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.

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Friday, 16 April 2021

Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Peđa Grbin Describes Plenković as Obstacle to All Reforms and Change

ZAGREB, 16 April, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin on Friday claimed that the Prime Minister and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) president Andrej Plenković was the "obstacle to all reforms and changes in Croatia."

"Dear Andrej, instead of getting riled up and complaining that the opposition doesn't understand anything, tell us why are you keeping the healthcare reform on the shelf," Grbin sent Plenković a message on his Facebook profile in reaction to the prime minister's claims that while the National Recovery and Resilience Plan was being presented in parliament the opposition showed "its "emptiness, hollowness, a lack of creativity, a lack of information and knowledge," and that Grbin's rating was poor and he was not the leader of the Opposition.

"Your minister, Beroš, yesterday while he wasn't aware that the cameras were recording, admitted what we all know: Andrej Plenković is the obstacle to all reforms and changes in Croatia and the main reason why this country can't move forward," added Grbin.

Grbin posted that  "Andrej Plenković, known as a procrastinator, is a man who is keeping the health reform on the shelf because of the local election while the system is losing dozens of millions of kuna each week and people cannot get medication."

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Thursday, 15 April 2021

Opposition Accuse Government of Trying to Buy Votes From Pensioners and Young People

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - Parliamentary opposition parties on Thursday criticised the government's plan to pay a COVID supplement to pensioners and a tax refund to young people in the run-up to local elections as vote buying.

Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) told reporters in the parliament building that the government "has obviously sorted its priorities to ensure the best possible election result" for the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

"We support a COVID supplement for pensioners, even before elections. I think the Croatian democracy is mature enough and that this will not result in voters voting en masse for the HDZ," Bauk said.

Homeland Movement MP Stjepo Bartulica said that Prime Minister Plenković often expressed his disdain for populists. "I see a great dose of populism in the timing of this measure," he said.

"We are all equal in Croatia, but obviously some groups are more equal than others, especially with elections coming up. In principle, I am not against helping the pensioners, but the way in which the government runs its policies actually increases cynicism in Croatia," Bartulica said.

Bridge's Božo Petrov noted that the government had promised several years ago that the living standards and monthly incomes of pensioners would rise considerably, suggesting that the measures proposed by the government should remain permanent.

Bojan Glavašević of the Green-Left Bloc said that "the pensioners and young people, as vulnerable groups, need systematic rather occasional assistance."

Unlike the opposition, the HDZ's Ivan Ćelić disagreed that this was an attempt at vote buying for local elections. "Let me remind you that a month before elections the (SDP) government of Zoran Milanović gave away electricity vouchers of HRK 200, which can be seen in the same way as the COVID supplement," he said.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Calls for Broadest Possible Consensus on National Recovery Plan

ZAGREB, 14 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday called for "the broadest possible consensus" on his government's National Recovery and Resilience Plan, a document including projects worth more than HRK 49 billion (€6.5bn) in total.

"This is a chance in a generation on which we should reach the broadest possible consensus if we can," Plenković said after presenting the document to lawmakers, rejecting claims by opposition MPs that Croatia was "begging" in the EU.

"We are not begging, but are trying to help Croatia catch up with the countries that have been in the Union longer than us, to be more efficient and faster than we were when the SDP (Social Democratic Party) was in power," the prime minister said in response to questions from SDP MPs.

The SDP's Siniša Hajdaš Dončić said that Croatia, along with Greece, has been allocated the largest amount of money per capita because it is poor. "In the six years of your government, Croatia has become what Kosovo was in the former Yugoslavia," he said.

"We have managed to obtain this amount because we think we need it. This funding will benefit both you and Croatian citizens," Plenković replied.

Željko Reiner of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said: "The opposition obviously have nothing to contribute. Their thinking is reduced to two mantras: we haven't been given a full document and the money will be used for civil servants and not for the private sector."

"All the money will eventually end up in the private sector, either directly or indirectly," Plenković said.

Responding to the remark made by Domagoj Hajduković (SDP) that MPs were discussing a summary of the plan rather than the full document and that this was happening at the last minute, Plenković reiterated that theoretically the government did not have to present the document to Parliament at all. "We have prepared a good document and explained it. We have consulted the social partners and it has passed the parliamentary committees," the prime minister said.

