Monday, 16 May 2022

PM: Constitutional Court's Ruling is as Expected

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader, Andrej Plenković, said on Monday that the Constitutional Court's ruling on the Bridge party's referendum question was as expected.

Earlier today, the Constitutional Court ruled that the questions in the two referendum petitions launched by the opposition Bridge party - to abolish mandatory COVID passes and transfer the powers of the national COVID response team to Parliament - were not in line with the Constitution.

"We had no idea what the decision would be," said Plenković after a session of HDZ party's Presidency and National Council, dismissing claims that the Constitutional Court was "someone's puppet".

"To anyone who had read the request to assess the constitutionality, such a decision is not a surprise," added Plenković, pointing out that the Constitutional Court's decision was well-argued ed and reasoned.

He said that the entire thing was too politicized and that the initiative was led by anti-vaxxers.

As for the statement by President Zoran Milanović that the Constitutional Court should be abolished and that the decision was a coup d'etat, PM Plenković said that this was "yet another brilliant claim".

He also said that Milanović's statement in which he asked the Croatian State Attorney's Office (DORH) to "imprison" Defence Minister Mario Banožić was unacceptable and unheard-of He added that it was unimaginable that anyone could incite DORH against a minister.

Plenković on SDP initiative for new abortion bill

The prime minister also commented on the abortion bill, saying that the initiative of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was "a lightning-fast transformation of a personal tragedy and health situation into a political initiative".

He recalled that the issue of termination of pregnancy had not been on HDZ's agenda or coalition agreement and that it was back "on the table" following a decision by the Constitutional Court after 26 or 27 years.

"We have a coalition in which there is the HDZ, some other center-right parties, as well as liberal parties and ethnic minorities, and this is an issue on which it is extremely difficult, I would even say nearly impossible, to reach a consensus within our parliamentary majority," Plenković said, recalling that the Constitutional Court did not task the government but the parliament to adopt a new law.

Last week, members of the parliamentary majority could vote on this ideological question in line with their program and values, Plenković said, noting that the HDZ understood the message and that it was a signal of caution.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Milanović Sees Constitutional Court's Decision as Coup D'Etat

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Monday that the Constitutional Court's ruling on the Bridge party's two referendum questions was "trampling on the Constitution and an act of a coup d'etat!".

Earlier on Monday, the Constitutional Court concluded that the questions in the two referendum petitions launched by the opposition Bridge party - to abolish mandatory COVID passes and transfer the powers of the national COVID response team to Parliament - failed the test of constitutionality. 

"What these ten judges did today is a coup d'etat. That court needs to be abolished by a referendum so they can see what the will of the people means when 400,000 people consciously sign a petition. They dared check the mental state and sobriety of 400,000 Croatian citizens who clearly called for amendments to the Constitution," President Milanović said in the town Petrinja.

Milanović recalled that former President Ivo Josipović gathered constitutional experts in 2015 to recommend changes to the Constitution and that one of them was that the notion of epidemic should be entered into the Constitution.

The current president added that today that issue is no longer relevant because the epidemic has passed.

"The Constitutional Court does not have the right to question the constitutionality of the question to amend the Constitution if conditions stipulated by Articles 86 and 87, paragraph 3 are met regarding the number of signatures. That has been met! The Constitutional Court needs to be informed of that. Anyone who requests the opinion is violating the Constitution and that is the parliament belonging to the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) ," said Milanović.

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Monday, 16 May 2022

Const. Court President Calls On Everyone to Respect Court Decisions

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - Constitutional Court Chief Justice Miroslav Šeparović said on Monday that the court's decision on the Bridge party's referendum initiative related to COVID crisis management was not the defeat of that court, and called on everyone advocating the rule of law to respect court decisions.

"This is by no means the Constitutional Court's defeat but it is in line with what the Constitution envisages and that is for the Constitutional Court to decide if a referendum question is in line with the Constitution. I call on everyone who advocates the rule of law to respect the court's decisions. Referendum initiatives are legitimate and for signatures to be collected but the Constitution says that the Constitutional Court decides on constitutionality," underscored Šeparović.

