Saturday, 7 March 2020

Bernardić Denies He is Discriminating Against Women

ZAGREB, March 7, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić said on Saturday that he was not discriminating against anyone, least of all women, and that his statement about the party's coordinators for the forthcoming elections was misinterpreted.

He was responding to negative comments triggered by his statement in an interview with Hina that there were no women among the SDP coordinators for the forthcoming elections because it was no time for experimentation and this work should be done by "proven operatives on the ground."

"These days we can see some trying to accuse me and the SDP of discrimination against women. I can see that some have tried to misinterpret my statements today as well. My statement may have been awkward, but that doesn't mean I'm not aware of women's contribution to the SDP, to the campaign, and how responsibly and hard they work on the ground," Bernardić said on his Facebook page.

By suggesting a zipped nominations model, with women and men candidates alternating in terms of their placement on the election list, "I wanted to show that I value and respect their work, and I will show that again in putting together lists for the forthcoming elections. I am not discriminating against anyone, least of all women, because women will continue to have my absolute support as they have so far. For me, more women in politics means better, more responsible and more honest politics, which also means a better Croatia."

He said he was proud and happy that all SDP lists for the Croatian parliament would have 50 percent of women and 50 percent of men, which in turn would ensure the equal number of women and men in politics.

"I call on other parties to follow our path. It doesn't cost any money, but it does cost a lot of effort, and a few bruised male egos. My message to those who are attacking me is that I will take a step further in expanding women's rights in the party by introducing a parity in elections for party bodies. Our task is to build gender equality into the foundations of our society," Bernardić said.

He concluded his post by wishing all women a happy Women's Day, marked on 8 March.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

SDP Unveils Main Guidelines of Its Election Platform

ZAGREB, February 23, 2020 - Croatia's strongest opposition party, the Social Democrats (SDP), on Friday unveiled the main guidelines of their platform for the next parliamentary election, due in the autumn, saying that the party was seeking to secure order and stability.

Addressing party members and sympathisers in Koprivnica, 100 km northeast of Zagreb, SDP leader Davor Bernardić said that Croatia is currently ruled by corruption, there is a lack of trust in the institutions of the state, the ruling parties are unable to muster a majority in parliament, and the country is left without its chief state attorney.

"That's why the SDP seeks to secure order and stability through its programme. We will address judicial reform and the need to increase wages and pensions because a million people cannot live in dignity on the wages and pensions they currently receive. We want to provide subsidised rental housing for young people because we know that most of them are uncreditworthy and that's why we want to help them solve their housing problems so that they would stay in Croatia," Bernardić said.

He said that the SDP would need partners to win the election, adding that they would negotiate with two parties of pensioners, the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), the Civic Liberal Alliance (GLAS) of Anka Mrak-Taritaš, the Istrian Party (IDS) and all others with which they shared the same values.

Koprivnica mayor Mišel Jakšić, seen as one of the most successful SDP mayors in the country, said that he had just returned from Israel, "a country that has turned its desert territory into fertile land, while we can see our country, which is rich in natural resources, turning into a desert in many areas."

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Bernardić: SDP to Restore Trust in State Institutions

ZAGREB, February 22, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić said on Saturday that his party would form the government after the next parliamentary election, deal with the current "chaos" in society and restore trust in state institutions as well as hope.

Bernardić said this at an event at which he and the head of the SDP branch in Zagreb, Gordan Maras, presented party membership cards to about 100 new party members.

Also presented were the Zagreb SDP branch's draft local policies for the period from 2020 to 2030, called "Zagreb - A smart city".

SDP member Davorka Moslavac Forjan said the local SDP branch advocated a city that would be transparent, inclusive, digitalised, a city of good living and more green areas.

"Andrej Plenković and Milan Bandić are the father and mother of political corruption in Croatia. Croatia and Zagreb need a change. Zagreb must not be a problem city. Zagreb's residents pay the highest utility bills in Europe and are drowning in garbage. Zagreb is a city of false promises and failed projects," said Bernardić, adding that the city should be an engine of the country's development.

Maras said that the SDP was a leader of change in Zagreb and that it would give Zagreb back to its residents.

He said that a grand coalition between the SDP and the HDZ was impossible. "I consider a coalition with the HDZ not only repulsive, I can't even imagine it," Maras said when asked by reporters to comment on Minister of the Interior and HDZ member Davor Božinović's ruling out a grand coalition with the SDP.

Maras added that the HDZ had to purge itself from its coalition with Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić and his party.

Asked about the SDP's position on Sunday work, Maras said that one could not ban Sunday work as police, public services and hospitals work on Sundays.

He believes that Sunday work should be adequately remunerated and that remuneration should be such to discourage those who work on Sundays just for the sake of profit.

