Wednesday, 18 May 2022

SDP Chief Doesn't Want Developments in USA to Happen in Croatia Too

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Wednesday that the left-wing opposition groups in parliament had agreed that it was necessary to launch an initiative to amend the constitution to include the right to abortion.

"We from the seven groups that represent the progressive opposition in parliament have agreed today that it is necessary to amend the constitution to enable women to have the right to choose when it comes to abortion," said Grbin, adding that they do not want current developments in the USA concerning abortion happen in Croatia.

In early May, foreign media outlets reported that the US Supreme Court might overturn the nationwide legal right to abortion, according to a leaked draft of a court document.

Grbin told a press conference today that representatives of the left-wing opposition parties would in the coming days discuss and agree on how to amend the constitution. He said that one option was to collect the signatures of a fifth of MPs in the 151-seat legislature for a motion to amend the constitution while the other was to start collecting signatures for a referendum petition.

Grbin said the opposition was discussing whether to request a hearing of Health Minister Vili Beroš in parliament, adding that he did not rule out that the opposition would table a motion of no confidence in the minister.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Most Says Referendums to Build "Missile Shield" for Democracy

ZAGREB, 15 March 2022 - MPs of the opposition Bridge party said on Tuesday that the Public Administration Ministry had determined that the party had collected a sufficient number of signatures for its two referendum initiatives, noting that the purpose of the two referendums was to build a shield for democracy and human rights.

MP Nikola Grmoja said that the referendum initiative aimed at amending Article 17 of the Constitution to include epidemic and pandemic as events during which constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms can be restricted only by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, had collected 370,310 valid signatures.

The other initiative, advocating a referendum against the national COVID-19 crisis management team, has collected 372,635 valid signatures, as determined by the Public Administration Ministry.

Grmoja believes that despite the war in Ukraine, that topic had not lost its relevance as it could become important again in autumn.

He noted that the current growth of prices in Croatia and the rest of the world was not due only to the Russian aggression against Ukraine because food and energy prices had been going up before it.

MP Nino Raspudić said that the issues raised by the two referendum initiatives were definitely not passe, claiming the government was keeping citizens in a state of permanent emergency in order to cover up its criminal activities.

"Croatia is being held captive by completely incompetent and immoral people implicated in criminal activity. This is the only way to say 'enough' through institutions. Croatian citizens have said so," Raspudić said, adding that the referendum question seeking to amend article 17 of the Constitution was aimed at building "a strong, lasting missile shield for democracy and human rights in Croatia" because "the same story could continue after the summer."

Asked for a comment on the varying expert assessments regarding the crash of a military drone in Zagreb last Thursday, Grmoja said that "Defence Minister Mario Banožić can no longer continue to be minister after this."

"Not only because of the fact that the incident happened, with our air defence system failing to react, but because of the very communication following this unprecedented incident," he said.

Monday, 7 March 2022

Bridge MP Says 10,000 Referendum Signatures Missing

7 March 2022 - MP Nikola Grmoja of Bridge said on Monday the party refused a report on the number of signatures collected for a referendum against the national COVID-19 crisis management team due to a discrepancy in the numbers of submitted and entered signatures, but that there were still enough.

"We refused this report because something is obviously wrong. According to their report, we have enough signatures for a referendum to be called but 10,000 signatures are missing. Only 397,000 were entered, while we submitted 409,000. It's not clear where the rest of the signatures is," he told the press.

Grmoja said 6% of the signatures was invalid and that Bridge knew this already.

"That leaves about 372,000, which is enough for calling a referendum, but we can't agree to this because the counting (of signatures) for the other referendum petition is still under way. Given this irregularity, it's possible they will try to do something with the other one (petition)."

Grmoja said Bridge would ask the Administration Ministry to explain the discrepancy and that it would not accept the report until it was told what happened.

Ministry will allow access to entered data

The ministry's spokeswoman Martina Andrijević said a little over 397,000 signatures were counted and entered into the system and that 24,498 signatures were invalid.

She said representatives of the referendum petition were present during the signature counting and entering into the system, and that today began the verification of signatures collected for a referendum against COVID certificates.

As for Grmoja's claims about missing signatures, Andrijević said the ministry verified those that were delivered from parliament.

She said the boxes with the signatures were opened in the presence of the referendum petition's representatives. "We verified all the signatures that were delivered."

She said the ministry would allow them to check the data entered if they requested it, adding that the procedure was transparent "in every stage".

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Bridge Calls On Government To Start Counting Referendum Signatures

ZAGREB, 17 Feb 2022 - The Bridge party called on the government and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica on Thursday to count the 410,000 signatures the party collected for a referendum against COVID certificates and the national COVID crisis management team.

A representative of the referendum petitions, Iva Rem, told the press the signatures were delivered to parliament on 24 January and that nothing had happened since.

Bridge MP Marin Miletić said Malenica announced yesterday the counting would take 15 to 30 days. "I once again call on Malenica not to engage in shady deals, not to play games of deception. They need to organize the people and count those signatures."

He said 410,000 citizens requested a referendum and that if Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and "his gang" respect democracy and democratic processes, they will count the signatures and ensure the citizens' right to a referendum.

Miletić said "there is no reason for nervousness" in the government, "notably when you have citizens before you who want a referendum."

