Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Bridge Terminates Cooperation With Split Mayor, Demands Fresh Election

ZAGREB, 30 March 2022 - The three members of the Bridge party in the Split City Council have terminated their cooperation with Mayor Ivica Puljak over his failure to resolve the case of his deputy, Bojan Ivošević, and Bridge's local branch has called for a fresh election.

Ivošević has been indicted for threatening an editor of the Slobodna Dalmacija daily.

"Mayor Puljak's actions have presented us with a fait accompli, irreparably compromising our cooperation with him and the executive authority. That's why we are compelled to terminate our cooperation," Bridge Councillor Josip Markotić told a press conference in Split.

Markotić said the only way out of the present situation was a fresh election, and not just for the City Council but also for Mayor. "We insist on this election," he stressed, adding that the election could be held together with local elections in the city scheduled for June.

Markotić said his party had tried to meet with the mayor to discuss the new situation, but "a meeting never materialised."

The councillors from the Smart for Split and Dalmatia party, the We Can! platform and the Ramljak-Marić Independent List said on Tuesday they were suspending their cooperation with Mayor Puljak over his indecision to resolve the Ivošević case.

Markotić said that Bridge had talked to these councillors and they had agreed on their reactions together, "the only difference being that we insist on a fresh election."

Responding to questions from the press, Markotić said they could restore cooperation with the mayor if Ivošević resigned.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Government Reshuffle in Interest of All Coalition Partners, Pupovac Says

ZAGREB, 30 March 2022 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) president Milorad Pupovac said on Wednesday the party supported the announced government reshuffle, adding that it was in the interest of all coalition partners, and that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević would prove that he was an honest man.

Speaking to the press, Pupovac said Milošević had the party's "full support in everything he is going through because we believe that what he did was part of his mandate as an MP."

Milošević is under investigation by the USKOK anti-corruption office on suspicion of wrongdoing in the allocation of grants to businesses in state-assisted areas in 2018.

Asked if the SDSS would cause problems if Milošević was replaced as part of the government reshuffle, Pupovac said a reshuffle was in the interest of all ruling coalition partners and the government as a whole and that everyone would contribute in their own way.

He said the prime minister would have the last say on the reshuffle and recalled that Milošević had tendered his resignation.

"If Milošević leaves the government, he and the SDSS will decide on his return to parliament", Pupovac said. "It's up to us to maintain the stability of this coalition, regardless of what that means for us and Deputy Prime Minister Milošević."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

MP Says Values of Social Democracy Threatened

ZAGREB, 27 March 2022 - The president of the association "Social Democrats", MP Davorko Vidović, said on Sunday that the association's mission was to bring together people sharing the values of social democracy, which, he said, were threatened more than one believed could be possible in the 21st century.

Presenting the association in Osijek, Vidović said that social democracy and its values of freedom, solidarity, equality and social equity were nowadays possibly more threatened than they had been 150 years ago.

"Not as brutally and as openly as before but they are threatened in a new, specific way, which is one of the reasons why the Social Democrats association was established", Vidović said.

He believes that Croatia needs a strong social democratic initiative, noting that the Social Democratic Party (SDP), of which he was a member, had lost contact with citizens and voters while the new platform was one of the ways to restore contact with voters.

The Social Democrats parliamentary group was formed in 2021 after a rift in the SDP group, which now has 14 members, while the Social Democrats group has 18 MPs.

Vidović said Osijek-Baranja County was the second county where a branch of the Social Democrats association would be established, that new branches would be established across the country, to be followed by the formation of a new party.

Asked by reporters if the government should be reshuffled and how, Vidović said that the extent to which some government ministers had been compromised made it difficult for the government to function and be credible, and the government should return the mandate to citizens so they can elect a government which they believe can lead the country best.

"The Prime Minister evidently has a big problem and whether he can solve it with a mass reshuffle or go to elections is up to him and his party to decide", he said.

MP Romana Nikolić, who is also the coordinator of the Social Democrats association in Osijek-Baranja County, said that Slavonia needed a major change because in the past 20 years it had barely survived disastrous demographic trends.

She said that so far around 300 former SDP members had joined the new association, of whom more than 100 in Osijek.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

HSLS Proposes Government Reshuffle

ZAGREB, 27 March 2022 - Dario Hrebak, leader of the HSLS, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, said after intraparty consultations on Sunday that the HSLS proposed a government reshuffle so that the government could focus on key problems to secure economic and overall stability as well as euro and Schengen area entry.

