Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Who is Gabriel Boric, and Why Should Croatians Take Notice?

16 March 2022 - Last week, Chile swore in Gabriel Boric, a former student activist and member of the Croatian diaspora, into the nation’s presidency. At 36, Boric is the youngest Chilean to hold this office, taking on the role as Chile undergoes an essential social and political transition. This is most apparent given that the outgoing president is billionaire Sebastian Pinera.

Small Town Croatian-Chilean to the Presidency

Born in Punta Arenas, a city near the southern tip of the American continent, Boric was born to Luis Boric Scarpa, a second-generation Croatian-Chilean engineer with origins on the Adriatic Island of Ugljan. His mother was Marìa Soledad Font Aguilera, of Catalan descent. Even though his father’s ancestors left the then Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1897, Boric still has relatives on the island, demonstrating the strong ties Croatian maintain with the diaspora.

During his youth, Boric studied at The British School in his hometown. After completing high school, he moved to Santiago, where he enrolled in law school at the University of Chile (though he never graduated), where he was involved with student politics. During this time, he became president of the University of Chile Student Federation. While president of the student federation, he witnessed the second wave of protests for reform of the Chilean educational system, a movement that started in response to policies that were relics of the Pinochet dictatorship of the 20th century. Boric became one of the leading spokespersons from the Federation of Chilean Students, gaining him initial recognition within the political sphere.

Boric took the next step in his career in 2013 when he ran as an independent in his first parliamentary election, campaigning in his home region of Magallanes. Despite being outside of either of the Chilean traditional bi-nominal coalitions, he won, taking a seat on the Commissions for Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples. Since then, Boric has been a consistent voice for education reforms and youth issues.

Leading During a Time of Change

After winning reelection in 2017 by an increased margin, Boric became part of a new political group called the Social Convergence, which resulted from a merger of a previous social-liberal party he was previously associated with. In 2019, protests erupted in the capital, initiated by a proposed increase in public transit tariffs. This marked the beginning of a significant socio-political shift within Chile, a trend that would eventually lead to Boric’s election as president.

Boric’s road to the presidency was not immediately clear. Last year, election polls showed two of his opponents Sebastián Sichel and then José Antonio Kast, as front runners for the position. Boric came second to Kast in the first round, moving on to the second round. On 19 December 2021, Boric won the second round, and on 11 March 2022, he was sworn in as president of the Republic of Chile. “Before the people, I make my pledge,” he said.

Chile is a country in search of change. For many, Boric and his political allies represent a move away from deep-rooted social inequality, which affects income, healthcare, and education. His administration will conduct a referendum on a new national constitution, replacing the Magna Carta implemented by Augustino Pinochet’s dictatorship.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and military aggression in Eastern Europe, Boric is leading his country during a time of significant historical adjustment. With a cabinet mainly containing young people, the South American nation is set to begin a political cycle focused on the feminists, environmentalist, and social-democratic views that permeate amongst the youth of Chile and much of the world at large.

Boric will have to contend with the aftermath of a pandemic, high inflation, and political divisions that pose a tangible threat to the young leader’s visions of healthcare, pension, and environmental reforms. So, as inauguration festivities unfold and diplomates gather in Santiago to congratulate the second-youngest head of state, a nation waits in anticipation for the sweeping reforms they were promised during the election campaign.

For Croatia and the members of its far-flung diaspora, Gabriel Boric serves as an example of the achievements of the descendants of emigrants who left long ago. These people would likely never be able to imagine the success that their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would ever achieve. Regardless of political affiliation, Croatia will take notice of Gabriel Boric because his story is a testament to the emigrant story that the southeastern European nation knows so well.

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Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Dutch Company Green Trust Informs Milanović of Its Lički Medvjed Wind Park Project

ZAGREB, 1 Feb 2022 - President Zoran Milanović has met with representatives of the Dutch company Green Trust who presented the Lički Medvjed wind park project, the president's office said on Tuesday.

Green Trust is preparing the project together with the German partner Enercon near Otočac.

This wind park is the biggest such project in Croatia at the moment and the investment is planned at €500 million, Green Trust executives said.

The wind park's capacity will be 425 megawatts and annual production one terawatt-hours of green energy.

