Monday, 31 May 2021

Man Who Caused Incident Outside Tomašević's Campaign Headquarters Detained

ZAGREB, 31 May 2021 - The man who started a smaller fire near an entrance to a museum where Zagreb mayor-elect Tomislav Tomašević's team gathered on Sunday evening was taken to a police station in Zagreb on Monday, the local police reported.

The police did not reveal the identity of the suspect and only reported that an investigation was being conducted.

As Zagreb's mayor-elect Tomašević was preparing to address his supporters and public at his campaign headquarters on Sunday evening, an older man arrived at the scene, hurling insults at those attending the event and starting a smaller fire, after which he left. The man arrived at one of the fire exits of Zagreb's Museum of Contemporary Art, close to the stage, where he was stopped by security guards.

Shouting insults at the security guards, he spilled a flammable liquid on the floor and on one of the guards. He then set the liquid on fire but the fire was soon extinguished as the man walked away. Police were called to the scene after the incident.

According to media reports, the man called those attending the event communists and threatened to kill them.

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

Monday, 31 May 2021

Transfer of Authority in Zagreb on Friday at Earliest, Says Acting Mayor

ZAGREB, 31 May 2021 - Acting Zagreb Mayor Jelena Pavičić Vukičević said on Monday all the documents necessary for transferring authority to newly-elected Mayor Tomislav Tomašević were ready at the city administration and that the transfer could occur on Friday at the earliest.

She congratulated Tomašević on his election and wished him and his team success in their work.

We followed the campaign and saw the election programs, and we expect their prompt and good realization, she told the press.

Pavičić Vukičević also congratulated the people of Zagreb on City Day, which is observed today.

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

Monday, 31 May 2021

Tomašević Calls on Zagreb Residents To Participate in Decision-Making

May 31st, 2021 - Zagreb's new mayor Tomislav Tomašević said in his first address as mayor-elect on Sunday that residents of Zagreb had put trust in his ability to run the city, calling on them to participate in decision-making on the city's development.

"Thank you, Zagreb! Thank you for your trust, hope, your belief that a true change is possible. Thank you for a clear mandate for a real change. Thank you for believing in me, in yourselves, and all of us," Tomašević said in the address at his campaign headquarters at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

"We will do our best to justify your trust," he said, also thanking voters who did not vote for him and stressing that in time he hoped to gain their approval as well with a better model of governance and better quality of life for all.

Tomašević said that he had been fighting all his life for the city and its interests and against harmful agreements and decisions by those who, he said, had captured the city, systematically neglecting it and using it as their own cash machine.

He recalled that his campaign for Zagreb started back in 1998 when he was 16 and fought against the illegal dumping of hazardous waste in gravel pits by the River Sava.

"Twenty-three years later, here we are, together with the best team with whom I have been fighting for years for a juster, more solidary, and more tolerant society. Those are the people with whom I share a vision for Zagreb as a greener, more just, and more transparent city," said Tomašević.

"I will proudly lead this city to a better future, and I will be the mayor of all its residents, both those who voted for me and those who did not," he said.

"I believe that all residents of Zagreb, regardless of how they voted and whether they voted at all, want better living conditions in their neighborhoods, more available child care, better health care, more retirement, and nursing homes, better public transportation, better cycle lanes, and more green areas and that they want this city to finally make it possible for young people to have a future here," he said.

"Our mission will not last only until the next election; we look much farther into the future because the city's long-term wellbeing is the most important to us. Zagreb, you have given me your trust, and I ask you to participate, together with us, in making decisions on the city's development," said Tomašević.

He also called for patience, adding that a lot of work lay ahead and that the changes the city was about to undergo were neither quick nor simple.

In Sunday's runoff election for Zagreb mayor, Tomašević won 199,630 votes, the most votes so far. Before him, the largest number of votes was won by the city's long-serving mayor, the late Milan Bandić, who in 2013 won 170,798 votes.

