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.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Parliamentary Opposition: Additional Rights For War Veterans Unnecessary

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - Some parliamentary opposition parties on Wednesday criticised amendments to the Act on the Rights of Homeland War Veterans, saying that they unnecessarily expanded rights for that group, while the ruling majority dismissed their claims.

Damir Bakić of the Green-Left Bloc said the bill was harmful as it introduced in more than one way additional and not necessarily needed benefits, both financial and non-financial, for war veterans and members of their families.

"That will additionally move them away from society and real life, as if we were creating a new caste for which special rules apply," said Bakić.

Under the amendments, members of the families of fallen war veterans that already have their housing problems solved will each be able to regulate their housing needs under the bill, obstacles to one-off financial aid are being removed, the scope of persons who are given priority in employment is being expanded, Bakić said, citing some of the examples.

Silvano Hrelja of the Croatian Pensioner Party/Croatian Peasant Party group said he had nothing against war veterans being first-class citizens but that he was against pensioners being second-class citizens, so he proposed amendment of the Pension Insurance Act.

"The existing law on war veterans is good and what is now being proposed should be scrapped. Too much is too much," said Hrelja.

He stressed that defenders and disabled war veterans were worthy of everyone and every generation's respect, without special privileges and benefits.

Social Democrat Martina Vlašić-Iljkić said it was not necessary to additionally expand veterans' rights.

"How long will this continue? 25 years after the war the status of war veteran and disabled war veteran is being recognised," she asked, noting that care for war veterans was good, especially if compared to care for other groups such as pensioners, the socially deprived and civilians with disabilities.

Marijana Balić of the ruling HDZ party said the amendments were not about additional rights but exclusively about technical organisation regarding the exercise of rights from a law adopted in 2017, expediting procedures for granting the status of disabled war veteran, housing provision procedures, social rights and adjustment of pension insurance-related rights.

Miro Bulj (Bridge) and Željko Sačić (Sovereignists) said that they supported amendments designed to expedite procedures but noted that they could not help but think that they were being proposed for election purposes, and their view was supported by Stipo Mlinarić of the Homeland Movement.

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Parliament Discusses Candidates for Public Ombudsman

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - The Croatian parliament on Wednesday discussed a proposal by the Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System to nominate attorney and judge Sandra Hančić and Deputy Public Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter for the post of Public Ombudsman.

Several opposition party groups expressed dissatisfaction that Public Ombudswoman Lora Vidović's reports for 2018 and 2019 had still not been discussed.

Nino Raspudić of the Bridge party warned about what he called a huge increase in the budget of the ombudswoman's office, saying it had doubled since 2008, as well as about an increase in the number of staff.

He proposed reducing the term of the public ombudsman from eight to five years and that the official should be elected by a two-thirds majority in the parliament.

That way one would not elect a para-political person, said Raspudić, adding that outgoing Public Ombudswoman Lora Vidović had not dealt with issues she should have dealt with and that she made her views clear when she opposed the 2013 referendum on marriage as a union of man and woman.

Dalija Orešković (Centar, GLAS) warned about growing social inequality and what she described as the shameful treatment of the office of public ombudswoman, whose reports for 2018 and 2019 had still not been discussed by the parliament. The Public Ombudswoman has protected public interest and not the interests of the HDZ, Orešković said, accusing the ruling party of destroying the country and causing its people to emigrate.

She dismissed Raspudić's claim that Vidović was a para-political figure.

The declining number of applications for the post shows that candidates do not see any prospects there, she said.

Ružica Vukovac of the Homeland Movement warned that MPs were only given short biographies of the candidates, who were not presented in the parliament.

Vesna Nađ (SDP) said that her party preferred Šimonović Einwalter, noting that it was not good that the public ombudswoman's reports for 2018 and 2019 had not been discussed.

Damir Habijan of the HDZ said the office of the public ombudsman was undoubtedly important and that the candidates had answered all questions put to them by two parliamentary committees.

The public ombudsman is expected to advocate and protect the rights and freedoms defined by the Constitution and international treaties, and the HDZ will make a decision on which candidate to support when the vote is taken, he said.

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Parliamentary Committee Chair: "We'll See if Đurđević Will be a Candidate and if She is Acceptable"

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - The chair of the parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System has said that it would be in the spirit of the Constitution to publish a new call for applications for the Supreme Court president, declining to say if Zlata Đurđević is acceptable to the ruling majority.

"The President must respect the Constitution and under the Constitution, he has the authority to propose a candidate for the Supreme Court president, but he also must respect the legal procedure. That includes the Law on Courts, in line with which a public call is conducted, and the Law on the State Judicial Council (DSV), which specifies conditions a candidate for the Supreme Court president must meet," Dražen Bošnjaković of the ruling HDZ party told reporters in the parliament.

"The Parliament Speaker has already said that he must return the President's proposal for completion as the candidate he has proposed did not submit her application in a public call. Anything that arrives in the parliament must be in line with the law, which is not the case now because an application was not submitted," said Bošnjaković.

There are no special regulations regarding a renewed public call but in the spirit of the system, if no one has applied or if there is no will to propose any of the candidates who have applied, a notification is sent to the DSV that none of the candidates will be proposed and a new public call is advertised, Bošnjaković explained.

As for President Zoran Milanović's candidate Zlata Đurđević's statement that she was willing to apply for the post of Supreme Court president in a new public call, Bošnjaković would not say if she was acceptable to the ruling majority, noting only that that would be seen when and if she applied.

SDP MP: Constitution requires agreement between president, parliamentary majority

The deputy head of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) parliamentary group, Arsen Bauk, said that Đurđević should be elected by a majority vote in the parliament at the proposal of the president of the republic, and that the procedure was a technical matter at the moment.

If the president and the parliamentary majority reach an agreement on Đurđević, she will be elected, and if they don't, she won't. The Constitution requires agreement between the president and the parliamentary majority, anything else is one-upmanship and amuses the public, Bauk said.

"The law has evidently fully served its purpose because this is the most transparent election of the Supreme Court president ever, it won't be this transparent in the next few election cycles," Bauk said.

"If Đurđević is an acceptable candidate to the HDZ, it makes no difference if she is elected based on the (president's) proposal or if she submits an application in a make-believe public call. If I were to make a joke, I would say that if she were honest, she would ask to be elected in a rigged public call. Or an agreement will be reached on someone else, if possible, but there are four more months left," said Bauk.

Also today, during a parliamentary debate, Bauk criticised Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković for breaching the parliament's standing orders by returning President Milanović's proposal for the election of the Supreme Court president to be completed.

"The Parliament Speaker has breached Article 170 of the Standing Orders because he sent back the President's proposal instead of letting the parliament decide on whether the proposal would be put on the agenda," Bauk said, noting that the president's proposal had all the elements it was required to have under the Standing Orders.

"If there are any objections, they are determined in a debate," Bauk said, adding that he was citing a breach of the Standing Orders "in order to have the topic nominated for discussion by the Committee on the Constitution and Standing Orders."

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

 

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