Monday, 28 June 2021

Milanović: HDZ in Conflict of Interest Regarding Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 28 June 2021 - President Zoran Milanović repeated on Monday that he considered the ruling HDZ party to be in a conflict of interest regarding the election of the Supreme Court president because proceedings against the party for "the crime of plundering the state" were underway at the Supreme Court.

"They (HDZ) care very much about who is at the helm of the Supreme Court. That person can always have a certain amount of influence, that's why it is a problem, and the HDZ is in a conflict of interest," Milanović said.

Addressing reporters after a commemoration for Croatian defenders in Osijek, Milanović said that there were not many candidates for the Supreme Court president who would not tolerate intimidation like his candidate Zlata Đurđević.

Public call unconstitutional, harmful, unintelligent

As for the public call for the post of the Supreme Court president, which is advertised by the State Judicial Council (DSV), Milanović said that "it is an unconstitutional category, very harmful and unintelligent" because it had transpired that it had to be repeated.

"That makes it impossible for me to, in a way, reach prior agreement on the candidate with the main stakeholders - the president of the biggest party, the HDZ, and some other people in the parliament. If we have a public call, all that is left for me to do is to pick a person who has applied to the public call," said Milanović.

Otherwise, the entire concept of public call is a mockery, he said, adding that with a public call there were no prior agreements.

"Politics requires a degree of intelligence that is higher than room temperature," he said, adding that this referred to all those involved in the amendment and adoption of laws that were contrary to the Constitution.

He repeated that the Courts Act was amended to restrict the powers of the president of the republic, not his but his predecessor Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's, in which process damage was caused.

"We now have something some call a constitutional crisis, and I call it a crisis of legitimacy. The person who will now stand in (as Supreme Court president) does not have any legitimacy. That is some judge on whom agreement has been reached in line with the annual work schedule," he said.

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Saturday, 26 June 2021

Božinović Talks HDZ, Tourist Season, Assistance to Czechia

ZAGREB, 26 June 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Glina on Saturday that the HDZ, notably under Andrej Plenković's leadership, was winning despite all criticisms, not just from President Zoran Milanović, because citizens saw that the HDZ solved problems.

Responding to questions from the press, Božinović denied that there would be a constitutional crisis after parliament yesterday rejected Milanović's candidate for the Supreme Court president, Zlata Đurđević, saying that a third call for applications would probably be advertised.

Asked to comment on Milanović's claim following the rejection of Đurđević that the HDZ "is destroying" the state and the constitution, Božinović said the HDZ was winning despite all criticisms and enjoying the strongest public support because most citizens saw that the HDZ-led government was solving problems in very complex circumstances.

Success of tourist season depends on our responsibility

Speaking of the tourist season, Božinović said its success depended on people's responsibility in complying with COVID-19 measures.

Asked if night clubs would be closed this summer, he said those outdoors would be able to operate if customers were either vaccinated, tested or had recovered from the virus.

Solidarity with Czech Republic

Asked if the government had discussed helping the Czech Republic after a recent tornado, Božinović said the Interior Ministry and the Civil Protection Directorate immediately offered assistance to their Czech colleagues, "who informed us that at the moment assistance is not needed."

He said they were constantly in touch. "If anyone understands our friends in the Czech Republic, it's us in Croatia, and we know what the response was in the Czech Republic and the EU as a whole to what happened to us in Banovina and Zagreb," he said, referring to last year's devastating earthquakes.

Solidarity and the spirit of a common response to crises is becoming stronger in EU, he said, adding that recently emphasis was on bilateral cooperation, which he said would be cultivated in future as well.

"But for the system at European level to be as effective as possible, given that climate change will cause more and more such situations across the world and Europe, capacities must be joined for a rapid, effective and solidary response to such challenges and threats," Božinović said.

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

Friday, 25 June 2021

Parliament Votes Against Zlata Đurđević For Supreme Court President

June 25th, 2021 -  MPs on Friday rejected President Zoran Milanović's recommendation that Zlata Đurđević is appointed Supreme Court president by 81 votes against, 37 for, and five abstentions.

Before the vote, Marijan Pavliček (Sovereignists) reiterated that Đurđević was unacceptable because she was "ideologically colored, an exponent of liberal-left politics and a toy in President Zoran Milanović's hands."

"There is no ideology about her. On the contrary, she is a professional who bothers all those who don't want change," said Krešo Beljak (People's Party).

Peđa Grbin (Social Democrats) said there were two groups, one that felt that everything in Croatia's judiciary was all right and wanted to change things.

