Friday, 5 May 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Serbia, Albania, Wages and Protests

May the 5th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had a visit from the Serbian Prime Minister and from the Albanian President, a desire for a new Labour Law with more flexibility, protests from healthcare staff and non-healthcare staff employed in hospitals for more recognition (and more money) for their work, and more.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic visits Zagreb

As Index reports, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic recently received Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic at Banski dvori, as HRT reported. At the aforementioned cabinet meeting, the Croatian Prime Minister was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Anja Simpraga, while the Serbian Prime Minister was accompanied by Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue Tomislav Zigmanov. The meeting was then followed by the fourth Great Assembly, organised by the Serbian National Council in Zagreb.

The SNV Grand Assembly gathered together numerous elected councilors and representatives of the Serbian national minority in Croatia from over 150 municipalities, cities and counties, over a thousand and a half of them to be more precise. In addition, the representatives of all relevant organisations of the Serbian community in Croatia and minority and human rights protection institutions were also present.

Brnabic spoke of the ''deep wounds'' left after the Homeland War and owing to historically tense Croatian-Serbian relations. She stated that relations between the two countries - one of which is an EU member state, a Eurozone country and part of the Schengen zone - and one which isn't any of the above, continue to be burdened by a multitude of difficult questions and a lack of trust. Despite that, significant progress is going to be made in that regard this year, according to her. 

Croatian Employers want Labour Law amendments and sit down to talk with Labour Minister Marin Piletic

The issues surrounding the increasing number of foreign (non-EU) workers arriving in Croatia coupled with Croatia's ongoing problems with a demographic crisis, an aging population and the mentality of not wanting to work has seen members of the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) sit down with the labour minister.

Igor Skrgatic of HUP has clearly stated that previous amendments to the Labour Law have been unsatisfactory to employers and that much more flexibility is needed, as is a proper immigration strategy from MUP. Many deem the influx of foreign workers from non EU countries to be harmful to the Croatian workforce who have chosen to remain in the country, and that something needs to be done to prevent problems from spiralling out of control. More can be read about the meeting with Minister Marin Piletic here.

Croatian healthcare professionals protest once again, this time citing their dissatisfaction with Health Minister Vili Beros and their salaries

It hasn't been long since the last protest of healthcare professionals, primarily doctors, who stated their lack of satisfaction with current working conditions, salaries and expectations. Health Minister Vili Beros made a rather scandalous statement which totally missed the mark by claiming that ''most people protesting earn more than he does''. The fact that the Croatian healthcare system is in crisis is far from new information to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock, and most doctors protesting are just as concerned with the fact that patients are having to suffer these shortcomings just as much as they are.

Healthcare professionals and other employees from Dubrava Hospital (Zagreb) are the latest to protest, this time turning most of their attention on Beros himself, and looking more deeply at the state of wages.

The half-hour protest held on Wednesday demanded that the coefficients for medical workers in the public healthcare system who aren't doctors be increased by 10 percent.

"We'd like to express ourdissatisfaction with the behavioyr of Minister Vili Beros and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic towards those employees who aren't covered by the government decree. We're asking for a minimum 10 percent increase in the coefficients for all other healthcare workers who aren't doctors," said the president of the Independent Union of Health and Social Welfare of Croatia, Stjepan Topolnjak. He also stated that non-healthcare personnel in the system, from administrative workers to kitchen staff deserve "much higher wages than they currently take home for doing their jobs".

The protest in front of Dubrava Hospital on Wednesday was part of a wave of protests organised by the Croatian Professional Union of Nurses and Technicians (HSSMS-MT) and SSZSSH. The current level of dissatisfaction is caused by unequal increases in the coefficients in the healthcare system, Ivana Suton from the nurses' union pointed out, adding that last week the government increased the coefficient for doctors by 10 percent, while for others it was increased by just 3 to 5.4 percent.

"We consider an increase in the coefficient of 3 to 5 percent to be degrading," Suton pointed out. She stated that nurses, of whom there are more than 30,000 in the Croatian healthcare system, make up 47 percent of the total number of healthcare staff. "The work and contribution of nurses and technicians continues to go unrecognised, and it's unacceptable for nurses and technicians when differences in the healthcare system like this are created," she said. Ana Cudina also addressed the crowd present and said that healthcare and non-healthcare personnel are both seeking dignity and equality.

"The unions have been warning about deficiencies in the healthcare system for years now, they've demanded an increase in wages for all employees, appropriate working conditions for all, and above all 0 respect for the collective agreement," she told the crowd, adding that one group cannot be in a more favourable position than the others.

Another protest of healthcare (not doctors) and non healthcare workers has been announced for May the 12th, 2023.

Plenkovic claims that his government's aim is to increase wages

PM Andrej Plenkovic recently reiterated that the goal of the announced tax reform is tax relief for the most vulnerable and an increase in peoples' net salaries. "The idea is to financially relieve the most vulnerable among us, those who have the lowest salaries, and in this way we'll also increase the net salaries people take home with them," Plenkovic said after the recent session of the wider HDZ Presidency.

Once the package is completed, the first reading in parliament will take place before the summer break, and the second reading will take place in autumn in order for it all to come into effect on January the 1st, 2024, he announced. He noted that the government relieved both the public and the economy in several rounds of tax reforms by more than 11 billion kuna, as well as that the revenues of counties, cities and municipalities have increased by a total of 11 billion kuna since 2017.

He also emphasised the drop in the inflation rate, the reduction of the share of public debt in GDP, the upward revision of growth projections for this year, the surplus in the state budget for 2022, the maintenance of the investment credit rating, the growth of average wages to 1,100 euros net, and so on.

In response to the claim from the opposition that it was all a mere a pre-election move, Plenkovic replied that their entire rhetoric has been reduced to this for a year. "That theory is deeply ridiculous, especially when you see the consistency of our policies in terms of tax relief and in strengthening the fiscal and functional decentralisation of local self-government units," he said, adding that this narrative simply does not hold water.

At the beginning of June, Plenkovic has announced a large meeting with Croatian county prefects and expressed his belief that in the end they will all support legal changes that will enable higher salaries.

"It's important for us that the net salary increases, that's our goal," Plenkovic said.

"We want to reduce the workload and raise average wages. They've grown by 48 percent since back in 2016, so we'll have a dialogue, we'll hold a meeting with the county prefects. It will take place at the beginning of June. Everything will be specified and I believe that in the end everyone will support the legal changes that will provide people with higher wages," Plenkovic said.

The Albanian president pays a visit to Croatia

President Zoran Milanovic and his wife Sanja Music Milanovic recently welcomed the President of Albania Bajram Begaj and his wife Armanda Begaj to Zagreb.

For this occasion, the first lady of Croatia chose a fashion combination in the colours of the Albanian flag - a red shirt and jacket and black trousers, while Armanda arrived in Zagreb in a dark blue suit.

After meeting at Pantovcak, Sanja and Armanda visited the Oton Ivekovic exhibition, a retrospective at the Klovicevi dvori gallery with the professional guidance of the author of the exhibition. There, the first ladies readily posed for photographers.

Otherwise, Zoran Milanovic emphasised that the friendship between Croatia and Albania is "now a deeply established fact", while Begaj said that the relations between Albanians and Croats are "traditionally of high quality and friendly" and at a "historical maximum".


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section. A dedicated Week in Croatian Politics article is also published every Friday.

Friday, 21 April 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - EU, OECD, USKOK, HDZ and Other Abbreviations

April the 21st, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've seen HDZ still being chosen as the favourite on the political scene, Croatia's WWII past has been revisited once again, and two big names from the OECD and the EU have paid visits to Zagreb.

A new survey has revealed that HDZ is still the favourite among voters, for some reason

As Index reports, just how much the constant turbulence within the weird world of Croatian politics really affects the popularity of the main actors on the ''stage'' was checked in HRT's recently carried out HRating. This monthly survey included 1,100 respondents, with the largest possible error being +/- 3.54%, and the reliability standing at 95%. This data was collected from April the 14th to the 18th, 2023.

