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.

 

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.

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