ZAGREB, April 15, 2020 – Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the government’s biggest task was to fight the socio-economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, asking all ministers to make economies and underlining that the burden of this crisis must be borne with solidarity.
Speaking for the public broadcaster, he said rationalisation was the main concept and that ministers would have to plan in stages how to reactivate the economy in line with health and safety guidelines. “We don’t want to fall into the trap of lightly easing something and then having new infection hotspots.”
Plenković said the uncertainty of the pandemic’s duration was the key problem of the crisis as no one knew when a vaccine would be found or immunity acquired.
He said he would do everything for the state to function as much as possible while primarily seeing to citizens’ health. “It’s not just a common sense obligation of the government but a constitutional category as well.”
Plenković said he was satisfied with the results of the second set of measures to help the economy and that some 100,000 companies had applied for aid to keep jobs.
Speaking of the third set, he said the government today tabled a bill to enable a stay on the enforcement on physical persons’ monetary funds for the duration of the crisis.
He said the government’s measures had been planned for a period of three months and another three if the crises continued.
Asked if the crisis would delay Croatia’s introduction of the euro, he recalled that Croatia adopted a euro introduction strategy two years ago and that it would complete an action plan next month. He said the pace might be somewhat affected but that Croatia remained committed to that goal.
Plenković said that if Croatia were in the euro area, there would be no pressure on the kuna now and the European Central Bank could do for it what it was doing for all euro area member states. “In a way, we would be secured.”
He went on to say that this situation was an opportunity for a new start not just by the government but all of society as it provided “a fresh look on what is really good and what isn’t good.”
“We must strike a balance between understanding the role of the state and some chubby state which perhaps has taken more than it should. That’s the key before us.”
Asked about the objective of amendments to the law on the protection of the population from contagious diseases, Plenković said they proposed that instead of the minister of health declaring an epidemic as was the case now, it would be better if the government did it.
The amendments will also specify the link between activities related to an epidemic from the aspect of the Health Ministry and what the national civil protection authority and the government do, he said. “Since no one has been faced with such a situation yet, we have realised that it demands also improving legislation.”
Asked if they had worked out a plan in case the coronavirus pandemic were to last long, the prime minister said the restrictions could not be limitless so they would try to work out a plan allowing the reactivation of certain industries but in a different way, within “an epidemiological framework.”
Speaking of Croatia’s presidency of the Council of the EU, Plenković said the wish was to find a common European response to how to coordinate while living with COVID-19 and acting better after COVID-19. “That will be our wish for June, that we come out of this stronger.”
The European project can survive this and after the pandemic everyone will draw certain lessons and now there will be more focus on preparing crises response mechanisms, he said, adding that Europe was a strong project and that key parties, with Croatia’s contribution, would work on making it stronger.
More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.