Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Opposition MP: Court to Be Asked to Test Constitutionality of COVID Certificates

ZAGREB, 14 Dec 2021 - Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc (ZLB) on Tuesday said that they had collected 34 lawmakers' signatures to file an appeal to the Constitutional Court to test the constitutionality of COVID-certificates.

"As we announced before, we are sending the request to the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the decision on COVID certificates, not because of its contents, or COVID certificates as such, but rather the way the decision was made," Benčić said in Parliament House.

She believes that all decisions that restrict human rights during the pandemic, which is deemed to be an emergency situation, have to be adopted by a two-thirds majority in the national parliament and in accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution.

"Had we acted in that way from the start, we would have succeeded in creating a better way to strengthen social cohesion concerning vaccination," said Bančić and added that the Constitutional Court is expected to be a guardian of the Constitution.

A constitutional request requires the signatures of one-fifth of lawmakers. ZLB has collected 34 signatures from the SDP, Social Democrats, IDS, Centre, and GLAS parties as well as the HSS and RF, said Benčić.

She announced that they are prepared to request a test of the constitutionality of the procedure to adopt amendments to the Law on the Protection of the Population against Infectious Diseases which regulates penalties of up to HRK 50,000 for breaches of COVID certificates which will be put to the vote in the Sabor on Wednesday.

"We want penalties related to COVID certificates to be decided by a two-thirds majority and if that won't pass easily we are prepared to request a test on its constitutionality because the bill will not have been accepted with the necessary majority," she said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

MP Sandra Benčić (Možemo!) Says PM Plenković Boasting About Salvaging Economy While Destroying Factories

ZAGREB, 30 June, 2021 - The situation at the Orljava clothing factory in Požega, whose workers have not received wages for three months, shows that PM Andrej Plenković is destroying state-owned companies while boasting that he is salvaging the economy, MP Sandra Benčić said in parliament on Wednesday. 

"The Prime Minister is boasting about salvaging the economy in the COVID-19 crisis while at the same time the state is destroying its own companies," Benčić, an MP of the Green-Left Bloc said, noting that the state's lack of interest in talks with protesting Orljava workers seemed to be an introduction in the company's bankruptcy to result in its partition.

Workers' Front MP Katarina Peović called for solidarity with Orljava workers.

"This is yet another case in which a company is being destroyed so that it could be sold," she said, stressing that Orljava was a state-owned company and wondering about the reason for the government's "irresponsible behaviour towards the company and its workers".

Croatian Sovereignists MP Željko Sačić stood up for Pula Faculty of Medicine Dean Krešimir Pavelić who was replaced on Tuesday after publicly stating his position on vaccination against COVID-19.

Sačić said he would request an explanation from the science and education minister and the competent institutions about why and under which circumstances Pavelić was replaced.

He noted that Pavelić's view was based on statistical and scientific data and that he expressed concern about side effects and harmful consequences of individual COVID-19 vaccines, adding that one should put a stop to "totalitarian and undemocratic treatment of different opinions."

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

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

New Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević: Sandra Benčić (Mozemo!) On First Moves

June 1, 2021 - With the new Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević soon coming to the office, Sandra Benčić of the green-left platform Mozemo! (We Can!) spoke to Index.hr about the first moves of the new administration.

Following intense post-first round campaigns in Zagreb for the second round of local elections, Tomislav Tomašević is the new mayor of Zagreb. Additionally, Tomašević's green-left coalition Mozemo! earned 23 seats in the City's assembly, and if the previously announced support of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) that has five, Mozemo! will have the majority in the assembly. 

The new mayor is expected to take his seat by the end of this week, and as Index.hr reports, Sandra Benčić, the Mozemo! MP says that ZG Holding chief and directors can be removed from their position immediately.

However, first and foremost, the earthquake damages seem to be taking the lead.

„The most urgent thing is to prepare documentation for the reconstructions of kindergartens, schools, and institutions in the city ownership that were damaged in the earthquake. We have to do that as fast as possible because the deadline to pull money from the EU Solidarity Fund is June 2022. I'm afraid there will be a fiasco regarding how much will the State pull from the fund, but we can only take the money for estates in the city property, and the damaged kindergartens and schools are our priority“, told Benčić for Index.hr

She added that they plan to start an Office for Zagreb Reconstruction and establish mobile teams which will help citizens to fill in documentation and requests for the reconstruction of damaged homes.

