MPs Protest against Government’s Decision on Possible Privatisation of Major Companies

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Yesterday’s decision by the government that some companies might be privatised causes strong reactions in Parliament.

Yesterday’s telephone session of the government, at which the government decided to remove eight companies from the list of strategically important state-owned companies which cannot be privatised, prompted on Thursday many members of Parliament to express their strong disapproval, reports on May 12, 2016.

The government on Wednesday held a telephone session and made a decision to remove eight companies from the list. The companies in question are: Podravka, ACI, Končar-Elektroindustrija, Petrokemija, Croatia Airlines, Port of Rijeka, Croatia Banka and Croatia osiguranje. Explaining the decision, the government said that the National Reform Programme for 2016 listed as one of the reform measures the improvement in management of state assets and the reduction of the state’s portfolio of companies.

“I demand an extraordinary session of Parliament to debate what will be sold”, said Irena Petrijevčanin Vuksanović (HRID). She added that the ACI marina system was a strategic company. “So, what is the next step – to sell it on eBay?” asked Petrijevčanin Vuksanović. She asked why the government was making such a decision when even some of MOST’s MPs said yesterday they would not support it. “And even some of MPs from the Patriotic Coalition said the same”, she concluded.

Milanka Opačić (SDP) demanded that the Prime Minister and key ministers should come to Parliament and explain what is going on and what will happen with the companies. She said that the biggest problem was the fact that these companies had apparently already been sold. “These companies have already been sold during the last 15 or 20 days, when the President sold ACI. Prime Minister Orešković has already sold 10,000 hectares in Slavonia. So, it is obvious that at the political level the companies have already been sold. Perhaps some of the them were sold by Mr. Karamarko’s wife through her agency and their family and business friends”, said Opačić.

Radimir Čačić (Reformists) said that such decisions could not be made over the phone, without public debate. “Public debate in Parliament and careful analysis first, and then we can make an informed decisions”, he added.

Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure Oleg Butković (HDZ) said that the fact that eight companies were removed from the list did not mean they would all be privatised and that, if and when such a decision were to be made, it would first have to be reached by the highest political bodies of the ruling coalition, primarily by HDZ and MOST. Butković said that, when deciding on privatisation, all factors should be considered, “including the fact that the state budget envisions certain revenues”. He said that he did not know whether the yesterday’s decision had been agreed with MOST, because he was not a member of the inner cabinet.

Yesterday afternoon, even some of the ruling coalition MPs voiced their disapproval. MOST’s MPs Ivan Kovačić and Miro Bulj expressed their opposition to the decision. “I think that some of the companies were removed from the list perhaps to be sold more easily. But, you do not have to be very smart to sell ACI or Podravka. Why didn’t they decide to sell companies which are in a poor financial state, where workers are not getting paid” asked Kovačić. “Companies such as Podravka, which can be the basis for the development of agriculture, are absolutely strategically important”, said Bulj.

“I would never dare to do it with Podravka”, said Goran Marić (HDZ), adding that nothing should be done without a thorough analysis. He said that, if something was strategic, then it cannot overnight become non-strategic, because it means that it was not of strategic importance in the first place.

Branko Hrg (HSS) said that he “would not dare to vote for the sale” because that could have long-term consequences for Croatia. Ivan Lovrinović (MOST) said that the proposal caused a “confused situation”.


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