Monday, 19 April 2021

SDP Plans No-Confidence Vote in Health Minister

ZAGREB, 19 April, 2021 - The Social Democratic Party plans to talk with other opposition parties this week about a no-confidence vote in Health Minister Vili Beroš due to the many problems and omissions in his department, with SDP leader Peđa Grbin saying on Monday it was his "obligation to react to such obscenities."

Speaking to Hina, he said that if for no other reason, Beroš should be given a vote of no confidence because recently hospitals remained without drugs.

Grbin said "the debt in healthcare has reached unbelievable levels" and mentioned "the disorder" with the online platform for COVID-19 vaccination, adding also that Beroš "claims he has prepared the health reform and given it to (PM Andrej) Plenković, Plenković says that isn't true, which means that one of them is lying."

Grbin is not discouraged by the estimate that the ruling majority will most likely reject the no-confidence vote, saying that "our obligation to the people who gave us their trust is to react to such obscenities."

Minister responsible for lack of reforms

Homeland Movement whip Stephen Bartulica said his party had been critical of Beroš's performance for a long time.

"We'll see in consultations with other opposition parties if we'll ask for a no-confidence vote in Beroš, but I think we have a number of reasons for putting that item on the agenda."

We are for a debate on the situation in healthcare and the minister's responsibility, and we think parliament will respond well to that question, he said.

Rada Borić of the green-left bloc said the minister's responsibility should be discussed because of the complete failure to embark on a radical health reform.

Healthcare does not need surface but systematic reforms, as does social welfare, because all we have seen so far has been shifting the blame, she added.

"Problems in healthcare are not from yesterday, but in decent democratic countries, when one sees that the system has failed and that there have been suspect activities, it is the minister's responsibility to resign," Borić said.

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

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."

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

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)

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

 

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.

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

Friday, 9 April 2021

Gov't Rep Accepts Amendments By HDZ Party Group to Local Elections Bill

ZAGREB, 9 April (Hina) - A government representative on Friday accepted amendments by the ruling HDZ party group to a bill on local elections which ease previously proposed stricter rules for the nomination of candidates in elections and reasons for the termination of a local official's term.

A regulation has been eased under which a person with a final court verdict sentencing them to a prison term of at least six months or whose verdict has been changed to community service and a conditional verdict will be banned from running in elections, starting already with the May 16 local election.

The HDZ parliamentary group proposed that the ban should not apply to persons sentenced to prison for an unintentional crime, if their sentence has been changed to community service or a conditional sentence.

Also accepted were amendments that relax reasons for the termination of the term of a member of a representative body, municipal head, mayor and county head and their deputies.

If those officials have committed an unintentional crime and have been sentenced to prison but their sentence has been changed to community service or a conditional sentence, the terms of those officials will not cease, government representative Sanjin Rukavina said.

He did not accept Social Democrat MP Arsen Bauk's amendment under which those officials' terms would end also in case the party which has nominated them and on whose slates they have been elected has been given a final court verdict for an offence.

The government partially accepted amendments by the SDP, GLAS and Centre party groups under which the term of a member of a representative body, municipal head, mayor and county head stops on the day when they deregister their residence in their local government unit.

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

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Says Who Plans to be Supreme Court President Must Respect Law

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that someone who planned to be president of the Supreme Court was expected to respect the law, which "is the prerequisite of every reform."

He was responding during Question Time to MP Arsen Bauk of the opposition Social Democratic Party, who said Plenković was preventing changes in the judiciary, that Croatia was the least vaccinated EU member state, that COVID-19 measures were being applied selectively and that there was no reconstruction after last year's earthquakes.

Plenković accused the SDP "and the whole left" of trying to create an "awful" atmosphere as if tomorrow there would be no wages, electricity or gas.

He said Croatia ordered 8.7 million vaccine doses and that people would be vaccinated, but that the government could not be responsible if a big drugs company had problems with its vaccine, production and distribution. "Other countries are in this situation too."

Bauk said Plenković did not refute any of his claims and that citizens believed the president more in his row with the prime minister over the election of the new Supreme Court president.

