nikola grmoja.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Denis CERIĆ /dc

One of the founders of the Bridge party and its spokesman, Nikola Grmoja, gave an interview to Hina in which he commented on relations in the government and the INA-MOL case, and noted that Bridge had never closed the door to cooperation with the now opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was open to it, admitting, however, that he did not believe there would be an early election.

Asked about growing tensions between the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Bridge and speculations that the end of their cooperation is near, Grmoja said: "I don't believe that. We knew that there would be tensions regardless of the government make-up. People like to talk about changes and reforms, but in reality, they don't like changes. The same goes for political parties, particularly political elites that have become used to such a type of governance in the last 20 or so years. We insist on changes and that is certainly a big problem for parts of the HDZ because some of the people in that party support what Bridge and this government are doing. I believe this government will succeed if we and our partners have the same goals."

As for the INA-MOL dispute and the role of First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko's friend, Josip Petrovic, in it, and Bridge's insistence that Karamarko distance himself from Petrovic, Grmoja said: "Mr Karamarko does not have to distance himself from Josip Petrovic. He only must not allow Mr Petrovic to have any influence on this government's policies because that will not be tolerated either by Prime Minister (Tihomir) Oreskovic or Deputy PM Bozo Petrov or (Bridge) Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic. Mr Karamarko has enough political experience to know that his private relationships must not be put above state interests."

Asked about SMEs Minister Darko Horvat's statement, given on a number of occasions, that Croatia should give up the ongoing arbitration with MOL over INA, Grmoja said he found it odd that Horvat was commenting on something that was not within his area of responsibility.

Asked about political analysts' comments about Bridge having the role of a corrective to the HDZ as well as their comment that the reforms it had advocated had not started yet, and claims by the HDZ that Bridge is obstructing reforms, Grmoja said: "Attacks on Bridge are often absurd. One moment we are criticised for obstructing reforms and when we present a reform plan, we are told that they are not acquainted with it... It is a fact that ministers nominated by Bridge have been working seriously: (Environmental Protection) Minister (Slaven) Dobrovic has cancelled para-fiscal levies in the amount of HRK 18.5 million, he has been given the green light by the European Commission for a waste management plan, (Economy) Minister (Tomislav) Panenic has announced a new public procurement law that will make public procurement more transparent and fairer, farming incentives in the amount of five billion kuna have been paid out fully for the first time until this time of the year, (Justice) Minister (Ante) Sprlje is working on six crucial laws for the reform of the judiciary, Minister (of the Interior) (Vlaho) Orepic has announced the biggest reform of the Ministry of the Interior. I believe that such an extensive plan of reforms in the first three months of a government's term is uprecedented."

Asked about a decline in Bridge's ratings, Grmoja said it was partly due to its failure to form a tripartite government and partly due to attacks by all political rivals, which, he said, created an impression that Bridge was responsible for everything that had been bad in the last 20 years. 

He said that he believed the party's ratings would stop falling in the period to come and that they would stabilise at 8-9% support.

Asked if he feared a possible government reshuffle, as announced by Milan Bandic, a member of the ruling coalition, Grmoja said that Bandic's announcements were an empty threat.

Asked about the decision by Ivan Kovacic, a member of Bridge and mayor of the coastal town of Omis, to no longer cooperate with the HDZ on the national level because of the re-election of Ivan Skaricic as head of the HDZ branch in Omis, Grmoja said that the government could be toppled only if national interests, INA or forests and water resources were at stake, "but not over a chicken-thief like Skaricic."

Asked about the statement by Ivan Vrdoljak, leader of the opposition Croatian People's Party (HNS), that he was about to gather together centrist parties and if he knew if Bridge was among those parties, Grmoja said: "How can a party with 2% voter support gather other parties? My opinion of the HNS is not good, it is a clientelistic party, they would be an excellent partner, neither the HDZ nor the SDP would have any problems with them. Also, it remains to be seen if everything Mr Vrdoljak did (as former economy minister) was in line with the law."

Asked about possible cooperation between Bridge and the SDP in case the HDZ attempted a government reshuffle, Grmoja said: "We have never closed to door to cooperation with any party and are still open to cooperation with Mr (Zoran) Milanovic and the SDP on all laws and initiatives that benefit this country and its citizens, and we will never put our personal conflicts and antagonism above state interests. What Mr Milanovic attempted to do has been forgotten and we are open to cooperation on everything that is in the interest of this country's citizens."

Asked if new elections were possible considering the current relations in the government, Grmoja said he did not believe there would be an early election and that Bridge would continue supporting the government and the prime minister in implementing the promised reforms.

Asked if Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic, a non-party person, could eventually end up in Bridge's camp, Grmoja said: "Everything is possible in politics, never say never."

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