miro kovač.jpg
Photograph: Hina/ Dario GRZELJ/ dag

Foreign Minister Miro Kovac said on Thursday that the first lawsuit against Croatia for the conversion of Swiss franc loans had been filed and that Croatia would try and find a solution with banks which would least impact the state budget and protect those loan holders.

"We already held a meeting on this topic with the prime minister. The State Prosecutor's Office (DORH), the Finance Ministry and the Justice Ministry are involved in the consultations and we will leave it to DORH to hold talks on this topic at the court where the lawsuit was filed," Kovac said, recalling that claims might be about HRK 8 billion.

He said the government was interested in protecting the citizens who took Swiss franc loans and "wants to clearly say" that last year's conversion was "populist and insufficiently thought out, and now we have the first lawsuits and we will have to work hard to alleviate the damage to the... state  budget. But the interests of Croatian citizens come first."

Jutarnji List daily said today the first suit was filed by Italy's UniCredit, which owns Zagrebacka Banka, one of eight in Croatia which offered loans denominated in Swiss francs.

Hina asked the banks if they planned to or had already filed suits against Croatia, receiving replies from two.

Addiko Bank, formerly Hypo-Alpe-Adria, said it was considering every legal means at its disposal.

Raiffeisenbank Austria said local banks had contested the constitutionality of Croatia's Consumer Credit Act at the Constitutional Court and that they notified the government about the dispute as a preparation for arbitration proceedings against Croatia at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington.

The amendments to the Consumer Credit Act which enabled the conversion of Swiss franc loans went into force on 30 September 2015 (during the SDP-led government). Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said recently that 94% of loan holders had opted for the conversion.

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