No event or situation has yet appeared within Croatian politics that would quicken the pulse of the Croatian voter and change their long standing political sympathies. Remarkable, I know. The survey proves that - the months go by, the surveys are taken, but everything remains the same. This "same" means that HDZ is still somehow the favourite of the Croatian voter. Followed by... you guessed it! SDP.

Along with HDZ and SDP, only three other parties managed to cross the electoral threshold

The strongest among them - Mozemo! (We Can!), is close to 10%. It is followed by Most (Bridge) with the support of 9% of the country's voters. Domovinski pokret (Homeland Movement) concludes this group of five safe parliamentary parties. This month it is at 6%. From the "powerless" crowd for whom the parliamentary mandate should be just a fiction, the party headed by the mayor of Split jumps out - and Centar (Centre) is currently at 3.4% and its rating is currently stable.

All the others, and there are still 13 of them in the survey, may as well not even really exist. They stand little to zero chances of making it into any sort of powerful political position in Croatia as a single constituency unless some big changes occur. These are: HSS and Radnicka fronta (Workers' front) which tie in terms of their voter support, followed by Fokus (Focus) and Hrvatski suverinisti (Croatian sovereignists).

At a recently held government session, Plenkovic spoke about Jasenovac and claims that the behaviour of some MPs isn't acceptable

At the most recently held session of the Croatian Government, the decision on granting prior consent and the decision on granting a state guarantee for long term credit to the company Hrvatske ceste/Croatian roads were on the agenda. That consent and credit would be given in order order to finance ongoing projects and the company's business plan this year. The opening speech at the session was delivered by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

"The Ston ring road is very well made, it's an extremely valuable strategic project for Croatia," he began, before also referring to the latest assessment by the Fitch agency, which confirmed Croatia's BBB+ rating. "They recognise the direction we're going in, as well as the reform efforts and resistance to the crisis we've shown. We can also see that our trend is going better than planned, and that inflation is decreasing," Plenkovic said, adding that OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann had paid a recent visit to the country.

"This is an organisation that has very, very high standards, both in combating corruption and in numerous sectors, so we'll further stimulate our reform process with activities related to the OECD. For us, it's the last step for Croatia's international positioning," Plenkovic added.

The Prime Minister condemned some opposition MPs and their apparently "unacceptable" behaviour

He referred to the recent chaos in parliament which unfolded during the debate on amendments to the law on offenses against public order and peace. To quickly remind you, it was especially stormy when the discussion started about the greeting "Za dom spremni'' (Ready for the homeland), which is generally deemed an "Ustasa" phrase with Nazi connotations and for which an individual could be fined up to 4000 euros for using. Of course, the history behind that phrase is deeper than just "It was used during the brief period of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and so it must be banned'' but we won't get into the ins and outs of that (or any connotations with the Homeland War) in this article.

"We consider the performances and statements of individual members of parliament yesterday to be inappropriate, and we believe that this is unacceptable, especially the aggressive approach that was directed towards the president of the parliament (Goran Jandrokovic)," said Plenkovic.

This Sunday, a joint commemoration will be held at the location where the Jasenovac concentration camp stood, where representatives of Jewish municipalities will also be present, who in previous years refused to come because they were dissatisfied with the government's attitude towards Croatia's position during WWII and the Ustasa regime in general.

"We're glad that this year, the Council of the Jewish Municipality of Zagreb and the Coordination of Jewish Municipalities in Croatia will also respond to the invitation of the Director of the Public Institution of the Jasenovac Memorial Area to participate in the commemoration,'' concluded Plenkovic.

Is the new Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime's new boss going to be the woman put ex PM Ivo Sanader behind bars?

Zeljka Mostecak, the deputy chief state attorney, has been mentioned as a potential new director of the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) after the departure of Vanja Marusic, reports

To be clear, we're talking about a female prosecutor who has many years of experience under her belt and who was the main prosecutor in some of the most famous cases related to corruption in independent Croatia. Mostecak was, it should be mentioned, the main prosecutor in the very well known Fimi Media affair, a multi-year proceeding that led to the final conviction of former PM Ivo Sanader (HDZ) and seeing him banged up.

It should also be noted that HDZ itself was actually convicted in that case, but as a legal entity. For that case, Mostecak received the prestigious state attorney's award. Mostecak was also a prosecutor in a series of cases arising from the Fima Media affair, including the HAC affair. Before Mostecak worked at DORH, she was the main prosecutor in the HAC-Remorker affair. Former HDZ Minister of Transport and Mayor of Zadar Bozidar Kalmeta was also accused of wrongdoing in that affair.

Kalmeta was acquitted of sharing over 15 million kuna and 850,000 euros from road maintenance and construction companies with his associates. Three of Kalmeta's co-accused were found guilty.

The former minister was also acquitted of part of the indictment according to which he damaged the Ministry of Transport for 600,000 kuna by ordering the promotional film "The Transport Renaissance of Croatia" from the marketing agency Fimi Media. The company was tried for filling HDZ's ''black fund'' with money from various state companies and institutions.

The Commissioner for Internal Market of the European Union, Thierry Breton, visits Zagreb

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic received the Commissioner for the EU's Internal Market, Thierry Breton, in Zagreb this week. The pair discussed the state and ongoing development of the Croatian economy, the consequences of Russian aggression against Ukraine on the supply of energy sources across Europe, and the strengthening of the European defense industry as a whole.

Plenkovic explained to Breton that the Croatian economy is fully expected to grow more rapidly in 2023 than the initial expectations of the government, the European Commission and other international organisations initially predicted. They both also emphasised the need for continued military aid to Ukraine. The Prime Minister made sure to bring it up to the commissioner that Croatia offers the potential of energy support to its neighbouring countries by expanding the LNG terminal on Krk from 2.9 to 6.1 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Plenkovic and Breton both expressed their ongoing sympathy and firm support for Ukraine as Russian attacks continue, both believing in the very pressing need for continued military aid being sent over to Ukraine. It was precisely in this context that they also discussed the production of ammunition for Ukraine, the overall security of the European Union and taking measures to increase the production capacity of the European defense industry, as touched on above.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Secretary General, Mathias Cormann, visits Zagreb as Croatia edges closer to membership

As Novi list writes, the OECD's Secretary General paid a visit to Zagreb recently, and he had nothing but praise for Plenkovic's government in its swift and fruitful responses to all sorts of issues we're currently facing in this economically unfavourable climate.

''For now, the Croatian Government is reacting very quickly and efficiently, and I have no reason to doubt that this will continue,'' said Mathias Cormann.

The HRT team spoke with OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann, and he talked about the areas will he focus on when it comes to implementing reforms and whether or not Croatia's accession process can be completed in two years.

''We cover the entire spectrum of economic, social, environmental, and public order. So, from competition, public management, the fight against corruption to environmental protection standards, agricultural policy, and trade. We review the entire spectrum of public order in order to assess Croatian practices, legislation and policies and assess how far they are already aligned with the OECD standards or to what extent further reforms are needed to improve either policies or practices,'' said Mathias Cormann.

When it comes to what sort of key reforms Croatia needs to implement to improve, Cormann said that this is an ongoing process, and that this isn't really a political procedure but a technical review. What we do know is that there are 25 OECD policy committees with experts from 38 member states that will review all Croatian legislative policies and practices in the economy and society and assess their alignment with the proper standards.

 ''At the end of that process, they will recommend what improvements should be made. I can get back to you at that point so we can talk about it,'' Cormann stated, adding: ''I will say that Croatia is obviously very committed. It's progressing as fast as it can to meet all the conditions it needs to,''

 The Croatian Government ambitiously mentions a deadline of two years for OECD membership, but can these goals be achieved in two years? Cormann says there's no time frame.

''I say we're making progress as fast as we can, but it will take whatever amount of time it takes. This is a thorough and very serious procedure. Ultimately, it depends on how quickly the government provides the requested information and how quickly the government and parliament introduces the necessary reforms to implement all of the recommendations. For now, the Croatian Government is reacting very quickly and efficiently, and I have no reason to doubt that this will continue. But it is very difficult to determine the time frame,'' he concluded.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and keep an eye out for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 31 March 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Helicopters, Gas Prices and Ivica Todoric

March the 31st, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had discussions around the hypothetical arrest of Vladimir Putin, donations of helicopters and a huge sum of cash to Ukraine, gas price worries and Ivica Todoric is back where he loves to be the most - in the spotlight.