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

Monday, 24 May 2021

HRK742K So Far Spent on Tomašević's Campaign, Nearly 251K Collected in Donations

May 24, 2021 - The Mi Možemo and Zagreb je Naš political groups supporting the mayoral candidate have spent 741 598 kunas on Tomašević's campaign of this candidate for the new Zagreb mayor. In contrast, they have collected 250,668 kunas in donations, according to the data they provided last Friday.

On 21 May, the We Can party and its coalition partners submitted an updated financial report on the campaign's funding in the run-up to the Zagreb mayor's elections.

The report shows that they have received donations from 631 individuals and legal entities.

The average amount of a donation is thus HRK 397.25.

This Green-Left coalition shows that the funding for the campaign mainly relied on smaller individual donations provided by residents, which they interpret as a sign of broad support of the local population.

They also thanked all who raised funds for this campaign.

(€1 = HRK 7.503288)

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

Monday, 17 May 2021

Miroslav Škoro: We Have Achieved Our Goals, We'll Stop The Left

17 May 2021 - The Homeland Movement's candidate for Zagreb mayor, Miroslav Škoro, said on Sunday night, the party had achieved its goals and that they would stop and unmask the green-left coalition trying to conquer Zagreb, calling it extremely leftist.

That is not the future of our country, of Zagreb and our children, said Škoro, who will be in the mayoral runoff with Tomislav Tomašević of the We Can! platform, who has won 45% of the vote in Sunday's elections.

Škoro said he was confident that he would show in the runoff that there was enough sense and intelligence "so that we can unmask in a well-argued debate what is called the green-left coalition."

"That's neither green nor only left-wing. That's first and foremost and above all extremely left-wing, and it will be stopped in the runoff."

Škoro said that despite the big job ahead, he was sure that with faith in God and His help, Zagreb would have a new mayor in two weeks who was not from any green or left coalition but a person who would continue the city's tradition and all that contemporary democracy was in the current world.

He said that in just one year of its existence, the Homeland Movement had achieved enormous results, leaving behind the two major parties, the HDZ and the SDP, in many municipalities and cities, including in Zagreb.

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

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Zagreb Mayoral Candidate: Wide Coalition Will Be Needed in City Assembly

April 18, 2021 - Zagreb mayoral candidate, Vesna Škare Ožbolt, has said that that it will be challenging to have a majority in the City Assembly after the 16 May local elections, so at a moment when Zagreb is faced with a crisis, she sees a need for a big coalition of all political blocs in the assembly.

Škare Ožbolt said that carrying out projects such as Zagreb on the River Sava and the leveling of the railway tracks would take more than four years, but she would launch them during the first term.

There is still money even in these times of crisis, but the question is where that money goes, whether it ends up in private pockets or is used to improve citizens' lives. Someone has already calculated that 20% of the budget is spent on corruption, and 20% is HRK 3 billion. That is an enormous amount of money, she said in the interview which Hina published on Sunday.

My projects are ambitious, aimed at quickly raising Zagreb. Zagreb is in the biggest crisis ever, and it is devastated, damaged in the (22 march 2020) earthquake, and economically lags behind other European cities. That must change, said this 59-year-old lawyer.

My first goal is to carry out the city's reconstruction, raise living standards, start developing the city through infrastructure projects, and upgrade communal infrastructure in all parts of the city. Then, I want to bring the transport infrastructure back to normal, lower the railway below ground level. My goal is also to adopt a complete General Urban Plan because a complete GUP has not been adopted since 1971.

Today, the railway divides Zagreb. If it is placed underground, you get a green belt from Sesvete to the western part of the city. There is money from European funds for that, she claims

The second big project is putting the River Sava into the city's function. Zagreb is the only city with a river it does not use. First, mini-hydro power plants would be set up to control the river's flow. This project has indeed existed for years, but it is not at all clear to me why no funds have been requested for it, she added.

As soon as the assembly is formed, we will overhaul the City Administration and create a mega-institute for the city's reconstruction that will include all smaller offices, said Škare Ožbolt, former justice minister in the Ivo Sanader government.

Škare Ožbolt left the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)  when the party lost the 2020 parliamentary elections. Together with the former foreign minister, Mate Granić, she founded the Democratic Centre (DC) party and was a minister in the Sanader government as a DC official from late December 2003 until February 2006.

