Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Milanović Says PM's Chief of Staff Committed Offence

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that PM Andrej Plenković's chief of staff Zvonimir Frka Petešić having registered permanent residence on the island of Dugi Otok "is an offence with a very high level of awareness of the nature of the act", for which, he said, Plenković was also responsible.

"(The PM's chief of staff) resides here. Frka is a resident of Zagreb and what he has done is unbelievable. The (post-earthquake) reconstruction of the building where he lives is not the problem, the problem is the reconstruction of the apartment where he lives. The man sponges off us, off me, I am still repaying the loan for my flat. Why should I not save some money for my son who studies in the Netherlands?" Milanović told reporters during a visit to the Kraš confectioner.

Frka Petešić enjoyed "his friend and boss's support" 

Noting ironically that this was why he had considered reporting his residence in Senj, Glavice or Sinj (where his family hails from) because he has relatives who live there, Milanović said that what Frka Petešić did "is an offence with a very high level of awareness of the nature of the act."

Milanović added that neither he nor any of his associates, and until now no one from the Plenković government, had ever thought of doing such a thing.

"Find me someone who has benefitted from that clumsy formulation, find a resident of Zagreb who has used a state flat in the past 10 years... who has used that benefit and has paid for accommodation less than any of us, stupid Zagreb residents. I'm confident there is no such person, not even in the Plenković government," Milanović said, adding that what Frka Petešić did was also a responsibility of PM Plenković "because Frka Petešić has enjoyed the protection of his friend and boss."

"Plenković is defending him, saying that he will not comment, while I had to answer their questions as to how I took out a 30-year housing loan," said the president.

On combat planes: Treating parliament as a third party is outrageous

Milanović also said that the government had still not sent him agreements on the purchase of the French Rafale multipurpose fighter jets, but that more important than that was that the agreements were sent to the parliament.

"It is more important that the parliament gets them, (the jets) are 20% more expensive than planned, which is €200 million less for the army. Answering the parliament and treating it as a third party in an illiterate letter... is an unprecedented act of contempt and insolence," Milanović said.

He went on to say that the defence minister or the PM cannot write to the parliament treating it as a third party, saying that they have to ask the French corporation for permission. "That's too much, even for the HDZ."

The agreement is confidential, that is understandable and acceptable, but such conduct towards the parliament is not, said the president.

As for the procurement of the US Bradley combat vehicles, he recalled that he had exerted pressure for a month and a half to deal with the issue, after which the Defence Ministry was excluded from the process for a second time due to incompetence and the Office of the Prime Minister stepped in and did the job.

Asked if he went skiing recently, Milanović said that his spokesman explained everything in a statement, adding that he had paid for the trip and meal, and that if he was asked if he had also paid for the ticket, he would have said yes.

"A president is in a cage 24 hours a day, I want to get away from my house for three hours, ask (Minister of the Interior Davor) Božinović, ask the same about Plenković. When I go somewhere, my security goes with me. Where do they sleep? Some sleep in the house. The suggestion is that I do not leave my flat," he said.

Rotten egg attack - let the man go

Commenting on the arrest of two citizens who posted inappropriate comments about Plenković on social networks, Milanović recalled that during his term as PM and incidents in Knin, when charges were pressed against some people, he had told the police not to do it as it was wrong.

"Not knowing who those people were, I said that they should let them go. In this case a man said one should throw rotten eggs at Plenković. If the eggs were fresh, maybe they would have acted differently? Who has ever attacked anyone with eggs in Croatia," asked Milanović.

"I expect the unenlightened absolutist leader to show mercy and say that the matter is irrelevant and that the man should be let go," he added.

Asked about the opposition Bridge party's referendum initiative against the COVID certificate mandate, Milanović said that he had heard that the Constitutional Court would be asked to check the constitutionality of the referendum questions.

"What is there for the Constitutional Court to decide?.. If they have collected that many signatures, I congratulate them. It's not an easy thing to do."

