Wednesday, 20 May 2020

SDP Chief: After Election Victory, Ten-Year Revitalisation of Slavonia and Baranja

ZAGREB, May 20, 2020 - Social Democratic Party leader Davor Bernardic said on Wednesday that after the election victory of the SDP-led coalition, ten years of revitalizing Slavonia and Baranja would ensue.

"The people here do not deserve to live in poverty. Our task, through the Slavonia 2030 program is to revitalize Slavonia and Baranja in ten years, to increase agricultural productivity twofold, to ensure subsidies for the smallest. To ensure so that they can place their goods and not be racketeered by retail chains and to boost industry," Bernardic said in Vukovar during his election trail.

To show that that is possible, Bernardic pointed out the example of Nova Gradiska Mayor, Vinko Grgic of the SDP who, as he said, had provided the town with investments valued at HRK 2.5 billion.

"Nova Gradiska is becoming a leader in Slavonia and people elected Grgic not because he is good looking and capable but because they decided to vote for themselves," Bernardic underlined.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Restart Coalition Says It Is Team for Defending Croatia from HDZ

ZAGREB, May 9, 2020 - Leaders of five opposition parties on Saturday presented the Restart Coalition in which they will run in the coming parliamentary election, announcing a new start for Croatia and the defence of the country against the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

The Restart Coalition comprises the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Davor Bernardić, the Croatian People's Party (HSS) of Krešo Beljak, the Croatian Pensioner's Party (HSU) of Silvano Hrelja, the Civil and Liberal Alliance (GLAS) headed by Anka Mrak Taritaš, and the Civil Activism Party (SNAGA) of Goran Aleksić.

"Croatia needs a restart more than ever, a new beginning on sound foundations, this time without corruption, justly, not with cronyism, with competent ones, not parasites. Our name is our programme, a complete restart of Croatia," Bernardić said at a press conference.

He said people were hopeless and that over a million lived on the brink of poverty.

"Due to numerous scandals and debts, healthcare is facing a total collapse, the education reform is non-existent, the security system is lagging, the state apparatus is overstaffed and doesn't fulfil its purpose. The situation in the judiciary has never been worse. Corruption has seeped into every pore of our society," said Bernardić.

"More than half the government had to go due to suspicion of corruption and it is still in power thanks to political corruption, to the buying of members of parliament, which has destroyed people's faith in the system and institutions," he added.

Bernardić said that when they came to power they would reduce the number of ministries, towns and municipalities as well as the inefficient state administration, and digitise the country and all public services and processes so that the state administration was as close to citizens as possible, but without corruption.

"We will fight corruption by all means, changing laws, making punishment stricter as well as reforming the judiciary, education and healthcare," he said, adding that they would release Croatia's huge potential, boosting industry and exports, relaxing the tax burden on labour and stimulating investment.

"We believe in a new policy, a policy of honesty, courage and trust, a policy and a government which works for citizens, not for itself. We don't want to just turn over a new leaf in our history but write a completely new book, building a strong country," Bernardić said, announcing a new start for Croatia with no more lies, corruption, betrayal and deceit.

He said that in the Restart Coalition they were not distributing positions but concentrating on the platform and a fundamental agreement on jointly running in the election and restarting Croatia "so that Croatia can have a shot at success and the children being born today a shot at a better life."

Bernardić said slates would be discussed when coronavirus restrictions were lifted and election rallies possible. The candidate for prime minister will be the president of the biggest coalition party and the party which wins the most votes, he added.

Beljak said Croatia had needed a new start long before the current crisis and that this crisis had brought to light all of Croatia's problems. "Our coalition has enough know-how, experience, quality and political battles behind it to be able to finally get Croatia started."

Beljak said the HDZ had brought Croatia to the brink of destruction and that it should be opposed. We are the new start, he added.

Mrak Taritaš said the coalition represented a team for the defence of Croatia from the HDZ. "When Croatia had to be pulled out of the biggest crises and abysses the HDZ threw Croatia into, we were the ones who brought our country back to the right path, the path of development, recovery and a functioning state."

