Ruling Party Denies It Will Dismiss Conflict of Interest Commission

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ZAGREB, December 6, 2018 – Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) whip Branko Bačić told reporters on Wednesday that he did not know where Conflict of Interest Commission chair Nataša Novaković had got the information that “there is a realistic possibility that the Commission will be replaced”, adding that changes to the relevant legislation did not envisage the dissolution of the Commission.

“I don’t know where the Commission chair got that information. This is the first time I hear about this, there have been no discussions on the matter whatsoever. It is a fact that the Public Administration Ministry is working on changes to the Act on the Prevention of Conflict of Interest, but I have not heard that they envisage dissolving the Commission,” Bačić said in a comment on Novaković’s statement in an interview with Nova TV on Tuesday.

Bačić disagreed with Novaković’s claim that “the Commission has been exposed to pressure, which is not the case with other bodies.”

“We all have the right to comment on decisions of state bodies. The opposition and the ruling majority often comment on the work of the human rights ombudswoman, the children’s ombudswoman, as well as on decisions of judicial bodies and the prosecutorial authorities. There is no reason to criticise anyone for commenting on individual decisions. The more so as some decisions made by this Commission are subject to verification by the Administrative Court or the Constitutional Court. We comment on the work of state officials so why should not we be allowed to comment on the Commission’s decisions? That seems pretty normal in a democracy,” said Bačić.

Asked about the difference between the cases of former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko and incumbent Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, on which the Conflict of Interest Commission ruled, and why Karamarko had to leave his post over conflict of interest while Marić does not have to, Bačić said that he had found “data showing that 13 ministers in the SDP-led Zoran Milanović government were either involved in a classic conflict of interest or violated the principle of holding a public office or in some other way violated the Act on the Prevention of Conflict of Interest, and none of them resigned over that.”

“The HDZ party group is confident that Minister Marić did not do anything to violate the Act on the Prevention of Conflict of Interest because he did not acquire any gain for himself that would prevent him from continuing to hold his office,” Bačić said, refusing to comment on Karamarko’s case and advising reporters to ask Karamarko for comment.

Bačić’s coalition partner Milorad Batinić, the whip of the Croatian People’s Party (HNS), said that as far as his party was concerned, Novaković and the Conflict of Interest Commission had no reason whatsoever to fear possible replacement over decisions that did not suit the ruling majority, adding that he did not know why the HNS would mind the Commission’s decisions.

He noted that his party had certain objections to the bill on the prevention of conflict of interest that was being worked on and that the bill should be improved in order to not only make it possible to determine conflict of interest situations but also to prevent conflict of interest.

For more on the conflict of interest issues in Croatia, click here.


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