Bauk concurred with other opposition MPs' criticisms of the ruling HDZ's policies and their rejection of the possibility that Plenković's party could transform itself.

He said the HDZ's "core won't change, it's always more or less the same" and that "the HDZ has always functioned on doctrines of (...) sustainable nationalism and clientelism."

SDP MP says minister tried to bribe her

SDP MP Mirela Ahmetović said that "one of your ministers (...) personally offered me a bribe to keep quiet about all the illegal and negative things" about the LNG project off Krk island, and that as a result of the project the gas price for households went up 80% on 1 April.

Plenković accused her of having boycotted the project "dreamed of for 40 years", saying it would reduce the price of gas and that this benefitted Ahmetović as head of Omišalj Municipality.

He also dismissed claims by Marijana Puljak (Centre) that he was protecting Vice Mihanović, the HDZ's candidate for mayor of Split who is under suspicion of having plagiarised a scientific paper.

He said Mihanović had a doctorate and that it was up to the relevant commissions to decide on his doctoral dissertation, adding that Ivica Puljak, Marijana Puljak's husband, would certainly lose to Mihanović in the Split mayoral race.

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Two Opposition MPs Accuse Gov't of Vaccination Delays

ZAGREB, 24 March (Hina) - Andreja Marić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Rada Borić of the New Left party on Wednesday critcised the Croatian government as well as the European Commission over procrastination in administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Addressing the national parliament, Andreja Marić said that the Croatian government failed this test.

Until three days ago, a mere 470,000 doses of all vaccine producers were delivered to Croatia, which is only 14 doses per 100 inhabitants, Marić said.

To date, 358,000 doses have been administered, and 8.9% of citizens have received one shot so far of the two-dose vaccine and 2.2% have been inoculated with both doses. Only Bulgaria and Latvia have fared worse than Croatia in the European Union, she said.

Marić insists that delays in coronavirus vaccine deliveries are not the result of the unjust distribution inside the European Union but a consequence of Croatia's wrong decision to rely on AstraZeneca vaccines at the beginning.

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

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Judiciary Committee to Call Thematic Session on Situation in Judiciary

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - The parliamentary Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously supported a proposal to call a session focusing on the situation in the Croatian judiciary.

The schedule and the list of guests is to be defined by the end of the week, after which the date for the thematic session of the committee will be set, Committee chair Mišel Jakšić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said.

He said the committee could invite Justice Minister Ivan Malenica, Supreme Court President Đuro Sessa and State Judicial Council (DSV) President Darko Milković.

"It is clear from the public perception that people do not trust the judiciary, they believe that corruption in state institutions is widespread," Jakšić said, stressing that it is necessary to start a discussion about that and put forward concrete proposals for improving the situation in the judiciary.

Jakšić said that he would not want former Dinamo football club boss Zdravko Mamić, recently sentenced to six and a half years in prison for siphoning money from the club, to be the main topic of the committee session, stressing that his case should be dealt with by judicial bodies.

As for media reports alleging former president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's involvement in corruption, Jakšić said he expected those reports to be investigated, calling the accusations horrible and "an attack on the judiciary and the foundations of the state."

Dražen Bošnjaković (HDZ), chair of the parliamentary Committee on the Constitution and Standing Orders and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that problems that had lately escalated required a special committee session to discuss them.

He said that he did not have information that Mamić had co-financed Grabar-Kitarović's presidential campaign, adding only that the law on the financing of political parties and political campaigns envisaged very transparent publication of all information and the opening of separate accounts to see what is being financed and who finances what.

"Zdravko Mamić can say anything he wants, but all those statements have to be checked," he said.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

SDP Says Zagreb Should Not Only be Reconstructed But Also Revitalised

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin and the SDP candidate for Zagreb Mayor, Joško Klisović, warned on Monday, on the first anniversary of the 22 March 2020 earthquake in Zagreb, that reconstruction had still not begun and that the capital should not only be reconstructed but revitalised as well. 

