Report on Croatian Justice System from Council of Europe Highlights Improvements and Concerns

Lauren Simmonds

While significant improvements have indeed been made, Croatia still has a very long way to go in terms of the justice system.

The European Commission on Judiciary Effectiveness (CEPEJ) has published a report on the effectiveness and quality of justice in 45 countries, including Croatia, this type of report is otherwise published every two years.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 12th of October, 2018, this year, the aforementioned report consists of 338 pages, full of comparative data based on numerous criteria for 45 countries that have submitted their respective data, covering a geographical area of about 820 million inhabitants. Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Northern Ireland (as part of the United Kingdom) are the only members of 47 countries of the Council of Europe who haven’t sent in their data, with Morocco and Israel, as non-members, taking part for the very first time.

Due to the large number of countries involved and often complex individual national procedures which take place in each, and given the fact that most of the required statistical data became available only in the summer or autumn of 2017, the processed data refers back to 2016, Vecernji list writes.

In this report, CEPEJ highlights the progress and good results that the Republic of Croatia has made on a number of indicators, and in a number of important areas. Despite some of the big steps that have been taken by Croatia, and that do require praise, performance indicators are, on the whole, still rather unsatisfactory. Particularly worrying is the fact that in Croatia, and most know this all too well without needing to hear about or read statistics, the share of older cases in the total number of cases is large (32.8 percent), which has been the problem that all ministers so far have attempted to to solve, Dražen Bošnjaković put it on the list of his top priorities alongside the digitisation of the judiciary.

This information should be kept in mind, CEPEJ points out, when evaluating the positive indicators for Croatia. As far as the negative indicators are concerned, CEPEJ emphasises that the “alarming” average length of work/labour disputes is 808 days in Croatia, despite the fact that the proportion of resolved and received items did increase from 92 percent to 133 percent from 2014. With regard to the number of first-tier civic and commercial cases received, Croatia finds itself placed in a group of ten countries with more than 70 percent of non-contentious cases.

In 2010 in Croatia, 3.3 civil and commercial cases per 100,000 inhabitants were received, with 3.9 of them being settled. In twelve other countries, more were received. These countries included Romania, Belgium, and Russia. While in Norway, the ratio for received and settled cases is 0.4, Sweden 0.6, Denmark 0.7, Netherlands 0.9, Austria, 1, and Germany 1.6.

Only Slovakia and Finland have a better CR (clerance rate or ratio of solved and received cases) than Croatia’s 148 percent, and there are only five other countries where the CR is above 100 percent.

Despite this “significant progress”, only six countries have a poorer DT (time employed/available time) than Croatia (Monaco, Turkey, Malta, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Greece). The lowest is in Russia, with 42 days, the average is 233 days (2010 was 267 days), and the median is 192 days. As sharp as the increase in the CR indicator was (123 percent in 2014), CEPEJ argues that this was made possible because of the change in the methodology of the categorisation of various types of cases, and more engagement of judges, as well as changes in family law that have led to a reduction in the inflow of such cases to court.

Croatia’s CR has also ”recovered” in terms of second-tier civil and commercial cases with negative results (below 100 percent) to 116 percent, which is the case in eleven other countries, and CEPEJ points out that Italy, Romania, and Ukraine have made significant respective improvements in that field.

In terms of Croatia’s administrative courts, there have also been numerous significant improvements made, but there appears to be a long way to go before things start looking positive for a country in which the legal system is at best slow, and at worse, not trusted by the majority.


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