The idea that a respiratory infection could be controlled is crazy, Milanović said, adding that his younger son was in the third year of high school and had practically not attended any face-to-face classes. That's not normal, he said.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Parliament Discusses Protection of Whistleblowers

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Members of parliament were agreed on the need to protect people reporting irregularities during a debate on a bill on the protection of whistleblowers on Tuesday, with opposition MPs citing the most famous whistleblowers and their fate.

What in reality happens to whistleblowers is best evidenced by the cover of the Nacional weekly, said MP Dalija Orešković, a reference to Maja Đerek, a former employee of the State Property Agency, who spoke up about irregularities at the agency.

"That case indicates serious breaches of office... by a number of senior state officials, starting from Minister (of the Interior Davor) Božinović, (PM's chief of staff Zvonimir) Frka Petešić, and the head of the State Property Agency," Orešković said, telling Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković that he was not mentioned in a positive context in the Nacional article either.

"If Nacional's allegations are true, we are witnessing a realised conflict of interest due to which, if state bodies had the will, the entire government should fall," she said.

Bridge MP Marin Miletić said even though the relevant legislation was good, in terms of protection of whistleblowers, there was chaos on the ground.

A number of whistleblowers have reported irregularities and ended up jobless, he said, noting that Croatia loses HRK 60 billion a year to corruption.

He called on Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica to protect whistle-blowers.

Minister: New law brings numerous improvements

Minister Malenica said that the new law on the protection of whistleblowers would bring numerous improvements.

The procedure to report an irregularity is facilitated, it can be done either verbally or in writing, including modern IT tools and applications, whistleblowers will have the right to court protection, compensation, protection of identity and confidentiality, and primarily legal aid, he said.

It will be possible to report an irregularity via a person at one's employer who is in charge of such complaints, through external bodies, that is, ombudsman, as well as by going public with an irregularity, the minister said.

Željko Pavić of the Social Democrats wanted to know how the state will help a whistleblower survive the period from reporting an irregularity, which often includes dismissal, to a court decision.

The person reporting an irregularity has court protection in such situations, the procedure before the local court is swift, and a decision on a temporary measure must be made within eight days, the minister said, admitting that compensation or some other form of payment to whistleblowers had not been considered.

Urša Raukar Gamulin (Green-Left Bloc) asked why the new law did not envisage psychosocial support to whistleblowers while her colleague Vilim Matula wondered if the new law would also protect the police officer who had warned about the unlawful conduct of his colleagues towards migrants.

Malenica said that he would not comment on specific cases and he left open the possibility of amending the law, at some point in the future, to envisage psychosocial support for whistleblowers.

"I am not familiar with details regarding the HNB so it is difficult to answer that question," Malenica told MP Vesna Vučemilović, who asked if the person who had revealed information about insider trading by employees of the central bank had committed an offence or was just a whistleblower.

HDZ MPs welcomed the bill, with MP Damir Habijan suggesting that fines for employers who try to prevent a whistle-blower from reporting an irregularity be determined as a percentage of their revenue.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

UEFA Futsal Euro 2022: Croatia Falls to Russia in Second Group C Match

January 25, 2022 - Croatia fell to Russia in the second Group C match of the UEFA Futsal Euro 2022 held in the Netherlands. Croatia will play their final Group C match on January 29 against Slovakia to determine which team will join Russia in the quarterfinals. 

After defeating Poland at the start of the European Futsal Championship in the Netherlands, the Croatia national futsal team lost in the second round to Russia 4:0.

The match was off to a poor start for Croatia as Vedran Matošević earned a red card for a tough challenge on Robinho. Russia quickly capitalized with an extra player when Antoshkin scored for 1:0 in the third minute.

It took Croatia time to establish their rhythm, but it didn't take long for Russia to put their second goal past goalkeeper Žarko Luketin. Paulinho scored for 2:0 in the 12th minute. 

Croatia had plenty of opportunities in the first half. Marinović threatened Russia's goal twice, Jelovčić and Jurlina once, but at the very end of the first 20 minutes, Russia scored a new goal thanks to Čiškala for 3:0 at the half. 

The match was pretty even as the second half began, and only one goal was scored. Antoshkin scored his second goal of the match in the 26th minute for the final 4:0. 

