PM Plenkovic: LNG is a strategic investment project which puts Croatia in an adequate place on the energy map of Europe

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that some political stakeholders, primarily the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Bridge party, "are now signing a different tune" about the future LNG terminal on the Krk island, saying that as a state and a society we must decide if we want to use these strategic energy projects to put Croatia in a proper place on the map of Europe.

Asked if the government was going through with the realisation of the LNG terminal project on Krk, against which protests have grown more frequent as of late, Plenkovic said that numerous political stakeholders who only several years ago sang a different tune were now changing their tune for opportunistic and populist reasons.

Asked who he was referring too, Plenkovic said the SDP.

"Look at what the SDP has been saying, what Bridge has been saying. When Bridge was part of the government, I believe we boasted together about the fact that we had received more than EUR 100 million from the European Commission for that project. In my opinion, things are very simple," Plenkovic told reporters on the fringes of a conference called "Better regulations as part of the reform agenda".

He underscored that as a state and a society, Croatia must decide whether it will promote anti-European, anti-investment and anti-development forces or organise itself as a society which will use strategic energy projects to put Croatia in an adequate place on the map of Europe.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday that he understood the sensitivity of some social groups regarding the Istanbul convention which, he said, for him "is primarily a convention that should promote national mechanisms for protection against violence against women and domestic violence" and he believes that the parliament will ratify the document.

"For me the (Istanbul) convention is primarily designed to promote national mechanisms for protection against violence against women and domestic violence. It is entirely with that aspect in mind that we are launching the process of final preparations for the convention to be discussed by the government and be forwarded to the parliament, where I believe it will be adopted and where all dilemmas that exist will be cleared up," Plenkovic told reporters.

"I believe that the text explaining the convention can help clear up everything that now causes disputes among some political parties," he said.

Asked about Family Minister Nada Murganic that the government would formulate reservations regarding the convention, Plenkovic said: "There are certain aspects that require better argumentation in the very explanation of the law, and you will learn about them once (the law) is discussed by the government."

Plenkovic stressed that he set the dynamic of individual initiatives and that this was also true for the time chosen to send the Istanbul convention to the parliament.

"It has nothing to do with either the coalition partners or the Opposition's motions or the protests by nongovernmental organisations, interpellations or anything else," he said, recalling that in November 2016 he had said that the government would ratify the convention.

Since then, the relevant procedures (public consultation, preparation of documents, additional consultations with the Council of Europe legal service) have been completed, he said.

Plenkovic says confident president's criticism part of preparations for presidential campaign

Asked about President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's criticism regarding a European Commission report on how Croatia has been implementing its recommendations, Plenkovic said that he was not bothered by her criticism and was confident that it was part of Grabar-Kitarovic's preparations for a campaign for another term in office.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that the EC report confirmed that Croatia was lagging behind and was not developing at a pace that would help it not only catch up with the most developed EU countries but also its peers of yesterday.

"The President has positions on certain social and political issues, she expresses them the way she does. I am sure that that way she is preparing for her presidential campaign," said the PM.

The government is addressing all important topics on a daily basis. "We do not need any special magnifying glass or interpreter to understand where the problems are. We do it every day. There are a lot of problems, we did not plan many of them, we have inherited many of them, but we are coping with them. And we will continue doing so and deal with everything we can deal with in the best interest of citizens," said Plenkovic.

Expenses for veterans not too big a burden on budget

Commenting on criticisms from the EC, Plenkovic said that expenses for war veterans were not too big a burden on the state budget.

By adopting a new law on Homeland War veterans and their families, the government has dealt with issues that were not regulated well earlier in a more just and efficient way, he said.

"The budget funds for the Veterans Ministry amount to some HRK 1.1 billion, in terms of our fiscal projections that is sustainable and we believe that it will not burden the budget too much. I believe that EC experts, too, need to acquaint themselves in detail with the scope of those costs," he said.

Special expert commission for education strategy

Speaking of a session to be held later in the day by the special expert commission for the implementation of the education strategy at which members and the head of the expert task force for the curriculum reform are expected to be appointed, Plenkovic dismissed criticisms that the entire process was taking too long.

Formal checks have been made for more than 130 candidates for members of the task force and criteria for their assessment have been defined, he said.

"We will meet today and announce, today or on Monday, the results for those who meet the minimum requirements," Plenkovic said, adding that this would be followed by a detailed analysis and selection of the new expert task force "to continue the education reform."

Text: Hina