Thursday, 25 February 2021

Grbin: We Demand Clear Criteria for Adopting Epidemiological Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 19 February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Difference between left and right

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

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

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

The directive also regulates fines that are proportional and deterring.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Grbin: Government Showing Lack of Ideas, Blundering, Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 1 February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, 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.

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.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

SDP Whip Arsen Bauk Says Speculation about Party Rift very Dangerous

ZAGREB, Oct 7, 2020 - Social Democratic Party whip Arsen Bauk said on Wednesday, following a rift in the SDP parliamentary group, that he hoped this was the last time something like that was happening because party members were fed up with conflicts and that conflicts would not continue.

The SDP group in the parliament on Tuesday rejected a proposal by the new SDP leader Pedja Grbin for changes in parliamentary positions held by the SDP.

Bauk said speculation about a rift in the party was very dangerous, adding that one such situation happened during the term of the last parliament when the party began the term with one number of MPs and ended it with a different number. He expressed hope this would not happen again.

"I have informed the parliamentary secretariat that the SDP presidency has decided that Pedja Grbin will be the new party whip, while Mirela Ahmetovic, Sinisa Hajdas Doncic, Sabina Glasovac and I will be his deputies, and we expect the secretariat to put those changes on the parliament's official web site," said Bauk.

The other proposals for appointments will not be forwarded by the party presidency but by the party's parliamentary group, in line with the parliament's standing orders. Since the parliament's standing orders say that party groups in the parliament are formed by political parties, I'm not sure the parliament's secretariat should arbitrate in parties' internal matters, said Bauk.

He assumes that the new party whip, as soon as the parliament secretariat carries out the proposed changes, would very shortly put forward a proposal for new personnel changes for the SDP.

When asked if Grbin would do so contrary to the will of a majority of SDP MPs, Bauk said that the will of SDP MPs would be determined at a plenary session.

Grbin on Wednesday would not comment on the conflict in the party but made a brief comment in a Facebook post on HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic's statement that there was continuity of conflicts in the SDP.

"We do have problems, but we are dealing with them rather than sweeping them under the carpet. It's better to have the continuity of problems that are being dealt with than the continuity of not dealing with corruption," said Grbin.

HDZ whip surprised by SDP's motion

HDZ whip Branko Bacic told reporters he was surprised by the SDP's motion.

A party cannot send such proposals to the parliament, only a parliamentary group can or requests for certain appointments can be submitted if backed by a certain number of MPs, 40 for a deputy parliament speaker and 15 for a committee chair, he said.

"We are not a party state. Parties cannot propose bills or any other decision related to the work of the parliament. Under the standing orders, only parliamentary groups can do so or one should seek the support of a certain number of MPs. I'm surprised that Grbin, who chaired the Committee on the Constitution and Standing Orders, is putting forward a proposal which is, I won't say funny but is absolutely inappropriate and cannot be implemented, either under the law or under the standing orders," said Bacic, noting that the HDZ did not intend to arbitrate in the dispute in the SDP.

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