As for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Plenković said that vaccination was necessary in order to bring the present public health care crisis to an end, adding that Croatia had ordered 8.7 million doses of vaccine from different manufacturers.

"We ordered as many doses as we could," Plenković said, stressing that the EU could not have known that there would be so many problems with delivery and reputational problems with some of the vaccines.

Hrvoje Zekanović (Sovereignists) was not pleased with the prime minister's answer. "I don't see why you didn't say that the EU has failed in this regard. It has proved highly inefficient during the corona crisis because there are no vaccines," he said.

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Saturday, 10 April 2021

SDP Candidate For Mayor of Split Says Ustaša Salute Should Be Outlawed

April 10, 2021 - The Social Democratic Party's (SDP) candidate for Mayor of Split, Ante Franić, said on Saturday that "For the Homeland Ready," the salute used by the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime that ruled Croatia during the Second World War, should be outlawed.

"I wish to make it clear that the Ustasha salute 'For the Homeland Ready' should be banned," Franić said in a statement, adding that it should be banned in all contexts, including where attempts are made to legalize it "under the guise of safeguarding the values of the Homeland War."

"We need a clear, legal ban," he stressed.

Franić said that the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)-led government, depending on the need to flirt with the far-right, often shifted the responsibility onto the police and the State Attorney's Office rather than outlaw the use of the Ustasha salute and insignia.

"Prime Minister Plenković, there is no acceptable context for the Ustasha salute. I fully support President Milanović, who leaves venues where this salute is used," Franić said.

Franić stated a press conference, scheduled for today near the monument to the 9th HOS (Croatian Defence Force) Brigade, was canceled for security reasons because it was to be held on 10 April, the day of the proclamation of the Ustasha-ruled Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in 1941. 

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Saturday, 20 March 2021

HSS and SDP to Run Together in May Local Election in Zagreb County

ZAGREB, 20 March 2021 - The Zagreb County branches of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) said on Saturday they would run together in local elections May this year. 

Social Democrat Mihael Zmajlović will run for Zagreb County head, the HSS Zagreb County branch, and the current deputy county head, Hrvoje Frankić, will run for his deputy.

The two coalition candidates strongly criticized current county head Stjepan Kožić, who was elected as an HSS candidate four years ago. In the first year of his term, he left the HSS, formed his own party, and formed a coalition with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

Zmajlović and Frankić promised they would not let such a scenario happen again.

Zmajlović said that voters would say in the May 16 election what they think about Kožić's post-election coalition and shady deals with HDZ members who had ended up as indictees of the USKOK anti-corruption office.

The two candidates said their vision of Zagreb County's development was based on a modern, efficient, and transparent administration guaranteeing development and high living standards, available health and education services, and transport connectivity.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Parliamentary Opposition Critical Of Zagreb Reconstruction Bill

ZAGREB, Sept 2, 2020- Parliamentary opposition parties on Wednesday strongly criticized the Zagreb reconstruction bill and buildings' environs damaged by a March 22 earthquake. 

"The Zagreb reconstruction bill lacks ambition and cements the existing situation. It restores the situation that existed before the earthquake and does not say what Zagreb should like 10 or 20 years from now," said Pedja Grbin of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

"The bill is impracticable. It contains a lot of disputable things," said Anka Mrak Taritas of the Civic Liberal Alliance (GLAS), while Bridge's Marija Selak Raspudic said that it "creates an atmosphere of legal uncertainty" and "bypasses the existing regulations."

Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro raised the question of funding, saying that neither the government nor the City of Zagreb had enough money for the reconstruction.

On the other hand, Ivan Domagoj Milosevic of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that the bill was based on three key pillars: political inclusion, the government adopted more than 25 opposition proposals, transparency, and solidarity.

Some of the MPs protested over the epidemiological measures that were unanimously decided by the Parliament Presidency on Tuesday, under which wearing face masks are mandatory and that not more than 41 MPs can be present in the chamber at the same time.