He added that the SDP would present its proposals on Sunday work.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Bernardić: Big Potential for SDP-IDS Cooperation

ZAGREB, February 15, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) president Davor Bernardić said on Saturday there was big potential for cooperation with the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) in the next parliamentary election, adding that the SDP would "lead the winning coalition."

"There is potential for cooperation with the IDS because we cooperated well in the past. But we are talking with all parties with which we share the same world view, and what is certain is that the SDP will lead the winning coalition which will bring much needed change in our country," Bernardić said in Pazin, where he attended a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the IDS.

He added that the SDP was already talking with parties with which it shared the values of freedom, solidarity, anti-fascism and anti-corruption. "We will strongly insist on our programme to fight corruption and for judicial reform."

IDS president Boris Miletić said the successes of Istria County and the IDS surpassed the party and that they reflected the spirit of the local people. He said the IDS was a regional "avant-garde (party) different from others."

"We secured bilingualism, talked about a faraway Europe and advocated the then unpopular notions of anti-fascism, coexistence, multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism," he said, adding that the IDS was alone in fighting for those values in the 1990s, yet now they are part of Croatia's legislation.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by President-elect Zoran Milanović, the leaders of the parties the IDS cooperates with as part of the Amsterdam Coalition, and Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe to which the IDS belongs.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Prominent Croatian Scientist: How We Can Destroy HDZ and SDP

The author of the following text, prof. Dr. Boris Podobnik, Vice-Dean for Science and Head of Business Analytics at ZSEM, is one of the most cited Croatian scientists. This prominent Croatian scientist is also a professor of physics at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the University of Rijeka. He is an expert in interdisciplinary science, network theory, game theory, migration and corruption.

As Index/prof. Dr. Boris Podobnik writes on the 10th of February, 2020, a number of Croats are delighted when HDZ loses the elections and is replaced by SDP, and a similar number of Croats look forward to anything of the opposite. If one looks at how Croatia's GDP has changed with who was in power, it can be seen that Croatia sank steadily regardless of which of the two parties headed the country.

For some, personal worldview may mean something to them, whether they watch reports about Bleiburg or Tito, but there are those among us, both leftists and right-wingers, and those who are somewhere in between, for whom arguments over Tito and Bleiburg are far more important than whether we're among the more successful or worst countries in EU will ever be. If either of these parties must continue to rule, is there any chance of them being forced to change?

The prominent Croatian scientist then goes on to showcase just how the Croatian public can finally manage to rid itself of the chains of both HDZ and SDP.

 

1. Encouraging private enterprise, economic freedom and innovation throughout society

The main reason for Croatia's undeniable decline - more precisely the setbacks and lagging when compared to other countries - is that the whole world is in the mode of capitalism and private enterprise, and our SDP and HDZ governments are building policies that favour the public and state sectors, as if there were still communist regimes in the world (read Europe). Preferring the public sector to the private sector in the face of globalisation and private enterprise is as smart a choice as, for example, insisting on tango dancing because you're a passionate Latino lover - while the orchestra plays the waltz.

And that is exactly how the Croatian economy is. A shaky state that is forcing the public sector, with its high levels of corruption and stifling private initiative, to be doomed to fail, again, because the world is in the mode of capitalism.

Of course, there are thriving public sectors in the world, but only in societies with a low tolerance for corruption, such as the developed Western democracies, especially the Nordic countries or in Asia, in Singapore. In these countries, the public sector is also based on the principles of the private sector: good workers and professionals are valued, and wages are at least partly linked to work performance. This is not necessarily in conflict with the existence of a union; in the Swedish public sector, unions negotiate wages, but in a completely decentralised manner. This means that the salaries of the professors are not decided by the union pharaohs, but are negotiated at the national, regional and educational levels.

This allows good professors to directly choose better pay and better working conditions. But this level of civilisation is science-fiction for both Croatian politicians and for Croatian trade unionists. Who will organise such key economic institutions that will be resistant to elections and blackmail on both sides? It's clear to us that wherever HDZ or SDP are, the grass doesn't grow when it comes to quality staff. It happens, but rarely. And when it does, these people are drowned in a sea of ​​fools with certain Croatian party memberships.

I can say to my friends that Chinese Communists would be happy to follow and develop Mao Tse-Tung Communism, but they realised that introducing a free market and copying the West, especially America, was a necessary prerequisite for faster economic growth, convergence towards the West, and keeping up with it.

Unfortunately, what the Chinese Communists managed to understand is not understood by the Croatian leftists, nor is it by the right-wingers, because they love the public sector and uhljebism more than their wives (or husbands). On the contrary, they would constantly expand the public sector because that is what membership is looking for, and it is precisely the membership that chooses the president of the party.

