tihomir orešković.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ/ lsd

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.

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