Friday, 22 October 2021

PM: Decision Making on Croatia's Schengen Bid Going According to Plan

ZAGREB, 22 Oct (Hina) - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Friday he expected the decision making process on Croatia's accession to the Schengen area to proceed according to plan.

"I have discussed this matter at all levels, with all governments. I think the momentum is slowly gathering for a decision at the level of the Council of the EU," Plenković told reporters on arrival for the continuation of the two-day EU summit.

Plenković said that ongoing talks during the Slovenian EU presidency and the next French presidency would be "crucial for achieving Croatia's strategic goal - to become a member of the Schengen area."

Among the topics to be discussed at the summit will be protection of the EU's external borders against illegal migration.

Plenković said that also discussed would be several action plans with non-EU countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to help them improve migration management.

He said that during discussion on foreign policy matters on Thursday evening he had drawn attention to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably to the existing tension and statements by the Serb member of the state presidency, Milorad Dodik, which destabilise the country.

"Croatia supports a single Bosnia and Herzegovina, its independence, sovereignty and good functioning. I also made it clear that the EU should help, together with our partners, first of all the United States, to achieve a timely agreement on electoral legislation so that at next year's elections the Croats, as one of the three constituent peoples, can be legitimately and equally represented in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Plenković said.

He said he was pleased with the quality of the discussion on this matter, adding that several leaders had taken part in it.

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Thursday, 21 October 2021

Milanović Says Plenković Should Rein Defence Minister In

ZAGREB, 21 Oct 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Thursday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković should "rein his pal in", a reference to Defence Minister Mario Banožić and his decision to send into retirement the commander of the Honor Guard Battalion, Brigadier Elvis Burčul.

Speaking to reporters in Baćin, where he attended the 30th anniversary of the plight of local residents in the 1991-95 war, Milanović said that PM Plenković was the minister's "political guardian" and that he was not in conflict with Banožić over Burčul's retirement but that he would guarantee the army protection against "bullying and harassment."

"The minister is not relevant here. This is an immoral, serious abuse of legal authority to which I can respond with much bigger power. But where does that lead? The guardian should rein in his pal, who is a man without political autonomy. This has to do with the Prime Minister... and that can be proven easily," Milanović said.

In that context, he mentioned a state secretary in the government who was an active general, noting that he should have already sent him into retirement but did not do it because he felt sorry for him and waited for Plenković's decision.

"I want it done right away, otherwise I will have to do it. I warned Plenković of that because Banožić does not make any decisions anyway."

Milanović noted that an active serviceman cannot be a member of a political government.

Asked about the motive for Burčul's retirement, Milanović said: "A personal vendetta."

I want Burčul back and for him to retire in a dignified way

He noted that the Honor Guard Battalion was in charge of his security.

"And the minister dares harass such a person (Burčul). I want him back at work and I want him to retire in a dignified way," he said.

He noted that the extension of Burčul's term had been requested due to the requirements of the post, for the sake of transfer of duties and appointment of a new, younger commander as well as to enable Burčul to retire in a year and a half in a dignified way, instead of "being harassed by a person who until yesterday was a political nobody."

"That cannot pass, otherwise I will start acting the same way, but not towards the army," he said.

Milanović noted that the legal regulation under which the minister made the decision about Burčul's retirement was unconstitutional.

"The President of the Republic is the Commander-in-Chief, the minister is not, there is no mention about the minister in the Constitution. The minister has very extensive powers which in my opinion by far exceed the spirit and message of the Constitution - they decide about people's destinies during their term... If you rub them the wrong way, you can end up paying for it dearly," he said.

Milanović said that given that the budget was being adopted, he would on Friday request a meeting of the Defence Council due to the worrying financial situation in the army, noting that he believed Plenković would "delay the meeting, too, just as he makes an ordeal of everything, including the appointment of the Supreme Court president."

Asked if Burčul's retirement could be Plenković's revenge for the Supreme Court president, he said that it was possible.

"But that's futile, I can always respond in kind or worse in some cases," he said, mentioning in that context the appointment of new diplomats.

If you have not got vaccinated, you only have yourselves to blame

Commenting on the vaccination campaign and the potential expansion of the use of COVID-19 certificates, Milanović said that people in charge of making those decisions did not have a way to motivate people to get vaccinated "apart from using repression and nagging them."

"This is October 2021, those who have not got vaccinated have only themselves to blame," he said.

Milanović noted that it was possible he would receive a third shot but would have to check the level of antibodies first.

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

Thursday, 21 October 2021

PM Warns of Growing Number of Coronavirus Cases in Croatia

ZAGREB, 21 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday warned of the growing number of coronavirus cases in Croatia, saying that the death toll would soon exceed 9,000 and stressing the importance of vaccination and compliance with epidemiological measures.

"We must comply with the basic protection measures - wearing a face mask, keeping a distance, airing the premises, and maintaining hand hygiene," Plenković said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

He stressed the importance and necessity of vaccination, especially for elderly people, noting that the elderly are at greater risk if they contract COVID-19. "One in four elderly persons aged 65 and over have not been vaccinated yet, and we are talking about 238,000 persons or about 25-27 percent."

Plenković warned that the COVID-19 death toll will soon exceed 9,000. "This is a high price we are paying as a nation and society. But now we have vaccines, and there is no reason for this number to be so high," the prime minister said, adding that the vaccines also effectively protect against serious forms of the disease.

He appealed to people who have still not been vaccinated to get vaccinated, citing the views of medical professionals and the government's Scientific Council as well as statistics.

74 percent of hospitalized COVID patients not vaccinated

Plenković said that 74 percent of infected people who have been hospitalized this month were not vaccinated, which is three in four patients, while 80 percent of patients who were or still are on ventilators were not vaccinated, which is four in five.

"These are very clear and convincing figures," Plenković said, noting that 93 percent of the people who died from coronavirus were above the age of 60 and 98 percent were above the age of 50.

He said that the Scientific Council, which met two days ago, stressed the importance of vaccination, especially for the elderly.

"We all agree with the view of the Croatian Public Health Institute on a third dose, that it should be administered to immunocompromised persons and to health and welfare workers because it will help in the fight against the epidemic," the prime minister said.

He said that the situation in Croatia is similar to the rest of the world. "The unvaccinated people represent a pool where the virus spreads the most and where mutations occur the most. It's a fact that vaccinated people can also transmit the virus, but that is less likely than among the unvaccinated, and in the case of infection the disease is much milder."

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

Thursday, 7 October 2021

PM Expects Report From All Relevant Services On Violent Pushbacks of Migrants

ZAGREB, 7 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he had talked with Interior Minister Davor Božinović about violent pushbacks of migrants from the Croatian border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and expected a report from all relevant services to see what had actually happened. 

"Last night I immediately called Minister Božinović to ensure that the Ministry and police take all the necessary measures and investigate the matter so that we see what happened and take appropriate decisions, because Croatia, as a country governed by the rule of law, respects its own laws and international rules. We do not want any actions that might be connected with the state and that are not in accordance with our legal system," Plenković said at a cabinet meeting.

"We have a duty to protect our border and prevent illegal migration. We appreciate the role of the Croatian police in protecting the border in the last few years after our continent has become a destination for migrations, which are often illegal and led and organized by smugglers who benefit from the misfortunes of many people who for various reasons left their homes," he added.

Likewise, We Can! party on Thursday described the treatment of migrants as shown by footage of violence on the border as unacceptable, calling on the police management to leave border protection to somebody else if they were not up to the task.

Footage of masked police beating migrants at the border. (Telegram.hr)

The latest footage of violence against refugees and migrants on our borders reveals serious problems in the way the Ministry of the Interior is dealing with the challenges of migration, the opposition party said in a Facebook post, thus joining in numerous reactions to videos showing the brutal beating of migrants on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"If the current police leadership is not up to the task, it is time other people assumed the responsibility of protecting the border. The current approach to migrations is unacceptable and we once again support all police employees who do not agree with it and who have been warning about it for some time," the party said, recalling that it had warned on a number of occasions that the border can be protected without the use of violence and violation of human rights.

"The latest footage proves that we either have organized groups of thugs who beat refugees or police who remove their insignia and use force and beatings to drive people out of Croatia. Either means a defeat of the idea of a law-based state and human rights protection."

