The Croatian Parliament's Committee on Economic Affairs and Committee on Environment and Nature Protection on Thursday endorsed the nomination of Davor Filipovic as the new minister of economy and sustainable development with 14 votes in favour and six against.
During a hearing of nearly three hours, Filipovic said he would be working on improving all aspects of the work of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, with emphasis on a resilient, green and digital economy. He said that 2.8 billion kuna (€370 million) would be directed at a transition towards an energy- and resource-efficient economy, while nearly 2 billion kuna (€260 million) would go towards micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and enterprises with up to 3,000 workers.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said this government department had played an important role in dealing with the Agrokor crisis and the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing huge amounts of aid to the enterprise sector.
He said that Filipovic’s role would be important in providing further assistance to the enterprise sector to make the full use of the single market and funding from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and the EU Multiannual Financial Framework.
The prime minister said that the focus of the new minister would be on the green and digital transition and a phaseout of fossil fuels. “I expect the minister to work for industry, for micro, small and medium enterprises and craftspeople, to support exporters as the backbone of the economy and to deal with all issues in which we have already made great progress, such as waste separation and water management.”
Opposition MPs grilled Filipovic about his chairmanship of the supervisory board of the Hrvatske Sume forest management company, the financing of his campaign for the 2021 local election, his strategy in the event of suspension of Russian gas deliveries and the adoption of the euro.
He disagreed with the opposition’s claims that the situation at Hrvatske Sume had deteriorated. “Quite the contrary, the company took on a serious burden during the COVID crisis by extending the payment deadlines for all its partners and buyers from the wood-processing industry to 120 days.”
Filipovic denied that Krunoslav Jakupcic, chairman of the Hrvatske Sume management board, had financed his campaign in the Zagreb local election, recalling that Jakupcic had paid 5,000 kuna () into his campaign account, but that he immediately paid it back. “He did that without my knowledge. As soon as I saw it, it was paid back, because that was absolutely unnecessary.”
Asked by Sandra Bencic of the green-left Mozemo! platform about his strategy in the event of suspension of Russian gas deliveries, Filipovic emphasised the importance of the LNG terminal on Krk island and said that it can ensure a continued supply of natural gas. He added that at the initiative of the outgoing minister Tomislav Coric the Okoli underground gas storage facility would be filled to secure gas reserves for the country.
Stephen Bartulica of the right-wing DP party wanted to know if this was the right time to adopt the euro as legal tender in Croatia given that the necessary reforms had not been implemented, and Filipovic said he was in favour of euro adoption, although it would not resolve all of the country’s problems, stressing that Croatia would benefit a lot from it. He said he would do his best to ensure that the reforms falling within his remit were implemented.
Parliament will vote on the ministerial nominees on Friday.