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.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

PM Says Croatia's Status in Foreign Affairs Strongest Ever

ZAGREB, 26 Aug 2021 - Croatia now has the strongest position in foreign affairs since it gained independence, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told reporters on the sidelines of a conference of Croatian diplomats in Zagreb on Thursday.

Pointing out the country's strongest status on the foreign policy front since its international recognition, the premier recalled that Zagreb's main foreign policy priorities were now admission to the Schengen area and to the euro area.

As for the current challenges, Plenković cited economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis and the developments in Afghanistan and potential migrant waves, while Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković cited the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery, climate change, the developments in the Middle East, the crisis in Afghanistan and a possible migrant wave.

"Our main goal is to enter the Schengen area as soon as possible considering the developments in Afghanistan. Regarding finance and economy, it is essential to enter the euro area," Jandroković said.

The parliament speaker warned of the strengthening positions of China, India, and Brazil, and said that only concerted action by the European Union member states could render the EU a power player, notably on the global market.

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman told the press that the global order would be tested in Kabul.

"The world has become vulnerable, international law is being violated," the minister said.

Former British PM Blair special guest of the conference

During the first day of the conference, a former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, addressed the event, and on Wednesday he was received by Prime Minister Plenković.

Blair told the press today that his talks with the Croatian PM revolved around the importance of the success of the vaccination rollout globally.

That is the only way for us to overcome the crisis, the former British PM said.

The Plenković-Blair talks also focused on the global situation and challenges lying ahead of Croatia and the future cooperation.

Blair said that it was important for Europe to stay strong and for NATO to redefine its purpose in the present-day world.

He agrees that one of the challenges is the situation in the Middle East.

I believe that peace and stability will eventually come when good governance is established there, and when societies become open-minded and develop religious tolerance, and when people make use of the possibilities of the digital economy, he added.

Plenković said that the purpose of Blair's visit to Zagreb was establishing "potential cooperation" between Croatia and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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

Thursday, 22 July 2021

PM: Marked Rise in New COVID Cases, Restrictions to Be Introduced in Adriatic Region

ZAGREB, 22 July 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that after a period of decrease and stagnation, the past week saw a marked increase in the number of new cases of the coronavirus infection, and he called for caution, adding that additional restrictions are being introduced in the Adriatic region.

The largest number of cases were registered in four Dalmatian counties which are all tourist destinations, so the national COVID-19 crisis management team will introduce additional epidemiological measures in that area to limit the possibility of the infection spreading, to control events with a greater number of participants, to avoid risks and to make tourist season possible, Plenković announced at his cabinet's session.

He added that the government took into account the health aspect, but also the tourist, economic, financial, and social aspects.

As for vaccination, he said that as of yesterday Croatia passed the number of 1.6 million people vaccinated with the first dose against coronavirus.

"That's very good, we're getting closer to the number of 48% of the vaccinated adult population. I still call on everyone, especially those in two minds or in fear, to get informed, to have confidence in the profession, medicine, all those who want to protect as many citizens as possible, and to decide to get vaccinated themselves," the prime minister said.

94% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients not vaccinated against this infection

He said that there was "an abundance" of vaccines and recalled last week's decision to enable all Croatian citizens without mandatory health insurance and Croatia from all over the world, as well as all other foreign nationals, to get vaccinated, so, for instance, someone from Mostar going on holiday to Makarska can get vaccinated for free there.

"I would like us to contribute to the protection against COVID beyond our borders also in that way because this is a global game, and with our action, we want to make that contribution," Plenković said, inviting people to use this opportunity.

He also underlined that 94% of hospitalized COVID patients had not been fully inoculated against that infection.

Ministers: Numbers growing, a new package of measures to be introduced

Health Minister Vili Beroš said at the government session that the number of COVID cases was unfortunately rising and that the epidemiological situation in some counties called for caution, while Interior Minister Davor Božinović announced the introduction of a new set of measures.

