Friday, 30 October 2020

Croatian PM Condemns Deadly Knife Attack in Nice

ZAGREB, October 30, 2020 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Friday condemned in the strongest terms Thursday's knife attack inside a church in the southern French city of Nice and expressed full support to France in its fight against terrorism.

"Croatia condemns the Nice attack in the strongest terms, and sees that as an attack against our values," the Croatian premier writes this message in the French language on his Twitter account.

He writes that Croatia expresses solidarity with France and the French in this distressing period.

Plenkovic says he supports President Emmanuel Macron and the French government in their struggle against terrorism.

During the deadly attack, a lone attacker armed with a knife entered the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice at around 9am Thursday and shouted  "Allahu  Akbar", according to news reports. A man and a woman died at the scene, while another woman died from her injuries. The attacker was injured after being shot by police and taken to hospital.

A few hours later, a man was shot dead near the southern French city of Avignon, after reportedly threatening police with a handgun, and according to news reports, a guard outside the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was attacked and wounded.

Those attacks ensued in the wake of the killing of school teacher Samuel Paty by an 18-year-old Islamist.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

PM Says His Cabinet Doing Its Utmost to Ensure Funds for Christmas Bonuses

ZAGREB, October 29, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that his government was doing its utmost to ensure funds in the revised 2020 budget for the disbursement of Christmas bonuses.

"Considering Christmas bonuses, so far in my premiership, we have never omitted to pay Christmas bonuses, and you know that we increased their amount," Plenkovic told a news conference, reassuring the general public that efforts were being made to find enough funds for this purpose in 2020, too.

Plenkovic commented on the situation in the KB Dubrava hospital, following a letter by a physician at the hospital who alerted attention to some problems in the hospital's functioning. The Dubrava Hospital has been designated as the main facility for the treatment of COVID patients in Zagreb and Plenkovic said that the newly appointed steering board would analyse the situation and take necessary actions.

"I think that we should thank all healthcare workers in KB Dubrava and in all other hospitals throughout Croatia for their unselfish commitment to doing their job."

As for a reporter's remark that Health Minister Vili Beros also spoke about "dualism" that is, opposing groups in the KB Dubrava, the premier replied that it could be said that situation like that existed in any institution and in any sector.

 

Authorities have control over the developments surrounding coronavirus

Plenkovic said that issues related to the coronavirus epidemic were not going out of control.

The country's healthcare system has about 15,000 beds, 150 beds in intensive care wards, as well as 900 ventilators, and today there were about 80 patients placed on them, he explained.

"Healthcare capacities are not at risk. We are on full alert and we are taking cautious measures," he added.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

PM Says President Will Bring Into Question Purpose of His Office

ZAGREB, October 17, 2020 - PM Andrej Plenkovic has said that President Zoran Milanovic's activity contains elements of destabilisation, that he is minimising and downplaying the fight against coronavirus and social radicalisation and that if he continues acting like that, he will bring into question the purpose of his office.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with HDZ members who are war veterans, Plenkovic said that the attack on the government building this past Monday was a criminal act with elements of terrorism and that the line had been crossed.

"I have no problem with anyone attacking me politically... I live with that, more than Milanovic does, for example for the past four years, as the prime minister who won elections twice and who beat Milanovic as well. Maybe that's why he is so nervous."

"He should understand as the president that speaking or writing against someone is not the same as coming to the government building with a machine-gun and pistol and committing a crime," Plenkovic said, stressing that people want peace and security and that they want economic problems to be dealt with.

Milanovic's narrative is identical to that of the left, Plenkovic said, adding that there is also the far right, which is characterised by exclusiveness, extremism and intolerance and which approves and has understanding for the attacker on the government building. In that context, he mentioned Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro and the Bridge party.

He then pointed to his government's economic results, progress on the path to euro adoption and the fight against corruption.

 

If president goes on like this, he will bring into question purpose of his office

"Some may just have a big mouth, and some a lot of tasks to deal with. The way he (Milanovic) performs his duty, if he continues like this, he will bring into question the purpose of the institution of president. If we have an institution that stands in the way of serious processes, the fight against coronavirus, the fight against corruption and now the fight against radicalism, we may ask ourselves what its agenda is," he said.

Asked about responsibility for radicalisation in society, Plenkovic said that not everyone was responsible and that his HDZ party was committed to values of inclusiveness, tolerance, European values ad creation of a positive atmosphere in society.

"There are protagonists whose rhetoric incites hatred and intolerance, for example when someone says that they are against the Croat-Serb trading coalition or that cooperation between the ruling party and representatives of ethnic minorities, including the Serb minority, is unacceptable," he said, noting that a part of the left political scene, including the president, and left pundits do not want to recognise his party's evident transformation.

Plenkovic said that he wanted a Croatia that is not radical or intolerant or against ethnic minorities being part of the parliamentary majority.

As for Milanovic's statement that Plenkovic did not know anything about the investigation into the JANAF corruption case and knew everything about the investigation into the attack on the government building, Plenkovic said that those were two entirely different things.

He added that preliminary investigations into corruption cases were not a matter of national security and that police and prosecutors worked on them without any interference from the government.

