European Commission Criticizes Croatia Over Corruption

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European Commission criticizes Croatia over corruption
European Commission criticizes Croatia over corruption

ZAGREB, Sept 30, 2020 – The European Commission criticizes Croatia over corruption and says that its fight against corruption is insufficient, however, the Croatian justice system has made progress on reducing backlogs.

The first annual report on the rule of law in the European Union’s member states, which the EC released on Wednesday, covers the following four pillars: Justice System, Anti-Corruption Framework, Media Pluralism, and Other Institutional Issues related to Checks and Balances.

The country chapter on Croatia includes serious objections to the Anti-Corruption Framework.

“Croatia has the legal and policy framework to promote integrity and prevent corruption in the public sector broadly in place. A network of authorities contribute to anti-corruption policymaking across all branches of government,” reads the report.

“However, shortcomings remain both in the legislation and practices to combat corruption. Important initiatives to strengthen ethics and integrity amongst top executive functions and Members of Parliament and to regulate lobbying remain unimplemented. Corruption remains of particular concern at the local level due to structural weaknesses in the integrity framework for local office-holders and the management of local State-owned companies.”

The report notes that on 18 September, the Croatian Justice and Public Administration Minister announced a new Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2021-2030.

Justice system: Progress in reducing backlogs 

The Croatian justice system is praised for having made progress in reducing backlogs and improving electronic communication in courts.

The system, however, “is still experiencing serious efficiency and quality challenges.”

“The State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Council, autonomous and independent bodies, are facing challenges to adequately fulfill their mandate due to a lack of sufficient resources as well as the fact that their role in selecting judges and state attorneys has been reduced.”

The centralized postal delivery of court documents is a positive example of saving resources in courts.

Media pluralism

Croatia’s legal and institutional framework guarantees media pluralism.

The regulator Agency for Electronic Media “functions transparently, but it is not entirely shielded from political influence in relation to the selection procedure of the members of its governing body.”

“The rules on transparency of media ownership ensure a solid system of ownership notification to the authorities and the public, but the identification of the beneficial owner can be problematic.

“Recent years witnessed a high number of lawsuits against journalists, threats of physical attack and online harassment, which may have an impact on the editorial policy of media companies and on the work of investigative journalists,” reads the Croatian country chapter.

System of checks and balances

The system of checks and balances is supported, among others, through online tools for consultation of the public and other stakeholders, and by a People’s Ombudsperson and an Information Commissioner competent for protecting the right to access public information.

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