Parliamentary Vote on Census Bill Postponed until Next Friday

By 21 February 2020

ZAGREB, February 21, 2020 - The Croatian parliament has postponed until next Friday a vote on 20-odd items on its agenda, including a bill on the population census scheduled for the spring next year, which sparked a heated debate and led to three deputies of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leaving the chamber.

"My colleagues from the HDZ group have informed me that the group representing the ethnic minorities will hold additional consultations, so the vote will be next Friday," Speaker Gordan Jandroković said after a break which was preceded by a heated debate.

Things escalated during the debate on amendments to the census bill tabled by the ethnic minorities group. The proposed amendments were first rejected by a government representative and then by MPs, after which Vladimir Bilek, MP for the Czech and Slovak minorities, requested a recess so that the group could agree on how to vote on the bill.

Rejected was the amendment in which the minority MPs proposed that citizens be allowed to say that they have more than one mother tongue and the amendment concerning the appointment of census takers from among the ethnic minorities.

Zdravko Zrinušić, state secretary at the Ministry of Finance, said that everyone is free to declare their mother tongue and that the introduction of "two modalities" could lead to unreliable results and unclear answers, as a result of which data might not be comparable with previous census data.

Speaking of census takers, Zrinušić said that before every census the National Bureau of Statistics prepares instructions specifying the criteria for census takers and that it will be so this time too.

"During the selection process county election commissions will be required to take into account the representation of members of ethnic minorities among census takers in areas populated by ethnic minorities," he said.

Branko Bačić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that next year's census would be the fourth since 1991 and that the same rules had applied to all the previous censuses.

Parliament voted on four of 29 items planned and added 12 more items to the agenda, including a motion to relieve Dražen Jelenić of his duties as chief state attorney.

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