“The mandatory fee is a parafiscal levy par excellence,” he told the press.
Milanović said the HGK was “a political den,” much more so than the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts which “has a certain function, although politics managed to become implanted there as well, and deeply. But it has its point, its function and use for Croatia’s economy and enterprise.”
He said the HGK was not an essential institution of the Croatian people and state, but a useful institution which had become useless. “Political showdowns are taking place there on a weekly basis. The election of a new HGK president after Nadan Vidošević left has turned into a political showdown.”
Milanović said that he too had paid a monthly HGK fee but received nothing in return. However, he stressed, he is not for abolishing the HGK.
He agreed with the demand by the Voice of Entrepreneurs NGO for abolishing the mandatory HGK membership. He said that when he was prime minister, his cabinet failed to do so because of serious and deep problems. “That should be done right away.”
Asked about yesterday’s protest in Zagreb, organised by the Voice of Entrepreneurs to show dissatisfaction with how the COVID-19 crisis is being dealt with, the president said the epidemiological measures were not equal for all.
However, he added, he does not see in that “any devious scheme or conspiracy” by the national COVID response team, only inconsistent messages. “I see no evil intent in that, but it should be elaborated further”.
Protests were expected
Milanović said that the protests were expected because when people give up something they demand consistency. He recalled that he had been warning from the start that restrictions must be clearly based in law and logic.
“Legally, the measures should have been passed by a two-thirds majority in parliament because this is a state of emergency,” he said, adding that some people were fed up with the state of emergency and the government should talk to them.
Asked about the appointment of former deputy prime minister Martina Dalić as the president of the management board of the Podravka food company, he said that pension funds had a lot of shares in this company with an annual revenue of HRK 4.5 billion. If Podravka had not been restructured and recapitalised in July 2015, the government would now hold less than 25% and would not have such influence on the appointment of the board president.
“This is obviously a political appointment, but it does not necessarily mean that it will be a bad one. We’ll see,” Milanović said. He recalled that between 2012 and February 2017, when the company was led by the Social Democratic Party’s Zvonimir Mršić, Podravka had doubled its stock-exchange capitalisation and increased its revenue during deflation by a quarter. He warned that in the last four years Podravka’s revenue had increased by the difference in prices.
“It’s a company with millions and millions in savings and our future pensioners also have expectations from it. There is also the responsibility of pension funds and pension insurance fund management companies which apparently agreed to the political demand of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. If the company grows, and it has been stagnating for years, fine, but if it does not, the question of political appointment will be raised because Martina Dalić was never in this business,” the president said.
As regards the planned purchase of multi-purpose fighter jets, Milanović said he understood that a decision was delayed because of the present situation, but stressed that a decision must be made in the months ahead.
Commenting on the decision by some of the banks to withdraw from arbitration proceedings relating to the conversion of Swiss franc-denominated loans into euro loans, Milanović said he was pleased with his contribution because when he had served as prime minister his government passed the conversion law.
Asked about the shortage of coronavirus vaccine, the president expressed regret, saying that it was a problem of procurement and agreement with pharmaceutical companies.