After a meeting between the leaders of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Tomislav Karamarko and the Bridge Party Bozo Petrov on Monday, the two confirmed that they would be deputy prime ministers in the new government.

Asked what position he would hold in the new government, Petrov said that he would be a deputy prime minister and that Karamarko woud be the first deputy prime minister. 

"That's the support that the new PM-Designate must have from the two of us who hold the parliamentary majority. Stability is definitely vital," Karamarko said.

Bridge agreed to a reduction in the number of ministries and reiterated that the interior and justice ministries were important for them, and Karamarko added that this would be discussed.

The HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition proposed how the new government could be formed based on a new model and one of the topics discussed was the establishment of a state holding company. We talked and saw that there were certain positive aspects that we advocated during our campaign, that is to depoliticise personnel, professional management, clear criteria within public administration, Petrov said. 

As far as reducing the number of ministries and establishing new ones, there are some things that are interesting to us, however the question is how much time do we have and would we be able to immediately implement them, he added.

Bridge approves of rationalising certain ministries and agencies and other public institutions. "We support that part, however, it is vital to define the schedule for that to be implemented," Petrov said. He reiterated that Bridge would insist on heading certain ministries that they consider they have the competent people for, adding however that the negotiations were still continuing and that this was still open.

"The negotiations are still continuing and I would not like to rush ahead with any statements of how much we asked for. We are in for a week of negotiations and now I would leave that as an open issue, but if the negotiations are constructive, they will end successfully," Petrov said.

Asked whether Bridge would insist on heading the Interior Ministry, the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) and the Justice Ministry, Petrov said that his party had identified what ministries they had competent people for.

"I would not get into making any assessments of how the negotiations will go. We know that the ministries of the interior and justice are very important portfolios because we want to deal with certain matters that we consider to have been the sore spot of Croatian society over the past 20 years. I believe that we will have support in that from the other side," Petrov underscored.

Bridge's appearance on the political scene three years ago was provoked by anomalies and a cancer that needed treating, he said, adding that Bridge did not wish to set any ultimatums as that was not good for negotiations.

The talk on the possibility of establishing a holding company that would combine all public companies was brief, he added. "We will have to discuss that a lot and that issue is more complex. I would not want to make any assessment for the time being and need to hear what others in Bridge have to say and we will discuss that tomorrow at a meeting of the National Council," he said.

Expressing his satisfaction with the meeting, Karamarko underscored that the conclusion was that the Patriotic Coalition and Bridge were in favour of severe reforms but at the same time they were aware that this would take time.

"Let's not promise what we can't achieve in a fortnight. We will do so in two, three or four months or in half a year," the HDZ's leader said.

Reflecting on the division of portfolios, Karamarko underscored that there must be no blackmailing or underestimating but that it was necessary to find the best people for each government department.

"We will discuss people who have a good track record - CVs and references," he said, adding that concrete names had not been mentioned yet.

Karamarko said that he would like the new government to get down to work as soon as possible and to implement necessary reforms, as soon as the first sitting of parliament was held on January 18. He said that the new government should have the same number of ministries as was now the case and then after that they would embark on reducing the number of ministries and rationalising their work.

Asked about Bridge's request to head the Interior Ministry and whether he thought this was an indication of a lack of confidence in him as a former interior minister, Karamarko said that it was well known that as the chief-of-police in 1993 he had initiated the fight against crimes committed during transition and continued to do so as the minister as of 2008. "I don't see that to be an expression of lack of confidence, quite the contrary," he said.

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