The Croatian government sacked three out of four management staff at a state-owned highway company on Saturday (21 November) on suspicion of corruption, which the country is seeking to crack down on as part of its bid to join the EU, the agency HINA reported.
"The climate that has been created in and around [state-owned highway company HAC] made the functioning of this very important public company impossible and we have decided to make changes," Transport Minister Bozidar Kalmeta told national radio.
For the past few months, local media have been reporting on a series of corruption affairs linked to HAC, which is in charge of operation, construction and maintenance of 1,000 kilometres of Croatia's motorways.
Kalmeta voiced confidence that after the new appointments, the situation in the company would stabilise and it would start functioning normally.
But the motorway company is far from alone in being accused of corruption. In September, the government sacked the management of state electricity board HEP, after it had allegedly provided illegal benefits to some employees. Meanwhile, Economy Minister Damir Polancec resigned last month over his alleged links to a major local corruption affair.
Fighting corruption is a key requirement for Croatia to be able to wrap up European Union entry talks next year.
Presenting the country's annual progress report on 14 October 2009, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Croatia was approaching the finishing line after four years of intense accession negotiations. But he added: "Croatia needs to pursue and intensify its reform efforts, especially on the judiciary [and] the fight against corruption and organised crime, before the negotiations can be concluded."
Anti-corruption body holds first meeting
Yesterday (23 November), the Croatian government commission monitoring the implementation of anti-corruption measures held its first meeting, the Croatian press announced.
Its members reportedly agreed on measures to ensure further progress in combating corruption, "including a review of the action plan for corruption prevention, improving the legislative framework, and defining bodies for the management of confiscated property," the commission said in a statement.