Tuesday, 15 June 2021

SDP Adopts Draft Programme For Cooperation With Možemo! in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021- The presidency of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has adopted a draft programme for cooperation with the green-left platform Možemo! and their partners in Zagreb, which will ensure their majority in the new City Assembly following recent local elections, the SDP announced on Monday evening.

Addressing the press after the SDP Presidency meeting, Glasovac said that the draft 28-point programme was adopted unanimously and that several other details needed to be agreed before Wednesday, when the programme is expected to be signed.

She said that the cooperation programme included points on a transparent budget, civic education in schools, care for pre-school children, and certain infrastructure projects. 

Glasovac confirmed that the draft also dealt with the division of roles in the City Assembly, but would not say whether Joško Klisović, the SDP's mayoral candidate, would serve as deputy chairman of the Assembly. 

Možemo! said that it would discuss the draft on Tuesday.

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Sunday, 6 June 2021

SDP Candidate for Istria Prefect to File Constitutional Complaint After Slim-margin Defeat

ZAGREB, 6 June, 2021 - Danijel Ferić, the Social Democratic Party's (SDP) candidate for Istra County Prefect, who was defeated by Boris Miletić of the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) by a slim margin of a few dozen votes, on Sunday announced a complaint against the State Electoral Commission's (DIP) decision.

The Constitution Court has a 48-hour deadline to respond to the objections to be lodged by Ferić and the SDP on Monday.

On Saturday, DIP affirmed the victory of IDS leader Boris Miletić in the election runoff on 30 May for the new Istria County prefect. During its hours-long session the commission partially upheld the objections made by Ferić and SDP observers on the count of the votes after last Sunday's election runoff.

As a result, Ferić, was given 17 more ballots, and Miletić three more ballots than they had after the count of votes immediately after the polling stations were closed. Thus, of 52,574 valid ballots Miletić and the candidate for his deputy, Tulio Demetlika, won 26,308, while Ferić and his deputy Antonella Degrassi mustered 26,268 ballots, or 40 fewer ballots. There were 2,056 invalid ballots or 3.76%.

Ferić told a news conference in Pula today that the constitutional complaint would refer to the DIP's refusal of the SDP request to check the allegations that people who actually had not been in the town of Labin during the election runoff being were registered voters who exercised their right on that day.

Ferić insists that the election runoff for the Istria County prefect were contaminated and particularly in the towns where the IDS was in power: for instance, Pula, Labin, Rovinj and Pazin.

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Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Opposition: It's Not Good That PM Plenković is Trying to Intimidate Media

ZAGREB, 2 June, 2021 - Recent frequent attacks on media, reporters and political analysts by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković were met on Wednesday with condemnation by opposition MPs, who called on him to accept criticism and on media not to allow to be intimidated.

Social Democrat Arsen Bauk said the prime minister had opted for the "attack is the best form of defence" approach.

"Some defeats at local elections are painful for the HDZ, notably the prime minister, because he chose or imposed some of the candidates. It is not good for the prime minister, who has both objective and real power, to try to square accounts with or intimidate reporters, media and their editors and owners. I hope you will not let yourself be intimidated by him," Bauk told reporters in the parliament.

Judging by their response, I can see that they are not intimidated, he said, adding that he was fascinated by Plenković's claim that rival broadcasters had colluded to devalue the HDZ's candidate for Zagreb mayor.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said that media were possibly responsible for the latest developments because they had been very mild towards Plenković from the start.

"I definitely support media freedoms and it is not unusual that media in Croatia and the rest of the world are leaning to the left, but I think that what is more important here are the so-called independent analysts who often have material interests and certain relations with political camps and NGOs and who act in public as if they were unbiased," said Bartulica.

The sole MP of the Reformists party, Natalija Martinčević, who chairs the parliamentary Media Committee, said that the prime minister was very nervous, which she considers inappropriate.

"Communication with the media must be civilised. We are all expected to behave that way and so is the prime minister. There is no justification for his behaviour," she said.

Most MP Marija Selak Raspudić said that media had been the PM's fetish for a long time.

"Let me remind you of his high school graduation thesis 'Means of Mass Communication' in which, apart from extensively quoting (Yugoslav Communist politician Edvard) Kardelj and Marx, he also says that the Party is the one to control all information in society. He then advocates some democratic trends and says that media should be democratised, but it seems that as an experienced politician he has accepted the principle that the Party should control all information and is surprised when he does not manage to do it," said Selak Raspudić.

HSLS MP Dario Hrebak said that every politician had their own style of communication, noting that the prime minister was evidently irritated by something.

"I, too, am sometimes unhappy with the media but everyone has the right to say what they think, I would not be a liberal if I thought differently," he said, adding that he believed the prime minister would mend his relationship with the media and some reporters.

