Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic confirmed on Friday that the government and its social partners had discussed the reform plan which the government intended to submit to the European Commission soon, adding that he did not mind that the document had been leaked to the public and describing tensions between his deputies Tomislav Karamarko and Bozo Petrov as ' growing pains'.
"We openly and transparently invited our partners to talks last week. We openly discussed our plans with trade unions and presented our reform plan. It has already been leaked to the public, but that's okay. This government will not isolate itself and wait for everything to be over, we are open to discussion," Oreskovic told reporters after the opening of a conference on the reform of public administration in Zagreb.
Oreskovic said that discussions and tensions were healthy, describing the reform of public administration a fundamental reform and the conference as just the beginning of a journey towards an efficient public administration.
"This is just the beginning. It is important that we have started working, regardless of how much some relations are talked about, those are growing pains. We all know that when a team is being formed, there are different opinions and that eventually they have to be harmonised," said the PM.
Attending the conference along with Oreskovic was also Petrov. Reporters remarked that Karamarko was not present, to which Oreskovic said that there was nothing unusual about it.
"We are all going today to Jasenovac and we will be there together. Mr Karamarko must be on his way there. The reform of public administration is an important topic, I think that we have support for it and we want to make it clear that this is a key reform for this country," he said.
Asked if Karamarko had distanced himself from a former member of the INA management Board, Josip Petrovic, which is what Petrov's Bridge party had asked him to do, Oreskovic said that he did not want to comment on relations between his deputies.
"The main message to the citizens is that we are working and that possible conflicts, caused by differences of opinion, are normal in politics, just as they are normal in any other business and system," he said.
He stressed that finances were crucial, welcoming figures about a decrease in the state budget in 2015 and expressing confidence that his government would stop the growth of public debt and restore optimism among Croatians.
Answering reporters' questions, Petrov said that tensions in the government were "normal and natural" and expressed confidence that they could result in a more constructive implementation of some plans.
As for Karamarko's explanation that his friendship with Petrovic, who is now a consultant for the Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, had no influence on his business and political decisions, Petrov said it was personally important to him "to make a distinction between friendship and business".
Reporters insisted that he had accused his partner in the government of jeopardising national interests, to which Petrov said that his remarks did not refer specifically to Karamarko but to "certain groups."
"There are certain political groups trying to gain influence. That is what I was talking about and what Bridge will never allow. We will insist on that and I believe that all other government members have the same desire and aspiration to protect national interests," he said.
Petrov said that he was confident the strained relations in the government would not harm reform plans, adding that the current government would show already in the first year of its term that its results were better than those of the previous government.