Friday, 25 June 2021

Maritime Welfare in Croatia: Drvenik Case and What Law Says

June 25, 2021 - The issue of maritime welfare in Croatia was raised once again after a heated discussion on a beach in Drvenik Veli. Here are the details of the case and legal guidance to the maritime welfare in Croatia.

With the 2021 tourist season already being 58% better than 2020, tourists once again visit Croatia as one of the top holiday destinations.

However, like any year, the season can't go without at least some sort of incident.

Lovely beach, disgusting words

Yesterday, Croatia was shocked and enraged with the incident that happened on a beach on Drvenik Veli island (not so far from Trogir). Croatian journalist Tonka Alujević and her friend went to a beach where two Czech tourists started complaining that it's a private beach, perks of paying for a villa, and that Alujević needs to leave. Alujević refused to leave, stating that beaches are maritime welfare and cannot be privatized, refusing to move. After, as Alujević claims Czech tourists hit her head with a phone, they called the villa owner. 24 Sata daily newspaper published a video Alujević's friend recorded.

„Ma'ams, Ma'ams, how did you get here? On foot?“, asked the owner on a phone that was on speaker and held by the Czech tourists.

„I'm a journalist. Do you know Croatian laws? Do you want to end up in media?“ replied Alujević with a chill face while smoking a cigarette on a sunny day at the beach.

„Come on, put me in the media, come on put me! But first, go to the land register and see that my beach is private," screamed the owner in Croatian, with a lot of derogatory phrases (if only Czech tourists had a translator to understand the rich swear word heritage of Croatian language, right?)

The whole thing ended up with inspection stepping on the scene. Despite the video footage being clear, the owner, identified by Index.hr as Tomislav Meštrović, owner of Centovi Dvori Villa, tried to justify himself, saying everyone is welcomed at the beach, and he attacked the women because they passed through his doorway.

„No, I have no idea what video, who what... who knows what that is... I called the police for trespassing through my land“, said Meštrović to Index.hr when asked about the footage.

24_sata_drvenik_video.jpg

the conversation at the beach, screenshot/ 24sata

Law and order

Following this story, Index.hr's columnist Goran Vojković analyzed the law to clear up the issue of maritime welfare.

„The Maritime Welfare and Sea Ports Law states 'at least six meters from a line horizontally distant from the line middle waters'. But it can be wider, for example, if part of the land that in its nature or use serves to exploit the sea. It can also be narrowed- for instance, if support walls or a public road are close to the sea“, Vojković listed general rules but adding that maritime welfare border is specifically determined.

„So, the coast is free to use where the beach is, in general, six meters. You can come and use it for your needs, such as bathing, tanning, or walking. The land behind can be private, but the coast cannot“, concluded Vojković.

On the other hand, there are ways to limit the use of maritime welfare.

„There are some parts of the coast where you cannot enter. You can enter the marina and walk around it, but only until 10 pm. You cannot enter at all in a shipyard port. Those are the parts of maritime welfare for which the state assigned a concession to someone. The concession can limit or terminate public use“, explained Vojković.

Additionally, the law states that it is possible to have a beach in its concession and limit public entrance. But it needs to be registered, and the prices are so expensive that there are very few beaches like this in Croatia (Drvenik one not included in that small list).

„If someone claims that has a concession and that he/she can exclusively use some part of the coast, he needs to have a proof you can easily check in the register. I repeat, there are very small examples; even beaches in front of five-star hotels are public good“, Vojković pointed out.

And such beaches are filled with deck chairs, food stands, etc. But as Vojković pointed out, on a public beach, you have the right to bring your own deck chair, your own food, and drinks, and you can't be forced to consume content on the beach.

„In short, enjoy the Adriatic coast- with some very small exceptions of exclusive concessions, the entire coastline (including island coast) is free for your use and joy. Nobody can hold a grudge or complain if you came to a bath where they think it's 'their' beach. If someone is uncomfortable, don't debate, call authorities“, advises Vojković.

topgirl_at_the_beach.jpg

Pixabay

And the beach is open for public happily ever after

As Jutarnji List reported, the Drvenik case has a conclusion to an intriguing plot. Unhappy with Meštrović's behavior, Dalmatian locals went vigilantly and started writing bad reviews on Google, seeing the villa losing its value and tourists.

„Even though neither the building, nor its surroundings changed since the video was released, the unkindness of the owner was enough to move once-prestigious villa to the lowest grading Croatian places on Google“, says Jutarnji.

A couple of more lessons can be learned for a successful and enjoyable season from this tale.

