Croatia: Another One Bites The Dust!

Slavko Linic - now the former Finance Minister  Photo: HINA

Slavko Linic – now the former Finance Minister
Photo: HINA

Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has Tuesday 6 May sacked the Finance Minister Slavko Linic, saying that “clean hands” were the most important thing in his cabinet. Linic made front-page news on Monday 5 May after daily Jutarnji list revealed that he cost the Croatian taxpayer 27 million kuna (3.5 millon EUR) after he personally wrote off tax debts for the land, which was more than five times over-valued. In March of this year revelations surfaced that the land in question was valued at 6 million kuna (830,000 EUR), not 33.6 million kuna (4.4 million EUR) as the bankruptcy settlement had valued it.

The anti-corruption office USKOK has become involved in the case, asking the Finance Ministry to urgently submit to it all documents regarding the purchase of land.

“Minister Linic bears a political responsibility for the damage the contract has incurred on the state budget,” Milanovic explained.

“It is possible there was no intention. Mistakes happen but then it should be checked who was responsible for a mistake … I was waiting for two months but minister (Linic) took no action and I am not satisfied with his explanation,” Milanovic said.

The scandal around Linic has been gathering momentum since the beginning of this year.

His deputy Branko Segon was given marching orders amidst conflict of interest and allegations that his private company received a loan from the State of over 31.4 million Croatian kuna (cca 4 million Euro) – Linic had defended Segon all the while and held that if Segon was proven to have acted in conflict of interest he would let him go but Prime Minister Milanovic decided to get rid of Segon prior to that. Last week Segon was found to have acted in conflict of interest in some matters, however the matter of the loan from the State Development bank was reported as having been done in accordance with the law.

The scandal reached the office of Finance Minister Linic’s taxation chief, Nada Cavlovic-Smiljanec, against whom criminal allegations were made in relation to failure to impose execution order to pay taxes for OLT Osijek company and hence damaging the state budget by at least 11.8 million kuna ( 1.7 million Euro). Minister Linic had all the while defended his tax chief, but she resigned her position on Thursday 30 April listing among other reasons that she had lately been obstructed in performing her job.


Now, Linic is shifting blame unto his ex-taxation chief!


Since we’re talking about the Social Democrat (SDP) led government we cannot omit the fact that the past couple of months in Croatia had also been marked by a scandal around one of the most powerful women in Croatia’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP) Marina Lovric Merzel, the head of Sisak-Moslavina County, who was described by the media as close friend of Linic and was arrested on suspicions of alleged financial irregularities in the County – still remains in remand for investigations. One of her office employees recently accused her when talking to national television and saying she was paying private expenses with the money from the County accounts/ issues of suspect land valuations for purchasing building are also related to this case. Prior to her arrest some five weeks ago Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic had stated several times that he would not allow any disintegration of trust in the taxation administration, spoke of “limits” to what can be tolerated.

One must ask the question: why does Prime Minister Milanovic talk of “lost trust” and “clean hands” instead of “suspected corruption” when it comes to the State paying five time more for land than its value? Certainly, he would like to circumvent the fact that his governing SDP party might have just as many corrupt personalities as the former HDZ – but things are not looking in his favour.

He has been heard last week saying that improper dealings in government administration must be cleared so that his government can begin to do its job properly! One may well conclude from this that Milanovic’s government has been asleep at the wheel for the past two years, have brought the country to its knees and into the gutter of economic impasse, and are now gearing up for a new election campaign where SDP will, instead of tackling suspected corruption in its midst, use their handling of these scandals as some sort of indications of its determination to make things better for Croatian people.

The mood for early general elections in Croatia is gaining popularity on a daily basis; Milanovic rejects any such possibility.

Boris Lalovac, ministry of finance high-ranking employee, has replaced Linic as Finance Minister. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Shameless Display Of Government Insolence!

Croatian government officials at Social Democrats conference Saturday 22 February 2014 Photo: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

Croatian government officials at
Social Democrats conference
Saturday 22 February 2014
Photo: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

Croatia’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Saturday 22 February held its reporting conference under the slogan “Order, work and growth”, with party leader and Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic saying in his introductory speech that the party did not have it easy in the past year and a half, having to deal with the economic crisis as well as defend itself from intolerance.
He said, with a bitter almost intolerant and threatening frown, that they had been exposed to frequent attacks during their time in government, that these attacks had at times been too harsh, i.e. uncivilised. To the question he asked himself: are we satisfied with what we have done during the past two years, he replied yes and no!

