Saturday, 30 January 2021

Grbin: PM, Parliament Speaker to Blame for Non-Adoption of Post-Quake Reconstruction Law

ZAGREB, 30 January, 2021 - SDP leader Peđa Grbin said on Saturday that the HDZ, the prime minister and the parliament speaker were responsible for the non-adoption of amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction, noting that the Opposition's quorum-breaking on Friday was not politicking but politics.

Amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction were not passed because of two people, Andrej Plenković and Gordan Jandroković, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) told reporters during a visit to the eastern town of Beli Manastir, where he presented the party's candidate for mayor.

The Opposition on Friday broke the quorum ahead of voting in parliament after a vote on the opposition Bridge party's motion to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) was taken off the agenda. Seventy-five MPs remained in the parliament, one fewer than necessary for a quorum and vote. The HDZ-led parliamentary majority lacked the vote of MP Miroslav Tuđman who has been hospitalised due to COVID-19 so he could not vote online either, which then prevented the adoption of the law on post-earthquake reconstruction, the declaration of an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic and some other items.

Grbin said today that on 30 December he had personally requested an emergency parliament session but that "the HDZ did not find it necessary", after which on 4 January amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction law were submitted and were discussed on 20 January.

"(The ruling majority) again did not rush to put them to the vote, yet yesterday, without trying to consult with us on how to reach agreement and have the law adopted, they decided to postpone the vote," Grbin said, adding that the vote was postponed by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

This is not politicking, this is politics

Grbin went on to say that the Opposition had only wanted all motions, including the Opposition's, to be put to the vote, including one on the cancellation of the mandatory membership fee in the HGK as a form of direct assistance to entrepreneurs.

"Responsibility for the adoption or non-adoption of a document rests not with the Opposition but exclusively with the HDZ, Andrej Plenković and Gordan Jandroković," Grbin said, adding that the HDZ's hiding behind an ill man fighting for his life was disgusting.

"We are willing, if Jandroković invites us, to go to the parliament, even today, and vote on what has to be voted on, but then all items must be put to the vote, including those on assistance to business people and citizens facing debt enforcement. They don't have to adopt our bills, but they should at least be put to the vote," he said.

Asked by reporters if this was disregard for earthquake victims and politicking, Grbin said that the attempt to help entrepreneurs by abolishing one parafiscal levy and prevent the blocking of citizens' bank accounts during the pandemic was not politicking but politics.

Sabo cannot activate his term as SDP Presidency member

Asked how his party would deal with the case of Željko Sabo, a former mayor of Vukovar and SDP member who has said that he will reactivate his term as SDP Presidency member, Grbin said that "Sabo cannot reactivate his term."

Sabo's announcement that he will activate his term as SDP Presidency member came after the SDP leadership decided to dissolve the party's organisation in Vukovar.

The leadership's decision was prompted by the Vukovar party branch's decision to support Sabo as the SDP mayoral candidate in May's local elections despite the leadership's recommendation that he should not be nominated for that post as he had been convicted of corruption for trying to bribe a local councillor when he was the mayor.

Apart from having served six months in prison, which enables rehabilitation under the law, Sabo is also facing charges of abuse of office and powers for allegedly embezzling funds intended for summer holidays for Vukovar children.

"In line with an explicit provision of the SDP Statute, Mr Sabo put his term on hold until criminal proceedings against him are completed and as long as those proceedings are underway, he cannot activate his term," said Grbin.

Friday, 29 January 2021

SDP Dissolves Zagreb and Vukovar Branches

ZAGREB, 29 January, 2021 - The presidency of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has decided to dissolve the party's organisations in Zagreb and Vukovar, SDP leader Peđa Grbin announced at a press conference after a presidency meeting on Thursday evening.

The SDP leadership has asked the party's Vukovar branch not to support former mayor Željko Sabo as a mayoral candidate in May's local elections because Sabo had been convicted of corruption for trying to bribe a local councillor.

