Sunday, 12 June 2022

Mayor: Zagreb Ready to Help State Institutions but Not Responsible for Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 12 June 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Sunday, in a comment on the process of post-earthquake reconstruction in Zagreb, that the city administration was willing to help state institutions but that under the law, reconstruction was not the city's responsibility. 

"I have been in office for a year and I have already cooperated with two different construction ministers and two different directors of the Reconstruction Fund, and those are the two institutions responsible for the reconstruction of private buildings. It is unbelievable the process is taking so long," Tomašević said at the Projekt Ilica: Q’ART event.

Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Minister Ivan Paladina has announced the opening of construction sites and concrete deadlines but it remains to be seen whether they will be realised, he said.

"If prices are the problem, they should be raised, both in public procurement and in the envisaged programmes," he added.

The mayor said that everything was in the government's hands and that it was unacceptable that the reconstruction process was taking so long to start. Maybe all political camps and the government have failed the most in the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb, while in Banija the construction of at least some replacement homes has begun, he stressed.

Asked about the proposal by public transport operators providing regular services for the country-wide introduction of an unlimited HRK 70 monthly pass for public transport, Tomašević said that such proposals had been made also for Zagreb and neighbouring counties but years had passed and they had not been implemented.

"The proposal is good in principle, but problems arise when local authorities, city companies and transport operators have to agree concrete tariffs and who will be in charge," he said, adding that Zagreb would accept the proposal, depending on the details of the agreement.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 10 June 2022

5 of Late Zagreb Mayor's Associates Convicted, Pripuz Acquitted in Agram Graft

ZAGREB, 9 June 2022 - Five close associates of late Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic were sentenced on Thursday to between 7 and 14 months in prison in the graft case dubbed Agram, while the principal defendant, businessman Petar Pripuz was acquitted of all charges.

The former chief of staff of Bandic's office, Miro Laco, was given the highest sentence of 14 months for illegal employment and use of official cars.

Former director of the city's ZET public transport company, Ivan Tolić, was sentenced to nine months. Former director of the Čistoća waste collection company, Miljenko Benko, was sentenced to eight months, while long-time head of the mayor's professional services, Vidoje Bulum was sentenced to seven months.

Former secretary of the Zagreb Sports Federation Zdenko Antunović, who,  towards the end of the trial, pleaded guilty to unlawful employment and the use of an official car for private purposes, received a suspended sentence of eight months and will not go to prison if he does not repeat the crime in two years.

All defendants were acquitted of charges of setting up a waste disposal operation for Pripuz's companies, as well as charges of exchanging city land with the Bramgrad company. 

The verdict, which was announced after a marathon trial by Judge Rahela Valentić acquitted former Bandić's adviser Željko Horvat, former acting Director of the Procurement Service of Zagreb Holding Ivan Markus, Public Procurement Officer of Zagreb Holding Filip Čulo, former head of the City Office for Property and Legal Affairs Koraljka Rožanković and director of the Bramgrad construction company Branko Mihaljević, along with Pripuz and the former head of the city's properties office and legal affairs Ines Bravić.

Most of the accused, including the principal defendant Pripuz, pleaded not guilty from the beginning, but some of them plea-bargained with the Uskok anti-corruption office during the proceedings.

Indictment filed in late 2015

The former head of the Zagreb Holding's branch for the management of sports facilities, Dragutin Kosić, and the former head of the City Gasworks, Ante Dodig, who were convicted at the beginning of the proceedings, pleaded guilty to illegal employment.

In addition to Bandić, the indictment also included the president of the Holding's management board, Slobodan Ljubičić, but the proceedings in his case were treated separately due to illness.

Bandić and his associates were arrested in October 2014 over the Agram graft scandal, and Uskok filed an indictment against the former mayor, his associates, and business partners for alleged financial shenanigans to the detriment of Zagreb in mid-December 2015.

