Croatia-Vatican Agreements Will Not Be Amended

By 7 February 2019

ZAGREB, February 7, 2019 - Prime Minister and president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Andrej Plenković, said on Wednesday the government was against a revision of the Croatia-Vatican agreements, stressing that the treaties would not be amendment.

"As far as our government is concerned, there will be no amendments to the Vatican agreements," Plenković told the press after a meeting of the HDZ parliamentary group when asked to comment on a motion by the GLAS and HSU opposition parties that a conclusion should be adopted to commit the government to initiate a review of the Vatican agreements given that circumstances in Croatia had changed since the treaties were signed in 1996.

The opposition's claims that some countries which, just like Croatia are pre-dominantly Catholic, have different models of financing the Church, Plenković said: "Everyone chooses their own path."

The Croatian parliament on Wednesday discussed the proposal by the GLAS and HSU group that a conclusion should be adopted to commit the government to initiate a review of the Vatican agreements given that about 900 million kuna (121 million euro) was annually allocated from the state budget for the purposes of the Catholic Church in Croatia.

The opposition group noted that this amount was higher than the 2016 budgets of the ministries of foreign affairs and tourism combined. They demanded a review of all four agreements with the Holy See: on legal affairs, economic affairs, cooperation in education and culture, and spiritual guidance.

The five-member group of the Civic and Liberal Alliance (GLAS) and the Croatian Pensioners' Party (HSU) formally requested a parliamentary debate on the matter last April, and the issue was put up for debate today thanks to signatures of members of other opposition parties. Under the parliamentary rules of procedure, any item included on the agenda for more than 60 days should be discussed within eight days based on the signatures of at least 30 MPs.

"It is a great success for us that we have come to a plenary session and opened the possibility of discussing these four agreements," GLAS leader Anka Mrak Taritaš said, stressing that her party did not want to discuss the issue of religion and that this was not against churches or religious denominations. "A review requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, as well as the support of the other side, but we should discuss this," Mrak Taritaš said.

Under the agreement regulating cooperation in education and culture, and spiritual guidance, all public elementary and high schools as well as pre-schools have Catholic religious education and the education system must take into account the values of Christian ethics which is contrary to the Croatian Constitution and the fundamental idea that a pluralist, civic society cannot be submitted to demands and sanctions of a religious group, the GLAS and HSU groups said.

We believe that Catholic religious education belongs in the Church, Mrak Taritaš said.

Hungary is the only country that allocated more money to the Church than Croatia, she said adding that different countries have different models for Church financing – from Germany which has the so-called Church tax to the Netherlands where Church financing is on a voluntary basis.

More news on the Catholic Church in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.