In the mid-1990s, she engaged the negotiations with local Serb rebels on the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia into the country's constitutional and legal system.

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

Friday, 9 April 2021

Pensioners' Platform Presents Its Candidate For Zagreb Mayor

ZAGREB, 9 April, 2021 - The Pensioners Together platform, which brings together a number of pensioners' associations and parties, on Friday presented its candidate for Zagreb Mayor, Milivoj Špika, and the candidate for deputy mayor, Blanka Sunara.

Addressing a news conference, Špika said that some candidates for Zagreb mayor behaved like revolutionaries, wishing to destroy current structures and announcing radical changes, while others acted as if Zagreb were their loot.

"Zagreb needs someone who will carry out peaceful transition from the current model of governance to a new model of running the city," Špika said, adding that the platform would focus on pensioners, workers with inadequate pay, people with blocked bank accounts and other social groups.

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

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Miroslav Škoro Vows to Close Down Jakuševec Landfill if Elected Mayor

ZAGREB, 8 April, 2021 - Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Škoro said on Thursday that if elected Mayor of Zagreb, he would deal with the problem of the city's Jakuševec landfill and close it down.

"We should do all we can to ensure that the residents in this part of Zagreb no longer have to live near a landfill with an unpleasant smell in the air," Škoro said in Jakuševec.

He said that about 110,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste is disposed of in Jakuševec annually, including 60,000 tonnes of household waste that produces an unpleasant smell in the air. "There is no need for that," he added.

Škoro said that Zagreb had such potential for compost production that it could earn HRK 35 million from it annually. He also warned that Zagreb spent HRK 25 million on disposal of plastic waste, while with proper management it could earn HRK 100 million from it.

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

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Škoro: Zagreb Has Lost Its Way in Poor Management Over Last 20 Years

ZAGREB, 28 March 2021 - The Homeland Movement candidate for Mayor of Zagreb, Miroslav Škoro, said that he is ready to take charge of the city's complex management because he has managerial experience, adding that Zagreb has lost its way in poor management over the last 20 years.

Presenting the main points of his election platform, Škoro said that it is opposed to the management style of the late mayor Milan Bandić and that he is offering change.

He said that before announcing his candidacy, the Homeland Movement had talked with other potential candidates, adding that they might have supported the ruling Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) Damir Vanđelić had he been nominated and allowed to present his program.

"I am offering the citizens of Zagreb my knowledge and experience in public affairs and business. In this campaign, each of us candidates must prove their competencies. My professional career is easily verifiable and includes managerial experience and the creation of added value. I am a trained civil engineer, but I also hold a Ph.D. in economics and management," Škoro said.

He said that Croatia's demographic, economic, financial, and educational indicators and the public healthcare system's state were disastrous. "If the citizens give their confidence to the HDZ or the SDP (Social Democratic Party) and their satellites, they will only help the unstoppable decline to ruin. On the other hand, for change to occur, there are two options: the leftist, activist narrative propagated by people without work experience, and the entrepreneurial narrative of the center-right Homeland Movement, which is based on experience, competence, prudence, respect for the tradition and legacy of our nation."

"We cannot build our future on activism. Also, none of us is a superman, and that is exactly how the candidate of the We Can! platform is being portrayed. Figuratively speaking, if a tree needs to be cut down, we will cut it down and plant dozens more wherever possible. At the same time, activists will tie themselves to that tree because they don't see beyond that and cannot offer other solutions. I don't want to belittle anyone, but there is a huge difference between us in how we see the management model and the city administration's role. I am confident that the citizens will be able to see this distinction in the election," he added.

Asked about his election platform, Škoro said that he would present it this week. The program addresses finance, economy, entrepreneurship, utility infrastructure, traffic, education, healthcare, pensioners, young people, demography, waste management, and post-earthquake reconstruction.

"First, we will have to conduct due diligence of the city's finances. We think that the city's properties should be used more efficiently, rather than being sold at any cost, and businesses' incentives should be higher. Also, there is no reason for local tax in Zagreb to be the highest in the country, and it can be reduced over a period of time by several percentage points from the present 18%," he said.

