Croatia’s parliament backed late Thursday a new conservative government of incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, as he faces steering the country through the coronavirus pandemic and looming economic crisis.
The new cabinet was approved in the 151-assembly by 66 MPs of Plenkovic’s Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) after its victory in an election earlier this month.
The prime minister also secured the backing of eight MPs occupying automatic seats for ethnic minorities, as well as two deputies from smaller parties.
“Croatia is facing a particularly challenging moment in its history,” Plenkovic told the lawmakers presenting his 18-member cabinet.
The Adriatic country, which went to the polls on July 5, is expecting the worst economic crisis since independence in 1991, as the pandemic has badly hit its key tourism industry.
Plenkovic, 50, warned that the projected “economic decline of some 10 percent this year speaks enough about the seriousness of the moment we are in”.
However, a strong six-percent recovery is expected next year, he said.
Croatia has seen a surge of coronavirus infections of up to 140 a day for the past month.
The European Union member of 4.2 million has so far reported some 125 deaths and nearly 5,000 infections.
Zagreb expects to get 22 billion euros ($25 billion)in EU grants and loans from the bloc’s seven-year budget and coronavirus rescue fund.
On Thursday, the prime minister underlined that his cabinet’s priority would be to “use those funds as a strong additional lever for economic recovery”.
Pledging a battle to save and create jobs, Plenkovic said the government planned to cut income and profit taxes and raise the minimum wage to 570 euros ($660).
Plenkovic also named a representative of the ethnic Serb minority as a deputy prime minister, seen as another move in positioning HDZ in the political centre and moving away from extremism.
“We want to create an inclusive and tolerant society,” Plenkovic, a former MEP with strong backing from Brussels, said.
A moderate within his own party, Plenkovic took over the previous government’s helm in 2016.