Dražen Bošnjaković (ruling HDZ) said Đurđević did not apply for the post, that she broke the law and that it was therefore unacceptable to appoint her to the Supreme Court.

Stephen Bartulica (Homeland Movement) said Đurđević was "not the best candidate."

Milorad Pupovac (Independent Democratic Serb Party) said it was a pity the procedure had been contaminated from the start and that it was not only a matter of a good candidate but the election atmosphere.

Urša Raukar Gamulin (Green-Left Coalition) said one should elect based on objective and professional criteria and that short-term political interests should be eliminated from such elections.

Marija Selak Raspudić (bridge) called everything a farce in which parliament was reduced to a worthless institution that should participate in a show whose outcome was predetermined.

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

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Zlata Đurđević: Corporatism Main Problem of Croatian Judiciary

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - Zlata Đurđević, a candidate for the Supreme Court president, said on Tuesday that corporatism, denoting a closed professional group with privileges without any external oversight, was the main problem of the Croatian judiciary.

"It is important to achieve a balance between judicial autonomy and judicial responsibility for the sake of avoiding corporatism. That is not talked about in Croatia, and when someone speaks up about it, it is considered a taboo and an insult even though both GRECO and the Venice Commission have pointed to the problem of corporatism," Đurđević said at a panel discussion entitled "Judiciary and public: Ensuring responsible and transparent administration of justice".

Đurđević believes that the main cause of judicial corporatism is the fact that two-thirds of the State Judicial Council (DSV) members are judges, and that in appointing judges, external excellence criteria are disregarded while what is taken into account are the test and the job interview but not one's performance as an undergraduate, which is why other institutions have no influence on whether a judge is sufficiently competent.

State responsible for judges' work

"There is no public discussion about the candidates, voting is secret but the DSV president knows how DSV members have voted," she said, stressing that judges are government employees and the state is responsible for their work, materially and before international courts, since the government represents the state before the European Court of Human Rights.

Principle of publicity one of most important

The head of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) Council for State Administration, Judiciary and Rule of Law, Jakša Barbić, stressed that the principle of publicity was one of the most important guarantees that judges and courts acted in line with their social role and functions.

"Trials must be public. It is not enough to administer justice, it is also important that everyone is aware and knows that it is administered, which is why all rulings should be made public and easily searchable," he said.

He noted that the actual state of court efficiency was determined, among other things, based on the number of accepted court rulings and that one should not base their opinion about the judiciary on cases that cause public disapproval.

Speakers at the panel and participants in the subsequent discussion were agreed that there is a tendency on the part of the judiciary to close itself off from the public and treat negatively any public criticism of the judiciary. It was also stressed that judicial officials brand criticism as populism, dismissing even well-intentioned warnings about rulings that are legally and socially deeply unacceptable.

This results, it was said, in antagonism between the judiciary and the public and a very low level of public trust in and respect for the judiciary.

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

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Zlata Đurđević: If I Am Not Elected by Sabor, I Will Not Apply After New Public Call

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović's candidate for the Supreme Court president, Zlata Đurđević, said on Tuesday that she would not apply again for the post if she was not elected by the parliament because she did not feel the need to further participate in political processes.

"If the parliament does not elect me, I will not apply after a new public call by the State Judicial Council. I have put myself at the head of state and parliament's disposal with my competence, integrity and responsibility. If they do not support it, I will not apply for the position again. I have my vocation and job that I find entirely fulfilling and I have no need to further participate in political processes," Đurđević told reporters after a session of the parliamentary Judiciary Committee, which she attended as an external member.

"The Committee has made a very good decision and I think that all candidates should be interviewed because the Committee must decide on all candidates transparently and give its opinion," she said in a comment on the Judiciary Committee's decision to invite and interview all five candidates for the Supreme Court president so it could discuss their programmes.

"I expect the parliament to make a decision in line with the Constitution and laws," she said when asked to comment on the fact that she did not enjoy the support of the ruling HDZ party, stressing that she was not in a political battle and did not intend to comment on whether she stood a political chance of being elected.

"I was proposed to the post by the President of the Republic, I applied following a public call and I did not violate any law. I did not apply after the first public call just like many other qualified candidates did not. The prime minister, too, meets the conditions to be the president of the Supreme Court and he did not apply. He has his own reasons and I had my own. I did not believe that the head of state would nominate me. Also, at that time I was in the process of selection for a judge at the European Court of Human Rights and, simply put, I do not apply for more than one position at a time," she said when asked about disputes regarding her candidacy.

