Rule of Law in Croatia

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

yellow
The level of perceived judicial independence, both among companies and among the general public, remains very low.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Council are facing challenges following amendments that reduced their role in selecting judges and state attorneys.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The verification of asset declarations of judges and state attorneys remains a challenge for the State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Council.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Quality

yellow
Despite continued progress, the use of electronic communication and electronic case management systems in courts remains limited.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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In order to unburden the courts’ administrative staff and speed up the delivery of judicial decisions, in 2019, a centralised postal delivery was introduced.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The State Judicial Council and State Attorney’s Council, as well as the State Attorney’s Office, are experiencing challenges in terms of human resources.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The consecutive judicial map reforms, the latest in 2019, have contributed to evening out the workload among judges and to improving efficiency.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Publication of first and second instance court judgments remains very limited.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Efficiency

yellow
Despite progress in resolving the oldest cases, the backlogs and length of proceedings in civil and commercial courts remain among the most considerable in the EU.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Amendments to the criminal procedure aim to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system, where considerable backlogs and lengthy proceedings remain a challenge.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

yellow
In the 2019 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Croatia has a score of 47/100 and ranks 18th among EU Member States and 63rd globally.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The legal framework is largely in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Anti-Corruption Strategy 2015-2020 focuses primarily on the prevention of corruption.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Prevention

yellow
Whilst civil servants abide by a code of conduct, there is no such code in place for Members of Parliament and top executive functions.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Legislation on the prevention of conflicts of interest is in place, although it needs attention as regards its implementation and a clear authority of its supervisory body.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Although rules are in place for asset declarations and ‘revolving doors’, these have shortcomings.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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There are no detailed rules to regulate contacts of individuals in top executive functions with lobbyists.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Whistle-blower protection was introduced by the July 2019 Law on the Protection of Reporters of Irregularities Act.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Repressive measures

yellow
A network of authorities is established for anti-corruption policy-making across all branches of government.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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While measures exist to prevent local-level corruption, the corresponding supervisory and enforcement mechanisms remain weak.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Despite negative perceptions, specialised offices have established a consistent track record for prosecuting corruption.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
The media regulator is by law an independent entity.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

green
To ensure transparency of media ownership, media service providers need to report annually to the Agency for Electronic Media ownership details and ownership changes.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The allocation of state advertising is regulated for state administration and entities predominantly owned by the state.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Journalists' Protection

yellow
Access to information is guaranteed by law, but the process appears to be slow.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The framework for journalists’ protection provides safety guarantees through several legislative acts.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Journalists face numerous threats online, including smear campaigns, hate speech, death threats and threats of physical attacks.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

yellow
Despite the existence of dedicated mechanisms, citizen participation remains relatively weak.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The regulatory policy has been strengthened, but challenges remain.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The share of laws adopted in the Parliament under the emergency procedure has increased since 2016.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Civil Society

green
The Government aims to support the civil society through the upcoming National Plan for Creating and Enabling Environment for the Civil Society Development 2020-2026.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Independent Authorities

green
The People’s Ombudsperson is responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and anti-discrimination standards.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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