The Croatian Minister for SMEs, Darko Horvat, has said that that Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic is completing his team for negotiations with Hungary's MOL on the topic of the relationship between the two biggest stakeholders in the Croatian oil and gas group INA, and Horvat is confident that the negotiating team will be set up in two or three weeks.
"The premier has announced this (the establishment of his negotiating team), let us respect his decision. Currently, he is completing the team," Horvat said on Monday, adding that he was confident that PM Oreskovic will also notify the Croatian public about key items of the negotiations and about the objective of the entire process.
Speaking of the INA company, the prime minister Oreskovic said on 12 May that he would form a team of negotiators. "INA is a strategic company for Croatia and I will get much more involved in this entire process," he said then, adding that the arbitration with MOL would continue.
Minister Horvat of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said recently that no arbitration should have been launched between Croatia and Hungary's MOL over INA, and raised the question who would pay costs in the event that the Croatian side lost the arbitration.
Horvat, who seemed very sceptical about the outcome of the arbitration, said today that the government should be flexible and that it should know how to negotiate.
In early May he said that he had presented his position about the arbitration proceedings on several occasions. "I do not think that arbitration should have been launched at all. Arbitration proceedings are very expensive for Croatia," said Horvat then. He also wondered about the sources of funds to cover costs if Zagreb lost the case, thus reflecting his position that it might be advisable for Croatia to abandon the arbitration regarding INA. Minister Horvat said he would not want to prejudge any outcome, but he would like to see bilateral negotiations in parallel with the arbitration, "Croatia enters a system of negotiations with counterparts from the Hungarian Mol, that is our strategic partner."
In late April, Deputy Prime Minister and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov said that abandoning the arbitration process would be damaging.
"I don't think that cooperation may be agreed upon through ultimatums," Petrov said.
Media outlets claimed in early May that leaders of the HDZ and of the BrIdge party had met at talks at which the HDZ had reportedly insisted on deciding on Croatia's withdrawal from the arbitration with MOL over INA.
Petrov said that abandoning the arbitration process would be pernicious.
"We have reasons for optimism about arbitration," Petrov told the Croatian Radio a few weeks ago in a comment on media speculations about his party's and the HDZ positions on the arbitration.