ZAGREB, March 2, 2018 – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Friday called for a wide range of reforms to kick-start the national economy and welcomed the appointment of the new emergency administration for the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate.
“I must say I am deeply concerned about the fact that Croatia is stagnating. We could see that from the recently published data on GDP growth. GDP is slowing down, which is really worrying. I am not saying that Croatia is backsliding but it is obviously standing still while others are making progress,” the president told Croatian Radio in an interview.
She said that, while Croatia’s GDP increased by 2% in the last quarter of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016, Romania recorded growth of 7%, Slovenia 6.2% and Bulgaria 3.6%, adding that the Croatian growth was lower than the EU average. “These figures are worrying because they show that now that the EU has emerged from the crisis, when so many opportunities have opened up, we are simply unable to exploit them. This shows that partial, isolated reforms are not enough and that we all need to get involved and decide how to implement a wide range of reforms to kick-start the Croatian economy,” Grabar-Kitarović said. She underlined that the GDP figures showed that Croatian growth primarily depended on tourism and personal consumption.
The president emphasised that this year was definitely the year to implement the necessary reforms, adding that everyone should give constructive support to the government and all economic entities in that regard. She praised the efforts made last year regarding the tax reform, but noted that the positive effects of those efforts were not felt any more. “The reform of the tax system should definitely continue,” she said.
Grabar-Kitarović said that one of the biggest problems was the lack of capacity of state administration to implement the reforms. “Resistance to change is a big problem in Croatia. I am not the only one to notice this. Foreign investors, the Institute of Economics and all other institutes that study public opinion and the market will also tell you this,” the president said, warning of slowness in decision making as well.
She said it was necessary to continue the reforms of the judicial system, state administration and the labour market, calling for “courageous and determined decisions” to that end. Workers should have greater job security, but should also have a chance to pursue dual, life-long learning and retraining, the president said.
Grabar-Kitarović welcomed the appointment of the new emergency administration for the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate. Acting on the government’s proposal, earlier this week the Commercial Court dismissed Ante Ramljak as emergency administrator and appointed Fabris Peruško in his place and Irena Weber as his deputy.
Speaking about other topics, she said that ideological issues should not be on the front burner of the political agenda, and that issues concerning living standards should be given priority.
The president said that the recommendations recently made by the task force set up last year to provide guidance on how to treat insignia of undemocratic regimes in the 20th century, reflected the complexity of ideological issues, suggesting that those issues should be discussed within expert circles rather than being given priority on the political scene.
“Having in mind messages from my meetings with ordinary citizens, I can say that they are concerned about making ends meet and what their life in Croatia will look like in the future,” she said.
She also highlighted the demographic revival as a top priority issue. The president said that political office-holders should tackle economic issues such as job creation, attraction of investments, social welfare issues and problems facing citizens with frozen bank accounts.
Asked whether a final decision on the purchase of fighter jets has been made, given media speculation that Croatia has picked Israel out of four bidders, the president said she would convene a Defence Council meeting on this topic as soon as the defence minister and prime minister reached the decision. She said it was essential to renew the Croatian Air Force fleet so that safe fighter jets could protect Croatia’s skies, recalling that political consensus had been reached on this matter.
Concerning the 12-13 February visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to Croatia, Grabar-Kitarović said the visit was a step forward in bilateral relations. She believes that the Serbian president, with his best intention in mind, brought to Zagreb the files about three persons who had gone missing in the 1991-1995 Homeland War. However, it was later established that the three persons were already identified.
“As president and a mother, I was disappointed, because I really wanted that visit to help shed light on the fate of at least one missing person. However, I will not be discouraged by that and we will see this process going on,” she said.