"With regards to the current political situation, the HSLS believes that at the moment Croatia needs stability in light of the global trends, lack of security, war, pandemic, refugee crisis and the related consequences such as inflation pressures, problems in supply chains and changes in energy policies and relations," the party said in a statement.

The HSLS leadership said the government had its support to keep the country stable, as well as make the necessary adjustments to overcome the current situation that was affecting everyone.

"As a constructive member of the ruling majority, the HSLS considers it necessary to refresh the government so that it could focus on dealing with key problems and secure economic and overall stability as well as accession to the euro zone and the Schengen areas," the statement said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Debate on New Law on Settlements Marked by Ideological, Political Differences

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Even though the new law on settlements seems to be of a technical nature, a parliamentary debate on its amendment on Wednesday was marked by ideological and political differences, with SDP MP Arsen Bauk noting that this was the best proof the situation was back to normal. 

"There is no better proof that we are back to normal than the fact that Marshal Tito has been mentioned five times in replies," Bauk said during the debate on the new law that is expected to improve the process of determining the borders of settlements, naming settlements, streets and squares, and house numbering.

Ivan Kirin of the ruling HDZ warned about the Zagreb city administration's plans to restore the name of Marshal Tito Square, wondering why Zagreb needs a square dedicated to Tito and why a debate would not be held on whether Croatia needs so many squares and streets named after Tito.

"Local administration is responsible for street names", Construction Ministry State Secretary Željko Uhlir replied.

MP Davor Dretar boasted that the Homeland Movement had initiated the renaming of Marshal Tito Square in Velika Gorica, which was renamed City of Vukovar Square.

MP: Will someone come up with crazy idea of renaming Yuri Gagarin Walk? 

MP Vesna Nađ of the Social Democrats said that the purpose of renaming Marshal Tito Square in Zagreb had been to "erase from the collective memory a military commander, statesman and politician who in the World War II antifascist struggle made Croatia a member of the victorious side."

She wondered if someone "in a fit of anger at everything that comes from Russia" would come up with the idea to rename Yuri Gagarin Walk in Zagreb.

MP Bauk insisted that the naming of streets and squares should be the right of cities and municipalities and that the government commission for the standardisation of geographic names, envisaged by the new law, could not act as a censor.

"Standardisation can only be possible to determine if a square will be named Josip Broz Square or Marshal Tito Square," Bauk was resolute.

Not denying the right for municipalities and cities to name streets and squares, Anja Šimpraga of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) asked how one could prevent the naming of streets and squares after officials of the Nazi-styled WWII Independent State of Croatia, suggesting that a regulation be defined under which the names would have to be in line with the Historical Foundations of the Croatian Constitution.

Roma MP: No street or square named after a Roma 

Veljko Kajtazi, a Roma member of parliament, said it was sad that even though Roma had lived in Croatia for 700 years, there was almost no street or square bearing the name of a Roma person.

Uhlir said that under the new law, all business premises would be numbered and not just those where a business was headquartered.

"Who will pay for that, will farms also have to be numbered?" asked independent MP Marijana Petir, while Nikola Mažar of the HDZ wanted to know if the new law would bring new obligations for citizens, specifically regarding the change of house numbers.

Uhlir also added that the law did not contain a provision that would force a local government unit to change the existing street names.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

MPs on BiH Election Law, Reconstruction, Latest Findings of Drone Crash Probe

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Independent MP Hrvoje Zekanović said on Wednesday an agreement on the reform of the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be reached "at any cost," warning that the current status quo was detrimental to the Croats in that country.

"I call on Croatian diplomats to get involved as actively as possible in those processes... otherwise the status quo will persist. It suits Serbs to some extent, it definitely suits Bosniaks but it does not suit Croats," he said.

"Croats have been caught in the crossfire of Serb separatism and Bosniak unitarism," he said, pointing the finger at Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegović as the person responsible for the failure of talks on the election reform.

Social Democrat MP: New minister's statements worrying

Davor Bernardić of the Social Democrats warned about "worrying" statements by the new Construction Minister Ivan Paladina that the post-earthquake reconstruction could last six years, that consolidation of public procurement was being considered and that he would insist on a new invitation for applications for the post of director of the Fund for Reconstruction of Zagreb, even though applications have already been invited and candidates who meet the terms have applied.

