Wednesday, 29 June 2022

PM Dismisses Media Speculation About Early Parliamentary Election

ZAGREB, 29 June 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday dismissed the media speculation about an early parliamentary election.

"I don't understand how some people still haven't figured out my way of thinking. If political stability is my main anchor, if we have a stable parliamentary majority, if we have achieved everything we have set out to do, if we are facing so many challenges, why would I go to elections?  (...) We have been given trust to run this country responsibly," Plenković said in an interview with Croatian Radio.

He noted that his government has secured growth, accession to the euro and Schengen areas, an investment grade rating from three leading international rating agencies, an excellent tourist season, the opening of Pelješac Bridge on 26 July, the delivery of military aircraft in slightly more than a year, the use of EU funding, more balanced regional development of the country, and aid to vulnerable social groups, pensioners, farmers, fishermen, businesses and households.

Plenković also said that the government is not considering reimposing COVID-19 restrictions given that there has been no considerable increase in the number of hospitalised cases, but is most likely to recommend further vaccination so that people can be protected in the autumn.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

PM, Reps of Aquaculture and Fisheries Businesses Discuss Developments on Market

ZAGREB, 28 June 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković on Tuesday met with representatives of aquaculture and fisheries businesses for talks on developments on the market and difficulties caused by rising costs as well as the government schemes to help this sector.

Plenković spoke about the importance of the aquaculture and fisheries sector and its positive performance despite the challenging circumstances.

In 2021, the value of Croatian exports of fisheries and aquaculture products rose by more than 30%. Over the period from 2016 to 2021, the value of aquaculture production increased by 45%.

The sector's representatives thanked the government for the prompt reaction in addressing the recent crises, according to a government press release.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

PM Says Gov't To Intervene Over Fuel Prices If Necessary

ZAGREB, 2 June 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday announced that the government would reduce excise duties or margins if necessary due to an announced significant increase in fuel prices as of next Tuesday.

Web news portals reported on Thursday that as of next week, the price of all diesel fuels will increase by HRK 0.90 per litre, while the price of petrol will go up by about HRK 0.70 per litre.

"We have the legal basis to intervene as regards margins and excise duties, we have already done it. There is still room in that regard and this afternoon the inner cabinet will discuss the situation. We will hear the assessments of the ministries of economy and finance and make the best decisions for Croatian citizens," the PM said.

Asked if excise duties were on the agenda, he said that excise duties and margins are the two elements in which the government can intervene.

At most petrol stations in Croatia, a litre of Eurosuper 95 petrol has been selling for HRK 13.86 since Tuesday, which is HRK 0.03 more than on Monday while the price of Eurodiesel was HRK 0.22 dearer.

Hina's source from energy circles estimates that fuel price increases, including major ones, are possible as long as the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine lasts. The source adds, however, that the price increase announced for next week can hardly be justified with the latest package of EU sanctions against Russia, because its effects, i.e. a partial cessation of crude oil imports from Russia, can only be expected in a few months' time.

Retailers and suppliers should be asked why they are reacting so quickly to announcements of what might happen, the source said. He added that Croatia is not really dependent on crude oil or oil product deliveries from Russia, because most of its supplies arrive by sea.

The retailers and suppliers contacted by Hina did not want to talk about prices, hence the new prices will, as usual, be known on Monday to take effect on Tuesday.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Plenković: It Would Be Better if BiH Polls Were Postponed Than Held Under Present Law

ZAGREB, 18 Feb 2022 - It would be better if elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina were postponed than held under the present election law because nothing good will come of it and the country will continue to function poorly, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Friday. 

"Parliamentary elections should not be held in October this year as scheduled without changing the election law," Plenković said.

Croatia's position on the matter is contrary to the document prepared by the European External Action Service for a discussion on Bosnia and Herzegovina due to be held at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

The document says that negotiations should continue in order to reach an agreement on the constitutional and electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that elections should be held as scheduled regardless of the outcome of the talks.

"The Croatian position is very clear - it's better to give more time for negotiations and postpone the elections if necessary than carry on under the present system because that would be bad for Bosnia and Herzegovina and disastrous for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina," the prime minister said.

"If the present system remains in place, we know in advance what will happen. We do not want electoral engineering to happen again," he added.

Plenković called on the Bosnian Croat and Bosniak parties to focus constructively on the electoral reform so that the Croats would get guarantees that they would be able to choose their representatives in the state presidency and upper house of parliament. He said that Croatia, as a friend and ally, would do all in its power to improve mutual relations and help Bosnia and Herzegovina on its EU path.

Plenković said that an agreement on the electoral and constitutional reform would be beneficial for the functioning of the country, its territorial integrity, mutual respect, and for everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina to feel good.

Explaining why some of the representatives of the international community, including the EU, had different views about Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia's, he cited the lack of understanding of the complexity of the internal structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the need to simplify it, which he said would not lead to anything good.

