ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s prime minister dismissed the possibility of an early election and said in an interview published on Saturday that his fractious coalition would deliver promised reforms to spur growth and cut debt.
Recent squabbles over appointments including that of an intelligence chief and reforms to the pension system and public administration have prompted questions about the stability of the government and the possibility of early polls.
Technocrat Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic told daily Vecernji List he had good relationships with other leaders of the coalition that took office in January and which comprises the conservative HDZ and reformist Most (“Bridge”) parties plus several small allies.
“Sometimes our opinions differ and we can have unpleasant discussions, but it doesn’t mean they are not healthy,” Oreskovic said. “I don’t even think about an early election as we have a lot of jobs ahead of us and all the ministers are aware of it and keen to focus on work.”
HDZ parliamentary deputy Zeljko Dilber had said on Friday his party could reassess relations with Most — at whose insistence Oreskovic was appointed as premier — after an internal election in late May.
On Saturday, Most leader Bozo Petrov said his party would not accept “ultimatums” from HDZ for remaining in coalition.
Local media reported that the conservatives told Most this week they demanded a stronger say in the interior ministry, controlled by a Most minister, and change of policy in a dispute with Hungarian energy firm MOL over management and investments in Croatia’s oil concern INA.
“If they aim to make ultimatums, they shouldn’t have entered a coalition with us. We will not accept it, nor will we yield to such demands,” Petrov told the state radio. HDZ officials were not available for a comment.
INA is jointly owned by Zagreb and MOL, but the two sides are at odds and involved in an international arbitration. Most insists Croatia must not withdraw from the arbitration.
A snap election would slow momentum for reforms needed to boost one of the European Union’s weakest economies.
“We jointly as a government prepared reforms and we can implement them only if we stick together. I’m convinced we will deliver results,” Oreskovic, formerly an executive at Israeli drug firm Teva, said in the interview.
The government adopted a package of measures last week aimed at fostering growth, cutting high public debt and avoiding corrective measures for macroeconomic imbalances from Brussels.
Oreskovic said the government would soon outline plans to privatize some non-strategic assets, including real estate and minority stakes in some firms.
“My first move now will be to reduce debt by up to 200 million euros ($230 million). In the next two weeks we will know in what companies we want to sell our share and in what way,” he said.
Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by