tomislav karamarko.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Dario GRZELJ / mm

Deputy Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko has said that he believes that a state budget for 2016 will be adopted in mid-March, and he described the Fitch credit rating agency's doubt about the unity of the new Croatian coalition government as "a too general" assessment.

The Fitch ratings agency has said that the new government, which includes the centre-right  HDZ and the new, pro-reform party Bridge, "aims to bring down public debt and implement reforms that would address many of the structural impediments to growth identified by the European Commission. However, there are doubts about the ability of the government to achieve these objectives and about the unity of the coalition as a whole. In addition, the new technocratic Prime Minister, Tihomir Oreskovic, has no experience in Croatian politics."

In an interview with the commercial Nova TV station on Sunday Karamarko said that "the cooperative relationship" with Bridge "is growing stronger by the day. Compared to the first days when we just got acquainted, we understand each other more and more and currently, we understand each other very well. This government will have a firm majority in the parliament."

He refuted interpretations that at their first meeting last Thursday, cabinet ministers demanded recruitment of new employees, explaining that they presented data on the fulfilment of positions as envisaged by an employment plan.

Karamarko accused the previous government of carrying things too far in the employment plan and that the real state of affairs might be a surplus of employees rather than their shortage.

As for HDZ official Mijo Crnoja who had to leave the post of War Veterans Minister only six days after taking office, Karamarko insisted on Crnoja's honourable role in the war.

Crnoja resigned after it was revealed that he had provided false information regarding his place of residence and that he had been reported on several occasions for physical violence. A question was also raised about how he used the loan he received for the construction of a family house.

Karamarko said that the damage had been done to Crnoja, and when asked whether it was ethical to provide false information about one's place of residence, Karamarko again stood up in Crnoja's defence, saying that the categories 'ethical' and 'unethical' are relative.

The Deputy PM said the new candidate for the war veterans' minister could be selected in the coming days.

Asked about a recent rally against a temporary broadcasting ban on the local Z1 TV station, after a journalist working at Z1 was found by the media regulator to have used hate speech and fomented panic and unease among citizens, Karamarko said that he was against "inappropriate shouts", a reference to the fact that the protesters shouted Ustasha slogans, but that he was also against "bans on the media".

"Following that logic (of punishing statements that insult others), there were in the past reasons to ban some other media for insulting the feelings of war veterans, but no such steps were made," Karamarko said.

Asked whether the new government would change the relevant rules regarding bans in the media, Karamarko said that he was not for such changes.

"Everyone should make sure that the communication in public space is free of insults," he said.

As for his claims at a recent HDZ rally that his party was robbed of 5-6 parliamentary seats by electoral fraud, Karamarko said that he had not yet been contacted by the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) about this matter.

"I said that there were indications, and I stopped at that. That is my right. I hope that if those indications prove to be something else, they will be corroborated."

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