For owners: present your offer fair in accordance with the law as transparency is the best way for your offer to beat the competition.
For tourists: if you were promised a private beach, but you see locals coming, don't be rude to them and don't attack them. The only one you can really be mad at is your host, who perhaps lied about what they can truly provide.

Learn more about beaches in Croatia on our TC page.

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

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Tomislav Tomašević: Decision on Zagreb Holding Appointments According to Law

ZAGREB, 16 June, 2021 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday that the decision on new management and supervisory boards in the Zagreb Holding utility company was legally valid and in accordance with the law on local and regional government and the Companies' Act.

The Conflict of Interest Commission has launched a case against Tomašević, the commission's president Nataša Novaković said on Tuesday, who underscored that the case was opened due to a possible breach of Article 15 of the Conflict of Interest Act, after staff were appointed in Zagreb Holding contrary to normal practice. 

Tomašević noted that the decision has already been registered in the Commercial Court register.

"With reference to launching the procedure before the Conflict of Interest Commission for an alleged breach of procedure, we assessed that the situation in Zagreb Holding warranted immediate action and so we decided to adopt decisions according to valid laws and the usual practice. We need to underline an additional circumstance, that until the representative body is constituted, it cannot propose new members to management and supervisory boards," Tomašević said in a press release.

The mayor's office recalled the Conflict of Interest Commission's opinion in 2013 in which it notes that "in cases where collision between the provisions of Article 15, Par. 2 of the Conflict of Interest Act and the provisions of Article 48 of the Local and Regional Self-Government Act occur, the provisions of the law that enter into force later are applied - lex posterior derogat legi priori - hence the provisions of Article 48 of the Local and Regional Self-Government Act."

Based on that article, mayors and county prefects appoint and relieve representatives of local government in local companies in which the local government holds a stake or ownership shares.

After the signing of a coalition agreement between Tomašević's We Can! party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), SDP leader Peđa Grbin said that the Conflict of Interest Commission had reacted to an article in the law that until yesterday it had called to be erased, considering that the 2012 law on local government regulated the issue of appointing members to management and supervisory boards in companies owned by local government in a different way.

"With due respect to the Commission and to the excellent work it does in numerous spheres, this isn't its duty but that of the legislator," said Grbin, who called on the government to send amendments to the laws to parliament as soon as possible.

"I expect the government to forward amendments to the law on local government or to the law on the conflict of interest as soon as possible so that this issue is absolutely clear and unambiguous and to define how management and supervisory boards in companies in local government are to be appointed," added Grbin.

He urged that the amendment be brought urgently as this same situation could occur in other cities around the country and that a broad consensus should be reached on this matter.

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

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković Says There Will Be Third Public Call For Supreme Court Head

ZAGREB, 13 May, 2021 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Thursday that the third public call for applications by aspirants for the position of Supreme Court President would be published and that there was enough time left to select the Supreme Court head.

As for today's press release of the government in which it warns that President Zoran Milanović's favourite for the chief justice, Zlata Đurđević, was not in favour of the model that exists in most EU countries, where judges are appointed by the executive authorities, but rather juxtaposes the election of judges by an independent body with the model in which judges are elected in the parliament, Jandroković said that the government had offered a well-argued discussion.

The government's press release indicates that the programme of Milanović's candidate shows that she is in favour of reinstatating political influence in the process of the election of judges, said Jandroković.

Asked by the press whether he had read Đurđević's programme, Jandroković said that he had read the segments important for politics, and that "it is more that evident that she is in favour of the political election of judges."

Jandroković recalled that it was not correct to claim that the problems in the judiciary had started in the 1990s, adding that the problem had deeper roots dating back to the period of the former Yugoslavia and the Communist system.

It is not easy to elevate the judiciary to a level at which it is absolutely unbiased and all judges behave professionally, however, efforts have been made for years in this regard, he added.

Jandroković said that when it came to President Milanović and his invective, he had endured them calmly for months.

All that time I have endured defamation, Jandroković said, adding that the tit for tat response ensued after "the bully" (Milanović) kept insulting him.

On Wednesday, Jandroković called Milanović  "a clown with an inferiority complex." 

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

 

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Croatian Government: Zlata Đurđević Not in Favour of Model For Election of Judges As Exists in Most of EU

ZAGREB, 13 May, 2021 - The Croatian government said on Thursday that the candidate for the Supreme Court president Zlata Đurđević is not in favour of the model for the election of judges as exists in most EU countries.

Quoting parts of Đurđević's programme, the government says that Đurđević is not in favour of the model that exists in most EU countries, where judges are appointed by the executive authorities, but rather juxtaposes the election of judges by an independent body with the model in which judges are elected in the parliament.