"The SDP in Vukovar ignored this recommendation, so the presidency today adopted the only possible decision - to dissolve the SDP's Vukovar town organisation," Grbin said, adding that the SDP had zero tolerance to corruption.

The proposal was supported with 10 votes in favour, one against and two abstentions.

Biljana Gaća, a member of the presidency and president of the SDP Youth Forum, was appointed commissioner for Vukovar. She will meet with potential coalition partners and decide on a candidate for mayor.

Grbin said that the presidency had proposed that the party's main committee dissolve the Zagreb organisation as well after the head of the Zagreb SDP, Gordan Maras, announced that he would not be running for mayor. The proposal was backed by a 12-3 vote, and Davor Terzić, chairman of the Trešnjevka South committee, was appointed commissioner.

Sabo: I'm surprised

Sabo told Hina he was surprised by the presidency's decision and would appeal to the main committee and statutory commission to prove that it was a wrong decision.

 His candidacy for mayor received unanimous support at a meeting of the SDP Vukovar committee on Wednesday. Although he has been legally rehabilitated, he is being faulted for the guilty verdict and the fact that several criminal proceedings against him are in progress. 

Sabo said that a poll had been conducted among the party's 408 members in Vukovar and that 371 of them, or 91 percent, supported him with their signatures.

Asked if he was going to resign from the SDP if the situation remained as it was and run in the local election as an independent candidate, he replied in the negative.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Court Upholds Fine Against SDP Over Ex-MP's Electioneering in Parliament

ZAGREB, November 20, 2020 - The High Administrative Court has upheld a ruling by the Administrative Court and a State Election Commission decision to fine the Social Democratic Party (SDP) over former SDP MP Gordan Maras having displayed campaign messages on his laptop in parliament ahead of the 2019 European election.

Under the decision by the State Election Commission (DIP), the SDP was fined HRK 86,000 (approx. €11,500) for its former MP's conduct.

Ahead of the May 2019 EP elections, Maras displayed different promotional stickers in the parliament on his laptop such as "Vote Maras", and "Vote 007", which, DIP decided, violated the law on the financing of election campaigns because he used official parliament premises for electioneering.

DIP concluded that Maras showed extreme persistence in violating the law because he disregarded warnings to stop with that conduct.

Dissatisfied with DIP's decision, the SDP appealed with the Administrative Court in Zagreb, but that court too, ruled against the SDP, and its ruling has now been upheld by the High Administrative Court.

Friday, 20 November 2020

SDP Calls on Minister to Adopt Specific Measures to Protect Children's Mental Health

ZAGREB, November 20, 2020 - The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) has called on the health minister to adopt, as soon as possible, measures to protect and improve the health of children and young people, especially their mental health.

The appeal was issued on Friday on the occasion of World Children's Day.

The SDP cited research conducted among pre-school and school children showing high rates of violence, mental disorders and a decline in healthy lifestyles.

Violence is present in all age groups, with physical violence being more prevalent among younger children and verbal violence among older children. An estimated 20 percent of children suffer from  mental health disorders such as depression, eating or behavioural disorder and anxiety, the party said in a statement.

Quality free time has been replaced by the use of electronic devices, which has led to growing obesity among children, and the present coronavirus crisis, which requires the adjustment of children and their parents/carers to new teaching environments, will have both short-term and long-term effects on children, the SDP warned.

The SDP said that in the present crisis special emphasis should be placed on protecting the mental health of children, calling on the Ministry of Health to adopt, as soon as possible, specific measures to protect and improve the health of children and young people, especially their mental health.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Grbin: SDP Today in Rijeka Launches Campaign for Local Election

ZAGREB, November 6, 2020 - Social and Democratic Party (SDP) leader Pedja Grbin told a press conference on Friday that the SDP was today launching its campaign for the local election in Rijeka because Rijeka was the best example of how to love and lead your city in the right way.

At the press conference, the SDP introduced its candidates for Rijeka Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Marko Filipovic and Sandra Krpan.

"Rijeka is an excellent example to everyone in Croatia of what needs to be done to improve the lives of people who put their trust in you as a leader", Grbin said.