As for the attack on the government building, he said that it had to be established if the perpetrator had been under someone's influence, if someone had helped him and if there were other such potential assailants. A political battle has to be launched to erect a cordon sanitaire around political parties that condone or have understanding for crimes such as Monday's attack, he said.

That is not fear, the line has been crossed, he reiterated.

Asked about his security having been stepped up, Plenkovic said it was a matter of police assessment but he confirmed having received threats.

Plenkovic arrived for the meeting with HDZ war veterans in a bullet-proof limousine.

He also said that he did not intend to meet with Milanovic because he did not see how a person downplaying coronavirus and radicalisation of society could be of help.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Two Men Arrested for Threatening Prime Minister

ZAGREB, October 17, 2020 - Police have arrested two men for threatening the prime minister, following the October 12 incident when 22-year-old Danijel Bezuk shot and wounded a police officer guarding the government building in St Mark's Square in Zagreb.

A 63-year-old man from Bezuk's home town of Kletista near Kutina, 80 kilometres east of Zagreb, has been arrested for threatening the prime minister and for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the Sisak-Moslavina County Police said on Saturday.

At least on two occasions the man told different people he believed that Danijel Bezuk, who committed suicide shortly after the attack on the government building, would have shot dead the prime minister had he seen him. He also said that he himself was fantasising about killing the prime minister.

In Zagreb, police arrested a 48-year-old man on Saturday for threatening to kill the prime minister. He posted his threat on social media in the early morning hours of October 14.

Monday, 5 October 2020

PM Says Contracts Signed for 88% of Slavonia Project Allocation

ZAGREB, October 5, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Nasice on Monday that so far project contracts worth HRK 16.53 billion had been signed for the "Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem" project, which is 88% of the total allocation, and that HRK 6.6 billion had been paid.

This is an increase of HRK 5.2 billion in project value and an increase of HRK 2.1 billion in the amount of funds paid compared to the last session of the Council, held in Vukovar, Plenkovic said while opening the 11th session of the government's Council for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

He noted that 2020 had been one of the most challenging years for Croatia in the past 25 years due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the national economy as well as other aspects of life.

"Despite that, we have managed to reduce the expected drop in GDP, thanks to the timely lifting of the lockdown we have managed to achieve close to 50% of last year's tourism results, we have completed the presidency of the Council of the EU and we are now focusing on ensuring social security, economic sovereignty, notably in farming and the energy sector, and on making the country more recognisable globally," said Plenkovic.

In that context, he pointed to €22 billion from the EU budget available to Croatia in the next seven years, noting that that was particularly important for Slavonia, for the country's cohesion policy and for its farming and rural development policies.

Plenkovic said work was underway on revising the development strategy for the period until 2030 because it had been made before the pandemic and the now changed economic circumstances, and that it was being finalised.

The PM said that he would expand the development agreement for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem to legalise changes for the already determined projects, and to establish which projects had not been granted funding so far.

He said the development agreement would include 38 strategic projects worth HRK 10.7 billion.

"We will continue with the project of integrated territorial investments for urban areas, Osijek and Slavonski Brod, and continue with the programme for the integrated, economic and social regeneration of small towns in formerly war-affected areas, in order to reduce differences in the level of development," said Plenkovic.

At the end of today's session of the Council contracts and decisions will be signed.

The Council for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem was established in March 2017 as an advisory body for the coordination of the process of absorption of money from European structural and investment funds, EU instruments and programmes, the European Economic Area and national funds, under the Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem project, as part of which €2.5 billion has been secured from EU funds for projects in the five Slavonian counties.

(€1 = HRK 7.55)

 

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Milanovic: Prime Minister Should Not Pretend to Be Naive

ZAGREB, Sept 23, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should have known about the investigation against suspected JANAF CEO Dragan Kovacevic as he is the "keeper of state secrets," adding that the premier should not pretend to be naive.

"I sincerely wanted to help him. I am not nervous. I am worried because this is a terribly serious scandal and someone has put him in a serious situation because he obviously was not informed, because if he was there is no way he would have appointed Kovacevic for another term," Milanovic told reporters on the margins of a business conference.

Milanovic's comment, is the latest in the trade of arguments between him and Plenkovic regarding the influence peddling and the public tender rigging probe. Ten suspects have been arrested in the scandal and Janaf CEO Dragan Kovacevic is the main suspect along with businessman Kreso Petek under suspicion of corruption in closing deals with Petek's company.

Earlier Milanovic alleged that Plenkovic along with Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic knew about the investigation against Kovacevic which Plenkovic denied retorting that Milanovic was nervous.

MIlanovis said that he is not nervous but "angry" because things like this should not be happening in a democracy. Milanovic said that Plenkovic has now been put in a "situation by not being in the  know, ignorance or by one of his associates."

Milanovic criticised the work of the DORH state prosecutor's office because the investigation was not suspended when, based on details from the investigation, Petek brought HRK 1.96 million in kickbacks to Kovacevic's private "club."

Milanovic added that he did not see anything contentious in the fact that some ministers visited Kovacevic's "club" however what is contentious is that some judges visited the club too.

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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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