Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Plenkovic Says United Nations Must Fit 21st Century

ZAGREB, September 22, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the UN, that it was necessary to "make the United Nations fit for the 21st century" and called for reforming the Security Council and combating climate change.

"Today we live in a much different world than 75 years ago. The technological revolution changed and improved our lives beyond comparison. Yet the scourge that plagued the world in the autumn of 1945, the hunger and poverty, the disease and refugees, still burdens parts of our planet," the prime minister said in a video message.

The UN has 193 member states and Croatia has been one since 22 May 1992.

Plenkovic said "unprecedented progress has been achieved in the past 75 years."

"Whereas two out of three people lived in extreme poverty at the end of the Second World War, today this share has fallen to less than one in ten, and by 2030 this should fall under one in 16," he added.

But the world is facing new challenges and it is necessary to revitalise the UN, he said, calling this year's General Assembly session "a springboard for that."

"We must make the United Nations fit for the 21st century... The revitalisation of the United Nations's work has to go beyond the General Assembly. Reform of the Security Council is long overdue. Our historical anniversary should also be an occasion for revisiting the UN Charter to meet the needs and realities of the new era."

Plenkovic also called for combating climate change, saying "climate change is one of the pivotal fields for the future of humanity. This is where we cannot afford to fail. We have to adjust to new realities, find the way to meet new challenges... achieve all Sustainable Development Goals and avoid the pitfalls of the past."


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Monday, 21 September 2020

PM: Pensions To Be Increased by 10% by End of Term of Office

ZAGREB, September 21, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday that the payment of pension allowances was not in question, underscoring that increasing them by 10% by the end of the government's term in office is a priority.

"This is a clear message from the government about the protection of pensioners," Prime Minister said during the signing of an agreement on the establishment of a national council for pensioners and elderly persons with Visnja Fortuna, president of the National Pensioners' Convention of Croatia (MUH), and Jasna A. Petrovic, the Croatian Pensioners' Union (SUH).

The council is an advisory body that discusses the issues of pension and health insurance, social policy and the protection of the elderly and will submit its opinions to the government.

PM Plenkovic underscored successful cooperation with the MUH and the SUH, saying that the government endeavours to adopt everything that is useful in line with economic and financial ability.

As an example, he underscored the option to work and receive a pension allowance, which was now available to a greater number of pensioners.

"The results are visible -- according to latest data... there are currently 15,500 pensioners who are working in addition to receiving a pension allowance," he said.

Plenkovic also said that regular payment and indexation of pension allowances was ensured in the complex conditions of the coronavirus epidemic, with pension allowances being indexed by 0.7% since January 1, and by 1.41% since July 1.

He pointed out that the average duration of pensionable service of new pensioners had increased this year, which indicates there was greater awareness about the need to stay in the work force for longer. He added that the average old-age pension for 40 years of pensionable service amounted to HRK 4,669 (€619).


Pensions to increase by 10% by end of term in office

The Prime Minister said the government's first priority was to "increase pension allowances by 10% by the end of its term."

He recalled that in its previous term, the government increased pension allowances by about 12% and that lowest pension allowances were increased by an additional 3%.

MUH head Fortuna expressed satisfaction with the work of the council in the previous term and thanked the Prime Minister that the new agreement that would enable it to continue its work had been signed so quickly.

SUH head Petrovic warned that in addition to difficulties such as coronavirus, the government's term would be marked by poverty of the elderly as 61% of pension allowances were below the Croatian poverty threshold.

Petrovic also expressed hope that dialogue in the council would resolve the issue of family pensions which are mostly low and it was mostly women who were the beneficiaries of these allowances (94%).

Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrovic said after the signing of the agreement that the work of the council has contributed to the quality of life of pensioners and elderly persons.


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Saturday, 19 September 2020

PM: Croatia's Rating Affirmation Shows Trust in How Government Manages Crisis

ZAGREB, Sept 19, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday that Standard & Poor's decision to affirm Croatia's credit rating proves that the country entered the corona crisis with a resilient economy and that the cabinet has adopted robust and timely measures to respond to the economic challenges.

The Standard & Poor's agency on Friday affirmed its 'BBB-/A-3' long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings on Croatia, with a stable outlook, pointing to fiscal and monetary measures which can alleviate the consequences of the corona crisis and thus thwart permanent damage to credit indicators.

The decisions prompted the government to state on Saturday that those evaluations show that the government did the right thing with its strong response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The credit rating agency also confirms the importance of political stability in Croatia.

