Croatian First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko says that the Bridge party, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, is walking on thin ice when demanding his resignation.
"You cannot run your own policies by dealing with internal problems of another party," Karamarko said in an interview with the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily published on Friday.
Karamarko said that people in the Bridge party had no political experience. "They entered politics naively, thinking that theory is the same as practice."
"Pretending to be an example of moral fortitude and a model to others is a dangerous walk on thin ice. Mr Petrov and some others from Bridge are walking on a thin edge of mutual correctness and respect and I won't have much understanding for this any more," Karamarko said.
The Bridge party wants Karamarko to step down because of the business relationship between his wife and a lobbyist for the Hungarian oil and gas group MOL, claiming that this is a conflict of interest situation. The Croatian government and MOL are currently involved in two arbitration proceedings over the management of the Croatian oil and gas company INA.
Karamarko says that the business relationship was terminated when he became First Deputy Prime Minister.
"It's clear to me that my political opponents are using all means available to inflict political damage on me, but in this case they crossed the line of good taste and good manners and started a brutal attack on my family. There is only one reason for that and that is my opinion and position on INA in which I clearly represent the national interests of Croatia," Karamarko said.
He accused the strongest opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) of making up scandals and paralysing the system in an attempt to return to power.
Asked about accusations levelled against the present government over its tacit support of the pro-Nazi Ustasha ideology in Croatia, Karamarko said that some people simply did not want to hear that he had distanced himself from any form of radicalism and totalitarianism. He said that such stories were "a part of plans to destabilise Croatia".
He stood in defence of Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic who "exposed the historical fact that antifascism and communism are not the same." He said that Hasanbegovic became the target of criticisms after he decided to put in order the financing of non-governmental organisations, which he said had been under the direct political influence of the previous, SDP-led government.
"There were a lot of conflicts of interest and violations of law in that sector," Karamarko said, adding that now the people who were left without money were spreading accusations of the revival of the Ustasha ideology in Croatia.