The National:

THE campaign to stop the raising of the retirement age in Croatia has been boosted by the country’s prime minister, who said the matter can go before the nation’s parliament for a decision on whether a referendum can be held on the issue.

Croatia, which has a population of just over a million less than Scotland, currently has a retirement age of 65 for men and 62 for women.

Like so many countries, Croatia has an ageing population and its economy has been sluggish for many years. There are genuine fears that future state pensions will be unaffordable, hence the ongoing pension reforms.

Following an unpopular government decision, the retirement age for women is being gradually raised, by three months every year, to bring it into line with that for men by 2030. After this, the retirement age for both men and women will be gradually raised to 67 years in 2033.

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Trades unions and civic groups have rejected the increase and are campaigning to reduce the retirement age to 65.

The new pensions system will also include a 3.6% pension reduction for every year of early retirement – the trade campaign has called for this to be reduced to 2.4%.

The “67 is too much” campaign has seen 600,000 people sign a petition asking for a referendum – well in excess of the necessary 10% of the electorate required to call a vote on the issue.

Whether or not a referendum can go ahead will now be decided by the Sabor, according to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

He told reporters: “I respect every referendum initiative, including this one. Parliament will decide on this matter after the signatures have been presented.”

The petition will now be assessed for accuracy by the government and referred to the Sabor.

Mirela Bojic, national co-ordinator for the trades union campaign, said: “We want this to be an example of how the citizens can raise their voice and make a change.”

Tunnel may link Danes with Swedish neighbours

FOR centuries the people of Helsingør in Denmark and Helsingborg in Sweden have looked across the Øresund, the strait that divides the two cities from each other.

Numerous plans for bridges and tunnels have been mooted for the so-called HH connection, but the citizens of both have had to rely on a ferry service. 
Now it appears that a tunnel under the Øresund may be possible, thanks to an intervention by China.

The National:

The Global Construction Review has revealed that a subsidiary of China Railway Group (CRTG) has offered to build a tunnel between Sweden and Denmark to link the two cities.

Estimated to cost around £3 billion, the HH tunnel is already under investigation by the Danish and Swedish governments, but funding from China would make the project very possible.

Denmark, which has a population slightly larger than that of Scotland, and Sweden – with a population of around 10 million – have always had close links. The Øresund Bridge has linked the two nations physically since 2000. 

There are only occasional, random passport checks on the bridge and its connecting tunnel, and people commute to and from Copenhagen and Malmo every day. The hope is to repeat that success at the northern end of the Øresund.

The review read: “The hope is that if there were a 15-minute metro link between the two cities, they would be able to integrate their economies and labour markets. 

“It would also be part of the expansion of Greater Copenhagen.” 

BDSM band causes a stir in at Eurovision

BY the time you read this, they may already have been eliminated, but no-one who sees their appearance, however brief, in this year’s Eurovision Song

Contest is likely to forget the Icelandic band who have caused a minor sensation both in Israel and around the Eurovision zone.

For techno band Hatari are open practitioners of BDSM, as well as being profoundly anti-capitalist and pro-Palestinian, a stand that has not gone down well in Tel Aviv – the hosts of this year’s song fest, which may be remarkable for how few points the UK gets due to Brexit.  

Proudly wearing fetish gear, Hatari can at least say their song Hatrið Mun Sigra, which translates as Hatred Will Prevail, has the support of a nation. The debut Eurovision contestants easily won the national final to choose the Icelandic entry and the song has reached No 1 in the Icelandic charts.

The National:

The band consists of Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson and Einar Hrafn Stefánsson, the latter being the son of Icaleand’s ambassador to the UK. 

They were due to perform in the first semi-final of the contest last night and if through, they will be in the final on Saturday night.   

Before leaving for Israel, Hatari told the BBC that the Eurovision Song Contest was founded in the spirit of “peace and unity”, and that they’re “conflicted” about performing in Israel due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Since they arrived in Tel Aviv, Hatari have attracted a pile of attention in both the Israeli and international press for their comments, not the least of came when they challenge Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a wrestling match.

Meanwhile, Hatari have been officially warned by the European Broadcasting Union about making political statements during their performances.