Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Economy Minister Ćorić Confirms His Departure From Government

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić confirmed on Wednesday he was leaving the government, saying he was satisfied with what he had done during the last five and a half years in office.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting, Ćorić described his term in the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as five and a half years of work experience with difficult and less difficult moments. He said he was leaving with mixed feelings, but that ultimately he was satisfied.

He said that his decision making was guided by his profession and that he would not change any of his decisions. He recalled that his decisions concerned the LNG terminal and added that during his term Croatia had made progress in waste management, utility infrastructure and energy.

Ćorić said he was confident that his successor, Davor Filipović, would do his best in this largest government department.

Ćorić did not explicitly say whether he would continue his career at the Croatian National Bank, as speculated in the media, stressing that the Zagreb School of Economics was his base.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Could Tomislav Coric Become Most Powerful Name in Banking Sector?

April the 27th, 2022 - Could Economy Minister Tomislav Coric become the most powerful name in the domestic banking sector?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, while Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is busy calculating with the government reshuffle, which has (once again) been eroded by varying scandals, there is speculation on the sidelines that Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Coric could continue his career as the vice governor at the Croatian National Bank (CNB).

Since the return of Martina Drvar to the European Central Bank, the position of Vice Governor for Supervision has been open since the middle of last year. It's a proverbial "hot seat" in which a key person sits in order to supervise the legal operations of banks. In her hands lies the power to prescribe millions in fines to the most powerful players on the Croatian market, which is why, both directly and indirectly, she is often open to the barrage of pressures from the banking sector, especially when their profits are touched.

Damir Odak doesn't have adequate support

Although it has been mentioned that Damir Odak could return to the post, he allegedly lacks the support of those in power who resent him for being close to Governor Boris Vujcic. Unofficially, it can be heard in the parliamentary corridors that the seat is "reserved for Tomislav Coric" and that (for now) there are no other candidates being looked at. It's unclear at this moment in time whether it is possible to have a kind of rotation of vice-governor positions and in that case, Tomislav Coric might take over another department, and one of the current vice-governors would take over that role in supervision.

"At the moment, only Tomislav Coric is being mentioned, but there will probably be no official proposal before the prime minister announces the details of the reconstruction," it has been said among circles close to the parliamentary Committee on Finance and the Budget.

Regarding his possible departure to the CNB, Tomislav Coric briefly said that he is "without comment on all non-departmental topics". Therefore, Coric, a doctor of science and former assistant professor at the Department of Finance at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, doesn't seem as if he's rejecting this option.

Dissatisfaction within the CNB

The CNB is allegedly resisting all notions of Tomislav Coric, believing that this is a key function that requires exceptional knowledge of the banking system and the way in which it functions.

There has as yet been no official comment from the CNB on the alleged idea. Governor Boris Vujcic is a member of a Croatian delegation led by Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who travelled to the International Monetary Fund's annual assembly in Washington last week. Unofficially, however, the choice didn't really please them much, especially since the return of Odak was expected.

"Within the CNB, the entrance of Tomislav Coric is being resisted. This is a key function that requires exceptional technical knowledge of the banking system, as well as of many domestic and European Union regulations. This is one of the most responsible technical positions in the entire country. It's problematic to recruit from the political sphere to an extremely demanding professional position,'' claimed a well-informed source.

The collapse of integrity

On the condition of anonymity, those who spoke about the matter commented that regardless of Tomislav Coric's indisputable educational qualifications, his appointment would be a firm step in undermining the integrity of an institution that should be totally independent of politics.

The last two rounds of appointments at the very top of the CNB's structure were politically coloured, with the key exception that Martina Drvar, as the undisputed expert, was the governor's choice back in 2018. To briefly recall, before the amendments to the law on the central bank, the governor chose his own closest associates.

"We're practically facing a situation in which the CNB Council is the majority politicised body, and that's the defeat of the independence of yet another of this country's institutions. In that sense, it's probably good that we do go ahead and introduce the euro (join the Eurozone) and that the ECB takes control of systemically important Croatian banks,'' concluded one of the aforementioned well-informed sources.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Presidential Adviser Pushes For Investments In Small Solar Power Plant

ZAGREB, 21 April 2022 - The head of the REGEA regional energy agency and President Zoran Milanović's adviser on energy and climate, Julije Domac, on Thursday sent an open letter to Minister Tomislav Ćorić with several proposals for mobilising citizens to invest in greater use of renewables.

Domac writes to the Economy and Sustainable Development Minister that in the current circumstances, marred by the energy crisis, energy products' price hikes and efforts to reduce the import of fossil fuels, as well as against a backdrop of climate change to which Croatia is also supposed to respond, the intention of his letter is to point out the need and possibilities of civic energy as an important element of Croatia's overall energy transition.

