Thursday, 9 June 2022

Bauk: Referendum Changes, Abortion Rights to Enter Constitution One Way or Another

ZAGREB, 9 June 2022 - Representatives of the Social Democratic Party, Social Democrats, and the Green-Left Bloc on Thursday talked with the ruling HDZ's whip, and Arsen Bauk of the SDP is confident that both referendum changes and the right to abortion will end up in the Constitution "one way or another."

Speaking after a meeting between HDZ representatives and left MPs on constitutional changes, Bauk said the changes pertaining to referenda would pass, while talks would continue on the other topics.

He said that if their demand that a woman's right to choose to be raised to a constitutional level did not pass in parliament, there would be a referendum on it.

As for the part concerning referenda, most of it coincides with our proposals for changing the Constitution from 2013 and 2018, and potential differences are not such that we could say they pose a big problem, Bauk said.

We expressed our concern about the violation of certain rights and would like to raise them to a constitutional level, and the HDZ took note of it, he added.

Asked if making a women's right to choose the part of the Constitution would be a condition to endorse the HDZ's proposed referendum changes, Bauk said such things should be said at meetings, not via the media.

Social Democrats whip Ivana Posavec Krivec said there was nothing contentious in those changes and that their MPs would take part in the second round of talks in a few days' time.

The Social Democrats have no questions to raise concerning constitutional changes nor conditions, and will support embarking on those changes, she added.

HDZ whip Branko Bačić held separate meetings with the left and right opposition.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said it was necessary to redefine referendum regulations. The approach should be serious and the broadest consensus reached, he added.

The HDZ can count on our constructive approach, but we have not made the final decision, he said, adding that it should be made easier for citizens to organize if they wish to do so.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

SDP Leader Says Government Unwilling to Amend Labour Act

ZAGREB, 30 April 2022 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin on Saturday distributed carnations and socialised with citizens in Pula ahead of International Workers' Day, noting that the incumbent government was not willing to launch a comprehensive reform of the Labour Act announced over six months ago.

"According to recent EU statistics, Croatia is close to the bottom of the EU ranking in terms of employment and that is what we need to talk about, not just when we observe International Workers' Day but throughout the year," Grbin said, recalling that a comprehensive reform of the labour law was announced more than half a year ago but that it was not happening.

"This government is not willing to do it and lacks the capacity. It has changed the minister who should be in charge of the reform, a new one has been appointed who knows nothing about work and workers, and the problems are staying," he said, adding that data for February showed that regardless of a rise in absolute figures, the real value of wages had dropped over the past year.

"We should all focus on maintaining the value of income, of preserving the value of wages and pensions as well as on dealing with problems such as compensation for overtime work, work on Sundays and holidays and higher wages," Grbin said, adding that the reality was such that workers were still exploited.

He also called for amending the Pension Act to ensure adequate indexation of pensions to prevent their losing in value due to growing inflation.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

SDP Condemns Statement by War Veterans Minister's Envoy

ZAGREB, 10 April 2022 - The Social Democratic Party on Sunday condemned a statement by the War Veterans Minister's envoy, Matko Raos, who at a commemoration for a Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) unit in Split said that "today's Croatia would not exist if it had not been for 10 April 1941."

The SDP also called on the government to distance itself from Raos' statement.

Earlier on Sunday, during a ceremony at which wreaths were laid at a memorial to members of the HOS 9th Battalion "Rafael vitez Boban" killed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, Raos said: "You have to know, if it had not been for 10 April 1941, today's Croatia would not exist."

On 10 April 1941 the establishment of the quisling Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was proclaimed.

The SDP condemns the gathering in Split and the statement made by Brigadier Matko Raos, envoy for War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, the opposition party said in a statement signed by SDP vice-president Ranko Ostojić.

"Putting the Homeland War and the establishment of today's Croatia in the same context with the criminal Independent State of Croatia, a quisling entity, is unacceptable. Croatia, just like the whole of free Europe, was founded on values of antifascism, as defined by our constitution, and we should be proud of that," Ostojić said.

"That people who represent the minister and the government have such a view is unacceptable. We call on the minister and the government to distance themselves from the event and their envoy's statement," the SDP said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

SDP Main Committee Says Government Should Resign

ZAGREB, 12 March 2022 - The Social Democratic Party's Main Committee on Saturday supported the SDP parliamentary group in a motion to dissolve parliament, and concluded that the government cannot become better by changing a minister or two, that it is spent, does not govern well, and should step down.

