Thursday, 11 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Croatia to Make its Contribution to Conference on the Future of Europe

ZAGREB, 11 March, 2021 - Croatia is ready to make its contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, in which Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica will have one of the leading roles, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday.

Croatia will make its contribution to the discussion on how to respond to global challenges together and how this Conference can improve the responses of the EU and its institutions to citizens' expectations and to numerous issues in the world which are now substantially different than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, Plenković told reporters after meeting European Parliament President David Sassoli.

The leaders of the three EU institutions on Wednesday signed a joint declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is conceived as a public forum where citizens will over the next year be able to say what sort of Union they want.

The  Conference is expected to open on 9 May, Europe Day. It should have been launched on 9 May last year but had to be postponed, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, but mostly because the leaders of the EU institutions were unable to agree on who would chair the Conference.

The Conference will be chaired by a three-member presidency consisting of the Commission President, the Parliament President and the Prime Minister of the country holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

In addition to the collective presidency, there will also be an executive committee which will be responsible for the organisation and oversight of the Conference's work. Each of the three main institutions will have three members on the executive committee, while the representatives of national parliaments will have observer status. Croatia's Dubravka Šuica will be on the executive committee on behalf of the Commission.

Sassoli said that the Conference should result in the better functioning of the Union, which is expected to be given new competences.

Plenković and Sassoli also talked about problems with COVID-19 vaccines in the EU, EU membership prospects of the Western Balkans, and Croatia's efforts to join the Schengen zone and euro area.

Plenković said that Croatia supports the EU integration of southeast European countries, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina with which it shares the longest border and where Croats live as the smallest constituent ethnic group.

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković, Women's Room NGO Talk Measures Against Violence

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday met with a delegation of the Women's Room NGO to discuss measures to curb violence against women and they agreed on the preparation of a national strategy to combat sexual violence.

Maja Mamula and Anamarija Drožđan-Kranjčec from the Women's Room informed the Prime Minister of the activities of their organisation, which includes the Centre for Victims of Sexual Violence which provides direct help and support to victims of sexual violence.

The talks underlined the need for raising public awareness of the problem of sexual violence, strengthening prevention and implementing education about that problem at all levels.

The two sides agreed on drafting a national strategy for the prevention of sexual violence, which will involve all relevant departments and civil society organisations.

There was also talk of amendments to the Criminal Code regarding the combatting of sexual violence, which have been prepared and should soon be put to public consultation.

The main amendments concern redefining the prosecution of sexual harassment to enable its ex-officio prosecution, which is something the government has already announced.

Under the amendments, there will be no statute of limitations on child abuse.

The meeting also discussed activities implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy in order to establish shelters for victims of violence in all counties, the related media campaign and cooperation with civil society organisations.

The Women's Room delegation welcomed the fact that the need for a strategic document to combat sexual violence had been recognised as well as the announced legislative amendments.

Prime Minister Plenković thanked the delegation for their cooperation and work on raising awareness of the problem of violence, notably their activities in providing support to victims of sexual violence.

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

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Croatia Ready to Take in About 10 COVID Patients From Czechia and Slovakia Each

ZAGREB, 9 March, 2021 - Croatia is ready to take in about ten COVID patents from the Czech Republic and Slovakia each, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković tweeted on Tuesday after his telephone conversation with his counterparts Andrej Babiš of Czechia and Igor Matovič of Slovakia.

"I have conveyed Croatia's readiness to hospitalise about ten COVID-19 patients each from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, if necessary, taking into consideration the fact that their respective health systems are under strain," Plenković wrote on his Twitter account.

Croatia is showing its solidarity with EU member-states in the struggle against COVID-19, he underscored.

The Czech Republic, which has been one of the hardest hit countries in the world by the COVID epidemic recently, has asked Germany, Switzerland and Poland to take in dozens of COVID-19 patients as the situation in its own hospitals has reached a critical point.

Slovakia has already transferred some of its patients abroad this week.

Poland and Germany each have said that they can hospitalise ten patients from that country. 

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Everything Except Respecting Law is Politicising"

ZAGREB, 9 March, 2021 - Everything except respecting the law is politicising, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday, commenting on the election procedure for the Supreme Court president, on which he disagrees with President Zoran Milanović, who is recommending a candidate who did not apply for the job.