"I would like to thank the Presidency for decimating the MPs and shortening the duration of speeches," Selak Raspudic said ironically.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic repeated that the Presidency's decision was unanimous and in line with the Rules of Procedure and was meant to ensure the normal functioning of Parliament and prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

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Friday, 21 August 2020

MP Grbin Hands In Candidacy For SDP Leader

ZAGREB, Aug 21, 2020 - SDP parliamentarian Pedja Grbin said on Friday that he had handed in his candidacy for the Social Democratic Party leader with almost 1,400 signatures in support of his presidential bid.

Asked about another two candidates for the SDP presidency, Grbin said that Mirela Ahmetovic is an excellent mayor and Zeljko Kolar is an excellent county prefect and both are serious politicians and SDP members who, after the election could be a part of his team.

Grbin said that SDP's defeat in the 5 July parliamentary elections should serve as a springboard for transforming the party for the better. 

He confirmed that a problem exists regarding party membership and membership fees, because of the 33,000 members of the party only about 6,000 regularly pay membership fees, he said adding that this was because of the membership's disappointment in the party.

The election won't be legitimate if the majority of membership does not vote

I appealed to the leadership and that has brought results and regular paying members now count about 12,000 and I hope there will be more, he said.

He believes that the election will not be legitimate if at least half or a good portion of SDP members would not vote in the intra-party elections set for 26 September.

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Friday, 21 August 2020

Kolar Presents Candidacy For SDP Leader

ZAGREB, Aug 21, 2020 - Krapina-Zagorje County Prefect Zeljko Kolar on Friday presented his candidacy to run for the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) at the internal election, saying that he will advocate a modern Croatia with an efficient judicial system and a functioning market economy.

"My desire to run as a candidate did not come overnight. That was not a spontaneous move but the product of my wish for more than necessary changes in the party," he claimed.

He said that he would develop the SDP as a modern center-left party while overcoming rifts inside the SDP.

Thinking about candidacy for prime minister, not a priority now 

Asked whether he would be a candidate for the prime minister's position, Kolar said that that was not a priority now, however, whoever has the best chance of defeating Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic should be the candidate.

That decision is up to the presidency and main committee, Kolar said, and added that he would be willing to support whoever will be the best option.

Remarking on membership numbers which his opponent Grbin spoke about, Kolar said that it was disastrous that of the 34,000 SDP members only 11,500 pay their membership fees and announced that one of his first steps would be to deal with the issue of membership.

Grbin was a member of the presidency in two terms, he could have dealt with that. I wasn't because I was conducting the duties of county prefect, said Kolar.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Plenkovic, Bernardic: There Will Be No Grand Coalition

ZAGREB, June 30, 2020- HDZ president and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and SDP president and Restart Coalition leader Davor Bernardic said on Monday they did not want a grand coalition after the election and that one of their first moves after it would be the adoption of a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb.

"A grand coalition with the SDP, never," Plenkovic said in their first TV debate on RTL television.

Bernardic said a grand coalition was out of the question "with a party on trial for corruption and whose 11 ministers had to leave the government on suspicion of corruption."

He said that after the July 5 vote Restart could form a coalition with left and centre-left parties, but never with Miroslav Skoro's Homeland Movement, Bridge, or Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic's party.

"A vote for Skoro is obviously a vote for the HDZ," said Bernardic, while Plenkovic said Skoro proved to be a great SDP ally in the presidential election and that he felt centre-right voters would not disperse their votes by voting for Skoro.

Plenkovic asked Bernardic why he would not form a coalition with Bandic, saying he was "his pupil" and that Bandic helped him become the president of the SDP.

Bernardic: HDZ has left Zagreb residents in the lurch; Plenkovic: HDZ has given HRK 1.7 million for reconstruction, you have given nothing

Speaking of the adoption of a Zagreb reconstruction law, Bernardic said Restart would present a bill on Tuesday "because we are responsible and that will be one of our government's first moves."

He said the Plenkovic cabinet left the people of Zagreb in the lurch because they would have no accommodation when winter came, adding that this was irresponsible and should not have happened.

Plenkovic said the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), its MPs and government members had donated HRK 1.7 million for the reconstruction of the capital after the March quake and the SDP (Social Democratic Party) nothing, and that in the revised budget the government set aside HRK 141 million for intervention works on damaged buildings.

He added that the state was paying rent for all who could not stay in their flats after the quake and that the government was paying HRK 3 million for the expenses of those temporarily accommodated in a student dorm. "The bill is ready and it will be the first our next parliament will enact."