He thanked Rijeka Mayor Vojko Obersnel, who has been at the helm of Rijeka for 21 years, noting that the SDP "can be proud because he has done a lot for SDP's image and has shown how SDP members should act when elected to public office".

Obersnel is soon to be 64, so he said that a generational shift was normal and "there is no doubt that the two candidates will defend the basic postulates of the social democracy and what has been achieved in Rijeka, an open and inclusive city."

Filipovic is currently Rijeka Deputy Mayor.

 Croatia is to hold local elections in May 2021.

Monday, 2 November 2020

SDP Chief Calls for Finding Model to Remove Octopus of Corruption in Zagreb

ZAGREB, November 2, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Pedja Grbin said on Monday that it was necessary to find a formula that will removeoctopus of corruption in (the City) of Zagreb adding however, that it is too early to say who SDP's candidate for Zagreb mayor will be.

"It is necessary to take a step forward in the City of Zagreb and that means to find a political option that can remove the octopus of corruption from Zagreb which is pushing the city backwards," said Grbin.

He added that Zagreb is not developing but stagnating and that it does not have a development policy.

I think that citizens want to see changes occur next May and that people who love this city and who know which direction to go forwards, to be at the helm of city authorities, Grbin said.

 Croatia is to hold local elections in May 2021.

Asked whether SDP would nominate a candidate for Zagreb mayor, Grbin said that talks had only just begun and that it was not fair to impose any blackmail or conditions and that he would like that to be someone from SDP's ranks.

Grbin added that he would not like to see a new lockdown in Croatia however he believes this will eventuate due to the government's inaction.

"The government is pushing us into a lockdown with what it is is doing. That is because the government has absolutely no strategy. It does not have any organised programme, implementing objectives, there are no benchmarks to test whether conditions have emerged to ramp up or relieve measures," said Grbin.

He claimed that due to the government's inaction we will be forced into a lockdown. "But not an organised lockdown like some other countries have but we will be forced into an unorganised lockdown and that is bad," he believes.

He agrees with President (Zoran) Milanovic that measures against Covid require decisions by the parliament and government because the National Civil Protection Authority (the country's COVID-19 crisis management team)  does not have legitimacy and citizens do not trust it.

"The authority is not defined in the Constitution. It does not have the right to determine how this country will behave. That is the duty of the government and Sabor. The government is running from its responsibility and is passing the buck to the crisis management," Grbin underlined and added that it was not right for the government to hide behind some para-body.

"I intentionally refer to it as that because that is what it is with its actions. It is not right to hide behind a body that has lost all legitimacy due to its inactivity, particularly a body that during the summer shunned away from any responsibility," said Grbin.

Monday, 2 November 2020

SDP Marks 30th Anniversary

ZAGREB, November 2, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party presidency on Monday held a special session on the occasion of the party's 30th anniversary, with SDP leader Pedja Grbin saying that considering growing inequality, intolerance and lack of freedom, social democracy and a strong SDP were necessary more than ever.

"This may be so even more than it was 30 years ago," he said in an address to those present at the event.

"We need a progressive SDP that offers solutions to growing inequality, regarding the social system and housing, health and education, sustainable development and the green economy," he said.

He admitted that over the past 30 years the SDP might not have always been sufficiently determined and that sometimes it made unacceptable compromises regarding workers' rights and failed to protect those perceived as different or weaker.

Grbin promised that his party would in the future be "a clear barrier to corruption, clientelism and cronysm" as well as defend anti-fascism, rights of those who are weaker and women's rights.

"We are entering a new phase of a major global economic and health crisis, which has been affecting the lives of people in Croatia, and we need a different perspective," said Grbin.

The SDP, at the time the Party of Democratic Change, held its first convention on November 3, 1990 and the party marked its anniversary today as Question Time in parliament is set for Tuesday, November 3.

Attending today's 30-minute event were about 30 senior SDP officials, as well as President Zoran Milanovic and former President Ivo Josipovic.