Former Agrokor boss Ivica Todoric is thrilled that Index readers stated they'd sooner vote for him as prime minister than current PM Andrej Plenkovic

If you're a follower of politics (and scandals) in Croatia, you'll more than likely recall one of the most enormous events in independent Croatian history - the Agrokor saga. I wrote a lot about it back at the time, and you can get a feel of it here, in an article entitled Requiem for a Company. Ivica Todoric, the former boss of this huge company, fell into troubled waters and there was a huge amount of drama surrounding the entire story. It eventually ended with him being extradited back to Croatia from London after handing himself in at Charring Cross police station following his stay in the United Kingdom in an attempt to avoid Croatian courts. 

Todoric is currently a free man, and despite all of the dramatics of that situation from back in 2017, he is still more popular than Andrej Plenkovic in the opinion of some Index readers. Index recently carried out a poll asking their readers who they'd sooner vote for as prime minister, the current one (Plenkovic), or the somewhat Godfather-like character, Ivica Todoric. They chose the latter, and he's thrilled about it.

Todoric is known for his humour (no, really), and the inspiration for that poll was provided by Todoric himself, who published a similar one on his own Facebook profile and, examining the pulse of the people, asked whether the citizens of Croatia wanted him or Andrej Plenkovic as prime minister. In his Facebook poll, Todoric received 92% of the votes in his favour, and Index readers who share a similar sense of humour also gave Todoric a shining 72% advantage in its own poll.

Would Croatia arrest Vladimir Putin if he entered the country? Plenkovic says yes

Plenkovic recently made a statement during his stay in the Belgian capital of Brussels after a two-day spring meeting at the summit of European leaders. The main topics of the summit were further support for Ukraine, especially in sufficient quantities of ammunition, the competitiveness of the European economy, especially in relation to the United States and China, and the internal market and issues of energy and migration.

"Once again, we showed our commitment and solidarity to Ukraine in all aspects. We also discussed the topics of economic management, competitiveness and the energy situation, where everything that has been happening for the past three years in the context of the coronavirus crisis, the energy crisis, the food crisis and inflationary pressures essentially requires greater coordination of the economic policies of EU member states," Plenkovic said.

In response to the question of whether or not the Croatian authorities would arrest Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin if he arrived here in Croatia, Plenkovic said an emphatic and blunt - yes.

''The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, so if he were to visit Croatia, he would be arrested in accordance with the procedure stipulated by that law,'' Plenkovic said.

Croatia otherwise acceded to the statute of the International Criminal Court and a law was passed on cooperation with that court. "That law provides for all the procedures in case there is a warrant issued for the arrest of a person, and as far as I know, immunity does not apply here. Accordingly, the procedure would go exactly as provided for by that law, and of course the Croatian police and competent authorities would react to Putin arriving in Croatia," said Plenkovic in response to a journalist's question.

President Zoran Milanovic makes a strange statement about the Russia-Ukraine war once again, this time about donated Croatian helicopters

Croatia, much like the rest of the EU and indeed most of the world, has stood firmly by Ukraine's side ever since the beginning of the shock Russian invasion back in February 2022. Having been through a horrific war just one generation ago and with those painful memories still very fresh, Croatia is able to understand the Ukrainian struggle against Russian aggression like few other countries are, given that the now shared experience both countries have is so recent. Milanovic, however, has continuously been vocal about his rather odd stances for over a year now. He has invited endless criticism and even questions from other politicians from across Europe about just what Croatia's official stance is.

Of course, Milanovic's strange statements and stances are not remotely in line with the official Croatian position - firmly by Ukraine's side and staunchly against Russia's actions. Plenkovic, with whom Milanovic is constantly butting heads, has spoken about this numerous times, attempting to distance not only himself personally but Croatian politics as a whole from the president's baffling and politically damaging remarks. 

The latest such remark from Milanovic regards helicopters Croatia donated to Ukraine, and which should be delivered there very soon. Milanovic was quick to tell journalists that these helicopters "needed getting rid of anyway'' because Croatia no longer has the conditions for their maintenance.

To keep you in the loop, Croatia is donating fourteen transport helicopters to Ukraine, of which twelve are MI 8 MTV-1 models and two are MI 8 T models. Defense Minister Mario Banozic said on Wednesday in the Ukrainian city of Odessa that he expects these helicopters to arrive in Ukraine soon.

Milanovic dressed his comments up in a fashion which makes it seem as if Croatia is simply doling out its useless cast-offs to the Ukrainian people, which has angered multiple people in Croatian politics and beyond. "Those helicopters aren't something promising anyway, we wouldn't have the conditions or the ability to maintain them anymore, because we have a lot of those helicopters and we need to get rid of them,'' he claimed.

Croatia also recently agreed to provide another 500,000 euros to Ukraine.

As the Croatian Government alters its decision on price controls, milk prices shoot up

On Thursday, the Croatian government changed the decision on direct price control measures for specific food products in such a way that the highest retail price of UHT milk with 2.8 percent milk fat per liter has now been raised by 5 cents and the price it cannot exceed amounts to 1.03 euros.

You can read more detail about that by clicking here.

Economy Minister Davor Filipovic has claimed that energy (gas) prices won't go up as of tomorrow, when the current measures are due to expire

A cabinet meeting was held recently in the National and University Library, as Index reports. On the agenda of the session was the decision to approve the granting of a shareholder loan to Hrvatska elektroprivreda (HEP) and the initiation of the recapitalisation procedure. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced that HEP will be given a shareholder loan, first of 400 million euros, and then another 500 million euros. Minister Davor Filipovic also made a statement after the session, where he discussed the topic on everyone's minds - price increases following the expiration of government measures on the 1st of April, 2023.

"The price of gas will not change from April the 1st. Everything will be fine, as it has been until now. People don't have to worry about it. We're protecting the people and the economy, and there will be no problems in that regard, people don't need to worry about any of that," he added.

"The government has now made several important decisions. One of them is the granting of a shareholder loan to HEP and recapitalisation. This is being done so that HEP will continue to bear the burden of this crisis and so that people can continue to have a favourable price for electricity. We've agreed that HEP will extend the repayment of the loan in order to be able to continuously purchase the energy products that are necessary for the functioning of the domestic economy," said Filipovic.

"We're moving in the direction of recapitalisation, and as for HEP's financial results, you should ask the HEP Management. We haven't yet received any financial results from them, the obligation for us to be given those results is just after March, so everything is still within the legal deadline. HEP's management is responsible for that and it's up to them," he added.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section. You can also follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which provide an overview and are published every Friday.

Friday, 24 March 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - EU Funds, Earthquake Woes and Mythical Bridges

March the 24th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had ongoing issues with post-earthquake reconstruction, more arguing between Plenkovic and Milanovic, and former President Ivo Josipovic thinks its time for the Constitutional Court to get involved.

Zagreb mayor Tomislav Tomasevic has openly discussed his relationship with Andrej Plenkovic, saying that "of course there is some tension..."

Tomislav Tomasevic recently appeared as a guest on Dnevnik N1, where he discussed, among other things such as the post-earthquake reconstruction process, his relationship with the prime minister. In his words, there are tensions, but the pair still need to work together.

"We have to work together, and we need to cooperate because of EU funds, I guess it is in everyone's interest that this money is spent. I think that so far, we've managed to cooperate in a good way, and yes, of course there are conflicts, one concrete example is the increase in water prices. Several dozen cities raised their water prices without any hype about it,'' Tomasevic said.

When it comes to Zagreb, he says they don't have a single affair to discuss.

"A new tram line is being built for the first time after 20 years, new buses and trams are here, some order has been introduced on the street terraces... Before that, not a single new tram had been bought for 17 years, we have trams running in this city that are even older than me,'' remarked the Zagreb mayor.