Our platform, more precisely the Third Way, must insist on economic freedoms and private enterprise, not on state intervention, because there are currently too many non-experts and economic analfabets in the state apparatus, who lead firms which only know how to accumulate losses and ultimately lead the state to ruin. If we don't alter, the Greek scenario is inevitable - it's only a matter of time. It is true that the Greeks didn't have King Tomislav and Prince Domagoj, but they did give Aristotle, Archimedes, and a plethora of minds who created our civilisation, but these minds didn't leave Greece with generations of people who would prevent the Greek economic collapse. So let us try.

2. Replacing party staff with professionals

In connection with the first objective, the deregulation of the state and economic freedoms, unlike the party duopoly, we must demand that state-owned firms and agencies be run not by party people, but by the best personnel to be found either in Croatia or abroad.

There is nothing more stupid than when you hear from the mouths of HDZ or SDP politicians that they're setting up their people to do the job because that's a prerequisite for running the business well. Why does the head of SDP and the head of the water supply and sewer system need to be someone who is left-wing? Because the faeces wouldn't flow properly if the company wasn't headed by a left-leaning person, a man of a particular worldview? These jokers are Croatian politicians.

Croatia Airlines has been failing for years because they're politically fit rather than actually capable. I experience a mild stroke every time I see that our national airline has astronomical losses in a country visited by 20 million tourists each year! Well, did everyone arrive on horses, on camels, or did they just arrive on foot? We, as a platform, must insist that state-owned companies have the most capable of candidates, be they Croats, Finns or Swedes, and regardless of their political orientation.

They clearly must then have higher salaries than the prime minister because the prime minister is a political function, in contrast to heads of state-owned firms who must be professionals. Then the Croatian prime minister must grumble that he has a lower salary than the heads of state-owned firms, but that shouldn't be a problem for him if he's truly patriotic and uncorrupted.

It is better for any of our state-owned companies to have a foreign professional at the head than someone who speaks excellent Croatian but is absolutely nothing of an expert in the field. Language is not important for running a state-owned company because the only thing that matters is that the state-owned company doesn't accumulate losses. If state-owned firms generally don't accumulate losses, the state as a whole will not follow the Greek scenario, and this scenario is likely if the firms are led by the HDZ-SDP duopoly.

Contrary to what the new president Milanovic thinks, former Prime Minister Oreskovic (at least in my opinion) was the most capable prime minister because, although he did not speak brilliant Croatian, he didn't allow for any uhljebljivanje, which is why they hated him in HDZ and in SDP as well. So, I take my hat off to him.

3. Improving the position of the private sector versus the public and the state

In Croatia, you often hear, especially from the heads of public sector unions, that "salaries in public services are lagging behind salaries in the private sector". This is total nonsense and a misunderstanding of the economy, and in economics and finance, what is riskier has to bear a higher yield, and so stocks in an unpredictable market are riskier than government bonds, and they therefore have to bear a higher yield.

If jobs in the private sector are much riskier than jobs in public services, and they are because let's say it's easier to lose your job and the work is more stressful, then salaries in the private sector must necessarily be higher than salaries in public services, which I wrote about in a scientific paper article with my colleague Vukovic. In feudalism, the peasants were serfs, and if one rebelled for example because they eat less frequently than the feudal lords, then he'd be dismembered or decapitated.

But today, when feudalism is no longer in effect, that layer of society is no longer obliged to serve on a specific part of the land owned by feudal lords, and disenfranchised private-sector workers are allowed to go west, where it's better for them.

Public sector workers can claim greater rights, often rights that those in the private sector can only dream of, but there are fewer and fewer private sector workers who should be guaranteed these rights because, owing to such things, private sector workers are increasingly leaving their jobs and heading to the West, where not only do they have higher wages, but indeed more rights, and this is not negligible for workers.

If we don't work on a significant increase in wages in the private sector, people will constantly be fleeing to the west. Today in the EU, patriotism is out of fashion and when it's out of fashion, why live in Croatia as a worker? It's nice to go to Germany or Austria because you can live there in a more dignified and better way.

To stop people leaving to go to the West, the Third Way platform must educate the public that wages in the private sector must be higher than in the public sector.

I don't see massive transitions from the public to the private sector, but I know quite a few people in the private sector who would be happy to settle for the public sector. That the private sector is at greater risk is economic nonsense and must change, otherwise we will just experience an unprecedented exodus of people from the private sector.

4. Radical reforms that will transform Croatia into Switzerland, not Moldova

Radical economic and social reforms must be sought because talking about becoming Switzerland or one of the richest EU countries, as they know so well how to do during election campaigns, without actually carrying out serious reforms - only economically illiterate person can suggest.

