The secretary-general of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Milijan Brkic, has confirmed that the Council for Cooperation between the HDZ, the Bridge party and the Milan Bandic 365 party has been established in line with an agreement signed by the three sides to that effect, noting that the Council will have 16 members instead of the originally planned 14.

"This is a body that will be in charge of implementing the agreement between the Patriotic Coalition, Bridge and the Milan Bandic slate, and it will be implementing everything regarding legislative proposals and the appointment of officials to political positions," Brkic told reporters in the parliament.

He said that the body would meet at least once a month, or more often if necessary, but that Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic would not attend those meetings because he was in the executive authority.

The Cooperation Council will hold meetings in the HDZ's or Bridge's offices or in the parliament, Brkic said, adding that he expected the first session to be held next week.

Pero Coric of the Croatian Party of Rights - Ante Starcevic (HSP AS) party said the Council's main function would be to select competent people for political positions, who would then be proposed to the government and the prime minister.

He added that he did not expect any problems in decision-making. "We have been saying from day one that we will cooperate and nominate competent people. There will be no imposing of personnel in any of the ministries," said Coric.

He confirmed that the first task of the Council would be to select deputy ministers under the existing law, adding that the law would soon be amended. "Our main goal now is to change the old personnel, deputy and assistant ministers, because they were hired politically and they lack the competence for such responsible duties," said Coric.

Ivan Kovacic of Bridge said that the Council would make all decisions by consensus and that there would be no outvoting. "The Council for Cooperation is not a shadow cabinet as some media claim. It will simply discuss topics so that they are not discussed via the media, and naturally, the ministers and the prime minister will have the final say," said Kovacic.

When asked why the Council was necessary considering that there were clubs of parliamentary deputies, the parliament and the government, Kovacic said that its purpose was to facilitate cooperation between the parties of the ruling majority "so that we can avoid discussions in the media and open discussions on specific topics, but naturally every topic will be discussed by the parliament and the government, too."

Kovacic said that the Council would not slow down the government's work and that it would not select personnel in public companies.

"We can give proposals regarding our quota for assistant ministers in the ministries that we run... and as for claims that we will select personnel in public companies, give me a break, please," Kovacic said.

Responding to the remark that this was envisaged by the coalition agreement, Kovacic reiterated that executives in public companies were selected in a public selection procedure.

Hrast party leader Ladislav Ilcic sees the Council for Cooperation as a body with no fixed number of members. "A representative of Milan Bandic's party will definitely be involved as well, this is not a fixed body, it will be coordinating the joint policy of the Patriotic Coalition and Bridge and will be expanded to include people in charge of specific areas in a given moment," said Ilcic.

The Bridge members of the newly-appointed Cooperation Council are MP Ivan Kovacic, energy expert Ante Cikotic, MP Ines Strenja Linic, MP Miro Bulj, lawyer Dario Cehic, Bridge National Council members and entrepreneurs Bruno Iljkic and Ladislav Turcinovic, and MP Miroslav Simic.

The Patriotic Coalition members to sit on the Cooperation Council are HDZ MP Milijan Brkic, HDZ political secretary Tomislav Culjak, HDZ vice-president Damir Jelic, and the head of the HDZ club of parliamentary deputies, Ivan Suker, as well as representatives of other parties of the Patriotic Coalition - Ladislav Ilcic, Pero Coric, Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) leader Darinko Kosor, and Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) secretary-general Ilija Coric.

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