ZAGREB, July 16, 2020 – President Zoran Milanovic on Thursday said he believes that reducing the number of ministries from 20 to 16 is good because that will facilitate doing the job and that decision is the prime minister’s discretionary right.
“If it will be easier for the prime minister to work, then that is good and that is his right. That is a reduction in the number of ministers and not the number of ministries, several plaques will be changed. That is the prime minister’s discretionary right,” Milanovic told reporters in the president’s office after appointing Andrej Plenkovic prime minister-designate.
Milanovic said that the number of employees would remain the same as will the number of administrations, adding that it is difficult to talk of downsizing when are faced with difficult financial time.
I have supported most of the government’s measures
“In my opinion, the government doesn’t need to look at how much people are being paid but what they are doing for that salary, what their productivity is like. That is more difficult to measure than it is in the private sector. It is more difficult to gauge the productivity of diplomats, tax officers, police officers, and all those who constitute the state administration and public sector. If that will help the prime minister, and it will because 16 people are easier to work with than 20, all the better then,” said Milanovic.
Asked about a “tough cohabitation” between him and the prime minister, Milanovic said that he has supported most of the government’s measures and that he has supported the government.
“The things we didn’t agree or perhaps didn’t understand are some symbolic events. My stance about that is known. It will not change. It is hardly likely to change after all these years and hard to believe it will change in the next few years while I am the president. If I consider that something is not good, not right, that it is damaging, I will react. I have said some things,” said Milanovic.
He underscored that he is pleased that one deputy prime minister will be a member of ethnic minorities and that that is the continuation of a “practice of good spirit” which he always supported and implemented.
“That isn’t just a symbolic thing. That is something that distinguishes Croatia as a society, as a community, as a political community from many its neighbours, unfortunately many,” he added.
“For the homeland ready” should be penalised as hate speech
Asked about banning the Ustasha salute “For the homeland ready,” he said the question is whether we will continue to treat it as disturbing the peace or penalise it as hate speech.
“I am not one for bans, nor punishment, but there is no choice here. That needs to be penalised as a criminal offence but with a mild sentence that will leave a mark on whoever intends to entertain that idea, so that that is known, but it should be punishable. It hurts a lot of people but I will not put pressure on that topic. That is up to the will and conscience of those who can change that,” he underscored.
Speaking about a law on the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb, Milanovic claimed that Zagreb has been the most neglected city, with a significant and serious historical urban centre, and that now is the opportunity to change that.
“It is our city. It is the capital of all Croats. It is Croatia’s Jerusalem in a way. That city has been neglected. There was money for reconstruction. However, nothing was done. This is an opportunity for the City of Zagreb and the government to do a lot. That, above all, has been the responsibility of the City of Zagreb,” he said.
Crossing the floor will require answering more than just one question
Milanovic believes that the support of 76 lawmakers in the 151-seat parliament is sufficient for a stable government and he wished the prime minister all the best, adding that he would have liked for those people who were ideologically and programme-wise close to him to have spontaneously supported Plenkovic as well.
“It’s obvious that cooperation will not happen. I expect anyone who in the future decides to support the government to explain that very well, given the mild micro-traumas we experienced with people crossing the floor in the past four years. Anyone who decides to do something like that in the future has to answer more than one question,” claimed Milanovic.
He said that he expects a clearer and more precise legal framework from the perspective of the Constitution related to the national COVID-19 response team, such as defining powers for adopting measures and their duration, adding that the current legislation does not define that.
“That can be resolved so that the government or parliamentary majority, pursuant to Article 17 of the Constitution, decides to suspend human rights to a certain degree for a certain period of time in cases like this. That way we would have a clearer legal situation. We are a law-based state. We know what can be done and for how long. Such a decision would make the legal regime we live in a lot clearer and make it easier for the government to do that. I call on all lawmakers to support such a motion if it is put forward,” said Milanovic.