Monday, 8 March 2021

SDP Marks International Women's Day with Multimedia Project "From 5 to 95"

ZAGREB, 8 March, 2021 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) marked International Women's Day on Monday with a multimedia art project featuring women's accounts of what it means to be a woman in Croatia today.

The multimedia web project, called "From 5 to 95", shows women and girls talking about what it means to be a woman in Croatia today and how their lives differ from those of their mothers, grandmothers and grand-grandmothers. 

The project was presented at SDP headquarters where the authors Arijana Lekić-Fridrih and Andrea Kaštelan were hosted by SDP leader Peđa Grbin.

Lekić-Fridrih said that the project had been launched in 2016 and that 400 accounts of women from across Croatia had been filmed. "We wanted to knock down the walls and initiate dialogue so that there would no longer be girls and women feeling alone in their own situations," she said, adding that the idea for the project came from "the fact that every woman in Croatia is in some sort of conflict with society."

The online project shows women describing one year of their life, from 5 to 95. It provides documentary accounts of the lives of Croatian women in the 21st century in which women talk about their personal experience, and often about violence and discrimination they have encountered.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Opposition Turn Away From Parl. Majority for not Supporting Changes to Penal Code

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Opposition MPs on Friday protested by turning away from members of majority lawmakers after the parliament rejected a motion put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to have sexual harassment prosecuted ex officio instead of after it is reported, the deadline for it being three months. 

After the parliament rejected the SDP's amendments to the Penal Code, with 74 votes against, 51 in favour and two abstentions, opposition MPs stood up and turned their backs on the section of the parliament chamber where members of the parliamentary majority sit.

Before the vote, opposition MPs Sabina Glasovac (SDP), Marijana Puljak (Centar), Sandra Benčić (We Can!), Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) and Ružica Vukovac (Homeland Movement) called once again on the parliamentary majority not to "turn their backs on the victims" and to endorse the amendments for the sake of protection of victims of sexual violence.

"The statute of limitations on sexual violence will expire if female students, workers, housewives, all women who suffer sexual violence, fail to report it within three months," said Glasovac.

Puljak said that the parliamentary debate had shown that all 151 deputies were agreed that the victims should be helped, asking what was the harm of amending the law now.

Benčić said that the parliamentary majority's argument that work was underway on a new, more comprehensive law did not hold water.

"The procedure will last for the most part of the year and meanwhile the statute of limitations will expire on all cases of sexual violence about which we have been hearing in recent months," she warned.

"As far as the victims are concerned, it would be better to adopt the amendments now than later," said Selak Raspudić.

This is about whether we will support the victims or the abusers, said Vukovac.

HDZ MP Marija Jelkovac said that the HDZ was not against the goal of the SDP's motion but rather did not want to change the Penal Code twice in a short period of time.

Work on amending the Penal Code is under way and the amendments will cover all demands set by the SDP as well as other changes related to improving the protection of women against sexual harassment, Jelkovac said.

The parliament unanimously adopted, with 114 votes for, a conclusion by party groups making up the parliamentary majority entrusting the government with submitting to the parliament, no later than May 31, amendments to the Penal Code that will be in line with EU regulations and ensure stronger protection of victims of sexual harassment, by introducing ex-officio prosecution of such crimes.

Bošnjaković reassures opposition MPs that SDP Proposal will be added to amendments

HDZ lawmaker and former justice minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Friday afternoon that the SDP-sponsored motion would be incorporated later, explaining that the relevant law is organic and it is not advisable to change it too frequently.

He also underscored the fact that the cabinet of Prime Minister Andrej had introduced harsher  penalties for sexual offences.

He also reassured the Opposition that he statute of limitations would not expire, as claimed by some opposition MPs.

The parliament did not support the Bridge party's proposal to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Opposition Says Agricultural Production in Ruin

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - During Thursday's debate on amendments to the Agriculture Act, the parliamentary opposition said Croatia's agriculture was collapsing due to poor policies, while Minister Marija Vučković dismissed such claims and said that agricultural production was growing.

Željko Lenart (HSS-HSU) said 33,000 hectares of valuable farmland from the former Agrokor conglomerate was now owned by the foreign Fortenova and that pig farming and milk production were collapsing.

He said the Farmland Act was not being honoured, that a stay on the sale of farmland to foreigners would soon end, and that the smallest farmers were being destroyed because only 6.5% of the biggest producers received the bulk of the aid.

