ZAGREB, September 19, 2018 – The start of Question Time in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday was marked by a verbal clash between Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković regarding the government’s work, with Bernardić accusing the prime minister of failing to carry out any reforms in the past two years and protecting people who siphoned money from Agrokor, and Plenković responding that the SDP was a petty party and its members were whiners.
“Croatia is going from one problem to another, industrial production is falling, the tourist season is weaker, artificial fertiliser producer Petrokemija is in trouble, the Sisak refinery is about to be shut down, the problems in Uljanik shipbuilding group have escalated because you had swept them under the rug, you are ignoring the growing fascistisation of Croatia… and the situation in the health sector is particularly worrying,” Bernardić said in his question to the prime minister.
He accused Plenković of protecting Health Minister Milan Kujundžić “for the sake of one vote in the parliament” while waiting lists for specialist examinations had never been longer and conditions for medical workers had never been worse, which was why they were leaving the country.
“Have you carried out, in the two years of your term as prime minister, any reform that would benefit citizens, pensioners… the only thing you did was protect the Borg Group at whose helm you are and which siphoned money from Agrokor under the pretext of financial stability,” Bernardić asked Plenković.
“I am looking behind you to see if there is big business or an import lobby threatening to attack you, but I only see a petty SDP and a whiny group of people which is dwindling by the day,” Plenković said in an ironic remark on Bernardić’s recent statement that people behind attempts to topple him as SDP leader served big business and import lobbies.
Plenković went on to say that this year’s tourist season was better than last year’s both in terms of arrivals and overnight stays, that investments in tourism totalled 940 million euro, and that tourism revenues would amount to 12 billion euro.
Croatia has the lowest unemployment rate ever and the employment rate is growing, said Plenković, noting that the minimum wage has been increased and that public debt is declining rapidly as well as that rating agencies have been improving Croatia’s rating. He accused Bernardić of “cheap, laconic comments”.
“We want the health system to be more accessible, more rational and more functional. The current tax reform will secure an additional 1.35 billion kuna for the health system,” said the prime minister.
“The SDP may have its own problems but we will never plunder the country,” Bernardić responded, calling the proposed pension reform “just a make-believe”.
SDP MP Željko Jovanović criticised the prime minister over the situation in the Uljanik and 3. Maj shipbuilding companies as well as over the difficult situation in the health sector. “The defamation and untruths you and some other MPs from the two counties where the two shipyards are located have been spreading are arrogant, brazen and unfair,” said Plenković, adding that the entire financial year was in order owing to his government.
The SDP MPs insisted the prime minister was misinforming the public, recalling that the state was the single biggest owner of Uljanik, that it had ignored its problems and that 3. Maj was about to close down.
They also unfolded a banner featuring what they described as “a list of the brilliant Minister Kujundžić’s failures”, citing the case of a man scheduled for a specialist examination in early 2021.
“You are rehabilitating Ustashas and war criminals, who don’t have to wait a single moment for spa treatment,” Jovanović said, an allusion to convicted war criminal Tomislav Merčep, who is spending his prison sentence at a spa destination.