A successful society like that of the Swiss is a well-placed pyramid where if you're smarter and more successful, the higher up you are. In Croatia, thanks to corruption and nepotism, only the stupid and the incompetent are at the very top. There is absolutely nothing worse for an employee than his superior being completely ignorant or even a notorious idiot. Unfortunately for Croatia, in the past decades, thanks to HDZ and SDP to a greater extent, the state apparatus has accumulated a sea of ​​incompetent party cadres who couldn't get a fair job through the proper process, but only with the help of a party membership card or because of nepotism.

On the contrary, there is also nepotism in the form of political strife, which is also seen in the emergence of young politicians who ascend into parties and any state legal and political bodies simply because they are someone's spouse, son or daughter, uncle or cousin, or son or daughter-in-law.

As both major parties base their political activities on uhljebljivanje, it just doesn't occur to them to reduce the number of uhljebs, because uhljebs and those who are about to become uhljebs are their members, and it determines not only the party president, but also the prime minister.

If the country has that thirty-year title of ''uhljeb capital'' then how can we expect to reach the level of Switzerland, Singapore or some other civilised country with a bunch of unnecessary people in the state apparatus? Clearly, the incompetent and the corrupt cannot be monitored, they're so incompetent that they cannot even be repaired because they're the cancer of society, and in medicine - that means surgical removal.

True, we're not doctors, and the state is not a human body, so we approach the malignant tumor of society as surgeons who also cut the surrounding healthy tissue "just in case," but what we can and must do is "cut off," say, 30 percent of the worst.

5. A corrupt state prefers inclined quasi-entrepreneurs and punishes the capable ones

In a democracy, you get power if you have a majority, and there aren't enough HDZ and SDP members enough to constitute a government. On top of that, there isn't enough money for everyone to live well.

First, these people get who I call "dreamers of corruption" on their side, which are those who don't benefit from corruption because they're not in a corrupt quagmire, but would be happy to be in one if given the opportunity. They're often not enough to make up a majority either, so the corrupt authorities are constantly attracting quasi-entrepreneurs, giving them jobs within the state. Such quasi-entrepreneurs survive on the market mainly through business with the state, and thus become advocates of the status quo because they fear change.

Both the left and the right have their "own" entrepreneurs, but the right probably has more of them. Quasi-entrepreneurs, those who, for example, don't pay their workers, enter the ruling party smoothly, so that the government, or the state, helps them with pre-bankruptcy settlements, or tax exemptions. In doing so, the corrupt state constantly wants to increase the number of such dependent businesses, and it wants to increase them in such a way as to assimilate them like Star Trek's Borg, making it difficult for honest businesses to do business.

Eventually what happens is that honest businessmen die out and go extinct and the only ones who remain are the ones the left-wingers rightly call exploiters. These are individuals for whom workers are slaves to harass, threaten, and not pay.

But the problem for leftists is that they don't see the iron boot of the state, which makes the business climate unfavourable to free enterprise. When businesses are small, there are very few new jobs and few job choices for workers. The worker is not, then, a "sought commodity" and therefore cannot negotiate for a higher salary and choose employers so that he goes to the one who gives him better pay and working conditions. Even worse is when the private sector starts hiring people the party key - when the duopoly gives jobs to the private sector, then in turn, they ask them to hire a relative or party-mate and put them in a high position. This only exists with huge firms.

This is an advanced economic metastasis that needs radical therapy. Therapy is certainly not some new stud of "professional overseers of corruption", but a drastic reduction in state influence in all walks of life of citizens. A tumor is not treated with chamomile, a tumor is ripped out.

But if both SDP and HDZ have amassed a large number of people on their side, how can we, the minority that wants to create a ''Switzerland'', make a change? If they're prone to radical change by the minority, is there any chance of change? Yes, because fortunately HDZ and SDP don't like each other despite their enormous level of similarity and therefore need smaller parties for power. If we, as a bloc, collect at least ten percent of the assembly, those who don't want change will have to implement it, because without this new bloc, they will not be in power.

Are we ashamed of sinking and wanting a rich, not poor Croatia? In Croatia, the left-right conflict is no longer important, but "are you ashamed of failing or not"? If you're not too ashamed, stick with the HDZ-SDP duopoly because they're not for change, because their own membership is more dear to them than their country is. If you are ashamed, there is a third option that is for a strong private sector, but also for a strong public sector, which is not a hindrance but a service to the private sector. It is so in the west, but it isn't in Croatia at the moment.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics and business pages for more.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

SDP Getting Ready for Parliamentary Elections

ZAGREB, February 9, 2020 - Social Democrat leader Davor Bernardić said on Saturday that in the next elections voters would be able to choose between "the SDP's vision of a progressive Croatia" and a conservative vision of individual interest groups from the current government.

As for speculations about a grand coalition, Bernardić told the main committee of this leading Opposition party that the SDP would accept only the formation of a grand coalition with Croatian citizens.

