Thursday, 4 November 2021

Opposition Says to Vote Against 2021 Budget Revision

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - Opposition MPs said on Wednesday, in a debate about a draft budget revision for 2021, that they would not support it because the expenditure was not transparent and the budget revision did not envisage the reconstruction of areas hit by last year's earthquakes or reforms. 

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc said the budget revision was an act of capitulation by the government to the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb and Banovina.

There were no plans for reconstruction, not even public buildings with unproblematic property-rights relations have been reconstructed, she warned.

We do not know if an extension of the deadline to use the money from the EU Solidarity Fund will be requested "or how much of it we will have to return because we will not be able to use it," she said, adding that citizens were not a government priority but the purchase of fighter jets was.

Anka Mrak Taritaš recalled that the budget revision was the second budget revision this year.

It shows that the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare all the problems in the health system and that it is not managed well, she said, adding that there was also no post-earthquake reconstruction or reforms.

The results of the population census will show how serious the demographic situation is and a demographic strategy needs to be adopted urgently, Mrak Taritaš said, adding that a possible solution was to hire foreign nationals.

Domagoj Hajduković of the Social Democrats, too, said he would not support the budget revision, noting that budget funds had been spent in a non-transparent way.

Siniša Hajdaš Dončić of the Social Democratic Party said he would vote against the budget revision because of poor expenditure management.

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Friday, 29 October 2021

Sabor Adopts Prime Minister's Annual Report

ZAGREB, 29 Oct 2021 - The Sabor on Friday adopted Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's annual report on the government's work with 76 votes in favour, 41 against and two abstentions, after he submitted the report on Wednesday, announcing an increase in the minimum wage and parental allowance.

As of 1 January the minimum wage will increase by a net amount of HRK 350 from HRK 3,400 to HRK 3,750 or a net amount of €500, Plenković said on Wednesday.

This is an increase of 10.3% for 51,000 workers.

Presenting the report, Plenković reiterated the importance of demography and announced that next year the government would increase parental allowance to HRK 7,500 for employed and self-employed parents as well as introducing a 10-day paternal leave for employed and self-employed fathers.

Plenković also presented optimistic economic indicators.

"Although we expected a growth of 5.2 percent, the successful tourist season and the 16.1% growth in the second quarter give us reason to believe that we could reach annual GDP growth of over eight percent," the PM said on Wednesday.

He said that despite the numerous problems and challenges his government was faced with and possible mistakes made, it was trying to steer the country in the direction of economic recovery and development and a better life for all citizens.

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Thursday, 28 October 2021

MP Reports Croatia to European Commissioner Over Violation of Citizens' Rights

ZAGREB, 28 Oct 2021 - Independent MP Karolina Vidović Krišto has sent a letter to European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová, warning her about "systematic disregard for laws to which Croatian citizens have been exposed", which, she says, causes poverty and injustice in society.

"Croatian citizens' rights are constantly violated by the ruling structures, and politicians and the judiciary openly and publicly demonstrate arrogance and them being untouchable. Such conduct is not possible in stable democracies because it causes social chaos, which, in turn, causes poverty and injustice," Vidović Krišto said at a news conference.

In her letter to the European Commissioner, Vidović Krišto "cited a number of examples that bear witness to overt violations of laws by political structures, judiciary, and media."

The MP pointed to the main media outlets such as Hanza Media and Styria Media Group, saying they organize thematic conferences that are always held under the auspices of the ruling structures, the prime minister or the president, ministries or state agencies, and are sponsored by state monopolists such as JANAF, Plinacro, HC, HAC, HZ or HŠ, which, she said, is undoubtedly harmful to taxpayers.

DORH acting contrary to law, common sense

Vidović Krišto said that the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) knowingly acts contrary to law and common sense, thus creating insecurity among citizens, tolerating corruption, and violating human rights on a large scale, and she cited a number of cases in that context. She said that those cases were downplayed by the government, DORH, the judiciary, and the media.