Crises can no longer be an alibi for politically unsuccessful action, Main Committee chair Marija Lugarić told the press.

The committee concluded that the government's anti-inflation measures are not enough as they do not take into account the aggression on Ukraine and the war's impact on inflation. 

SDP president Peđa Grbin said the party was proposing to index pensions either with salary or inflation growth and to abolish VAT on fuel excises.

He said it was time to start talking about a new economic model which would not rest solely on tourism.

Commenting on a drone which crashed in Zagreb on Thursday night, Grbin said something was not working security-wise nor in communication with the neighbours. Hungary should have notified us that the drone had crossed their territory, he added.

Grbin said he expected the prime minister to say clearly what went wrong and how he would prevent such things from happening again. If it happens again, the reaction should be much faster and more organised, and citizens should be informed better so that there is no panic, he added.

Grbin said he expected NATO to investigate the matter and say clearly why the information system failed.

"If the drone ended up in Croatia by accident, that's not good because the warning system failed, and if it was by accident, that's very, very bad because it means that not only Croatia but NATO, too, have somehow been dragged into the conflict," he added. 

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Grbin: Election Only Salvation for Croatia

ZAGREB, 19 Feb 2022 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Saturday, in reference to the arrest of Minister Darko Horvat, that after more than 20 years a member of the government has been arrested, underscoring that the only thing that can save Croatia now is an election.

"Today, after more than 20 years, a member of the Croatian government has been arrested. A minister who is in office has been arrested for something that he did as a member of the government. Not just any minister, but the one who hasn't done anything to help the people in Zagreb and Banovina to reconstruct their houses. A minister to whom Andrej Plenković evidently owes something if he keeps him in the government after everything," Grbin told reporters.

He believes that this is the time to act promptly and that the situation needs to be resolved today already.

"How is it possible for a minister who is at the police and giving a statement to do anything his job requires in the days to come without any problems? Instead, we have an arrogant prime minister, we have a man with the manners of a dictator who is bothered because his excellent week has been ruined and someone disturbed him on Saturday morning," said Grbin.

He warned that to top it all the HDZ, "a party from which we have seen this before," is now trying to implicate the State Attorney's Office (DORH) and the judiciary in the whole story.

"That is diverting the focus, that is what Plenković tried to do today and we will not allow it. Next week already the Judiciary, Domestic Policy and National Security Committee will be convened. The HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) has to say whether it agrees for the committee to be convened and there DORH has to respond to all the questions put to it," added Grbin.

He added that he expects Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj Šipek to make a statement on this case, but not in a phone call or tete-a-tete with the prime minister, but before the legislature, media and citizens.

He believes that if Horvat will fall, the whole government should fall too and after that citizens will choose who they want to lead the country.

Horvat should not be allowed to continue in his office as a minister even if he is released from custory later today, he said. "This needs to end as soon as possible and this is Andrej Plenković's responsibility."

Commenting on the extension of the deadline to use EU funds for post-earthquake reconstruction, Grbin said Plenković "crawled in Brussels" to fix what Horvat "mucked up."

"This is the moment when all this has to end and it is left up to citizens to decide in which direction we should continue. If it's true that this case involves another minister, a deputy prime minister and a former minister, a state secretary and the director of a department... literally half the government is under investigation for committing crimes. Who can say at the moment that they are running this country?"

"We have a debate on a vote of no confidence in Minister Horvat (in the Sabor) on Wednesday. There is also the situation with (Economy) Minister Ćorić where documents exist, not just depositions, on his deep involvement in corruption, as a result of which all of us have dearer electricity bills," Grbin said.

As far as Plenković is concerned, it's business as usual, and if that's the case, then Croatia is no longer a state but a failed project, yet it has never been that and never will be, he concluded.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

MPs Criticise Grbin for Taking a Living Away from Home Allowance

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - MPs on Wednesday criticised Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin after it transpired that he and his party colleague Arsen Bauk had used the most benefits as MPs.

"Everyone answers for themselves but how can Grbin claim that he can run the country if he can't say where he lives," said Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement after Grbin said that by using his living away from home allowance (LAFHA), he had not violated any law.

