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Croatia PM: INA-MOL dispute could become “arena”

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović warned in a television interview this week that differences between his country and Hungarian interests over Croatia-based oil-and-gas company INA threaten to become an “arena.”

“This is a war in which I don't want to fight,” said Milanović on national TV. “I want honest rules of play and the kind of company that is capable, under the given circumstances, of progress, employment, investment development and reinvesting profits.”

The PM stated that he did not take either side in the dispute over INA’s management, but instead represented the stakeholders’ interests.

The interview followed an announcement on Monday from Croatia’s National Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak which stated that a proposal for a new round of negotiations would be sent to MOL officials next week. Vrdoljak further opined that said next round would take place by mid-May.

Vrdoljak left his meet with media with a parting shot which may have induced Milanović’s remarks, stating that MOL representatives had “informed the public [about the negotiations with Croatian government officials] incorrectly on several occasions.”

MOL holds a little less than 50% of INA’s shares, and the state of Croatia owns about 45%; disputes regarding obligations outlined in the shareholders’ agreement have been sources of tension between the two parties, and MOL recently announced its board having mandated preparations for the possible sale of its INA stake.

Additionally, MOL chairman/CEO Zsolt Hernádi is still wanted for questioning by Croatian authorities for his part in the bribery of former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader.