Sunday, 23 May 2021

Croatia PM to Attend EU Summit on Monday, Tuesday

ZAGREB, 23 May, 2021 - The leaders of the EU-27 will convene for a summit on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the meeting of climate protection targets, foreign policy issues and the COVID-19 situation.

This will be the first physical summit in Brussels since December.

While in Brussels, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković will hold talks with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

On the fringes of the European Council, Plenković is expected to talk about Croatia's two strategic goals - entering the eurozone and the Schengen Area.

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

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Friday, 21 May 2021

Milanović: Situation in Zagreb Hospital Should Have Been Dealt with Sooner

ZAGREB, 21 May 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Friday that the situation in Zagreb's KBC Sisters of Charity Hospital was a disastrous example of neglect and mismanagement, noting that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković should have dealt with that problem right away.

Milanović, who was visiting the northern Adriatic peninsula of Istria to attend an exhibition staged on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the first national revival gathering of the Croats of Istria and Kvarner, commented on the Health Ministry having sent an inspection team to the hospital to investigate allegations of unlawful activities.

"I believe it is a disastrous example of neglect, mismanagement. It describes best what has been going on at that hospital for a year. After a conflict between the minister and a doctor working there, the case should have been solved by dismissing either him or her," he said.

Milanović's statement was a reference to Dijana Zadravec, the head of the hospital's radiology department, who has been replaced over poor interpersonal relations that have resulted in a large number of radiologists leaving the hospital and who claims that hospital funds are used for private interests and that corruption and crime are being covered up.

Zadravec has said that she is in conflict with "the heads of hospital departments who own private hospitals and work to the benefit of those hospitals while using the resources of the public health system."

The person in charge of deciding on the matter, the prime minister, let the situation escalate, said Milanović, noting that the PM could have dealt with it sooner.

"A year later, there is no one left... This is a serious matter and it must not happen because it undermines the little trust left in the health system," Milanović said.

Decision on fighter jets not made

Asked to comment on the purchase of fighter jets following media reports that Croatia has opted for used French aircraft, Milanović said that a decision had not been made.

"I don't know who published that because a decision has not been made, so (the reports) make no sense," he said.

Asked if he insisted on US planes, Milanović said that he had never insisted on US planes.

"I only said that the USA is our main partner, but that does not mean that we have to buy planes from them. I have been saying over the past year that I will support any choice the government makes. Both bids are good. One should take care of Croatia's interests," he said.

On COVID-19 passes

Commenting on COVID-19 passes, he said that if people got vaccinated more, there would be no need for those passes.

I will lay wreaths less and less

PM Plenković has said that there will be no joint laying of wreaths by state officials until the end of his term, to which Milanović today said that he would lay wreaths less and less, "except in cases of major national anniversaries."

He noted that apart from keeping florists working, wreaths were also a serious public sanitation problem because they attracted rodents.

"In the future, I will carry roses, a stone, a carnation wherever that is possible," he said, noting that the point was about commemorating people and events together.

"If he (Plenković) does not want it, so be it. We sat down at the table yesterday and did our job. According to his interpretation of the relations between the president and the prime minister, he was putting on an act. He was not, he was doing his job. I don't do all things I have to do with equal enthusiasm and pleasure either," said Milanović.

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

Thursday, 6 May 2021

PM Says Double Digit Fall in New COVID Cases is Encouraging

ZAGREB, 6 May 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the new COVID numbers had been falling for two weeks in a row, and in the last seven days they dropped by 22%.

"Those are encouraging signs. However, those numbers are still high and we should not think that the risk of the infection is over," Plenković said at the beginning of the meeting of his cabinet in Zagreb on Thursday morning.

He again called on the general public to behave responsibly and respect anti-epidemic rules.

Plenković reiterated that more and more amounts of vaccines against coronavirus would be delivered to Croatia in the coming weeks.

Until 5 May, there were 341,000 confirmed cases of the infection with the novel virus in Croatia and of them, 7,315 COVID patients died. This means that there is one COVID-related death per 47 confirmed cases of the infection.

On the other hand, one suspected case of death can happen per 80,000 vaccinated people, the premier said in a bid to point out the importance of the vaccination.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of vaccination points and testing centres across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

PM Says No Room for Intolerance in Croatia

ZAGREB, 6 May 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday condemned hate speech used by a group of football fans in Borovo Selo near the eastern town of Vukovar, underscoring that there is no justification for last Sunday's incident and that there is no room for intolerance in Croatian society.

The incident occurred on the day of commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the killing of 12 Croatian policemen who lost their lives at the start of the Homeland War, and also coincided with this year's Easter celebrated by Orthodox believers according to the Julian calendar.

"There is no room for intolerance in Croatian society against the Serb minority or anyone else. We will always be strongly opposed to that and clearly condemn hate speech against anyone of our compatriots because we advocate a society in which everyone feels good and experience Croatia as their home," said Plenković opening Thursday's cabinet meeting.

He added that the 2 May incident was contrary to Croatia's interests and certainly was not a patriotic act, but just the opposite.

It is not hard to imagine that in such incidents there will be some people that will try maliciously to equate the victim and aggressor, finding some sort of abortive justification for their atrocities 30 years ago. That is all the more reason for clear condemnation, he added.

In an effort to appropriately punish those responsible, the police reacted immediately and arrested the participants involved in that provocative and impermissible incident, he added.

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

Monday, 19 April 2021

PM: Revitalisation to Lead to Development of Sisak-Moslavina County

ZAGREB, 19 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that a programme to revitalise Sisak-Moslavina County would enable its demographic revival, economic development, social inclusion and better transport connectivity, and he also supported a project to revive local spa tourism.

Plenković was visiting Topusko, a town in Sisak-Moslavina County, where he attended a meeting of the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December earthquake in the county.

He said that at the meeting a project was presented to build a smart spa town to help Topusko become of the centres of medical tourism in the country.

Plenković said that by reforming the financing of local and regional government units the government had secured an additional HRK 150 million in revenue for those units and that so far two billion kuna worth of EU-funded projects had been agreed.

He recalled that the government had granted around HRK 200 million in job-keeping support for more than 15,000 local workers.

"The government wants, and its expert team has already made a draft programme for the revitalisation of Sisak-Moslavina County, to ensure an integral approach that will enable both demographic revitalisation and economic development, social inclusion and better transport connectivity," he said, noting that the county was burdened by problems related to economic transition, socialist legacy, consequences of the 1990s Homeland War and most recently, the pandemic and earthquakes.

He said today's meeting also discussed a project for an expressway between Popovača and Ogulin to better connect Slavonia with the region of Lika and Karlovac County and help in the development of Sisak-Moslavina County.

The head of the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December 2020 earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County, War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, said that so far more than 4,000 requests for emergency repairs on earthquake-damaged properties had been submitted and that as of 1 May the reconstruction of nonstructural elements of the buildings would start so that conditions could be created until summer to make it possible for close to 20,000 families to return home.

Topusko Mayor Ivica Kuzmić said that he was happy about the project to restore Topusko's status of a continental tourism centre.

The project "Topusko - A smart spa town", worth HRK 600 million, envisages the renovation of existing spa facilities and reconstruction of facilities and infrastructure damaged in the 1990s war, and the construction of new spa facilities.

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

Monday, 12 April 2021

Croatian Pensioners to Receive Extra Payment As COVID Relief in Coming Weeks

ZAGREB, 12 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that an agreement has been reached with pensioners' representatives regarding COVID relief that will be paid to about 850,000 seniors in the end of April or early May.

The COVID supplements will be tax-free and not subject to enforcement collection.

"In this budget situation, we have done the most we could and hope that this one-off payment will nevertheless help our pensioners to ease their situation to some extent," said Plenković after a meeting with pensioners' associations.

The one-off supplement will be paid to relieve the consequences caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. The grant will be paid according to several categories, he explained.

The highest amount will be paid to recipients of the lowest pension allowance. Seniors receiving a pension allowance of up to HRK 1,500  will receive a one-off grant of HRK 1,200.

Pensioners with an allowance of between HRK 1,500 and HRK 2,000 will receive HRK 900 and those with a pension of HRK 2,000 to HRK 3,000 will receive HRK 600, while pensioners with an allowance of HRK 3,000 to HRK 4,000 will receive HRK 400.

Plenković underscored that supplement will be tax free, it cannot be included in any enforcement notices nor be added to any assets test that may affect free health insurance supplements.

An estimated that about 850,000 pensioners will receive the one-off payment, which will require about HRK 600 million from the state budget.

(€1 = HRK 7.569094)

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

Monday, 29 March 2021

Plenković Describes Milanović's Statements as Political Barbarity

ZAGREB, 29 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday said that the President had stepped out of his constitutional authority, describing Zoran Milanović's statements in the context of the selection of the head of the Supreme Court as unacceptable political barbarity.

Plenković underscored that "the salvo of insults towards everyone" was not normal. "The media and society are almost getting used to this as if it were something normal and as if it were some sort of trading shots, a fierce reaction, a continuation of something - it isn't."

"This is political barbarity below the dignity of communication, showing spite over procedures and then using the methodology of insulting everyone who thinks differently. And that is unacceptable," Plenković told reporters.

Plenkovič believes that Milanović needs to apologise to MP Milorad Pupovac and the media.

Responding to a question, he did not reject the possibility of impeaching the President, but underscored that in the current situation it would be difficult to obtain the required two-thirds majority support for that in the parliament.

"If this continues, we can talk about that too," he said, warning though of the Bridge party's stance, which he said had helped Milanović to be elected president.

"They have already said that they are against (impeachment)", underscored Plenković.

Milanović's attack against Pupovac shameless

Referring to Milanović's statements, Plenković said that it would be particularly bad for society and the political scene if part of the public approved of such behaviour. "That would be disastrous," he said.

He hopes there are not too many like that and that they are in fact the filth of social networks which, he warned, is the basis for hate speech and then physical attacks against those being insulted.

"This primarily refers to Milorad Pupovac who was attacked as president of the SDSS (Independent Democratic Serb Party) and long-standing MP in such a shameless way by the President and I believe that he should apologise to him and the pubic for his words," said Plenković.

Plenković wonders why the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Peđa Grbin, the SDP's candidate for Zagreb mayor Joško Klisović and the President's chief-of-staff Orsat Miljenić haven't reacted.

"Do they approve of these barbaric and vulgar attacks on MP Pupovac?" asked Plenković. 

The President is also attacking the media and that too requires an apology, he said.

Plenković also referred to, as he said, Milanović's personally calling lawmakers regarding the selection of the head of the Supreme Court. 

That same parliament, Plenković underscored, in which that same president did not want to come as an invited guest when the parliament was inaugurated.

"That is a new dimension in how the president sees his role and duties," claimed Plenković, saying that the president's constitutional duty is to recommend a candidate for Supreme Court president. "It is not his constitutional duty to call people from the parliamentary majority or others and turn them into his assets. That is not the president's duty," said Plenković.

Plenković also believes that Milanović overstepped his constitutional authority when he 'expressis verbis' articulated that his political activism is against the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) as a political party.

We could also say that someone is disgusting

Plenković also touched on Milanović's description of Plenković as ugly, Pupovac as dirty and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković as evil.

"We could also say that someone is disgusting," he said in Italian, adding that he will not lower himself to that level but will "stand in defence of other colleagues, in defence of reporters and the freedom of the media," and finally refute the "incorrect argument" that the selection of the head of the Supreme Court is equal to a reform in the judiciary.

That is not the same, underscored Plenković and added that reform of the judiciary is up to the government and parliament by amending legislation, digitising the judiciary and reducing the number of cases, providing a precise action plan for judges as to how many cases and in what timeframe they need to be resolved for them to receive positive performance reports.

"There is no hiding here behind some sort desire to reform the judiciary. That is not the case here. This is an effort to sell a political pamphlet to the public. However, there are enough of us who can see very well, hear and comprehend, and we know how to position ourselves in such a situation," he added.

Plenković reiterated that his HDZ will not support Zlata Đurđević's nomination for Supreme Court president because she allowed herself to be a candidate in a procedure which the Constitutional Court considers was not in accordance with the law and as such it was not in accordance with the Constitution.

"What you are seeing now is exclusively and solely the President's fault. It is not the fault of the government or parliament and the public has to hear that clearly and understand. Everything else is just a salvo, a method that is based on spite and insults. That is not our political style and we will not agree to it," he concluded.

Commenting on the initiative by HDZ member Vladimir Šeks to have Milanović impeached, Plenković said that Šeks was speaking on his own behalf.

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

Monday, 29 March 2021

National Recovery Plan Encouraging - Unions, Employers Say

ZAGREB, 29 March, 2021 - Unions and employers said at Monday's meeting of the Economic and Social Council (GSV) that they were pleased with the draft 2021-23 national recovery and resilience plan, assessing it as encouraging.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told the press the GSV was presented with a summary of the draft plan, on which all departments had been working on for eight months now.

"It's a document containing reforms and investments amounting to €6.3 billion which is part of the Next Generation EU programme. Croatia is one of the member states that received more than the others."

He said the money involved was important so that Croatia can recover after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and become stronger and faster in achieving the economic growth it had before the COVID crisis.

Plenković said the GSV was presented with the outlines of the national recovery and resilience plan, and that the government would endorse the information on it on Thursday and then present the plan to the press.

The intention is to finish the plan by the end of April, after which it needs to be approved by the European Commission.

"That will be followed by the payment of an advance of 13%," Plenković said, adding that "we should receive HRK 6.1 billion in August or September, to be followed by the realisation of projects through reforms."

He said some of the criteria for obtaining the funds were that 37% of all applications must contribute to the green transition and 20% to the economy's digital transition.

The criteria also include not causing significant damage in terms of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, water protection, and the circular economy.

"In the next ten years Croatia will have €6.3 billion in grants at its disposal, then almost €13 billion in the new multiannual financial framework, another €3.6 billion in Next Generation EU loans, most probably about €1 billion for earthquake recovery, plus almost €1 billion from ReactEU and the Just Transition Fund," Plenković said.

Employers and unions say the document is encouraging

Unionist Vilim Ribić said Plenković's arrival at the GSV meeting constituted a good approach to social dialogue.

"A truly spectacular amount of money is expected," he said, adding that unions were pleased "that education has received a very relevant percentage of the funds, about 15%."

Ribić said the unionists had underlined the link between those funds and Croatia's prospects in terms of emigration and economic transformation, adding that the unions had insisted on the social aspect and on reducing inequalities in society.

Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) president Mihael Furjan said the national recovery and resilience plan summary looked encouraging and that its presentation marked the beginning of formal consultations with social partners.

"HUP is looking forward to a public consultation. We'll try, with our experience, knowledge, expertise, to help the government so that the final version of the document looks as well as possible in the interest of the Croatian economy," he said, adding that it was very important that employers and unions agreed throughout most of the discussion.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Plenković: Government Taking Steps to Provide €3.8bn for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalisation in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering - 1CroCEE.

The conference was organised by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.

Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.

For that expensive and long process of the reconstruction to be implemented it is essential to secure the necessary funds, particularly from European and international sources, said Plenković.

The government has to date taken intensive activities at all levels for reconstruction and revitalisation of affected areas  so as to secure €3.8 billion or about HRK 28.5 billion, which is 22% of the funds required.

Of that amount, almost €1.4 billion is from European sources and €2.4 billion through international financing institutions.

The European funds include €684 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Zagreb's reconstruction and almost €600 million is planned through the Recover and Resilience Mechanism, while €111 million will be reallocated from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), he said.

In addition, we will endeavour to secure funds from the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework  which is currently being programmed and financing reconstruction will be treated as a specific item, said Plenković.

When it comes to international financing institutions, in addition to an already contracted loan of €184 million from the World Bank, talks will be conducted for an additional €1 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB), €900 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and €300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

An additional €319.2 million needs to be added to all that which Croatia requested from the European Solidarity Fund for the removal of damage caused by the earthquake in the Banovina region, he added.

Plenković added that constant talks were being held with a series of development and commercial banks to come up with solutions that will provide credit lines with favourable interest rates for individuals. That primarily refers to the 20% of the costs they need to cover reconstruction, to finance the difference between structural repairs and complete reconstruction, to finance the reconstruction of apartment buildings and also to fund the reconstruction of public buildings by the state.

"We are about to enter the phase of organised structural repairs and comprehensive reconstruction, not just in Zagreb but in neighbouring counties," said Plenković.

He underscored that reconstruction should boost a new large development cycle for Zagreb and neighbouring counties as well as trigger the revitalising of the Banovina region.

World Bank director for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, said that the estimated quake damage was equal to reached 30% of Croatia's GDP.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Plenković: Croatia Expects to Join Eurozone and Schengen in 3 Years

ZAGREB, 15 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview with the Politico news website published on Monday that it was reasonable to expect that Croatia would enter the eurozone and the Schengen area by the second half of 2024.

"The idea is to do both — accession to Schengen and the eurozone — by the end of this government’s term, so the second half of 2024," Plenković said. "It’s tough, but reasonable."

The European Commission said in 2019 that Croatia had fulfilled all the technical requirements for entry into the Schengen passport-free travel zone, and this should now be endorsed by other member states. Romania and Bulgaria have been waiting for this to happen for years.

In mid-2020 Croatia was admitted to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), a key step towards eurozone membership.

Plenković said that because of the coronavirus crisis the eurozone members could be expected to continue suspending their own rules for fiscal discipline, while those on the path to join the euro could not rely on "such easy self-help tricks."

He expressed regret that Croatia had "stepped away from consolidation and sound public finances" to limit the economic damage of the crisis.

Plenković said that his government would pursue two goals: "Using the recovery fund, the EU budget and private investment to generate growth. And the other one: Go back to the framework of 2017-2019, when my government achieved a budget surplus."

The prime minister said he believed Croatia would be able to spend the first euro from the EU recovery fund at the beginning of next year, adding that it was a complicated process. "Unless it’s helicopter money, it’s very difficult and complex. You need a plan, a project, verification, tender, implementation, documentation. If it goes faster, we’ll gladly spend it, but if I’m realistic …"

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