The European Commission is set to get a much more detailed insight into what's going on with Croatia's post-earthquake reconstruction process

I don't know about you, but I personally didn't think anyone would still be saying the words ''post-earthquake reconstruction process'' three entire years after the Zagreb earthquake of March 2020, and well over two years since the Petrinja earthquake struck in December of that same year. Alas, things move slowly in the world of Croatian politics, and we are still uttering those words. The European Commission is going to be getting a detailed look into precisely what's going on. 

Today, the European Commission will be informed of the review of the state of Croatian post-earthquake reconstruction, which is being financed from the EU Solidarity Fund, as well as Croatia's view of costs across all of its ministries.

This meeting was announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction, Branko Bacic, who, on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Zagreb earthquake (March the 22nd), assessed that the aforementioned segment of Croatian post-earthquake reconstruction is being implemented in full as planned, so this gives some hope that the money will be spent within the prescribed deadline.

You can read more by clicking here.

Has the much talked about Jarun bridge project been kicked into the long grass?

A large project which would have connected the western part of the capital city to Novi Zagreb appears to have stalled completely, with Tomasevic saying that he'd much rather strengthen the city's already existing bridges in case of another earthquake than build another. That all sounds alright, but there are people stuck in limbo because of this decision. People with properties situated along the route that would lead to the would-be bridge can't do anything to repair or reconstruct their houses which were damaged during 2020's earthquake. This issue affects 150 houses situated along this route which are awaiting demolition, but owing to only some things having been formally agreed upon and legalised by the state and other items having been simply disregarded, the situation sits stagnant. Experts say that the Jarun bridge is a classic example of the violation of various laws that ultimately put the City of Zagreb into a deeply unfavourable situation.

You can read more on that by clicking here.

Plenkovic claims that foreign leaders are set to come to Zagreb but none of them want to meet with President Zoran Milanovic

The trolling, mud slinging and arguments between Plenkovic and Milanovic have become somewhat iconic at this point. The pair were even depicted as part of the Rijeka carnival process this year. Endlessly taking swipes at each other, these two powerful figures in the world of Croatian politics can never resist a chance to throw each other under the bus.

In this case, however, Plenkovic has a point in the eyes of most when he says that Milanovic's often rather strange comments about the Russia-Ukraine war are simply not in line with Croatia's official position and that he is sending a very wrong message out to the rest of Europe and indeed the world with many of the statements he makes.

His politically damaging statements in regard to Russia and Ukraine have seen political figures from abroad question Croatia's official position, ask how he is ''being allowed to say such things'', and even had Russian media claiming Milanovic supports their country's disgraceful actions. A poor image for Croatia indeed, especially after the absolutely praiseworthy approach it has towards Ukrainian refugees and Ukraine's unfortunately all too familiar struggles.

Plenkovic went more deeply into the above during a recent official visit to Istria, where after initially emphasising everything the government has done so far, he once again referred to the strained relationship his government (HDZ) has with Zoran Milanovic (SDP), and why they refuse to cooperate with him. He enumerated the cases of him blocking the government's proposals for the appointment of various officials and representatives and said:

"This is just to make the general public aware of where the problem is and where the issues stand. Milanovic's views are completely opposite to the natural position of Croatia,'' he said bluntly, before touching on the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine back in February 2022, when Milanovic refused a meeting of the National Security Council.

"If there was a moment when we should have met because of serious security threats, that was the moment. After that came his distancing from Croatia's position and his repeating of pro-Russian positions that are completely contrary to what the stance of Croatia is as a European country, a country that is neither neutral nor non-aligned. We have diametrically different views," he said, as N1 reported.

He pointed out that foreign officials don't want to meet with or cooperate with Milanovic, who has isolated himself with his strange statements and views.

"To make you aware, the Spanish Prime Minister was here recently, he didn't meet with him, the Danish Prime Minister was also here as well, she didn't meet with him either, the President of the Canadian Senate came and he didn't meet with him, the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy was here and he did not meet with him. Do you understand what messages our allies and partners are sending him? They're saying; we hear what you've been saying for a year and we don't want anything to do with it,'' Plenkovic said.

Former president Ivo Josipovic says that Plenkovic and Milanovic are the only ones responsible for their poor relationship

Former Croatian president Ivo Josipovic was a recent guest of N1 Studio live, and during that appearance he commented on the constant conflict between President Milanovic and Prime Minister Plenkovic, as well as the elections that are coming next year.

"Both of them are responsible for their poor relationship and I'm sorry that it's happening," Josipovic said in regard to the constant arguing and insults being thrown around between the president and the prime minister. He says that he used to talk to Milanovic from time to time, but not about things going on in the sphere of Croatian politics.

"It's dangerous in a way even if there was a completely regular situation, and this isn't a normal situation [referencing the war in Ukraine]. This conflict creates a bad political climate and damages Croatia's international reputation, as well as the view of Croatian politics here at home,'' he added.

The war in Ukraine has implications for Croatia's immediate neighbourhood and our security, and it isn't a good situation when the two leading statesmen don't talk,'' warned the former president, reminding that both have responsibility for the functioning of the entire political system.

"I have the experience of being in a mandate with a government of the opposite political orientation as well. Did you ever hear such conversations between me and Jadranka Kosor? There was no idyll between me and Milanovic either, but it's important that everyone sticks to their political competence," said Josipovic, who believes that the Constitutional Court could declare this entire situation unconstitutional and force the president and prime minister to sit down and talk properly.

The situation with Croatia not moving quickly enough to absorb the EU cash given to it continues to be a burden

"Over the next 100 days, we must spend 403 million euros. A large number of projects are being implemented in the areas affected by the Zagreb and Petrinja earthquakes, and this gives us hope that we will be able to use this money. The works are now in full swing, the construction sites are filled with workers, and we keep receiving requests for reimbursement of funds daily", it was said by Spatial Planning Minister Branko Bacic.

As most people who have dealt with anything even remotely administrative here, Croatia tends to move at a snail's pace, and those of us who are better acquainted with this had our heads in our hands from the very day the earthquake struck. Of course, what Bacic is saying isn't good enough for most, and the University of Zagreb's rector claims that what Bacic has stated is simply not in line with previous forecasts. 

You can read more by clicking here.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Saturday, 11 March 2023

Anger as President Zoran Milanovic's Son is Granted Scholarship

March the 11th, 2023 - Anger has erupted on social media and across the board as President Zoran Milanovic's son is granted a scholarship. With the wages both he and his wife bring home every month being what most people could only dream of, many people are asking why on Earth their son needs a scholarship.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the younger son of President Zoran Milanovic has received a scholarship from the City of Zagreb for ''excellence''.

He is currently a graduate of the Classical High School and is 75th on the ranking list for the City of Zagreb Excellence Scholarship for the 2022/2023 school year. The list was established back on January the 20th of this year, and 180 students received the same scholarship. The monthly stipend stands at 2,700 kuna net, which is equal to 358 euros per month.

Mato Palic, a Professor of Constitutional Law from the University of Osijek, took to social media to comment on this bizarre situation and wrote the following on his Facebook page:

"Dad has a salary of 3,555.00 euros, and mum has one of 2,169.95 euros (plus another monthly fee of 1,292.53 euros), they also own two apartments. One is worth 252,836.95 euros, and the other is worth 159,267.37 euros (that one is under co-ownership with third parties). However, they also have a cottage worth 79,633.69 euros (which is also under co-ownership with third parties). However, despite everything, that's not all. They also have savings of around 132,722.81 euros. And on top of that, you go on to apply for a scholarship and receive another 360 euros per month. Well give me five, smart ass.''

With many talented children and other young people who come from far, far less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds up and down the country who require the help this scholarship offers them and who have parents who simply cannot afford to get them the best possible education, many people are seeing a class issue with Zoran Milanovic's son being granted something he clearly does not need.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated news section

Friday, 10 February 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Inheritance, Ukrainian Solders and Corruption

February the 10th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, the fallout among certain individuals surrounding the topic of training Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia and elsewhere in the EU has remained heated, Plenkovic's asset card has been up for scrutiny, and SDP's president has accused HDZ of not wanting to solve the pressing issue of corruption at all.

