How will Croatia ensure continued work on the reforms?
The Platform of Croatian civil society organizations for protection and promotion of human rights welcome the conclusion of the European Commission that Croatia is expected to continue developing its track record in the field of the rule of law, notably in the fight against corruption. While waiting for the Government's response as to how this track record will be ensured, Platform 112 reminds of its proposal of ensuring parliamentary oversight over reforms stemming out of the negotiations, by means of an effective non-partisan mechanism situated in the Croatian Parliament.
Based on good practice of specialized parliamentary bodies set up during the negotiations, i.e. National Committee and National Anti-Corruption we propose that a new parliamentary body be established. The National Council for the Rule of Law and Protection of Public Interest would include the civil society and expert public representatives, in order to prevent partisan overruling, and it would cooperate with the EU institutions as well, which would include representatives of academia and civil society, to disable partisan outvoting.
Although already in October 2012 this proposal was met with the support from Government Vice-President Neven Mimica who highlighted the important role of Parliament in establishing “an institutional system of overseeing the process and sustainability of reforms”, Platform 112 is concerned by the fact that three months prior to Croatia’s entry into the EU the coordination of EU affairs has not been set-up between Government and Parliament, let alone oversight over reforms and obligations related to the EU accession. Likewise, we expect that the Croatian public be presented with the Economic Programme prior and not upon its submission to the EU, which is due next month, in the scope of Croatia’s participation in the European Semester.
For all those skilled at deciphering the diplomatic language, the final monitoring report of the EC clearly points at upcoming tasks of vital importance for credibility of reforms and successful functioning of Croatia as member of the EU. We highlight the EC’s invitation to the Croatian authorities to continue the reform of the judiciary, strengthen the mechanisms for prevention of corruption and effective management of conflict of interest, especially in public enterprises and at the local government level, and to ensure protection of whistle-blowers. It is expected that the amendments of the Free Legal Aid Act facilitate access to justice and foster the role of civil society organizations providing legal aid.
Further efforts in processing war crimes are emphasized, including the crimes committed in action Storm, while after the Supreme Court’s judgement related to the compensation of war victims in Varivode, the EC states that the problem of compensation of civilian war victims should be systematically tackled. Highlights are put on the resolving of unsolicited cases of investment in returnee property, as well as on the slow pace of housing care vital for sustainable return of refugees. It is clear from the quoted numbers that Croatia has not met its legal obligations of proportionate employment of national minorities in the public sector. Regarding Croatia’s functioning as an EU member state, we point to the EC’s call for change of the salary and evaluation system in public administration and expressed concerns about insufficient preparedness for timely development and responsible management of projects through structural and cohesion funds of the EU.