She said it was no coincidence that the coalition was formed on Victory Day and Europe Day because this symbolised the Croatia they wanted. Croatia can and deserves to be a country which is not chained by the corruption and incompetence with which the incumbent government is keeping it at the bottom, she added.

Hrelja said Croatia was barely surviving today and that this did not bode for a good and bright future. His party's focus as part of the Restart Coalition will remain on the pension and healthcare systems as well as labour, he added.

Aleksić said he was confident the coalition would take responsibility for Croatia in the coming parliamentary election because it deserved to given its track record in parliament.

The coalition is talking with many county and municipal heads as well as mayors and regional parties such as the PGS and the IDS. Next week it will sign an agreement with Bjelovar-Bilogora County head Damir Bajs.

More elections news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 1 May 2020

SDP to Run Together with HSS, HSU and SNAGA

ZAGREB, May 1, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) vice president Rajko Ostojić said on Thursday the SDP was ready for the forthcoming parliamentary election, adding that it would run in a coalition with the Peasant Party (HSS), the Pensioners' Party (HSU) and the Party of People's and Civic Activism (SNAGA).

"The SDP is ready for the election, In January and February we travelled through half of the country with our programme, The SDP has its programme, its team and its coalition," Ostojić told the press after a session of the party presidency.

He said the party presidency had unanimously supported the coalition with the HSS, the HSU and SNAGA, adding that the coalition agreement would be signed Monday.

Asked to comment on HSS leader Krešo Beljak's statement that the HSS had not ruled out the possibility of running alone in the election, Ostojić said Beljak would be at the signing on Monday.

SDP presidency member and Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan said European countries had postponed elections indefinitely as they believed it was too risky to hold them during the present pandemic.

Ostojić also said that next week the SDP would send to parliament a bill against corona profiteering, adding that the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was always leaving the same three things behind - isolation, recession and depression.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Bernardić Says Croatia Needs "Full Restart"

ZAGREB, April 29, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić said on Wednesday that Croatia now needed "a full restart", as the country simply must change itself.

"We are today aware that the things that mattered three months ago are no longer valid, we are aware of that the huge state administration is of no use for Croatia," Bernardić said among other things, after he laid a wreath at the grave of the SDP leader Ivica Račan on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of Račan's death.

Commenting on the current situation, Bernardić said that the coronavirus would go away, and the problems would remain the same.

In this context he called for "a full restart" of Croatia which had to change itself.

We cannot live off tourism and the consumption of imported products. Croatia must be fully digitised and increase local production and capacities, the SDP chief said.

He praised Račan for having been the most successful prime minister of Croatia underscoring that during the term of his government from 2000 to 2004, Croatia's cumulative growth was almost 20%, with growth rates higher than, for instance, in Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia.

Bernardić said that during Račan's premiership, state-of-the-art motorways were built in Croatia and wages and pensions increased by more than 50%.

Račan, who was born on 24 February 1944 in Ebersbach, Germany, died in Zagreb on 29 April 2007, having retired from politics due to a grave illness.

After Račan's death, Zoran Milanović was elected as the SDP president in June that year beating his rivals Željka Antunović, Milan Bandić and Tonino Picula.

After losing the 2015 parliamentary election Milanović stepped down as the party leader and was succeeded by Bernardić.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

HDZ Putting Own Interests Be Public Health, Says Opposition MP

ZAGREB, April 28, 2020 - The deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Rajko Ostojić, on Tuesday called out the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for putting its own interests before those of the state and citizens, accusing ministers of not making decisions, avoiding responsibility and hiding behind the national coronavirus crisis management team.

"HDZ has for the one hundredth time put its own interests before those of the state, the health of our citizens, economic health and even the interests of the European Union," Ostojić told a press conference.

"For HDZ, the election is the key to everything," he underscored and added that the same thing happened on March 15 when the internal party election was more important that the interest of the state because immediately the next day quarantine measures were introduced and not before like in neighbouring Slovenia and other countries in central Europe.

He mentioned that the key measures introduced were banning employment and public procurement.

"Yet, HDZ violated its own recommendations," Ostojić said, citing the example of the Inspector-General who should be concerned with matters related to the coronavirus yet he employed a member of his family.