The agency notes that "the July 2020 parliamentary elections resulted in a strong mandate affirming the HDZ-led government."

The assessments made by S&P also prove that "Croatia entered the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic with a stable and resilient economy," Plenkovic was quoted as saying.

The S&P report on Croatia also shows that the government is pursuing "robust and timely measures" to keep jobs and help the economy to turn around, he added.

The report reflects trust in the continuation of the implementation of the government's measures aimed at a speedy economic recovery, also by using 22 billion euros which are made available to Croatia in the European Union's funds in the next seven years.

This also shows trust in Croatia's efforts to implement reforms on its journey towards the membership of the euro area, the premier said.

The government recalls that Croatia used to be below investment ratings from 2012 to 2019 and that in the term of the cabinet of PM Plenkovic, the country managed to regain the creditworthiness.

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Friday, 18 September 2020

Plenkovic: Arrests Proof of Govt's Active Policy of Zero Tolerance to Corruption

ZAGREB, September 18, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that the latest arrests in the Janaf graft affair were proof of the government's active policy of zero tolerance to corruption, regardless of names and surnames, position or party.

"It is this government's policy, my own personally and that of the HDZ, that our independent judicial bodies, the State Prosecutor's Office, USKOK, PNUSKOK and the police are independent, unbiased in their work. No one tells them what to do or not to do. That is the fundamental principle of our functioning," Plenkovic told reporters after a meeting with county prefects and mayors.


There is no "magic box", DORH and police have to do their job

It is important that everyone understands that there is no "magic box" which can help someone know what someone else is doing, he said and added that the only way, if suspicion of corruption is justified, for the State Prosecutor's office (DORH) and the police to do their job.

"This is the best proof of the active policy of zero tolerance to corruption. Regardless of someone's name and surname, position and party. There is no other way, that is the only proper way. And cases like these will act as a deterrent, that is the whole point There can never be any fatigue in the fight against corruption," underscored the prime minister.

If someone is proven guilty in legal proceedings, we expect them to answer for that, Plenkovic said and claimed that regardless of HDZ MP Drazen Barisic being arrested, the government and the parliamentary majority are stable.

Asked how was it possible for Pozega mayor Darko Puljasic to end up on HDZ's slate, even though he was indicted in January, and was stripped of parliamentary immunity yesterday, Plenkovic claimed that this was not a problem.

"That is not a problem because everything that is related to him is not related to his seat in parliament. In this case his immunity was stripped only because he became a member of parliament. As I understand it, he is looking forward to a trial so he can prove that the charges against him are not true," said Plenkovic.

Asked whether mayors that have been indicted should resign, Plenkovic said there was no need if they have only been charged.

"If it is proven, or if they cannot to conduct their duties, then there are deputies to replace them so that the city can function," he said.


Elektrocentar Petek is not a large HDZ donor 

Plenkovic denied allegations that Elektrocentar Petek, a company connected to Thursday's arrest, was a large donor to the HDZ.

"Not really. First of all, I have never heard of that company and as far as I have seen, during my term as HDZ leader, the company donated HRK 10,000 four years ago, and I checked, (Kreso Petek) isn't even a member of the HDZ,"  claimed Plenkovic.

He also dismissed speculation that the arrested Janaf CEO Dragan Kovacevic was supposed to have been replaced a year ago, and said such stories are now being made up for the sake of blackmail.

We live in a world of rumours. I've read some of the ridiculous theories by some MPs, caucuses, particularly those from the Homeland Movement and Bridge, two parties that ran in the parliamentary election so they could have the ability to blackmail, as that was the only reach of their platforms and stances, said Plenkovic.

They have turned into "frustrated blackmailers who are coming up with theories that the prime minister knew something or that someone told him something," added Plenkovic.

"All those things need to be removed, the police and DORH are doing their job independently, and they do these things secretly. If something is secret, then it is not public, then only the people dealing with that are in the know and no one else, not even the prime minister," he underscored.


Replacement of Kovacevic will be looked into

Asked whether he would replace Janaf CEO Kovacevic, Pleknovic said that he would look into the entire situation because Janaf is listed on the stock exchange and the state is not its only owner.

Asked whether a system to vet people who are to take up management positions exists, Plenkovic said there was no such system. "There is no way to notice something like this, that is simply impossible," he said.

As far as information leaks are concerned with regard to yesterday's arrests, Plenkovic said that the leaks need to be identified.

