Election Debate: Plenković – Milanović

Total Croatia News

Updated on:

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Source: HRT

For the first time in 13 years, presidents of the two major parties take part in an election debate.

Although debates between party leaders ahead of parliamentary elections are something quite usual in many countries, in Croatia there has not been such a debate for 13 years. However, both the new HDZ president Andrej Plenković and SDP president Zoran Milanović have accepted the invitation of the Croatian Radio Television to take part in a debate ahead of the parliamentary elections which will take place on 11 September.

Meeting before the debate

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Everything is ready

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The debate has finally started! First question is what they think about each other.

Milanović: Plenković was one of the best Croatian diplomats, very professional, meticulous, cold, not eccentric. He enjoys a high reputation. We were on good terms while we worked at the Foreign Ministry together, we talked a lot.

Plenković: The 1990s were challenging times, and we both worked to protect national interests. Milanović was a very good diplomat, but he was not a very good prime minister.

What do you think needs to be done by the next government?

Milanović: Croatia needs a stable government, a safe direction. Right at the start I want to say there will be no new taxes. We will encourage hiring of young people, we will increase grants for culture and continue with the curricular reform. Spending for education will amount to 2 percent of GDP.

Plenković: We have prepared a programme that is focused on economic growth, demographic recovery and employment. This is what Croatian citizens are mostly interested in. We must ensure a dignified life to those who work, and provide an opportunity to young people. The focus will be on a balanced tax reform.

What kind of tax policies will you implement?

Plenković: Milanović as Prime Minister increased the VAT rate to 25 percent. Our experts have already made calculations and we believe that in the second year of next Parliament we will reduce the rate to 24 percent, and by the end of the term to 23 percent. We will undertake the reform of the corporate and income taxes. We want to ease the burden for those who want to contribute to the growth of the economy.

Milanović: So far, all the previous HDZ candidates have also promised the reduction of VAT rate, but that has never actually happened. Let us be honest with the citizens, we also plan to reduce the VAT rate, in the second year of the term.

How do you plan to reduce the unemployment rate?

Milanović: Employing people is a dynamic process. When we took over the responsibility for the country in 2011, there were about 300,000 unemployed persons. Croatia must have a stable government.

Plenković: The current government has acted very responsibly, and it refused to borrow funds under unfavourable conditions, and I think that is a responsible approach. You can see what kind of results we have achieved this year in terms of growth and deficit. This HDZ-led government has prepared a very good budget.

Next year, 28 billion kuna of debt will have to be repaid. How?

Milanović: Under the terms of my government, we will reprogram the debt. The previous HDZ government has left us a huge budget deficit. During our term, Croatia for the first time ever had a positive balance of payments in the amount of two percent of the budget.

Plenković: The current HDZ’s government has reduced the deficit. Milanović did not recognize the policy of budget deficit. During his term, public debt has drastically increased. HDZ will reduce it with economic growth and using state-owned assets.

Pension system

Plenković: The key for HDZ policies towards pensioners is for them to have a dignified life. Our goal is to link pensions with the overall economic situation, with the cost of living. During the SDP government, there was no adjustment of pensions.

Milanović: The total cost of pensions from the first pillar is 36 billion kuna. Plenković has again demonstrated that he is not familiar with the systematization of the budget process. It is dangerous to interfere with the pension system in this way.

Future of INA

Plenković: INA is a national strategic company for Croatia, and the state must devote special attention to it. The key is for MOL to fulfil all obligations from the shareholder agreement and for INA to have sustainable reserves of gas and oil. They also have to prevent the closure of refineries in Sisak and Rijeka.

Milanović: Unfortunately, I have too much experience with it. We have started the arbitration process. We will try to return INA to Croatia through negotiations with MOL.

Monument to Miro Barešić

Plenković: He was a migrant who was disappointed and left Croatia. He fought for the Croatian cause and took the then Yugoslav ambassador as a hostage, who died after being shot.

Milanović: My grandfather was actually an Ustasha during the war, but he never took ambassadors as hostages. This has caused enormous damage to Croatian reputation in Scandinavia.

Tito – Tuđman

Plenković: Tito was a dictator. I think that relevant city authorities in Zagreb could find a better name for the Marshal Tito Square. Tuđman has given us a free and independent Croatia, we need to respect him.

Milanović: They are two pillars of Croatia. Tuđman had a good opinion about Tito. St. Mark’s Square should be renamed after Tuđman.

Same-sex marriage

Milanović: The level of protection of such couples in Croatia is at the top of the European Union. We are a small, open country, we must not be closed. Now we are being visited by millions of people a year, we must be open to everyone. Who am I to judge them?

Plenković: Croatia has already defined this issue. It is not a marriage, because the referendum clearly defined marriage. Croatia has a Law on Life Partnership. Our position is clear, these things should be seen in a different way. It was the will of all those who voted in the referendum.

Next government

Plenković: As the new HDZ president, I have analyzed the situation and we have decided to go alone to the polls in seven constituencies. It was the right decision. I am open for cooperation with MOST. I do not feel responsible for what happened earlier.

Milanović: We treat our partners in the right way. I do not want to talk about polls. The People’s Coalition is the first choice, because Croatia needs a stable government.

Culture Minster Hasanbegović

Plenković: HDZ’s candidate lists were thoroughly discussed and we have found the best candidates. The lists include all those who can make a contribution, including Hasanbegović.

Milanović: Because of people like Hasanbegović, people abroad treat as the way they do. Such behaviour in today’s Europe is harmful for Croatia.

Plenković: I would recommend to Milanović to read Hasanbegović’s interview in Le Monde. The defamation campaign against Hasanbegović is something I have never seen before.

Local government system

Plenković: We should keep the current territorial organization of Croatia. HDZ has always advocated the system in which counties have a key role. They must have more powers, we need a functional and fiscal decentralization.

Milanović: Plenković said that we had given up on reforms, but I am talking about radical reforms. In politics, you have to listen.

Supplementary health insurance

Plenković: We will not raise the price of supplementary insurance.

Milanović: That idea was stopped due to public reaction. While I am SDP president, that will not happen. They wanted to favour the insurance companies.

Education reform

Plenković: I have to admit that the whole debate about the reform is fascinating. Has the reform been stopped? We are currently in a public consultation period. We wanted to include more experts, give it a pluralistic spirit. The goal is for our children to have a better education, in order to prepare for jobs that are changing in a globalized world. Nobody has stopped the reform. On the contrary.

Milanović: The protests in favour of the reform were not organized by SDP. As many as 40,000 people gathered there, and it was a positive event.

Serbia’s universal jurisdiction for war crimes

Milanović: We were the first to start rejecting indictments from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We need to sit down with Serbia and come to an agreement, or we will have to block them. I have already told them they cannot behave like that.

Plenković: We will protect the national interest, because Serbia’s law is unacceptable.

Possible new migrant crisis

Milanović: Just look how we have dealt with that last year. Not a single branch in Croatia was crushed, and our citizens did not see any refugees of the streets. We have acted humanely towards them. And we would act like that again.

Plenković: I think there will not be a new migrant wave. The problem of the protection of external borders has been solved at the EU level. I think that the problem is now resolved.

Grand coalition

Plenković: I am going into this election for HDZ to win. Of course, in politics there are issues which demand consensus. I think that grand coalition is not an option at this moment.

Milanović: I could form a coalition with Plenković, but not with his party. But, we will not need it, we will win. It will not be easy, because HDZ has a strong party apparatus. Croatia does not need a grand coalition.


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