Speaking of the city's budget deficit, Škoro said that "a budget surplus of at least HRK 800-900 million" could be achieved over a period of four years. 

"Over a period of four years, the City of Zagreb can close down the Jakuševec landfill. Instead of paying HRK 25 million for plastic waste disposal, it can earn HRK 100 million from managing such waste. Zagreb has a problem with transport infrastructure because a railway line cuts it east-west. The railway should be either elevated or lowered and become the backbone of the city's transport system. The City of Zagreb has lost its way in poor management over the last 20 years. It must be put back on the right track. We will do that and will rebuild it together," Škoro said.

Asked why he had pledged kindergartens free of charge given that the average monthly salary in Zagreb is the highest in the country, Škoro said: "Because the city can afford free kindergartens for children and free public transport for pensioners. That is our money. This is not just a promise. I will deliver on it. In the budget for a city the size of Zagreb, several dozen million kunas means nothing. The City of Zagreb must remain socially sensitive. We must raise the level of social sensitivity because this money belongs to the citizens."

An election victory in Zagreb requires between 150,000 and 170,000 votes. Asked if he counted on the support of the 90,000 voters who had backed him in the presidential election and how he was going to attract the remaining voters, Škoro said: "We are running in this election as a team who will be able to take charge of the complex functioning of a complex city which is neglected and burdened with countless problems. This team comprises professional and competent people who will be a guarantee of that."

Škoro said that he would use the time leading up to the election, scheduled for 16 May, to visit every neighborhood in the city and present his platform. 

"Indeed, I won over 90,000 votes in Zagreb in the presidential election, and that is my asset which the citizens recognize, despite those who want to label me as an election loser. To start from nowhere, alone against all, and achieve such a result is a major feat. I have already mentioned the 16 seats in the national parliament that we won in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic and lockdown. The Homeland Movement could have participated in government had we agreed to obey unquestioningly and consented to shameless political trade-offs. We want reforms and changes, and that is not possible with the prime minister and his coalition government who put the interests of the Brussels administration before the interests of their own country and people," Škoro said.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

VIDEO: Zagreb Earthquake 2020, One Year Later

March 22, 2021- On the Zagreb Earthquake 2020 first anniversary, TCN reporters Ivor Kruljac and Jose Alfonso Kusijanović took to Zagreb's streets to see how locals feel one year later. 

6:24 AM March 22, 2020. It was Sunday, but sleep was as light as it was a workday full of obligations. Zagreb's citizens were awakened by a horrible sound followed by walls shaking, the ground trembling and things falling all over the place. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, at the very end of the first week of the first lockdown where it was advised to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the virus, there was no choice but to rush out of the house, discombobulated and without a clue of what exactly is the damage that 5.5 magnitude earthquake did. Individuals, couples, and entire families were outside but at a distance from one another, and just after the first aftershock, it started to snow. If you didn't leave the very center of Zagreb, the first sign of damage was the cathedral, whose top of the left tower collapsed, and only later you started to see the images of the center, which many compared online to Beirut. The Covid-19 National Response Team expressed its condolences on TV but warning everyone to keep the distance due to corona. Emergency services rushed to the city, later followed by the army. People who lost their homes were taken to student dorms and other locations with free space in the following days. Sadly, a 15-year-old-girl was fatally injured during the earthquake and passed away at Klaićeva's Children Hospital.

One year later, citizens of Zagreb still have mixed feelings about the event. Here are their answers in our short interview.


Shaking the memory

Senior citizen Ljerka was walking around European Square. Her home survived the quake, and the aftermath was books that fell from a shelf and broken bottles and jars in her pantry.  She learned about that damage after a few days when she returned home from her sister's because she was too scared to be alone. The memory of last year still gives her the chills. „I jumped out of bed and lost my head; you have no idea where to go. You don't know what to do. I quickly grabbed something, half-dressed, rushed to the street. People were standing outside confused who didn't know where to go or what to do, nothing“, she said. Describing herself as an optimistic person, the scary experience is still stuck with her even one year later. „You remember it from time to time, but you can't forget it," said Ljerka.