Plenkovic's latest asset card shows he inherited 80,000 euros

The topic of asset cards which showcase what politicians own in terms of property (be it residential or otherwise) and other such items is often a hot topic in the often complex world of Croatian politics. PM Andrej Plenkovic's latest one shows that he has inherited a very nice sum of money indeed. 

Plenkovic recently submitted a new asset card to the Commission for deciding on conflicts of interest, having reported increased savings from 170,000 euros to 250,000 euros. He achieved these increased savings through inheritance, HDZ's main man and the prime minister of the country stated in the newly submitted asset card. It wasn't only Andrej Plenkovic's savings which have increased, his wife Ana Maslac Plenkovic has also seen her cash go up.

Plenkovic also reported over 11,000 euros for his wife, an employee of the Croatian Parliament. The card says that Plenkovic's wife also achieved increased savings through inheritance. The asset card states that the amount of tax paid on inheritance and gifted money stands at 461.90 euros. Plenkovic now has more real estate, but it refers solely to a smaller part of a garden on the island of Hvar, the area of which spans just 25 square metres.

SDP President Pedja Grbin appeared on N1 Television and discussed some of the latest political topics, including corruption

SDP President Pedja Grbin was a guest on recently on N1 Television where he commented on the report of the chief state attorney Zlata Hrvoj Sipek. He recalled his statement from two years ago when he said that Hrvoj Sipek would fail to bring the (very) necessary changes to the system, and added that during her recent questioning in parliament, she didn't mention the fight against corruption even once.

"When it comes to some minor thefts and the like, I think DORH (State Attorney's Office) is doing well, but the problem arises when Plenkovic calls them, because when he does - investigations stop. People within DORH need to work in impossible conditions, they have nowhere to put their files, nor material resources, and who is in charge of all of that? The government, but they don't even want the DORH to function properly and well, while the state attorney barely mentioned it in her own presentation," added SDP's president.

We need to teach children about the harmfulness of corruption, and mechanisms and tools should be incorporated into the state administration system that will reduce corruption to the smallest possible extent. We recently received European Union funds for this, but these funds aren't being used. In a situation where every person can follow their own situation, corruption is almost impossible," continued Grbin:

"HDZ doesn't want to use that EU money because they don't want to fight corruption, instead everything is left to DORH, where when they receive a case in which the letters ''AP'' are mentioned, the file just gets shoved in a drawer. That is just not enough, the fight against corruption also means the reform of public self-government to a better organisation of the healthcare system."

Plenkovic goes to Brussels and claims that those who voted against the training of Ukrainians in Croatia and the rest of the EU in their fight against Russian aggression did so out of ''pure hatred''

The enormous levels of support of the European Union and the European public for Ukraine and its horrific suffering at Russia's hands shows that the vast majority of Europeans clearly see what is evil, and that is Russian aggression.

''It would be good if everyone saw it so clearly in Croatia as well,'' Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday in Brussels, perhaps using the opportunity to take a swipe at Zoran Milanovic for his increasingly odd comments when referring to the Russia-Ukraine war.

"The support of the European Union is still strong and unified, this unity is unprecedented,'' Plenkovic said, and then alluded to certain members of the Croatian Parliament who were against Croatia participating in the training of Ukrainian soldiers. He said those who voted against the idea did so out of hatred.

When asked by a journalist whether Croatian support for Ukraine deflated after the lack of a two-thirds majority in the Parliament that would have bypassed President Zoran Milanovic's veto on the training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, Plenkovic said that it "deflated only among those who keep on trying to please Russian points of view" as well as "individual members of the Croatian Parliament who, out of pure hatred for the government, HDZ or me personally, didn't participate or voted against it".

Plenkovic pointed out that he is convinced that the vast majority of the Croatian people don't share the views of those who are against the training of Ukrainian soldiers.

"As far as the Croatian people are concerned, I'm convinced that the vast majority of the Croatian people, considering our own experience, are very much in solidarity with Ukraine and want to help. It's the government that makes decisions about military aid being sent to Ukraine. We've been doing it continuously, and we'll continue to do it,'' he assured, adding that Croatia will help Ukraine in demining when the conflict finally does end as well.

On Thursday, Zelenski addressed the representatives of the European Parliament, then he came to the European Council for the summit of the leaders of the member states. After that, he held a series of bilateral meetings with various European leaders. The European leaders were divided into four groups for the meetings with the Ukrainian president, and Plenkovic was in a group with the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia.

The former Defence Minister within Milanovic's old government has openly stated that he disagrees with the president's somewhat controversial views about the Ukraine issue

Ante Kotromanovic, the former Minister of Defense from Zoran Milanovic's old SDP government, spoke in Dnevnik N1 about the development of the war in Ukraine. Among other things, he stated that he does not consider the training of Ukrainians in Croati to be a prolongation of the war, which is the opposite of the thesis advocated by the President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic.

Referring to the current mass rocket attacks, Kotromanovic isn't ruling out the option that it could be the offensive that the Russians were talking about in the recent past, but also the option that it is a kind of "greeting" to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who recently returned from Brussels.

"This does seem to me that this could be a prelude to the start of some serious operation. We see these massive rocket attacks and drones that have been terrorising the whole of Ukraine for months now, but we don't see the movements of larger formations on the ground. In my opinion, the Russians definitely need something, something of a more significant victory. This is their last chance. What they've shown so far has been extremely bad. If they don't do something now, the question is whether they will ever have the chance to launch such major offensives again, considering that they're all now exhausted. About 200,000 soldiers have died so far on both sides,'' he stated.

He believes that fighter planes would significantly strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces, but he points out that the tanks that are already arriving from the Western allies will also give them strength. "Both European and American support will remain constant, there will be no oscillations. Especially when it comes to the Americans, they will go all the way and deliver everything the Ukrainians need," Kotromanovic believes.

Speaking about the successes on the Ukrainian battlefield, he emphasised the importance of Ukrainian military skills and military commanders.

"We saw that the Ukrainians are the true masters of improvisation. In a number of cases, they improvised in planning, they had the courage to take over new resources and send them quickly out to the battlefield," said Kotromanovic and added:

"Under the patronage of the US and all the advisers who spent several years there, the Ukrainians changed their narrative and that's why they're more successful than the Russian Army which is direct, as nothing can happen there until the commander-in-chief approves it.''

He believes that there are two reasons for the delay in sending certain weapons over to Ukraine - one reason is that people are now waiting to see how Russia will react, but also sometimes complicated internal politics in certain countries. Now, he says, leaders who support sending their necessary weapons have prevailed.

"I'm only sorry that this didn't happen sooner. I don't agree with the idea that arming Ukraine is prolonging the war. We need to be patient now and leave it to the Ukrainians to decide whether they want to continue the war," said Kotromanovic. Referring clearly to the remark that this is the opposite of the opinion of Zoran Milanovic, in whose government he was a member, Kotromanovic added that Milanovic has his opinion, and that he has his own.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to check out our dedicated section and keep an eye out for our Week in Croatian Politics which are published each Friday.

Friday, 3 February 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Kosovo, Energy Prices and the Uhljeb Curse

February the 3rd, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had energy price woes, ''uhljebljivanje'' through exposed messages, and questions by experts about precisely what Croatia is trying to do by allowing Zoran Milanovic to make such confusing and politically damaging statements about the Russia-Ukraine war.

The government is looking into what it can do when it comes to energy prices after the 1st of April this year

Energy costs are still causing a lot of concern among the general public and particularly among businesses who are struggling to pay their often extortionate bills. With an unusually mild winter seeing us avoid what could have been a much worse scenario, the government is now busy looking into what it can do when the measures they put in place expire (April the 1st, and it certainly is no joke). Claiming that the costs for energy would have been far higher and caused more issues had the government not capped their prices, Plenkovic has assured the public that his ministers are analysing the situation and seeing what they can do as we edge towards spring.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stated that without government measures, energy prices for many companies and individuals would have been much higher, adding that the ministers are currently analysing what the situation will be after April the 1st, given that government measures regarding these prices will last until March the 31st.

