Plenković Says He Is Trying to Reduce Tensions in Society

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ZAGREB, January 21, 2019 – Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday he had been doing all he could over the past two and a half years to reduce divisions and tensions in society, and reiterated that he expected Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava to calm tensions in the eastern town.

Plenković was speaking to the press in Zagreb on Sunday evening after opening the workshop “Digitisation of Public Services”. He spoke about projects for which Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić was seeking government support, about an incident in Parliament between him and Nikola Grmoja of the opposition MOST party, and about the situation in Vukovar.

The prime minister said he could see no connection between the projects for which Bandić was seeking government support and an early election. There is no doubt, he said, that making support of Bandić’s parliamentary group for the ruling majority conditional on support for his projects “is an imposed issue that does not exist.”

This government has established partnerships and dialogue with regional and local government units, and basically all of them are allocated more money as a result of legislative reforms. Some units may have received less because of their development, he added.

Asked about his conflict during Question Time in Parliament with MOST MP Nikola Grmoja, who accused him and Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić of high treason and working in Serbia’s interests, Plenković said that this issue should be seen in a wider context.

“There are parties that want to impose Croatia-Serbia relations and relations between the Croats and the Serb minority in Croatia as key issues, and in a polarising way. If you have people who would block Serbia’s EU accession negotiations in chapters concerning statistics, economic and monetary union, then you are dealing with people who do not understand this subject, but use it to intensify the spiral of hatred. Accusing the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of working in Serbia’s interests and accusing the prime minister of systematically working in the interests of Serbia is a matter that cannot be ignored and I made that clear in Parliament,” Plenković said.

Asked about the latest incidents in Vukovar and statements by mayor Ivan Penava, the prime minister reiterated that he had spoken to him several times in the last few months. “I expect him to do his work by reducing tensions. His task is to be the mayor of all citizens of Vukovar,” he said.

Plenković noted that Penava had been elected mayor thanks in part to the support of the local Serb community and that he should make sure he did not make any move that would cause tensions in the town. “We as the government and as the state must move forward based on fundamental prerequisites such as truth, bringing war criminals to account, respecting the symbols of the Croatian state – the flag, national anthem and coat of arms, and investing in the education of young people who show respect for the country of which they are citizens,” the prime minister said.

“I have been doing all I can in these two and a half years to reduce divisions and tensions in the Croatian society. In this process I have taken upon myself a lot of things and a huge part of the electorate does not consider it good. Anyway, I am fully confident that what I am doing is good and that there is no alternative to a coexistence, dialogue, education and mutual respect. But war crimes cases must be fully dealt with,” Plenković said.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop “Digitisation of Public Services”, which will be conducted by Harvard University professors at the State School of Public Administration, Plenković said that this was a valuable project that would focus on the complex healthcare system over the next three days.

The workshop is the result of cooperation between the State School of Public Administration and Harvard University. At the opening ceremony, the executive director of Harvard Kennedy School, Amy Capman, and the head of the State of School of Public Administration, Rudolf Vujević, signed a cooperation agreement.

The project is fully financed by the Lukšić family, which has for many years provided scholarships for Croatian students to acquire additional knowledge at Harvard University. Plenković thanked Davor Lukšić, the CEO of the Excelsa business consulting firm, for that.

During the workshop, about 40 selected participants will acquire specific management skills and knowledge about digitisation, better functioning of public administration, public policy making, and budgeting.

Plenković said he was confident that this would help improve the quality of public service, in this particular case in the healthcare sector.

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