A young guy named Dejan Jakovljević was casually walking around a crowded Dolac market, carefully with a mask to respect the measures in the crowds. He handled the earthquake pretty well as he lives in a new building with lots of concrete and reinforcement. 

„It woke me up, but I knew it was an earthquake. It didn't scare me. I just waited for it to be over“, said Dejan. Responding to how he feels about it one year later, he briefly acknowledged that he „honestly forgot about it. “


Borna Filic / PIXSELL

The same can't be said for American-born Stefanie Mikac from New York. We met her while she was walking her dog in Zrinjevac park. Her home was badly damaged. „I was in the bathroom dancing left and right. I didn't think it was an earthquake, I thought 'what is it, the devil had come!’ and there was smoke“, remembered Stefanie. When she realized it was an earthquake, she hid under the door, and when it passed, she searched for her dog that hid in the apartment before finally escaping her flat. On her trip to Hawaii, where earthquakes are quite frequent, she accepted that there is not much you can do against mother nature. Despite her bad experience, a year later, she feels safe in Zagreb. „Very secure, safe. You know, you have to take things as they come, “ said Stephanie sharing her positive attitude.

We spotted Mira Francem walking on Jelačić square. Her house was built following all the construction demands and proved to be earthquake-proof. Still, the rocky feeling isn't something that she liked. „I personally felt terrible. I had a feeling the whole world was collapsing, and in the end, that feeling of losing the ground under my feet is an instinct, you know?”, said Mira adding that even though her house is fine, the trembling ground was awful. When asked if there is still anxiety over the last year's event, she resoundingly repeated, “yes.”


Borna Filic / PIXSELL

Mladen Habuš was standing on Vlaška street that connects European Square with Kaptol, where the City's cathedral is located.

“My home was okay. The earthquake surprised everyone at first, but fortunately, they don't last, so you stabilize psychologically”, said Mladen calmly, as if it didn’t really leave an impression on him.

“I already forgot about it because it's not as frequent as in Glina or Petrinja, whereas they say, it shakes every five minutes,” he emphasized, and that the key is to remain relaxed. 

December – another round, another rumble

The second earthquake with a 6.4 magnitude that hit Petrinja and ravaged Banovina / Banija didn't damage Zagreb as it did to the southern part of central Croatia. Still, it was certainly felt, and many agreed it was stronger than the one in March.

„Jesus Christ! That one was even worse!“said Ljerka the second I mentioned the Petrinja earthquake. She learned that Zagreb is situated in a seismic active area, and earthquakes are something people in Zagreb need to learn to live with, but March didn't make her welcome the December tremble with more ease. She ran out of the house, not knowing what when her niece, who also lives in Zagreb, called her.

„I asked her if there was another earthquake in Zagreb. I didn't get anything. She said, 'no, that's the aftermath of Petrinja.' We are really close to Petrinja“, said Ljerka.


Nikola Cutuk / PIXSELL

Stephanie was walking her dog during the Petrinja earthquake. She witnessed bricks falling and was relieved nobody was passing underneath at the time. However, when she returned home, she entered the mess, and the damages that were still not fixed from March intensified. „All the cracks are wider now, and everything will need to be taken down to get to the healthy wall,” said Stephanie.

When asked if the December quake was easier or the same to handle for her, she laughed, acknowledging that it was actually worse.  “We repeated the reactions from the first earthquake, you know? It's a very unpleasant feeling even today when a tram passes or something buzzes. I think something is trembling, and we are quite tense”, shared Mira. She said that no matter how rational you are, consequences as emotions are different from rationale.  “I'm really sorry for those people. My house isn't damaged, but I was scared and lost, and I can only imagine how those people felt. It's a huge catastrophe on which we cannot influence,” said Mira with empathy.

Dejan felt the December quake was stronger but feeling safe in his building; he wasn't too worried. “I instinctively rushed to save the TV. Everything else was irrelevant”, recalled Dejan with gentle laughter underneath his mask.