Plenković said that those who did not know the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina well enough were focusing on three points, the first being a cease-fire agreement that later became the Dayton peace agreement, which became the country's constitution. The second point is the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdić-Finci case and other cases which called for an end to discrimination against three percent of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who are not members of any of the three constituent peoples, as 97 percent of citizens identify themselves as Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats. The third point is present efforts to simplify the whole situation.

"When someone who is not from Bosnia and Herzegovina or neighboring countries comes and wants to see how the country is functioning, they see a structure they have not seen anywhere else. They realize that there is one state, two entities, 10 cantons in one of the entities, houses of peoples, and so on. And then the logic of simplification comes in, but in that simplification, you cannot sideline the rights of one of the constituent peoples who voted for Bosnia and Herzegovina's independence in 1992," Plenković said.

He said that the Venice Commission had favorably assessed the Croat proposal to amend the constitution, under which in elections for the state presidency one representative of the Croats and other ethnic groups and one representative of the Bosniaks and other ethnic groups would be elected from the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity and one representative of the Serbs and other ethnic groups from the Serb entity of Republika Srpska.

"That would resolve everything. The constituent peoples would be retained, the others would be included and no one would be discriminated against, and everyone would be allowed to stand as a candidate," Plenković said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Prime Minister: Measures Will Protect Citizens and Economy From Energy Price Rises

ZAGREB, 18 Feb 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that the package of measures for cushioning the electricity and gas price rises, worth HRK 4.8 billion, was a wise state intervention that would, as of 1 April, protect citizens and a large part of the economy from rising energy prices.

"This way, we are showing the government's readiness to make a wise intervention that benefits citizens in key moments," Plenković said, talking about the package of measures at a government session.

The measures apply to all citizens, a large part of the economy, especially micro and macro businesses, and special measures have been introduced for socially vulnerable groups, as well as for pensioners, farmers, and fishermen, the prime minister said.

"In addition to the caps on the prices of petroleum products, we have made a good, clear framework which also involves tax relief, social transfers, and subsidies, and which will cushion the price rise as of 1 April," he said.

The prime minister also said that over the past two days, based on well-prepared documentation for the European Commission, it had been decided that the deadline for using the money from the European Solidarity Fund for earthquake relief in Zagreb would be extended for another year, from June 2022 to June 2023, to overlap with the deadline for the use of money allocated for the earthquake in Banovina.

He said that he now expected "intensive work and dynamics of the reconstruction process" in order to use that money and engage other sources and ensure as soon as possible that the reconstruction process would accelerate.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Croatian Prime Minister Says NATO Poses No Threat to Anyone

14 February, 2022 - NATO isn't a threat to anyone, it's a defence alliance of states that live and promote freedom, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday during a visit to the American aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which has been docked in the port of Split since last Friday.

US aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman is a symbol of the US commitment to NATO and the defence of our common values -- freedom and democracy, said the Croatian prime minister.

The Croatian premier said that the presence of the aircraft carrier Truman was also a symbol or our time, in which we must speak with a unanimous, strong, transatlantic voice -- and say clearly that we are united in the defence of freedoms and democracies of our countries, as well as in securing peace and stability in Europe and the transatlantic area.

Plenković underscored that NATO wasn't a threat to anyone.

NATO is a defence alliance of states that live and promote freedom. By strengthening unity in NATO, we promote peace just like we did together in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and the Mediterranean, and just like we still do in Kosovo and on the Baltic coasts, the prime minister said.

Three days ago the USS Truman docked in Split, which has been a friendship city of Los Angeles for 28 years.

In recent weeks, the crew of the aircraft carrier have participated together with the Croatian colleagues in the NATO-led maritime exercise Neptune Strike in the Adriatic Sea.

Plenković wished the crew calm seas, and Captain Gavin Duff thanked Croatia for its warm welcome and said that the crew had enjoyed the cuisine and culture of Split.

We look forward to continuing our warm relations with Croatian and in the maritime domain we will expand our capabilities, capacities and interoperability with a key ally in NATO, said Rear Admiral Curt Renshaw, the commander of a carrier strike group.

Monday, 7 February 2022

Union Warns About Grave Situation in Rail Construction and Maintenance Company

7 February 2022 - The trade union of workers in the Pružne građevine Ltd., specialised in the construction, design and maintenance of railway and electrical infrastructure along railway routes in Croatia, on Monday warned about debts and a serious situation in this company with 1,400 employees.

The trade union sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković, emphasising that failure to act in a timely fashion could drive  this Croatian company into a disaster.

The union threatens to stage industrial action and protests unless rapid action is taken to address current issues in relation to the transfer of Pružne građevine Ltd from the ownership of HŽ Infrastruktura (Croatian Railways Infrastructure) to the Centre for Restructuring and Sale (CERP).