Šeparović said that it was only the Bridge that was trying to exert pressure through the media on this judicial institution and neither the ruling parties nor the opposition tried to pressurize the court. The court president underscored that pressure can never bring any results.

"The court delivered its ruling within the prescribed deadline of 30 days," he added, in reference to the Bridge's accusations that the court failed to hand down the rulings within the timeframes.

"The stories about politicking are old and always come to the fore when someone is not satisfied with a court decision," he added.

Šeparović explained that the Bridge party did not tell citizens exactly what would happen if the referendum managed to amend the Constitution the way the party had requested.

"They probably went toward legitimate political objectives, but they went about it in the wrong way." 

"They claimed that if the Constitution were to be amended the way they wanted then the parliament would have to decide by a two-third majority but they also kept the word that it 'could.' As such, nothing would have changed with the proposed constitutional amendment which in itself is not contrary to the Constitution but is contrary to the rule of law because you cannot tell citizens to go to a referendum and amend the Constitution, but there is no point to do so because the Sabor will not have to decide by a two-thirds majority," said Šeparović.

Šeparović did not wish to speculate why the Bridge launched the referendum initiative and whether they had sought advice in that regard. "They probably had legitimate political objectives but went about it the wrong way," he said.

Šeparović on plans for new law on abortion

Asked whether the right to abortion should be in the Constitution, Šeparović said that the Constitutional Court never gives its opinion in advance or whether something be inscribed in the law or the Constitution as that is a matter for the law-making authorities.

"The Constitution Court assessed that the existing law (on the termination of pregnancy) is in line with the Constitution. As such, there is no legal ban on pregnancy termination and there is no referendum on that issue. Whether the creator of the Constitution wishes to change something is a matter for the legislature and the Constitutional Court will not enter into that. We have said that a new law needs to be adopted, for preventative education to be regulated and for pregnancy termination to be an exception. The Sabor has not respected that and that isn't just undermining the Constitutional Court's authority but also infringe the rule of law," said Šeparović.

"I expect the government to make a recommendation and for the Sabor to adopt a new law on pregnancy termination."

He added that he still expects the Sabor to adopt a new law as ordered by the Constitutional Court and claimed that that was sending a bad message to citizens.

''If the Sabor does not respect the court's decisions how can we expect citizens to. The Constitutional Court does not have the means to make the Sabor adopt a new law. The strongest weapon the court has is to abolish the existing law and determine a deadline when that law would no longer be in effect. In this case, we did not establish that the law was unconstitutional but we did order the Sabor to replace the outdated law which had several problems and for it to be amended and a new law to be passed," said he.

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Monday, 16 May 2022

Hina Notifies Parliament, HND of Pressure Exerted by Bridge MP On Its Reporter

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - Hina's director-general Branka Gabriela Vojvodić on Monday notified the national parliament and the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) of pressure exerted by Marija Selak Raspudić, a parliamentary deputy of the Bridge party, on a Hina reporter in the parliament's press room recently.

During the incident, which was provoked by the dissatisfaction of the opposition Bridge party with a news item that Hina published last Friday on the motions sponsored by the Opposition which were not supported by the ruling majority,  Bridge parliamentarian Nikola Grmoja was first to enter the press room and criticized Hina's journalists, finding fault with their work and how they covered the activities of his colleague, Marija Selak Raspudić.

After that, MP Selak Raspudić entered the press room and accused in an inappropriate manner Hina and its reporter of having intentionally censored her and abused her.

The parliamentary deputy was also dissatisfied that Hina did not make it clear in its reports every time she was first to open discussions in the parliament.

"Having in mind the fact that Hina reporters covering the activities in the national parliament and in other state institutions are not there to quote in the entirety all that is said by any of politicians and office-holders and that their duty is primarily to inform the public of what they find the most important, I consider that the behavior of parliamentary deputy Selak Raspudić amounts to the violation of the right to free reporting by journalists," says Vojvodić.