The indictment was confirmed on seven counts by the court in March 2018, while three related to waste disposal were then returned to the prosecution to amend them and were upheld only at the end of October 2019.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Festival of Equal Opportunities Opens

ZAGREB, 7 June 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević on Tuesday opened the Festival of Equal Opportunities, an international event in which persons with disabilities perform in a musical, theatre and art programme together with artists as well as in recreation and sport games.

The festival celebrates diversity and equal opportunities, which must be ensured for all persons with disabilities in Zagreb, he said, adding that all barriers to feeling equal must be removed.

The festival is taking place in Zagreb's central square until 9 June and has been organised by the Zagreb Association of Physically Disabled for the 20th year in a row. It features more than 900 performers from Croatia and abroad, including 600 persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities make up 13% of Croatia's population and due to countless physical, institutional and social barriers, they are excluded from everyday life and condemned to invisibility, which is a reflection of structural discrimination, so the public does not perceive it as a problem, said Viktorija Lisec, the Association's president.

The prime minister's envoy, Culture Ministry state secretary Ivica Poljičak, said the government was doing everything to make everyday life easier for persons with disabilities. Their participation in cultural events stimulates their creativity and contributes to society's diversity and to raising public awareness, he added.

Science and Education Ministry state secretary Tomislav Paljak said the festival was special because it enabled persons with disabilities to show the talents that equated them with others.

The deputy ombudsman for person with disabilities, Dario Jurišić, said they should have equal rights and obligations, and that the festival's purpose was a social approach to the inclusion of isolated groups.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Opposition Criticise Mayor for Ineptitude in Leading Zagreb in 1st Year of his Term

ZAGREB, 5 June 2022 - Commenting on the first year of Mayor Tomislav Tomašević's term, Opposition representatives in the city assembly agree that the new mayor and his administration have not showed aptitude in running the capital city and solving the crucial issues.

Gordana Rusak of the Labour and Solidarity Party says in a statement for Hina that she has nothing to assess as the new mayor and administration have not launched any of their projects.

"The city has never been so filthy and neglected. Grass is everywhere, holes are on roads, projects are left on the shelf," she said.

Rusak also criticises the new administration for keeping silent about its plans for the Zagreb waste management centre.

Mislav Herman of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) says that the residents of the city are "exposed to the biggest ever ideological divisions."

He criticises the administration for potentially illegal moves such as lay-offs in the Zagreb Holding utility company and the revocation of the scheme for the stay-at-home parents, while members of managements of city companies are given compensation for using their cars.

Herman says that the City of Zagreb is alive finance-wise only owing to the HDZ government and the grants of interest-free loans, and postponement of the loans' repayment.

He accuses the new city administration of increasing the city's debt by HRK 1.1 billion.

Trpimir Goluža of the Bridge party says that it is concerning how much inapt Tomašević is at his task of managing the city.

He criticises Tomašević over his lack of trust in employees who are not part of his We Can platform.

Goluža comments that the public transportation company provides fewer and fewer services and also it is make impossible for new users to get connected to the water supply network.

Igor Peternel of the Homeland Movement also agrees that the new administration has not showed good managerial skills over the last year. 

He bears a grudge against them over the proposal of the SDP party, a partner in the city's ruling coalition, for renaming the Trg Republike  square (Republic Square) after Josip Broz Tito.

He elaborates that the platform that claims that advocates human rights should not allow the renaming of a square after a dictator.

Peternel commended the new administration for being rather cooperative in addressing the issues concerning the local utility services. 

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

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Zagreb Mayor Announces Talks on LGBT Associations' Demand for Own Center

ZAGREB, 4 June 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Saturday he would talk with LGBT associations about their demands for getting their own center, stated at today's 21st Pride parade.

"There are various models to realize that. We'll see the details, what they are proposing," he said while taking part in the march.

Tomašević said the 21st Pride was a parade for the 21st century Zagreb, a city "which is open to every diversity, tolerant of all differences and open to all."

