ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s prime minister sacked his health and education ministers on Wednesday but said the reshuffle would bring no ‘radical changes’ in policy, despite EU pressure for measures to kickstart the economy.
With 18 months of its four-year term left, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s center-left government has largely failed to deliver on promises of deep reforms and an economic U-turn. Croatia, which joined the European Union last year, is heading for a sixth straight year of recession in 2014.
The head of state, Ivo Josipovic, who faces a presidential election in early 2015, said the government “evidently has problems with achieving results”.
“The reshuffle could be a new impetus, new ideas,” he told reporters.
Health Minister Rajko Ostojic will be replaced by Sinisa Varga, currently the head of the state health insurance body HZZO. Vedran Mornar, former dean of the Faculty of Computer Science in Zagreb, will take the place of Education Minister Zeljko Jovanovic.
The Social Democrat-led government was beaten in last month’s European Parliament election by the conservative opposition HDZ, winning only 4 of the 11 seats, compared with 6 for the HDZ.
“These two ministries are very difficult. We cannot expect radical moves at this point of our term but the continuation of ongoing reforms,” Milanovic told a news conference.
Analysts said the cabinet changes were disappointing.
“The purpose was to show that Milanovic is still in control and working, trying to change something. But he did not touch the key things, the economy and EU funds,” said Zeljko Trkanjec, analyst and commentator for the Jutarnji List daily newspaper.
The latest reshuffle brings to eight the number of ministers who have left the cabinet, comprised of the Social Democrats and the liberal HNS party, since late 2011.
In May, Milanovic fired Finance Minister Slavko Linic, seen as a champion of reforms, for approving a property-for-tax deal with a private company that Milanovic said had harmed the budget. Linic was replaced by his deputy.
Reporting by Igor Ilic and Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by Ruth Pitchford