Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenkovic has said that he believes that his party will be able to say on Wednesday or on Thursday at the latest that it and the Bridge coalition of independent slates have reached an agreement on cooperation.

Addressing reporters outside his party's offices on Wednesday, Plenkovic said that the two parties had conducted very thorough negotiations over the past four weeks and that they had achieved a very solid level of cooperation and mutual trust.

"It is still my goal to have the necessary 76 signatures of support at consultations with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday so that after that we can form the government," Plenkovic stressed.

Asked if he counted on HDZ vice-president and member of the European Parliament Ivana Maletic to serve in the new government, Plenkovic said that Maletic was in Strasbourg this week, working on a very important report related to economic issues and regional development, and that he would talk with her when she returned to Zagreb.

Plenkovic said that he would also talk with a number of other colleagues who were likely to enter the new government, based on their qualities and political results.

Answering a reporter's question, Plenkovic confirmed that he had received signatures of support for him as prime minister-designate from all five elected members of Parliament of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS).

Expressing satisfaction with their support, he said that it was a good gesture.

As for current internal processes in the HSS, Plenkovic said that "it is their internal matter."

Plenkovic believes that given its result in the September 11 early parliamentary election, the HDZ was in a good position to receive broad support, adding that based on his talks with other parties, signatures of support were beyond dispute.

He reiterated that the HDZ's strategy was to try to achieve strategic partnership and a stable government with Bridge, with support from other MPs.

Support from minority MPs, too, would be good for Croatian democracy and society and it would be good to incorporate protection of minority rights in the government's platform, he said.

"I will insist on that because I believe that it is also good for Croats living in neighbouring countries and for all minorities in Croatia," said Plenkovic.

As for Serb official Milorad Pupovac's statement that minorities were discriminated against in the process of employment in public companies, Plenkovic said that the HDZ's election platform envisaged depoliticisation of public companies and monitoring of their performance.

"In that sense, the criterion of ethnic background is not crucial. The government should use its instruments to support ethnic minorities and there are ways to make them satisfied, not necessarily through the approach that has been mentioned in public," said Plenkovic.


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