"There are no (legal) tricks. There is respecting the Constitution and the law that is in force. Everything else is politicising without any reason, a wish to make an issue out of the election of the Supreme Court president which seems incredible," Plenković told the press in Ivanić-Grad.

There is a prescribed procedure and the State Judicial Council (DSV) invited applications, of which everyone in the judiciary knew, he added.

"The law was passed after the SDP (Social Democrats) strongly criticised the existing procedure. When the law was being passed, they commended (the procedure), and now, all of a sudden, they are singing a different tune."

As for the DSV's claim that it does not have the instruments to again call for applications because the law does not specify that, the prime minister said this situation should not have happened and that the regulations that were in force should be honoured.

Unlike the president, who said parliament would debate his recommendation of Zlata Đurđević for Supreme Court president, Plenković said that under parliament's rules of procedure, that could not be put on the agenda.

Asked if he would meet with the president if he invited him, Plenković said, "I don't feel like communicating about that via the media."

"The man said he would call, he hasn't, so he is sending some message via our (ruling coalition) partner, Prefect Čačić. It's all bizarre really."

Speaking of Đurđević, the head of the Zagreb Faculty of Law criminal law department, Plenković said it was not about whether someone respected her because everyone knew the circle of people who could head the Supreme Court. He added that she had been Croatia's backup candidate for the European Court of Human Rights.

He said there was no constitutional crisis as the deadline for electing the new Supreme Court president was July, and wondered what prevented Đurđević from applying for the position earlier.

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

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

PM Plenković Satisfied With Good Cooperation Between Ivanić-Grad, County and Government

ZAGREB, 9 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited Ivanić-Grad on Tuesday, underscoring good cooperation with local and Zagreb County governments.

Speaking to the press after meeting with Mayor Javor Bojan Leš and County Prefect Stjepan Kožić, Plenković said that the investments made by the county and the town complemented government efforts to keep jobs.

"The funds for this purpose have so far affected 57,000 workers as HRK 512 million has been disbursed for job retention," the prime minister said.

€51 million from EU for county development projects

Plenković said that during the term of his government €51 million worth of projects had been agreed with the EU for this county, contributing to its development. He noted that following the reform of the local and regional government funding law, this county had received 28 percent more revenues in 2020 than in 2017.

Zagreb County has established itself among the five most developed counties in Croatia, Plenković said, praising Ivanić-Grad for investing in school infrastructure, sports halls and health tourism.

Mayor Leš highlighted the investment in the Naftalan medical rehabilitation centre and expressed his satisfaction with the collaboration with the government on public sewage system construction.

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

Thursday, 25 February 2021

PM Says Government Has Done Utmost to Protect People's Health

ZAGREB, 25 February, 2021 - Recapping the year-long fight against COVID-19, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday the government had taken appropriate measures and done its best to protect people's health, thanking people for behaving responsibly and understanding a situation no one could have predicted.

The first coronavirus case in Croatia was registered a year ago today. Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Plenković said that from day one the necessary protective equipment had been provided and the continuation of education and activities in culture and the arts taken into account.

The economy has been taken into account the entire time, he said. "Job-retention measures have been very abundant. We never thought we would give so much money to retain jobs in the private sector, to workers, employers."

Pensions have been paid as well and the number of the jobless has been as before the pandemic, Plenković said.

"And we have done all that while ensuring financial stability in such a way that Croatia is keeping its investment credit rating and stepping through the European Exchange Rate Mechanism towards the euro area... We have concluded good financial arrangements both with the HNB (Croatian National Bank) and the European Central Bank, with Croatian banks and pension funds, with all stakeholders who have made it possible for everything to function."

Plenković regretted that certain activities had been restricted. "That's not something we are doing because we want to, it's what all governments are doing, all countries around the world, to protect people's health."

Vaccine distribution needs to be stepped up

Plenković said he would push for stepping up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at EU level which, he added, the European Council would discuss today, in order to vaccinate as many people as soon as possible, notably those most vulnerable.

"I'm confident the announcement of 700,000 doses in total by the end of March will be a strong barrier against the spread of the epidemic, and we expect even larger quantities. Our message today will also go to the EMA (European Medicines Agency) to approve vaccines more quickly, first and foremost Johnson&Johnson's, which is under way and which we have ordered in 900,000 doses."