The government stresses that unlike the model currently in force in Croatia, which was part of obligations assumed with the country's EU membership, that model is the least represented and exists in only two member-states - Slovenia and Latvia.

To elect judges in the parliament would be "a major step backward, notably with regard to judicial autonomy and the perception of judicial autonomy," says the government.

It recalls that until the amendment of the Constitution in 2010, the Sabor elected only members of the State Judicial Council, while the concept under which all judges would be elected by the parliament never existed in Croatia's legal order.

"To have all judges elected by political parties, regardless of which party is in power, would pose a major risk in terms of the politicisation of the system and would not guarantee the election of the best and most qualified candidates," the government says after analysing parts of Đurđević's programme entitled "Judiciary as a branch of government without democratic legitimacy."

The government adds that the system of that kind would constitute a departure from the existing standards "which have shortcomings and leave room for improvement but which are still a far better solution than the appointment of judges by politicians."

Also, the introduction of such a system would be harmful for Croatia's reputation, bearing in mind the content and importance of the mechanism of rule of law oversight in the EU as well as the National Recovery and Resilience Programme, the government says.

It also notes that Đurđević did not always consider the current modal as bad or questioned the autonomy of the Croatian judiciary.

Quoting her opinion published in a law journal in 2018, the government recalls that Đurđević, while criticising court autonomy in Hungary and Poland, said that "one should not doubt the existence of an appropriate normative and institutional framework for the autonomy of Croatian courts."

That normative and institutional framework has not changed since 2018, says the government.

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

Friday, 16 April 2021

Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview: Serbs, Roma People, and LGBTQ Hate Speech Targets

April 16, 2021-  The Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview report by Human rights house Zagreb shows hate speech and poor living conditions of Serb returnees and Roma people still being problematic. The judicial system and the lack of a legal frame for civil society development remain problematic too.

In a battle against the Coronavirus, many agree and fear that human rights were put in second place, triggering the debate of security vs. liberty and justification of limiting movement, work, etc.

But human rights and their respect in Croatia was an issue, long before Covid-19. As Jutarnji List warns, the situation is not good. 

Croatia doesn't have a defined politics of making a supportive environment for the civic society development. Citizen participation in decision making is still relatively weak and the judicial system is a special problem," says Jutarnji List referring to the new report by Human Rights House in Zagreb titled „Human Rights in Croatia: 2020 Overview“.

Regarding the judicial issue, a specific example can be found in the ever-controversial  "Za Dom Spremni!"(For the Homeland Ready) salute which is recognised as a fascist salute and punishable by law but it's tolerated as part of the song „Čavoglave“ by Marko Perković Thompson and can frequently be heard during his concerts both by the singer and the audience.

„Circumstance that the salute is part of the song doesn't change the fact that it's an ustasha (Croatian fascist) salute that symbolizes criminal Naci-fascist ideology and is the violation of article 39 of Croatian constitution that prohibits any call or encouragement on national, racial or religious hatred or any form of intolerance“, continues Jutarnji List.

Still present in public space, hate speech in Croatia is also very alive on the Internet, with the Serb LGBTQ community and Roma people being the prime targets. As Jutarnji reports, last year's research show this as well as the lack of appropriate response. 

„Children and adolescences do not learn enough about human rights, equality, and solidarity, given that civil education is conducted as one of six intercourse themes in elementary and high-schools. Such approach to civil education does not secure enough time in the curriculum for quality development of civil competence of pupils“, concluded for Jutarnji List Human Rights House in Zagreb.

Educational segregation for Roma people, isolated Serb returnees migrant treatment controversies, C+ grade for LGBTQ travelers

The article also adds that Roma people in Croatia are still facing many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the education system too.

Furthermore, many Serb returnees live in undeveloped rural areas, which are isolated and offer poor living conditions. Additionally, they still struggle to achieve their asset rights, and their possession is still tangible to devastation.

lgbtq.jpg

Pixabay

When it comes to LGBTQ rights, as TCN previously reported, Croatia „has an index of 188 points and a grade C+ from most safe to highest dangerous places (A to F), placing it among the first third of the best countries in the world in terms of LGBTQ+ safety“. There are controversies regarding the migrants' treatment on which we recently reported on too.

Learn more about Croatia's global rankings and many more fun facts about the country on our TC page.

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

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Proceedings Against Businessman Miroslav Kutle in Diona Case Discontinued

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - The Zagreb County Court on Wednesday discontinued proceedings in a case against runaway businessman Miroslav Kutle in which he was charged with having siphoned HRK 120 million from his former company Diona.

The court's indictment division determined that the prosecution had failed to prove war profiteering on Kutle's part, and since the statute of limitations had expired on the main incriminating activity, white-collar crime, the court rejected the indictment.