Besides creating jobs, the wind park plans to assist local sustainable projects and initiatives, Green Trust representatives said, adding that they plan to set up a fund which will support, with €200,000 a year, sustainable local projects aimed at improving economic, social and ecological conditions.

The construction of the wind park will help to improve the infrastructure in the Otočac area as the implementation of the project requires building 25 km of road and investing in a new high-voltage grid.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Foreign Minister Calling His Counterparts to Apologise Over President's Statements

ZAGREB, 27 Jan 2022 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday that because of President Zoran Milanović's statements about Ukraine, he had to call nearly every one of his counterparts and apologise.

Milanović said on Tuesday that Ukraine did not belong in NATO, that it was one of the world's most corrupt countries, that president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014 in a military coup, and that the crisis on the Ukraine-Russia border was a consequence of the US home policy.

Ukraine issued a strong response and Milanović's statements were reported by world media.

"We are appalled. I, as minister, have indeed a heavy burden and responsibility because of the ambassadors, who have been besieging me, asking what to say and how, how to communicate," Grlić Radman told the press.

"I have to call nearly every minister and apologise, say that what Milanović said is not the government's official position."

He said there was allegedly an initiative in Ukraine to declare Milanović persona non grata.

"I think the Croatian state doesn't deserve such behaviour" from the president, the minister said, "the Croatian state created with the blood of Croatian defenders, which was led by the visionary first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, who would certainly turn in his grave were he to hear such a narrative."

He said this was an attempt "to destabilise the Croatian authorities" and that it had caused Croatia "big reputational damage" in the international community.

Ukraine is not the first state with which Milanović has managed to "make Croatia quarrel" as ambassadors have been summoned because of his statements also in Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, he added.

Grlić Radman expects of the president "a constructive policy, one which will promote peace, stability and cooperation, send positive, affirmative messages, which will result in cooperation with other presidents and which will contribute to the further affirmation of Croatia's foreign policy."

Friday, 10 September 2021

Montenegrin President to Visit Zagreb Next Week

ZAGREB, 10 Sept 2021- Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović is coming for an official visit to Croatia next week at the invitation of his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović. 

Đukanović is due to arrive in Zagreb on Wednesday, 16 September and meet with Milanović, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, Hina learned unofficially from the President's Office on Friday.

The visit comes following the inauguration of Serbian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Joanikije in the Montenegrin historical capital Cetinje earlier this month, which sparked protests by several thousand people who blocked the access roads to the city for two days. Seven police officers were injured in clashes, a dozen protesters sought medical assistance and another 14 were detained by the police.

Đukanović said that the violent inauguration was "against the will of the vast majority of the citizens of Cetinje and a considerable number of the citizens of Montenegro", condemning "the inappropriate use of force against peacefully gathered citizens."

Đukanović accused Serbia of humiliating Montenegro and pursuing the policy of territorial expansion in the region. On the other hand, Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić, who is close to the Serbian Orthodox Church, blamed Đukanović for initiating the protests in Cetinje.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Defence Minister Says That President's Visit To Albania Was Official

ZAGREB, Sept 2, 2020 - Defence Minister Mario Banozic said on Wednesday that according to his information President's visit to Albania was official and dismissed remarks that the ministry was keeping mum about the case.

"From what has been given to me in writing, it was an official trip, and the Conflict of Interest Commission will establish... if it was a private or an official visit," Banozic told the press in Split.

He said the media interpreted his recent statement about the president's visit to Albania flippantly. He explained that he was stating the rights which the president and Armed Forces commander in chief had in using military resources under the Defence Act.

Banozic said that in his statement he pointed to the amount that was paid because the expenses for the use of those resources were covered by the Defence Ministry, not the president's office and that he would always comment on that. He added that it was not true that the ministry was keeping quiet about it.

Banozic said the ministry did not participate in organizing the president's trips and that they were organized by the president's office in cooperation with its services.

He said the Armed Forces received a request, under the Defence Act, based on which he, as a minister, gave his consent for diplomatic or ceremonial purposes.

Banozic said he did not have the legal grounds not to consent to the use of the military and that any questions about this case should be put to the president's office.

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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Milanovic Comments On Rimac: It's Unbelievable Someone Can Act Like That

ZAGREB, June 2, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic said on Tuesday that Josipa Rimac, a former state secretary arrested in the wind park scandal, had once said that he was not a Croat, adding that he cannot believe that someone who is a state secretary can behave like an "agent for an American investment company."

