Croatia’s PM-designate Plenkovic names cabinet

Croatia’s PM-designate Plenkovic names cabinet
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade October 19, 2016

Croatia’s Prime Minister designate Andrej Plenkovic has named his cabinet, which comprises several ministers from the outgoing government under Tihomir Oreskovic, including market-friendly Finance Minister Zdravko Maric. The Croatian parliament is due to vote on the cabinet and Plenkovic’s government programme on October 19. 

Plenkovic’s Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) struck a new coalition deal shortly after Croatia’s September 11 snap election. The previous government, also a HDZ-Most tie-up, collapsed in June. 

In the new cabinet, Plenkovic plans to replace caretaker Foreign Minister Miro Kovac with Davor Ivo Stier, a Buenos Aires-born Croat who returned to Croatia in 1996, serving as foreign policy adviser to former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader before taking a seat in the European Parliament. 

Plenkovic has also replaced Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic with Nina Obuljen. Historian Hasanbegovic had been a controversial appointment from the start due to his apparent sympathy for the WW2 pro-Nazi Ustashe regime. He also angered journalists by cutting funding for the media. 

Among the other changes, Tourism Minister Anton Kliman was replaced with Gari Capelli while EU Funds Minister Tomislav Tolusic was moved to the agriculture ministry, according to information published on the Croatian parliament’s website.

Minister of Transport Oleg Butkovic, Minister of Construction Lovro Kuscevic and Minister of War Veterans Tomo Medved kept their posts while Milan Kujindzic was appointed as health minister. Pavo Barisic was nominated as minister of education while Tomislav Coric was appointed as minister of labour and Goran Maric as minister without portfolio.

Three ministers from the HDZ’s junior partner Most kept their posts - Environmental Protection Minister Slaven Dobrovic, Justice Minister Ante Sprlje and Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic. Most leader Bozo Petrov has already been voted in as parliament speaker, though Most and the HDZ will share the post over the next four years. 

Ivan Kovacic, a newcomer to the cabinet, will represent Most in the cabinet as deputy prime minister and public administration minister. The other three deputy prime ministers are HDZ members: Stier, Defence Minister Damir Krstevic and Economy Minister Martina Dalic.

In addition to Dalic and Obuljen, two other women will join the new cabinet, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Zalac and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganic.

The Croatian parliament previously decided at its first session on October 14 to decrease the number of ministries to 19 from the previous 20. The ministry of entrepreneurship has been merged under the ministry of economy. The ministry of environmental protection and nature has been transformed to the ministry of environmental protection and energy, taking over the control of the energy portfolio, including state-owned energy company INA, and water management. 

Since a majority of MPs back the new coalition, Plenkovic is expected to take over the post from caretaker Prime Minister Oreskovic late on October 19 and to represent Croatia at a European Council meeting in Brussels on October 20. Technocrat Oreskovic previously announced that he will return to his business career.

HDZ, which led the September 11 polls with 61 seats, and Most, which has 13 seats in the 151-seat parliament, will also have the backing of national minority MPs, the Croatian Peasant Party and Milan Bandic Party. 

The Plenkovic government aims to implement a comprehensive tax reform and to cut the budget deficit further with the ultimate aim of returning Croatia’s credit rating to investment level during its first year in office, according to the government programme. The new Croatian government also plans to take specific measures to fuel investments, especially in agriculture, tourism and industry, during the first year, as well to increase the effectiveness of state institutions by simplifying rules and improving the administration and justice system, Total Croatia News reported. The Plenkovic government also plans an education reform in the first year.

The coalition deal between HDZ and Most reduces near-term uncertainty and suggests that attempts to reform the economy and reduce debt will continue, Fitch said on October 11. However, recent history suggests political risks to policy implementation will persist, the rating agency warned.