ZAGREB, December 5, 2018 – The GONG nongovernmental organisation on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of “dangerously downplaying” the Conflict of Interest Commission’s decision on Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and former Economy Minister Martina Dalić regarding the case of dealing with the crisis surrounding the ailing private Agrokor group.
The Commission decided on Monday that Dalić and Marić had violated the principle of holding public office in the case of the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate. The violation does not carry any penalties.
On Tuesday, Plenković stressed that the Commission did not examine “the concept of conflict of interest” and that it did not find that either Marić or former economy minister Martina Dalić had been in a conflict of interest. “It’s very important that this message be understood clearly, based on what and about what exactly the Commission was deciding. The Commission examined solely… the principles of holding office,” he told reporters when asked if Marić should resign, as demanded by the opposition.
Plenković’s statement prompted the GONG association to accuse the prime minister of showing contempt towards the Commission. It also recalled that Plenković’s predecessor as HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko had to step down from the government after the Commission had established that he had been in a conflict of interest when he had advocated Croatia’s withdrawal from an arbitration procedure with Hungary’s MOL over the leading Croatian oil and gas company INA.
The NGO insisted that the process of the adoption of Lex Agrokor was deeply compromised and that therefore Plenković should be held to account before the Commission.
Finance Minister Marić said on Tuesday he would take legal steps to contest the Conflict of Interest Commission decision under which he violated the principle of holding public office in the Agrokor case.
The leaders of the parliamentary opposition parties GLAS, HSS, IDS and HSS on Tuesday held a news conference at which they said that Marić “must go” following Monday’s decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission.
Commenting on the Commission’s decision, the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), Krešo Beljak, also noted that: “The name of this body is the Conflict of Interest Commission and there was no mention of conflict of interest in its decision. … If Marić and Dalić were in a conflict of interest, the Commission should have said so, because that would have political consequences such as resignation and the involvement of the State Attorney’s Office in this whole affair. The problem is that state institutions are not independent and that’s why we have such a lukewarm decision.”
The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Davor Bernardić, said that “this government is a conflict of interest.”
For more on the conflict of interest issues in Croatia, click here.