arrest was halted at the very last moment, Jakšić said that the SDP had been concerned for quite some time now about leaks in investigations.

"We are quite concerned that there may have been some sort of bargaining," the chairman of the parliamentary Judiciary Committee said, announcing a thematical meeting of the committee this week to discuss whether pressure had been exerted on the judiciary because "Prime Minister Plenković had a very ugly attitude towards DORH and USKOK (anti-corruption office)."

If it turns out to be true that Milošević's arrest was halted by political pressure then that is a bad message, said Jakšić.

In a situation when he has to worry about the pandemic, energy crisis and post-earthquake reconstruction, the prime minister has to worry about who else might be arrested tomorrow, and that cannot be the way to lead the country, MP Ivana Kekin said.

"The only solution is an early election," she said, adding that everyone in the opposition, with the exception of Hrvoje Zekanović, seems to think that there should be a snap election. She stressed that a government reshuffle was out of the question.

"It's high time the prime minister faced the truth that his government is not functioning," concluded Kekin.

Puljak: Entire opposition should be untied in supporting Bridge motion to dissolve Sabor

Marijana Puljak (Centre) said that her parliamentary group would certainly support an early election during this greatest crisis for the country in the past decade.

She believes that the entire opposition should support Bridge's motion to dissolve the Sabor regardless of different views.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

PM Plenkovic Reveals Inflation Measures: Lower VAT on Food, Fuel...

February the 17th, 2022 - PM Plenkovic has revealed the Croatian Government's highly anticipated inflation measures to try to curb the negative effects globally rising prices are having on the domestic economy and as such on the country's residents.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, PM Plenkovic has stated that Croatia's inflation measures will be put into force as of April the 1st this year.

"The current global rise in energy prices has caused a wave of rising prices across Europe. Fuel prices in Europe are rising due to higher demand after the coronavirus crisis, the second reason is the situation with Russia, which is the largest supplier and has reduced production, Norway can't increase its production, in Europe there is higher demand due to recovery and colder winters. 43% of European gas comes from Russia, 23% comes from Norway, 11% from Algeria. Europe imports 61% of its total energy needs and 90% of its gas needs, which accounts for 21% of energy consumption,'' said PM Plenkovic, adding that the package of measures will be in force from the aforementioned date.

“The average price is 120 mW / h, 2.7 times higher than in Croatia. In Croatia, we had a system in which the prices were regulated for a year. If it weren't for this intervention, the prices for electricity would increase by 23 percent from April the 1st, and for gas, by 79 percent ", he emphasised.

"The package we're presenting today is worth 4.8 billion kuna. It was done systematically, in coordination with all ministries and bodies. It applies to households, companies and farmers. It's universal, meaning it's aimed at all users. It refers to the reduction of household bills, tax relief, one-off benefits for pensioners, a special programme for fishermen Gas prices will grow to a maximum of 29 percent with these measures in place. As far as gas is concerned, if we did nothing, 0.326 kW / h would jump to 0.574 kuna. When we reduce VAT, we arrive to 0.482, and with an additional subsidy we come to 0.382 kuna per kW / h,'' said PM Plenkovic.

''These benefits will apply to all households that use gas. The amount of support directly on the bill is 10 lipa per kilowatt-hour. The amount of the discount is shown on the invoice with a separate item. The cost of this measure is 600 million kuna, and we'll provide it by selling greenhouse gas emissions at auction. By changing the law, we'll permanently reduce the VAT on gas and heating from 25 percent to 13 percent. This equalises the VAT on electricity and gas and thermal energy,'' he added.

Gas will be reduced from 25 percent to 5 percent from April the 1st, 2022 to March the 31st, 2023.

VAT on food is also being reduced from 13 percent down to 5 percent on fresh meat and fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, edible oils and fats, baby food, agricultural costs, seedlings, fertilisers and pesticides, and from 25 percent to 5 percent. percent on butter and margarine. VAT on products such as sanitary pads and tampons is also being reduced from 25 percent down to 13 percent. VAT on tickets for sports, cultural and other events is also being reduced from 25 and 13 to 5 percent.