"The ruling structures in Croatia do not violate laws in a sophisticated manner, they do it arrogantly and openly, showing contempt for all citizens," she said among other things.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Opposition Says Not Against Minimum Pay Rise, But Employers Shouldn't Pay for It

ZAGREB, 28 Oct 2021 - Opposition MPs said on Thursday, ahead of a debate on changes to the Minimum Wage Act, that nobody was against the minimum wage being raised but not in such a way to make employers cover the cost. 

Marin Lerotić of the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) said his party was against employers covering the cost of a higher minimum wage, wondering when the serious discussion would begin about tax reliefs and stimulation of industries, notably export-oriented ones.

Davor Bernardić of the Social Democrats said PM Andrej Plenković's announcement of a HRK 350 increase in the minimum wage was a show, adding that people live poorly and noting that 200,000 people have left the Slavonia region.

Peđa Grbin of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said that realistically, nobody could be against the PM's announcement but that the entire wage policy should be discussed.

Generally, wages are low, and when inflation is added to that, it is clear that not even the average wage suffices for a normal living, let alone the minimum wage, Grbin said.

Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) said the prime minister was "feeling generous" yet wanted somebody else to pay the bill. That is what the minimum wage bill is about, she said.

"If the prime minister really wants to be generous... he should raise the non-taxable income to HRK 5,000, as suggested by entrepreneurs," she said.

Katarina Peović of the Workers' Front said that the bill, under which the minimum wage would have to be agreed in its gross amount and employers who fail to do so would be penalized, would not bring anything good to 52,000 workers receiving the minimum wage.

The bill is unconstitutional and the amendments will only serve to improve the statistics, she said.

Hrvoje Zekanović of the Croatian Sovereignists said that employers were avoiding the government's measures, citing the example of a woman from Šibenik whose minimum wage did not increase at all after it was raised for the last two times. However, on paper her working hours were first reduced from eight to six and then to four, he said.

Employers are avoiding compliance with the government's measures by registering their workers as working six or four hours a day, so we are doing those workers a disservice instead of helping them, Zekanović said, calling the government's measures as 'cosmetic ones'.

Majda Burić of the ruling HDZ party said that the institute of minimum wage was a very sensitive one and had to be approached seriously, which, she said, the government was doing.

The gross minimum wage amounts to HRK 4,250, and the net amount is HRK 3,400, she said, adding that as of January 2022 the net amount would rise by HRK 350. Annually, that is an increase of 10.3%, the highest so far, she said.

She recalled that during the Andrej Plenković governments' terms in the past five years, the minimum wage had been raised by a gross amount of HRK 1,567 and a net amount of HRK 1,254.

During the term of the SDP-led government, it was raised by HRK 179, she said.

(€1 = HRK 7.521247)

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Petrov: More People Have Emigrated Since Joining EU Than in 45 Years of Communism

ZAGREB, 27 Oct 2021 - Opposition MPs said on Wednesday that the Prime Minister's Annual Government Report and indicators he boasted of do not correspond to the reality of life, with Bridge leader Božo Petrov saying that more people had emigrated in the past eight years than in the 45 years of communist dictatorship.

People are not leaving just because of wages but because they feel the injustice, and research indicates that the more people that emigrate the higher the level of corruption, Petrov said during a parliamentary debate on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's annual report, which Petrov believes isn't impartial.

Grbin: We traveled to Switzerland for an hour

"I thank you for enabling us to travel to Switzerland for an hour because this report does not reflect the reality of life in Croatia," Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin told Plenković, saying that he had omitted to provide concrete responses to some burning issues in the country.

Grbin criticized the government's handling of the COVID pandemic and the situation in healthcare, where debts are continuing to increase despite government intervention.

Hrvoje Zekanović (Sovereignists) told the Prime Minister that he supports a lot of things the government has done during the pandemic and in general, saying that Croatia "actually didn't cope badly," but there are some issues he cannot agree with.

One of them, he said, is the introduction of the euro currency, which is not an act of monetary stability but an exclusively political aim of additional cohesion and unitarism in the EU. I do not advocate exiting the EU, but I advocate constantly examining our status to see what membership brings or takes, said Zekanović and added "for now it seems that we are good here."

Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referred to the pandemic and warned that the virus is spreading because we do not have a sufficient level of vaccination and that it is spreading among young people and jeopardizing their health.