Given that some distributors have announced price increases of their own, journalists were naturally interested in whether the policy of regulating electricity and gas prices will continue from April the 1st, to which Plenkovic replied that the ministers of finance and economy are in charge of "preparing and analysing the situation for after that date".

"We believe that the [energy] price situation will stabilise"

Yesterday, the CBS published the first estimate according to which inflation during the month of January of this year (when compared to January 2022) was on average higher by 12.7 percent, and compared to December, prices remained the same on average. Plenkovic rated that announcement as very good.

"Obviously, the trend of inflation growth that we had in the last months of 2022 is now slowly going down, which is in line with the forecasts of the government and the European Commission (EC). We believe that the situation with prices will stabilise and that at this time next year we'll be talking about an annual inflation rate of around six percent, which would be very good considering these crisis circumstances," said Plenkovic after the government session.

Government spokesman Marko Milic allegedly sent messages to Croatian Forests (Hrvatske sume) to get his friend a job in the classic ''uhljeb'' fashion - he says not all is what it seems

Government spokesman Marko Milic recently had his alleged messages exposed by Nacional, in which he was organising for his friend to be employed within Croatian Forests. This type of employing peoples' friends, cousins, former housemates and estranged aunts who are in no way qualified to do the task at hand has been clamped down on in the past (apparently), but still goes on in many sectors. While in certain circles of society, who you know being more important than what you know can be expected, but the government spokesman being allegedly engaged in it is something Plenkovic likely won't stand for.

Despite the accusations against him and the messages published by Nacional, Milic spoke about the messages in which he apparently arranged ''uhljebljivanje'' within Croatian Forests. Index asked Milic about the messages published by Nacional, and in his response, he didn't dispute the authenticity of the messages, but claimed that the correspondence he had with the head of Croatian Forests at the time didn't affect the employment of an individual named Niko Dujmovic, nor did it have any bearing on the fact that Dujmovic was given an employment contract for an indefinite period after those messages were sent.

However, he failed to explain why he even questioned the head of Croatian Forests, Krunoslav Jakupcic, about a certain man named Dujmovic at all, nor why, after Jakupcic wrote to him that Dujmovic could work there and that he'd employ him indefinitely, he replied with the words "Thank you very much".

Marko Milic's answer to Index has been translated and transmitted in its entirety below:

"Regarding what's been published by Nacional, this is yet another in a series of inaccurate and misleading articles in which information is placed in such a way as to suggest the existence of illegal actions, which don't exist. I'm aware that the aforementioned 'correspondence' has been circulating in the media space, and as far as I know, Croatian Forests has already given an answer to some media outlets clarifying the factual situation.

Regarding the employment of Niko Dujmovic, the correspondence between me and Mr. Jakupcic dates from September the 30th, 2019, and Niko Dujmovic was employed by Croatian Forests in accordance with the prescribed procedure and on the basis of a public tender from back in July 2018. Therefore, his employment took place more than one year before this correspondence, from which it follows that it had no influence on the establishment of the employment relationship of Mr. Dujmovic.

In addition, as far as I know based on the response of Croatian Forests, Mr. Dujmovic received an employment contract for an indefinite period during the second half of 2021, and that is almost two years after the published 'correspondence' took place, which clearly shows that the said messages had no influence on him getting a contract for an indefinite period.

As for the mention of the company Biomasa, I have no connection with it, I don't know what it does, nor do I know the people who are employed there. It was very likely a specific complaint that was sent to the government at the time regarding the prescribed procedure (we receive such complaints on a daily basis), and we forwarded the case to Croatian Forests. Regarding the further actions of Croatian Forests, we didn't have any instructions or influence, which is also evident from this correspondence.

Regarding the employment of Branko Filipeti, I have no influence on the content of messages sent to me by other people, to which I haven't even responded. I don't know this person," Milic wrote.

Now we've seen Milic's response, let's look at the messages published by Nacional, allegedly sent by him:

"Niko Dujmovic" - this is the very simple message that Marko Milic sent to Krunoslav Jakupcic on September the 30th, 2019, while Jakupcic was still the head of Croatian Forests (before he was arrested).

"He'll work [at Croatian Forests] for up to a year on a fixed-term basis - this is the normal way of doing things within Croatian Forests, and then we'll accept him for an indefinite period. I heard that he's good. Best wishes," responded Jakupcic.

"Thank you very much, Kruno," replied Milic.

"You're welcome," responded Jakupcic.

Milic has since gone on to further defend himself and these messages which he claims hold no weight by saying that USKOK (Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime) hasn't been in touch with him during an appearance on RTL. Croatian Forests have had their own say, saying that everything was done according to the law. 

President Zoran Milanovic's bizarre statements regarding Russia has confused the wider public, and now a professor from King's College London has understandably asked what Croatia is trying to do and what it wants

In a longer interview for DW, security expert Peter R. Neumann (King's College London) commented on the Western policy towards Ukraine, and also referred to the statements of Croatian President Milanovic about both Russia and Ukraine, which have been increasingly odd and problematic.

Peter R. Neumann is otherwise professor of security issues at King's College London and the director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), the world's leading research institute dealing with issues of radicalisation and terrorism. After studying political science in Berlin and Belfast, Peter R. Neumann earned his doctorate at London's King's College on the subject of the Northern Irish conflict.

While we won't bring you the interview translated in full, given that most of it focuses on the wider scope of the Russia-Ukraine war, we will publish what he said about Milanovic's strange statements which have caused not only Neumann, but numerous other individuals on the European ans global political stage to ask what Croatia is even trying to say or do by allowing the president to make such bold statements. Neumann has even wondered if Croatia is trying to state that it wants to leave the EU by allowing Milanovic the space to come out with such politically damaging things.

One year after the start of the war, how united is the West in terms of its policy towards Russia? Although Western leaders try to give the impression that there is unity in the response to aggression, the fact is that there is still no consensus. Even in the European Union, there is no consensus about this correct policy, as you call it,'' asked the interviewer. Here is Neumann's response:

''It's true that there is no consensus in the West about the policy towards Russia. But it is also true that Vladimir Putin, when he attacked Ukraine on February the 24th last year, thought that this consensus would be even weaker. What has happened in the West over the last year has been surprising, it's surprising how united the West really was, and that there are very, very few countries that oppose the Western line, for example Hungary.

I think that surprised Vladimir Putin as well. When he launched the action on the 24th of February last year, he believed he would march into Ukraine, and that countries like Germany were too weak to defend against it. That is, he believed that there would be no Western unity.

That was a miscalculation. And that is why it's now important to preserve that unity of the West, because only with that unity can Ukraine be sent as much aid as it needs to be able to strike back at the aggressor.

But it isn't only Hungary which has taken the stance it has. And it's not only Orban. He isn't really alone in this regard. You must have heard the latest statements of Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, who criticises the Western policy, opposes sending weapons to Ukraine, says that a military solution to the war is not possible, that is, that Crimea will never be part of Ukraine and that the West annexed Kosovo. The president of a country that is a member of the European Union and NATO is saying these things...

I find that problematic. I think it's important that such statements aren't made because they are an encouragement in this situation, especially for Vladimir Putin. Because the Russians take advantage of such statements. Because they're used for Russian propaganda, because they say: look, even Europe is not united.

And the fact is that the European Union, with the exception of Hungary, has so far been relatively united in its support for Ukraine. It's important to continue this policy. I don't know what Croatia wants to achieve with this? What does it want to do here? Does it want to be on Russia's side? Does it want to leave the European Union? Does it want to lead a completely different policy from other EU countries? What exactly is the strategic goal for Croatia here?

In my opinion, such statements have no strategic purpose, except to encourage Vladimir Putin and offer him yet more new propaganda material.''