Mišel Jakšić (Social Democrats) said the state of agriculture showed that the policies to date had not produced results because import was high and there was no self-sufficiency despite the potential.

Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) said 88 million tonnes a year was thrown away due to expiration dates and pushed for donating food to the needy and establishing a food bank.

Vučković said cereal production and cattle-framing were up and that food donations had gone up 13%, adding that it was necessary to reduce food waste.

Marijana Petir (ruling HDZ) pushed for regulating the aid system to facilitate the development of small and medium farmers. She announced a call for applications for HRK 120 million to help farmers in earthquake-hit areas.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

MP Peđa Grbin: "Obviously Even in Death We Cannot Be Equal, Yesterday We Saw Charade"

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Thursday that the funeral of late Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić had shown that discrimination was present in Croatia and that all of us in Croatia obviously "cannot be equal even in death".

"I have heard today that an association was penalised for organising a protest rally, (...) why were they penalised when we heard yesterday that the virus is not a chapmion in long jump and that everything is fine and according to the rules. The prime minister discovered discrimination in the past ten or so days, but this yesterday showed that discrimination is here in Croatia, because obviously not even in death can all of us be equal," Grbin said.

The Opposition leader said that due to the anti-epidemic restrictions some families had had to say to their loved ones that they could not attend a funeral because there couldn't be more than 25 of them, and then yesterday all of us had seen the "charade".

"Everyone in Croatia, of course, must have the right to a civilised and dignified burial, but what took place yesterday wasn't that. If we have rules in the country, then those rules must apply to everyone, if the rules do not apply to everyone in the same way, then that is discrimination. And then it's something else, too, then it's making people idiots, and that must be said loud and clear," Grbin said.

"Yesterday, no one from the SDP was officially at the funeral because we thought it was not necessary. No one from the SDP was officially there because we think that it wasn't up to us to honour in that way a man we talked about until yesterday as bad, as problematic, as someone who destroyed the city of Zagreb. That would have been hypocritical, and I have no intention of being a hypocrite," Grbin said.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

MP Arsen Bauk Takes off Mask in Parliament in Protest of Violation of Measures at Mirogoj Cemetery

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - Member of Parliament Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party protested on Thursday in the parliament against the "flagrant and rude" violation of epidemiological measures at the funeral of the late Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, which was attended by an estimate of one thousand people.

Bauk entered parliament without a mask, which is not permitted and which was remarked on by Deputy Speaker Ante Sanader (HDZ).

SDP's MP explained why he took his mask off.

"I violated Article 293b of the Rules of Procedure because I took off my mask. I did so in protest at the flagrant and rude violation of measures at Mirogoj on Wednesday, sponsored by the national and local COVID-19 crisis management teams," Bauk said.

He asked Sanader to issue him with a warning so that "at least someone would be penalised" for yesterday's violation of epidemiological measures.

"I won't issue you with a warning for yesterday, but I will for what you did today, you violated the Rules of Procedures," Sanader responded.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula: Croatia Not interfering In Bosnia's Affairs, Expects Greater EU Involvement

ZAGREB, 3 March, 2021 - The Croatian member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, Tonino Picula, on Wednesday dismissed claims that Croatia was interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal affairs, saying that Croatia had obligations under the Dayton peace agreement.

Speaking in an interview with the Dnevnik news website based in the southern Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar, Picula said that Croatia was accused, almost on a daily basis, of interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal affairs. He recalled that Croatia was a signatory to the Dayton agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country and had an obligation to ensure that the agreement was honoured.

"Unfortunately, we often see political structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina using Croatia to achieve their political points and divert attention from their own problems," the Croatian MEP said.  He, however, added that Croatian institutions and officials should exercise restraint in their communications with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"In its relationship with the Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia should maintain a positive interest with political restraint, taking care that it promotes what will encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue on its EU path," Picula said.

He said that the EU should be more dedicated to the Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina. "As the foreign policy coordinator of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, I have continually pointed out the need for the Union and its external policy to win recognition in its nearest neighbourhood."

Picula expressed an expectation that Bosnian politicians would agree on changes to electoral legislation that would satisfy both individual and collective rights, which is important for the country's further journey towards EU membership. He stressed that this would include amending the Dayton agreement.

