Voluntary Croatian Chamber of Commerce Membership Won’t Come to Pass

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, about a month or so ago, the Croatian Government left the domestic economy in doubt as to what model of Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) system reform to follow. It had otherwise changed the previously announced abolition of mandatory Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership for all companies to the retention of mandatory membership, but with the exception of small and micro enterprises needing to pay any such associated fees.

The first step has now been launched in the preparation of legal amendments that will solve this long-standing and frustrating issue, which is to put into public discussion the form of the previous assessment of the Law on the Croatian Chamber of Commerce that the Ministry of Economy released on Friday.

The aforementioned Ministry states that the goal of the future law is to introduce voluntary Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership, which would stimulate the modernisation of the chamber’s system and offer services that would attract new and motivate old members to stay within the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. The size of any given enterprise is not stated, and therefore it can be logically concluded that this freedom of choice could indeed apply to all companies.

However, confusion was caused by the continuation of the previous assessment of that same form, in which the focus was primarily placed on releasing the obligation to pay membership fees for small and micro enterprises, while medium and large ones would “remain in the payment regime”. Contrary to the set goal of introducing voluntary Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership, which entails the total abolition of compulsory membership, the continuation of the proposal communicates only the abolition of membership obligations for small and micro enterprises.

In the unofficial communication from the legal circles of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, one immediately hears the interpretation that this is probably an “awkwardly” formulated explanation, but also that the state could still abolish membership obligations for all businesses.

The Ministry of Economy clarified the dilemma – when asked about this issue, they replied that Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership would indeed remain mandatory, with the exception of micro and small enterprises, who would remain members but would not longer need to pay any fees. Such companies otherwise make up an astounding 97 percent of the chamber’s members. So, nothing can be gathered whatsoever regarding the announced introduction of voluntary membership only.

A system of categorisation for the payment of Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fees

At this stage of defining further reform, it isn’t clear what effect things will have on the future financing of the chamber and whether certain activities will be supported by the state budget.

The Ministry only envisages that Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fees will be paid according to a specific category, depending on the economic power of a given company, which will be determined by the criteria of its size, income and total assets, and it is stated that the HGK Assembly will determine the price list for the payment of such a fee.

In assessing the effects, the Ministry believes that only small and micro enterprises will see them, estimating that it will not have much of an effect because it is a release of a mere 42 kuna per month, which is “too small for such savings to have an effect.”

The public debate on the form of the preliminary impact assessment of the law on the Croatian Chamber of Commerce will go on until June the 21st, and will then by followed by the drafting of the related bill. This also indicates that the proposal will not be in the parliamentary procedure in mid-July, as was previously planned.

The introduction of voluntary Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership, which will actually be reduced down to the abolition of payment obligations for small businesses, according to the set schedule will follow within 30 days after the entry into force of the new Law on the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, which will have one year to reform.

A similar reform, although not really in focus at the moment, will follow for the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts.

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