Božinović either denying the problem or announcing probes without an epilogue

The party went on to say that the Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović was "either denying the problem or announcing investigations without an epilogue."

It called on the minister and the prime minister to clearly say what was going on, who was responsible, and why they had not prevented the criminal activity on the border.

Minister Božinović said earlier today that an investigation had been launched to establish if the footage broadcast was authentic, noting that there was no tolerance to violence in the police.

Asked by reporters if he, too, was responsible if it turned out that the footage was authentic, Božinović said, "Why should I be personally responsible?"

He added that nobody had been given an order to use force, except in cases defined by the law, and that most situations on the border did not warrant such conduct.

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

Thursday, 7 October 2021

PM Says Shelling of Gov't Building Was Crucial Moment for Croatia's Freedom

ZAGREB, 7 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday commemorated the 30th anniversary of the shelling of the government building by laying a wreath at the memorial plaque on it and saying that those had been fateful moments for Croatia's freedom.

"Today is 30 years since the shelling of the government building. At that time it was the headquarters of the first president of the republic, Franjo Tuđman. That afternoon, a Yugoslav Army MiG shelled the government building with the obvious goal to kill Croatia's leadership," the prime minister said.

He added that together with Tuđman at that moment were the chairman of the presidency of the former Yugoslavia, Stjepan Mesić, and federal prime minister Ante Marković, who were talking about the Great Serbia military aggression against Croatia.

"Unfortunately, one person was killed then and several were wounded. Fortunately, president Tuđman and the other officials survived. Those were fateful moments for Croatia's freedom, for all that we have today, and the next day, in the night between 7 and 8 October, the Croatian parliament passed key decisions on independence," Plenković said.

He announced that parliament would mark its day tomorrow, saying they remembered that time with a lot of pride and with the important message that young generations should be informed of all the key events in the creation of present-day Croatia.

MP Zdravka Bušić was in the government building when it was targeted. "God wanted us to survive. It's almost impossible to imagine what it was like. I'm happy that an indictment has finally been filed against the pilot and commander of the military squadron that headed for the government building and Croatia. We know that the commander of that squadron was Ljubomir Bajić. I hope the light will be shed on everything."

Also present at today's commemoration were Interior Minister Davor Božinović, War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, and Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

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

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Plenković, Sánchez Announce Stronger Croatian-Spanish Cooperation

ZAGREB, 6 Oct 2021 - Croatia and Spain cooperate well in many areas, with €1 billion in trade, but the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted that process, so Prime Ministers Andrej Plenković and Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday they would work on intensifying cooperation.

"Croatian-Spanish trade is about €1 billion. We believe that's good. However, we've had certain oscillations during the COVID crisis. Today we talked about how to advance cooperation, how to make our private sectors cooperate as well as possible, notably by utilizing funds from the NextGenerationEU instrument," Plenković told the press after meeting with his Spanish counterpart.

Sánchez, the first Spanish prime minister visiting Croatia, said the two countries were trying to advance their relations, the development of which was stopped by the pandemic last year, stressing that EU funds could help them revive their economies.

"A few weeks ago, Croatia joined the cooperation within MED9, nine European Union members states on the Mediterranean, and this forum will serve as a dialogue for Mediterranean countries to advance cooperation in many areas, notably all those key global issues we are faced with, from the fight against illegal migration to climate change, which are especially important for all Mediterranean countries, as well as in many other security and development topics that are important both for north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean," said Plenković.

He also said that Croatia and Spain could exchange experiences in tourism, "this important industry", and see how, "after this brilliant season that we had", to prepare for the next one as well as possible.

"Croatia is very active in the World Tourism Organization, which is based in Madrid. We are looking forward to cooperation in that area," Plenković said.

He noted that cooperation in defense and security as well as many operations, notably in the Mediterranean, was also important for the two countries, adding that next year Spain will host a NATO summit.

The two prime ministers also mentioned cooperation on the DONES (DEMO-Oriented Neutron Source) project which, they said, is very important for the future of energy and for reducing greenhouse gases.