"There are three possibilities - the police, DORH or the court. Let them speak up, that would also be in the interest of their credibility," he concluded.


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Friday, 18 September 2020

PM: Digitisation and Green Deal Centrepiece of Economic Recovery

ZAGREB, September 18, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who on Friday presented an economic recovery plan to county prefects and representatives of cities and municipalities, said that digitisation and the Green Deal were the centrepiece of Croatia's economic recovery.

"Digitisation and the Green Deal are the centrepiece and framework for projects that will be financed," Plenkovic told the press in the city of Gospic after meeting with county heads and representatives of the associations of cities and municipalities.

Plenkovic added that participants in the meeting were also informed about the allocation for Croatia within the Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union.

The government is consulting prefects and mayors on more than 5,000 projects submitted to the Ministry of EU Funds and Regional Development, and the consultations will help step up the absorption of funds as of 2021, he said.

This will enable the return of the country's GDP to the pre-coronacrisis levels, which is the point of the government's programme, Plenkovic said.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric informed the prefects and mayors who attended the Gospic meeting about plans for the tax reform and fiscal decentralisation.

Public Administration and Justice Minister Ivan Malenica outlined a plan for the overhaul of the system of cities and municipalities.

Malenica told the press that preparations were underway for amending the law on local self-government, legislation on local elections and on the City of Zagreb, noting that those changes would be undertaken for cost-cutting purposes.

He said the number of office-holders would be reduced and the remuneration for county and city assembly councilors would be cut.

Malenica said that the aim would be to achieve the functional merger of some of the municipalities and to digitise local authorities, rather than reducing the number of cities and municipalities.


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Thursday, 17 September 2020

PM: Everyone Found Guilty Will Answer for Their Crimes

ZAGREB, Sept 17, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday commented today's arrests and preliminary investigations in the JANAF oil pipeline operator, supporting the authorities in all their actions and saying that everyone found guilty would answer for their crimes.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he said this was "yet another very clear message (that) the task of all bodies, notably judicial bodies, DORH, USKOK, PNUSKOK and the police, is to do an impartial and independent job and thoroughly investigate and prosecute everyone suspected of taking part in corruption activities."

"This message of the fight against corruption is constant and continuous," Plenkovic said, adding that his government was proving that it advocated fighting corruption through "concrete action."

He supported the State Prosecutor's Office (DORH), the USKOK anti-corruption office and the PNUSKOK police anti-corruption office "in all activities which are independent and free of any influence or pressure on their work.

"Everyone found guilty... will answer for a certain act," Plenkovic said, adding that he would say more about this morning's police operation after learning more about it.

"We have a principled position, very firm and clear, we stand behind it and that's will be our policy."

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

PM Says No Reason to Deploy Army to Protect Border

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told the parliament on Wednesday that currently there was no valid reason for the engagement of army troops to protect the country's border against illegal migrants.

Our policy is that the Croatian police protect the border, and more than 6,000 police officers safeguard the border around the cock, the premier said in response to a question by Bridge parliamentarian Miro Bulj, who asked during Question Time whether the authorities would deploy the military along the border because local inhabitants in the Dalmatian hinterland felt insecure due to the influx of illegal migrants.

Plenkovic said that for the time being there was no valid reason for the army to be deployed on the border.

However, he elaborated that in the event that "hypothetical circumstances were such that the job within the remit of the police might increase to such levels that they could not perform them, we can consider other possibilities."

Plenkovic confirmed that there was certain migratory pressure and that the efforts to reduce this pressure should be made on the borders between Greece and Turkey and possibly between Bulgaria and Turkey.

Answering questions from MPs, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric expressed his confidence that during the four-year term of the current government, that was inaugurated this July, Croatia could introduce the euro as its official currency.

Nothing will be done overnight, a lot of work lies ahead of us, he admitted.

PM against the revocation of mandatory fees for membership of chambers

Marijana Puljak of the Pametno party suggested that mandatory fees should be abolished for membership of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), the Croatian Chamber of Crafts and Trades (HOK), and for the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ), insisting that this move would reduce the huge tax burden on businesses.

In response to this suggestion, PM Plenkovic said that "there are certain lobbies that would like to see" that those chambers had nothing in their revenues, which would then create room for somebody else's activities.

Those chambers have some sense, and many other countries also have organisations like that, Plenkovic said and added that he believed that the costs of those chambers could be lessened.