Asked if he was surprised by the wind park scandal and its extent, Milanovic said that while he was prime minister, Rimac, a former Knin mayor, had said that he was not a Croat and that he did not love his people.

"Then we paid a couple of million kunas for a monument at the Knin railway station. My government did not commission it. We financed it with a feeling of joy and patriotism. Then she brought those troublemakers to Knin and now she is in investigative custody. It is unbelievable that the state secretary in the Public Administration Ministry has the nerve to behave like an agent for an American investment company," he said.

Responding to a reporter's remark that Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Coric shifted the responsibility for the wind park scandal onto his government because all agreements regarding renewable energy sources were signed during his term in office, Milanovic said that Coric was not telling the truth.

Milanovic said that at the end of his term, the then relevant minister, Ivan Vrdoljak, adopted "some sort of decision," after which the government led by Tihomir Oreskovic was in power for a brief time and then came the current government which, Milanovic said, has had four and a half years to "nip that in the bud."

"If a minister had some authority in my government and could make some decisions on his own, I do not know about that," he claimed and explained that at one stage wind parks were interesting for investors because enterprises were stimulated to invest in that form of energy production.

With regard to the March for Life is held on the day of election silence, Milanovic said that was an initiative that advocated the fight against abortion and is led by a woman who previously worked for Human Rights Watch, adding that he has a problem with the concept of election silence in any case.

"That doesn't mean anything. I think that lady is not a candidate on any election slate. It's all the same to me, the people will decide. That might bother some people and they will go to the polls and vote for someone else or maybe they didn't plan to vote at all," he said.

Friday, 22 May 2020

SDP Leader Says President's Statement Symbolic Gesture Of Neutrality

ZAGREB, May 22, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardic said during a visit to Sisak on Friday that the SDP-led coalition would assume responsibility for the country after the July 5 election, and that President Zoran Milanovic's statement that he would not go to the polls was a symbolic gesture of neutrality.

Commenting on the political situation in Sisak, Bernardic said that its Social Democrat mayor Krstina Ikic Banicek was working miracles without any support from the state.

"Not only has the state not implemented the necessary reforms, but it also has not even let the town use the premises of the former steelworks for a technology incubator," he said, adding that nonetheless many local projects had been completed, bringing Sisak back to life.

Milanovic's statement symbolic gesture of neutrality

Commenting on President Zoran Milanovic's statement that after the elections he would not be receiving individual members of parliament for consultations in his office, Bernardic said that it was a responsible message and that the president acted in line with the Constitution.

As for Milanovic's statement that he would not go to the polls, Bernardic said that it was "important for as many voters as possible to go to the polls and show what they think about what we have been witnessing for the past four years - unprecedented political corruption and lack of reforms."

Asked whether the SDP's slates would also include party members who had been suspended, he said that all party members who were willing to work in the interest of citizens would be on the party slates.

He also noted that he would not be commenting on Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic's statements until July 5, after which, he said, there would be no need to do so anymore.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

President Calls Parliamentary Election for July 5

ZAGREB, May 20, 2020 - The parliamentary election will be held on July 5, President Zoran Milanovic decided on Wednesday.

The election for the tenth parliament will be held on July 5 in Croatia and on July 4 and 5 abroad, in Croatia's diplomatic and consular offices.

The decision on the election takes effect on June 2. Parties and independent slates and candidates will then have 14 days to submit their slates to the State Election Commission (DIP), which then has 48 hours to publish the list of valid slates and candidates, whereby official electioneering begins.

Although Croatia has few new COVID-19 cases per day and a good epidemiological situation, the July election, because of the epidemic, will be held somewhat differently than all previous elections. DIP will define how the vote will take place together with the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

Voters will elect 151 MPs, of whom 140 in ten constituencies in Croatia, three will be elected by expatriates and eight by ethnic minorities.

The slates must have at least 40% of candidates of each sex, otherwise, they will be disqualified and those proposing them face an HRK 50,000 fine.

Campaign costs must not exceed HRK 1.5 million per constituency. Parties running in all ten constituencies can spend HRK 15 million.

This parliamentary election will be the third in which voters can give a preferential vote.

(€1 = HRK 7.55)