Thursday, 8 April 2021

Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek Confident of Prompt Reconstruction of Quake-Damaged Monuments

ZAGREB, 8 April, 2021 - Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said on Thursday the most important thing in the reconstruction of the cultural heritage was to reinforce and repair all monuments in a short time and that the first allocation would help to carry out all urgent works in 18 months.

The first allocation at our disposal is €680 million from the European Solidarity Fund, she told the press, saying that the recently outlined national recovery and resilience plan included reconstruction funds.

Croatia also has at its disposal funds approved by the World Bank, she said, adding that she also expected the approval of an allocation following last December's earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County.

She said the damage to the cultural heritage in Zagreb following the March 2020 quake was estimated at €7 billion.

The reconstruction of complex monuments such as Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery would take years and the necessary funds will be raised from various sources, the minister said.

She said her ministry had received more than 130 acceptable reconstruction applications and that contracts had been signed for a little over 40 monuments, including sacral and public buildings.

She added that public procurement was already under way and that over the past year experts from the ministry and Zagreb's faculties of civil engineering, geodesy, and architecture had completed the required documents for all monuments.

The first objective is to reinforce the buildings to prevent them from being a threat and deteriorating, the minister said.

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


Monday, 22 March 2021

Tomašević Announces Reconstruction of Zagreb in Four Dimensions

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - A Zagreb Mayor hopeful, Tomislav Tomašević, warned on Monday on the first anniversary of the Zagreb quake that nothing had been done in the post-quake reconstruction and promised the rebuilding of the city in four dimensions if he won the 16 May local election.

"We have come to know that we do not have not one decision forwarded to the Reconstruction Fund nor has any action been taken," Tomašević told a press conference in front of the City Hall, which was organised by his We Can party and its partners: "Zagreb is Ours " and OraH parties.

He warned that the fund and Ministry of Construction are passing the buck regarding to whether decisions have been written or not and the problems they had outlined during the debate on the Reconstruction Act have now occurred.

He pushed for bringing together experts under the one roof so that good decisions can be made faster.

Tomašević said the current situation could be seen as an opportunity for reconstruction and also for earthquake-resistant development of the city in four dimensions including physical reconstruction which is aimed at increasing earthquake resilience and developing earthquake-proof infrastructure.

The plan is also to reconstruct public places which will give a social dimension to the historical centre of town and suburbs on the rim of Sljeme mountain that will include local construction companies in rebuilding projects and will increase energy efficiency and improve the quality of living as part of the fourth "green" dimension. 

MP Sandra Benčić added that the Reconstruction Fund had received money however it was not being used because blueprints had not been approved through a tender that was advertised.

They believe that the key mechanism to fund reconstruction is in the European ITU mechanism of integrated territorial management whereby structural funds are are managed by city agglomerations.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

SDP Says Zagreb Should Not Only be Reconstructed But Also Revitalised

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin and the SDP candidate for Zagreb Mayor, Joško Klisović, warned on Monday, on the first anniversary of the 22 March 2020 earthquake in Zagreb, that reconstruction had still not begun and that the capital should not only be reconstructed but revitalised as well. 

"Over the past 12 months, a law on reconstruction was adopted and after the earthquake in Petrinja, it was expanded to include the Banija region, but, as we can hear from the Reconstruction Fund.... no decision on reconstruction has arrived at the Fund from the Construction Ministry. The Ministry claims it has sent three decisions for the reconstruction of buildings, but even though the Ministry and the Fund are located only a few metres from one another, those decisions have still not reached the Fund," Grbin warned at a news conference.

If reconstruction in Zagreb as well as in Banija continues at the current pace, the question is if it will ever end and if people whose houses and buildings were damaged will be able to ever return to their homes, he said.

Grbin called on the government to ensure that reconstruction work finally started, criticising the Reconstruction Act by saying that the structural reconstruction as envisaged by it would not be sufficient as people did not have money to finance non-structural reconstruction.

Those who will have to seek loans to co-finance 20% of structural reconstruction costs will not be able to co-finance the reconstruction of other parts of their property which are equally important for normal living, he said, calling for reexamining the Reconstruction Act.

