Bridge member of Parliament Miro Bulj on Thursday accused former Agriculture Minister Tihomir Jakovina of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of abuse of office following reports that the European Commission has stopped the payment of farming incentives to Croatia in the amount of HRK 2.2 billion, while Jakovina said that he was proud of his term as minister and described Bulj's accusations as an attempt to divert public attention from current scandals.
Bulj said the news that the EC had stopped the payment of HRK 2.23 billion worth of farm incentives, which were crucial for the survival of the national agricultural sector and rural areas, was alarming and that this was due to the former minister and his associates' conduct.
Bulj quoted findings of an audit signed by Christina Borchmann of the EU's Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate-General, which said that an inspection had revealed a number of irregularities in Croatian projects that had been supported during Jakovina's term in office.
The Bridge MP said that regulations drawn up during Jakovina's term in office were tailored to suit the interests of selected entrepreneurs. The findings of the European Commission warn not only of omissions and shortcomings of the control system, they also call for raising the question of political, professional and criminal responsibility for non-compliance with rules regulating rural development subsidies, said Bulj.
Jakovina responded by saying that Bulj's statement was a "classic example" of an attempt to divert public attention from problems and scandals that were shaking Croatia.
"If there is something we were especially proud of at the Agriculture Ministry, that is the absorption of EU funds and the related activities," he said, adding that he and his team stood by everything they had done for the national farm sector.
He said that during his term in office maximum funds had been absorbed through the IPARD programme and dismissed accusations that programmes had been made to suit the interests of individuals or that he had written tenders for specific candidates.