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.

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.

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