He also called for reexamining the law to expand the scope of reconstruction work to enable the revitalisation of the earthquake-damaged parts of the capital city.

"We call for renovating all buildings, with red, yellow and green labels alike, because any next quake could destablise these buildings again and cause a disaster. Around 30% of the housing stock in downtown Zagreb is older than 100 years, which means that we need an integral, radical reconstruction of the city," SDP mayoral candidate Klisović said.

He noted that given the current favourable situation on the international financial market, funding for that purpose should be sought there, mentioning also the possibility of issuing long-term bonds.

Klisović said that as mayor, he would define a price catalogue for reconstruction work considering fast-growing prices and the fact that people who have to hire a company to do reconstruction work do not know how much a certain type of work costs.

He noted that the state should increase the rate for co-financing reconstruction costs for people who live in buildings categorised as cultural property, calling also for the introduction of a special credit line for those reconstructing their houses and on the state to cover interest on those loans.

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

Friday, 26 February 2021

Turkey Willing to Help Croatia in Reconstruction of Quake-Hit Areas

ZAGREB, 26 February, 2021 - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited the city of Petrinja on Friday, saying that Turkey, which was one of the first countries to send relief aid to the quake-affected areas in Croatia, was willing to continue helping this region.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman thanked Turkey for the rapid response and delivery of generous humanitarian assistance.

Immediately after the 29 December 6.2 strong quake in Sisak-Moslavina County, which claimed seven lives and caused extensive damage, Turkey sent 272 heaters and 480 tents to the affected region.

The Turkish minister recalled that after Izmir was hit by a 7.0 strong quake on 30 October last year, resulting in hundreds of casualties, Minister Grlić Radman had immediately contacted him to offer assistance.

With that dose of understanding and friendship, we then wanted to be the first to come to your aid, Cavusoglu said. He conveyed Ankara's readiness to help Croatia in future reconstruction projects in this area.

The Turkish official added that his country lies in a seismically active region and has gained experience in dealing with the aftermath of such disasters.

In August 1999, a 7.6 strong quake hit the city of Izmit and killed 17,000 people. In 2011, an earthquake left more than 500 people killed in the city of Van.

We shared this destiny with you in a sad and sorrowful way, Cavusogly said.

Ankara has sent 10 experts from the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) to Croatia.

Furthermore,  200 prefab housing containers have been delivered from Turkey to Croatia, said Minister Tomo Medved, who heads the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December quake.

Medved expressed gratitude and said he was sure that Croatia and Turkey would continue fostering their friendship.

In the Šešerin container settlement, Cavusoglu handed keys to the donated containers.

Grlić Radman described the donation as a strong form of solidarity.

Cavusoglu is the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Croatia after 12 years.

Turkish assistance also included the donation of 500 blankets, hygienic articles and food as well financial assistance from several Turkish companies.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Government Says All of Earthquake Relief Donations to be Spent on Reconstruction, Housing

ZAGREB, 25 February, 2021 - All of the HRK 101.5 million collected in donations for earthquake relief will be spent on housing reconstruction - the demolition of damaged houses and construction of new ones - in the earthquake-struck areas, the government said on Thursday.

The government adopted a decision on the distribution of donations to the state budget for earthquake relief, allocating that money to a special account of the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković denied media reports that only 40% of the donations would be used to rebuild quake-damaged houses and that the rest would be allocated to four ministries.

"I wish to deny media reports that appeared today. The distribution of the funds will be completely different from what has been reported," said Plenković, adding that the donations collected would be "spent on reconstruction in the earthquake-struck areas."

"There must be no unclarities about that," said Plenković.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said that by 24 February a total of HRK 101.5 million had been collected in donations and that the money would be allocated to the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing. It will be used to remove damaged houses and build new ones as well as perform other work within the remit of that office, he said.

Any donations that are received subsequently will also be allocated on a monthly basis to the central reconstruction office, he said, adding that the office is obliged to report to the government each month as to what the money has been spent on as well as publish this information on its web site.

"We have been informing the public in the most transparent way of donations received and will continue to do so," said Marić.

