An inner cabinet meeting was held on Tuesday, however, ministers were not willing to state whether the government would give its opinion on the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) motion for a no confidence vote against Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic.

Tourism Minister Anton Kliman said that he did not know whether the proposal would be on the government's agenda while Labour Minister Nada Sikic said that there had not been any mention of Oreskovic's impeachment at the meeting and that the inner cabinet discussed "various problems."

Considering unofficial information that some HDZ deputies will not support the motion for the prime minister's impeachment, sponsored by their party, reporters asked Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac whether HDZ was united on that point. "HDZ is united and strong," Kovac, the HDZ international secretary, said briefly.

Ministers from the Bridge slate were not forthcoming with any information either. Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic said that he expected HDZ MPs to vote on the prime minister's fate according to their conscience and not be guided by party discipline. "I think it's time for conscience," he said.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric whom HDZ has said is the party's candidate for prime minister-designate in a new government, did not wish to comment on Oreskovic's possible impeachment. He said the government was working as usual and that he has a good relationship with Oreskovic and "nothing has changed."

HDZ submitted a motion in parliamentary procedure on June 8 calling for the prime minister's replacement and the government is obliged to give its opinion on the motion within eight days which expires on Thursday. Upon the 8-day-deadline expiry, lawmakers are to debate the matter and take a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.

Oreskovic, who had been proposed as a non-partisan technocrat premier by the HDZ after the parliamentary election last November, has said that he would note cede to the HDZ's demand for him to step down.

The senior coalition partner in government accused Oreskovic of dealing with personnel matters in the repressive apparatus rather than economic issues and that he had politicised the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) which the party has interpreted as an "introduction to set up a chancellor-like dictatorship with the assistance of the repressive apparatus."

HDZ claims that it has sufficient support from lawmakers for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister which means the entire government would fall and a new parliamentary majority would have to be formed to appoint a new government which would be headed by Zdravko Maric.

This imbroglio was triggered off when media published documents about business ties between HDZ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko's wife and Josip Petrovic, a lobbyist for MOL with which Croatia is in dispute over management rights in the Croatian oil and gas group INA.

Karamarko and SMEs minister Darko Horvat, an HDZ official, seem to be in favour of Croatia's withdrawal from arbitration proceedings regarding this dispute.

The other Deputy Prime Minister Bozo Petrov of the Bridge party, on the other hand, has said that abandoning the arbitration process would be pernicious.

"We have reason to be optimistic about the arbitration," Petrov said earlier this year.

The Conflict of Interest Commission will make public its decision on Wednesday, 15 June, concerning allegations that Karamarko was in a conflict of interest because his wife was in a business relationship with MOL's lobbyist and consultant Petrovic.

The Commission, which is established by the parliament and which consists of independent experts, on 18 May launched the procedure to investigate whether Karamarko was in a conflict of interest.

Croatia and MOL, INA's two major stakeholders, are involved in two arbitration proceedings over their relations in INA.

Meanwhile, the biggest opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) filed a motion of no confidence against Karamarko and the deadline for the 151-seat legislature to take a vote regarding Karamarko expires on 18 June.

The Bridge party too insists that Karamarko should step down as First Deputy PM, as did Prime Minister Oreskovic saying that Karamarko was a burden for the HDZ, the government and the state.

The authorities in Croatia should punish Deputy Prime Minister Karamarko's unacceptable behaviour, or we should go to the polls for a parliamentary election, Interior Minister and Bridge official Vlaho Orepic said recently.

"At this moment it is very important to see what everyone is trying to conceal - are the current authorities capable of punishing what is evidently unacceptable behaviour of a senior office-holder in the Croatian government, regardless of who he is, even if that's Mr Karamarko," Orepic said.

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