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

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

New Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević: Sandra Benčić (Mozemo!) On First Moves

June 1, 2021 - With the new Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević soon coming to the office, Sandra Benčić of the green-left platform Mozemo! (We Can!) spoke to Index.hr about the first moves of the new administration.

Following intense post-first round campaigns in Zagreb for the second round of local elections, Tomislav Tomašević is the new mayor of Zagreb. Additionally, Tomašević's green-left coalition Mozemo! earned 23 seats in the City's assembly, and if the previously announced support of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) that has five, Mozemo! will have the majority in the assembly. 

The new mayor is expected to take his seat by the end of this week, and as Index.hr reports, Sandra Benčić, the Mozemo! MP says that ZG Holding chief and directors can be removed from their position immediately.

However, first and foremost, the earthquake damages seem to be taking the lead.

„The most urgent thing is to prepare documentation for the reconstructions of kindergartens, schools, and institutions in the city ownership that were damaged in the earthquake. We have to do that as fast as possible because the deadline to pull money from the EU Solidarity Fund is June 2022. I'm afraid there will be a fiasco regarding how much will the State pull from the fund, but we can only take the money for estates in the city property, and the damaged kindergartens and schools are our priority“, told Benčić for Index.hr

She added that they plan to start an Office for Zagreb Reconstruction and establish mobile teams which will help citizens to fill in documentation and requests for the reconstruction of damaged homes.

Regarding the statement about the fiasco with the State pulling money from Solidarity Fund, the conflict with the government was sparked yesterday when PM Andrej Plenković talked to the press regarding Tomašević's victory. He said he didn't congratulate Tomašević yet, but he will and that he expects good cooperation.

„I see that Mozemo! is paraphrasing my message from 2016 when I said that we are changing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) so we can change Croatia. They say they are changing Zagreb to change Croatia. Clearly, they have something against this Croatia“, said Plenković, sparking controversy.

And Benčić is not the one to remain silent on such statements.

„Yes, we do have something against this kind of HDZ and evening HDZ with the State. They are not the State but an interest group that trapped our country. We want to see the country returns to all its citizens and that, of course, hurts them to the level that the prime minister allows himself these kinds of statements which, if they weren't malice, would be at minimal, unsmart“, said Benčić.

With the biggest number of votes in the history of mayoral elections in Zagreb, Benčić continues they are ready to justify this trust, and they start with work immediately.

„We are going with the financial revision of City's administration, restructuring City offices. We will do it step by step and connect offices while ensuring that functions and services need to deliver to the citizens. It should be noted that Zagreb used to have fewer offices, 17 until 2000 and then offices start to grow exponentially, only to put politically suited people to positions and raise their payments“, explained Benčić.

 And the new Mayor Tomislav Tomašević also gave an interview on Monday. As Jutarnji List reported, Tomašević also talked about his plans to improve Zagreb and fulfill his promises, particularly with so many earned votes.

„This big trust is also a big responsibility. Citizens can expect that we will lead by example from the start. The city administration and authority will be based on three things: decency, modesty, and being at the citizen's service.

He also added that Mozemo! is considering filing a lawsuit against Miroslav Škoro for the filthy instigating campaign, as Tomašević and many other public figures described it.

„I wouldn't like this to happen to anyone anymore on any other elections in Croatia, regardless are we talking about a candidate from the right, left or center," commented Tomašević.

Although no direct link can be proved at the moment, Škoro's rhetoric could've been the fuel for the attacker that set fire to the Mozemo! election headquarters at Zagreb Contemporary Museum on the election night saying to the gathered that „they are communists“ and how he will „kill them all“, on which T-portal reported

The elections are over, but will Zagreb continue to celebrate in such a majority as it did on election night? This is something only Tomašević on his new function can answer in the following months and years.

Learn more about Zagreb on our TC page.

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Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Members of Parliament Hope For Revival of Capital Market

ZAGREB, 26 May, 2021 - Amendments to the Capital Market Act, which are aimed at further aligning Croatia's regulatory framework with the EU acquis, were supported on Wednesday by both the Opposition and the ruling majority in the parliament, who expressed hopes for the revival of the capital market. 

This is one of the most complicated laws that summarises what kind of capital market Europe wants, said Social Democrat MP Boris Lalovac, warning that Croatia's capital market was far less developed than the European.

"The value of the capital market in Croatia is HRK 276 billion, 140 billion are stocks and 130 billion securities, the annual turnover of the Zagreb Stock Exchange is around HRK 3 billion while the turnover on the OTC market is HRK 27 billion," Lalovac said.

That shows that outside of the stock exchange and capital markets, which have strict rules, trading is ten times greater, Lalovac said, expressing hope this would change.

Grozdana Perić of the HDZ said that better oversight and regulation would enable further development of the capital market in Croatia.