He said that an assessment of the damage caused by the 29 December earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County is being made and that it was likely to exceed by far that for the Zagreb earthquake.

The main source of financing for the reconstruction process will be the state budget, that is, taxpayers' money, and there is also money from the EU Solidarity Fund and international financial institutions, he said.

Monday, 1 February 2021

SDP MP: Post-Quake Reconstruction Law to be Amended This Week

ZAGREB, 1 February, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) vice-president Siniša Hajdaš Dončić said on Monday that amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction would be adopted this week, noting that nothing important had been missed with their non-adoption due to a lack of quorum last Friday.

"The amended law should be adopted this week and what happened was a normal parliamentary fight between political parties," the SDP MP said in a Croatian Radio programme.

The Opposition broke the quorum on Friday, postponing a vote on the items that had been discussed after the parliament speaker refused to put on the agenda a previously discussed motion by the opposition Bridge party calling for the mandatory membership fee for the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) to be abolished to ease the burden on entrepreneurs.

Hajdaš Dončić said the non-adoption of the law did not change anything significantly.

It makes no difference if law is adopted today or in three days

"We were not showing our teeth, this happened exclusively because an item was not put on the agenda. It makes no difference if a law is adopted today or in three days," he said.

MP Ivan Celjak of the ruling HDZ party said in the same programme that the amended law on post-earthquake reconstruction would be adopted this week.

In a comment on Hajdaš Dončić's statements, he said that it had transpired again that the SDP did not care about the wellbeing of the people in the earthquake-hit areas. 

HDZ MP: Opposition took advantage of late MP Tuđman's illness

"The Opposition took advantage of the fact that the late MP Miroslav Tuđman was gravely ill at that moment, they walked out of parliament and prevented the adoption of the law, which is very important for all residents of the disaster-hit area," said Celjak.

He added that one could have waited with the law on the HGK but not with the law on post-earthquake reconstruction.

The reactions of people in the earthquake-hit area to the Opposition's move are very negative, said Celjak, who comes from Sisak.

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević said on Sunday that parliament was expected to put amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction law to the vote on Thursday, that the parliamentary majority was not in question as well as that he expected a consensus on the matter.

Amendments to the law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje counties after the 22 March 2020 earthquake envisage expanding the law to also apply to Sisak-Moslavina County and parts of Karlovac and Zagreb counties hit by a devastating earthquake on 29 December 2020.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Task Force Head: Reconstruction in Earthquake-Hit Area Could Start in March, April

ZAGREB, 1 February, 2021 - The head of the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County, Tomo Medved, said on Sunday that the reconstruction of the area could start in March or April.

"I believe that it is realistic to expect that the reconstruction process will be launched in March or April," Medved told the HRT public broadcaster, stressing that one had to take into account aftershocks that still happened on a daily basis.

"We have to be patient, wait for aftershocks to calm but until then we will complete all preparations - the law (on post-earthquake reconstruction), damage assessment, reconstruction plan," said Medved.

He noted that three companies currently worked on demolishing buildings in the county that had been damaged beyond repair.

"More than 3,000 buildings have been found unfit for use and they are now being thoroughly inspected. The removal of those buildings which structural engineers eventually find unfit for reconstruction... will be given priority," he said.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Deputy PM: Post-Quake Reconstruction Bill to be Put to Vote on Thursday

ZAGREB, 31 January, 2021 - Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević said on Sunday that according to the information available to him, the bill on the post-earthquake reconstruction would be put to the vote on Thursday, and he expects all political parties to show consensus rather than one-upmanship considering this topic.

"The information I have is that the bill will be put to the vote on Thursday, the parliamentary majority is stable," Miloševic, who is a vice chairman of the task force for dealing with the 29 December earthquake, told the national radio on Sunday morning.

"I hold that the law on the post-earthquake reconstruction would be supported not only by the parliamentary majority but also all political parties, as I see this law as an above-party matter. This is not the time for political one-upmanship," Milošević said.

After the Opposition broke the quorum in the parliament on Friday, the relevant amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction were not voted in.