“It was difficult in the past year a half since the SDP’s last conference, we had to fight with consequences of the global and European crises and with what we had inherited, as well as actively defend ourselves from outbursts of intolerance in Croatia,” said Milanovic.
It’s evident that Milanovic and his government label criticism of government’s work and representations in public as “intolerance”!
It’s evident that normal, expected and acceptable democratic processes such as criticsing the government, calling its actions to account … are still things this pro-communist government would like to quash! It’s so often that we come across threatening and bitter reactions from this government when they are criticised. It’s a given that no government in the world likes to be criticised but in a normal democracy its reactions to criticism are more often calm and constructive; one doesn’t need to feel fear from reprisals.
In Croatia, I have it from reliable sources the streets are filled with people scared to say anything about the government in fear of reprisals and retaliation such as their job being in jeopardy etc.  While accepting that fear of retaliation is a worldwide phenomenon they say that it is amplified in Croatia and that it’s now like it was during the days of communist oppression.
It’s easy to believe them when one sees how the government looks upon and reacts to criticisms!
An example of this government’s appalling, insolent, behaviour can also be seen in the fact that at this very conference the local member for Sisak-Moslavina county, Marina Lovric Merzel, recently reported to authorities for suspected misappropriation of public funds and fraud / which is under investigation by the crime squad – was seated among the Ministers and other most high officers of the state! On the other hand, the woman who publicly uncovered and reported the alleged misappropriation and fraud, Jasmina Jovev – lost her job in that local government office as a result of her blowing the whistle!

Marina Lovric Merzel gets to sit next to education minister Zeljko Jovanovic while crime unit investigates allegations of fraud and misappropriation of public funds at Local government level and the person who made the complaint of alleged criminal behaviour is booted out of the local government office /sacked!  Photo:Pixsell

Marina Lovric Merzel gets to sit next to
education minister Zeljko Jovanovic while
crime unit investigates allegations of fraud
and misappropriation of public funds at
Local government level and the person
who made the complaint of alleged
criminal behaviour is booted out of the
local government office /sacked!

This is obscene behaviour by the government, efforts to demonstrate its power and by this gesture it undoubtedly ridicules those who report suspected fraud and misappropriation of public funds! While Lovric Merzel has the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty this move by the Social Democrats to flaunt her at major events like this one is beneath contempt and demonstrates no regard for how the person who lodged the complaint of suspected fraud might be feeling now that she is on the bread-line with a small child.
I hope the attacks on this government get even stronger because such behaviour is offensive to human nature, to human decency!
“The Croatian Bureau for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime attached to the State Attorney General’s Office (USKOK) has established a track record of proactive investigations and successful prosecutions including in notable cases concerning high level elected and appointed officials,” said the European Commission’s EU Anti-corruption Report of February 2014 and it’s to be noted that the former (Croatian Democratic Government (HDZ) was instrumental in this, while the current government continued with the trend, although evidently not with the same resolve.

One simply does not invite a suspected fraudster to sit among government officials as some guest with unchallenged honour!

The biggest problem with corruption in Croatia (and other states of former Yugoslavia) is not in the corruption of those at the top of the government or former government or large state firms, the biggest problem is the corruption at local government levels! Corruption on local scale is enormous and has been throughout former Yugoslavia. It is these individuals who have amassed enormous wealth throughout the years that must come to answer and account. And then, only then, will there be real positive results in stamping out most of the corruption because having a local personality behind bars and their property confiscated if corruption proven has a much bigger effect on developing honesty than if a former Prime Minister or some high-level state official are convicted of corruption.

Without tackling corruption at local level nothing of lasting note will be achieved. Indeed the EC Report on EU Anti-corruption sees this as well.

It’s only half way through the current government’s mandate and it’s already in the election campaign for another one! “Give us another four years and you will then see results, and if there are no results even then, then they’ll be there in eight years time after that, said on Saturday maritime affairs, transport and infrastructure minister Sinisa Hajdas-Doncic! “This government is paying the wages of the disorderly leadership of the state, but we did not take that as an excuse but pushed ahead with the job,” Hajdas-Doncic continued.

Sadly, this government still hasn’t caught up with the fact that they are there for the people and not vice-versa; they still live it seems in the communist power days of yesteryear.

No, minister Hajdas-Doncic, the people are paying the wages! The critical number of unemployed, the growing queues at community soup kitchens’ doors, the growing number of the homeless, the distressingly climbing numbers of the poor, the strong presence of corruption at local levels and nepotism, the growing numbers of the destitute … all this and more is what is paying the wages of the government’s (whether former or current) inability to tackle the despair found there where it counts: at the kitchen table! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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