Therefore he calls for stepping up the development of the market and for opening the door to large-scale participation of citizens in small solar power projects, such as rooftop panel projects.

Domac advocates that investments in individual solar panels up to 50 kilowatts should be exempt from Value Added Tax and for making the procedure simple.

He is also for the introduction of a uniform rate for co-funding solar panel investments up to 25%.

Gradual deregulation of power prices

Domac says that it is necessary to elaborate a system of gradual deregulation of electricity prices for households within three years so as to make electricity prices equal for all categories of consumers.

He holds that the current price tariffs, which make it possible for households to have markedly lower energy prices, undermine cost-efficiency and return on investment in the renewables sector.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 15 April 2022

4,270 Croatian Businesses Have so Far Received €17m in Natural Gas Subsidies

ZAGREB, 15 April (2022) - So far, 4270 Croatian businesses have received a total of HRK 128 million (€17m) in subsidies to cushion the impact of increased natural gas prices on their operations, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić said on Friday.

"In the first two weeks of the implementation of the government measure to mitigate the consequences of increased energy prices, 4,270 businesses applied for a natural gas subsidy allocated by the Ministry and HRK 128 million has been granted. We invite other SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to apply," Ćorić wrote on Twitter.

On 1 April, the Ministry, in cooperation with the HAMAG-BICRO agency for SMEs, launched an aid scheme for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises with an annual natural gas consumption of up to 10 GWh, providing a subsidy of HRK 0.15 per kWh. This is de minimis aid aimed at reducing natural gas bills. Under the scheme, every month businesses pay the amount stated on their bills, while the Ministry pays the subsidised amount directly to the natural gas provider. The monthly subsidised amount is automatically deducted from the businesses' vouchers.

The total projected amount of this measure is HRK 600 million (€80m).

Business: For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Ćorić Gave 30-Year Concession for Hydroelectric Power Plant in Croatia to Security Company

March 31, 2022 - Telegram revealed that the Ministry of Economy awarded a security company with a hydroelectric power plant in Croatia. Ćorić gave 30-year concession to the 007 Miletić company through a tender that was announced on the eve of last Christmas and was not published on the Ministry's website.

Some entrepreneurs claim that they were ready to give twice the amount, but they simply did not see the tender. Despite everything, Minister Ćorić signed the decision to award the hydroelectric power plant to the company 007 Miletić for 30 years, reports

The Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Tomislav Ćorić, awarded a concession for the use of the hydroelectric power plant on the Jadro river in Solin to the local security company 007 Miletić, which was registered for the production and distribution of electricity three months ago.

This is the end of the tender for the award of a 30-year concession for this small hydropower plant, which has a capacity of up to 5 megawatts and which, according to Ćorić's decision, was awarded to a company that has not been involved in the energy business. The competition was out of the public spotlight because it was announced on Christmas Eve and only in one place, which is why there are now complaints about its regularity.

What has 007 Miletić been doing so far?

The company 007 Miletić, chosen by Ćorić, has been known in the security sector for years, and in 2014 it received a 30-year concession for filling water in Vrlika. The founder of the company is Nediljko Miletić, while his wife Zdravka, also appears as a procurator.

The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development has not wanted to answer Telegram for 11 days why Mr. Miletić and his company were chosen. While the tender was still in progress, they explained to Telegram that it was "based on the Law on Concessions and the Decree on the Conditions for Granting Concessions for the Economic Use of Water".

The competition was announced last year on Christmas Eve

It was also noticed the fact that the tender for this concession was published on December 24 last year, on Christmas Eve, and only on the pages of the Electronic Public Procurement Notice (EOJN). Numerous announcements about concessions can be seen on the official website of the Ministry, which is the grantor of the concession, but this tender, mysteriously, has not been published.

It was not in other media either, which is now being questioned by companies complaining about the tender. Quite precisely, the Law stipulates that such a tender is published in the EOJN, and it can also be published "on the website of the concession grantor as well as in other media." The Decree on the Conditions for Granting Concessions for the Economic Use of Water stipulates that “a public invitation shall be published in the Electronic Public Procurement Notice of the Republic of Croatia, and the day after on the website of the concession grantor”.

Appeals against the decision of Minister Ćorić

The Ministry of the Economy and Sustainable Development told Telegram that they respected the Law on Concessions when publishing, and the Decree on the Conditions for Granting Concessions for the Economic Use of Water when compiling tenders.