"The elections are ahead of us. One should decide about what kind of Croatia we want," he said.

Bernardić went on to say that the Croatian citizens "are faced with the clearest political choice so far: between our vision of a progressive and well-arranged Croatia in which citizens and institutions work together in efforts to address the biggest development challenges and an unruly, conservative Croatia in which the future of the state and its citizens lies in the hands of individual interests of the ruling party," alluding to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

In the year ahead of us we must show to citizens that we are able again to take responsibility for running the country, the SDP leader said.

It is important for the SDP to offer solutions for the essential problems of citizens and we have assumed a general attitude: a rise in the living standards, which includes higher salaries and pensions, a more equitable society, which means the fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary, he said accusing the current government of deepening social inequalities and "maintaining the economic system that does not yield results to the benefit of individuals."

The SDP will take three pillars for its election agenda: a sustainable and inclusive economy, fair and sympathetic society and efficient and accessible state institutions, he announced, calling for both economic and societal recovery.

"We are going to create preconditions for the introduction of the euro in Croatia. We will not wait, we will make decisions, we will not postpone necessary changes as we could see in the last four years," Bernardić said.

During the session of the SDP Main Committee, Croatia's President-elect Zoran Milanović, who used to be at the helm of the SDP for ten years before Bernardić, thanked the party for its support during the recent campaign. Milanović's address was held behind the closed doors.

On Monday, Milanović will relinquish his membership of SDP in line with the Croatian legislation that requires that heads of state are not members of any political party.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

President-Elect Milanović Bids Farewell to SDP

ZAGREB, February 8, 2020 - President-elect Zoran Milanović on Saturday attended a session of the SDP Main Committee to say goodbye to his soon-to-be former party colleagues, saying that "if the truth were the only election criterion, the SDP would be in power forever."

"Even when we slip, we speak with the best intentions, and it has been so for 30 years. We had governments and people didn't leave those governments nor were they expelled because of corruption scandals, dishonesty, betrayal of the public trust, practically ever. I'd say the choice is simple: the truth, vote for Croatia's left wing, you're on the right track," Milanović said in a closed-door speech which Hina obtained unofficially.

However, that is not so and when you prepare for the parliamentary election, which you have already started to do, keep that in mind, he told the Social Democratic Party members. People vote first and foremost according to their wishes, he added.

"Fight for the truth, and the guarantor of the truth in democracy are three institutions: an independent academia in the broad sense, notably in natural sciences, freed and independent media, and civil society. There's no democracy without that."

Thanking the SDP members for helping him win the presidential election, Milanović said he won "only 100,000 more votes than his opponent, the incumbent president."

In democracy, that is sometimes the fate of the truth. This time it was a good fate, we are successful, we won, we were given the chance to set the rhythm, dynamic and pulse of society and I to do so over the next five years within the limited presidential powers, Milanovic said.

"Over the next five years all those who fight for the truth, for justice, which is a somewhat less tangible phenomenon and notion, will have my support. To fight for those who are weaker is our mission. We are not the Church, we are Social Democrats and we do that by civil means, and that job is full of substance and sense."

Milanović was the presidential candidate of 13 left-liberal parties led by the SDP.

According to unofficial reports, he will leave the party, which he must do under the law, on Monday.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Bernardić: As SDP leader, I Am Party's Candidate for Prime Minister

ZAGREB, January 18, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić said on Saturday in Ogulin, where the party leadership met to discuss preparations for parliamentary elections, that as the SDP's leader, he was the party's only candidate for prime minister.

Bernardić said the fairest thing to do would be to hold parliamentary elections as soon as possible as the current parliament had long stopped representing voters' will, with "as many as 28 deputies having crossed the floor."

"The ruling coalition is a result of political trade-offs in the parliament, so the fairest thing to do would be to call the elections as soon as possible so that voters can decide who will be leading the country. We are ready for the elections, whenever they are held this year," Bernardić told SDP officials who gathered for an operational meeting after last week they appointed ten coordinators for constituencies.

Bernardić believes that Croatia is at a crossroads. "Citizens have said that they want changes, the outcome of the European election was not accidental, it is a result of the SDP's hard work and great energy, good candidates and good organisation and that outcome created preconditions for the success of our presidential candidate Zoran Milanovic," he said.

He said that work on the party's platform was nearing completion and that it contained key solutions for higher living standards, higher salaries and pensions, reform of the health and education systems, and greater trust in state institutions.

"The SDP not only has policies, it has people to implement those policies," Bernardić said and when asked if he was the only candidate for prime minister, he said that as the SDP's leader, he was the only candidate for prime minister.

As for possible coalition partners, he said that those were parties from the Anti-corruption Council, the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), the Croatian Pensioners' Party (HSU) and SNAGA. The SDP will talk also to other parties that share the same worldview and that supported Milanovic in the presidential elections, he said.