Considering the the demolition and removal of the buildings that were so damaged in the earthquake that they presented danger to human lives and health as well as to adjacent buildings, the Deputy PM told the national radio that the job was complex and that it required some procedure, including the consent from the owners and other permits.

The delay in the adoption of the post-quake reconstruction rendered this task more complicated, he said, adding that the new law would make all that easier.

Now, the authorities have started demolishing the state- and the city-owned buildings and structures, according to Milošević.

The removal of private properties, seriously damaged in the quake, will require the permission from the owners.

Milošević noted that more than 8,500 buildings and properties had been seriously damaged in the quake-affected areas, including in the cities of Petrinja, Glina and Sisak, as well as in scattered rural settlements.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Grbin: PM, Parliament Speaker to Blame for Non-Adoption of Post-Quake Reconstruction Law

ZAGREB, 30 January, 2021 - SDP leader Peđa Grbin said on Saturday that the HDZ, the prime minister and the parliament speaker were responsible for the non-adoption of amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction, noting that the Opposition's quorum-breaking on Friday was not politicking but politics.

Amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction were not passed because of two people, Andrej Plenković and Gordan Jandroković, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) told reporters during a visit to the eastern town of Beli Manastir, where he presented the party's candidate for mayor.

The Opposition on Friday broke the quorum ahead of voting in parliament after a vote on the opposition Bridge party's motion to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) was taken off the agenda. Seventy-five MPs remained in the parliament, one fewer than necessary for a quorum and vote. The HDZ-led parliamentary majority lacked the vote of MP Miroslav Tuđman who has been hospitalised due to COVID-19 so he could not vote online either, which then prevented the adoption of the law on post-earthquake reconstruction, the declaration of an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic and some other items.

Grbin said today that on 30 December he had personally requested an emergency parliament session but that "the HDZ did not find it necessary", after which on 4 January amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction law were submitted and were discussed on 20 January.

"(The ruling majority) again did not rush to put them to the vote, yet yesterday, without trying to consult with us on how to reach agreement and have the law adopted, they decided to postpone the vote," Grbin said, adding that the vote was postponed by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

This is not politicking, this is politics

Grbin went on to say that the Opposition had only wanted all motions, including the Opposition's, to be put to the vote, including one on the cancellation of the mandatory membership fee in the HGK as a form of direct assistance to entrepreneurs.

"Responsibility for the adoption or non-adoption of a document rests not with the Opposition but exclusively with the HDZ, Andrej Plenković and Gordan Jandroković," Grbin said, adding that the HDZ's hiding behind an ill man fighting for his life was disgusting.

"We are willing, if Jandroković invites us, to go to the parliament, even today, and vote on what has to be voted on, but then all items must be put to the vote, including those on assistance to business people and citizens facing debt enforcement. They don't have to adopt our bills, but they should at least be put to the vote," he said.

Asked by reporters if this was disregard for earthquake victims and politicking, Grbin said that the attempt to help entrepreneurs by abolishing one parafiscal levy and prevent the blocking of citizens' bank accounts during the pandemic was not politicking but politics.

Sabo cannot activate his term as SDP Presidency member

Asked how his party would deal with the case of Željko Sabo, a former mayor of Vukovar and SDP member who has said that he will reactivate his term as SDP Presidency member, Grbin said that "Sabo cannot reactivate his term."

Sabo's announcement that he will activate his term as SDP Presidency member came after the SDP leadership decided to dissolve the party's organisation in Vukovar.

The leadership's decision was prompted by the Vukovar party branch's decision to support Sabo as the SDP mayoral candidate in May's local elections despite the leadership's recommendation that he should not be nominated for that post as he had been convicted of corruption for trying to bribe a local councillor when he was the mayor.

Apart from having served six months in prison, which enables rehabilitation under the law, Sabo is also facing charges of abuse of office and powers for allegedly embezzling funds intended for summer holidays for Vukovar children.

"In line with an explicit provision of the SDP Statute, Mr Sabo put his term on hold until criminal proceedings against him are completed and as long as those proceedings are underway, he cannot activate his term," said Grbin.

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.

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