Ostojić said that the ban on Sunday trading was unprecedented and that it was the result of HDZ pandering to the conservative right. He added that there was no expert or scientific proof that the ban on Sunday trading could be connected with the coronavirus.

Ostojić said that the situation in the retirement home in Split where the disease spread but no one was held to account was also unheard of and that SDP had called for the responsible person to be identified.

He recalled that Health Minister Vili Beroš had at the time very clearly said that increased temperatures and infections in the retirement home, which had gone on for about ten days, were the cause of the COVID-19 infection and underscored that if that was confirmed it should be sufficient reason for someone's resignation.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

SDP Proposes Reduction of Para-Fiscal Levies

ZAGREB, April 26 2020 - The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Sunday presented measures designed to reduce para-fiscal levies from the register of non-tax contributions.

Presenting the new measures, Social Democrat MP Boris Lalovac and the head of the party's board of advisors on finances and the state budget, Danijel Ferić, said that the most frequent problems encountered by entrepreneurs and citizens were the amount of para-fiscal levies, the fact that they do not get anything in return, the way para-fiscal levies are collected, and the constant changes in the amount of para-fiscal levies.

Ferić said that the government had not done anything since 2016 to update the register of non-tax levies, which was why the SDP proposed, in order to help make savings, that the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts reduce their membership fees by 50%.

The party also proposes, among other things, that local tourist boards lower their membership fees by 50% and that the water management contribution be lowered by 40%.

These measures, the two SDP officials said, would help reduce the non-tax burden in the amount of 0.2% of GDP.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

SDP Says HDZ Currying Favour with Far-Right, Conservative Voters

ZAGREB, April 25, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Saturday presented measures designed to help the farm sector in the current coronavirus pandemic, describing the decision to ban Sunday work for shops as an attempt by the HDZ "to improve its rating and curry favour with the far-right and conservative electorate."

"The question is whether the virus spreads differently and is more dangerous on Sundays than on other days or if the decision by the national civil protection authority is motivated by reasons... of a political nature. It is clear that this is being done with the aim of improving the HDZ's approval ratings and currying favour with the far-right and conservative electorate. The SDP will no longer unconditionally support what the government is doing. This has gone too far," MP Peđa Grbin of the largest opposition party said.

Under the government decision, as of Monday, shops will be working normally, apart from those in shopping malls, the exception being food stores and stores with hygiene products, while stores other than those selling food, bakeries and shops that are part of petrol stations will not be allowed to work on Sundays.

This decision was also criticised today by the non-parliamentary Pametno party, which said that it marked the beginning of an election campaign and compromised the reputation of the national civil protection authority.

The SDP also considers as problematic the fact that kindergartens and schools are among the last institutions to be reopened.

"Cafes and Masses are more important to them, and nobody has raised the question of where parents who have to go back to work on Monday will leave their children," said Grbin, recalling that his party had asked for at least one parent to be allowed to go on paid leave to care for their children, however, its proposal was turned down.

Grbin said that the Constitutional Court had already twice quashed decisions banning Sunday work for shops and that a similar thing would happen again.

He announced that his party would ask the Constitutional Court to assess if changes to the Act on the Protection of the Population Against Infectious Diseases were in line with the Constitution, which, he said, would provide an opportunity for the court to state its position on all measures introduced by the national civil protection authority, which manages the current coronavirus epidemic.

The SDP's measures to help the farm sector were presented by Sebastijan Svat of the SDP Agriculture Council, who said that the party proposed allocating an additional 20% of budget funds to pay the full amount of farm incentives by May 1 at the latest, as well as the intervention purchase of flower seedlings and surplus vegetables. The party also proposes exempting family-owned farms worth less than €150,000 from the payment of lease on state-owned farmland in 2020, as well as lowering the VAT rate on farming production materials from 13% to 5%.

"This will help farmers, notably small and medium-sized ones, in coping with the crisis. The epidemic has shown that agriculture should be a strategic sector, which it currently is not," Svat said.

SDP Economy Council chair Josip Tica commented on media reports that due to irregularities found in green farming, Croatia has to pay back 98% of EU incentives for green farming or around three billion kuna allocated to it in the last three years.

