Croatian government survives no-confidence vote

Croatian government survives no-confidence vote
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic defends his government's record to MPs.
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest November 13, 2017

The Croatian government has survived a no-confidence vote launched by the opposition over the way it handled the crisis after indebted food and retail giant Agrokor almost collapsed earlier this year.

Agrokor, Croatia’s largest company, is undergoing restructuring led by the emergency management appointed by the government. The situation at Agrokor is the hottest political issue in Croatia, given its status as one of the largest employers in the SEE region, but the steps taken by the government have drawn criticism from both the opposition and the group’s founder Ivica Todoric. 

Specifically, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which filed the no-confidence motion against the government at the beginning of this month, claimed that a new loan agreement lacked transparency and favoured certain creditors.

SDP president Davor Bernardic said after submitting the motion that his party has the responsibility to "untangle the corruption octopus, the conspiracy and mire in which the Plenkovic cabinet found itself because of the Agrokor case," according to Hina news agency.

However, the no-confidence motion received just 59 votes in favour to 78 against in a vote on November 11, showing the ruling coalition still has a frail majority in parliament. The opposition needed 76 votes to out the government. 

The ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) struck a coalition agreement with Croatian People’s Party HNS in June, after the coalition with their junior partner the Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) ended in April.

After the vote, Bernardic said the government “had no answers” to the questions raised by the opposition about Agrokor and accused Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic of “caring only for the division of the spoils”, a party statement said. The SDP also criticised other aspects of the HDZ-led government’s performance such as the rising debts in the healthcare sector. 

Meanwhile, the HDZ welcomed the result. Speaking after the vote, Plenkovic said the Croatian people “realise that the government is responsibly doing their job”. 

“Croatia-Greece 4:1. Government-opposition 4:0,” the prime minister said, referring to the Croatian national football team’s victory in their World Cup qualifying play-off on November 9. 

“The parliamentary majority is stable … The last opposition initiative, as in the past, was done in a narrow-minded manner, without taking into account wider interests,” Plenkovic added. 

The vote followed another piece of good news for the government when a a UK court recognised emergency legislation on Agrokor, known as Lex Agrokor.  The ruling should put an end to the arbitration launched by Russia’s Sberbank, Agrokor’s biggest creditor, in London.

Agrokor accepted creditor claims worth HRK41.2bn (€5.4bn) but disputed other claims worth a total of HRK16.5bn on November 9. 

Meanwhile, Todoric was arrested in London on November 7 and is now awaiting extradition. In October, Croatia issued a European arrest warrant for Todoric, amid an ongoing investigation related to financial irregularities uncovered at the group after it entered restructuring.