Saturday, 23 October 2021

New Supreme Court President Says Wants Stronger Rule of Law, Fair System

ZAGREB, 23 Oct 2021 - The newly appointed Supreme Court President Radovan Dobronić has said in an interview with Hina that he wants to advance the justice system "in such a way to create a feeling among citizens and business people that the rule of law is stronger and the system is functioning fairly."

"At the same time, I also want to improve working conditions for judges and other staff in the judiciary," Dobronić said in the interview a few days after he was sworn in as president of the highest court.

His appointment put an end to a months-long disagreement over candidates for that post between the president as the constitutional proposer and the prime minister, who holds the majority in the parliament.

Known to the public as the Commercial Court judge who ruled in favor of holders of loans denominated in the Swiss franc, Dobronić was appointed after receiving support from a broad spectrum of political parties at a time when the judiciary is often mentioned as the weakest link in the Croatian society.

Rulings should be justified, reasonable and fair 

"The image of the judiciary will improve when courts create a well-founded feeling with their rulings that they try evenly and treat all parties equally and when rulings are not only formally legal but also justified, reasonable and fair," Dobronić said, adding that so far that had not been the case to a sufficient degree.

The Supreme Court president, who also chairs the State Election Commission, believes that he will cooperate well with all judges, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, and other stakeholders in the judiciary.

"The system could be described as a coalition of allies and I will act accordingly," said Dobronić, whose program was not supported by the Supreme Court General Convention,  made up of all Supreme Court judges, while the parliament supported it with 120 votes in favor and 3 against.

Judges with job norm - judicial clerks

"Judges are primarily motivated by their responsibility and not by meeting the job norm because a judge with a job norm is not a judge but some sort of judicial clerk. It seems that this is not entirely understood, that is, there is a fear that without a job norm, judges would not be doing anything," said Dobronić, for whom it transpired during the nomination period that the State Judicial Council had launched disciplinary proceedings against him for not meeting the job norm in 2019.

Depicting judges as poor workers is unacceptable and the truth in most cases is quite the opposite, he said, adding that in the short time that he had held the office he had noticed "a very small number of cases in which judges have concluded main hearings but have not made and forwarded rulings within the legally prescribed deadline."

"Such situations should definitely be avoided. Not only is there no reason for the parties not to be sent the judgment, but such conduct is contrary to the principle of immediacy," he said.

"I will insist that such situations do not recur... they create an impression of irresponsibility, which is not good," he said.

In the current atmosphere of dissatisfaction with the judiciary, he noted, it is being forgotten that a part of judges and court clerks, too, are dissatisfied with the situation in the system.

Computerization or new bureaucracy

Dobronić believes that the quantity and quality of judges' work are affected adversely by three facts - poor spatial conditions, the degree and form of IT support, and the job norm.

He noted that in terms of the physical condition of courts, Croatia has started lagging behind not only old EU members but new, Eastern European ones as well.

It is justified to insist on the computerization of the system to increase its efficiency and transparency, but if the system, instead of working better and faster, becomes slower as more users connect to it, computerization will not facilitate work but rather cause more red tape, he said.

In that context, he called for significantly and promptly improving and simplifying the system, also to make certain types of decisions immediately publicly available.

As for the job norm, Dobronić said that it was not right to deal with the problem of backlogs by continually increasing the norm, "which is unacceptable and contrary to the standard European practice."

He said that he expected support from the executive authority in removing those systemic problems, noting that the state, as the owner of numerous companies, local government units, institutes, and agencies, as well as public municipal companies do not need to engage in numerous litigation cases.

"I expect the executive authorities in that regard to make action plans for next year to withdraw at least 10% of lawsuits... and I expect court presidents to focus more on work organization in a way that will be in line with the type of cases their judges work on," he said.

In that context, he said that he would see to it that the assignment of cases was reduced to the minimum.

Dobronić supported a better model of hiring legal secretaries and pointed to the problem of court reporters and other judicial employees leaving courts because of demanding work and low salaries.

Asked about judicial appointments in line with political criteria, Dobronić said that he could not answer that question because it refers to something he has no experience with.

"It is possible that it has happened, but I do not think the model of appointment itself is so much the problem... the main problem in the way judges are appointed is that... the main criterion is evaluating their work is the number of resolved cases, that is, expediency and other statistical data. That type of evaluation does not exist in most EU countries and it has resulted in the system being fully bureaucratized, with judges thinking more about meeting the job norm than about the quality of their rulings," he said.

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Thursday, 30 September 2021

New Law On Croatian Science Foundation

ZAGREB, 30 Sept 2021 - The government on Thursday sent a bill on the Croatian Science Foundation into the parliamentary procedure, proposing that the Foundation, which currently has the status of a non-profit organization, acquire the status of a state budget user.