Milanovic has been busy deflecting, turning the attention away from his comments on Ukraine and Russia to the aforementioned scandal about messages sent to employ people within Croatian Forests. Using every possible opportunity to take a swipe at HDZ (which, let's be honest, are numerous anyway), Milanovic stated that the situation with these messages and ''uhljebs'' is ''worse now than it was twenty years ago'' before turning the attention to Plenkovic once again. He has also been busy clearing up after generating a very positive response from Serbia, of all countries, for claiming that yes, Kosovo was indeed ''stolen'' from Serbia. We'll look into that below...

Milanovic gets a round of applause from Serbia after claiming that Kosovo was stolen from it. He has since admitted that he ''could have worded it differently''

''Serbia will have to recognise Kosovo eventually in some way,'' President Zoran Milanovic said this week, adding that Belgrade must understand that it will be the one to emerge from the "Serbian-Russian romance" as the scorned lover.

Here in Zagreb, at a press conference with the new Slovenian president, Natasa Pirc Musar, Milanovic said that "some things must change" in Serbia in order for it to be more inclined to the West where it will apparently be "welcomed".

"The situation in Ukraine is the beginning of the end of this Serbian-Russian romance in which Serbia will realise that it is the scorned lover," said the Croatian president, adding that Serbia and the Kosovo issue "bothers Russia."

"Russia is trying something with Ukraine and the example of Kosovo sticks out like a thorn in the eye. Russia will have to recognise Kosovo at some point or pretend to recognise it in order to legalise what it is doing in Ukraine. That's the reality," Milanovic said, adding that "there is no love" between Belgrade and Moscow, but that it is merely an interest in which Serbia serves Russia.

The Croatian president also said that Serbia "will have to recognise Kosovo in some way", and Kosovo's politicians, "his friends", will have to give status to the Association of Serbian Municipalities, "which they agreed to and signed".

Regarding his recent statement that ''Kosovo was stolen from Serbia'', Milanovic said that this is a fact because Belgrade didn't agree to it. "Serbia was left without Kosovo, it did not give it up voluntarily, it lost it during the war," said Milanovic.

"I could have said differently, that Serbia was left without Kosovo or that Kosovo was excluded from Serbia, but I guess we all agree that Kosovo was part of Serbia," said Milanovic, adding that he does not have to convince anyone of his attachment to the Kosovo Albanians. He also said that he always invites statesmen from countries that have not recognised Kosovo to do so.

To the Serbian tabloids that reacted positively to his statement about the apparently ''stolen'' Kosovo, Milanovic responded with the title of Larry David's comedy series: Curb your enthusiasm. They won't like this now.''


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.


Saturday, 28 January 2023

HDZ Claims That Russian Media is Praising President Zoran Milanovic

January the 28th, 2023 - We all know that President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) is one to make sometimes rather strange remarks, and he isn't at all shy when it comes to saying precisely what he thinks of everything and... well, everyone. Unfortunately, some of his statements have made him popular with the Russian press, and HDZ isn't having it.

As Index writes, HDZ recently took to Facebook in order to publish some of the titles and images of articles published in the Russian media space that convey the statements of President Zoran Milanovic about sending Western tanks into Ukraine.

"If America and Russia don't come to an agreement, and that currently isn't something that is in sight, this war will not stop. Somehow I hope that some kind of talks do continue, or we will slowly move towards WW3, which some people think has already started, but I'm a little more reserved on that front. As for the tanks, both Russian and American will burn," President Zoran Milanovic said recently, among other rather alarming things.

HDZ called him out in its social media publication with the taunting title "From Russia with love/Iz Rusije s ljubavlju".

"The caries (an insult comparing the president to a persistent form of tooth decay) from Pantovcak is once again being showcased as a hero by the Russian regime's media. How could they not praise and celebrate Zoran ''Lex Perkovic'' Milanovic when he, much like the Kremlin, insults Germany and condemns it for the delivery of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine? When he fervently spreads ideas which have already been being expressed Vladimir Putin's own spokesman Peskov, claiming that these tanks will 'burn' and threaten humanity - in order to stop aid from being sent to Ukraine - with 'a new world (nuclear) war?'' wrote HDZ.

"He wants Croatia to be in the ''Russian world'' they wrote, using the word ''svet'' instead of the Croatian word ''svijet'' for ''world'', in an apparent jab by using Serbian spelling.

''At the same time, President Zoran Milanovic has been saying things about the Germans, claiming that "that they've already tried to go to war with Russia", alluding to Adolf Hitler - similar to when he accused Ukrainians of "Nazism" because they don't agree with being enslaved. He also claims that the delivery of German and American tanks will ''only prolong the conflict'' (hm, conflict, not aggression or invasion). In translation - He demands that Kyiv capitulate!

Milanovic is now quite openly working in the interest of Russian aggression and Vladimir Putin's undemocratic regime, and against Ukraine, Europe (which he once again showered with insults) and the West. He wants Croatia in the "Russian world". But don't worry: Grbin & Grmoja will continue to support him, and will continue to claim that they ''see nothing objectionable'' in his statements," HDZ's Facebook post reads.

For more, check out our news section.

Friday, 20 January 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Davos, Bureaucracy Injections and Price Hikes

January the 20th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've still more or less been talking non stop about inflation, Schengen and Eurozone entry and of course - ongoing price increases, but that isn't all. From meetings with Azerbaijani officials and Google's top brass to new ways of injecting even more bureaucracy, let's take a glance at the last week.

The government is set to introduce a special ID card for state institution employees, a move which will cost millions

Just when you thought Croatia couldn't possibly have more forms of card that you need to carry around with you, it goes and introduces yet another one, this time for the employees of state bodies. Yes, you're right, this is precisely what the country needs to be spending time on during difficult social and economic times. Still, we may as well visit the subject - as Index reports, despite being firmly in the shadow of the heated debate regarding the military training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, the final proposal of the law on the official identity cards for state body employees, has remained strong.

Here we have just another way of spreading the plague of needless, time wasting bureaucracy among the Croats, and it is going to cost a pretty penny (or two). What is an official ID card for a state employee anyway, and why bother with it? Those are valid questions, so here is what Article 4 of the Final Bill on the matter says: "An official ID card is an electronic public document by which an employee of a state body proves their official status and electronic identity."

"An official ID card is to be used as a means of electronic identification and authentication to access electronic services, to activate other authentication or signature means, and to sign acts for which the user of the official ID card is authorised," it is stated in paragraph 3 of the same article.

In addition to the above, this card "can be used for physical identification and contactless application for the purpose of registering entry into the premises of a state body and for other purposes prescribed by special regulations".

I'm sure you'll agree that this additional bureacratisation in a society already perversely obsessed with red tape is something that we all really require.

There is plenty of opposition to this, both from the world of Croatian politics and from various other experts in this field. Most people will oppose the sheer amount of cash coming from somewhere that will be poured into this. 

The opposition criticised this idea last summer, believing that this law is utterly redundant, unnecessary, that without it the state would have saved a massive 5.8 million kuna, and so on.

"This law makes no sense, it should be withdrawn, why the new cost?'' asked Zeljko Pavic, a parliamentarian for the Social Democrats, who also went on to explain that there are already ready-made services that can be used without such ID cards which enable greater flexibility.

State Secretary Josip Salapic also stated that these identity cards "are in line with the development of the information society and digitisation", which is why it is "necessary to enable state and judicial officials as well as civil servants and state employees both simple and quick access to various databases and applications that are used to perform business and electronic signature of acts".

He added that around 60,000 official state body employee ID cards now need to be changed, of which 30,000 would be financed with EU funds. The new cards would be valid for three years, and one would cost 125 kuna.

Plenkovic has been busy meeting with all and sundry, from Google's boss to the the president of Azerbaijan

PM Andrej Plenkovic has recently held numerous bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, with, among others, the Secretary General of the OECD, the President of the European Investment Bank, the head of Google and the head of Visa Europe.

He took to the social media platform Twitter to tweet that he had met with Werner Hoyer, head of the European Investment Bank (EIB), an institution which, at least according to Plenkovic, has so far directed seven billion euros through various loans to both the public and private sectors in Croatia.

"We're discussing project cooperation as well as global financial challenges," the tweet reads.

