Social Democratic Party (SDP) member of Parliament Tihomir Jakovina said on Friday that there had been no favouritism in tendering processes for EU grants for agriculture while he had served as agriculture minister in the previous government, adding that no damage was done because no payments were made.
"The aim of the tenders under the Rural Development Programme was to make it possible for our farmers to use EU funds as soon as possible and as much as possible. Once again, I emphatically declare that there was no favouritism in the tenders in 2015," Jakovina told the press in the Parliament.
He said that it was of vital importance that the whole system was not blocked, and that a decision should be made either to cancel the tender in question or to single out any questionable projects.
"It is very important to emphasise that no damage was done because no payments were made. Stories about murky dealings and favouritism are actually classic examples of insinuation whose purpose is to shift the attention of the public from scandals that are rocking the country," Jakovina said.
About ten days ago, the European Commission addressed a letter to the Croatian government raising objections about tenders for projects under the Rural Development Programme, and Croatia was given two months to respond to the objections, Agriculture Minister Davor Romic confirmed in Brussels on Tuesday.
He said that the EU's Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS) was looking into 21 projects which had won tenders in which different companies owned by the same people applied for funding.
Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Tomislav Tolusic said on Wednesday that someone from the previous government should be held criminally liable for "deliberately irregular and unfair" tenders. "To allocate, as claimed by the European Commission, 400 or 500 million kuna to fictitious companies is no accident and those who did it should be brought to account," he said.