Božo Petrov Reveals Dramatic Agrokor Negotiations

Total Croatia News

Speaker of Parliament and MOST leader discusses his role in the latest events.

Božo Petrov, Speaker of Parliament and leader of MOST spoke in an interview about the Agrokor case and other issues, revealing some of the dramatic moments which happened behind the scenes, reports Večernji List on April 16, 2017.

Has Agrokor been saved?

Agrokor still has a turbulent period ahead of it, but it is important that there is the will to preserve the economic system. We are saving the economic system and jobs, not Agrokor. Today, we can see that “lex Agrokor” has not saved Agrokor owner Ivica Todorić. Actually, the activation of the law meant that Todorić was no longer able to decide what will happen with Agrokor. He has left the company’s management, and he will ultimately leave the ownership structure because the debts exceed the value of the company. We will continue to fight for the economic system, this was just the first phase.

What will the second phase bring us?

There will be restructuring of the whole group and preparation of healthy foundation for the Croatian economy. Today, our economy is being suffocated by a giant which controls a number of sectors, from the smallest producers to the shelves in shops. That has created a very difficult situation because, if the company finds itself in problems, the foundations of the Croatian economy are shaking. This must never again be allowed.

The Croatian economy needs a series of smaller companies, rather than one monster company. The first steps all clear. Financial resources must be used to pay bills to suppliers so that the whole system can continue to operate. That will save more than 150,000 jobs. I believe that a year and a half are enough for the whole economic system to be prepared for what follows. All those who are today exposed to cooperation with Agrokor will become significantly more independent, and will no longer depend on just one company.

How did Agrokor rescue efforts proceed?

Through our regular talks at the level of two political partners in government we have started discussing Agrokor before anything started to happen which would be visible from the outside. I was quite informed about the topic because I come from an agricultural area and I know a lot of people working in the sector. These are the smallest suppliers who were the first point which showed alarm.

The situation with them and the fact that goods were not being paid for several months pointed to an alarming situation in the economic system. We were aware that we would have to react because the situation was very serious, the most serious in the last 25 years of the Croatian economy. We knew that there could be a new recession and a massive migration of people from Croatia. Therefore, we were busily preparing for all scenarios. But we refused to react the way politicians have so far helped Agrokor.

What happened during your meeting with Agrokor owner Ivica Todorić?

I clearly told him that MOST and the government will not grant him a billion kuna of government assistance. I also told him that there was nothing preventing any other entrepreneur from coming to the government and saying that they wanted to be another Ivica Todorić. Why would only Todorić have such privileges, and not anyone else? We should all be equal.

The funny thing is that opposition today is accusing us even though they were the ones who directly or indirectly helped Todorić come to this situation when they were in power. It is easy for them to talk now because they do not have, at least for now, responsibility on their shoulders. Unlike us. This situation has not been caused by MOST in the previous 20 years, but MOST is willing to responsibly solve it. What were they doing over the last 20 years?

What will happen with Agrokor in the future?

After the government-appointed commissioner agrees the first steps with the largest creditors, there will be a stabilization phase. However, Agrokor as we know it today will not exist in the future.

Why did MOST support Finance Minister Zdravko Marić when the opposition demanded his resignation?

We wanted to investigate absolutely everything that happened in Agrokor. All those who participated in this should be held responsible. We believe that it is absolutely necessary to see what happened in the past, as well as to prepare all possible scenarios for the future, as far as we can, in order to make sure that history will never be repeated and that such a man and such a system will never appear again.

The moment I have clear evidence that someone has done something wrong, including Zdravko Marić, we will react without delay. No one has been relieved of responsibility for Agrokor. Both political partners have acted responsibly and maturely in the Agrokor case.

Why have you filed criminal complaint against Agrokor? Did you want to send a message to the State Prosecutor’s Office that it was not doing its job?

No. I filed the complaint as a citizen in order to separate myself as much as possible from the political office I currently hold. I filed the report due to information that has publicly emerged. I think that absolutely anyone who has suspicion of any criminal offense should alert the relevant authorities. I do not want to be in a position, if evidence against Todorić starts to appear, that in three or six months someone will ask me why I had not acted. I think it was a right decision. I would have done it even if I were not Speaker of Parliament.

Does your criminal complaint has anything to do with local elections?

No. As one of my colleagues said, the best day for investigation is every day. There is no pre-election, election or no-election time when it comes to investigations of criminal activities. They must be independent and unrestrained, and operate at a time when elements exist, regardless of any political situation. After all, I have already gotten used to my every move being called populist.

The media discovered that State Prosecutor Dinko Cvitan’s son works at Agrokor. What do you think about the fact that he did not disclose it?

There is no problem with his son working there, but it would have been better if he disclosed it publicly.

Why were you not in Parliament when “lex Agrokor” was debated?

I was sick. I have never run away from official responsibilities. I work more than 16 hours a day and sometimes the body just says “enough”. That day I tried to preside over the debate, but in the morning after 20 minutes I had to ask for a replacement because I did not feel well.

Do you think that the law is good?

If there was no law, we would have a collapse of the economic system since Todorić would still be part of the management structure. He had no more room to manoeuvre. That is why we managed to avoid collapse.

Why are you in politics?

Our desire to try to change things has led us to the national level and now there are a lot of things that we have started and we need to finish them. I believe that right now is the time to investigate everything that happened in the history of our young state so that we could finally be able to move towards the future. This is what motivates me. I want to see that our country can finally breathe and live as we deserve.

Why is then MOST proposing a law on opening the state archives prior to 1990?

We have huge resistance for opening the archives prior to 1990, but we will not stop there, this is just the first stage. State archives should be opened with each passing year, every year we will open the next year and very soon we will come to the period after 1990. In the period we are trying to open are the earliest beginnings of privatization process and we are already encountering resistance. But, this is a good time because elections are coming so MPs will vote for it. The law will be adopted prior to local elections.

HDZ’s minister Gabrijela Žalac has sent a letter to MOST’s minister Slaven Dobrović for not using EU funds. How do you comment?

I do not know why Žalac decided to single out a minister who has managed to do the most in the shortest time. Let me remind you that Dobrović and his team managed to get 100 million euros in grants from the EU funds for the LNG terminal on the island of Krk, and he prepared a waste management plan that absolutely everyone in the EU praised.

What would you consider to be a success for MOST in the local elections?

I expect that we will keep those local government units which we already have and achieve excellent results in others. These are the first elections in which many independent lists will run under the MOST platform and we will certainly have a lot more support than four years ago when we were just an isolated story in several towns.


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