The amount of vouchers for the most vulnerable in society is also being doubled, increasing from 200 to 400 kuna.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Croatia-Saudi Arabia Relations Intensifying, Government Says

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, on Wednesday the government said in a press release.

The two officials reaffirmed the good relations between Croatia and Saudi Arabia, which the opening of embassies in Zagreb and Riyadh is expected to intensify.

Plenković and Prince Faisal expressed readiness to organise a Croatian-Saudi business forum.

They also discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Plenković saying that key for its prosperity and European future was that it was a stable country where the equality of the three constituent peoples was honoured.

The two officials also discussed the current situation on the energy market and the possibility of developing cooperation in energy.

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, 14 February 2022

Croatian Government Inflation Measures: Lower VAT, Vouchers...

February the 14th, 2022 - The crisis surrounding rising energy prices across not only Croatia but the rest of Europe and indeed the world is continuing to throw proverbial spanners in the works for many and causing growing concern for companies and business. Croatian Government inflation measures are set to be rapidly introduced as a result of the spiralling situation which poses very little good for the domestic economy.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at some point in the middle of next week, new Croatian Government inflation measures aimed at maintaining the standards of the country's residents due to high inflation, will be introduced. The move will now be being anticipated by many as the situation continues to unfold in a negative light.

RTL Television published the first hints about what these Croatian Government inflation measures might look like when they come into force:

Most of the measures are aimed at the most vulnerable people among us, therefore it has been announced that special vouchers to cover the difference in rising bill amounts will amount to more than 200 kuna at a time, and that they could also be extended to a larger circle of users during this inflation crisis.

The Prime Minister's Advisor for Economic Affairs, Zvonimir Savic, confirmed that there will be a reduction in the VAT rate, a topic which has been being talked about in many sectors for a very long time now. VAT on energy will be reduced, and state-owned suppliers will have to give up part of their earnings as a result of that.

However, it has not yet been decided whether these new Croatian Government inflation measures will reduce the VAT on gas down to 13 or a very welcome 5 percent.

On top of that, we do know that the tax placed on basic food products - eggs, flour, sugar, milk and the like - will be reduced from 13 to 5 percent.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Survey Shows Politicians, Advertisers Pressure Journalists

ZAGREB, 19 Dec, 2021 - Companies' representatives, advertisers, politicians and government members are the untouchables in the media, according to a survey which journalist and editor Đurđica Klancir did for the GONG civil society organisation.

Although those in power often claim there is no censorship in Croatia's media sphere, more than two in three journalists answered in the affirmative when asked if they were exposed to pressure due to their stories in the past two years, GONG says on its website.

Also, two in three respondents said they witnessed pressure on their newsrooms by power-wielders, media owners, and their own outlet's marketing departments.

Thirty experienced journalists and editors from the public broadcaster, the most influential private TV stations, print media and web portals were contacted at the start of the survey and 23 responded, says GONG executive director Oriana Ivković Novokmet.

Almost half the respondents said that in the last two years they were banned from tackling certain subjects, most often due to advertisers but also during the 2020 parliamentary election campaign. Besides big advertisers, the untouchables included members of the ruling party, ministers, the prime minister, as well as opposition politicians.

Stories are most often stopped due to advertisers, but only a few respondents said attempts were made to influence their work while preparing and researching a story. Such suggestions came most often from their editors or their outlet's owners. According to one respondent, politicians and PR agents also suggested the direction a story should take.

With increasing frequency, journalists are asked to write articles commissioned by editors based on theses given in advance, often incorrect ones, one journalist said. "We are also asked to write PR and native articles, both economic and political ones, often covertly. Refusal to write an article in the way requested can mean, and often means, termination, and it almost certainly means degradation."

