Radimir Cacic. Photo Reuters
Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic has resigned
after a Hungarian court sentenced him to 22 months in prison
for causing a fatal car crash in Hungary in 2010.
Cacic was also economy minister and Prime Minister Zoran
Milanovic's closest ally in the centre-left coalition cabinet
which has tried to consolidate public finances and kickstart
the economy before joining the European Union next July.
"Aware of my responsibilities to the state, the government
and Croatian citizens, I am resigning from the government,"
Cacic told a news conference after returning from an
investment trip in Qatar.
Cacic was driving on Hungary's main motorway in 2010 when he
collided with a car in front of him. The impact injured two
passengers, who later died in hospital.
He was given a suspended sentence in a previous ruling in
June. Wednesday's ruling overturned that sentence.
Attila Vadocz, a court spokesman in the Hungarian town of
Kaposvar, said the sentence was not open to appeal, adding
Cacic could be released on parole after spending half of the
22 months in prison.
"He will be sorely missed in the government," Milanovic told
the news conference, adding his successor will "probably be
decided by the end of this week".
Milanovic's Social Democrats are in coalition with Cacic's
Croatian People's Party, its junior partner.
"It might cause some problems because of his replacement, how
long it might take, the balance of power," said a Western
financial official, but added: "He was a strong man but
investment is not a one-person game, so it is not necessarily
a huge blow to investment policies."
Cacic had been tasked with kick-starting a major public
sector investment programme in energy and infrastructure
which the year-old government hopes will help economic
recovery after four years without growth.
"This is all the more sensitive because he was in charge of
the segment necessary for economic growth. I am somewhat
worried about the government's future capacity," said
Zagreb-based political analyst Davor Gjenero.
It was not immediately clear when Cacic will start his prison
term but Vadocz said those convicted must generally start
their sentences within one or two months of the ruling.
Cacic had acknowledged guilt but said he was briefly
disoriented by fog on the road. He said the other car was
driving too slowly and the passengers had not fastened their