Monday, 31 December 2018

10,000 Kuna On Offer to Parents of Newborns?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 31st of December, 2018, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić presented the Croatian Government's new ''demographic measure'' on Sunday for Dnevnik HTV, by which the non-taxable amount of so-called ''newborn allowance'' has been raised to a very handsome 10,000 kuna.

"An employee who has a baby'' said Marić, "her employer has the ability and the right to give her money for the newborn baby. The non-taxable amount is 3,362 kuna, but this amount has been raised three times higher and amounts to 10,000 kuna,'' announced the finance minister during an interview with HTV.

The order by the Croatian Government which regards this measure will be published on Wednesday, January the 2nd, 2019, and will come into force as of Thursday, January the 3rd, but it is already technically applicable today, added the minister.

Looking back, this has been the year in which Marić, who has been serving in the Croatian Government for a while now, stated that he was satisfied with continuing the trend of Croatia's declining public debt, which fell by 10 percentage points in just three years. It is expected that this year,  interest rates will fall below 9 billion kuna.

"Since 2015, we've cut interest rates by more than a quarter, we're paying lower interest rates, and I'm particularly pleased with what we've done for the highways and for the roads," said Minister Marić, emphasising that they continue to remain in "Croatian hands".

Recalling the alarming debts which still very much haunt Croatia's healthcare system, he said that redistributing money to the Ministry of Health can't be a viable solution to that problem.

"I'm happy that we've been able to reduce payment deadlines, especially the state ones, for a year. I'd like to see if these reduced payment periods reflected on the reduced cost of purchasing medication," Marić said.

He emphasised the need for the Croatian Government to apply a combination of measures on the revenue and expenditure side of the health budget.

"We have contributed through the third round of tax breaks, we've raised the budget for healthcare by 1 percentage point, around 1.350 billion kuna, but that won't be enough," he said, concluding that the Croatian healthcare system must be financially sustainable.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

PM Andrej Plenković: Finance Minister Zdravko Marić Won't Leave Government

Amid rumours that the finance minister, Zdravko Marić, is set to step down from his position within the Croatian Government as soon as next month, PM Andrej Plenković has been having his refusal to outright deny the claims scrutinised, with some believing that this means Marić's departure was imminent and due to take place in early 2019. It seems however, that Marić isn't going anywhere.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 9th of December, 2018, HDZ President and PM Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric isn't going to leave the government.

"There will be no departure," Plenković told journalists after the he was questioned about whether or not he'd talked to Marić himself about his alleged departure from the cabinet before the end of his mandate, as was being circulated by some media outlets.

The Prime Minister, upon being questioned about the criticisms of controversial SDSS President Milorad Pupovac regarding recent arrests in Vukovar, said that he didn't listen to that press conference, adding that the current government is not interfering with the work of the police or with the work of DORH in any manner whatsoever.

He pointed out, in order to quell people's natural suspicions that "there are no invisible political hands" holding any influence over this process.

When asked about the elections for the European Parliament, PM Andrej Plenković stated that the party would be "almost sure" on their own and that at least five mandates can be expected. "We'll win convincingly in those elections," he said briefly.

Concerning the controversy around the procurement of Israeli F-16 aircraft, Plenković reiterated that everything that the Republic of Croatia did in this process was done systematically, thoroughly, and in fine detail, and that open issues, if there are any, exist solely between Israel and the United States of America, and are nothing to do with Croatia or the part Croatia played in the process.

He confirmed that he visited Zagreb's mayor Milan Bandić was taken to hospital yesterday morning, adding that Bandić claims to be feeling good and that he believes that he will recover and be back on his feet quickly.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for more on PM Andrej Plenković, the Croatian Government, and updates from both domestic and European politics in Croatia.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Will Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Marić Leave Government?

Neither Prime Minister Plenković nor Zdravko Marić himself have come out and actually denied the rumours about the Croatian finance minister's potential departure from the government.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 8th of December, 2018, although no one has officially confirmed this, some claim that a quick analysis of the statements made by both Prime Minister Plenković and Zdravko Marić himself suggest that it is apparently ''almost certain'' that the longtime Croatian finance minister is set to leave his government position.

