ZAGREB, April 25, 2020 – Croatian lawmakers on Friday discussed and mostly endorsed a report on the work of the national council monitoring the implementation of the anti-corruption strategy from 15 September 2018 to 15 July 2019, which shows that the country’s readiness to fight corruption declined slightly.
The Transparency International corruption perceptions index for 2018 shows a drop of one point and three places for Croatia in relation to 2017. According to the index, Croatia has 48 points, ranking 60th among 180 countries, which makes it one of the more corrupt countries.
Ante Babić of the ruling HDZ party said his party would support the report, stressing that corruption is a global problem. The national council should monitor the implementation of the action plan and insist on institutional solutions and legislation. Corruption should be identified and punished to send a message that it is not worth the trouble, said Babić.
Social Democrat MP Saša Đujić said his party would support the report, recalling “the ruling majority’s assault” on the Conflict of Interest Commission in a case concerning a plane trip of a delegation of government and HDZ officials to Helsinki, the purpose of which, he said, was to shut up the commission.
Social Democrat MP Nenad Stazić warned about the problem of political corruption in the form of mutual preferential treatment of members of the same party which, he said, harmed public interest because incompetent party personnel was appointed to important offices.
In that context he mentioned Inspector-General Andrija Mikulić, who, he said, was closing down businesses that were struggling to work in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic while failing to sanction those who sell protective masks and disinfectants at prices that were multiple times higher than before the epidemic, as well as Social Policy Minister Vesna Bedeković, who, he said, was utterly incompetent.
Stazić called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to replace Bedeković, just as he had replaced 14 other ministers, in order to protect people in nursing homes and he also called for replacing HDZ member Ivan Škaričić as the head of a nursing home in Split where the novel coronavirus recently broke out.
Social Democrat Gordan Maras said that the HDZ was helping Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić stay in power and would continue doing so as long as it could benefit from it.
GLAS MP Goran Beus Richembergh said that corruption was a sophisticated integrative factor in the country, functioning all the way up from the smallest communities to big cities.
Ivan Lovrinović of the Let’s Change Croatia party said that the report by the national council monitoring the implementation of the anti-corruption strategy only created the impression that something was being done to fight corruption.
Lovrinović believes that the party in power is using the fear of the coronavirus for political purposes.
Damjan Vučelić of the Živi Zid party said that both the HDZ and the SDP had turned Croatia into a kleptocracy and that the government and its satellites were steeped in corruption and crime.
He said that members of the national council were corrupt as well, which earned him a warning from Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner, who said that he should report corruption to the competent authorities if he was aware of it.
Council chair Željko Jovanović of the SDP, too, responded, warning Vučelić against making unsubstantiated claims.
Assessing that Croatia is a hotbed of corruption in Europe, Bridge MP Nikola Grmoja called PM Plenković’s government the most corrupt in the EU.
He warned that corruption indicators for Croatia were growing worse by the year even though the ruling majority “is trying to downplay it.”
Council chair Jovanović said that the government had supported the report and that GRECO, the Council of Europe anti-corruption body, had recommended additionally strengthening the Conflict of Interest Commission by giving it more powers to enable it to quash, in cases of violation of laws, office-holders’ decisions that are found to have been made for personal rather than public benefit.
Jovanović also called for adopting an ethical code for MPs.
The parliament will continue its work on April 29.
More corruption news can be found in the Politics section.