Croatia's parliament approves new economy minister

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s parliament on Friday confirmed Darko Horvat as the new economy minister after his predecessor quit amid criticism of her handling of the crisis at food giant Agrokor, the country’s biggest private firm.

Horvat was entrepreneurship minister in a former government led by the conservative HDZ party which fell apart in 2016.

In total 77 out of 151 deputies, voted for Horvat to take over the economy ministry. Parliament also confirmed Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolusic to take over as deputy prime minister.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has said that Horvat has the “necessary experience” to be able to implement the economic reforms the country needed.

The opposition criticized the appointments, saying the HDZ-led ruling coalition of conservatives and liberals was making only cosmetic changes with little prospect of reform. Some parties called for new elections over the government’s handling of the crisis in debt-laden Agrokor.

Former economy minister and deputy prime minister Martina Dalic stepped down on May 14 under pressure from opposition groups who accused her of failing to prevent conflicts of interest during the restructuring of food producer and retailer Agrokor, the Balkans’ biggest employer.

Dalic denied any wrongdoing but said she did not want to be a burden on the government.

Weighed down by debt accrued during an ambitious expansion drive, Agrokor was put under state-run administration a year ago.

Creditors including banks, bondholders and suppliers, are working with the company’s crisis management team on a settlement deal which must be reached before July 10, a legal deadline for avoiding Agrokor’s bankruptcy.

Reporting by Igor Ilic