"That's a Croatian-Spanish partnership in nuclear fusion in which the Ruđer Bošković Institute is participating. It's an important, strategic project financed with European funds so that we can have inexhaustible and clean energy sources," said Plenković.

Sánchez too welcomed the experimental program for preserving the environment.

Following a summit with Western Balkan countries in Slovenia over the past two days, the two prime ministers also talked about the situation in Southeast Europe and EU enlargement.

Plenković said Sanchez was exceptionally familiar with the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other countries in the region.

"We took this opportunity to talk about how to make it possible for enlargement to go on, how to have, first of all, a stable BiH. For us it's especially important to ensure, through changes to the electoral law, the legitimate representation of Croats as the smallest constituent people in BiH's highest bodies," Plenković said.

According to the Spanish premier, the Western Balkans "should be given the place to which it belongs". He again called for EU enlargement.

Sánchez also invited Plenković to visit Madrid.

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

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Plenković: I Will Not Accept Theory of Media Freedom Being Stifled in Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that he will not accept the theory of media freedom being stifled in Croatia, referring to a comment by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Mirela Ahmetović's assessment that banning someone from writing is unprecedented pressure on the media.

"It's not normal and it isn't possible to accuse the government because of a ruling by one judge on a temporary measure in one case. The government, the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), none of us has anything to do with the judge's decision on that temporary measure... I reject such insinuations, even about influence on the State Attorney's Office, let alone such an influence on the courts, that there is some intention to stifle media freedom," Plenković said after meeting with the generals, commanders, and officers from the Flash military-police operation.

After the nonprofit portal H-alter in the past few weeks ran a series of articles by reporter Jelena Jindra problematizing the work of a Zagreb center for the protection of children and its head Gordana Buljan Flander, Zagreb Municipal Court judge Andrija Krivak issued an injunction ordering H-alter to stop publishing articles about Buljan Flander.

Plenković said that Minister of Culture and Media Nina Obuljen Koržinek had given a brilliant statement about the court's decision and that he supports her in that.

The government advocates full media freedom, there are legal means to counter the temporary injunction, he said.

"I won't even go into the essence nor the decision, let alone accepts theories that media freedom is being stifled in Croatia. That is out of the question. That is not true," he added.

Asked whether the court's decision was stifling media freedom, Plenković said the Zagreb Municipal Court needs to be asked that.

"What has that got to do with us? It is a temporary injunction issued by a court. It is not a political decision by anyone here," he said and added that Minister Obuljen Koržinek said everything that had to be said about that.

Asked whether this could mean that anyone could seek the courts to ban someone from writing about them, he said that he doesn't think that is the case nor practice.

"I believe that media freedom in Croatia is such that everyone breathes freely," he said.

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

Monday, 13 September 2021

Prime Minister Confident Croatia Will Be Ready to Join Euro Area on January 1st, 2023

ZAGREB, 13 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday he was confident Croatia would be ready to enter the euro area on 1 January 2023.

Speaking at the 11th meeting of the national council for the introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency, Plenković said Croatia had the full support of the European Commission and the European Central Bank to join the euro area.

"We approached this process in a very structured way, carefully. We believe we will fulfill in time all the commitments we undertook by entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism."

He said the government regularly discussed reform implementation in money laundering prevention, the business environment, public administration management, and the justice system, adding that he was confident all the ministries involved would fulfill what had been agreed.

Highly euroized economy

Plenković reiterated that over 60% of Croatia's export was to EU member states, over 60% of tourists in Croatia came from the euro area, over two-thirds of savings and half the loans in Croatia were in euros and that Croatia was already a highly euroized economy.

The experience of the countries which joined the euro area shows that it benefitted both their citizens and economies. Entering the euro area will eliminate the currency risk and exchange costs, reduce interest rates, boost foreign investment, and increase the possibility of financing on the capital market, which we are sure will have an additional effect on our credit rating, Plenković said.

That will also facilitate exports and tourist arrivals, he added.

By comparing pay and price trends in new member states, one can conclude that gross wages increased considerably in relation to price growth, he said. "Living standards increased considerably after the introduction of the euro."

Plenković reiterated that Croatia would have €25 billion in EU funds at its disposal in the years ahead.