However, two complaints that have now reached the State Commission for the Control of Public Procurement Procedures point to a number of omissions. Among them is the controversial announcement of the tender only in the EOJN. One should not lose sight of the fact that this is a concession for as long as 30 years.

By the way, as a one-time fee for the concession, the Ministry asked for HRK 228,608, and another percent per year of the realized average price of electricity produced in each year of use. The Ministry determined HRK 14,288 in the tender as the minimum amount. Complaints about the selection of 007 Miletić point out that these concession fees are too low given the price of electricity, and that some bidders were willing to pay twice the amount. But they just didn’t see the competition. Despite everything, Minister Ćorić is signing a decision on the selection of a security guard company from Solin which has only recently re-registered for the production and sale of electricity.

Miletic's wife also competed

Telegram found out that in addition to Miletić, the companies Primula company, owned by his wife Zdravka Miletić, and the company Starac doo from Kaštela also applied for the tender. Primula company also registered for energy production and trade only in January this year, while Starac doo is not even registered.

How seriously Ms. Miletić entered the fight for the concession on the river Jadro is evidenced by the fact that despite the estimated value of HRK 228,608, she was willing to pay only HRK 56,200. The company Starac offered 300 thousand kunas, and 007 Miletić 265,200 kunas. As the commission of the Ministry determined that the offer of the company Starac was not correct, since the documentation was not properly numbered or bound, Miletić remained the only one who met the conditions.

However, the company Starac states in the complaint that the Ministry did not ask them at all to supplement or clarify their bid, nor to clarify it within at least five days, as prescribed by the Public Procurement Act. They consider the Ministry's explanation that their offer was not properly bound to be insufficient.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Left-liberal Parties Unwilling to Support Bridge Motion to Replace Three Ministers

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Even though the opposition Bridge party still lacks 31 signatures to file a motion for the replacement of three government members, being seven signatures short of the number of signatures required for such a move, Social Democrats are not likely to sign the petition either.

Bridge vice-president Nikola Grmoja last week commended Bridge MPs as well as deputies of the Homeland Movement and the Social Democrats as "true opposition groups," attacking the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and We Can! for not wishing to sign his party's motion for the replacement of Deputy PM Boris Milošević, Labour Minister Josip Aladrović and Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić.

Bridge is not likely to collect the remaining seven signatures from the Social Democrats as their position is similar to that of the SDP and We Can!, which believe that the dissolution of the parliament and calling an early election is a priority rather than insistence on the replacement of individual ministers.

A month ago, seven left-liberal groups put forward a proposal to dissolve the parliament, noting that a government reshuffle was not the solution because the government was incorrigible.

Even though Grmoja said that his party motion had been supported by Social Democrats Davor Bernardić and Matko Kuzmanić, according to unofficial sources from that party group, it is not very likely that more members of the party group will sign the petition.

Grmoja said that his party would continue calling on the rest of the Opposition to support the Bridge motion because it believes it is the only right thing to do.

"In these unstable times, it is not normal for people who are under investigation to keep their ministerial positions. It is the Opposition's task to make the prime minister come to the parliament and at least defend his ministers," Grmoja said, recalling that a month and a half ago the Bridge parliamentary group gave all of its eight signatures for the motion of the left-liberal opposition parties.

Asked on Monday by reporters about the Opposition's motion for the parliament's dissolution, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that even when it was put on the agenda, it would not receive support.

Speaking of the ministers who were under investigation by the Office of State Attorney, he admitted that that made the situation more complicated but underlined the presumption of innocence and added that a decision on the matter was up to PM Andrej Plenković.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Opposition say Minister Ćorić Should Have Been Replaced Long Ago

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - The opposition said on Wednesday that Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić "should have been gone long ago" not just due to suspicion of involvement in the Krš-Pađene wind park case but also due to his inaction.

"Ćorić should have been gone long ago. Now is just a matter of the prime minister's will whether he will keep a minister for whom there are serious leads on involvement in a crime worth billions," said Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin.

He recalled that parliament discussed a confidence vote in Ćorić 14 months ago and that the wind park was one of the reasons. "The only difference is that as of yesterday we have an email and the deposition of a person directly implicating Ćorić in breaking the law and a case costing Croatian citizens almost HRK 2 billion."

"Today it's even clearer how much damage he is doing to the ministry he heads," Grbin told the press.

Marijan Pavliček of the Sovereignists said Ćorić should say "clearly" if he had given orders to his associates and known what had been going on. He called on the authorities to do their job as well.

He said Ćorić was known only for the wind park case, that he was not responsible for any major investment, but he should be held to account primarily over his inaction.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said Ćorić must explain his former associate's claims that he had done everything in the wind park case on Ćorić's orders. "Politics has too much influence on the real economy. The temptations to abuse office are too big," he said, calling out Ćorić for showing no reform vision.