"The question is why the minister will insist on inviting applications anew", Bernardić said, adding, "Probably because he wants to choose a crony with whom to arrange public procurement."

Bridge MP Miro Bulj commented on unofficial information that there were no traces of explosives on the fragments of a military drone that crashed in Zagreb on 10 March, criticising the government for its conduct in that situation.

"... this is not a situation where you go masquerading as a soldier, this is a time when national security and economy are threatened," he said alluding to Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

Speaking about inflation, Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Siniša Hajdaš Dončić said that small and medium businesses were receiving information that the price of electricity would be 300-400% higher as of 1 May, with the official inflation rate, measured by the consumer prices index, standing at 6.3% in February, while the perceived inflation was 24%.

Emil Daus of the Istrian Democratic Party and Marijana Puljak of Centre/GLAS called for greater assistance to Ukrainian refugees, who have been arriving in increasing numbers.

Daus warned that there were not enough interpreters and called for activating all available personnel resources, as well as exempting associations that deliver humanitarian aid from paying road tolls, while Puljak called on the Finance Ministry to not collect income tax from persons who provide accommodation to the refugees free of charge.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Left-liberal Parties Unwilling to Support Bridge Motion to Replace Three Ministers

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Even though the opposition Bridge party still lacks 31 signatures to file a motion for the replacement of three government members, being seven signatures short of the number of signatures required for such a move, Social Democrats are not likely to sign the petition either.

Bridge vice-president Nikola Grmoja last week commended Bridge MPs as well as deputies of the Homeland Movement and the Social Democrats as "true opposition groups," attacking the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and We Can! for not wishing to sign his party's motion for the replacement of Deputy PM Boris Milošević, Labour Minister Josip Aladrović and Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić.

Bridge is not likely to collect the remaining seven signatures from the Social Democrats as their position is similar to that of the SDP and We Can!, which believe that the dissolution of the parliament and calling an early election is a priority rather than insistence on the replacement of individual ministers.

A month ago, seven left-liberal groups put forward a proposal to dissolve the parliament, noting that a government reshuffle was not the solution because the government was incorrigible.

Even though Grmoja said that his party motion had been supported by Social Democrats Davor Bernardić and Matko Kuzmanić, according to unofficial sources from that party group, it is not very likely that more members of the party group will sign the petition.

Grmoja said that his party would continue calling on the rest of the Opposition to support the Bridge motion because it believes it is the only right thing to do.

"In these unstable times, it is not normal for people who are under investigation to keep their ministerial positions. It is the Opposition's task to make the prime minister come to the parliament and at least defend his ministers," Grmoja said, recalling that a month and a half ago the Bridge parliamentary group gave all of its eight signatures for the motion of the left-liberal opposition parties.

Asked on Monday by reporters about the Opposition's motion for the parliament's dissolution, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that even when it was put on the agenda, it would not receive support.

Speaking of the ministers who were under investigation by the Office of State Attorney, he admitted that that made the situation more complicated but underlined the presumption of innocence and added that a decision on the matter was up to PM Andrej Plenković.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Minister Tramišak Says She Has Received Threats

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak has confirmed for the Jutarnji List daily that she has received threats which she hasn't officially reported yet, saying that the problems started when she did not extend a contract with the Omega Software company.

"Unfortunately, I can't say that the rumours of the threats I am receiving as reported by the Nacional weekly aren't true. I have been receiving indirect threats for months now and all because of business decisions I make as Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds. The last one I received said '... There will be blood...' and was conveyed to me by a man whom I'd rather not name but who was in the ministry in January this year," said Tramišak.

The Wednesday issue of the Jutarnji List daily said that the problems for Minister Tramišak started when she decided not to extend a contract for the eFond information system with the Omega Software company and awarded it to the Financial Agency (FINA).

Not one of the threats were directed or sent to her personally, so she did not officially report them.

"However, in that last conversation with that man and following his comment that 'there will be blood', I said I would then seek asylum in Brussels," said Minister Tramišak.

She said that she did not discuss this with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković but had told her friends and colleagues about it.

"I didn't discuss the threats with Prime Minister Plenković," she said, stressing that she had a few witnesses who were present at the meetings when the threats were conveyed to her.