"The existing arrangements under the Dayton agreement are obviously preventing the country's progress, but the international community will not support any solution that deviates from the principle of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single country," the Croatian MEP said.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Grbin: We Demand Clear Criteria for Adopting Epidemiological Measures

ZAGREB, 25 February, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin on Thursday urged the government to define clear and quantifiable criteria when adopting epidemiological measures so that people and enterprises could know beforehand what they could expect.

"It is excellent that indoor sports training is allowed. It should have been allowed much sooner because all indicators show that it never was a source of infection. If we know how important doing sports is for the health of individuals and the nation in general, easing the measures in this regard is clearly good and I do not see any problem there," Grbin told a press conference.

As for the reopening of hospitality establishments, Grbin said that an injustice of two weeks ago, when casinos were allowed to reopen while restaurants were not, was being corrected.

"The problem is that Croatia still does not have clear criteria on the basis of which epidemiological measures are adopted. We had several weeks in which the infection numbers were decreasing, while (the government) was saying that the measures could not be eased. Today we are seeing a slight upward trend in the number of infections and the measures are being relaxed," he noted.

Commenting on the forthcoming election of a president of the Supreme Court, Grbin said that the President of the Republic was required by the Constitution to propose a candidate for the post. Under the Constitution, he must consult with a general assembly of the Supreme Court and the parliamentary Justice Committee, and Parliament has the final say, he added.

"I regret that because of the discussion of form, which was never broken, we have moved away from substance. We are not talking at all about what the previous Supreme Court presidents did or did not do to take that as a basis for the election of the future president," Grbin said.

Friday, 19 February 2021

SDP: Government Helping Multinational Companies, Shifting Burden of Crisis Onto Citizens

ZAGREB, 19 February, 2021 - SDP vice-presidents Siniša Hajdaš Dončić and Biljana Borzan on Friday announced an initiative in the European Parliament that would force multinational companies to pay taxes where they operate, stressing that the Croatian government does not want to support the initiative.

That way, the government is shifting the burden of the crisis onto citizens, they said.

According to the latest figures, 10% of the EU's total GDP is stolen, hidden or unfairly distributed, and the populist movements that call for tax cuts have at their core the wish to enable the rich in the business sector to pay less and less taxes while the entire cost of social spending is shifted onto the middle class, small and micro businesses and EU citizens, Hajdaš Dončić said at a news conference.

"The SDP considers this an unacceptable way of sharing the national wealth and the only solution is progressive taxation. The main question is how to facilitate fair tax distribution and force the richest to pay their share and participate in the crisis caused by the pandemic," he said.

He noted that tax or fiscal policies were national policies but that without coordination and a joint approach, EU countries would not be able to respond to the key problems of the last decade, including the question of why everyone was not contributing in line with their economic power.

There is also the question of why the biggest multinational corporations use tax breaks and tax havens and why some member states unfairly, through lower taxes, attract the wealthiest to start business in them.

When the amount of evaded taxes is compared, it accounts for 3 to 4% of Croatia's GDP for companies that run some business operations in Croatia. The proposal is to make a black list of those companies and to exclude them from any EU programmes, he said.

"I really do not understand why the HDZ-led government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is opposed to that," he said.

Difference between left and right

SDP vice-president and MEP Biljana Borzan said that an EP study showed that the EU loses 30-50 billion euros annually to tax evasion by multinational companies.

A Eurobarometer report shows 86% of EU citizens want stricter control of tax evasion and tax havens and 71% of Croatian citizens believe the problem should be solved at EU level.

A draft directive to be discussed by the European Council next Thursday is aimed at obliging big multinational companies with turnovers of more than €750 million to report for each member state how much money they make there, the value of their assets, the number of employees and the amount of taxes paid.

The directive also regulates fines that are proportional and deterring.

The health crisis brings with itself a major economic crisis, and some countries' governments can decide to shift the burden of the crisis onto citizens or they can force those who earn big profits in Europe to pay taxes, Borzan said.

She noted that the directive had been stuck at the Council for four years even though it had passed all the necessary procedures. She explained that a majority could not be achieved as some member states did not want to support the directive as they themselves are tax havens and some protected their own multinational companies.

Croatia has found itself among them even though it has no such companies, with the government explaining that a decision must be unanimous because it concerns tax policy even though the EC has explained that the directive concerns business reporting, which requires a qualified majority, Borzan said.