This information has begun circulating at a very inconvenient time and amid quite a bit of controversy, given the fact that Zdravko Marić's older sister has been promoted in HANFA, which is ironically the organisation investigating the finance minister for his activities during the height of Agrokor saga, which still isn't over. Good timing you say? You're right.

To quickly recall, this isn't the first time the Croatian finance minister has fallen out of favour in such a public manner. Marić used to work at Agrokor before taking on his government position, and as more and more came to light in regard to Agrokor's messy story, many began to suspect that he knew much more than he was letting on about the crimes which allegedly took place under the gigantic company's former owner, Ivica Todorić.

Despite having held strong to his statement of innocence and managing to survive this political test, ultimately retaining his position, the cloud of suspicion surrounding him never truly went away, it only engulfed Martina Dalić instead, the fomer deputy PM, who became a welcome distraction for the minister tormented by his past.

Regardless of the passage of time and the stepping down of Martina Dalić, the curse of the former Agrokor crisis has come knocking at Croatian finance minister's door once again, and this time it looks like he won't be getting off quite as lightly.

Upon being asked, Prime Minister Plenković's response has been scrutinised deeply, and for some it could be concluded that the Croatian finance minister's time is up, purely and simply because the he did not deny it when asked, writes Večernji list.

Similarly, Marić didn't deny it himself, either. The question now is not only who would potentially replace Marić in the government, but whether or not this could potentially be a chance for the reconstruction of the current government.

While unconfirmed, speculation suggests that Marić's departure from the government will take place next month, which would in itself be logical because he has already compiled a budget for next year.

The exact name of the person who either may or definitely replace Marić is still unknown, primarily because this information remains officially unconfirmed. But those speculating have suggested that it could be Tomislav Ćorić, the curent minister of energy and environmental protection, but sources close to the government claim that if he is doing his job well and that such a move would make no real sense. It would also be his third new ministry if it were to occur. So, it seems difficult to imagine Corić taking over Marić's job.

The speculation of potential names continues, despite the fact that the rumours of the current Croatian finance minister leaving his position early next year remain unconfirmed. 

Make sure to stay up to date on this situation and much more on the domestic and European political stage by following our dedicated politics page.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Finance Minister Explains Away His Sister’s Appointment to Regulatory Body

ZAGREB, December 6, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Thursday there was no favouritism in the appointment of his sister Ljiljana Orlovac as CEO in the Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (HANFA), saying he was ready to step down if there was proof that he did anything wrong.

Speaking after a government session, held in the central city of Karlovac, Marić commented on the information that his sister was appointed director of the HANFA insurance supervision department which investigates whether or not there was any insider trading at the time the Agrokor bill was being drafted.

Marić said his sister had all the necessary qualifications and experience for the position she was appointed to, telling reporters to seek any further information regarding this case from HANFA.

Marić says that his sister was a CEO at the Adriatic Osiguranje insurance company as early as in 1995 and that she arrived in HANFA in 2010 as deputy director. With over 20 years of experience in the insurance business, she was appointed CEO and not a member of the Management Board, which makes all decisions, Marić said.

The Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (HANFA) dismissed any insinuation about conflict of interest regarding the appointment of Ljiljana Orlovac, stressing that the main appointment criteria were competence and expertise.

HANFA is an independent institution that answers to the national parliament and its operations, including the appointment of staff, are professional and independent, agency officials said, reiterating that the main appointment criteria were competence and expertise.

Ljiljana Orlovac has been an employee of HANFA for the past nine years during which she held various offices and performed many duties, HANFA said.

For more on Minister Marić, click here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Croatian Finance Minister Under Pressure to Resign

ZAGREB, December 4, 2018 - The leaders of the parliamentary opposition parties GLAS, HSS, IDS and HSS told a press conference in Zagreb on Tuesday that Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Marić "must go" following Monday's decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission.

"Marić must go. However, it is also important to pass a new law on conflict of interest, but not in the way Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević would want. All institutions cannot be dependent on the (ruling) HDZ," the leader of the Civic Liberal Alliance (GLAS), Anka Mrak Taritaš, said.