"In principle, politicians in Croatia are divorced from reality, they live in a parallel world", said Bartulica.

Marijan Pavliček of the Croatian Sovereignists said it was sad that some manipulated the living away from home allowance.

"You cannot live in both Pula and Zagreb, have your family both in Pula and in Zagreb," Pavliček said, adding that he was willing to be the first to give up his LAFHA if all MPs would do the same.

Romana Nikolić, a former SDP MP and now a member of the Social Democrats, too, criticised Grbin, noting that such conduct was why citizens did not trust politicians.

MPs who live outside Zagreb should be compensated for rent, travel expenses

"If you have relocated, there should be no allowance for living away from home," said Sandra Benčić of We Can!.

"MPs who live outside of Zagreb and come to Zagreb to attend sessions of the parliament three to four days a week should receive allowances of between HRK 2,000 and 2,500 for rent", she said.

"Those whose families live in other cities should be compensated only for the actual costs incurred, such as travel expenses", she said.

"The purpose of allowances is not for someone to earn additional income," she stressed.

Anka Mrak Taritaš of the GLAS party said that MPs living outside of Zagreb should have their rent and travel expenses covered by the state, and she considers the allowance for living away from home unnecessary.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

SDP, We Can! Want to Run in Next Parliamentary Election Together, Večernji List Says

ZAGREB, 9 Feb 2022 - The strongest opposition Social Democratic Party and We Can!, which ran separately in last year's local elections in Zagreb, are no longer hiding that they are coming closer at national level, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

Although the next regular parliamentary election is two years away, both parties are saying off the record that they will not run independently because nobody can form a government alone, and only together can they be a strong alternative against the ruling HDZ.

The only dilemma at the moment, top SDP officials say, is whether it is better to run in one bloc, all centre-left parties together, or in two, one comprising the SDP and We Can!, and the other with Centre, GLAS, Focus and similar parties.

The SDP and We Can! say they are satisfied with their cooperation in parliament, and that their ruling coalition in Zagreb will be an essential factor for a possible joint success at the national level.

"The SDP-We Can! coalition is the first step without which there is no chance at all of defeating the HDZ in the next election. If it's done soon enough, like (the then SDP leader) Ivica Račan did in 1998 with Dražen Budiša and the HSLS, which means offering a clear platform and people, it's a really good alternative which can look for voters' confidence in the election," an eminent SDP member was quoted as saying.

The fact that you have coalition potential and that there is a wish before the election to change things points to an honest approach which will certainly bring results, he adds.

Večernji List's We Can! sources think the same. They say the constant attacks on the HDZ over its scandals is counterproductive in attracting attention, and that in the months ahead the SDP and We Can! must solely present their policies to citizens, showing that they have both a platform and a vision, and are capable of solving problems.

The latest public opinion polls speak in favour of the SDP-We Can! cooperation, showing that together, they have higher support than the HDZ, the newspaper said, adding that the next most popular party, Bridge, has not clearly said whether it will run in the election together with the SDP and We Can!, but "swears" it will not go with the HDZ a third time.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Istria County Head Dismisses 'Unfounded Accusations, Ill-intentioned Insinuations'

ZAGREB, 8 Feb 2022 - Istria County prefect and former Pula mayor Boris Miletić on Tuesday dismissed "all the unfounded accusations and ill-intentioned insinuations" made by Social Democratic Party county councillor Danijel Ferić, who said he had pressed charges against Miletić.

Speaking for HINA, Miletić said this was not the first time Ferić was using criminal complaints "solely as a tool for political promotion."

He said Ferić's MO was "to press charges, call a press conference and then, making bombastic statements and announcements to exert pressure on the Croatian judiciary, because he knows very well that when the charges are dismissed as unfounded and false, he will not carry any responsibility."

Miletić said Ferić, like every individual, was personally responsible for every publicly uttered untruth "which the court will easily establish."

Ferić told the press earlier today he had filed criminal complaints on behalf of the SDP against Miletić and his closest associates when he was the mayor of Pula on suspicion of financial wrongdoing.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

SDP Proposes Inflation Bonus for Pensioners

ZAGREB, 8 Feb 2022 - Social Democratic Party leader Peđa Grbin on Tuesday presented a proposal designed to help alleviate the impact of growing inflation on pensioners in the form of a pension allowance bonus for allowances amounting to less than HRK 4,000, proposing also adjustment of pensions to wage and inflation growth.

