Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said during a visit to the northern Adriatic city of Rijeka on Thursday that the government's acceptance of the proposals by the "67 is too much" referendum initiative was an important decision, noting that the pension reform had already had positive effects.
Asked by the press if the government had capitulated to the unions, Plenkovic said that the government had announced an important decision at its meeting today and that it would submit to the parliament amendments to the Pension Insurance Act as proposed by the "67 is too much" initiative.
"The pension reform is good and positive, it is an important structural reform. During our term in office, pensions have increased by 11 percent, and by nearly 15 percent for low-income citizens. As of January 1 this year some of the people who have retired could return to the labour market, and data shows that as many as 13,500 people have returned to the labour market. This is a message that there are people who want to work even after they turn 65," the PM said.
He noted that the retirement age of 67, provided for under the present law, was introduced by the SDP government. "I don't remember anyone organising any demonstrations or referendums at the time."
"Our message was that we heard the message of 700,000 citizens, that in these amendments we will deal with what primarily the three union federations see as problematic, and that at the same time we will amend the Labour Act and several other acts that cover special professions to allow those who so wish to work after they turn 65," Plenkovic said.
"In that regard, I think we have achieved the right balance and closed this issue, and that this reform, which has been assessed by experts from the European Commission and credit rating agencies as very good, ... will resolve the concerns raised," he added.
Asked if Regional Development Minister Marko Pavic, who had claimed while serving as Labour and Pension System Minister that abandoning the pension reform would cost HRK 40 billion (€5.4 billion), should resign, Plenkovic said that it should be borne in mind that at that time a projection of financial sustainability over the next 20 years was being made and that amendments to other laws would make it possible for some of the people to work after 65 years of age, which would considerably reduce the costs.
"We will try to keep this fiscal effect as low as possible," the PM said, adding that Pavic had already taken the helm of another government department.
PM comments on Vukovar mayor's statements
Asked about a Facebook post by Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava of the HDZ party, in which he said that he was ashamed of Croatian state institutions, and if that constituted yet another point of dissension within the HDZ, Plenkovic said that he had not read Penava's post but that he roughly understood what it referred to.
"I believe it referred to yesterday's trial of Mr (Marijan) Zivkovic who lost his two sons in the Homeland War. I want to make it very clear - it is only normal that people who lost their dearest ones and whose lives were irreparably changed for the worse and who experienced the worst of horrors take certain things very emotionally and they can hardly reason the way people who do not have such experience reason," said Plenkovic.
"This government has done more... the relevant institutions, the prosecutorial and police authorities have done more (than previous ones) to investigate and prosecute war crimes... notably those in the area of Vukovar. The truth is being searched for, we know that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes and those responsible for them will be brought to justice. At the same time, we must create an atmosphere conducive to reconciliation, inclusiveness and a forward-looking attitude, that is our policy, the policy we stand behind," he said.
A retrial of war veteran Marijan Zivkovic, charged with smashing bilingual, Latin-Cyrillic signs on the building of the Vukovar police station in September 2013, started at the city's municipal court on Wednesday.
Asked about Penava's statement that a revolution is necessary, Plenkovic said that he did not see it and that the matter would be dealt with within the party.
A reporter remarked that Penava had become a renegade, to which Plenkovic said that he would talk to him. "We will meet to see what exactly he thinks about all of this," he said.
Asked about the acquittal of former transport minister and Zadar mayor Bozidar Kalmeta of corruption charges, Plenkovic said that he had read about it.
Asked what it did to the HDZ's image, Plenkovic said that the HDZ, as it was now, was a very good party and that it was working well for the country's benefit.