Croatia Vice-PM Found in Conflict of Interest

A parliamentary comission has found that Vice Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko was in conflict of interest over relations with a lobbyist for the Hungarian energy company MOL.

Tomislav Karamarko 640. Photo BETAPHOTO HINA Damir SENCAR DS

Tomislav Karamarko. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Damir SENCAR/DS

The Croatian parliament’s Commission for Conflicts of Interest on Wednesday ruled that Vice Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko was in conflict of interest regarding relations with Josip Petrovic, a lobbyist for the Hungarian energy company, MOL.

The case that has started a long-lasting political crisis in Croatia was first revealed when a weekly newspaper, Nacional, in May said it had proof that Drimija, a company owned by Karamarko’s wife, Ana Saric Karamarko, had received over 60,000 euros to counsel Petrovic’s company, Peritus savjetovanje.

Since MOL, owner of some 49 per cent of Croatia’s energy company INA, is in an international arbitration process over the management rights to INA, and since Karamarko proposed that Croatia pulls out from the process, the case gained wide public attention. Karamarko himself decided to file the case to the Commission.

Karamarko already admitted, before Nacional’s report, that he had personal ties with Petrovic. “By presenting personal views and proposals for the withdrawal of the Republic of Croatia from arbitration with MOL… [Karamarko] was in a conflict of interest, according to article 2, paragraph 2 [of the law on preventing conflicts of interest],” Dalija Oreskovic, head of the commission, said on Wednesday.

The commission also stated that Karamarko broke article 5 of the law, which prescribes the principle that state officials need to respect in their work. “In order to prevent it [a conflict of interest], he must exclude himself from the decision on the arbitration proceedings and other matters relating to INA. Failure to declare the relationship between Drimija and Peritus at the time of arbitration, and by representing a position on the withdrawal from the arbitration – [Karamarko] did not act in accordance with the principle of credibility,” Oreskovic concluded.

Karamarko earlier vowed to find new ways to establish the truth and get justice if the commission found a conflict of interest in his case. The decision came after it was confirmed on Tuesday that Karamarko would resign from his post on Wednesdays.

When Nacional first published its report, the opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP, in May, filed a demand for a motion of no-confidence in Karamarko in parliament.

Since Karamarko reported his case to parliament’s Commission for Conflicts of Interest himself, the commission will pass a decision on the case later during the day. Although Karamarko has filed his resignation – as requested by Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and by second Vice Prime Minister, Bozo Petrov – his party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, said it will continue pressing for a no-confidence motion in Oreskovic. The HDZ issued the demand last week.

If Oreskovic is removed from the post, the government will fall and the SDP and other opposition parties will vote to dissolve parliament, and early elections will be scheduled within 60 days. Petrov’s own MOST party has stated that it will support new elections.

Balkan Insight

15 June 2016