Bernardic: Ustasha salute should be outlawed

Speaking of the "For the homeland ready" salute, Bernardic said it should be banned by law also in the coat of arms of the HOS militia from the 1991-95 Homeland War. He said the salute suited Serbia and those using it against Croatia. "There is no place for the Ustasha salute in the public sphere."

Plenkovic said a former SDP government legalised the salute in the coat of arms of a Zagreb HOS association, adding that he was personally against it. "It has no place in the public sphere, except in small exemptions which we have done out of respect for Croatian war veterans."

Speaking of the education reform, Bernardic said Restart's goal was to educate children for the labour market, improve PISA test results, and introduce civic education.

Plenkovic said the education reform was launched during the incumbent government which, he added, aligned education with labour market requirements and increased the Science and Education Ministry budget by over 30%.

Plenkovic: Bernardic has shown a lack of knowledge about European topics

Speaking of Croatia's EU presidency, Bernardic said Croatia "slept through it" and that it did not raise the issue of the novel coronavirus or migrants. "We did absolutely nothing during the Croatian presidency."

Plenkovic said Bernardic had shown a lack of knowledge about those topics and that the Croatian presidency had ensured an orderly Brexit and agreed on a mandate for negotiations on future EU-UK relations, among other things, and that Bernardic had never shown the slightest interest in European topics.

Coronavirus response

Speaking of COVID-19, Bernardic said Croatia did not procure the necessary equipment in time and that it was doing too few tests, calling the national response team a political body whose decisions encroached on some constitutional rights.

"You haven't taken any responsibility for the deaths of 20 residents of the (care) home in Split. The lockdown was imposed after elections in the HDZ... You endangered citizens' health then and you are doing the same thing now," said Bernardic.

"Thanks to our engagement, we have not only saved lives and the economy, but we were also the first in the EU to launch a COVID response mechanism, we protected hospitals. In Europe, the virus has claimed most lives in homes for the elderly. Our achievement is that we've had only 107 deaths," Plenkovic responded.

Bernardic: You pushed Croatia into an election; Plenkovic: We wish to have a stable government by autumn

Plenkovic said experts were predicting a second COVID-19 wave in the autumn and that he wished to have a stable new government by then.

Bernardic said Plenkovic had pushed Croatia into a parliamentary election despite a rise in new infections, that he was opening the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina only so that HDZ sympathisers could come to Croatia to vote, and that by refusing to self-isolate after a recent tennis tournament in Zadar, Plenkovic was putting the tourist season at risk.

"Hungary and Slovenia will close their borders. (Their tourists) won't be coming to (our) sea because they will have to self-isolate (upon returning) home," said Bernardic.

He went on to say that if his coalition came to power, it would adopt a moratorium on loan payments because this government, he added, had failed to so, siding with banks. "We have sent a proposal for a shorter work week because of the EU's SURE programme."

"I'm flabbergasted that you want to be prime minister, you know nothing," responded Plenkovic. "The EU Next Generation is a new instrument. My government in October 2016 encountered 9% of contracted funds, 1% paid out. Today we have 96% agreed and 36% paid out. We are fighting to get another €22 billion in the next seven years. I hope such ignorance won't have the opportunity to represent Croatia in the EU. I'm disappointed, you could have prepared, it saddens me."

Bernardic: Who believes you?

Asked about the minimum wage, which amounts to HRK 3,250, Plenkovic said that during the SDP government it went up to HR 250 and during his 750.

"Before COVID, the public debt was reduced to 73% of GDP. It used to be 81%. We are trying to make the quality of life better for everyone. Croatian citizens live better than four years ago," he said, adding that his government had relieved citizens and businesses of HRK 9 billion in taxes.

"Who believes you? Investors don't believe you. We have fallen on the Doing Business ranking. You have collected HRK 15 billion more in taxes, yet you talk about relief. Entrepreneurs are burdened," countered Bernardic.

He said that after the election he would reduce the number of ministries and abolish the State Assets Ministry, calling it a made-up ministry. "Our goal is a smaller state administration, fewer municipalities and towns, and tax relief. Plenkovic and the HDZ had four years, yet they didn't do it."

Plenkovic too announced fewer ministries, saying he would say how many after winning the election.

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