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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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Plenkovic Says Split Mayor Andro Krstulovic Opara Enjoys His Support

ZAGREB, Sept 15, 2020  - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday that Split Mayor Andro Krstulovic Opara enjoys his support when asked if Krstulovic Opara would run in the next local election, set for May 2021.

Plenkovic made the statement for the press after meeting with Krstulovic Opara and Split County head Blazenko Boban, also a member of the HDZ party.

HDZ has a lot of candidates for local election

Asked who could be the HDZ's candidate for the mayor of Zagreb, Plenkovic said that "the HDZ has a lot of candidates."

"We will have good candidates, there is enough time left for that. The HDZ has a lot of candidates," Plenkovic said, denying speculation by some media outlets that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric was a likely candidate for the post of Zagreb Mayor.

Plenkovic also commented on the Constitutional Court's decision of Monday that laws on the powers of the national COVID-19 response team, passed by the parliament, were in line with the Constitution and that most of the team's decisions were lawful.

Constitutional Court's support very good in terms of legal security

"The COVID response team and the government yesterday received support from the Constitutional Court which either dismissed (complaints) or declared that practically all of the team's decisions were constitutional and in line with relevant laws. I believe this is very good in terms of legal security and the fact that our actions were based on Article 16 of the Constitution and we made decisions in the context of a declared epidemic, to protect citizens' health," he said.

If the fight against COVID-19 in the spring had not been successful, we would not have achieved 50% of the results of last year's tourist season, which was the best ever, he stressed.

Commenting on the HDZ's pre-election promise about a Sunday trading ban, and the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled that the COVID-19 response team's decision to ban Sunday trading was not in line with the Constitution, Plenkovic recalled that some surveys showed that as many as 80% of Croatians were in favor of a Sunday trading ban.

Gov't to put forward balanced law on non-working Sunday

"We believe it would be good and in the interest of the family and a healthy balance between work, rest, and spending time with one's dearest ones. During this term the government will put forward a bill that will seek a balance between a non-working Sunday and a certain number of working Sundays," he said.

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Monday, 14 September 2020

PM: Absence of Any Religious Content Would be Odd for Country With so Many Catholics

ZAGREB, Sept 14, 2020 - PM Andrej Plenkovic has said that he does not understand the children's ombudsman's statement that religious content being practiced outside Religious Education in some schools is unacceptable, noting that complete absence of any religious content would be odd for a country with so many Catholics.

"As far as content at school events is concerned, I think we live in a free country and that it would be truly unusual in a country with so many faithful, so many Catholics, not to have any religious content anywhere," Plenkovic told the press during a visit to Mostar on Monday.

He was referring to a statement by ombudsman Helenca Pirnat-Dragicevic, who commented on religious content outside Religious Education classes in elementary schools in an interview with Hina.

Pirnat-Dragicevic said that her office "sees a problem in religious content being practiced often in some schools even outside Religious Education classes, for example at school events," adding that she considers this to be unacceptable.

Plenkovic said he did not see what would be achieved with that, noting that religion was part of the Croatian tradition and identity.

"I truly do not see how such content could be eliminated from some plays. I do not understand the statement," said Plenkovic.

The ombudsman for children also commented on problems regarding the organization of Religious Education classes in elementary schools with coronavirus restrictions in force, which recommend that classes not be mixed, which results in some children, who are not enrolled in Religious Education classes, having to attend those classes even though they do not participate in them.

"We consider that Religious Education, just like any other elective subject, should be held at the start or end of the day and we recommend introducing an alternative elective subject for children who do not attend Religious Education classes, similar to the practice in secondary schools, which have ethics as the alternative subject," said Pirnat-Dragicevic.

In a comment on this, Plenkovic said that as far as school schedules are concerned, he believes that each school is making pragmatic decisions that are to the benefit of pupils.

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Monday, 14 September 2020

PM: Croatia is the Advocate of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croats

ZAGREB, Sept 14, 2020  - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said during a visit to Mostar, south Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday that Croatia is the advocate of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croats' rights and that he expected the Dayton Peace Accords would be respected and that Croats would no longer be outvoted.

"As before, we will strongly support Bosnia and Herzegovina, develop cooperation with all three constituent peoples, with all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and be the country that supports Bosnia and Herzegovina on its way to the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation," Plenkovic told a press conference following a meeting with Dragan Covic, the leader of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH).

Plenkovic had arrived for the inauguration of Petar Palic as the new Bishop of Mostar-Duvno.

Asked about announcements by leading Bosniak officials that they would outvote Croats in the 2022 elections and impose lower-level officials as well, and not only the member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, Plenkovic said that it was important to respect the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement.

He said he expected that the leading Bosnian Croat party, the HDZ BiH, and the leading Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), would reach an agreement on amendments to the Elections Act to put an end to the practice of outvoting Croats.

HDZ BiH leader Covic said that he had earlier warned SDA leader Bakir)Izetbegovic that the imposition of political representatives had caused problems in the past.

Commenting on the situation in South-East Europe after the election in Montenegro and the talks between Serbia and Kosovo, Plenkovic underscored that Croatia was committed to stability in all neighboring countries.

"What is important to Croatia is that there is stability, that there is peace and that tension is reduced, and that trade flows are stabilized. In all this, we take into account the Croatian minority and Croats in Serbia. We are sorry that due to division between the two Croatian parties the electoral threshold in Montenegro was not passed to obtain a seat in the parliament, a representative of the Croatian ethnic minority," Plenkovic said.

After talking with the HDZ BiH leader, Plenkovic met with Ratko Peric, the outgoing Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, and his successor, Petar Palic.