She calls on the HND as the professional association, and the parliament as the institution where the incident took place, to condemn the behavior of MP Selak Raspudić in this case and any similar potential behavior of politicians towards Hina reporters and reporters of other media outlets.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Constitutional Court Says Bridge's Referendum Questions Unconstitutional

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - The Constitutional Court ruled on Monday that the questions in the two referendum petitions launched by the opposition Bridge party - to abolish mandatory COVID passes and transfer the powers of the national COVID response team to Parliament - were not in line with the Constitution.

The decision on the first question was passed by three votes against and the decision on the second question by one vote against.

The court found that the first question was not in line with the rule of law because it does not meet the requirement of "reasonable purposefulness and effectiveness of the referendum."

The second petition called for the adoption of an act to amend the Protection against Infectious Diseases Act to ensure that any measures restricting rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution are adopted by Parliament rather than by the national COVID-19 response team.

The petition proposed that decisions by the national COVID-19 response team should be submitted by the government to Parliament for confirmation within 30 days of their adoption.

The court found that the amendment proposing the transfer of decisions that are inherent to the government to the legislature encroaches upon the structural features of the Croatian constitutional state and infringes the constitutional division of powers and responsibilities of the Croatian Parliament as a legislative authority and the national COVID-19 response team as an executive authority, "and is hence contrary to the Constitution and the rule of law as one of the highest values."   

The court said that, in view of the necessity of urgent action, Parliament could not be expected to adopt measures requiring a rapid response by a two-thirds majority.

At the same session, the court unanimously abolished Article 11 of the regulation governing procedures that precede the conclusion of legal transactions concerning the allocation of state-owned immovable properties for use by state administration bodies or other beneficiaries of the state budget and other persons.

The court launched the procedure to test the constitutionality of the section of the Courts Act concerning background checks of judges and temporarily suspended all actions being undertaken based on the legal provisions contested.

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Monday, 20 December 2021

Parliament Speaker Against Accusations of Referendum Signature Theft

ZAGREB, 20 Dec 2021 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Monday commented on claims about stolen referendums, saying that it is not good to create an atmosphere in which someone is accused of theft in advance.

"I wouldn't like the creation of an atmosphere in an attempt to impose the picture that someone has stolen signatures," he said on Croatian Radio.

"The organizers should show how many signatures they collected. It's important that this time the public is included in the process as well as possible in order to eliminate any doubts as to whether there are enough signatures or not," he said about the opposition Bridge party's collection of signatures for a referendum against COVID certificates.

Jandroković said that if Bridge had collected enough signatures as it claimed, he expected them to ask him to receive them so that they could hand him the request to call the referendum as well as the signatures.

Jandroković said he would send the request to the parliamentary committee on the constitution, which would debate it and then ask the government to check if enough signatures had been collected and then notify parliament.

If there are enough signatures, the committee adopts a conclusion either to call the referendum or to ask the Constitutional Court to say if the referendum question is in line with the constitution.

Jandroković said the important thing now was for Bridge to say how many signatures they have. "Creating an atmosphere in which they wish to say in advance, 'Yes, we have enough signatures but someone will steal them,' is not good. I'd call on everyone to be reasonable and for everything to be done as envisaged by the constitution and the law in a tolerant atmosphere."

Asked if parliament could meet Bridge's demand to include pandemics in Article 17 of the constitution, he said that it could but that it was too early to talk about it.

Asked to comment on President Zoran Milanović's claim that the authorities would probably try to rob Bridge of some signatures, Jandroković said it did not deserve a serious comment and that there was no evidence to back such a claim.

He would not comment on the president's statements about Bosnia and Herzegovina but did say that it was everyone's task to help the Croats in BiH.

Jandroković also said he expected the Constitutional Court to approve the COVID certificate mandate in healthcare and social welfare.

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