The centre-left Croatia Is Growing coalition, led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), on Sunday made public its answers to demands put forward by the reformist Bridge party, which holds the key to forming a new government, saying that most of the demands were acceptable.
As regards the demand for declaring an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic, the coalition says that it is acceptable provided that “its implementation is in accordance with Croatia’s international commitments.”
Bridge demands “declaration of an exclusive economic zone on the entire territory of Croatia”, stressing that it is one of the key conditions for its support to the new government. The SDP coalition says that the situation regarding the Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone has changed after Croatia joined the EU and that fishing in areas outside the territorial sea of member states can be carried out only in accordance with the common fisheries policy. Fishing vessels from all member states have the right of access to the waters and maritime resources within the EU, while fishing vessels from other member states are prohibited from entering only the territorial sea of another member state.
As for fiscal and monetary policy, the Croatia Is Growing coalition finds the idea of gradual reduction of the general VAT rate acceptable provided that it is done “in a medium and longer term and without radical measures that would further increase the budget deficit and make fiscal consolidation considerably more difficult.”
The coalition agrees in principle to reducing wage levies, but warns that such reductions should not threaten the health system. As for Bridge’s proposal that levies on a certain amount should be fixed, the coalition says that this requires “in-depth analysis”.
The coalition does not agree with the idea of annulling the tax on dividends and shares in profit, noting that it was imposed for the purpose of alignment with EU legislation and a fairer distribution of the tax burden.
The coalition “partly agrees” with the idea that in cases of so-called administrative silence, when administration fails to respond to a request by a business undertaking within the time limit set by law, such request should be considered approved. The SDP believes that such a solution should be analysed and implemented through a number of laws that regulate different areas.
As for Bridge’s proposal for flexible working hours, the coalition says that this is already provided for in the new Labour Act. It rejected the proposal to repeal the obligation to submit a monthly report on uncollected claims, saying that it was introduced to monitor insolvency and to help businesses that owe VAT while at the same time being unable to collect their claims.
On the subject of local and regional government, the SDP-led coalition agrees with the proposal that the number of towns and municipalities should be reduced, and as for the proposed regionalisation of the country, it says: “We believe that the reform can be carried out within the existing constitutional framework, which would mean considerable reduction of the number of counties.”
The coalition agrees with the idea that only mayors, and not their deputies, should be elected directly, but warns that it should be specified what would happen in cases where the term of a directly elected office holder expires by force of law.
It is against the idea that the practice of electing deputy mayors from among ethnic minorities should be repealed because this right is guaranteed by the constitutional law on the rights of ethnic minorities.
As for Bridge’s demand for the reduction of salaries and other entitlements for members of Parliament and of the number of MPs, the coalition says it agrees that this and the existing constituencies should be reviewed and remains open to talks on the election of representatives of the Croatian diaspora and ethnic minorities, introduction of a combined electoral system or strengthening preferential voting, noting that essential changes to the election system require a consensus.
Bridge is proposing significant changes in the area of civilian supervision over the police and intelligence services, including a proposal that the Council for Civilian Supervision should be given the authority to make unannounced visits to the security services and the Police Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime (PNUSKOK). The SDP responded by saying that the purpose of civilian supervision is not repression and that the proposed solutions might threaten ongoing investigations. It rejected the idea that the Council should have access to surveillance warrants, citing independence of the judiciary.
The SDP coalition “conditionally agrees” to the proposal for constitutional changes according to which the State Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council would become a single body, stressing that this should be preceded by expert and public consultations.
As for energy policy, the coalition supports a temporary moratorium on the Plomin C thermal power plant construction project, and regarding Bridge’s demand for a moratorium on oil drilling in the Adriatic, it says: “We are ready to reconsider all the aspects and elements and consider additional analyses and recommendations before a final decision is reached on the continuation of the hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation project in the Adriatic.”
Bridge is also demanding a detailed analysis of the LNG terminal project, but the coalition says that this project has been chosen “as one of the priorities of the EU which is continually monitoring the entire process.”