"The system of farm incentives and regulations on farming have been in a state of neglect and are not functioning. HRK 3 billion is a huge amount of money in the current situation. That shows how much the government has failed in that regard and to what extent the sector has been neglected," said Tica.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

SDP Unveils 10-Measure Package to Help Citizens Worst Hit by Coronavirus

ZAGREB, April 5, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić on Sunday presented a 1.7-billion-kuna rescue package designed by this Opposition party to help those citizens who are hardest hit by the crisis caused by the COVID 19 epidemic.

At the start of the news conference in Zagreb, the SDP chief recalled that due to the crisis 400,000 jobs in the country are at risk, and furthermore 20,000 workers have been already fired, while 37,000 persons registered by the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ) receive the monthly dole of HRK 2,600, while more than 100,000 unemployed persons are without any social welfare allowance.

Commenting on the hardship which those citizens with blocked accounts and citizens with monthly income below the poverty threshold are experiencing, Bernardić said that the 10-measure package was intended for those out of work, social welfare recipients, pension recipients and for all "who can barely make ends meet".

Under the SDP package, 20,000 people who are now out of work due to the corona crisis would be entitled to the monthly allowance of HRK 4,000.

Those 100,000 unemployed persons who he said could not find employment due to the crisis would be entitled to the monthly allowance of HRK 1,625.

Commenting on the troubles bothering 5,500 permanent seasonal workers, Bernardić said that the SDP set of measures would provide for 3,250 kuna every month to them plus social welfare benefits to which some of them are entitled.

Bernardić said the SDP would enable 750 kuna as a supplement to each pensioner with the monthly income up to 1,939 kuna.

He said that those measures encompassed 400,000 citizens.

The SDP also proposes that pensioners with low incomes should be exempt from paying monthly TV fee.

The SDP is in favour of suspension of enforcement, the party leader said, among other things.

He reiterated that this party would insist on a year-long moratorium on repayment of loans unlike the government's proposal for a three-month-long moratorium.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 30 March 2020

SDP Calls for Parliament to Sit Mon-Fri for Duration of Epidemic

ZAGREB, March 30, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) wants parliament not to stop sitting for as long as the coronavirus epidemic lasts, recommending that parliament should sit from Monday to Friday and not from Wednesday to Friday as is now the case.

The chairman of the SDP's parliamentary group, Arsen Bauk, sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Monday calling for the current sitting to continue until 3 April as previously scheduled and that during that time the Sabor should sit every working day.

There are still 81 items on the agenda that have not been discussed yet, and the SDP forwarded a package of nine bills to parliament on March 27 aimed at supporting the economy during the crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic and which the party believes should be debated as soon as possible at a plenary session.

The strongest opposition party also proposed that at the meeting of the Sabor's presidency, scheduled for 1 April, a decision be adopted according to which the agenda would prioritise items related to relieving the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus epidemic.

The SDP further suggested that the number of lawmakers allowed to be present at the same time during a plenary session be determined using the same criteria as when determining the number of MPs per parliamentary group who can ask questions during Question Time and that the parliament's working bodies and presidency meetings be held via video conference due to the extraordinary circumstances.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

SDP: MPs, State Officials Should Work for Minimum Wage for 3 Months

ZAGREB, March 21, 2020 - The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) requested on Saturday that MPs and other state officials, except Health Minister Vili Beroš, work for a minimum wage for the next three months in solidarity with the many citizens being affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The amount saved should go to businesses so they can keep jobs and pay a minimum wage to those most vulnerable.

"We need every kuna for the socially vulnerable, the sick, the functioning of healthcare and the payment of pensions, for helping the shaken economy," SDP president Davor Bernardić said.

He proposed that part of the money be allocated as bonuses to doctors, nurses and other hospital staff "who treat citizens from this disease."

Bernardić said that ten days ago the SDP proposed more rigorous protection measures and presented 15 measures to cushion the fallout on citizens and the economy.

He said that although the government adopted some of those measures, implementation was late. "Citizens and entrepreneurs still don't know what to do... many people are losing their jobs, incomes for their families."

Bernardić again warned about those using the crisis to raise the prices of food and medical equipment, appealing to the authorities to immediately start dealing with that.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Politics section.

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