Hungary's MOL oil and gas group has welcomed statements made by Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic on Thursday, stressing that its priority has always been to reach an agreement with the Croatian government on the INA oil company.

"MOL is and was always ready to carry meaningful negotiations with the Government of Croatia and as such welcomes the statements of PM Oreskovic made this afternoon. MOL has always viewed the arbitration process as a measure to protect its own shareholder value, but the first priority has always been to reach an agreement with the Government of Croatia through negotiations. Since negotiations with the Croatian Government were stopped without results in July 2014 there was no opportunity to conclude an agreement between the strategic partners of INA," the Hungarian company said on Thursday when asked by Hina to comment on the latest developments surrounding INA.

Prime Minister Oreskovic announced at a press conference that he would form and personally lead a team of negotiators with MOL, adding that he would initiate negotiations before the end of the arbitration in the INA-MOL case.

"INA is a strategic company for Croatia and I will get much more involved in this entire process," Oreskovic said. He added that he had already initiated several studies and talked with lawyers involved in the arbitration process. "As a former finance manager, I have enough experience in business," he said, expressing hope that he would be able to use his experience in negotiations on INA.

"I will lead that process and in the end I will present it to the government, which will then give its support to our position," Oreskovic said, without revealing what position the government would take in its negotiations with MOL. "That will be clear as soon as the negotiations start. I will not comment on our position, it will be clear this year what is in Croatia's strategic interest," he added.

Commenting on a controversial contract between Ana Karamarko (nee Saric), the wife of First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko, and Josip Petrovic, a lobbyist for MOL, Oreskovic said he would wait for the Conflict of Interest Prevention Commission to decide on the matter, stressing that he personally believed that Mr Karamarko had not done anything against the interests of Croatia.

MOL declined to comment on the matter. "MOL has refrained from commenting in any way the recent political turmoil around INA and the ongoing arbitration. Our only comment now is that MOL has not made to Croatia any offer, formal or informal, about the arbitration cases or INA," the company told Hina.

"MOL has been present in Croatia since 2003 and has been working with several Croatian consultancy companies since then, but Ana Saric and her company were never amongst these, neither directly or indirectly," it added.

Earlier this week, the Nacional weekly ran an article saying that MOL's lobbyist Josip Petrovic had paid a marketing agency owned by Ana Karamarko at least 60,000 euros for consulting services. Payments were made before the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party came to power and its leader Tomislav Karamarko took office as First Deputy Prime Minister.

Related stories

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.