The findings of this pilot survey show that there is censorship in Croatia's media sphere and that newsroom censorship mechanisms are increasingly present, GONG says, adding that it's necessary to continue to look into this matter as well as persist in eliminating all forms of censorship and pressure on journalists and the media.

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

Milanović: Plenković’s Cynicism Ruining Croatia Spiritually, Materially

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović on Saturday criticised Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's statement that he expected Milanović to release a letter from the military chief-of-staff, saying "such cynicism and contempt for the truth and rules is ruining Croatia spiritually and materially."

That letter is to his defence minister and is classified, Milanović told press. In the letter, he said, the military chief-of-staff "warns, asks, even tells (the minister) that he is harassing the entire system, that he is strategically mobbing him and jeopardising the system."

"That document is not secret, I can declassify and make it public tomorrow, but I wanted Plenković to read it first. I wrote in the letter that I ask him to pay special attention to it... One corrupt loony can cause enormous damage, which is currently happening," the president said, alluding to Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

Speaking of a scandal involving the transport of bishops by a Navy vessel, he said the military must not be used for that and would not be any more as long as he was president. Banožić brought the bishops into an awkward position, he added.

As for the prime minister's statement that the Navy would not be ruined because of that transport, Milanović asked him if the EU would be ruined because of the recently arrested former EU funds minister Gabrijela Žalac.

Such a cynical approach by the prime minister when someone commits an evident offence with criminal intent, that's favouring, that's protection, he said.

Banožić is a case for OLAF and should be removed at once

Milanović said that due to Banožić's arbitrariness, the soldiers escorting him were not receiving per diems. That's a crime, that's his revenge. We'll see how to legally stop such barbarous behaviour, he added. "Banožić is a case for OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) and should be removed at once."

The president reiterated that he would "sit at the table only with Plenković," not with Banožić.

Fitch rating upgrade expected

Commenting on the Fitch Ratings agency's upgrade of Croatia's credit rating, Milanović said it had been announced and expected due to Croatia's upcoming euro area entry.

Asked to comment on Žalac's arrest earlier this week, he wondered how Plenković would explain in Brussels "this fiasco with EU funds and the people he trusted. Because this is a fiasco. Such outrageous things rarely happen. This is indeed an outrage."

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

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Tomislav Coric Claims Government Doing All to Stabilise Fuel Situation

October the 22nd, 2021 - Economy Minister Tomislav Coric has attempted to reassure the public that the government is willing to do all it can to deal with the situation around increasing fuel prices.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the government is considering additional measures in case of continued increase in fuel prices after 30 days of direct intervention in the market through the adoption of a decree on the matter, and according to the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric, there will be a slightly fairer distribution of responsibilities to come.

According to Tomislav Coric, in the coming weeks, the Croatian Government will analyse the situation, and although they hope to reduce prices, he says, at the moment it isn't expected that this will happen soon, so the concrete actions of Banski dvori are again set to be guided by allowing the price to remain stable and trying to ensure a “fairer distribution of responsibilities that is initially at the disposal of distributors”.

By freezing prices for a period of thirty days, the main aim was for companies and residents to be able to "catch their breath and stabilise their expectations'' in the current situation.

According to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, distributors' margins are high enough to take on this "first wave" of price increases, which, according to the calculations( for diesel fuels that businesses predominantly use) at today's prices means encroaching on margins of 63 lipa per litre of diesel fuel.

The government's move in the first wave is considered to be correct because it has temporarily stopped a whole series of price increases, according to consultant Davor Stern.

In addition, oil circles are speculating about possible government moves which are yet to come, including the possibility of correcting a systemic injustice without interfering with the tax system by amending the basis for calculating VAT, which would result in lower prices for the end users.

In this sense, if the calculation were done on the price of fuel, and with excise duties from which fees on roads and railways are exempted, such a base would result in a reduction in prices overall.

For more, follow our politics section.

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