He also commented on a lawsuit filed against him by the organizers of the Walk for Life march because the city refused to hoist their flags on its masts. "I'm not afraid of that. It is in the mayor's remit to decide on putting flags on city masts."

He said that although Walk for Life organizers had not been allowed to hoist their flags, freedom of speech and assembly had been not jeopardized and they had stood in public spaces.

"However, hoisting flags on city masts means the city administration's support. Walk for Life's goals are completely opposite to our program, in which we promised to ensure the availability of abortion, which is legally allowed, and allowing that would have been hypocritical," the mayor said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Zagreb Mayor Speaks to Hina About First Year in Office

ZAGREB, 29 May 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević has given an interview for Hina on the occasion of his one year in office, talking about what has been done and future projects.

Asked about his biggest success, he mentioned the new model of running the city in every aspect, from public procurement to hiring in dozens of city companies and over 300 institutions, saying that people are no longer appointed based on party affiliation but their qualifications.

Another success is the financial stabilisation of the city, Tomašević said, adding that the budget deficit is the lowest in the last five years at HRK 30 million, which he said was almost negligible considering that the budget was almost HRK 14 billion.

The mayor noted that the city now has 16 instead of 27 departments.

He also mentioned big changes in waste management, including the construction of a composting plant

As for failures, Tomašević said that although it was the legal responsibility of the state, he was very unhappy with the reconstruction of private buildings after the 2020 earthquake.

Asked which changes the people of Zagreb had felt over the past year, he said everything the new administration was doing was the basis for changes they would feel much more by the end of the term.

Speaking of future projects, Tomašević mentioned the procurement of 20 new trams and 65 buses, the construction of at least 12 kindergartens in the next two years, more bike paths and pedestrian zones.

He said the unused Paromlin industrial facility in the city centre would become a multifunctional social-cultural-educational centre financed mainly with EU funds.

Other unused properties such as Zagrepčanka, Gredelj, and Badel Block, which have been the city's "dead capital" for decades, will be revitalised to build affordable housing as well as put to social and commercial use, he added.

The city's housing fund policy is to build new flats for rent to socially vulnerable groups and young families at affordable prices, the mayor said. Our population policy is to invest in kindergartens so that they are affordable to everyone as well as affordable housing, he added.

Asked if the decision to abolish the state-at-home-parent scheme had been hasty, given that a court put it on hold, Tomašević said the scheme did not have a demographic effect and that, according to polls, most citizens considered it unjust.

Spending 15 times more on that scheme than on building kindergartens cannot be the city's development policy, he added.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Zagreb Mayor: Aim is to Do Away With Work via Agencies and Closed-end Contracts

ZAGREB, 1 May 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Sunday, during a celebration of International Workers' Day, that the city as employer would endeavour to improve working conditions and that the aim is to eradicate work via agencies and closed-ended contracts. 

"There has been a lot of talk over the past few days of decreasing the number of workers in Zagreb Holding (utility conglomerate), however, there has not been any mention that since stepping into office we have employed 440 people in kindergartens, at the moment we are in the process of employing 80 ZET (public transport) drivers and 40 firefighters, and we will employ 40 municipal services monitoring officer," Tomašević said addressing the public at the celebration in Maksimir Park.

"It is essential that people are employed through real job advertisements after years of being employed due to party membership, but those times are over", he added.

"On 1 May we remember all those who fought for workers' rights which we take for granted today, he said and added that the "fight has to continue." The Zagreb city authorities firmly believes in unionising and collective bargaining because that is the only way workers' rights and better working conditions can be won, and that contributes to a better society and better quality of life for all", he said.

Crowds of citizens attended the celebration in Maksimir Park where they were first greeted by Social Democratic Party (SDP) officials, including the head of the SDP Zagreb branch, Viktor Gotovac, and president of the City Assembly, Joško Klisović.

"Workers' Day isn't just a ceremony. It is a great day. We remember the fight for fundamental human rights and that fight hasn't stopped, it is ongoing," Gotovac told reporters.