"There already was a vote of confidence in Marić and the result was 75 votes in favour of his resignation and 75 votes against, which showed what we think about him," she added.

In May last year, Croatia's 151-seat parliament did not pass a no-confidence vote against Finance Minister Marić after 75 lawmakers voted for the opposition's motion for the dismissal of the minister whom they accuse of the conflict of interest in connection with Agrokor, and the same number voted against the motion, with one lawmaker abstaining.

Mrak Taritaš noted today that there was already speculation that Marić would resign after the New Year and that he had indicated that he had found a new job.

The Conflict of Interest Commission decided on Monday that former Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Dalić and Finance Minister Zdravko Marić had violated the principle of holding public office in the case of the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate. The violation does not carry any penalties.

The head of the parliamentary group of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, Branko Bačić, said on Tuesday that the Conflict of Interest Commission had found that in the case of Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and former Economy Minister Martina Dalić there was no conflict of interest in their actions while they were dealing with the crisis surrounding the privately owned Agrokor Group, and dismissed opposition calls for Marić's resignation.

"There is no reason for the opposition to demand the minister's resignation, and the minister will not tender his resignation," Bačić said, adding that the Commission had extensively interpreted the conflict of interest legislation when deciding on the cases of Maric and Dalić.

Bačić said that working in one's own interest constituted a conflict of interest, and that nobody proved that Marić acted in that way in this case.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said he would take legal steps to contest a Conflict of Interest Commission decision under which he violated the principle of holding public office in the case of the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate.

Speaking to Croatian reporters covering his trip to Brussels, Marić said he had not received the decision in writing yet and that when he did he would "decide how to comment on it." He said he would "certainly" take legal action "to contest the decision because I believe I wasn't in a conflict of interest, which the Commission already confirmed once, nor did I violate the principle of holding public office."

"I saw that a manoeuvre was made, I don't know for what reason nor do I consider it justified or comprehensible, which was to combine my case with the others that followed, and I will file a complaint regarding this too. I gave a deposition which I signed and gave the Commission and everyone can see that I didn't initiate any of those meetings... but came to them after being invited," said Marić.

He said he did not take part in the creation of any solutions concerning Agrokor nor was he "some kind of operative contact, which I sharply reject." "I attended those meetings in the preliminary stage, when it was necessary to establish the state of affairs and analyse things based on publicly available data. After that, I wasn't involved."

Asked if he was closer to stepping down, as is being speculated in public, Marić said he "wouldn't connect these two things at all" and reiterated that he was doing his job as minister "professionally, responsibly and legally." He said he respected all Croatian institutions but that he had his rights, not just as minister but also as a citizen.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Marić should not resign, stressing that the Commission did not examine "the concept of conflict of interest" and that it did not find that either Marić or former economy minister Martina Dalić had been in a conflict of interest.

"It's very important that this message be understood clearly, based on what and about what exactly the Commission was deciding. The Commission examined solely... the principles of holding office," he told reporters when asked if Marić should resign, as demanded by the opposition.

"When you have a serious situation, an emergency, the responsibility of the person running the government is big, and this is something which, in all the ex post comments and analyses, those who aren't in that position can't perceive at all," Plenković said, adding that everything that was done to prevent a major economic crisis was not perceived as it should have been.

"The real problem is minimised, while an approach which someone imagines should be taken in a crisis situation is maximised. The reality is somewhat different."

Not one cabinet member has at any moment violated the principles of holding public office, which are conscientious, responsible and unbiased conduct, guarding one's own credibility and the dignity of one's duties, Plenković said.

"Our moves were responsible, we weren't at the level of petty politics and lack of ideas as were the members of then opposition or today's opposition who were then part of the government. But that's their responsibility and something citizens will evaluate when assessing the contribution of every one of us."

Plenković said it had never been as clear as now who in politics was doing their job seriously, responsibly and in the interest of the Croatian citizens and economy, and who saw politics entirely differently. He accused "some political parties" of filing complaints to the Conflict of Interest Commission "to see what it will decide so that (they) can use politically later on."