"Over the past 12 months, a law on reconstruction was adopted and after the earthquake in Petrinja, it was expanded to include the Banija region, but, as we can hear from the Reconstruction Fund.... no decision on reconstruction has arrived at the Fund from the Construction Ministry. The Ministry claims it has sent three decisions for the reconstruction of buildings, but even though the Ministry and the Fund are located only a few metres from one another, those decisions have still not reached the Fund," Grbin warned at a news conference.

If reconstruction in Zagreb as well as in Banija continues at the current pace, the question is if it will ever end and if people whose houses and buildings were damaged will be able to ever return to their homes, he said.

Grbin called on the government to ensure that reconstruction work finally started, criticising the Reconstruction Act by saying that the structural reconstruction as envisaged by it would not be sufficient as people did not have money to finance non-structural reconstruction.

Those who will have to seek loans to co-finance 20% of structural reconstruction costs will not be able to co-finance the reconstruction of other parts of their property which are equally important for normal living, he said, calling for reexamining the Reconstruction Act.

He also called for reexamining the law to expand the scope of reconstruction work to enable the revitalisation of the earthquake-damaged parts of the capital city.

"We call for renovating all buildings, with red, yellow and green labels alike, because any next quake could destablise these buildings again and cause a disaster. Around 30% of the housing stock in downtown Zagreb is older than 100 years, which means that we need an integral, radical reconstruction of the city," SDP mayoral candidate Klisović said.

He noted that given the current favourable situation on the international financial market, funding for that purpose should be sought there, mentioning also the possibility of issuing long-term bonds.

Klisović said that as mayor, he would define a price catalogue for reconstruction work considering fast-growing prices and the fact that people who have to hire a company to do reconstruction work do not know how much a certain type of work costs.

He noted that the state should increase the rate for co-financing reconstruction costs for people who live in buildings categorised as cultural property, calling also for the introduction of a special credit line for those reconstructing their houses and on the state to cover interest on those loans.

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

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Opposition Slams Liberalisation of Tourist Guide Market

ZAGREB, 18 March, 2021 - The parliamentary opposition on Thursday strongly criticised the opening of the domestic labour market to tourist guides from other EU countries, saying they often did not have the required qualifications nor could they do as good a job as domestic guides.

Marin Miletić (Bridge) said a bill of amendments to the law on tourism services would allow foreign guides to present Croatia without sufficient education. "Such a presentation will be superficial and disorganised, and the tourist experience incomplete."

Hrvoje Zekanović (Sovereignists) said what guides said was important but that the way they spoke about a locality, whether it was with love, a stand and empathy, was much more important.

Katica Glamuzina (Social Democrats) said the bill did not take into accounts the remarks made by tourist guides and professionals, while her party colleague Boška Ban Vlahek said it destroyed the profession of Croatia's 5,500 guides.

Mato Franković of the ruling HDZ said that although he felt that Croatia should align with European regulations, the bill was not fully worked out regarding tourist guides.

"It's not unimportant who will guide groups in protected localities and how, nor is it enough to pass an exam in a couple of months and guide, for example, the sightseeing of Dubrovnik," he said, announcing amendments for stricter educational requirements for foreign guides.

Marijana Balić (HDZ) said it was important to prevent a potential misinterpretation of Croatian history and that special attention should be paid to localities of special respect such as Vukovar.

Only guides who pass Croatian language exam at protected localities

Tourism Ministry state secretary Tonči Glavina said only licenced guides who pass a Croatian language exam would be able to work in Croatia's 550-plus protected localities.

"That course will be available only in Croatia and the exam will be only in Croatian in front of a commission including our tourist guides," he said, defending the bill.

He said that guides coming with a group, from Germany for example, would be able to guide the group only in a general public area, talking about Split or Šibenik in general, for example, while only licenced guides would be allowed to work in protected localities.

The only change the bill brings is that foreign guides will not have to pass a special exam for Croatia's 21 counties but for regions, or another model will be used, Glavina said.

About 70 foreign guides stay in Croatia annually and they do so for two to three weeks, he said.

The law on tourism services is being amended due to two violations of EU law regarding package travel and the regulation of the profession of tourist guide.

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

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