In Davos, the Prime Minister also met with representatives of the Global Citizen organisation, whose activities, as he wrote, Croatia continues to strongly support. At the meeting with the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mathias Cormann, he discussed Croatia's accession to Schengen and the Eurozone as the final strategic step of the country's integration into the circle of the most developed countries in the world.

"We also exchanged opinions regarding the economic situation in Europe and efforts to overcome energy and inflationary pressures," tweeted Plenkovic.

Meetings with the head of Google, the president of Azerbaijan, the president of the European Parliament also took place during what was a very busy week for the PM. Google's president of global affairs, Kent Walker, was also on the list of Plenkovic's meetings, as was the head of Visa Europe, Charlotte Hogg, with whom he discussed potential cooperation and investments.

He discussed the further strengthening of relations between Croatia and Azerbaijan with an emphasis placed primarily on energy and economic cooperation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and he also met with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola.

"We're grateful to the European Parliament for supporting Croatia's accession to Schengen and the Eurozone. We've been discussing the continuation of aid to Ukraine, the European [Union] path of Southeastern Europe, and the green and digital transition," concluded the Prime Minister on Twitter.

He also met with the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic.

Economist Damir Novotny claims that the government is trying to turn the trade sector into ''enemy number one''

What with the recent introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency and the scrapping of the kuna, price hikes as a result of inflation and of the introduction of the new currency have been the hottest topic since the new year began. The government has stepped in and has involved all of the relevant authorities in making sure those stores and service/goods providers who are unjustifiably raising their prices lower their prices to what they were back in December 2022, but not everyone feels their moves are correct.

Economic analyst Damir Novotny was a guest on N1 television's Novi Dan/New Day, during which he commented on price hikes and inflation trends, as well as the government's moves as a result of the above.

Commenting on the new data on inflation and whether it is a decreasing trend, Damir Novotny said: "It's possible, but not because of the movement on the Croatian market, but because of the global movement. This is happening on large markets such as those of the USA, France, etc, and that will spill over to Croatia. It's possible that the trend of slowing growth will spill over into Croatia, but prices will not return to what they were back in 2020."

When asked why most products are cheaper in other countries, which is especially evident after the introduction of the euro, the economist explained the details:

"The main reason is the difference in the tax burden. In Croatia, until recently, there was one rate, 25%, and it's higher than the VAT rate. That rate is very high compared to the rates in Austria, Germany, Italy... not to mention the reduced rates. Austria has 9.5% VAT on all food products, including pet/animal food, taxed at significantly lower rates than in Croatia. Lastly, excise taxes in Slovenia are very low. Here in Croatia, there is an excise tax on plain water, while in Slovenia such an excise tax is very low or non-existent. Jana is therefore cheaper in Slovenia. Another important component of price growth in this country is the long-term closed market. While we had one monopolist, one litre of oil cost 15 kuna back in the year 2000, which is a very high price. And thirdly, in a short period of time over the summer, Croatia has a sudden increase in demand for all goods due to the tourist season. Ten million people come to the Croatian market, the demand increases and those people are ready to pay almost any price."

When asked whether or not it is really realistic to expect what the government is asking from traders in reality, which is the return of December prices, Novotny pointed out:

"For the past twenty years, every single government has chosen an enemy in the private sector. Milanovic's government turned the banking sector into enemy number one. Now this government wants to make the trade sector the enemy, they constantly talk about traders being dishonest. This isn't the discourse of market-oriented economies... Of course, the government needs to have an institutional framework to try to protect consumers and force retailers to disclose product defects, but that's impossible. Hundreds of thousands of items cannot be controlled."

When asked if it was possible to reduce the VAT and whether it would affect the movement of prices, he said: "I think it's impossible. Once the VAT is raised, which was done by Jadranka Kosor, it can't be reversed. The government relies on VAT when it comes to tax revenue, which is the most important source of tax revenue and it is indeed a generous tax. The government will probably maintain this tax burden, and this individual reduction leads to nothing. Government interference in prices is a wrong direction for government policies.

The government reacted, at least in my opinion, unnecessarily abruptly, there was hysteria, the media from Germany, Turkey, Poland, Slovenia called me, asking what was happening. Europe saw that something was happening in Croatia, but they didn't understand why it was happening. Prices have been rising across the entire EU."

Novotny pointed out that it is not true that Zagreb is unjustifiably raising its water prices: "That is not true, the price of water was terribly low here."

He also noted that he doesn't expect any further price increases, explaining that we have now passed the first energy shock and that we won't see a sharp rise in prices again. "I see that retirees are the ones who complain the most, and it's true that pensions are very low in this country, the government needs to intervene there if anywhere," concluded Novotny.

Now the Eu(ro)phoria surrounding Eurozone and Schengen accession has died down, Plenkovic and Milanovic are back to falling out with each other

Plenkovic had a recent interview for French television during which he discussed the vote in the Croatian parliament on the training of Ukrainian soldiers. He said that journalists keep asking him about it and he has to explain to them repeatedly what it's all about.

"It's not a denunciation, I heard what Zoran Milanovic said about all this. Imagine coming out with some thesis that Croats are some kind of American slaves. These are serious theses, what kind of anti-American policy, anti-NATO policy is that? These absurdities never end. These are very serious political mistakes that people in the political community are shocked by. They ask: 'Hello, what is Croatia saying here!?'' he stated, saying that those who have been observing the situation will know precisely where Croatia stands when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war, and that is firmly by the side of Ukraine and firmly against Russia.

"I'm talking about this again because journalists keep asking me about it," he repeated, before opening fire on Milanovic again. "He's leading an absurd policy against Croatian interests..." concluded the Prime Minister when discussing his disapproval of Milanovic's recent bizarre statements about being ''America's slaves''. The two have had an ongoing issue for a long time now, and never miss an opportunity for the claws to come out.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to check out our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Croatian President Milanovic: What Should We Be, American Slaves?

January 15, 2023 - Croatian President Milanovic with some forthright views on several current issues, reports

PRESIDENT Zoran Milanović participated in the commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia and the 25th anniversary of the end of the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region in Vukovar. At the beginning, he commented on the refusal of SDSS representatives to come to the celebration of the anniversary of peaceful reintegration, reports N1.

"I think they should have come, even though I know it's not easy. This was a conflict between two sides, and now there is peace and things are moving forward somehow. I know they can't have an attitude like mine, but I don't expect that either," said Zoran Milanović.

"Plenković spits on Croatian citizens in foreign media"

The president then commented on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's interview for the French media, in which he touched on his statements on the issue of training Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia. "You spit on Croatian representatives and Croatian citizens in the French media," he said and added: "Never insult the democratic representatives of your citizens and your citizens in foreign media. That is the minimum etiquette."

Plenković told the France 24 channel yesterday that the decision of parliament members that Croatia does not participate in the European Union's mission to support the Ukrainian army (EUMAM) was a "historically wrong choice".

Milanović said today that the decision on the training of Ukrainian soldiers or any involvement in the war should be the choice of Croatia, which should not do what the bigger powers impose on it. "Washington and NATO are waging a proxy war against Russia through Ukraine. And vice versa. However, if you don't have the ultimate goal, if you don't have a plan, then it ends up like Afghanistan," Milanović said.

The president, who previously opposed Croatia's participation in the mission several times, repeated that it is "legally very doubtful". "The decision is that for the first time in its history, the EU is participating in a war. And this is against the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, because it only foresees missions outside the territory of the EU," Milanović said.

"The plan cannot be to remove Putin"

"The plan cannot be to remove Putin. The plan cannot be sanctions. This is nonsense. We will not achieve anything. They didn't even break Milosevic with sanctions. They go from war to war. What should we be? American slaves?" he added.

The president was also asked about rounding off, i.e. increasing prices after the introduction of the euro.

"They should have hired an entire army of inspectors to look around. However, the prices have been displayed in euros and kunas for months. We don't live in the Soviet Union. I would expect someone to tell the government. It is the customer who has the most power. He should say : 'You're underestimating me, you're underestimating my intelligence and I'm going to someone else,'" he said.

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