A Week in Croatian Politics – Inflation and Trips to Canada

Lauren Simmonds

croatian politics
Slavko Midzor/PIXSELL

September the 22nd, 2023 – This week in Croatian politics, we’ve had yet more ex-HDZ members heading to jail, talks on price caps, inflation, official visits to Canada and more.

Former HDZ member Vlado Kolak is going to jail for a crime he committed back in 2003

Photo: Boris Scitar/Vecernji list/PIXSELL

The Zagreb County Court has now passed a decision according to which former HDZ member Vlado Kolak must report to serve his sentence for a crime committed twenty years ago (in 2003).

Namely, by the verdict of the Municipal Court in Zagreb, Kolak was initially sentenced back on April the 25th, 2022 to four years in prison for tax evasion and committing an abuse of trust in business operations.

The verdict became final on March the 23rd, 2023, and executory on July the 3rd, 2023. Kolak appealed, but everything was rejected, so now he has to go to prison and serve his sentence behind bars.

Let’s jump back in time to look at what Vlado Kolak has been convicted of. It is alleged that he swindled the assets of the Prigorka company back in 2003. On top of that, going off what was written in the verdict, using his position as the head of Prigorka, he allegedly defrauded the state and the company’s creditors. He allegedly also withdrew a massive 147 million kuna from the company, and the total amount, together with the tax he evaded, reached 370 million kuna with interest.

HDZ kicked Kolak out of the party only in 2019, not because of any committed crimes, but apparently because of the messages he exchanged with other HDZ members on WhatsApp and Viber groups regarding his dissatisfaction with the HDZ leadership of the time.

The government dismisses Boris Abramovic, the man who first revealed the gas affair

Photo: Jurica Galoic/PIXSELL

The government has dismissed Boris Abramovic, the head of the Croatian Energy Market Operator (HROTE), who first warned about the problem of HEP gas surpluses. What has since been referred to as the gas scandal broke out a few months ago, because it turned out that surplus gas was sold below any price, even for as little as one cent.

No one in Croatian politics has yet been held accountable for the multi-million dollar affair. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic continues to keep Frano Barbaric, the HDZ member under whose leadership the affair took place, as the head of HEP. In addition, another prominent figure in Croatian politics, Economy Minister Davor Filipovic, who was warned about the problems with redundancies, was never held responsible either.

The government has now fired the man who was the first to come forward and warn about this problem – Boris Abramovic.

At the closed part of the recently held government session, the Supervisory Board of HROTE proposed the appointment of Darjan Budimir, who was previously Abramovic’s deputy, to the leading position of that state-owned company.

Two days ago, Plenkovic mostly ignored questions being put to him by certain individuals in Croatian politics about the gas affair in parliament. When asked who will be being held responsible for the whole thing, he said: “The government isn’t going to make a decision on this while under pressure.”

“You had a committee, a parliamentary discussion and a conclusion. So, again, the government isn’t going to be making any decisions under pressure on any topic,” Plenkovic said in response to the question posed by Anka Mrak Taritas as to why he isn’t busy resolving the issues surrounding the gas scandal and why he isn’t tackling the issue of who will be held responsible by naming them out loud.

He blamed the opposition for not supporting the training of Ukrainian soldiers and emphasised that the government’s measures during the crisis enabled people to not have to feel the true extent of it. To every question put to him about the gas affair, Plenkovic diverted the topic and talked about the “successes of the government” instead.

The true scale of the damage in the great gas affair is still largely unknown. Let’s do a quick recap and go back to the ins and outs of the gas affair that rocked Croatian politics. This was a huge scandal that broke out after excess gas had been recorded as having accumulated within HEP. Namely, according to the government decree, Hrvatska elektroprivreda were obligated to purchase all the gas produced in the Republic of Croatia for 47.6 euros per MWh from INA. When they no longer had a place to store it, the gas was sold at an auction for ridiculously low prices, sometimes for as little as one cent per MWh. PPD was among the buyers.

The damage estimate at the beginning of the affair stood at least ten million euros, and the true extent of the damage was never actually published. According to unofficial information published by the media over the time that has followed, HEP chief Fran Barbaric is allegedly being investigated by Uskok in three areas – because of an illegally built house on the island of Hvar, the gas scandal and an earlier contract by which HEP purchased gas from PPD.

Plenkovic says that prices in stores are falling

Inflationary pressures have been being felt by all and sundry, but government measures have managed to keep the worst of it at bay, be that regarding food prices or those of energy. Plenkovic has said in the latest government session however that prices for many items on the shelves are now falling.

At the beginning, the Prime Minister mentioned the introduction of the second tube of the Ucka tunnel, a project which has been being discussed for a very long time now, and is deemed strategic by most. “By the summer of next year, the new tube will have cars running through it, which is a truly excellent success,” he said, adding that the entire Istrian epsilon will soon be completed.

He said Standard&Poor’s had maintained Croatia’s BBB+ and upgraded the country’s outlook from stable to positive. “Now we’re one step closer to being among those countries with the highest ratings,” he said.

“Since Monday, our package of economic measures has been effect, especially the part related to price caps. We listed thirty products in the government’s decision, all of which have had their prices limited. We’ve also seen a decreasing price trend in a significant number of other products, such was the spirit of the conversation and the understanding of the trade sector. All of this was done in order to reduce the costs of the consumer basket for the general public,” he said, before making sure to take a swipe at those in Croatian politics who are HDZ’s very vocal opposition. Of them, he said: We had a barren, idea-less and unimaginative opposition which, without any arguments, continues to desperately try to attach labels of corruption and treachery to every move made.”

The government price caps mentioned above can be read about below

As noted above, the price freezing of multiple frequently purchased items is now in force. The items this concerns are now being marked with special labels. You can find out precisely which items have had their prices frozen and how you can tell which products they are by following this link.

Zoran Milanovic visits Canada

Photo: Luka Batelic/PIXSELL

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic recently paid an official visit to Canada. During his visit to the Canadian city of Hamilton, Zoran Milanovic told Croats in Canada that Croatia does not need their money because they have already given enough of it. He said that instead of cash, it does need their love and for them to remain who and what they are, adding that it is up to them to decide whether they will return to actually live in Croatia or not.

“It’s your assessment and ultimately your decision whether you should return to Croatia. Our heart is open to your experience, knowledge, intelligence, and above all your love for the homeland, for Croatia and its traditions. You’ve given us enough money. Croatia doesn’t need your money, it needs your love and for you to remain who and what you are,” Milanovic told the Croatian emigrants in Hamilton, Canada.

You can read more by clicking here.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic offers assurance surrounding migrant presence in Croatia

Photo: Slavko Midzor/PIXSELL

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic stated that there is an increased number of migrants in Croatia, but he emphasised that the situation is under control and will not allow Croatia to become a hot spot for migrants.

“We’re all following what is happening in Europe, especially these worrying images from Italy. As for Croatia, we are recording a significant increase, some 160 percent compared to last year,” said Bozinovic in a statement to reporters in Osijek, writes 24Sata.

However, he said that despite the increased pressure, the situation with migrants and asylum seekers in Croatia is under control.

“We approached the process analytically; we make our decisions,” said Bozinovic, adding that he will not allow “Croatia to become a hot spot for migrants” but will respect all international and national obligations and legal regulations.

You can read more here.


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