Regarding the statement about the fiasco with the State pulling money from Solidarity Fund, the conflict with the government was sparked yesterday when PM Andrej Plenković talked to the press regarding Tomašević's victory. He said he didn't congratulate Tomašević yet, but he will and that he expects good cooperation.

„I see that Mozemo! is paraphrasing my message from 2016 when I said that we are changing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) so we can change Croatia. They say they are changing Zagreb to change Croatia. Clearly, they have something against this Croatia“, said Plenković, sparking controversy.

And Benčić is not the one to remain silent on such statements.

„Yes, we do have something against this kind of HDZ and evening HDZ with the State. They are not the State but an interest group that trapped our country. We want to see the country returns to all its citizens and that, of course, hurts them to the level that the prime minister allows himself these kinds of statements which, if they weren't malice, would be at minimal, unsmart“, said Benčić.

With the biggest number of votes in the history of mayoral elections in Zagreb, Benčić continues they are ready to justify this trust, and they start with work immediately.

„We are going with the financial revision of City's administration, restructuring City offices. We will do it step by step and connect offices while ensuring that functions and services need to deliver to the citizens. It should be noted that Zagreb used to have fewer offices, 17 until 2000 and then offices start to grow exponentially, only to put politically suited people to positions and raise their payments“, explained Benčić.

 And the new Mayor Tomislav Tomašević also gave an interview on Monday. As Jutarnji List reported, Tomašević also talked about his plans to improve Zagreb and fulfill his promises, particularly with so many earned votes.

„This big trust is also a big responsibility. Citizens can expect that we will lead by example from the start. The city administration and authority will be based on three things: decency, modesty, and being at the citizen's service.

He also added that Mozemo! is considering filing a lawsuit against Miroslav Škoro for the filthy instigating campaign, as Tomašević and many other public figures described it.

„I wouldn't like this to happen to anyone anymore on any other elections in Croatia, regardless are we talking about a candidate from the right, left or center," commented Tomašević.

Although no direct link can be proved at the moment, Škoro's rhetoric could've been the fuel for the attacker that set fire to the Mozemo! election headquarters at Zagreb Contemporary Museum on the election night saying to the gathered that „they are communists“ and how he will „kill them all“, on which T-portal reported

The elections are over, but will Zagreb continue to celebrate in such a majority as it did on election night? This is something only Tomašević on his new function can answer in the following months and years.

Learn more about Zagreb on our TC page.

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

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Opposition Parties File Motion of No Confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - Parliamentary opposition parties have filed a joint motion for a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš over the accumulated problems in the healthcare sector and scandals related to the minister, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Tuesday.

"The reasons for this move are clear to all citizens - the accumulated debts in the healthcare system resulted in the suspension of deliveries of medicines to hospitals at the height of the pandemic. There are also huge problems with the vaccination system, and we have learned of favourable treatment in the development of the cijepise.hr vaccination registration system," Grbin said.

"The development of this non-functioning system was awarded to people connected with Minister Beroš. There are also suspicious public procurement procedures at the Health Ministry such as one where IT services were awarded to a florist and tenders were fixed for former HDZ health ministers Andrija Hebrang and Neven Ljubičić, which have been cancelled but only after media started writing about them," he added.

"The Health Ministry is simply not functioning. There are no reforms, and the extent to which this affects people's lives could best be seen in a recent case at the Clinic for Tumors where citizens suffering from malignant diseases could not receive adequate care," Grbin said, naming Beroš as the person most responsible for this.

"We want Beroš to go because right now he has done nothing positive for the healthcare system, and all the negative things he has done pose a direct threat to people's health and lives," the SDP leader said. "His departure, however, will not be enough and we will all have to come to grips with the accumulated problems together."

Grbin said that a discussion on Beroš must be held within 30 days, and whether it will be held before or after the 16 May local elections "depends on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković."

The initiative was signed by all opposition groups in parliament except the Croatian Sovereignists, but they have announced that they will vote in favour Beroš's resignation, Grbin said.

MOST's Nikola Grmoja said that his party had been warning for a long time about the problems faced by the healthcare system, including huge debts to drug wholesalers and long waiting lists.

