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Croatian parliament approves new government

Croatia's parliament has backed the new country's new conservative government. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the EU's newest member must focus on the economy and move on from political stalemate.

MPs voted 91 to 45 on Wednesday, with three abstaining, in favour of Plenkovic's cabinet of 20 ministers.

The new government was formed by the  Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its junior centre-right reformist partner Most ("Bridge") after weeks of negotiations following a snap September 11 election, which followed the collapse of the previous HDZ-Most government in June, after just five months in power. The government has 91 of the 151 MPs.

The HDZ enabled the renewal of the same coalition when it removed its chief Tomislav Karamarko, plagued by corruption scandals.

"We will be the government that knows how to bring about changes," Plenkovic told the parliamentary deputies while presenting his cabinet.

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Ziplining in Croatia

It's the economy stupid

The new government's key task, Plenkovic said, will be to focus on one of the EU's weakest economies.

"We will ease conditions for doing business and implement tax reform to make the taxation system simpler and ease burdens for citizens and businesses," Plenkovic said.

In the past many investors have largely shunned Croatia due to red tape, high taxes, frequently changing regulations and a slow judiciary.

Plenkovic said that the 2017 budget, which is expected in November, will clearly reflect efforts to reduce the fiscal gap and public debt which now stands at around 85 percent of GDP. The government wants to reduce the gap to two percent in 2017 from 2.5 percent expected this year.

The country is seen unlikely to surpass the 2.5 percent growth figure in the coming years.

Plenkovic, a 46-year-old former European Parliament member, announced further education and judicial reforms and urged support, insisting that national goals should come before political differences.

jbh/jr (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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