Russia thus secured first place in the group and a place in the quarterfinals. Poland and Slovakia will play the other Group C match later tonight. 

In the last round of Group C, Croatia will meet Slovakia, and Russia will face Poland. Only then will it be known who will advance to the quarterfinals with Russia.

The 3rd round matches are scheduled for 14:30 on January 29. The Croatia - Slovakia match is broadcast on HTV2.

The 2022 UEFA Euro Futsal tournament is hosted for the first time in the Netherlands. 

Euro, Group C (Round 2):

Croatia - Russia 0:4 (Antoshkin 3, 26, Paulinho 12, Chiskala 20)

Poland - Slovakia (20:30)

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Foreign Ministry Advises against Travel to Ukraine

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MVEP) has advised against travelling to areas in Ukraine that border Russia and to postpone travel to the rest of the country.

"Due to the deteriorated security situation in Ukraine and concentration of armed forces of the Russian Federation in areas bordering Ukraine, we advise Croatian citizens to avoid traveling to areas in eastern Ukraine that border the Russian Federation," MVEP said on its website.

That in particular refers to areas under Ukrainian control that border the temporarily occupied areas of the internationally unrecognised Donetsk and Luhansk entities, the ministry said.

The ministry further advises citizens not to travel to areas near the annexed Crimea peninsula or areas of northern Ukraine that border Belarus.

For other areas of the country it is advisable to avoid all unnecessary travel and postpone trips if possible. Anyone travelling to Ukraine should take care and stay informed about the situation in all local media.

The warning comes after the US State Department withdrew the families of its diplomats from Ukraine on Sunday, due to the threat of a Russian invasion.

Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Monday that it considers the US decision to be premature.

There have not been any major recent changes in the security situation: the threat of a new wave of Russian aggression has been constant since 2014 and Russian troops began to gather near the border in April last year, the ministry said in a press release.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Monday said that the EU would not follow suit with the US because it does not see any reason for the time being to withdraw its diplomats from Ukraine.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Croatian Contingent Returns from NATO Mission in Poland

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022  - The 8th Croatian contingent that was part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Poland returned on Monday and was welcomed back at the army barracks in Bjelovar.

"Thanks to you, the Republic of Croatia has once again proved its readiness to participate in the joint defence system with its allies and partners, confirming its active contribution to peace and stability not only in this area but far beyond its borders," Defence Minister Mario Banožić said welcoming the troops, according to a press release from the ministry.

The majority of the 8th contingent comprised members of the Guards armoured-mechanised brigade. It served in the US-led Battle Group together with personnel from the United Kingdom and Romania.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Zagreb Mayor Says Proposed Waste Collection Model Cheapest, Fairest

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Tuesday, while opening a renovated Zagreb primary school that was damaged in the March 2020 earthquake, that the proposed new model for waste collection, based on the so-called Swiss model, was the cheapest and fairest.

Tomašević said the proposal had been put to month-long public consultation during which all good suggestions would be taken into account, one of them being that waste bags should have a smaller volume - of 10 instead of 20 litres, which is the current proposal.

"Many citizens have contacted us, saying that it would take a lot of time to fill a 20 litre bag and they suggest that the bag should have a 10 litre volume. That is a realistic and good proposal," he said.

The purpose of the proposed waste collection model is to pay the variable part of the waste collection rate through the price of bags for unsorted waste.

Tomašević said that there would be no changes to the collection of sorted plastic, metal and paper waste.

Presenting the new model of charging for waste collection last Friday, the mayor said that waste collection would be charged based on the quantity of unsorted waste generated. The main change is that in addition to a fixed monthly rate of HRK 45 (households) or HRK 90 (businesses), citizens would pay HRK 4 or 8 for 'official bags' to dispose of unsorted waste.

The amount of the second part of the waste collection rate would be up to users themselves. They would have to buy 'official' waste bags, their prices being HRK 4 for a 20 litre bag, and HRK 8 for a 40 litre bag, Tomašević said last Friday.

The city authorities also plan to move garbage containers from public areas to have them controlled exclusively by their users.

Apartment and house owners would thus be responsible for the content of those containers, including waste disposed of inappropriately.