In the two-week period from 5 to 18 July, Zadar, Split-Dalmatia, Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties and the City of Zagreb registered the largest number of new cases, Beroš said.

"The numbers are unfortunately still growing, the increase in positive cases over the past seven days is 46.1%, the situation in some counties calls for caution, so it requires increased monitoring and caution," said Beroš, warning of the easy spread of the new variant of the virus and of several smaller hotspots.

He said the situation in hospitals was generally favorable, with the exception of some hospitals in Dalmatia, which are recording a slight increase in the number of hospitalized patients. There are currently 122 patients in hospitals, 13 of whom are on ventilators, he said, reiterating that 94% of hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A total of 2.9 million doses have been administered, and the minister announced pharmacies would join the vaccination process and issue COVID certificates.

On the 514th day since the outbreak of coronavirus in Croatia, 179 new cases have been registered, the percentage of positive tests over the past 24 hours is 4.56%, and Croatia's 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 35.9, the health minister said.

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

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: SDP Interpellation Won't Pass, They Must Pretend They Are Doing Something

ZAGREB, 29 June, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the Social Democratic Party's interpellation on the government's slowness in post-earthquake reconstruction would not pass, adding that in the SDP "they have to pretend they are doing something" after losing in local elections.

Speaking to the press in Petrinja, Plenković said he had not seen the interpellation but that "when someone loses so badly in local elections, when they have a 13% rating, they have to pretend they are doing something." He added that parliament would reject it.

Plenković visited Petrinja to see the demolition of buildings damaged in December's earthquake and meet with the task force dealing with its consequences.

He said that when the reconstruction law was being passed, he said he wished to incorporate in it all constructive ideas and that no prior law included so many proposals from the opposition.

He said interpellations like the SDP's one did not serve to improve something but to show distrust in the government.

In the interpellation filed today, the SDP asks for urgently amending the reconstruction law, including local government in discussions about it, and informing the public more transparently, among other things.

Asked who was responsible for the fact that 150 damaged buildings had been torn down in the Banija region since the December 2020 earthquake and only three in Zagreb since the March 2020 quake, Plenković said the goal in Zagreb had been to first provide institutions that would be in charge of the whole process, then financing, and cooperation between the state, the city and the quake-affected counties around Zagreb.

He said the processing of reconstruction applications in Zagreb was "somewhat slower" than expected but that property-rights relations in the capital were "even more complex" than in Banija. "We tasked (Construction) Minister Horvat with accelerating all processes and I expect all who should help him in that to contribute."

He said Reconstruction Fund head Damir Vanđelić must be propulsive, notably regarding the reconstruction of private houses and buildings.

Citizens should be responsible and contribute by getting vaccinated

Asked if Croatia would have to resort to COVID-19 vaccination incentives, like some countries that have announced financial rewards, Plenković asked whether that meant "bribing people to be vaccinated?"

"What will we give to the 44% who have been vaccinated? If we give HRK 100 to someone who hasn't been vaccinated but is waiting and calculating, what about the million and a half who have been vaccinated? Give them money retroactively?"

Plenković said people were "fully informed" about all key matters and that every citizen had the responsibility to contribute to society by getting vaccinated.

Recalling the number of COVID deaths, he said everything should be done to motivate people to be vaccinated, adding that Croatia had 670,000 doses available.

If they were administered, he said, "we would practically solve all problems" and stop the virus from spreading. He said it was a matter of common sense and that, perhaps, young people should be motivated to attend concerts and big events with COVID certificates.

Asked what message inconsistencies in enforcing COVID restrictions sent to those undecided on vaccination, Plenković said that "everyone who is responsible will contribute, who isn't, won't."

He said Croatia had been applying mild restrictions out of respect for its citizens, considering them smart and responsible. He said the Croatian mentality would not accept tough restrictions. "We didn't decide in vain that we would not be a country with a curfew. That wouldn't have been well-accepted and I think we did the right thing."

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

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