Asked if former minister Dalić had asked him if the public should be told who was in the informal group that drew up the law on Agrokor's restructuring, Plenkovic said the government could but did not have to form working groups for some matters.

"If you have a company which is on the market and, at that point, is exposed to everything to which the market... if it sees a problem, responds very quickly, then it's wise, responsible, credible and appropriate that everything you do to prevent a bigger problem for Croatian society should be discrete and done in a way which won't additionally destabilise that market. It was necessary to ensure fresh liquidity for the company and this was done in a short time. That's the most important thing," he said.

He said everything concerning Lex Agrokor was done legally by consulting experts who could help draw up a law "which prevented an economic and financial crisis."

For more on the Agrokor affair, click here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Officials Found to Have Violated Public Office Principles in Agrokor Affair

ZAGREB, Dec 4, 2018 - The Conflict of Interest Commission decided on Monday that former Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Dalić and Finance Minister Zdravko Marić had violated the principle of holding public office in the case of the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate. The violation does not carry any penalties.

The Commission found that Dalić had violated the Conflict of Interest Prevention Act because, despite the great public interest, she did not give the names of members of the informal working group assembled by the government in dealing with the crisis in the company. In that way she failed to act transparently, Commission chair Nataša Novaković said.

Dalić recommended Ante Ramljak as crisis manager for the company although she was aware that he was a member of the informal group assembled to draft a bill on Agrokor, which was deemed failure on her part to act credibly and responsibly, the Commission said.

Marić was found to have violated the Conflict of Interest Prevention Act because at a meeting at which it was decided who the crisis manager for Agrokor would be, he failed to protect his own credibility and impartiality in holding public office, given that he had previously worked at Agrokor.

The Commission had renewed proceedings against Dalić and Marić after Dalić's deposition to the USKOK anti-corruption office had leaked to the public, showing that Marić attended more meetings regarding Agrokor than he had admitted.

For more on the Agrokor case, click here.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Conflict of Interest Rules to Change to Accommodate Finance Minister?

ZAGREB, November 16, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Thursday the media claims that the Conflict of Interest Act was being amended because of him were someone's fabrication and that this law should identify conflict of interest and abuses but not prevent someone who came to the government from the private sector from returning there.

"I, as minister of finance... tomorrow practically couldn't work anywhere in Croatia," Marić said, responding to questions from the press.

The media have recently said that Marić is going to the Adris tourism and insurance group and that, because him, a provision on a year-long cooling period, under which former office holders could not be appointed to supervisory committees and other bodies for one year after the end of their term, is being thrown out of a bill of amendments to the Conflict of Interest Act.

Asked what he meant when he said that he would remain minister "until further notice" but not until the end of his term, Marić said he already answered and that, "as far as I know, I am still minister" and that he was focused on a set of tax laws.

He said the bill was in the remit of the Public Administration Ministry and that a public consultation on it was held over the summer. "I no longer know what stage it's in, but now someone has fabricated this whole story, to connect it with me."

Earlier today, asked by the press why the cooling period provision was thrown out of the bill, Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said nothing was thrown out, that the bill was still being agreed, and that the media calling it Lex Maric was ridiculous.

For more on Croatia’s finance minister, who is often in the media spotlight and no stranger to various controversies, click here.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Finance Minister Denies He Is Leaving Government to Take Over Adris

ZAGREB, November 12, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić refuted on Monday media allegations that he would resign and become an executive in the private Adris Group which specialises in tourism, insurance, healthy food and real estate.

Asked by reporters while he was coming to a meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leadership at the party's main office in Zagreb on Monday afternoon, if it was true that he would leave the government to join Adris, Marić said that he remained a member of the cabinet and that he did not know who had disseminated such news and why.

"There are no talks or negotiations with anybody. I am doing my job as the finance minister," Marić said. "As far as I know, I am still the finance minister," he added.

He went on to say that he was focused on the coming parliamentary debates on a set of final bills on taxes and budget documents which the government forwarded to the legislature last week.

The Pula-based Glas Istre daily reported on Monday that according to unofficial information, Marić would continue his professional career at the Rovinj-headquartered Adris Group in early 2019.

