Deputy Prime Minister and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov said on Monday he was confident that Omis mayor and chief of Bridge's parliamentary group, Ivan Kovacic, would protect national interests and support the party "when emotions settle" over the re-election of Ivan Skaricic as chief of the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) Omis branch.

Kovacic said earlier today that, because of Skaricic's re-election, cooperation with the HDZ at national level was no longer possible.

"I believe that Ivan Kovacic, when emotions settle, will support Bridge. His support to Bridge has never been in question (and) I know he will put national interests above all," Petrov told a press conference. He said he understood Kovacic's anger and resignation over Skaricic but that Kovacic "knows that at this moment national interests should be protected and reforms implemented."

Petrov said there were only two things why Bridge would end its cooperation with the incumbent government - if reforms were not carried out and if an attempt was made to harm Croatian interests.

Asked if the government was stable, he said Bridge would support the government until it saw that reforms were not happening. "A reform action plan will be adopted within the week. Deadlines and intervals are known, so if that doesn't happen, I think this government doesn't deserve support."

Petrov said he was worried about "the level at which political parties are functioning." He said there was political instability "because some members in certain coalitions aren't happy," but that "the political instability isn't at the government's level and I hope the other participants in the government too will realise that this is a joint government and not someone's."

He said criticisms over the situation in the Interior Ministry being leveled at Minister Vlaho Orepic (Bridge) and himself were ridiculous and that he had no intention of renouncing Orepic. "I'd advise other government members and those supporting the government in parliament to clearly say if they are for this government," he said, adding that those who criticised "aren't undermining the minister but the government."

Petrov went on to say that the arbitration between the government and the Hungarian company MOL over Croatia's INA should not be brought into question, adding that "we have reason to be optimistic about the epilogue of the arbitration." He said a task force had been organised to define future steps regarding INA-MOL relations.

Petrov also said he was not afraid of Milan Bandic's announcements of a government reshuffle.

Asked if the reform action plan had been agreed with all partners in the Patriotic Coalition, following complains by the HSS and HSLS parties, Petrov said the plan was defined at the government's level.

Commenting on announcements of workers' protests on May 1, he said "it's normal for workers to state their demands on that day."

He said workers were not represented only by public sector unions, but real sector unions too. He said the real sector recorded tens of thousands of job losses in recent years and that it was the backbone of the Croatian economy which should be helped. "Everyone realises the economic situation we are in and that there is no money."

Petrov said the incumbent government would not make false promises and buy time.

Asked to comment on the fact that Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party passed the threshold at Sunday's parliamentary election, he said that "Serbia hasn't gone through the catharsis it should have given the 1990s war in Croatia. Unfortunately, what's happening in Serbia today is that all those who have entered parliament in this election have roots in the Greater Serbia policy." He added that Serbia should clearly distance itself from that policy.

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