Bartulica warned about the possible outcome of an opposition request for a no-confidence vote in Ćorić.

"Many should have been gone long ago, the whole government perhaps, but the fact that some opposition groups are trying to exploit the situation by requesting impeachment could result in the saving of vulnerable ministers."

He said the ministers who were implicated in serious scandals and had proven to be incompetent should be sacked.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc said this group had already initiated an interpellation concerning Ćorić's connection with the Krš-Pađene case and said that he was the weakest link in the government.

Asked if it was odd that Ćorić had not been questioned, she said it was and that during the parliamentary debate on the interpellation, the opposition had presented many leads.

"We are waiting for USKOK (anti-corruption office) to do its job because it's inconceivable that such a close associate is a suspect and his superior has not even been interrogated", Benčić said.

Anka Mrak Taritaš of GLAS said Ćorić had been connected to the wind park case for a long time and that "the prime minister is a little jumpy" because quite a few ministers "have skeletons in the closet" and should be replaced.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Prime Minister Says Government Measures to be Comprehensive, Good for All

ZAGREB, 15 Feb 2022 - Prime Minister and HDZ party leader Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that the government's set of measures designed to cushion the impact of rising energy prices was comprehensive and would be good both for households and the business sector, and that they would be presented at 10 am on Wednesday.

"The measures... will alleviate, as much as possible, the impact of price growth expected as of 1 April," Plenković told reporters after a session of the HDZ Presidency and National Council but he would not reveal any details.

He would not say if it was true, as reported by some media outlets, that VAT on gas would be lowered while VAT on electricity would not.

Asked if Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić still enjoyed his trust following accusations by Ćorić's former assistant, a suspect in an investigation by the USKOK anti-corruption agency, Plenković said that Ćorić had already given a statement on that topic.

"The fragments of investigations that are being leaked are so small that they do not deserve any comment. Especially not mine," Plenković said, adding that the investigation was under way and that he did not want to comment on statements given in investigations.

Ćorić said earlier today that in 2019, as minister of environmental protection and energy, he had in no way favoured investors in the Krš-Pađene wind park who are under investigation by the USKOK anti-corruption office, of which he has been accused by his former assistant Domagoj Validžić.

Plenković said that he had never been contacted with regard to that topic, and that the questions one should ask are which term of government this incident occured under, and how the company in question arrived in Croatia.

"I hope the State Attorney General's Office is interested in that as well," he said. 

Asked about the renovation of the basement where his chief-of-staff Zvonimir Frka-Petešić keeps his books, Plenković said that the Državne Nekretnine state property management company would explain everything.

"That has nothing to do with him. This... shameful, orchestrated lynching campaign that has been going on against Frka-Petešić for a month is one of the more stupid, irritating and mean things in the media and internet sphere," said Plenković.

With regard to the Constitutional Court's decision to reject a motion by 35 opposition MPs and 28 other applicants who claimed that the introduction of the COVID-19 certificate mandate in the public sector had been neither constitutional nor lawful, Plenković recalled that Croatia probably had had the least strict COVID-19 rules.

"And yet you have petty politicians who even want to organise a referendum, even though we have enabled social activities, work, transport and education, a great tourist season, saved jobs, paid wages to 700,000 people in the private sector, saved 120,000 businesses, while GDP is expected to grow by more than 10% this year," Plenković said, noting that there was nothing surprising about the Constitutional Court's decision.

Answering a reporter's question, Plenković said that at today's meeting of the ruling coalition, the leader of the People's Party - Reformists, Radimir Čačić, had apologised for his statement about Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

"I told him that a partner should act like a partner. You act like the Opposition if you are the Opposition," said the PM.

Speaking in an interview with N1, Čačić said that as far as he was concerned, Banožić could leave tomorrow. "He causes harm to himself with the way he communicates, not to mention others. As far as I'm concerned, Banožić can leave tomorrow," the junior partner in the ruling coalition said.

Plenković said that Banožić was in charge of a HRK 7.2 billion budget and that he signed contracts for the procurement of the Rafale fighter jets and the Bradley fighting vehicles.

"Not many ministers have something like that in their careers. Only I decide about (whether a minister leaves), nobody else," he said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Minister Ćorić Says He Has in No Way Favoured Wind Park Investors

ZAGREB, 15 Feb 2022 - Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said on Tuesday that in 2019, as minister of environmental protection and energy, he had in no way favoured investors in the Krš-Pađene wind park who are under investigation by the USKOK anti-corruption office, of which he has been accused by a former assistant.