Asked about HSS leader Krešo Beljak's controversial tweet about assassinations by the Yugoslav secret service UDBA, Bernardić said that he had condemned it in the strongest terms, that the SDP had distanced itself from it and that Beljak had apologised for it more than once, as well as that the HSS would stay the SDP's partner.

SDP secretary-general Nikša Vukas said that talks were underway about possible coalitions.

Asked to comment on HDZ vice-president Milijan Brkić's statement that Bernardić would never be prime minister, Vukas said that Brkić was not the one to decide who the prime minister would be, adding that the HDZ should mind its own business. "We will not comment on their intraparty elections, they do not interest us, we are addressing citizens," said Vukas.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Croatian President Elect Zoran Milanović Gives First TV Interview

Croatian President-Elect Zoran Milanović gave his first interview to Mislav Bago of Nova TV on January 16, 2020. When asked what people should expect from him as president, Milanović indicated that he would defend the constitution, fight against thieves and do everything which he promised during his campaign. He also spoke about the murder which occurred in Split last weekend, as Slobodna Dalmacija reported. Here are some highlights from that interview.

What can people expect from you as Croatian president?

To defend the constitution, I will fight against thieves and all that I have said in the campaign. I haven’t promise miracles. I’ll do what I promised.

Croatia has recently been shocked by the triple murder (in Split), and there are those who have organized and want to take justice into their own hands.

It shocked me, as it did you, and all of us. Split thrives on the idea of safety although it's not a very safe city. But it's not the worst city in the world either. Croatia is a reasonably safe country and the degree of public security is very good. More work is required on prevention. I could understand the approach of people on Facebook at first, but now I can't.

That needs to stop, and the government has my support. Split is a very segmented and unique city. It is large by Croatian standards; the second largest. And it is a large diverse urban entity when Solin and Kaštela are included. Unlike Zagreb, Rijeka and Zadar, Split is very diverse on the political level. In some parts of Split I received 78 percent of the vote and in other city districts I got 20 percent. This city was built on muscle, big growth and rapid urbanization, which it has not been able to reconcile. It is a big sociological and security challenge.

These people have organized themselves (on Facebook) because they believe that the system is wrong, so they have decided to take matters into their own hands.

I haven’t seen them do anything, but the idea itself is bad.

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The system has also been exposed by the tragedy in Andraševac, particularly as it relates to the elderly. We are a nation of elderly people, and the government has announced changes to the law, but they probably want to hear what the President thinks.

The existing Croatian law was adequate, and now the government has become the most convenient scapegoat. Something horrible occurred in Andraševac and it is awful. We are an aging nation and need to invest in the right types of care for people. The city of Zagreb does not even have 4,000 beds in public homes and an average bed is 4,000 HRK (538 EUR) a month. In private homes this amount reaches as much as 1,000 EUR. This is a serious political problem and anyone who seeks a government position in our country will have to address citizens’ needs, which are realistic and justified.

You are expected to assume the presidency on February 18, 2020; and you have said you want to have a normal inauguration, what would that look like?

First, this does not mean that the others weren’t normal. This is one action, you assume the office, and the only thing the constitution says is that you are required take the oath of office before the President of the Constitutional Court. This can be organized in a hundred different ways. That day will take place at Pantovčak, in the President's office, and I will invite those who I think should be present. That includes the current President, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Presidency of the Parliament, the President of the Supreme Court, the Chief of Staff, the people who ran my campaign and my wife.

Our diplomacy has already informed us about the inauguration. What if some of the presidents of neighboring states want to attend?

That won't be possible, and they won't want to attend. The inauguration will be organized the way I’ve described. In Slovenia, a directly elected president takes the oath of office in parliament. This is probably possible in Croatia as well, and it seems more appropriate to me.

Rumor has it that you and the Turkish president will initiate changes to the Dayton agreement?

This is impossible, this contract is like a border agreement and cannot be canceled by standard procedure. You would have to reunite all the stakeholders, which is impossible.

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Putin congratulated you and invited you to celebrate May Day in Moscow. Have you decided whether you’ll go?

It's a legendary Russian parade. I think I'm going to attend, and I don't know what would happen if I didn’t go. I do not support the annexation of Crimea, but that does not mean that I won’t work on good relations with Russia.

In terms of cooperation with the currrent Croatian President, how is this transition period going?

It’s going OK; I'm pleased.

Were you surprised by the Prime Minister's statement regarding difficult cohabitation or were you expecting a different reaction?

He has had enough turmoil in his own party, which has been going on now for years, so I won’t comment.

What should we expect in this difficult cohabitation?