Adris is one of the most porminent business groups in Croatia and owns a series of companies, including the Maista tourism group.

For more on Croatian tourism, click here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Zdravko Maric Unenthusiastic About Martina Dalic's Agrokor Book

In case you didn't know, Martina Dalic, the former deputy prime minister who spent a long time at Andrej Plenkovic's side, left her position earlier this year amid not only the Hotmail affair, in which she was sending highly sensitive emails via no less than Hotmail, but amid growing suspicion surrounding her in regard to the very messy Agrokor affair.

Now, despite the public's general opinion of her being less than sparkling and with all sorts of unsavoury suspicions and accusations about her involvement in Agrokor still flying around, left unanswered, Martina Dalic went ahead and published a book on Agrokor, causing raised eyebrows among many politicians, including MOST's leader Bozo Petrov, who was heavily involved in the Agrokor situation when it first came to light, especially given the fact that the crisis saw the former HDZ-MOST coalition collapse.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Tomislav Pili writes on the 30th of October, 2018, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who felt the very personal unpleasantness of the Agrokor crisis on his own skin, stated quite bluntly that he didn't have any desire to comment on whether or not Martina Dalic should return to the government at all.

Marić used to work for Agrokor before taking up his position within the Croatian Government, this caused a lot of suspicion around him, too, as many across the political spectrum and in the general public failed to believe that he had no knowledge of the plethora of underhand deals and the threatening collapse of the company that eventually raised its ugly head in the spring of 2017. Despite the controversy, Maric stuck to his guns and held onto his position, with the situation eventually blowing over. Despite that, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that he'd prefer to avoid discussing Martina Dalic or her new book.

"I've got a good relationship with all the people I've worked with and am working with now, and if we have some disagreement, then we find a common language," the finance minister said briefly.

''I haven't read Martina Dalic's book and I don't know if I'll manage to,'' Maric added at the margins of Poslovni Dnevnik's conference. In response to a journalist's question as to whether everything worked well in regard to Agrokor's extraordinary administration, and why Martina Dalic had to leave, Maric expressed his lack of desire to comment on whether or not she should return to the government.

As for the dangers the Uljanik shipyard situation represents towards public debt, Maric said Uljanik's influence will of course have an effect on the overall fiscal policy outcome for this year.

"The only good thing about it is that it will have a one-off effect. From our side, we intend to solve [the situation] as soon as possible so as to avoid any further consequences. Nevertheless, by the end of the year, according to our projections and expectations, public debt will continue to decline,'' Maric emphasised.

"With regard to taking further steps, we can't influence the worsening global environment that much, but do we have certain mechanisms in our hands. I, as finance minister, am responsible for implementing fiscal policy. All we propose is a responsible, rational fiscal policy that suits all of the challenges we're facing. We're putting emphasis on a more stable public debt, but the basic idea of us all should be ​​economic growth, which will lead to stronger employment growth,'' Maric noted.

Journalists present at the conference in were also very interested in the disappearance of the so-called "mantra" about budget savings which has been being talking about a lot over recent years.

"I wouldn't say that is stopped. If you look at the structure of the expenditure side of the budget, the biggest item is the retirement expenditure. It's true that the issue of expenditure has been challenged more than once and we must not give up on that. We reduced interest costs by over two billion kuna, but we're still paying too much,'' Maric said.

Regarding retirement, the question of whether or not retirement benefits in the new Law on Croatian Defenders represent a budgetary burden arose, to which Maric responded that his ministry had looked into potential financial implications during the process of the adoption of the naw Law on Croatian Defenders.

"The Law on Croatian Defenders is fiscally viable and isn't an additional burden for the budget," Maric concluded.

Want to find out more about what exactly happened within Agrokor and learn more about Martina Dalic's role within it all? Click here and follow the news on Dalić, the Hotmail affair, the writing of Lex Agrokor, and more.


Click here for the original article by Tomislav Pili for Poslovni Dnevnik

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Uljanik Searches for Investors as Potential Bankruptcy Looms

Will Uljanik be saved? Minister Horvat is in negotiations with four potential investors to replace Danko Končar as a partner.

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