With regard to the earthquakes, Pupovac said that the worst is behind us. We know what needs to be repaired. We have adopted a law to speed up reconstruction. I am not sure that the Fund is equipped for that task and that it is doing the job properly and that the ministry is equipped adequately, said Pupovac.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

MPs Talk Online Classes, Euro Referendum, Serb Rights in Vukovar

ZAGREB, 27 Oct 2021 - Social Democratic Party MP Sabina Glasovac said on Wednesday the measures against the spread of COVID-19 were inconsistent and illogical, calling out Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for deciding to close schools without explanation.

"We still don't know on what basis the measures are being adopted. Is it based on the number of new infections or those hospitalised? Or those who end up on ventilators? Or based on the number of deaths?" Glasovac said in parliament.

Euro referendum

Hrvoje Zekanović of the Croatian Sovereignists called on MPs to sign today a petition for a referendum on the introduction of the euro.

"It's time we say that we stand by the people, that we are not politicians but activists," he said, adding that the will of the people was more important than protecting the national currency and that "the people must decide on key matters."

Jeckov: Fight against Serbs is the basis of politics in Vukovar

Dragana Jeckov of the Independent Democratic Serb Party criticized a conclusion of the Vukovar City Council on the need to expand the rights of ethnic Serbs.

She said that every year the conclusion stated that the degree of tolerance between Croats and Serbs "has not progressed and that conditions have not been created for expanding the rights."

"This year, that justification sounds bad, which is that we must wait for the data of the population census to see exactly how many Serbs live in Vukovar," Jeckov added.

As long as the current city administration remains in power, the conditions to expand Serbs' rights will not be met because collective guilt is ascribed also to those born in 1997, 2007, and 2017, she said.

"The fight against Serbs and presenting Serbs as scapegoats are the basis of politics in Vukovar," Jeckov said, adding that Serbs only wanted what they were entitled to under the law and the constitution.

She said the city leaders continue to stigmatize Serbs. "They make the treatment of Serbs a measure of their own patriotism in order to be recognized as the only true patriots because they are always and strictly against anything Serb. Serbs are a threat to all in Vukovar, except during local elections when good and suitable Serbs are put on slates and then those same Serbs vote that there are no conditions to expand Serb rights in Vukovar."

Jeckov said it was not only about Cyrillic signs on public buildings but also proportionate representation and the rights to education and housing. "I am much more worried that the climate was better in 1997," she added.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

MP Calls for Resignation of National COVID-19 Crisis Management Team

ZAGREB, 27 Oct 2021 - MP Renata Sabljar-Dračevac (Social Democrats) said on Wednesday there was no longer any trust in the national COVID-19 crisis management team and called for its resignation.

Due to the high COVID-19 mortality rate and extreme irresponsibility, we call for the resignation of the national COVID-19 crisis management team and the appointment of serious experts who would restore the trust of citizens with consistency and expertise, achieving thus a better vaccination rate, the MP said.

According to unofficial data, Croatia has 4,400 new cases today, there have been 30 deaths over the past 48 hours, and the number of active cases is nearly 18,000 yesterday, Sabljar-Dračevac said.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2021

MPs to Debate 2021 Budget Revision Next Week, Says Finance Minister

ZAGREB, 27 Oct 2021 - Parliament is expected to debate the draft 2021 budget revision next Wednesday and the draft 2022 budget early in December, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday.

The idea is to debate and vote on the revised budget as soon as possible so that all reallocations and payments can be made by the end of the year, he told reporters.

Asked to comment on the fact that the health sector's debt to drug wholesalers was growing again, Marić said it was growing even though HRK 9 billion was set aside for it in the budget and that one should add to that the HRK 23 billion budget of the Croatian Health Insurance Fund.

That, he said, points to the need to reform health expenditures by spending taxpayers' money better and more effectively, while keeping the quality of healthcare.

Asked if there was money for a new round of payments to businesses affected by the pandemic, Marić said the draft 2022 budget did not envisage this year's level of job-keeping measures. He added, however, that the draft 2020 budget did not envisage them either, yet they were adopted to protect people's health and keep jobs.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Independent MP Collects 34 Signatures for No-Confidence Motion Against FinMin

ZAGREB, 15 Oct 2021 - Independent member of parliament Karolina Vidović Krišto said on Friday she had collected signatures of 34 lawmakers for her initiative to launch a no-confidence vote in Finance Minister Zdravko Marić because he had stayed on a yacht owned by a private businessman this summer.

