A progress report from Bozo Petrov.
The interview with MOST leader Božo Petrov shows that, despite the approaching deadline when the Prime Minister-designate Tihomir Orešković must present the new government and its program to the Parliament, the issues of who will be ministers and what program the government will follow still need to be solved. Petrov did not want to disclose the names of potential ministers which he will propose to the Patriotic Coalition and Orešković, reports Jutarnji List on January 10, 2016.
How are the negotiations with the Patriotic Coalition progressing? Have you proposed the names of key ministers in the government?
We are going to make a list with two to three candidates in those ministries which should be our responsibility. These lists will then be discussed with the Patriotic Coalition and Orešković. We have not yet defined these names, but they must be experts. The most important thing is for the selected people to implement reforms.
Have you defined the departments which will be MOST’s responsibility?
I do not want to conduct negotiations through the media, since they will last for at least another week. We will insist on the six ministries which we have talked about with Croatia Is Growing coalition. These are the ministries of justice, interior affairs, administration, economy, environmental protection and agriculture.
There are rumours that all MPs from MOST, except you as the Deputy Prime Minister, will remain in Parliament. But now there are reports that Ivan Lovrinović and Juro Martinović are against it because they want to be ministers. What is happening?
There is a possibility that all our MPs will remain in Parliament. The final decision will be made at a joint party body next week. There are pros and cons for both solutions. If all MPs remain in Parliament, we will send a clear message that we are not in politics just in order for some of us to become ministers or high government officials. Reforms are what is important to us. On the other hand, MOST has gathered a number of experts who can lead ministries, carry out reforms and, most importantly, increase the efficiency of the public sector and public administration. In Croatia, there is an incredibly large number of professional and expert people who do not want to enter political parties. And we are a platform which does not want to opt for either SDP or HDZ, but we want to represent reforms and changes.
Why is there such a great interest in the Interior Ministry and secret services?
We have equal interest for all six ministries. The story about the Interior Ministry was not promoted by us, but by others. The reason is probably the general attitude that it should belong to HDZ, and from that followed many journalists’ questions whether we will insist on the Interior Ministry. If I was asked about any other ministry, I would reply in the same way. However, we do not run away from the fact that we want a brave and independent person at the head of the Interior Ministry because we believe that the fight against corruption and crime must continue.
What reforms would you implement in the Interior Ministry?
In all departments, we will make a list of five key points which will be included in the reform agreement. The signatories of the reform agreement will be MOST, the Patriotic Coalition and Mr. Orešković, and I expect that this will happen before the government is formed. As for the Interior Ministry, the key issues are de-politicization of personnel. Politics must have as little impact on the Interior Ministry as possible, so that the police might successfully do its job. We have reasons why we want to be responsible for the whole package which deals with the detection and sanctioning of crimes, namely the interior and justice ministries. We believe that there are some links in the chain which are not working properly. I can only speak from my personal experience. At the level of local government, I do not have any complaints against the police. They always respond to our complaints and take evidence. But, somewhere along the way, the process gets slowed down. I must emphasize that the problems in the process have been also spoken about by Attorney General Dinko Cvitan, who is performing his duties well.
And what about your case? Do you suspect or know that the police were eavesdropping or spying on you?
I have expressed my doubts much earlier. It is clear that everybody will deny the abuse of authority and that there would be no evidence. At the end, you look ridiculous because you are convincing others in what you believe is true. That is why I will not continue to talk about my case. I think that the Interior Ministry should be lead by honest and responsible people.
You have agreed in talks with the Patriotic Coalition to form an office or other body within the Government that would be in charge of homeland security. What should that office be doing?
At this moment, we have not agreed to anything. From the beginning, we are committed to streamlining and, if necessary, eliminating not only ministries, but also a variety of agencies, organizations and everything else which is not necessary. The Patriotic Coalition has just expressed its intention, and we have listened to them. But, it is not realistic to reorganize all the ministries within 15 days. We regard this as a very serious move which will not involve just the ministries, but also other bodies. No one has yet explained why they think such an office should exist. I have never talked about it with HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko or other representatives of the Patriotic Coalition. They just mentioned it once during a conversation in one sentence.
If you had not broken up the negotiations with the Croatia Is Growing coalition, MOST would now have far more influence in the new government than it will have with HDZ. You would be the prime minister, and MOST would have seven ministries. Have you already seen yourselves as the prime minister?
We have never seen ourselves in any political posts. I have never imagined myself as a prime minister, a deputy prime minister, or an MP. At the moment when the circumstances changed and when I was asked to take over as prime minister, it was not a pleasant situation. I think that the higher a position, the greater is the responsibility and burden. The decision was not easy, but I have decided to accept it. However, much more important to us was whether the other side was being honest, and that was the problem during the last 48 hours.
You would dare to be the prime minister? You are a young person, and the only political experience you have is being the Mayor of Metković.
That is true, and that is the reason why, when Mr. Orešković appeared, I expressed the view that he was a better candidate for the post then me. I have never had problem admitting that.
Are you angry that you are constantly being associated with the Church in the media?
I am angry that I constantly have to explain the same thing. I said that the Church and individuals in the Church do not have and will not have any influence. But, the question keeps being asked and I have to constantly repeat the same thing.
One of a few times when a TV camera caught you with emotional expression on your face was when you heard about the publication of Bishop Košić’s post on Facebook in which he insulted you because you were going to form a government with “communists”. How did you feel at the time?
I do not know what did my face look like, but I know what was happening inside me. I do not agree with the way individuals from the Church have expressed their opinions, it is not their right. The Church has the right to point out anomalies in the society, but individuals within the Church do not have the right to influence politicians and their decision-making in such a way. That is what I think about the Catholic Church, but also about any other religious community. That is why Bishop Košić’s post both disappointed me and made me angry. His post could only have produced the opposite effect.
From this, we could easily conclude that you are more closer to Pope Francis than to Croatian bishops?
I have not analyzed the policies of Pope Francis. But, I certainly support his message of openness, understanding and humility.
What are your plans with MOST? Will you expand the party and invite your MPs who are independent to get involved?
We have never been a regular political party with party infrastructure, nor will we become one. The reason is that our model eliminates the possibility of corruption. When you do not have party infrastructure, there are no political steps which one can climb. Clearly, it is much harder to implement certain things since you do not have an army behind you that will support you regardless of whether you are right or wrong. At the same time, it is more difficult for all those who see MOST as just a chance to take advantage of, since we are not looking for anyone to come to us just in order to be issued a membership card.