You can expect constructive cooperation, and not destructive behavior. When I gather people, who are worthy and who I consider to be the best, it won’t be to lock horns with the government. It is easy to be resourceful in the position of the presidency every day. My big advantage is that I know what it looks like on the other side. It’s a lot more difficult.

The Croatian air force planes could be a topic for disagreement?

I can’t challenge that because it’s a government decision.

But they will listen to your position. You have said publicly that this should be done directly with the Americans, without an invitation or tender, yet the government informed seven countries about the purchase, why do you think it is better to automatically work with the Americans?

Because we are not buying cars for the Croatian parliament like we did recently. You call a public tender, specify those cars and know in advance that Audis are being purchased. But if you call a public tender through the General Affairs Office of the Government, Parliament and Procurement Office: they’ll end up spending too much, rather than just buying cars directly, which is twice as cheap.

Let's say a one-year-old vehicle is purchased, however. And we are not buying cars, but deadly machines, which are essential for national security. If that decision has already been made, I won’t oppose it. There are a several factors to consider. The main one, apart from quality, is reliability. Therefore, the long-term reliability of our partners is important, as is the availability of training and spare parts for rebuilding the system. The safest route is to work with the Americans.

Could we survive without investing in aviation and invest in the Croatian Navy instead? We have a lot more sea to defend. I don't want to downplay the Air Force, but nowadays, Americans are killing and disabling targets with drones.

I agree with you. I am also the Commander-in-Chief now. The President of the Croatian Republic is only nominally the Commander-in-Chief in the event of a war or declaration of war. We have not declared war and didn’t even do so during the actual war in Croatia in the 1990s. This is what the government does during peacetime, and the President is always present. He is a kind of symbolic figure. I know a little about these things and dealt with this issue 20 years ago. However, this system is managed by the Government and I will be their partner, and what I am saying is that this is Croatia’s best interests. I can say this because I do not decide on allocating state funds. I do not decide on procurement and do not have any personal preferences. I do not know about present-day companies or factories. I used to know about all the fighter jet manufacturers as a kid, now I don't know anything about them.

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I ask this because some people say that in the long run it will be more important for us to protect the sea, and we are not investing money in this area, and the question is when and under what conditions will we get the planes?

I have been saying this for five years or more. As Croatian Prime Minister, I left the mandate with an outstanding order for one, or four more – so a total of five Coast Guard patrol vessels, which are part of the Navy today. This is what we need as a minimum, but it is not enough. I consider the Navy a priority, so our 12 or so planes mean nothing in the global arena. It's purely a badge pride to have those and have that ability. It is expensive, but we are a country, not just NATO members, and the Navy and sea are our most precious resources besides humans.

You have said publicly that we do not belong in Afghanistan. Will you formally initiate the withdrawal of our troops when you take office?

I will constantly bring this up because it is a completely senseless mission. There is no solution for that situation, and the question is when the US will withdraw. It's often said, ‘We went in together, we will leave together,’ but it's not a real combat action to refer to warriors’ honor. It is a mission that our people cannot defend.

We entered there a year after the Americans, a year after the Taliban were defeated. We entered there on the initiative of Ivica Račan, but that does not oblige us. We can withdraw when we decide to without consulting anyone. It cannot be on the principle that several soldiers there earn a slightly higher salary. I'm glad about that, but I'm not glad when they come back wounded or die. The situation is stagnant, and I wonder why. The key question is why.

We also have soldiers in India and Pakistan. One wonders what our interest is there.

There is a much smaller number there, but we need to constantly check and review the ratio, not jump in blindly for our partners and their interests.

You said that Slovenia needs Croatia to be a strategic partner, but how can this be achieved with all the obstacles we have; like the arbitration issue, for example?

We’ll proceed patiently, as we did in the campaign. Slovenia is naturally our closest partner. Our challenges with them are nothing compared to the problems we have with other countries.

Do you think Bernardić could be Prime Minister?

He is the president of a strong political party, if the SDP achieves solid results in the upcoming elections and win more than 76 seats, they will have the mandate. And I cannot foresee what kind of prime minister he will be.

Europe has proposed a comprehensive green plan – and as a continent we would like to return to sustainable energy. Do you think that citizens are aware of what lies ahead and what we must do to save planet earth?

They are not currently aware but will become more so over time. We, as a small country and a small economy, contribute little or nothing to climate change and global warming. However, we also do not have the wealth and sometimes pretentious moral guard of Denmark or Sweden. This needs to be clear - it concerns us, it concerns our coast. If the sea level begins to rise, it affects our environment and where our people live. These are things that need to be talked about constantly. There are also several moral issues, such as how shamelessly rich countries are exploiting natural resources, and currently have the right to set the pace for those who are being exploited.

We know what to expect from your inauguration, but what will be among be your first decisions?