The new system of waste collection should go into force on 1 July.

Presenting the new model last Friday, Tomašević said it was the cheapest and fairest as it encouraged waste sorting.

He said the average monthly bill for a household generating 120 litres of unsorted waste would be HRK 69. A household that generates 60 litres of unsorted waste a month would pay HRK 57 while a household generating 240 litres a month would pay HRK 93.

Only bags for unsorted waste will be charged while those for plastic and bio waste would continue to be free of charge.

Fines for waste that has not been disposed of appropriately will amount to around HRK 500.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Croatian President Says Ukraine Should Not be Part of NATO

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Ukraine does not belong in NATO, and the situation along the Ukraine-Russia border is a serious crisis behind which stands primarily the dynamics of U.S. internal affairs, Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday.

Addressing the press after he visited the Kraš confectionery company, Milanović said that Croatia would in no way be involved in the crisis if it escalated and that there would be no Croatian soldiers in that scenario.

Ukraine does not belong in NATO, the Croatian head of state said, adding that the European Union had triggered off a coup d'etat in Ukraine in 2014 when the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted.

Western countries are warning about a growing threat of Russia's invasion on Ukraine, and therefore some of them have started to evacuate their diplomats from Kiev.

On the other hand, Moscow dismisses the claims that it is preparing an attack on its southwestern neighbour and insists on guarantees from the West that NATO will not expand towards the east or set up rocket systems along the borders with Russia.

Milanović believes that there are ways to preserve Ukraine in its entirety or 99% of its territory and to provide it with economic assistance. However, that country should not be part of NATO, just as, for instance, neutral Finland, Austria and Sweden are not members of that alliance, either, he said.

The ongoing crisis has nothing to do with Ukraine or Russia, it is connected with the dynamics of the U.S. internal policy led by President Joe Biden and his administration, the Croatian president said, adding that "matters of international security reflect inconsistencies and dangerous behaviour" by the U.S. administration.

Milanović says that the hawks in the Democratic Party as well as the hawks among Republicans, "who until recently justified the play-safe and peaceful policy" of former president Donald Trump towards Moscow, are now mounting pressure on the Pentagon and Biden to take a tough stance towards Russia.

"All that is happening in the antechamber of Russia. One must reach a deal that will take account of the security interests of Russia," said Croatia's president and supreme commander of the army.

If the situation escalates, Croatia will withdraw all its soldiers, he said, adding that Croatia has nothing to do with that crisis.

Milanović again criticised the engagement of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Ukraine.

He labelled former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych as "a swindler who sat on three chairs", adding that his ouster was a coup encouraged by the European Union and the administration in Washington at that time.

After the overthrow of Yanukovych in 2014, "the story was as follows," Milanović said: "Ukraine is going west, it has nothing in common with Russia, the customs union with Russia and former Soviet Union countries is bad for Ukraine, while the EU will be a land of milk and honey."

Eight years later, "Ukraine is still one of the most corrupt countries in the world, stagnating economically and it has got nothing from the EU," Milanović said.

He added that the confrontation with Russia has also produced detrimental effects on gas prices. 

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Croatia Still Stagnating on TI Corruption Perceptions Index

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Croatia has been stagnating for the third consecutive year in terms of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the international corruption watchdog says in its annual report.

CPI shows the level of public sector transparency on a scale from 0 to 100.

Countries whose CPI is below 50 are considered corrupt and those with a CPI of more than 51 non-corrupt.

This year, just as in 2021 and 2020, Croatia is ranked 63rd with a score of 47, which places it in the company of Malaysia, Cuba and Montenegro, which have the same score.

A large majority of countries, 131, in 2021 stagnated in the fight against corruption as well. Twenty-five improved their score while the scores of 23 countries worsened.

In 2015 Croatia had a score of 51, and it has been falling since. Of the EU member countries, only Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria have a lower score than Croatia.

Since corruption remains mostly outside the public eye, it is difficult to measure, so CPI monitors the perception of public sector corruption among experts and representatives of the business community. It uses 13 independent sources of data, including those of the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

More than two-thirds of countries have a score of below 50, the average score being 43.