He said they were fighting for workers stripped of their rights, who are not paid for overtime work and who cannot get an open-ended employment contract.

Bridge councillor Trpimir Goluža underscored that this is a time when workers' rights are quite threatened, which is obvious in the situation in the Zagreb Holding.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Zagreb Mayor Supports Minister's 5-Point Plan to Step Up Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 19 April 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Tuesday that he supported a five-point plan to step up the post-earthquake reconstruction, presented by the new Construction Minister, Ivan Paladina, on 14 April.

"We welcome these five points because they are in substance what we have been advocating since we came to power (in the City of Zagreb)," said the mayor.

Tomašević declined to comment on media reports on the previous career and the declaration of assets of Minister Paladina and on the media questioning if Paladina was a good choice for this position.

"I have never delved into personnel choices," said the mayor.

Commenting on the city authorities' insistence on the reconstruction of private houses and property, Tomašević said he could not see any reason why substitute family houses can be built in the quake-hit Banovina region and not in Zagreb.

Deputy Mayor Luka Korlaet said he wanted to believe that Paladina had the competencies for the ministerial position he now held.

Korlaet said that a bottleneck in the post-quake reconstruction process is partly in the construction ministry and partly in public procurement advertised by the Reconstruction Fund.

Some 70 buildings are undergoing reconstruction which they are are conducting on their own, he added.

Tomašević informed the press that the city authorities had been provided with HRK 7.5 million (€1 million) in grants to set up 1.4 megawatt solar panels on public institutions as support under a Norwegian financial mechanism.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Tomašević: Zagreb Ready to Provide All Assistance to Ukrainian Refugees

February 26, 2022 - Today Interior Minister Davor Božinović announced the beginning of the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Croatia, following the Russian invasion of their country. The mayor of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomašević shared on his social networks that they will provide all the necessary assistance for them.

Being the third day since the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory began, neighboring countries begin to receive Ukrainian refugees at their borders. This is the case of Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary, but also that of nearby countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic, all of whom, in addition to expressing their solidarity and condemning the Russian invasion, have confirmed their support in receiving and attending to the refugees. Although Ukraine does not belong to the European Union or the Schengen area, some of these countries maintain border agreements with Ukraine, and others have indicated that they will not require visas or permits to facilitate their entry.

The Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic stated today that several Ukrainian nationals have already arrived in Croatia and that the groundwork to make them comfortable and provide for their needs is now underway.

The news comes just after Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic took to Twitter to tweet that he has spoken with the government and with the Red Cross and that things were now fully underway to accept fleeing Ukrainian refugees.

The mayor of the Croatian capital of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomašević, has been the most recent authority to speak out on the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, and through a post on Facebook, he has expressed his solidarity, and also guaranteed his support and assistance for them.

''The City of Zagreb is ready to provide all possible assistance to refugees from Ukraine. We will make more locations available for the eventual reception of refugees, depending on their needs. This is the least we can do in solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine and the human tragedy they are going through'', reads the post shared by Tomašević.

The mayor of Zagreb finished his post by condemning the Russian invasion in Ukraine: ''I strongly condemn the aggression against Ukraine, because of which many lives will be destroyed - the violence must stop so that the innocent do not continue to suffer''.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Zagreb Archbishop and Mayor Discuss Further Cooperation

14 February, 2022 - The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, met with Mayor Tomislav Tomašević on Monday to discuss further cooperation between the Archdiocese and the City in matters of common interest, notably in social and charitable work.

The focus was on projects for the common good, including care for the citizens hardest hit by the consequences of the March 2020 earthquake, the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased cost of living, the Archdiocese Press Office said.

Also discussed were challenges in the post-earthquake reconstruction process, and providing premises for the assembly of believers in parishes where there are no churches.

The archbishop and the mayor expressed openness to working together in resolving all issues for the common good of all citizens.

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