Despite Mladen being relaxed after Petrinja, anxiety crept up on him too. “You start listening; someone starts a car, you raise your head to see what's going on. You are expecting another earthquake”, said Mladen. Still, he added that “you get used to it.”  


Insurance vs. safe building

As revealed earlier this year, 85% of Croatian households don't have earthquake insurance.

Dejan doesn't know if the building had insurance but given his building proved safe, he didn't seem too concerned with that question.

Mira also didn't have insurance, but her investment in the safe building certainly paid off.

Stephanie's home was badly damaged, but she pays 1200 kuna annually for insurance and says it isn't too expensive in Croatia. However, regarding the walls in her home that need to be fixed, there was a bit of an issue. „The insurance company actually secured only the furniture, but then through a lawyer, we made a deal to cover half of it. Something is better than nothing“, said Stephanie.

Ljerka complemented her landlord and how she manages things. Her building received a green sticker but chimneys needed to be removed. Insurance helped there a lot. „We took down the chimney ourselves, and we got the money back, I think 3000 kuna, “ said Ljerka. The roof was renewed a year or two ago, but the same couldn't be said about the terrace residents have in the back of the building. Insurance didn't want to cover it, and a loan was needed to be taken for the fixture.

City officials to the rescue! Or not?

Both the country and international community, not to mention companies and individuals, rushed to help Zagreb, and the now-deceased mayor Milan Bandić found himself challenged to return Zagreb to its old glory and shine as fast as possible. The situation even called for a Zagreb reconstruction bill on the parliament level as the government took the lead in rebuilding the city. In the meantime, Bandić passed away, and with local elections coming up, the city's repair remains a topic for all the candidates that hope to take the lead chair of city politics in May.

Regarding the response of the city officials, Ljerka isn't happy.

„What did the city do? Nothing. It was all ruins. Look at what Zagreb looks like now after the earthquake. How long has passed, and nothing is done. Nothing. Only the houses that people renovated themselves, but the city gave nothing”, commented Ljerka. She did, however, add that the city doesn’t have money and that she understands that.

Mira shares Ljerka's opinion that the situation is better for those who organized repairs privately. Still, when it comes to the city authority response, she says, „it should have gone faster, better, and more organized. “


Borna Filic / PIXSELL

„I see a lot of my friends who live in the center. It's all at a standstill. For those who engaged themselves privately, it is better, but otherwise, it is prolonged. It needs to be better, more active, more engaged to ease the people and make them stronger."

Dejan also thinks that the authorities' response was not good and that “they should help people.“

When asked to comment on the city's response to the earthquake damage, Stephanie was hesitant at first. She feared many people would disagree with her opinion and her different way of thinking because she lived in the US.

“Over there, we have asbestos insurance and insurance for everything. If you have a bank loan and the bank has input on the house, you have to have insurance”, explained Stephanie asking me if it is fair for her to pay the insurance while others don’t and later demand the city to pay for everything. “Imagine if the city would fix apartments for everyone and secure the buildings. Nobody would ever do that anywhere. They may give you a percentage, but that's it,” concludes Stephanie.  

Mladen is happy with the city's response.

“I think the city, to my knowledge and how much I followed, was the only one that jumped to help those who lost their homes and put them in free spaces,” Mladen pointed out. He also reminds us that the government took over the rebuild and the city is involved with 20%. When asked if it’s good for Zagreb that the government took the lead over the city, a resounding yes was the final answer. “The city doesn't have enough money, so the government needs to jump in," concluded Mladen.  

Steady ground wishes above all

Being the biggest and the capital city of Croatia, which attracts people from everywhere in the country and beyond, Zagreb streets offered truly diverse answers to Jose and me. There was more or less fright on March 22, 2020, and different levels of anxiety today. Different views on insurance and the city’s response. We can only guess how differently they will vote in May. But one wish is the constant for the Purger's hearth - the wish to see Zagreb as a safe city where you only get awakened by an alarm clock.   

 For more about the earthquake in Zagreb, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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