The TI ranking is topped by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, with a score of 88, followed by Norway (85), Singapore (85), Sweden (85), the Netherlands (82), Luxembourg (81) and Germany (80).

At the bottom of the ranking are South Sudan with a score of 11, Syria and Somalia are slightly better, with a score of 13, Venezuela has a score of 14 and Yemen, North Korea and Afghanistan have a score of 16.

In its report TI singles out Slovenia for falling to a historically low score of 57, which is nevertheless still much higher than Croatia's.

TI cites pressure on independent monitoring bodies, threats to freedom of assembly and attacks on public media as reasons for Slovenia's score having dropped by three points.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a score of 35, which puts it in 110th place while Serbia has a score of 38, which places it 96th.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Networking and Tourism Management in Croatia Seen as Unsatisfactory - Survey

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Croatians think that the existing networking between tourism and the rest of the economic sector, the quality of tourism management and the inclusion of the local population in its development are not satisfactory, but also that tourism does not have many negative effects, a survey shows.

The survey of views of local population on tourism was carried out by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport as part of the preparation of a strategy for the development of sustainable tourism for the period until 2030. It covered 1,166 respondents from all counties and the City of Zagreb.

Apart from being dissatisfied with the level of networking between the tourism industry and the rest of the economic sector, the quality of tourism management and the inclusion of local people in its development, respondents also cited the problem of a labour shortage and the insufficient marketing of locally produced food and drinks through tourism.

About 33% of those interviewed said they are not happy with the state of tourism in their county, 35.3% said that the situation is satisfactory, and 51.3% described the situation with environmental protection in their county as satisfactory or very satisfactory.

Slightly over half of the respondents, or 53.4%, said that the development of tourism helps keep young people in the country, 52.2% said that tourism has attracted additional investments to their county and 53% said it has created new jobs.

Respondents also noted that tourism has prompted upgrades to municipal and transport infrastructure, and that local people and businesses have economic benefits from the tourist industry. 59% said that tourism helps increase awareness of the importance of environmental protection and 56% said that tourism encourages the protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.

A majority of those interviewed, or 75.5%, said that tourism encourages the production of local food and drinks, and a similar percentage noted that tourism also promotes the conservation of cultural heritage.

Over 64% of the respondents said they do not agree that tourism jeopardises the quality of life for the local population or that it leads to increased rates of vandalism, crime and drug abuse.

Nearly 42% said that tourism is the reason for traffic congestion and overcrowding, and 44.5% identified uncontrolled building as a problem.

Among the negative effects of tourism, respondents cited increased costs of living.

An analysis of the present situation has identified ten key challenges facing the Croatian tourism industry - seasonal and spatial imbalances, the impact of tourism on the environment and nature, the relationship between tourism and climate change, adjustment to accelerated technological change, the quality of life and wellbeing of local population, insufficient human resources, inadequate accommodation capacity, an unfavourable business and investment environment, an insufficiently effective legal and management framework, and the impact of crises on tourism and changes in tourist behaviour and needs.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Croatia Reports 51 COVID Deaths in Last 24 Hours

ZAGREB, 25 Jan 2022 - Croatia has recorded 8,471 new coronavirus cases based on PCR testing and 51 deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team reported on Tuesday.

On the other hand, media said that 8,221 cases confirmed by rapid antigen tests should be added to this number, which would put the total tally of new infections in the last 24 hours at 16,692.

According to the national coronavirus response team, currently there are 58,866 active cases in Croatia. Among them are 1,951 people who are being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, including 200 placed on ventilators, and 39,228 people are self-isolating.

Since 25 February 2020, when the first case was confirmed in the country, 887,362 people have contracted the novel virus, of whom 13,502 have died and 814,994 have recovered, including 6,627 in the last 24 hours.

To date, 4,132, 532 people have been tested, including 18,320 in the last 24 hours. A total of 5,052,469 vaccine doses have been administered, with 56.42 per cent of the total population, or 67.15 per cent of the adult population, having been vaccinated.

As of Monday, 2,289,548 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose and 2,198,127 of them have been fully vaccinated, which is 64.63 per cent of the adult population.

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