"Croatian pensions are low and at a time of growing inflation they become even lower, which requires action. The government is late with responding, it first capped fuel prices for two months, which was insufficient, and now it has to cap them again at a higher amount," the SDP leader told a news conference.

Long and short-term measures for pensioners

Other countries introduced measures to alleviate the inflationary effects of euro adoption a year before adopting the euro, while in Croatia a bill on euro adoption is still under public consultation, Grbin said.

"We cannot expect its entry into force before April, and neither can we expect before that date measures that should cushion the inflationary blow to citizens," he said, proposing two measures to help pensioners.

One is a long-term measure envisaging a change of the model of adjusting pensions to wage and inflation growth, and the other is a short-term measure in the form of an inflation bonus.

SDP MP Branko Grčić said the current adjustment of pensions did not follow wage growth. Five years ago, when the incumbent government took over, the average pension accounted for around 40% of the average wage while now it accounts for less than 37%, he said.

Grčić said that if inflation growth was higher than the growth of wages, pensions should be adjusted 100% to the inflation rate, and if the wage growth was higher, pensions should be adjusted to the wage growth rate.

Average pension could drop below 30% of average wage

Had this model been used over the past five years, the average pension, which now amounts to HRK 2,645, would have been HRK 200 higher, Grčić said, warning that if the current model of pension indexation was not changed, the average pension would fall below 30% of the average wage in the next 10-15 years.

SDP MP Boris Lalovac believes that the parliament can introduce the inflation bonus already this month so that pensioners can receive it in April.

"The government has said it will give a HRK 200 bonus only to pensioners with guaranteed minimum allowances, and there are around 60,000 such pensioners. We believe that the scheme should be expanded... to cover around 850,000 pensioners whose pension allowance is below HRK 4,000, which would cost up to HRK 700 million," said Lalovac.

The SDP proposes that pensioners whose allowance is below HRK 1,500 should receive a one-off bonus in the amount of HRK 1,200, those whose pension amounts to HRK 1,500-2,000 should get a HRK 1,000 bonus, those with pensions ranging from HRK 2,000 to 3,000 should receive a HRK 600 bonus, and those with pensions ranging from HRK 3,000 to 4,000 a bonus of HRK 400.

Lalovac said that the state budget was the biggest winner at a time of inflation growth, which was why there should be no problems in securing funds for the inflation bonus for pensioners.

Everything supposed to be creative turns into corruption in Croatia

Grbin also commented on a scandal involving the falsification of the motif on the national side of the €1 coin, saying that "everything that is supposed to be creative turns into corruption in Croatia."

If the process of selecting the best designs for the national sides of euro coins had been conducted by professionals, if the profession had been consulted, this whole affair would not have happened, Grbin said, adding that not only the central bank but the government, too, was responsible, as it was quite late with the process of euro introduction.

Grbin believes the call for applications for the design of the national sides of euro coins should be repeated despite the lack of time.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Zagreb Mayor: Amendment to City Budget To Increase Kindergarten Capacity

ZAGREB, 7 Dec, 2021 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Tuesday that an amendment put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to the city budget proposal for 2022 would be accepted to increase kindergarten capacity in the capital city amid plans to phase out allowances for stay-at-home parents.

The SDP is a junior partner in the city assembly to Tomašević's We Can! party.

"We plan an amount of HRK 52 million, which is twice as much money as the average in the past five years. An additional HRK 15 million will be set aside to rent facilities to serve as temporary kindergartens," he said.

The mayor said that an amendment regarding the stay-at-home parent scheme, put forward by the opposition HDZ party, would not be accepted.

"They asked that we take around HRK 200 million in subsidies from the ZET (city public transport company) to compensate for the decrease in allowances for stay-at-home parents. That would make ZET a lossmaker and prevent it from applying for EU funds," he explained.

Tomašević said that the opposition Bridge party was late with submitting an amendment regarding teaching assistants, which was why it could not be accepted but added that an even higher increase in the hourly wage for those assistants would be accepted, to make it amount to HRK 30. The mayor said he hoped next year money for that purpose would be obtained from EU funds.

The city administration will propose the City Assembly a budget in the amount of HRK 15.12 billion, which is 1.1 billion more than the revised budget for 2021.

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