"I inherited the Krš-Pađene case in 2017 when I took the office of minister of environmental protection and energy, and after several consultations with the State Attorney's Office, we solved that case at the ministry in 2017," Ćorić told the press.

He said the ministry's decision was upheld by the Constitutional Court and the High Administrative Court and that it was the last decision by the ministry that had legal effect in that case.

Ćorić said that he had in no way influenced an opinion issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy in 2009.

He said he would be available to the authorities "at any moment" and answer all their questions concerning Krš-Pađene, and that since the case was under investigation, he could not say more.

According to the Telegram web portal, Ćorić's former assistant Domagoj Validžić, one of the persons USKOK suspects of having favoured the investors in the wind park, claims he did it at Ćorić's request and that the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy, which Ćorić ran at the time, gave a positive opinion on the wind park even though, USKOK contends, the investors had not met all the requirements.

According to the media, Validžić told USKOK investigators that Ćorić had asked him to meet the investors' demands.

Telegram says Validžić told investigators that Ćorić had asked him about a letter from the investors and that he concluded that the minister had received "some information from the other side and that the letter existed and that it would be sent to the ministry."

Ćorić also wanted to know who at the ministry was in charge of a document that had to be drawn up for the investors, the media say. When Validžić told him it was Zoran Pačandi, head of the energy department, Ćorić allegedly said that Pačandi should be "relieved of some tasks so that he can hurry up that document" and that "the ministry's response should be positive for the investors."

The media say that Ćorić asked Validžić to send him the ministry's response via email before sending it to the investors and that Validžić gave the email to the investigators. Validžić reportedly told investigators that the letter was sent to the investors with the state secretary's signature.

According to the media, Validžić relayed his talks with Ćorić to Pačandi and that draft opinions were usually not sent to the minister.

The government sacked Validžić in April 2021 when USKOK started investigating him for abuse of office to the benefit of CEMP, a company owned by Milenko Bašić. According to USKOK, the opinion whereby the investors' demands were met was made only based on the law on renewables, while regulations on obtaining preferential electricity producer status were disregarded.

USKOK suspects Validžić disregarded those regulations so that he could favour CEMP in agreement with Josipa Rimac, the then Public Administration Ministry state secretary and a former mayor of Knin.

USKOK's investigation has covered Validžić, Rimac, Bašić as well as Krunoslav Jakupčić, former president of the Board of the Hrvatske Šume forest management company; Dragan Stipić, executive director of Bašić's Lager company; Ivan Melvan, a former Hrvatske Šume executive; and Tomislav Jureković, a former director of the HERA energy regulator.

Also reported were former Gračac mayor Nataša Turbić, former Knin town councillor Marinko Tokmačija, former assistant economy minister Ana Mandac, former Agriculture Ministry chief of staff Ružica Njavro, and entrepreneurs Josip Ravlić, Ante Sladić and Nikola Lapčić.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

As Croatian Fuel Prices Soar, Minister Tomislav Coric Talks Intervention

February the 8th, 2022 - Fuel prices are rising once again and Economy Minister Tomislav Coric has promised that the state will intervene as the situation continues to unfold.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, recently, a session of the Economic and Social Council was held, after which, Minister Tomislav Coric spoke in a statement to the media about the procurement and prices of natural gas, as reported by N1.

He commented on the rise in fuek prices, stating that nobody could have expected such a jump and that the current situation could not have been predicted.

Asked if time had shown that they had made a mistake in choosing a methodology such as the one chosen back in 2016, Minister Tomislav Coric said no, because no one could have predicted the current situation: "Changing the methodology at this time won't result in anything."

He said he couldn't say at this time exactly how much fuel prices would would continue to rise. "I saw in the media that it was 30 percent. The logic is that we'll have to find funds for that, at the expense of the state budget. If the thesis about the 30 percent increase is correct, it's equal to about 55-56 million kuna more,'' he said.

He reiterated that Croatia and the world is currently in a phase of a huge shock to both fuel and oil prices.

Asked whether or not the Croatian Government had already submitted a request for a review of the arbitration for the INA-MOL shareholder agreement, he said: ''Tomorrow is the deadline for that and the government will react within the deadline. Everything is ready, such requests are usually submitted on the last day of the deadline.''

He touched on Damir Vandjelic's accusation that the governments acted to the detriment of INA and didn't react when necessary. He said that he cooperated correctly with Vandjelic when he was a member of the INA Supervisory Board.

"From the things he'd been saying, it seemed to me that he's been questioning the actions and reactions and processes in the Republic of Croatia and is thus slowly becoming politically engaged, even though he's been politically inactive all the time. I welcome his political moment and place his comments in the context of his political engagement.''

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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