It also accuses the HŽ Infrastruktura director, Ivan Kršić, of failing to stick to the plan to transfer the company to CERP.

The union's press release underscores that outlays for the maintenance of railways for a four-year period have been slashed from a billion kuna to HRK 460 million.

Therefore, it is necessary to find solutions for the renewal of the machinery and for funds for severance packages for lay-offs.

The union proposes that the debts in the amount of HRK 50 million should be taken over by HŽ Infrastruktura, as CERP's ownership of Pružne Građevine puts the latter in a new position surrounded by uncertainties.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Friday, 29 October 2021

Sabor Adopts Prime Minister's Annual Report

ZAGREB, 29 Oct 2021 - The Sabor on Friday adopted Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's annual report on the government's work with 76 votes in favour, 41 against and two abstentions, after he submitted the report on Wednesday, announcing an increase in the minimum wage and parental allowance.

As of 1 January the minimum wage will increase by a net amount of HRK 350 from HRK 3,400 to HRK 3,750 or a net amount of €500, Plenković said on Wednesday.

This is an increase of 10.3% for 51,000 workers.

Presenting the report, Plenković reiterated the importance of demography and announced that next year the government would increase parental allowance to HRK 7,500 for employed and self-employed parents as well as introducing a 10-day paternal leave for employed and self-employed fathers.

Plenković also presented optimistic economic indicators.

"Although we expected a growth of 5.2 percent, the successful tourist season and the 16.1% growth in the second quarter give us reason to believe that we could reach annual GDP growth of over eight percent," the PM said on Wednesday.

He said that despite the numerous problems and challenges his government was faced with and possible mistakes made, it was trying to steer the country in the direction of economic recovery and development and a better life for all citizens.

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Friday, 27 August 2021

PM Says Croatia's Economy Recovering Faster than Expected

ZAGREB, 27 Aug 2021 - Croatia's GDP growth of more than 16% in Q2 2021 shows that the country's economy is recovering faster than expected, and that confirms that the government has responded strongly to the crisis, ensuring economic stability in the current pandemic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday.

The Croatian Bureau of Statistics (DZS) on Friday published its preliminary estimate showing that GDP in Q2 grew by 16.1% from the same period of 2020.

This is the first time the country's GDP has grown after going down for four consecutive quarters and it has grown at the highest rate since 1996, when the national statistical office started collecting those data. In 2020 economic activity contracted by 8%.

The government said in a statement that Croatia's GDP growth was significant also in relation to current Eurostat data, the fifth highest in the EU, after Spain, France, Hungary and Italy. Together with Hungary, Croatia also has the fifth fastest growth among countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

"The fact that Croatia now has more employed persons than before the COVID-19 crisis proves that we have switched from the job-retention phase to job creation. Croatia's approach to balancing measures for public health protection and the economic sector has proven effective, as evidenced also by results of the tourist season, which are beyond expectations. The government is committed to reforms and investments envisaged by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan as well as to the reconstruction of earthquake-struck areas. Close to €25 billion that has secured from the EU for the next decade will be a strong lever of Croatia's economic development," Plenković said.

Economic growth in Q2 2021 is owing to the growth of all GDP components, mostly personal consumption as its biggest component. DZS data show that household spending in Q2 grew by 18.4% from Q2 2020, after going down by 0.3% in Q1. The export of goods and services rose by 40.9%, owing to the significant recovery of tourism-related services.

The government has contributed to the economic recovery and large increase in personal consumption with its job-keeping policy, which has kept the labour market stable, and by continuing the tax reform, which has enabled a further growth of the average wage, the government said.

Croatia's GDP growth in Q2 is higher than the EU average, which stands at 13.2%. In the first half of 2020, the country's GDP grew by 7.7% from the same period of 2020, the government said in its statement.

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Thursday, 26 August 2021

Prime Minister Rules Out Tight Lockdown

ZAGREB, 26 August 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that there would be no tight lockdown and called on citizens to show personal responsibility and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is crystal clear that Croatia will not opt for a tight lockdown, the PM said after a government meeting.

He said that the government had secured sufficient amounts of vaccines against coronavirus.

"The threat (of the spread of the disease) will be considerably lower, provided that people get vaccinated, comply with basic measures: wearing masks, keeping a social distance, and airing rooms," Plenković said when asked by the press to comment on President Zoran Milanović's statement that the current anti-epidemic rules no longer made sense and that Croatia should follow the example of Sweden in managing the epidemic.

Urging citizens to behave responsibly, Plenković said that no rewards would be given to those who decided to get a jab.

"I firmly believe in common sense, prudence, and benevolence of our people and in them being well informed," Plenković said when asked about the possible imposition of more stringent rules.

"We do not have the luxury of being populists, demagogues, speculators, or provocateurs. We must be responsible and make decisions to the benefit of all," the premier said.

He added that the lifting of restrictions would mean that there would be no more COVID grants to businesses.

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

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