Living-away-from-home allowance for MPs should be objectively regulated

Asked if MPs should continue to get the living-away-from-home allowance, he said it was not the same if an MP lives in Split or Dubrovnik and comes to Zagreb for work three or four times a week and if an MP lives in Zagreb and gets to work in five or 15 minutes.

"I'm for everything to be regulated and objectively defined, and Croatian citizens should know what each MP does, how much they work, and what the scope of their work is," Miletić said. "Some of us are in the field on weekends even, some of us have crossed 49,000 kilometers by car in eight months and are doing their job properly."

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Construction of First 30 Prefab Replacement Houses Begins

ZAGREB, 8 Feb 2022 - The head of the post-earthquake reconstruction task force, Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved, on Tuesday informed the ruling coalition partners about the status of works in the quake-hit Banovina region.

After the meeting, the vice president of the ruling HDZ party, Branko Bačić, said the construction of the first 30 prefab replacement houses had begun.

This week the construction of another 30 brick houses will also begin, he said, adding that tenders and public procurement will now be continuous, giving reconstruction in Banovina a big momentum.

Regarding reconstruction that does not involve seismic retrofitting, Bačić said that Medved informed them that 1,332 houses had been rebuilt and that it was now the turn for another 1,000.

The goal is to give a roof over the head of every Banovina inhabitant by the end of the year so that they don't welcome next winter in inappropriate conditions, he said.

Also, Bačić dismissed accusations from the opposition Bridge party that the government was stalling the verification of signatures it collected for a referendum against COVID certificates.

"It's in the interest of us in the ruling majority, too, to have the number of signatures checked as soon as possible," he said.

The proposal of the parliamentary committee on the constitution on the two referendum petitions will be debated at a plenary on Thursday and only when parliament votes on it can the government begin verifying the signatures, he added.

MPs will also debate the possibility that representatives of the two referendum petitions monitor the signature counting and verification.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

New Referendum Bill

ZAGREB, 23 Sept 2021 - The government on Thursday sent a referendum bill to parliament with the aim to improve the vague referendum legislation, notably concerning referendum petitions by people's initiatives.

The bill aligns the legal aspects of referendums with the constitution, removes the shortcomings and vagueness of the current law, and ensures referendum transparency and openness, as well as a more effective influence of citizens in political decision making, Justice, and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica, said at a cabinet meeting.

The bill incorporates recommendations from the Council of Europe Venice Commission, he added.

For the first time, the bill systematically regulates the institute of referendum questions, including which legal prerequisites they must meet, of which the State Election Commission (DIP) will be in charge.

The bill regulates the establishment of a referendum initiative's organizing committee and the obligation to register the initiative with DIP.

Signature collection extended from 15 to 30 days

The bill extends the period for collecting signatures petitioning for a referendum from 15 to 30 days and regulates the number of locations where they can be collected. The number will be decided by local government, depending on the population.

The bill defines what a voter signature is and which signatures are considered valid as well as the signature verification procedure. The number of valid signatures will be published by DIP 30 days since their submission to parliament.

The bill also defines the deadline for calling a referendum. Parliament will be obliged to do so within 30 days of DIP's publication that enough signatures have been collected.

Counterproposal to referendum question will be possible

Following the Swiss model, the bill introduces direct and indirect proposals by the representative body as a result of which parliament, at the proposal of its constitution and political system committee, will be able to initiate within 30 days the formulation of a counterproposal to the referendum question, Malenica said.

For the first time, in line with Venice Commission recommendations, the bill defines who the participants in the referendum activity are and which actions are considered referendum activity.

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

Thursday, 10 September 2020

The Count of Signatures to Revoke the Istanbul Convention was Public and Transparent

ZAGREB, Sept 10, 2020 - Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said on Thursday that the count of signatures to revoke the Istanbul Convention was public and transparent and that the procedure had been over.

Recalling that representatives of the Administration Ministry, Interior Affairs Ministry, Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, and the Apis IT company participated in the signature count, Malenica denied any doubts expressed by the civil initiative "The Truth about the Istanbul Convention," regarding the signature count for a referendum on revoking the Istanbul convention.

"The report is public and transparent and representatives of those referendum initiatives were invited for a follow-up check of invalid signatures," Malenica told reporters when asked by reporters about a demand by the initiative for the signatures to be recounted.

He said that the signature counting procedure was conducted transparently and that a conclusion has been adopted in that regard. "Hence that procedure is considered to be finished," he said.

Apart from the referendum initiative groups' activists, also opposition politician Miroslav Skoro on Thursday demanded the recounting of the signatures which had been collected in a bid to call the referendum against the Istanbul Convention.

Skoro accused the authorities of deviations and political maneuvers in that process.

Minister and county prefects to discuss decentralization next week

Asked whether a recent statement by President Zoran Milanovic that abolishing counties would not bring anything good and whether that was actually conducive to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) policy, Malenica said this certainly supported HDZ's policy in empowering counties. "Counties that have a certain tradition are in this government's interest," said Malenica.

He announced a meeting with all county heads next week in Gospic to talk about active recovery plans, regional development, and the further process of decentralization.

Malenica did not wish to comment on whether the government was considering allowing homosexual couples to adopt children now that they have been approved as foster carers. "I would not like to comment on that for the time being," he said.

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