I will gather people whom I consider important. I do not mean an advisory team which bypasses the government and copies it. The team will be smaller, but for practical reasons. I can't gather everyone I’d like to have on board. There will be a smaller number of professional advisors, but don't consider it a savings. This is not because I am frugal, but that’s how it is coming together this point. Those I nominate will represent my priorities and those are: defense, national security, foreign policy and practically nothing else. I cannot reveal any names right now. I will certainly not have a social services advisor because appointing someone for that position would be pretentious and wrong. I'm not the government. I have no right to mentor the government if I cannot offer a solution. I will make a few of the social fields a priority including education and curricular reform…

What role will your wife play? She said she would like to promote the field she is working in.

She is primarily a university professor and works at the state institute on various projects. She will be doing what she would like to do. She'll probably be more present than when I was Prime Minister, but not much more. It is, after all, her decision.

Follow our Politics page for updates on the Croatian presidency.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

SDP’s Bernardić Wants to Be Prime Minister

ZAGREB, January 14, 2020 - In an interview with the Croatian Radio national broadcaster on Monday, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Davor Bernardić said that he was absolutely going to go for the prime minister's office, rejecting the possibility of a grand coalition with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

"I'm absolutely embarking on a fight for the prime minister's office. SDP is preparing for the parliamentary election and we've already formed a campaign team," Bernardić said, rejecting criticism that there is not one woman among the coordinators in the ten electoral constituencies. "Women will, as always, have their deserved place in SDP. I am proud of the statute that we adopted two years ago which ensured full gender parity on election slates - half men and half women. We already applied that model to the European parliamentary election which proved to be more than successful," he said.

He is pleased that according to some public opinion polls, SDP is in first place, but added that the only true opinion poll is an election. Over the past year we have demonstrated how work, unity, abstinence and good quality candidates can achieve an excellent result, he said.

"We recorded two victories in 2019 and now, following the presidential election, we are continuing on our winning streak. It is important to ensure essential changes in the country. Citizens voted for that at the presidential election, with 75% saying they wanted changes. Croatia is at a sort of watershed and I am pleased that citizens have in fact recognised SDP as the party that can reinstate reputation and dignity to Croatian politics," Bernardić underlined.

Bernardić commented on a contentious tweet by Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) leader Krešo Beljak regarding political murders by the former Yugoslav secret police UDBA. "He apologised for that. He obviously made a mistake and I would leave it at that. Beljak has a peculiar style. However, it's time that as a society and as normal politicians who take account of how the people will live tomorrow, we turn to the future. Sincerely, I'm sick of historical divisions. Enough of returning to the past which divides us as a people and turns our attention away from real problems like emigration, poverty, the poor situation in the health system," he said, adding that downplaying political murders was not good.

Bernardić said that "SDP would certainly lead the winning bloc at the parliamentary election," reiterating that it had established the Anti-corruption Alliance as a platform to fight corruption, which has attracted several opposition parties, and that they will continue negotiations with other parties that share that mindset and which nurture values like anti-fascism and anti-corruption. He believes that the alliance is a good basis for a future coalition, adding that he would talk with others who currently are not part of the alliance.

He said that coalition, however, will not have room for the likes of Mirando Mrsić's Democrats because anyone who left the SDP have picked their path. "We wish them luck. However, we will not discuss any pre-election alliance with them," he said and added there will not be any return of those MPs supporting Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić either.

Any grand coalition with the HDZ, as hinted by Mrsić, is out of the question for Bernardić, who rejected the idea with disgust. Bernardić also does not see a possible coalition with the Croatian People's Party (HNS) because, he underscored, they chose their path in this "grand bartering majority, and good luck to them, but far from us."

Bernardić underscored that Bandić is the HDZ's main coalition partner but that, based on recent statements by Economy Minister Darko Horvat and MEP Tomislav Sokol (HDZ), it's obvious that the relationship has broken down. Bernardić called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to call the parliamentary election as soon as possible.

This government has not done anything during its term and I do not expect absolutely anything in the last year either, he said and underlined that it was necessary to call the parliamentary election as soon as possible so that a government led by the SDP can start working on increased wages and pensions, improving the quality of life, restoring citizens' confidence in institutions and a better Croatia in all segments.

Commenting on a fire in a nursing home in Andraševec in which six people lost their lives and a triple murder that occurred in Split over the weekend, Bernardić said that the chaos in institutions was obvious and citizens do not trust the system and are taking matters into their own hands which, he added, should be an alarm for all.

"There's a general atmosphere of mistrust in institutions, the police and the security system of the country, and absolute chaos and disorder is prevailing in the country. The first task for a decent and responsible government is to once again establish order in Croatia and, in addition to restoring citizens' confidence in institutions, that will be one of the main things that we will do when we come into power" SDP's leader said.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

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