"Beroš, of course, is not the only one to blame, the whole government is responsible. With our signatures we also want to encourage a reform of the healthcare system. All of us in the opposition agree that changes are necessary and should be launched urgently," Grmoja noted.

Sandra Benčić of the green-left We Can! platform said that they supported all the reasons for a no-confidence vote in Beroš, but stressed that the responsibility for the crisis in the healthcare system and the poor management of the coronavirus pandemic mostly lay with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"None of the ministers, and certainly not Minister Beroš, makes decisions on their own. They were not chosen as competent persons in their departments but were chosen based on their loyalty to the prime minister who ultimately makes all decisions. The prime minister cannot be exonerated by his purported unawareness of the scandals for which we seek Beroš's resignation. That's why we ask whether the country can be run by a prime minister who does not know or who does not get key information," Benčić said.

Homeland Movement MP Stjepo Bartulica said that the Croatian healthcare system was too politicised. "There are countless problems and the possible resignation of Minister Beroš will not change things much. We have insisted from the start that the healthcare system should be governed by market principles because now we don't see any mechanisms that will bring about change to the system as this government resists structural reforms," he said.

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

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Opposition: Health Minister Beroš Has To Go

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - Opposition parties in parliament on Wednesday unanimously agreed that Health Minister Vili Beroš has to go and they expressed readiness to support the Social Democratic Party's (SDP) motion for no confidence in the health minister.

"There is a consensus among the opposition that Health Minister Vili Beroš has to go," SDP leader Peđa Grbin said after a meeting of opposition parties.

Grbin: We are giving Beroš an opportunity to step down

The motion will be launched soon but we will allow Beroš some time to think about everything that has occurred in healthcare and give him an opportunity to step down, said Grbin.

He denied that the motion was being launched as part of SDP's electioneering ahead of the 16 May elections, saying that this had to do with the health of Croatian citizens.

"The man who allowed hospitals to not be delivered medicines, for the debt in healthcare to escalate and who is being connected to numerous wrongdoings in public procurement in the hospital system, simply cannot be the health minister," underscored Grbin.

Grbin said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković should think carefully in future about his criteria when selecting cabinet ministers.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left bloc said that she supports the no-confidence motion against Beroš but that Plenković too should be held responsible, who in the end is responsible for the entire situation in healthcare.

"It's clear that the prime minister will fervently defend his minister and then a month or two later when it is more politically opportune, he will call for his resignation. That is the prime minister's modus operandi. He expends people and then throws them out like an old rag and covers up his bad decisions with them," said Benčić.

Benčić: Opposition will prepare an expert analysis

She announced that in preparing the no-confidence motion, the opposition will prepare an expert analysis regarding access to therapy, medicines, the way the system is managed and of the Cijepise (Get vaccinated) application.

"Spending money in healthcare that way during the greatest ever crisis is equal to war profiteering," she claimed.

She too denied that this is all part of electioneering ahead of the local election.

Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said (DP) said that: "we are opening important topics and it is up to the prime minister to make serious moves. Instead of being a statesman and making courageous decisions he is a 'spin doctor' in Government House and releases cheap spins to the public every day."

The healthcare system is not being managed well and that practice has to change and reforms need to be urgently implemented, he added.

Hrelja: HSU supports motion to oust Beroš

Silvano Hrelja of the Pensioners' Party (HSU) said that the party supports the motion to oust Beroš, denying speculation that HSU would join the ruling majority.

"Cooperation on projects exists but there is no coalition there," said Hrelja.

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

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Green-Left Bloc, Homeland Movement Criticise National Recovery Plan

ZAGREB, 13 April, 2021 - MP Sandra Benčić of the green-left bloc said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was "lying that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan is completed," adding that it was an unambitious and incompetent programme which recycled 20-year-old reforms and projects.

Speaking to the press, Benčić said that MPs, who are due to debate the document on Wednesday, received only its summary because experts were still fine-tuning it.

She said the plan contained no links between investment in innovation and investment in the economy.

"The lack of ambition and incompetence of this programme is extremely worrying," Benčić said, adding that the plan would not help the economy and society to either recover or become more resilient to either climate change or other challenges of the 21st century.

Homeland Movement: Plan shows government has no daring for brave decisions

The whip of the Homeland Movement party, Stjepo Bartulica, said the summary of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan showed that the government lacked the daring for brave decisions and that Plenković had once again failed to adopt a serious strategy.

