Conflict of Interest Commission Euthanised, says Opposition

By 1 December 2021

ZAGREB, 30 November, 2021 - Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised a bill on the Conflict of Interest Commission, claiming it will euthanise the body, while the ruling HDZ party rejected the claims, with Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica saying the commission will remain independent.

The Commission will remain an independent and anti-corruption body with new mechanisms and extended scope of activities, Minister Ivan Malenica said in the Sabor.

The Opposition, however, thinks differently, with MP Nikola Grmoja (Bridge) saying that the bill was full of "legislative diluter", its sole purpose being to get rid of the commission . That is no surprise considering that the majority of independent institutions are under the control of Andrej Plenković, said Grmoja.

Grmoja noted that the bill was being discussed amid a scandal involving the State Attorney's Office (DORH), "which proves the government is connected by an umbilical cord with DORH which has turned a blind eye to protect Plenković's friend Gabi," a reference to former regional development minister Gabrijela Žalac.

SDP: Commission will be reduced to ordinary bureaucratic body 

The Conflict of Interest Commission was one of the most successful independent bodies and the HDZ now wants to euthanise it and reduce it to the level of an ordinary bureaucratic body that will deal with declarations of assets, said Peđa Grbin (SDP).

Sandra Benčić (Green-Left Bloc) underscored that the bill eliminates the possibility of preventing conflict of interest and leaves unresolved the issue of political corruption, citing in that context the recent ruling against the HDZ.

Kruno Katičić (HDZ) described the Opposition's remarks as across-the-board, incorrect criticism.

"I consider claims that this is an attempt to euthanise the Commission and prevent it to apply the provision on the breach of general principles (of conduct for office-holders) as incorrect, Katičić said, adding that the bill would make it possible to "apply the principles in line with the legal force of the legal principle contained in any legal act," said Katičić.

Minister Malenica underscored that the bill aligns rules on conflict of interest with international standards and recommendations by GRECO and the European Commission and that it significantly expands the circle of office-holders obliged to submit declarations of assets and that the 'cooling-off' period is being extended from 12 to 18 months after leaving office.

Declarations will also have to be submitted once a year by 30 January for the current year and will contain detailed activities conducted two years prior to taking up office.

Procedures should be faster and the Commission will be able to penalise officials who do not submit the requested information, he said.