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Freedom House: Research on Political Rights and Civil Freedom in Croatia

30.04.2021.

Freedom House is a U.S.-based, nonprofit, non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocates for democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Freedom House was founded in October 1941, and Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt were its first honorary presidents.

Freedom House assesses people’s access to political rights and civil liberties in 210 countries and territories through its annual Freedom in the World report. So-called individual freedoms - from the right to vote to freedom of expression and equality before the law - can be influenced by both state or non-state actors.

You can find the annual report for all 210 countries at: https://freedomhouse.org/countries/freedom-world/scores

Results for Republic of Croatia: https://freedomhouse.org/country/croatia/freedom-world/2021

Croatia is a parliamentary republic with regularly organized free elections. Civil and political rights are generally respected, although corruption in the public sector is a serious problem. Roma and ethnic Serbs face discrimination, as does LGBT+ population. Concerns about the presence of far-right groups and figures advocating discriminatory values ​​in public life have increased in recent years.

The Republic of Croatia collected 85/100 points and was characterized as a free country.

Parts of the report that mention corruption

Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?

“A criminal code in effect since 2013 enforces stiffer penalties for various forms of corruption. While some progress has been made, official corruption—including nepotism, bribery, fraud, and patronage—remains a serious problem. Numerous high-level corruption cases, like the one involving the government’s mismanagement and collapse of Croatia’s largest employer, Agrokor, have been filed in recent years, but many are yet to see a verdict. The European Commission singled out corruption as a major issue facing the country and local NGOs have observed that the problem has actually worsened since the country joined the bloc in 2013.

In November 2020, former prime minister Ivo Sanader was sentenced to eight years in prison for taking money from public companies to create slush funds for the HDZ. The HDZ was fined and compelled to return millions of illegally obtained funds.”

 

Does the government operate with openness and transparency?

“In 2013, Croatia adopted the Law on the Right of Access to Information. The legislation created a proportionality and public-interest test designed to balance reasons for disclosing information and reasons for restricting it. It also established an independent information commissioner to monitor compliance. However, government bodies do not always release requested information in a timely manner.

Media reports in 2018 suggested that former economy minister Martina Dalić and a group of well-connected businesspeople and lawyers crafted a 2017 law allowing the government to take over management of the troubled agricultural company Agrokor. The entire drafting process took place outside of official proceedings and in private meetings. Facing conflict-of-interest allegations, Dalić resigned in May 2018.”

 

Is there an independent judiciary?

“While judicial independence is generally respected, there have been recent concerns about the influence of extreme right-wing groups on the judiciary. For example, in 2017, a court reversed a 1945 conviction of an academic who was complicit in atrocities committed by the fascist Ustaša regime. Critics allege the courts have been ruling in line with the views of right-wing NGOs and the HDZ, while the courts maintain that they are redressing partisan rulings of the Yugoslav communist era.”

 

Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?

“Property rights are generally well protected. However, corruption can inhibit normal business operations.”

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