Bartulica said he saw no willingness for structural reforms and that the plan should have given more consideration to the demands and remarks by the enterprise sector as it was the one creating added value.

He said the plan also reflected no will to reform the health system, adding that the problem in healthcare was not doctors' expertise but how the system was managed and the monopoly of the Croatian Health Insurance Fund.

Speaking of totalitarian symbols, Bartulica said either all should be outlawed, including those of "communism and the totalitarian Yugoslavia," or that they be allowed as free speech.

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

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Porto Baroš to be New Marina for Super Yachts? Possible Expansion Outside Baroš Controversial

March 30, 2021 - The talk of the new marina for super yachts in Rijeka, Porto Baroš, brings both the hype of development and concerns for public interest.

Porto Baroš in Rijeka, a marina with the potential of 500 ties, is the subject of a public call to be assigned the concession for the next 30 years. The call offers the possibility of expanding to the travel port's entire area, reports the Rijeka-based Novi List daily newspaper. The call was open a month ago. The decision is expected to be known in the following ten days, after which the Ministry of Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure will decide to assign the concession that will be delivered to the Croatian government.

The trading company ACI-Gitone, owned by ACI (Adriatic Croatia International Club) and Lürssen (German yacht company), answered the public call with an investment offer of 363,7 million kunas.

As Novi List learns, ACI- Gitone plans to ask for the expansion of concession to the area owned by Rijeka Port Authority and currently functions as „the port for big yachts". If approved, the Rijeka marina would become the biggest in all of Croatia.

Oleg Butković, minister of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, is very happy about the offer of ACI-Gitone.

„This investment makes me happy as we know that with such a marina capable of hosting megayachts comes a series of additional services. Rijeka and its surroundings must take such opportunity", said minister Butković.

Mayoral candidate critical of the offer

On the other hand, the left-green party Možemo! (We can!) mayoral candidate for Rijeka Nebojša Zelić is opposed to the investment, says Novi List.

Zelić adds he has no problem with the concession for Baroš, but he has issues with the idea of expanding concession to the larger area of Travel coast and Molo Longo.

nebojsa_zelic.jpg

Nebojša Zelić, screenshot / Možemo! Politička platforma

„This is against public interest given that the concession is given to a minimum of 30 years and there is a possibility that the citizens could be denied access to the sea. That's problematic as it opposes the law of concessions which forbids changing the subject of the public call and in this case that is the expansion of the concession", said Zelić.

He points out that Rijeka's waterfront and Molo Longo unlike Baroš are not nautical tourism and that experience showed how much these places are valuable to the locals. „If these places are shabby, that's the problem of bad management by Rijeka's Port Authority and citizens can't be the hostages of bad management by the Port and the City of Rijeka", said Zelić. He also accused the leading party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for controlling the most valuable city property through Port Authorities. Zelić's party colleague Sandra Benčić said that the current General Urban plan in Rijeka disables nautical tourism port on Rijeka's waterfront and Moro Longo. She says that can change and that HDZ is counting on it if they get the majority in the city council on the upcoming local elections in May.

„I believe that Rijeka citizens will know to say no to denying access to the sea. We will publicly step out in front of the government to disrupt the expansion of the concession and prevent HDZ's interest being above the public's interest, and we will fight in the parliament too", announced Benčić.

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

 

Friday, 5 March 2021

Opposition Turn Away From Parl. Majority for not Supporting Changes to Penal Code

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Opposition MPs on Friday protested by turning away from members of majority lawmakers after the parliament rejected a motion put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to have sexual harassment prosecuted ex officio instead of after it is reported, the deadline for it being three months. 

After the parliament rejected the SDP's amendments to the Penal Code, with 74 votes against, 51 in favour and two abstentions, opposition MPs stood up and turned their backs on the section of the parliament chamber where members of the parliamentary majority sit.

Before the vote, opposition MPs Sabina Glasovac (SDP), Marijana Puljak (Centar), Sandra Benčić (We Can!), Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) and Ružica Vukovac (Homeland Movement) called once again on the parliamentary majority not to "turn their backs on the victims" and to endorse the amendments for the sake of protection of victims of sexual violence.

"The statute of limitations on sexual violence will expire if female students, workers, housewives, all women who suffer sexual violence, fail to report it within three months," said Glasovac.