The court believes that charges of war profiteering cannot be proven by merely maintaining that abuse in business operations with which Kutle was charged is war profiteering because it happened to occur at the time of the 1991-95 Homeland War.

Kutle was charged with having siphoned money from Diona from 1994 to 1998 through fictitious loan agreements and that he used the money thus obtained for loans to 23 companies he owned.

The Zagreb County Court earlier rejected several indictments against the runaway businessman for the same reason.

In 2010, he was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for wrongdoing in the ownership transformation of the Gradski Podrum company and the Zagreb County Court last July discontinued proceedings in that case due to the expiry of the statute of limitations.

In July 2000 the Zagreb prosecutor's office issued an indictment against Kutle and other suspects charging them with siphoning money from the Tisak newspaper distributor in 1996 and 1997. After that, the indictment was changed five times. Initially 12 persons were indicted and eventually the number of indictees was reduced to seven. Kutle and his co-defendants were indicted with causing financial damage in the amount of HRK 47 million, but eventually the damage was estimated at HRK 30 million.

The prosecution last amended the indictment in late April 2016, when it tried to circumvent the imminent expiry of the state of limitations with allegations of war profiteering.

However, its manoeuvre, just as in other cases against Kutle, was unsuccessful because the statute of limitations on charges of abuse had expired while allegations of war profiteering were rejected last summer, with the court ruling that they had not been substantiated, after which Kutle and his co-defendants were acquitted.

The prosecution appealed, but their appeal was rejected and the acquittal in the Tisak case became final.

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

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Minister Ivan Malenica Expects State Attorney to Investigate Football Mogul Zdravko Mamić's Judge Bribe Claims

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica said on Wednesday that he expects the State Attorney to urgently investigate claims made by football mogul Zdravko Mamić who has accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Đuro Sessa and Osijek County Court judges of corruption.

"I trust that the competent bodies will urgently check Mr Mamić's claims and the content of the (USB) stick which I am not familiar with at the moment, and that they will quickly determine whether the accusations, which I consider grave and serious, are founded," said Malenica, adding that Mamić said that he had given a USB stick with the material to the competent bodies.

Malenica told reporters that that case was now with the State Attorney, who had received the material and would now check it to determine if the claims were authentic after which certain procedures would be launched accordingly.

Asked whether it would be appropriate for the county court judges and chief justice whom Mamić mentioned to be temporarily suspended until the investigation was completed, considering the gravity of the accusations, Malenica said that that was up to the State Judicial Council.

"The accusations are grave, but if we were to react to all the accusations against individual judges and suspend them, I don't know where we would be," said Malenica.

Asked whether the reaction was sufficiently prompt considering the fact that Mamić sent the USB stick last October, Malenica said that he was not familiar with the content of the documents and what sort of reaction they required from the competent bodies that need to determine their authenticity based on defined procedures before any conclusion can be released. He said that the question was for the State Attorney's Office to say how fast it should have, could have or would have to react.

"I cannot say if there is anything contentious, however, I do expect the State Attorney to react as soon as possible if there are any grounds based on those claims to launch certain proceedings, and that will certainly reflect on the status of those judges," said Malenica.

He believes that Supreme Court Chief Justice Đuro Sessa and the other judges Mamić mentioned, need to react to Mamić's claims. "I expect Sessa, as does the entire public, to react to the allegations but I think this isn't the first time Mamić has mentioned Sessa," said Malenica.

Malenica added that he can't say whether this will affect Sessa's chances of being re-elected as Supreme Court Chief Justice but he believes that accusations against him are grave and serious.

After the Supreme Court upheld a first instance ruling sentencing Mamić to six and a half years in prison, during a press conference in Mostar yesterday, Mamić accused Sessa and Osijek County Court Judges Zvonko Vekić and Darko Krušlin of corruption while calling the chief justice of that court, Judge Zvonko Vrban, a criminal.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that Sessa had no intention of reacting to the "absurd and untrue claims," whereas the USKOK anti-corruption office said that "Zdravko Mamić had sent his statement on a (USB) stick to the State Attorney on 8 October last year and as soon as the stick was received, USKOK began investigating its content and the investigation is still ongoing."

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

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Electronic Media Act Will be Liberalised, Says Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek said on Wednesday the Electronic Media Act would be liberalised and that one of the options was allowing the vertical concentration of the media in Croatia.

"We will liberalise that law in the part concerning the regulation of concentration. However, in that case we are considering certain other instruments which generate or ensure media pluralism. I mean the 'must offer' or 'must carry' concepts, but an agreement is yet to be reached on this," she told the press.

