Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko has said that a preliminary, general agreement on the make-up of the new government will be reached at talks with the Bridge party on Monday, but that concrete candidates for ministerial positions will not be discussed at those talks.

"The names of the ministers will definitely not be discussed. We will have a preliminary, general agreement with Bridge on what the government will look like. The HDZ will present to colleagues in Bridge its proposal for reducing the number of ministries to 16 or 17," Karamarko told reporters outside the HDZ offices on Monday when asked about talks that were to be held with Bridge in the afternoon.

He underlined that the two sides would also discuss a possibility to merge all public companies into a single consortium, based on the Austrian model, which he said had proven to be good and efficient.

Karamarko said that he met this morning with Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic and Bridge leader Bozo Petrov and that they agreed this week's activities in forming the government, whose members, he said, should be known in two-three weeks.

Asked if the HDZ was willing to cede the Ministry of the Interior and the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) to Bridge, Karamarko said that the talks were not about 'ceding anything' but about finding the best possible candidates for the positions concerned.

All good proposals will be accepted. We have agreed to reach a consensus on all matters, the HDZ chief said, adding that the HDZ had a large number of good people working on party committees and would try to make those people represented where quality and good references were needed. However, all the other candidates will be discussed as well, he added.

Karamarko said the talks with Bridge would also discuss the possibility of setting up two new ministries - a ministry of immigration and a ministry of demographic revival. Karamarko considers demographic revival to be very important, noting that according to current population growth trends Croatia's population would be down by 700,000 by 2050. "That is alarming and that problem should be addressed seriously."

Commenting on criticisms of Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner, who this past weekend went for a ski trip abroad under police escort, Karamarko said that "the Parliament Speaker is being denied the right to security, which is obligatory."

This past weekend, Reiner was seen in his private car bypassing a line of vehicles at the Bregana border crossing under the escort of two police vehicles with flashlights on. The car was driven by his wife.

"(Reiner) had no say in that, it was a decision by people who have the duty to protect him," said Karamarko, noting that Reiner used his private car but that the police were obliged to escort him.

Also, it was not Reiner who chose the travel route, the responsible people in the Ministry of the Interior did, Karamarko said.

He also said that Minister of the Interior Ranko Ostojic passed the same route in the same way but that that was not registered.

"I'd like to know why they are doing this, it's not fair," said the HDZ chief.

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