Croatian PM simulates anti-corruption while keeping corruption suspects in his government

Source: Dario GRZELJ/HINA

Gong warned GRECO and other EU anti-corruption actors via letter of the systematic undermining of the rule of law and the fight against corruption by the current government, which ignores and obstructs investigations and indictments against top officials. Namely, although there is a well-founded suspicion corruption, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković refuses to remove the officials in question. Instead of stepping away from the burden of his predecessor Sanader, Prime Minister Plenković continues to show tolerance for pervasive party corruption.

Read the full letter below:

As a Croatian watchdog organization, we would like to warn you that in Croatia we are witnessing a new level of systematic undermining of the rule of law, and faking the fight against corruption, this time by ignoring and obstructing corruption investigations and indictments against the highest political officials.

It is likely that Croatia is the only member of the European Union where two government members are under investigation by the state attorney’s office due to a well-founded suspicion of involvement in corruption, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has been publicly stating for weeks that he has no intention of removing them from their functions.

At the same time, the Government is simulating the fight against corruption, as the Ministry of Justice has announced that it will lift the immunity of members of the Government for all corruption offenses. However, a true commitment to fighting corruption would mean that there should be no place in the government for ministers accused by the State Attorney’s Office of abuse of office, rigging tenders for non-refundable funds to entrepreneurs, as well as jobs and falsifying civil service recruitment procedures. We would like to remind you that, because of these claims, the Minister of Construction Darko Horvat was arrested, and while he resigned after his arrest, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, who has also been charged along with him, is still upholding his duty. Furthermore, Minister of Labor and Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrović was indicted in a separate case.

Instead of ministers resigning from their government positions themselves, or being dismissed by Prime Minister Plenković himself, he instead keeps holding press conferences criticizing the State Attorney’s Office, reminding the Attorney General that she received the support of the ruling majority in the Parliament and questioning the timing and justification for arresting Minister Horvat. In the Aladrović case, which required the government’s consent to conduct an investigation, the Prime Minister, according to experts, hesitated for too long to grant that consent.

President Milanović followed his steps, publicly saying that the State Attorney’s Office should not arrest ministers, that investigations against ministers should not be conducted without the knowledge of the Prime Minister and urging him to bypass political differences and jointly oppose this issue.

If we accept that ministers should leave only when the police physically remove them from their positions, it is clear that we are moving away from the ideals of organized democracies, where it is unacceptable for ministers to remain in power while in the status of suspects and accused.

We would like to remind you that the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the ruling party in Croatia, after almost ten years of trial, has been convicted of corruption from the time of Ivo Sanader. Instead of stepping away from the burden of his predecessor, the Prime Minister continues to show tolerance for pervasive party corruption.

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