The news and programming director of the N1 commercial TV, Tihomir Ladišić, yesterday accused the government of leading to a market monopoly of the two telecoms, A1 and HT, by failing to amend the Electronic Media Act.

His comment came after news that A1 decided to remove N1 from its offer and that it was certain that HT would follow suit.

Asked if the government would allow vertical media concentration, enabling a media publisher to also be a media content operator, which is banned under the current Electronic Media Act, the minister said that was one of the options, adding that the law explicitly banned an operator from also being a media content publisher.

Other media pluralism mechanisms will be introduced

"We are one of the last EU states to have that explicit ban. If we go towards lifting the ban, then some other mechanisms ensuring media pluralism will be introduced," she said.

These mechanisms will enable a company that is both publisher and operator to offer the channel for which it obtained a concession to itself as an operator and to someone else under the same terms.

The minister said such vertical concentration was "what the public can rightfully be afraid of."

She reiterated that A1's decision to remove United Media Group's channels, including N1, from its offer, was strictly a business matter between the two companies, not a matter of legislative regulation.

The minister has a number of times dismissed the argument that the Electronic Media Act did not allow N1 to broadcast on its own platform, saying the law regulates only publishers which have a concession and are established in Croatia.

"N1 is a pay channel which is not established in Croatia and does not have a concession," the minister said.

She would not say what it meant for media democracy in Croatia that N1 was being phased out because two operators decided to remove it from their offers.

"Two days ago I said I believe it's in the public interest that all channels which interest the Croatian public should be available on all operators and I stand by that."

Following news that A1 was cancelling its contract with N1, MPs today called for regulating the telecommunications and media market and resolving contentious issues as soon and as precisely as possible with a new electronic media law.

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

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Everything Except Respecting Law is Politicising"

ZAGREB, 9 March, 2021 - Everything except respecting the law is politicising, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday, commenting on the election procedure for the Supreme Court president, on which he disagrees with President Zoran Milanović, who is recommending a candidate who did not apply for the job.

"There are no (legal) tricks. There is respecting the Constitution and the law that is in force. Everything else is politicising without any reason, a wish to make an issue out of the election of the Supreme Court president which seems incredible," Plenković told the press in Ivanić-Grad.

There is a prescribed procedure and the State Judicial Council (DSV) invited applications, of which everyone in the judiciary knew, he added.

"The law was passed after the SDP (Social Democrats) strongly criticised the existing procedure. When the law was being passed, they commended (the procedure), and now, all of a sudden, they are singing a different tune."

As for the DSV's claim that it does not have the instruments to again call for applications because the law does not specify that, the prime minister said this situation should not have happened and that the regulations that were in force should be honoured.

Unlike the president, who said parliament would debate his recommendation of Zlata Đurđević for Supreme Court president, Plenković said that under parliament's rules of procedure, that could not be put on the agenda.

Asked if he would meet with the president if he invited him, Plenković said, "I don't feel like communicating about that via the media."

"The man said he would call, he hasn't, so he is sending some message via our (ruling coalition) partner, Prefect Čačić. It's all bizarre really."

Speaking of Đurđević, the head of the Zagreb Faculty of Law criminal law department, Plenković said it was not about whether someone respected her because everyone knew the circle of people who could head the Supreme Court. He added that she had been Croatia's backup candidate for the European Court of Human Rights.

He said there was no constitutional crisis as the deadline for electing the new Supreme Court president was July, and wondered what prevented Đurđević from applying for the position earlier.

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

Friday, 5 March 2021

Parliament Passes Amendments Granting Digital Nomads Right to Health Care

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - The Croatian parliament on Friday passed amendments under which digital nomads, that is, third-country nationals who use digital technology for work and have been granted temporary residence in the Republic of Croatia, have the right to health care.

The amendments to the Act on Mandatory Health Insurance and Health Care for Foreigners in the Republic of Croatia enable digital nomads to exercise the right to health care.

This applies to third-country nationals who are employed or doing work using communication technology for a company or their own company which is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and do not carry out work for or provide services to employers in Croatia, and who have been granted temporary residence in our country.

They will not be obliged to apply for compulsory health insurance, but then they will bear the costs of using health care in health insitutions, private practices or other health care providers.

Amendments to the Islands Act, which transpose the government's decree on subsidising water for human consumption per islander, have been sent to second parliamentary reading.

In addition, several agricultural laws, on food control, veterinary medicine, breeding of domestic animals, have been sent to second reading.

The parliament has also adopted several reports for 2019 -- on state budget execution, on the implementation of official development assistance to foreign countries, and on the effects of the implementation of the Islands Act.

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