The leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Tomislav Karamarko, said on Monday that his party had sent its answers to the Bridge reformist party's reform demands, stressing that the HDZ and the Patriotic Coalition it was leading did not support abolishing counties and that the Social Democratic Party's (SDP) answers to Bridge's demands were absurd.

"Our answers to Bridge are based on our reform platform on which we have been working for the last three years and on which there is a high degree of agreement between us, as became evident during the talks. I expect (our answers) to be accepted well," Karamarko told reporters outside the HDZ offices.

As for the SDP's answers to Bridge's reform demands, Karamarko said that they were absurd because they contradicted everything the SDP had said and done during the election campaign.

"The SDP is now agreeing to everything."

"They have destroyed the national economy and are now agreeing to all conditions from Bridge. They are now agreeing to reduction of VAT and they laughed when the HDZ said that its platform envisaged such a step in two to two and a half years' time," he said.

"Initially they were against counties, then they wanted to keep them, now they are against them and in favour of regionalisation because they think Bridge would like it. They even promise to give Istria autonomy for three signatures. It is unbelievable and it will never happen," said the HDZ chief.

The HDZ is not in favour of organising the country into regions nor will it allow "the renewal of some divisions that have been done away with a long ago."

Karamarko believes that counties should be computerised and the entire state administration made cheaper and more efficient.

Noting that citizens had got used to having counties, Karamarko recalled Medjimurje County head Matija Posavec's statement about the county's possible secession from Croatia. "Who will secede from Croatia? In a way people identify with counties, they make sense and should not be touched, but everything is open to discussion," said Karamarko.

Unlike the SDP, the HDZ is in favour of better civilian supervision of intelligence services, especially given "indications that the Police Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime and the Security-Intelligence Agency are being abused," said Karamarko.

He repeated that he would like Bridge to remain homogenous as much as possible.

The HDZ leader said that he did not know if Bridge would respond to the HDZ's answers before Thursday, noting that the communication between the HDZ and Bridge was clear and transparent and that there were no additional channels of communication between them.

Karamarko said that if Bridge did not opt for either the HDZ or the SDP-led coalition until Thursday, the Patriotic Coalition would make a decision on its candidate for parliament speaker accordingly.

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