Plenković said the government had reserved the vaccines on time, even more than necessary in order to vaccinate everyone over 18 years of age, with 6.8 million doses ordered to date. "We will continue to make an effort, the responsibility is big."

He extended his condolences to the families of the 5,500 Croatian citizens who have died "of COVID or with COVID."

"Those are great losses. We sympathise with their families. We regret it very much. And I thank all fellow citizens for behaving responsibly and understanding the context which has been going on for a year and which no one could have planned for."

Thursday, 25 February 2021

PM Appeals for Caution Despite Better COVID-19 Situation

ZAGREB, 25 February, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Croatia's weekly COVID-19 numbers had been falling for the past ten weeks, dropping almost eleven-fold.

"In relation to last Thursday, we are registering a certain growth on the weekly level, but at the moment we can't say with certainty what the causes of this trend are, whether it was because of the cold, the relaxation of measures or a broader relaxation in the model of behaviour," he said at a cabinet meeting, appealing for continuing to be very cautious.

He said that together with Denmark, Croatia had the lowest weekly incidence of new infections in the EU.

"We have several smaller clusters in a couple of counties so we shouldn't be too relaxed at the moment," Plenković said.

"We are trying to protect health, the economy, keep up financial stability, salaries, pensions, job-retention aid, and everything we are doing, we are doing in the interest of Croatian citizens."

Saturday, 30 January 2021

PM Says Opposition Has Turned Its Back on Earthquake Victims

AGREB, 30 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that by breaking the quorum in the parliament on Friday, which was why amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction were not voted in, the Opposition had "impudently turned its back" on earthquake victims in the Banovina region.

"Not only did they not enable the adoption of the law on post-earthquake reconstruction, they also prevented the declaration of the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Adriatic and the adoption of the National Development Strategy, which reveals an unbelievable degree of political destructiveness and lack of political culture," the PM said after a meeting of the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County, held in Petrinja.

Noting that his HDZ party would never do such a thing, Plenković stressed that amending the Act on the Post-Earthquake Reconstruction of the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje Counties to make it apply also to Sisak-Moslavina County would simplify procedures and enable the state to launch reconstruction mechanisms.

"The Opposition's quorum-breaking is an immoral act in the context of the fact that an MP of the ruling majority is in hospital," Plenković said in reference to HDZ MP Miroslav Tuđman, who has been hospitalised for COVID-19 and whose absence the HDZ believes the Opposition took advantage of.

Burden of responsibility lies with Opposition

Plenković went on to say that the Opposition's motion regarding the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) was incomplete, demagogical and populist, describing the Bridge party, which tabled it, as destructive populists and proponents of anti-European and anti-minority policies.

Asked when the new law on post-earthquake reconstruction would be adopted, he referred reporters to opposition leaders, telling them "to ask Mr Grbin, Mr Petrov and Mr Škoro if they plan to help Banovina."

He repeated that the parliamentary majority was strong and stable regardless of the fact that its members did not see eye to eye on some topics.

The HGK needs to be reformed but you cannot just bring down an institution that has existed for more than 160 years, he said.

Amendments to the Act on the Post-Earthquake Reconstruction of the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje Counties were among the motions that were to have been put to the vote in parliament on Friday.

After Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković moved from the agenda Bridge's motion to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the HGK, the Opposition walked out of the parliament, breaking the quorum. Since the HDZ-led majority was one vote short of the 76 MPs necessary to take a vote, the vote on amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction law was postponed as well.

The Opposition has dismissed the accusations from the ruling HDZ party, accusing the ruling majority of tyranny and disregard for earthquake victims, with Social Democrat leader Peđa Grbin describing the HDZ's accusations against the Opposition with regard to HDZ MP Tuđman as shameless.

Hospitality sector, gym owners should show little more patience

Plenković today also called on cafe and restaurant owners, who have announced protests against the national COVID-19 response team's decision to keep current restrictions in force and only slightly relax some, to show a little more patience, stressing that nobody wanted to restrict business activity but that a large-scale relaxation of the restrictions would not be wise at the moment.

The restrictions will be reviewed on February 15 and if the situation then is much better than it is now and if we find room for additional relaxation, we will do it, he said.

Plenković was in Petrinja to attend the start of work on demolishing buildings that have been found unfit for use following the 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County last month.