A diocesan cultural center opened in Mostar on Sunday, the construction of which was also financed by the Croatian government.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

PM: Vaccine Will Be Made Available As Soon As It Is Scientifically Verified

ZAGREB, Sept 9, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday that the European Union has secured 300 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus for EU citizens, adding that any vaccine will be made available to Croatia, as soon as it is scientifically verified.

"The moment a vaccine is scientifically verified as the right vaccine against the coronavirus, we will have it at our disposal, just as Germany, France, and other EU member states will," Plenkovic said in an interview with Croatian Radio.

He said that decisions made by the government benefited the Croatian citizens both in terms of healthcare and economically.

Asked if the vaccine would be paid for by the government or citizens themselves, Plenkovic said this process was ongoing. "News came in this morning that AstraZeneca is also verifying (its vaccine). When all this becomes more clear, we will try to make it as cheap as possible and even free of charge, but at this point, we have not discussed details yet. What is important is that when it becomes available, our citizens will have it at their disposal," the prime minister said.

Plenkovic expressed satisfaction with the work of the national coronavirus response team. "My support to them is clear and firm and will remain so," he said, recalling that the national team is an institution of the central government.

"The national team is a government institution. It was established by the government based on the law and regulations passed by parliament. They are here to work on protecting public health. I am pleased with their work and think that they have done a great job," he added.

Commenting on the number of coronavirus cases in Croatia, Plenkovic said he expected it to decline, stressing the importance of self-discipline.

Government likely to adopt about 30 amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction bill

Regarding the bill on the reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs after the March 22 earthquake, which will be discussed by the inner cabinet today, the prime minister said that about 30 amendments could be adopted.

Recalling that the damage was estimated at over €11 billion, Plenkovic said that the government was right in not rushing the bill. He said that the reconstruction of the central part of Zagreb was very complex and challenging and that the government had decided to take part in it by securing funds from the budget and from international sources.

He said that the government had received €89.9 million from the EU for that purpose, noting that this was the largest advance payment ever made from the EU Solidarity Fund.

"I think the total amount will surpass €500 million," Plenkovic said. He added that the government was in talks with the World Bank, the Council of Europe Development Bank, and other international financial institutions and that the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development would also have special programs for that purpose.

He said the government would like the bill to be adopted with the greatest possible consensus because the reconstruction process would take a long time and would involve the City of Zagreb and many experts.

"At the inner cabinet meeting, we will adopt any proposal we think will help make the reconstruction process effective and transparent ... regardless of which political party it comes from," Plenkovic said.

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Monday, 31 August 2020

Plenkovic: I Believe Slovenia will Differentiate Between Croatian Counties

ZAGREB, Aug 31, 2020 - "I believe that together with the relevant authorities they too will approach the matter by differentiating between Croatian counties on the basis of the number of people infected," Plenkovic said after meeting with Jansa on the margins of the 15th Bled Strategic Forum.

Plenkovic said that Slovenia is closely monitoring the daily situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak in Croatia and is aware that Croatian counties like Istria, Primorje-Gorski Kotar, and Lika-Senj have a relatively small number of people infected, even after the total number has increased at the state level.

"I believe that they will make that distinction," said Plenkovic.

Slovenia put Croatia on its red list in mid-August, introducing mandatory quarantine for anyone entering Slovenia from Croatia.

Plenkovic also had a bilateral meeting with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban has announced that Hungary will be closing its borders to all foreigners as of Tuesday. Hungarian citizens returning home will have to spend two weeks in isolation and have at least two negative Covid-19 test results.

The main reason for the ramped-up measures in Hungary, Slovenia, and Austria is the start of the school year which begins one week earlier than in Croatia, Plenkovic underlined.

"In a way that was expected. We managed to delay their measures as much as possible until the end of August so that Croatia's tourism season could be as good as possible," he added and concluded that not one country wanted to have restrictions in force for too long.

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Monday, 31 August 2020

Plenkovic Wants Coronavirus Red List To Take Counties Into Account

ZAGREB, Aug 31, 2020 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday that he would talk with Slovenian PM Janez Jansa about putting counties and not countries on the coronavirus red list.

Plenkovic and six other European prime ministers are attending the Bled Strategic Forum, and on the fringes, he will meet with Jansa and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban.

Speaking to the press, Andrej Plenkovic said the meetings would discuss "joint efforts to reduce infection and its cross-border effects."

In mid-August, Slovenia put Croatia on the coronavirus red list, which means mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving from Croatia. In order to avoid quarantine, many Slovenian tourists left Croatia.

"Our position is to attempt, notably in Slovenia, not just because of Croatia but also for the sake of numerous Slovenians who are our frequent and dear quests, to see the county level of infection as a criterion, something like Germany has done. I think there is room for that and that that is the best option."

He said the Bled Strategic Forum, the most important foreign policy event in Slovenia, was a good opportunity for European states to analyze their management of the coronavirus pandemic so far.

We can slowly sum up what has been good since January, he said, "what we have done well together, and how to respond together in the future when it comes to a vaccine, the procurement of medical and protective equipment."

Slovenian reporters asked him if he and Jansa would discuss the territorial dispute between the two neighboring states.

"Our position has been clear the entire time. We had Slovenia's initiative before the European Court in Luxembourg and you saw the decision, that it's not competent. We are still willing to talk about the border with Slovenia and our stance has not changed during my whole term," Plenkovic said, adding that it was necessary to find a "good, sustainable solution acceptable to both countries."

The 15th Bled Strategic Forum is focusing on Europe after Brexit and COVID-19. Also attending are Czech PM Andrej Babis, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Italian PM Giuseppe Conte is participating via video link.

The foreign ministers of Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Romania also arrived in Bled for a panel in which the EU High Representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell, will also take part.

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