The Croatian prime minister has told her cabinet ministers they must provide the food and drink for their Christmas party as part of an austerity drive by the cash-strapped government.

“The government is not going to give any gifts because we have cut all the funds for networking, and that’s good because we were spending citizens’ money,” said Jadranka Kosor, the prime minister who took over in July.

With her centre-right coalition struggling to cut next year’s budget, she has told government offices to scale back on seasonal receptions. But that did not mean killing the Christmas spirit, she said.

“We are going to be creative. For the lunch with our coalition partners, we’re going to organise it so that everyone brings something of his own – someone cake, someone sausage and someone else svartzi,” a snack of pork fat. Other cabinet members would bring the wine, she added.

Pjer Simunovic, state secretary at the defence ministry, described a sombre holiday mood at his office. “The cuts are deep. There are no receptions, no gifts, and absolutely minimal decorations,” he said. Afghanistan, where 300 Croatian soldiers serve with Nato, comes first, he added.

Critics dismissed the move as superficial. The state still shies away from cutting excess public sector employees, who drain far more from the budget, economists said.

The government forecasts a deficit of €1.2bn ($1.8bn, £1.1bn) next year, reduced from €1.4bn this year. Actual savings on holiday celebrations would be negligible, officials admitted.

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