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

First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko said on Saturday he was absolutely confident that the Conflict of Interest Commission would find that he was not in a conflict of interest because of a contract between his wife's company and the company of his friend and MOL lobbyist Jozo Petrovic, and that he was willing to bet that the government would complete its term.

"I'm confident that the Commission will tell the truth, which is that there was no conflict of interest at all. Can I perform my duties? Of course I can. I exempted myself from any decision making on (Croatian oil company) INA and (its majority shareholder, Hungary's) MOL if I find myself in the position that the government is doing or deciding anything about that. I haven't been in that position so far. There have been some unofficial talks between colleagues, but also my clearly stated positions on MOL, INA, arbitration proceedings and national interests," Karamarko told Media Servis.

He said his wife Ana would prove with the documents she would submit to the Conflict of Interest Commission that she did not deal with energy, MOL or INA in her business dealings with Petrovic's company, only with public relations.

Karamarko dismissed suspicions concerning his talks, in his capacity as president of the HDZ party, with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto when his wife was under contract to the MOL lobbyist.

"We didn't talk either about INA, MOL or arbitration proceedings. What was significant, as stated by Szijjarto recently, was that they didn't communicate with the previous (Croatian) government. I think we must communicate and that our government mustn't continue with the policy of (previous Croatian PM) Zoran Milanovic, who had us in a row with everyone. And I mean everyone. At one point Croatia was sort of isolated. So, that was the topic," Karamarko said.

He went on to say that the arbitration proceedings between Croatia and MOL were "going on... But I can reiterate what the prime minister said a few days ago, and I before him. While the arbitration is under way, we must talk with our neighbours for Croatia's interests." He reiterated that losing the proceedings could cost Croatia billions of kuna.

Karamarko said he did not expect unconditional support from anyone but that one should wait for the Conflict of Interest Commission decision, and that he would not be disappointed if some MPs of the HDZ's coalition partner Bridge were to vote for his impeachment, which was initiated by the opposition SDP. "I'm not tied to any office. I resigned when it was necessary."

As for the partnership with Bridge and speculation about a reshuffle in the ruling majority after intra-party elections in the HDZ next weekend, Karamarko said he would do his best "for the government to survive in this configuration."

"But I should say that this government will last as long as the HDZ supports the government. Everyone else can drop out of the combinations making up the foundation of this government, but if the HDZ drops out, this government is no more. And we can't do that," he said, adding that he was not for a new election because it would be a waste of time, "and a waste of time would be a luxury in these critical and turbulent times for us."

He also said he was absolutely confident that the government would complete its term.

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