The Foundation was established in 2001, and the new bill was sent to the parliament since the existing legislation is outdated and does not regulate the system for funding science in a way that would be in line with all demands of the current Croatian and European research area.

"The new bill is a key point for the implementation of reforms planned in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO), with the aim of raising Croatia's research and innovation activities and potential," Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said.

In order to boost the efficiency and functionality of investments in science projects and enable the implementation of programs planned within the NPOO, he said, it was proposed that the exact names of programs be deleted.

"In this regard, and in order to make the programs easier to adapt to the framework of financing research, development and innovation, it has been proposed that the types of programs be determined by the Foundation's general acts," the minister explained.

The new bill also regulates issues that are not currently regulated, for example, that the Ministry of Science and Education be in charge of the founder's rights and obligations, as well as the supervision over the legality of the Foundation's work and actions.

In order to improve the quality and transparency of financing science projects and programs, it has been proposed that a new expert body of the Foundation is established, a complaints commission and that the possibility of objection is defined, which has not been possible until now. Also, the principles of the work of the Foundation have been clearly defined, and the definition of the Foundation's users has been changed.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Some Croatian Towns Banning Drying Laundry on Balconies?

As Portal Oko writes on the 1st of August, 2019, Šolta, Rijeka, Kolan on Pag, Mljet, Kaštela, multiple Croatian cities and municipalities both on the mainland and on the islands, have introduced provisions to ban drying laundry and other clothing outside on balconies, writes Index.hr

The bans have been introduced in order to properly line up with a communal law which was first introduced last year, and they aren't just laws ''on paper'' and free to be interpreted in any way possible, as many in Croatia are. According to a new communal order published in the Official Gazette of the island of Šolta in July this year, those who fail to comply with this decision could be fined 2,000 kuna.

"It's prohibited to hang laundry, linen, rugs, clothes and other objects that obstruct the appearance of the building from windows and doors, balconies, fences and other parts of the building facing the public," reads Article 12 of the Decree on communal order recently published in the Official Gazette of Šolta.

The same provisions have also been enforced by Rijeka, Kaštela, Mljet, and in Kolan on Pag.

A similar provision was issued by the City of Rijeka earlier on, more specifically back in March this year, and the punishment for those who don't respect is also 2000 kuna. In Kaštela, in June this year, they also decided on the same measure, and the punishment is also 2000 kuna. In Mljet, this decision was taken back in April, and the fine imposed on those who dry their clothes and other items on windows and balconies where the appearance of the building is obstructed also stands at 2000 kuna. The powers that be on Kolan on the popular island of Pag also made a similar decision late last year.

Croatian tourism, which largely rests on the timeless laurels of Mediterranean narrative and tradition, will now remain stuck for an authentic image in certain cities, as one of the more recognisable symbols of the Mediterranean way of life will be made illegal, and citizens who choose to continue to cultivate these old and utterly harmless practices will unfortunately be penalised.

One might ask whether or not the powers that be in Croatia have nothing better to do than issue fines for people who want to dry their laundry using the sun. Are there no more pressing issues in this deeply problematic, messy little country other than what the exterior of a building looks like when you hang last night's jeans on it? Clearly not.

Osijek, far from the glitz and the glam of the Croatian coast, is one of several continental Croatian cities to have imposed such nit-picky penalties as well.

Article 11 of the new law states that the parts of a building facing areas of public use cannot have laundry (and other objects that impede the exterior of the building) hung or displayed from them. The penalty for committing this truly heinous crime (yes, that's sarcasm) in Osijek is 200 kuna.

Article 16 is where things get even more ridiculous. The owners or ''users'' of gardens are obliged to continuously remove ambrosia and other harmful plants, and the fine for violating this law stands at 5000 kuna.

The keeping of animals is prohibited on the territory of Osijek within the boundaries of construction land, unless specifically permitted. Exceptionally, along with the zoo, animals are allowed to be held in an organised manner in facilities used for health, rehabilitation and entertainment purposes.

Article 42 states that if a public area is occupied, the space left for pedestrian passage must not be less than two metres wide. In any case, it is forbidden (according to Article 44) to occupy a public area without the approval of the appropriate governing body, and the fine for doing so without proper approval is 5000 kuna.

It is forbidden to stick and place posters on trees, on the facades of buildings, on fences, in substations and in places that are not intended for this purpose. The fine for doing so is 2500 kuna. On the other hand, in the land of paradoxes, it is forbidden to destroy neatly placed posters, advertisements and signs.

On a somewhat more sane wavelength, alcohol consumption in public will see you hit with a 200 kuna fine.

The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all public areas (except in the case of public terraces or during approved, organised public gatherings) and the prescribed fine for drinking in public is 200 kuna.

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