In this context, he underscored that cost-cutting processes were being conducted within the HGK.

As for the taxation burden, Plenkovic recalled that his cabinet had to date reduced that burden by HRK 9 billion.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

PM Refutes Bridge's Claim on Connection Between Fighter Jets, EU Grants

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday dismissed the Bridge party's claim that he had promised President Emmanuel Macron that Zagreb would buy French fighter jets in return for the European Council's decision that €22.5 billion would be set aside for Croatia.

"This is an absurdity," Plenkovic said during Question Time in parliament after Bridge deputy Zvonimir Troskot asked if the premier had promised that Croatia would purchase French multipurpose military aircraft in exchange for EU grants.

Plenkovic said he was "fascinated by debutant lawmakers", calling on Troskot not to disseminate false and incorrect claims which, he added, made him "less credible" as a parliamentary deputy.

The premier also criticised the opposition Bridge party for pursuing "coffee-house politics" and for being ignorant.

He recalled that Croatia received four bids for the procurement of fighter jets.

Earlier this month the government stated that four bids for the procurement of fighter jets were received from Sweden, the USA, France, and Israel. Now the process of evaluation commences, and the interdepartmental commission on the purchase of military aircraft will recommend the best bid by December 12.

Sweden has offered its new Gripen C/D model, while the United States has offered its new F-16 block 70, France has offered its used Rafal model, and Israel its used F-16 block 30 fighter jets.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

PM Says President Engaging in Activism Against COVID-19 Team

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in parliament on Wednesday that President Zoran Milanovic was engaging in activism against the national COVID-19 response team.

Commenting on Milanovic's statement that the Constitutional Court got cold feet when it decided that all decisions made by the COVID-19 team were in line with the Constitution, except for a Sunday trading ban, Plenkovic said: "What do you think, do those who voted against have an opposed political agenda, engaging in some sort of activism, while the others acted in line with the law and Constitution, including the judges?".

He then answered affirmatively when asked if he believed that President Milanovic was the activist leading attacks on the COVID-19 team, adding that "a few people have stirred up the debate and this is one of the activist groups that have been identified."

"Everything is clear," he said when asked if the president and the constitutional court judges who voted against the court's decision were connected.

"I have no idea what inspired those judges to vote against... I couldn't care less. You have Article 16 of the Constitution, the law was adopted, the government formed the team, the team made decisions, the coronavirus was defeated in May, we organised elections before the second wave, the tourist season was 50% of the projections, and I find that good," he said.

"Those who say that the Constitutional Court got cold feet, why didn't they address the court themselves," he said, adding that he was referring to Milanovic.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Calculated Risk Has Made it Possible to Reactivate Economy, Says PM

ZAGREB, September 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday that the intentional calculated risk in relaxing epidemiological measures enabled the reactivation of the economy and that the policy of reopening the country was based on expert estimates.

Asked by reporters on the margins of a convention of Croatian exporters whether the government's calculated risk helped the tourism sector, while on the other hand it was detrimental to exporters due to a surge in new cases in the recent weeks, which was why some countries put Croatia on their quarantine lists, Plenkovic answered that without the reopening of the borders, there would not have been seven million visitors this summer and Croatia would not have achieved 50% of last year's tourist industry turnover.

There would have been a complete lockdown and quarantine if there had been no calculated risk, Plenkovic said, recalling that currently no government in the world is in favour of a lockdown.

Commenting on the official extension of job retention measures and other forms of assistance to the economy affected by the corona crisis, the premier said that it was important to provide fast and ample help, and the state authorities had done so this spring when many businesses had been hit by the crisis.


Calibrating assistance by size of damage suffered

Now we are calibrating the assistance, there are measures for micro businesses, a shortened working week and assistance to the activities worst hit by the crisis, Plenkovic said, adding that he believed that his cabinet did it right.

The schemes and grants which are estimated to cost 800 million kuna are "an investment in the future of the Croatian economy and provides a start for the recovery," he said.

Asked about the possible extension of moratoriums on enforced debt collection, Plenkovic said that the government had provided maximum assistance, however, loans and bills must be settled.

"Measures that can alleviate the situation are in place while on the other hand, there is no place for measures that can turn the whole situation into an endless write-off of debts, he explained.

Plenkovic welcomed today's announcement that the local Infinum company and Germany's Porsche Digital would invest €10 million in a joint company that will build digital products for the auto industry, and hoped that more similar companies will find their place in Croatia in the future.


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