Vidović-Krišto said that she was glad that the initiative was supported by 34 MPs from different ideological groups.

"This is great news for citizens, as the MPs have overcome their partisan frameworks and are fighting for the common good, and that is the fight against corruption," she told a news conference in the parliament.

She said that when it came to the Opposition, only lawmakers from the We Can party and the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) had not signed her petition.

Vidović Krišto accused Marić of serving "the interests of power centres" rather than working for the benefit of Croatian citizens.

The case of Marić staying on a yacht of a businessman grabbed the limelight in mid-August after some media outlets started speculating whether the minister's short travel on a private yacht constituted a conflict of interest.

The minister said then that the yacht was owned by his friend Blaž Pavičić and that Pavičić had not used any tax breaks or a loan from the Croatian development bank (HBOR) and that he had no tax debt written off during Marić's ministerial term.

During today's news conference, Vidović Krišto accused Marić of lying that the businessman concerned had no business deals with the Croatian state.

She criticised Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for his failure to sack Marić over this case, and accused the prime minister of ignoring the Croatian laws, obstructing the Croatian institutions and disenfranchising the Croatians.

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Friday, 8 October 2021

Jandroković: In Past 30 Years Sabor Has Fulfilled All Key Tasks

ZAGREB, 8 Oct 2021 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Friday, Parliament Day and the 30th anniversary of the decision on independence, that the Sabor had fulfilled all its key tasks.

Regardless of all the criticism, I believe that in these 30 years the Sabor has fulfilled all its key tasks and that it has adopted all important and big decisions, Jandroković said at a ceremonial session of the parliament in memory of 8 October 1991, when the Sabor adopted the decision to sever all state-legal ties with the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), which meant that Croatia had declared its independence.

He underscored that throughout history the Sabor symbolised Croatian statehood and that until the modern state, with "more or less success," it always defended the interests of the Croatian people. "It is the central place of political life and since 1990 also the keeper of the fundamental values of constitutional order."

With wise decisions and togetherness we achieved all objectives

He greeted those present, including former parliament speakers and heads of state and government, congratulating them on Croatian Sabor Day and the 30th anniversary of the decision on independence.

We were faced with crisis situations, under great pressure and sometimes even blackmail by the international community, however, with wise decisions and the vision of those who led the country, we achieved all our objectives, said Jandroković.

We are all Croatia

He called on colleagues to jointly seek solutions that will make Croatia a better country, telling them, "We are all Croatia."

Even today the future is uncertain and sometimes it appears that it will be more difficult than the present. Let's work together in matters that seek a compromise and show respect towards one another. We need to seek solutions that will make our homeland a better country, because "we are all Croatia," he underscored.

He told fellow parliamentarians that they need to take account so that their actions strengthen state institutions, develop a culture of cooperation and compromise when necessary. We cannot resolve problems with exclusion and radicalism, he said.

He recalled that over the past two years the Sabor has been faced with the challenges of the pandemic and earthquakes and said that he is confident that it reacted solidly.

He underscored that the times ahead bring other challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, and a changing geopolitical situation. We need to follow what is happening, particularly in our neighbourhood which is turbulent, he said.

As for short-term objectives, Jandroković noted reconstruction in the wake of the 2020 earthquakes, laws related to joining the Schengen Area and introducing the euro currency, and said that particular attention needs to be dedicated to Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "We need to preserve their constitutionality and equality. There are also issues related to the status of Croats in Serbia," he added.

Tuđman, Domljan, Gregurić

Jandroković recalled all those who participated in making the decision of 8 October 1991, all those how participated in democratic processes, in preparing and adopting key decisions, the heroes of the Homeland War and all those who participated in any way in building the Croatian state and institutions, Croatian defenders, particularly the families of those who lost their lives.

He then individually thanked former heads of state and government as well as former and current parliamentarians for their contribution to the homeland.

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