ZAGREB, February 20, 2019 – Social Democratic Party (SDP) members of parliament on Tuesday defended for more than four hours about 300 amendments they submitted to the INA Privatisation Act, dissatisfied with the fact that it is being discussed under fast-track procedure, telling MPs of the ruling HDZ party that the government was turning over INA to the Hungarian energy group MOL and betraying national interests.
“This law regulates the privatisation of Croatia’s biggest company and requires a serious and comprehensive debate. But the government has changed its approach, organising a public consultation… during the Christmas holidays, and it did not even last for the full 30 days, after which the amendments were submitted to be discussed under fast-track procedure,” said Social Democrat Peđa Grbin.
He said that the government’s claim that the purpose of the bill was to align the law with EU rules was not true.
“The fact that the European Commission considers a law as not being in line with EU law does not mean that that is true. The EC is not the one to make decisions on whether laws are in line with EU law, that is what the EU Court of Justice does,” said Grbin, criticising the government for not even trying to prove that the existing law was not in line with EU law.
“A normal country and a normal government should define the energy development strategy. Judging by the information at hand, we cannot see any ambitious energy strategy plan,” SDP MP Sinisa Hajdaš Dončić said, expressing concern about the country’s energy sovereignty.
Another SDP MP, Željko Jovanović, said that the HDZ’s election slogan “Credibility” was totally missed, recalling that two governments had fallen over INA (both were HDZ-led governments, one led by Ivo Sanader and the other by Tihomir Orešković, a PM chosen by former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko), adding that he hoped the HDZ would lose the next election over INA again.
“If this government had a plan, the PM would not have just said, off the top of his head, on Christmas 2016, that ‘INA will be restored to Croatian ownership’,” SDP MP Sasa Đujić said, claiming that the government was betraying national interests.
Objecting that the amendments envisage two Croatian government representatives overseeing INA’s operations while currently Croatia has three seats on the INA management board, MP Domagoj Hajduković wondered if the proposed amendments were a result of arrangements between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and PM Plenković.
“The Croatian government’s representatives will continue to sit on INA’s management board as will two independent members,” State Secretary for Energy Ivo Milatić said, rejecting the SDP’s amendments.
In an ironic remark to a recent statement by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, SDP MP Predrag Matić said that “the President has discovered that corruption in Croatia dates back to the times of the Habsburg monarchy, while the HDZ is making it possible for us to return there.
“In the 1990s we sold our banks to Austrians, we will now sell INA to Hungarians, and chances are we will again be living in the Habsburg monarchy,” he said.
SDP MPs said they would insist on a vote on their amendments. “You don’t have to accept the amendments. It is clear to everyone that they were submitted to point to a problem. Accept our proposed conclusion and let us have a second reading on the bill,” said Grbin.
The INA Privatisation Act, which went into force in 2002, defines the company’s privatisation. The current bill of amendments changes Article 10 under which Croatia has the exclusive right of control over changes in the company’s ownership structure as well as the right to veto certain decisions of the company’s management and the right of pre-emptive buying of the entire company or parts thereof at an estimated market price in case the process of its liquidation is launched.
Under the bill, a party acquiring INA shares and wishing to own an interest of more than 50% should inform the relevant minister about this and submit to the minister a long-term business management plan.
Based on the minister’s opinion, the government makes a decision on its consent for the acquisition of shares within a 30-day period.
The government can withhold or withdraw its consent if it decides that it constitutes a serious threat to public security and puts the country at serious risk of losing secure, reliable and regular energy supply.
More news on the INA-MOL issues can be found in the Business section.