Asked whether she would name the persons conveying the threats, if they were the people the Nacional weekly wrote about and if speculation was true that it was Milijan Brkić, Tramišak said that she had never spoken with Brkić.

"I heard from FINA unofficially that Brkić had met with them when we terminated our cooperation with Omega Software and hired FINA," said Tramišak.

There is no official confirmation that Brkić allegedly conveyed the threats.

The Jutarnji List tried to contact Brkić but he did not respond to its calls or messages.

Plenković's advisor Zvonimir Savić has frequently visited the ministry, however, Tramišak said that the purpose of his business visits was of a completely different nature.

"I don't know who is behind those messages. I don't know if Omega Software - which has in the meantime reportedly changed its owner - has a shadow owner, but the messages aren't stopping, in fact, they have intensified and I do not feel comfortable," she said.

Omega Software was taken over by the M SAN Group in October.

Omega Software said they cannot comment on "unverified and sensationalist media reports" of which they have no knowledge, claiming that someone evidently wanted to slur the company's reputation, the Jutarnji List daily said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Opposition Parties Demand Early Election

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Opposition parties in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday demanded an early election, saying that the appointment of a new construction minister would not change anything, and corruption would continue to thrive in the country.

"The fact that Minister Horvat is no longer in this post and that an extension of the deadline has been granted for the use of funding from the EU Solidarity Fund doesn't change anything. People are still living in container homes and do not know for how long," said Anka Mrak Taritaš of the Centre/GLAS group.

"Everything has changed in the last five days, but actually nothing has changed. Now we are waiting for a new minister, and should political mathematics be the main criterion, instead of competence, a year from now we will once again have a discussion on the construction minister, unless he or she is arrested before that," she added.

Stephen Nikola Bartulica (Homeland Movement) said that regardless of who the new construction minister would be, things would remain the same. "We will continue to have a dysfunctional public administration unable to respond to citizens' needs."

Ivana Kekin (Green-Left Bloc) agreed that the replacement of one minister was not a solution. "This is not acute tooth inflammation, but a chronic incurable disease called corruption and the only way to deal with it is an early election."

Ivana Posavec Krivec (Social Democrats) said that corruption was widespread in Croatia and was affecting the government as well. She said that the government had lost its legitimacy and therefore an early election was needed.

Emil Daus of the Istrian Democratic Party agreed, stressing that an early election had no alternative. "We mustn't close our eyes to what has happened in recent days," he said.

Social Democratic Party leader Peđa Grbin said that Croatia could not function this way because the rules of democracy had been violated and the only way out of this situation was to hold an early election. He said that the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) coalition partners should decide whether their priority was to save the Plenković government and the HDZ or Croatia, stressing that one excludes the other.

Marin Miletić (Bridge) said that politicians were a reflection of the people who chose them. "You who brought us here are responsible, we are your image."

Branko Bačić of the ruling HDZ reiterated that the HDZ insisted on judicial independence and zero tolerance for corruption. He recalled the opposition saying several months ago that the State Attorney's Office should be dismantled because it was an arm of the HDZ. "The prime minister found out that one of his ministers was arrested the moment that happened," he said, accusing the opposition of distorting the facts.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Professionals: New Minister Should Have Construction Expertise

ZAGREB, 23 Feb 2022 - Two professional construction associations on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to appoint an expert in construction and in management of civil engineering projects as the new minister of physical planning, construction and state assets.

The Croatian Chamber of Civil Engineers and Croatian Alliance of Civil Engineers sent a letter to the prime minister appealing for candidates to be carefully considered, particularly with regard to  the post-quake reconstruction as the most challenging task construction-wise in recent Croatian history.

That task requires expertise and sound knowledge of civil engineering, and it is of utter importance that the nominee has years of experience in management and project management.

Architects calls on PM to choose someone from construction sector to be new minister

On Tuesday, the Association of Architects of Zagreb urged Plenković to appoint someone with construction qualifications as the new minister who will contribute better to the reconstruction process.

The association said that a huge scope of demanding reconstruction procedures and absorption of EU funds awaits us this year.

It welcomed the extension of a deadline for the absorption of the funds from the EU Solidarity Fund and warned that disruptions on the construction market are continuing, conditioned by the global post-pandemic crisis which has made all activities in the construction sector even more demanding.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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