Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic on Saturday commented on models for buying back Hungarian oil and gas company MOL's stake in INA, saying that an initial public offering of 25% of the HEP power company's shares to obtain funds for INA's buyout was "the most efficient, fastest, simplest and cleanest option with the fewest participants, which enables the state, which is the owner (of HEP), to control the process in its entirety."

Plenkovic made the statement at a conference of the HDZ Women's Association when asked to comment on media reports about a new model for INA's buyout, one based on a state-owned holding that would consist of the HEP, INA, Plinacro and Janaf companies.

"The government is open to talks on finding the most sensible solution. All options are on the table, the one we mentioned at the very beginning - an initial public offering of HEP shares - is very much on the table because it does not generate any new debt and because we want a transparent and practicable process," Plenkovic said.

Asked if the benefits citizens were feeling from the tax reform would be neutralised by announced price hikes, he said: "The tax reform is a very good move of this government. What is certain is that due to fees for renewable energy sources, prices of electricity will not go down as much as we wanted. As for natural gas, there is a lot of speculation. I have tasked the relevant ministry and it will do its best to see to it that the growing prices of gas on the European market are not felt by households and consumers in Croatia. Once we arrive at the best solution, we will make it public."

Asked if more expensive gas would lead to higher prices of other products, Plenkovic said that maximum effort would be made to prevent new financial burden for households but that one should also be aware of the fact that gas prices on the European market varied. "That is not something the Croatian government can influence," he said.

Asked about the European Commission's criticisms that since mid-2015 the government had not been implementing structural reforms, Plenkovic said the EC expected further progress and that it would be worked on within a national reform programme that was coordinated by Economy Minister Martina Dalic.

He also commented on the government's regulation on the distribution of funds from games of chance, saying that "the regulation is adopted once a year and attempts were made to... provide funds to the usual beneficiaries."

"I believe that the distribution of the funding was fair. From sports associations to civil society organisations and humanitarian organisations - everyone will get their share of funds," he said.

Asked to comment on the Foreign Ministry's having expanded its position on human rights and religious freedoms to include the protection of marriage as a union of man and woman, which some diplomatic circles have described as conservative, Plenkovic said that it was only about "the clarification of some positions."

"I think that this was only about the clarification of some positions when the joint EU positions were formulated for the EU Human Rights Council and I don't see anything dramatic about it," he said, adding that he would not attach too much importance to that.

Plenkovic dismissed speculation about a standstill in the process of ratification of the Istanbul Convention (on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence), saying that a task force at the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy was working on it and that the process was "under way."

Commenting on the Moody's credit rating agency changing the outlook on the Croatian food concern Agrokor to negative, Plenkovic said that the government was closely following developments regarding the company and expected its owner and management to carefully respond to challenges facing the company, taking care of its financial stability and suppliers.

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