(Photo: Zarko Basic/PIXSELL) (Photo: Zarko Basic/PIXSELL)

The weekly Nacional has published documents that show Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić signed a deal in 2018 that sent Croatian oil to MOL's refineries in Hungary instead of INA's refineries at home. The magazine published a memorandum of understanding between INA and pipeline operator JANAF outlining the transport deal, which was co-signed by Ćorić. Defending the move, Ćorić said the decision to allow MOL to ship oil out of Croatia for refining in Hungary was more profitable for the company in the long-term, which benefited Croatia as well. Ćorić said he's willing to take full responsibility for co-signing the document.

“As far as protecting Croatian interests in the context of bringing the contents of that memorandum to fruition, two Croatian companies, INA and JANAF, can vouch for that with their business results," Ćorić said.

Croatia and Hungary's MOL have been involved in a legal dispute over INA for years. MOL owns 49% of the Croatian refiner but has had management rights for the past decade. The Croatian state owns 45% of the company. The battle was further fueled by MOL's decision to shutter INA's refinery in Sisak and consider doing the same with and another one in Rijeka. Prime Minister Plenković's government had promised to buy back MOL's stake in INA but the plan has largely faded from view in the last two years. Now, the Prime Minister says the government will assess INA's value in June, as part of the buy-back plan.

"INA is extremely important for our energy independence and our economy. What's most important is that the consultants, Mazars, will have the first preliminary assessment around June 10. After that, we'll make decisions accordingly."

HDZ Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković defended the government, saying it protected Croatian interests as best it could.

SDP leader Davor Bernardić said the government had betrayed Croatian oil refiners while promising to buy back MOL's stake in INA over the same issue for the past four years.

“Croatian politicians are not protecting Croatian interests. They have not been looking out for the country’s energy interests, which is now evident,” said Nikola Grmoja of Most.

“The Memorandum of Understanding between INA and JANAF is a non-binding document and was signed on August 21, 2018 with the aim of creating preconditions for making business decisions that ensure greater profitability and sustainability of INA's refinery business, and thus the entire company," INA said in a statement.