She warned, however, that the coronavirus crisis had caused an outflow of funds from investment funds and that their value had dropped by more than 35% or HRK 8 billion.

That is one of the reasons for amending the law, said the State Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Stjepan Čuraj, who presented the amendments to MPs.

"If we take as an example the Zagreb Stock Exchange alone, during the pandemic in 2020 it dropped by more than 35%, from 2,000 to 1,300 basis points," Čuraj said, noting that there was room for improvement.

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

Friday, 21 May 2021

Lawmakers Divided Over COVID Certificates

ZAGREB, 21 May 2021 - After the European Parliament, Council of the EU chair Portugal and the European Commission approved the COVID-19 certificate, intended to help summer tourism in the EU, the Croatian Sabor on Friday expressed dissenting opinions, from support to warnings that this was a discriminatory decision.

Social Democratic Party MP Arsen Bauk told reporters that SDP's MEPs had supported embarking on an agreement with the European Council with regard to COVID-passports and that the party supports them in the Croatian parliament too if they will facilitate travel and getting back to normal.

"Naturally, we are aware of the dangers of them being a means of discrimination and we will observe that solution with caution, as we did with the (COVID-19) measures, but in principle, we support the idea," he said, adding that the reference to discrimination was in the sense that the certificate serves to diminish someone's rights.

We're aware of that danger and that is why we will take care that that does not happen. We consider that that is primarily a document that facilitates life for citizens and only possibly something that discriminates, Bauk underscored.

If there are contentious things, such as protection of personal information, they are less than the benefits that the certificate can bring for a normal life for citizens, he added.

Marija Selak Raspudić (Bridge) underscored that until there is an equal approach for all EU countries to all three conditions that are set as essential to be issued with the certificates, and considering that Croatia has a low inoculation rate, that decision is discriminatory as it does not put all EU member states in an equal position.

It is also contentious, she added, how long that decision will apply and how it will apply to people who have been vaccinated with vaccines that have not been approved by the EU, which means that some EU citizens will not have the same rights as other EU citizens.

Stjepo Bartulica (Homeland Movement) said that it is necessary to warn that the COVID certificates could pose a threat to fundamental freedoms and rights.

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

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Police Investigating Death Threat Against Karlovac Mayoral Candidate

ZAGREB, 18 May, 2021 - Davor Petračić, an independent candidate for the mayor of Karlovac backed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), on Tuesday reported to the police having received a death threat. He has refused police protection, but hopes the perpetrator will be identified soon.

Petračić found a letter in his post box containing a bullet and a message saying "the real one comes through the barrel."

"I don't have anything against anyone, I defended this city in the war and will try to defend it once again," Petračić said, adding that he hoped the police would find the perpetrator.

Police spokeswoman Andreja Lenart confirmed to Hina that police had received Petračić's report and were investigating.

The incident was condemned by Petračić's political rival in the 30 May runoff, current mayor Damir Mandić of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), as well as by the county branches of the SDP, HDZ, Homeland Movement and Croatian Party of Rights (HSP).

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Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Opposition Parties File Motion of No Confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - Parliamentary opposition parties have filed a joint motion for a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Vili Beroš over the accumulated problems in the healthcare sector and scandals related to the minister, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin said on Tuesday.

"The reasons for this move are clear to all citizens - the accumulated debts in the healthcare system resulted in the suspension of deliveries of medicines to hospitals at the height of the pandemic. There are also huge problems with the vaccination system, and we have learned of favourable treatment in the development of the cijepise.hr vaccination registration system," Grbin said.

"The development of this non-functioning system was awarded to people connected with Minister Beroš. There are also suspicious public procurement procedures at the Health Ministry such as one where IT services were awarded to a florist and tenders were fixed for former HDZ health ministers Andrija Hebrang and Neven Ljubičić, which have been cancelled but only after media started writing about them," he added.

"The Health Ministry is simply not functioning. There are no reforms, and the extent to which this affects people's lives could best be seen in a recent case at the Clinic for Tumors where citizens suffering from malignant diseases could not receive adequate care," Grbin said, naming Beroš as the person most responsible for this.

"We want Beroš to go because right now he has done nothing positive for the healthcare system, and all the negative things he has done pose a direct threat to people's health and lives," the SDP leader said. "His departure, however, will not be enough and we will all have to come to grips with the accumulated problems together."

Grbin said that a discussion on Beroš must be held within 30 days, and whether it will be held before or after the 16 May local elections "depends on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković."

The initiative was signed by all opposition groups in parliament except the Croatian Sovereignists, but they have announced that they will vote in favour Beroš's resignation, Grbin said.

MOST's Nikola Grmoja said that his party had been warning for a long time about the problems faced by the healthcare system, including huge debts to drug wholesalers and long waiting lists.