Before the session, an SDP delegation laid flowers and lit candles at the graves of the SDP's first president, Ivica Racan, and former Social Democrat parliament speaker Boris Sprem.

Monday, 19 October 2020

SDP Says Gov't Hasn't Facilitated Position of Citizens Facing Enforcement

ZAGREB, October 19, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party called out the government on Monday, saying that even though it knew that the moratorium on enforcement procedures expired today, it did nothing to facilitate the position of citizens who could not settle their obligations due to the economic crisis.

The strongest opposition party said in a press release that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his HDZ party jeopardised the livelihoods of thousands of citizens by rejecting the SDP proposal that the moratorium be extended for at least three more months so that an aid package could be prepared and a new law passed.

The SDP said it was still not too late and proposed to those in power to endorse the bills the SDP had presented last week.

"We are aware of the fact that debts must be paid, but the economic and health crisis we are in calls for a little more sympathy for the citizens than the government is showing," the press release said.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

SDP Again Calls on HDZ to Support Establishment of JANAF Inquiry Commission

ZAGREB, October 11, 2020 - Social Democratic Party president Pedja Grbin on Sunday once again called on the ruling HDZ to support the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the JANAF oil pipeline operator corruption affair.

The SDP is very clearly appealing to the HDZ, if there is something in the motion for the establishment of the commission of inquiry that doesn't suit you, tell us, we'll sit down and talk, and amend it if necessary, Grbin said in Velika Gorica.

Don't hide behind technicalities to stop what is crucial for Croatia at the moment, which is, let's take measures so that we can find out what is happening with our investigations, where there is political pressure, why information is leaking, and let's create a framework to prevent that, he added.

Grbin said he was visiting Velika Gorica to make a clear statement about the fight against corruption because it best illustrated how corruption developed, from utility companies to the town given that the mayor, Dragan Barisic of the HDZ, was in custody.

Barisic is one of 14 people in the JANAF affair whom the USKOK anti-corruption office is investigating for influence peddling, bribery and abuse of office.

Grbin also said the SDP had started preparing for the May 2021 local elections.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Croatia Could Never Move Forward Without Strong SDP, Says Grbin

ZAGREB, October 10, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Pedja Grbin said at a founding session of the SDP Main Committee on Saturday that Croatia could never move forward without a strong SDP and that that would continue to be so.

"In the recent intraparty election the SDP has shown that it is still here, that we can create ideas, proposals, suggestions and visions that will push forward not only the party but, much more importantly, our country," Grbin said in his address at the event which completed the intraparty election process and at which the party secretary-general, the Main Committee chair, the executive chairman and other personnel were elected.


Hate speech, economic inequalities on the rise

"A strong SDP is one that speaks about outstanding, crucial issues in our society. Hate speech has been on the rise, economic inequalities are growing, there is a large number of enforcement procedures that have to be carried out and that will again leave hundreds of thousands of citizens with blocked bank accounts. The country is in an economic crisis, and the government has entrusted the national COVID-19 response team, probably because it fears for the ruling majority in the parliament, with making decisions on its behalf that restrict citizens' freedoms and rights," said Grbin.

"As of today, we are all building the SDP as a party that will fight for economic equality, a just society, eradication of corruption that destroys the facbric of our society, a party that will fight for solidarity, economic and every other, and a party fighting for freedom from hate speech and freedom to be different and not to be attacked because of that," said Grbin.

The founding session of the Main Committee unanimously elected former MP and assistant education minister Marija Lugaric as SDP Main Committee chair.

The head of Grbin's election campaign, Vedran Babic, was elected secretary-general, with one vote against and one abstention, and Igor Cigula was unanimously elected executive chairman.

The Main Committee session was held after earlier this week most members of the SDP parliamentary group refused Grbin's proposal for personnel changes in parliamentary positions alocated to the SDP but tensions have in the meantime abated and there has been no open conflict or rift in the party.   

Former party leader Davor Bernardic and former acting president Zlatko Komadina told reporters, while arriving for the session, that they expected there would be no problems at the meeting and that the party would consolidate and move on.

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