Negotiating teams of the reformist Bridge (MOST) party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP)-led Croatia Is Growing coalition met on Thursday morning to continue negotiations on the formation of a parliamentary majority and government, emphasis being on public administration and local self-government.

Bridge's negotiating team consists of Jasna Matulic, Robert Podolnjak and Ivan Kovacic.

When asked what he expected of today's talks with the Croatia Is Growing coalition and the Patriotic Coalition, Kovacic said he expected an agreement to be reached with both coalitions.

He confirmed that Bridge was in favour of reducing the number of counties.

One of the SDP's negotiators, Public Administration Minister Arsen Bauk, said he expected some of the issues related to the political system to be opened today.

"As for public administration and local self-government, in June this year the parliament adopted a strategy for the development of public administration and in September the government adopted an action plan. What is written in those documents is rather similar to what Bridge has in its platform. I therefore don't expect any major disputes," said Bauk.

As for the territorial reorganisation of the country and changes in the number of regional self-government units, Bauk said that he did not expect a final proposal to be agreed on today, but rather a discussion to be opened on whether there would be territorial reorganisation.

"We are willing to discuss it, and how citizens and political actors will respond to it remains to be seen. It is important to make a political decision on launching the process," he said.

Accompanying Bauk at the talks are Branko Grcic, Orsat Miljenic, Tulio Demetlika, Boris Milosevic and Predrag Stromar.

Meanwhile, Tomislav Karamarko, leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which heads the Patriotic Coalition, told reporters that his coalition would offer Bidge its programme for reforms of public administration based on a smaller number of towns and municipalities.

"There is political will, we want to save money, we want to make state administration as cheap as possible so that we could invest more in the real sector," Karamarko told reporters outside the HDZ offices.

Asked to comment on the Istrian Democratic Party's (IDS) having signed an agreement with the SDP under which Istria could get greater autonomy and become a separate region, Karamarko said that he did not consider it good.

"Istria is one of Croatian counties and has the same status as all the other counties. We are in favour of decentralisation, of fiscal decentralisation. But an autonomous province - no," Karamarko said. 

He would not say which coalition had greater chances of reaching an agreement with Bridge, stressing that the HDZ was offering a finished platform and that the situation was very favourable for his party.

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