"Beroš, of course, is not the only one to blame, the whole government is responsible. With our signatures we also want to encourage a reform of the healthcare system. All of us in the opposition agree that changes are necessary and should be launched urgently," Grmoja noted.

Sandra Benčić of the green-left We Can! platform said that they supported all the reasons for a no-confidence vote in Beroš, but stressed that the responsibility for the crisis in the healthcare system and the poor management of the coronavirus pandemic mostly lay with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"None of the ministers, and certainly not Minister Beroš, makes decisions on their own. They were not chosen as competent persons in their departments but were chosen based on their loyalty to the prime minister who ultimately makes all decisions. The prime minister cannot be exonerated by his purported unawareness of the scandals for which we seek Beroš's resignation. That's why we ask whether the country can be run by a prime minister who does not know or who does not get key information," Benčić said.

Homeland Movement MP Stjepo Bartulica said that the Croatian healthcare system was too politicised. "There are countless problems and the possible resignation of Minister Beroš will not change things much. We have insisted from the start that the healthcare system should be governed by market principles because now we don't see any mechanisms that will bring about change to the system as this government resists structural reforms," he said.

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Thursday, 29 April 2021

Croatia Will Get More Money For Agriculture Than Before, State Secretary Says

ZAGREB, 29 April, 2021 - Opposition MPs were not impressed by the announcement by the state secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture that more funds have been allocated for Croatian agriculture in the next EU budget period than in the previous one, saying on Thursday that the situation in this sector was catastrophic.

"The situation in agriculture is catastrophic. The number of producers, milk suppliers, is falling, and there are fewer and fewer products made by our own producers that meet our needs," MP Marina Grman Kizivat of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said, asking about the veracity of the information that Croatia would receive less money from EU funds for agriculture than before.

State Secretary Tugomir Majdak said that there would be more money for Croatian farmers in the period until 2027 than there had been in the period until 2020, adding that in the next budget period €2.6 billion would be available for direct payments, compared to €1.57 billion in the previous period.

The opposition used the proposed amendments to the Agriculture Act to draw attention to key problems in the sector, such as aid.

Željko Pavić (SDP) said that the problem was that aid was granted per hectare. "Some farmers have been granted the lease of thousands of hectares of karst pasture. They earn huge amounts of money without having livestock of their own," he said.

Majdak responded by saying that the state aid scheme was transparent, based on tenders and criteria in accordance with EU rules.

Responding to a question put by independent MP Marijana Petir, Majdak said that work was under way to improve the aid system and gear it towards small farmers.

Small farmers will be the priority of future measures, both the Agricultural Strategy until 2030 and the Strategic Plan until 2027, and other vulnerable groups, such as women in rural areas, will also be included, Majdak said, adding that the strategy is expected to be sent to the government in the second quarter of this year.

"In the next programme period we will ensure that young farmers get 100% support for investments of up to €100,000," he said in response to a question from Ankica Zmajić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

Petir recalled that Croatia should prepare the National Strategic Plan by November, adding that the European Commission had made 13 recommendations for this plan, detected its good points and found that 20% of agricultural holdings owned 75% of farmland and received 77% of aid.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Health Minister Beroš: "Problems Aren't Solved By Minister Stepping Down"

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš on Wednesday commented on an opposition motion for his resignation, saying he is not interested in keeping his ministerial position at any cost and that current problems in healthcare will not be solved with his departure but require a broad political consensus of all.

"It is the opposition's political position to question and criticise. I have never had any problems with constructive criticism, in fact, I consider it motivating. However, I have a problem with unfounded accusations and insinuations that have conveniently intensified ahead of the local election," Beroš said in a Facebook post.

The opposition, he added, has unusually focused on the health sector and him personally, who have been fighting against the COVID-19 epidemic for more than a year now.

"I cannot accept that because for more than a year now we have been intensively combatting the COVID-19 epidemic which cannot be compared to any other previous challenge. I am not looking for an excuse, I am just describing the current situation during which activities are simultaneously  being conducted towards restructuring the system to make it sustainable in the long run. The opposition's manoeuvres take us away from that aim and I wonder just how ready it is to support real changes in the healthcare system so that it can be better for all Croatian citizens," said Beroš.

He noted that the opposition had an opportunity to resolve the existing problems but that did not happen. "In fact, with its inactivity it contributed to deepening the existing problems. I'm not interested in keeping my minister's 'seat' at any cost, however, I do not have the habit of leaving an unfinished job. The problems in healthcare cannot be resolved with the health minister's resignation but through a national consensus of all political options," concluded Beroš.

Opposition parties in parliament on Wednesday unanimously agreed that Beroš has to go and they expressed readiness to support the Social Democratic Party's (SDP) motion for a vote of no confidence in the minister. The opposition said that the motion will be launched soon but that it will allow Beroš some time to think about everything that has happened in healthcare and give him an opportunity to step down.

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