"We expect an advance of €818 million could arrive in Croatia in the weeks ahead and, with the GDP growth we saw in the second quarter and which, after such a successful tourism season, will certainly be such in the third quarter as well, to embark on strong economic recovery, strengthening the resilience of the Croatian economy, quality of life, and raising the standard of our fellow citizens."

Dombrovskis: EC strongly supports Croatia's work and ambition to join the euro area

The European Commission Executive Vice President of for an Economy that Works for People Valdis Dombrovskis said at the meeting the Croatian government had shown a strong political will and set ambitious goals.

The Commission strongly supports the work and ambitions of the government and other Croatian institutions to join the euro area, which requires meeting all Maastricht criteria, he added.

Your economy is recovering well and will receive support via the recovery and resilience plan. Croatia is the biggest recipient of EU funds. 11.6% of GDP has been allocated to Croatia in grants, he said.

Dombrovskis said taking the euro path was worth it as it would lead to a more prosperous economy.

Asked by the press about the current inflationary pressures and if prices would go up once Croatia joined the euro area, the Commissioner said one should carefully monitor the impact of introducing the euro on prices also while preparing to introduce it in order to prevent significant price growth.

He said that when the euro was being introduced, product prices were being monitored in two currencies, among other things so that citizens could get used to prices in euros.

The relevant authorities will also have to monitor prices. Latvia, for example, where Dombrovskis was prime minister, conducted a campaign for a fair and equitable introduction of the euro.

Everything that was necessary was done to prevent the introduction of the euro from being used to raise prices, and even retail chains took part in the campaign, he said.

He added that no significant price increase was registered in the Baltic countries that entered the euro area last.

Plenković told the press there was no need for a referendum on euro adoption, explaining that during its referendum on its European Union's admission, Croatia also assumed the obligation to enter the euro area.

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

Thursday, 9 September 2021

PM: Croatia's Turning Red on ECDC Map as Expected

ZAGREB, 9 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a government session on Thursday that Croatia's turning red on the epidemiological map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was as expected given the spread of the much more contagious Delta coronavirus variant. 

"After it was orange and green on the ECDC map the whole summer, Croatia has now turned red, which is as expected considering the rise in the number of infections," he said.

"We are faced with the much more contagious Delta variant, which is more aggressive and spreads faster, and Croatia is already seeing an increase in the number of infections. We continue to insist that vaccination is the best and most efficient way to protect ourselves," he stressed, noting that so far close to 52% of the adult population had been vaccinated.

He recalled the basic epidemiological measures, such as room airing, physical distancing, mask-wearing, and personal hygiene, warning citizens against relaxing entirely.

The epidemiological restrictions applied in Croatia were appropriate to our mentality, health protection, and economic and financial trends, Plenković said, adding that compared to other countries, they had enabled a very good quality of life for Croatian citizens.

"Now it is important that the figures that are relevant at the moment - the number of hospitalizations, the number of patients in serious condition and the number of fatalities - be kept as low as possible," he said, adding that of the ten latest fatalities, only two had been vaccinated.

Most important part of tourist season without alarming situations

He expressed satisfaction with the tourist season, noting that there had been no alarming situations during the peak season.

Commenting on the coming census, he said that for the first time citizens would be able to self-enumerate via the e-Citizens (e-Građani) system.

The census will be conducted digitally from 13 to 26 September, after which data will be collected by around 8,000 census-takers, who will be in the field until 17 October, Plenković said.

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

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Croatian PM Sends Condolences Over N. Macedonia COVID Hospital Fire

ZAGREB, 9 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday sent a letter of condolence to North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and to the families of the victims who lost their lives in a fire that broke out in a COVID hospital in the western city of Tetovo on Wednesday evening.

We are very saddened by the news about the violent fire in the COVID-19 hospital in Tetovo in which many people lost their lives, Plenković wrote on his Twitter account.

"We are in our thoughts with North Macedonia and the families of victims," Plenković added.

At least 14 people died and many more were injured in that hospital fire in North Macedonia, health officials said.

The fire erupted after an explosion at about 2100 hrs Wednesday. Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze for an hour before they managed to bring it under control.

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

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