He said that more than 1,025 mobile housing units had been installed in the area and that work would also be stepped up on completing the motorway section running from Lekenik to Sisak for the sake of future revitalisation and economic activity in the region of Banovina.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Plenković on Quorum Being Broken: We Won't Forget This

ZAGREB, 29 January, 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković said on Friday that his HDZ party will not forget that the opposition broke the quorum in parliament due to postponement of a vote on abolishing the mandatory membership fee for the Croatian Chamber of Commerce at a time when HDZ MP Miroslav Tudjman was in hospital due to COVID-19.

"One of our MPs is in hospital because of COVID-19 and they did exactly what I thought they would. This is not about the quorum but about the fact that Mr Tudjman is unable to attend. That is a very important message. The Opposition broke the quorum knowing that one HDZ MP, the oldest in this parliament, is practically fighting for his life," Plenković told reporters after officially putting into operation the LNG terminal and the Zlobin-Omišalj interconnection.

Opposition making a show because of HRK 42 a month

We won't forget this for a long time nor should the public, he added.

As far as the membership fee for the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) is concerned, he assessed that the public has witnessed numerous populist initiatives filled with demagogy, underlining that the membership fee for all businesses with lower revenue is HRK 42 a month.

"The HRK 42 is obviously the reason for this initiative. No one is saying that the HGK could not function better, be more useful and more accessible but it has existed for 160 years or more. That is not an organisation that can be dismantled over an opposition whim or some demagogical or populist intentions," said Plenković.

"If something needs to be changed, we can discuss what can be changed but to make a political show for the sake of HRK 42 a month is something only this opposition can do," Plenković underscored.

By walking out of the parliament today the opposition prevented a vote on the amended law on post-earthquake reconstruction, the declaration of the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Adriatic and the National Development Strategy, he said, stressing again that he would not forget it.

I understand it is hard but we are assisting those who cannot work

Referring to plans by cafe and restaurant owners to stage protests because COVID-19 restrictions will not be eased, Plenković recalled that winter is a time when COVID-19 spreads more easily and that most countries are introducing even harsher restrictions than Croatia.

In many countries non-essential stores are closed. There is a ban on the work of hairdressers and many other services that are operating in Croatia, Plenković said, adding that relaxing restrictions for schools and sports was a message of support for citizens' good behaviour.

"I understand that it is difficult for anyone who is shut but I will say that the state has stood by people who cannot work and that we will give a total of HRK 2.5 billion for those who cannot conduct their commercial activities," said Plenković, appealing to everyone to have understanding for the current circumstances - the new virus strains, a slowed-down vaccination process and the winter months.

He said that neither the EU nor Croatia had considered obtaining the Russian or Chinese vaccine in light of the fact that sufficient doses had been ordered.

"If the current problems escalate, we can put those options on the table as well," he added.

Commenting on Žarko Tušek's resignation as head of the HDZ branch in Krapina-Zagorje County, Plenković said Tušek had made a serious political mistake and was suffering the consequences.

Friday, 15 January 2021

PM Says Croatia Marking Anniversary of Int'l Recognition With Pride, Gratitude

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday, on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of Croatia's international recognition and the 23rd anniversary of the peaceful reintegration of its Danube region, that Croatia was marking the two anniversaries with pride and gratitude to its defenders.

"The anniversaries of Croatia's international recognition and the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region are important dates in the country's history. We are marking them feeling proud of all our accomplishments and grateful to Croatian defenders and all others who sacrificed themselves for Croatia's freedom and independence," said Plenković.

He recalled that Croatia, a UN, NATO and EU member, was today a relevant partner in many global and regional organisations.

In the first half of 2020, Croatia chaired the Council of the European Union for the first time, in what were unprecedented circumstances in Europe and the rest of the world, he said.

"By continuing to strengthen Croatia's international position, the government is committed to achieving the two remaining strategic goals - accession to the euro area and entry to the Schengen area," said the PM.

Commenting on the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating earthquake that hit Croatia at the end of 2020, Plenković said that the Croatian people had shown unity, resilience and strength in the most difficult circumstances, and he thanked the numerous countries and organisations that had sent help to earthquake victims and shown solidarity with Croatia.

"We are embarking on a new decade with the ambition, despite all challenges, to continue making progress in terms of economic and social development and reforms, making the most of our increasingly strong international position and membership of the EU to the benefit of all citizens and with the aim of fast economic recovery," Plenković said in his message.

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