She noted that by the start of Croatia's EU presidency a turnaround happened and majority support was created to launch changes, "but Croatia did not put the issue on the agenda of the Council even though it could have and as EU chair should have," Borzan said, adding that at the time she sent a letter to then economy minister Darko Horvat to put the issue on agenda, but nothing happened.

"We often hear questions about the difference between the left-wing and right-wing parties today. Here is the difference - while the SDP is looking for ways to relieve the burden on citizens, the HDZ has, for reasons unclear to us, been siding with multinational companies which evade the payment of huge amounts of taxes," she said, noting that according to information available to her, the chances of the directive being passed were very big and that it would be interesting to see which position the Croatian government would take.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Grbin: Government Showing Lack of Ideas, Blundering, Ignorance

ZAGREB, 13 February, 2021 - Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said on Saturday the government's latest relaxation of COVID restrictions showed its "total lack of ideas, blundering and ignorance."

Speaking to the press in the Istrian resort of Poreč, Grbin said the restrictions were again being relaxed "without any criteria."

"Since October, not just we from the opposition but scientists too have been warning the government that there must be certain criteria, because we all have to know on what a decision on the relaxation is being made. There have to be certain numbers or indicators."

Grbin called on the government to make the criteria known and asked why casinos were allowed to reopen while restaurants were not.

He said the owners of establishments which were temporarily closed or whose turnover had drastically dropped due to the COVID crisis should be compensated "from the state budget."

"And all citizens will bear the brunt also through their tax revenues so that this compensation can be paid, only so that what little of the economy has survived in the past 30 years in Croatia can function. If we destroy everything now because we can't set aside money to compensate entrepreneurs, there will be no economy in Croatia and poverty will rule."

Grbin reiterated that it was "totally unacceptable" that some people were using their position so that they or their loved ones were vaccinated against COVID, saying this "shows that this government is below any expectations."

He also said that the SDP would nominate its candidate for Zagreb mayor in several days and that Joško Klisović was shortlisted because he "reflects what I want the new SDP to be, which is expertise, honesty, knowledge and experience. He's the man Zagreb needs and the profile Croatia needs."

Monday, 1 February 2021

SDP MP: Post-Quake Reconstruction Law to be Amended This Week

ZAGREB, 1 February, 2021 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) vice-president Siniša Hajdaš Dončić said on Monday that amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction would be adopted this week, noting that nothing important had been missed with their non-adoption due to a lack of quorum last Friday.

"The amended law should be adopted this week and what happened was a normal parliamentary fight between political parties," the SDP MP said in a Croatian Radio programme.

The Opposition broke the quorum on Friday, postponing a vote on the items that had been discussed after the parliament speaker refused to put on the agenda a previously discussed motion by the opposition Bridge party calling for the mandatory membership fee for the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) to be abolished to ease the burden on entrepreneurs.

Hajdaš Dončić said the non-adoption of the law did not change anything significantly.

It makes no difference if law is adopted today or in three days

"We were not showing our teeth, this happened exclusively because an item was not put on the agenda. It makes no difference if a law is adopted today or in three days," he said.

MP Ivan Celjak of the ruling HDZ party said in the same programme that the amended law on post-earthquake reconstruction would be adopted this week.

In a comment on Hajdaš Dončić's statements, he said that it had transpired again that the SDP did not care about the wellbeing of the people in the earthquake-hit areas. 

HDZ MP: Opposition took advantage of late MP Tuđman's illness

"The Opposition took advantage of the fact that the late MP Miroslav Tuđman was gravely ill at that moment, they walked out of parliament and prevented the adoption of the law, which is very important for all residents of the disaster-hit area," said Celjak.

He added that one could have waited with the law on the HGK but not with the law on post-earthquake reconstruction.

The reactions of people in the earthquake-hit area to the Opposition's move are very negative, said Celjak, who comes from Sisak.

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević said on Sunday that parliament was expected to put amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction law to the vote on Thursday, that the parliamentary majority was not in question as well as that he expected a consensus on the matter.

Amendments to the law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje counties after the 22 March 2020 earthquake envisage expanding the law to also apply to Sisak-Moslavina County and parts of Karlovac and Zagreb counties hit by a devastating earthquake on 29 December 2020.

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