Puljak said that the parliamentary debate had shown that all 151 deputies were agreed that the victims should be helped, asking what was the harm of amending the law now.

Benčić said that the parliamentary majority's argument that work was underway on a new, more comprehensive law did not hold water.

"The procedure will last for the most part of the year and meanwhile the statute of limitations will expire on all cases of sexual violence about which we have been hearing in recent months," she warned.

"As far as the victims are concerned, it would be better to adopt the amendments now than later," said Selak Raspudić.

This is about whether we will support the victims or the abusers, said Vukovac.

HDZ MP Marija Jelkovac said that the HDZ was not against the goal of the SDP's motion but rather did not want to change the Penal Code twice in a short period of time.

Work on amending the Penal Code is under way and the amendments will cover all demands set by the SDP as well as other changes related to improving the protection of women against sexual harassment, Jelkovac said.

The parliament unanimously adopted, with 114 votes for, a conclusion by party groups making up the parliamentary majority entrusting the government with submitting to the parliament, no later than May 31, amendments to the Penal Code that will be in line with EU regulations and ensure stronger protection of victims of sexual harassment, by introducing ex-officio prosecution of such crimes.

Bošnjaković reassures opposition MPs that SDP Proposal will be added to amendments

HDZ lawmaker and former justice minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Friday afternoon that the SDP-sponsored motion would be incorporated later, explaining that the relevant law is organic and it is not advisable to change it too frequently.

He also underscored the fact that the cabinet of Prime Minister Andrej had introduced harsher  penalties for sexual offences.

He also reassured the Opposition that he statute of limitations would not expire, as claimed by some opposition MPs.

The parliament did not support the Bridge party's proposal to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

We Can! Platform Says HDZ Right to Fear Inquiry Commission

ZAGREB, Oct 7, 2020 - The We Can! political platform has said that the HDZ party is right to fear a proposal to form a parliamentary commission to investigate possible influence by the authorities on investigations and prosecution of corruption, noting that it will not give up until that influence has been investigated.

"They are afraid that the commission of inquiry could find answers to the questions of why we do not have convictions for corruption, why after billions of kuna stolen there are no culprits, and why long-term prison sentences are not being served," MPs Sandra Bencic and Tomislav Tomasevic said after the HDZ said that it would reject the Opposition's motion to form a commission of inquiry to investigate the work of state institutions and information leaks in the JANAF corruption case.

The two MPs said they would not give up on the goals stated in the motion for the commission of inquiry regardless of whether the commission would be formed with the will of the HDZ-led parliamentary majority.

"Our message to the HDZ is: We will investigate it one way or another, so you have reason to be afraid," they said.

They dismissed PM Andrej Plenkovic's and the HDZ's justification for their opposition to the motion, such as that the commission's investigation would be too extensive, that the commission would bring into question court autonomy, that state institutions already function, and that the same objectives could be achieved through existing parliamentary committees.

Bencic and Tomasevic say that the commission has a very clear and narrow objective, which boils down to the influence of politics on investigations and the judiciary and the leaking of information from investigations.

The commission would not bring court autonomy into question

The law on inquiry commissions says that a motion to form such a commission must refer to an entire area and an entire set of questions, and not just one, as claimed by Plenkovic, they say.

Court autonomy does not entail a ban on the oversight of the judiciary as a system, and the purpose of the opposition's motion is not to investigate individual cases but rather the way the system works, its weak points with regard to resilience to corruption, and it's capacity to deal with big corruption cases, the two MPs say.

They note that the commission will not bring into question court autonomy but will ask representatives of the judiciary to say, based on their experience, how the system can be improved.

As for the PM's claim that "state institutions function", Bencic and Tomasevic wondered how it was possible for the Express weekly to publish a list of 60 big corruption scandals of which only a few resulted in a conviction and most involved members of the HDZ.

Existing parliamentary committees cannot carry out the investigation because they lack the powers a commission of inquiry has. Nobody can refuse to testify before or submit documents requested by a commission of inquiry on pain of penalty, they say.

Bencic and Tomasevic conclude that Plenkovic and the HDZ are afraid the commission would deal with systematic shortcomings in the fight against corruption and organized crime and that it would transpire that the HDZ has created and maintained a system that is weak and susceptible to political influence, which is why it cannot resolve any major corruption case.

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