"When the President of the Republic offered me (the nomination), I accepted it, and that happened after he said that he would not back any of the candidates who applied for the position at the time, which means that at that moment the first public call ended because he (President) is the authorised proposer. After that, I told him that I was willing to apply after a second public call was published, and I did so," Đurđević said, dismissing once again the possibility that she had acted unlawfully and noting that the possibility of repeating the public call was created only following a subsequent decision to that effect by the Constitutional Court.

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

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Judiciary Committee to Interview All Candidates For Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - Croatia's Supreme Court on Tuesday pointed to examples of arbitrary criticism made by some politicians and individuals against the judiciary "which leads to the general inclination to express tendentious extreme views".

This may be a consequence of a lack of experience and knowledge that is acquired through work in courts or the absence of a complete understanding of the work of judges, as well as of the wish of protagonists in the public life to gain popularity in their political community, counting on the fact that the professional status of judges requires from them to refrain from conflicts that happen in the public sphere, the Supreme Court says in its statement.

Expedient and rigid opinions on functioning of judiciary

"The media space is occupied by individuals with minimum or no experience who express expedient and rigid opinions on the functionality of the judicial authorities and the ethical deficit allegedly prevailing among judicial officials," the Supreme Court warns.

The Court says that such arbitrary attitudes, which are not based on serious and comprehensive analyses, could be heard from the President of the Republic (Zoran Milanović), some parliamentary deputies and some members of the academic community and lawyers.

Encouraging and promoting general intolerance towards judges, by branding them as "an isolated hedonistic community which exists per se and does not answer to anyone" is unacceptable, says the Supreme Court.

The work of judges is exposed to public scrutiny and is also liable to disciplinary and criminal proceedings as established by the law, the Court says.

It also dismisses claims made by law professor Zlata Đurđević, an applicant  for the position of the new Supreme Court president, about the judicial authorities having become "an autonomous and isolated professional organisation" that elects and dismisses judges on its own, according to criteria it defines on its own.

The Supreme Court says that ideas about the need to reduce the acquired independence and autonomy of the judicial authorities are contrary to the Croatian Constitution and the EU acquis.

CCEJ: Politicians should not use simplistic or demagogic arguments

The Croatian Supreme Court recalls that the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCEJ), a body of the Council of Europe, has stated in its opinion on safeguarding the independence of the judiciary that "politicians should not use simplistic or demagogic arguments to make criticisms of the judiciary during political campaigns just for the sake of argument or in order to divert attention from their own shortcomings."

"Neither should individual judges be personally attacked. Politicians must never encourage disobedience to judicial decisions let alone violence against judges, as this has occurred in some member states," the CCEJ said in its press release in 2019, as quoted by the Croatian Supreme Court in its statement issued after its meeting on 18 May.

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

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Supreme Court Judges Do Not Support Any of Candidates For Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 18 May, 2021 - The Supreme Court, meeting in a general session on Tuesday, did not give a positive opinion on any of the five candidates who applied for the position of Supreme Court President following a new call issued by the State Judicial Council.

Zlata Đurđević, the candidate enjoying the support of President of the Republic Zoran Milanović, received one vote from all the judges attending the general session, while the other candidates received none, according to a statement issued by the Supreme Court.

The session was attended by 33 of the total of 35 judges from all departments of the Supreme Court. They discussed the candidates' programmes and CVs and then took a vote by secret ballot.

Earlier, it was announced that Parliament will discuss the President's nominee for Supreme Court chief  after the local elections. The law requires that a general session of the Supreme Court and the parliamentary Justice Committee also need to give their non-binding opinions on the President's proposal.

The State Judicial Council (DSV) issued a new public call for applications on 31 March after President Milanović told the DSV that he would not propose any of the candidates who had applied in the previous call. The new call was closed on 6 May.

Insisting that the nomination of candidates was his constitutional right, Milanović proposed Đurđević as his candidate for the post of Supreme Court President in March already, but Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković refused to include the proposal on Parliament's agenda saying that it was unlawful.

The Constitutional Court then ruled that the President of the Republic can only nominate a candidate who has responded to the DSV's public call, saying that this does not restrict the President's right to nominate and Parliament's right to choose a Supreme Court President.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković later said that, although she is a criminal law professor, Đurđević had agreed to be part of an unlawful procedure and therefore she was unfit to lead the highest judicial body in the country.

Right-wing opposition groups in Parliament have also announced that they will not support Đurđević.

The term of the incumbent Supreme Court President, Đuro Sessa, expires in July. If Parliament fails to appoint a new head of the highest court by then, the position will be temporarily held by the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Marin Mrčela.

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

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

President Zoran Milanović Says HDZ Should Exempt Itself From Vote on Zlata Đurđević

ZAGREB, 11 May, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović has said that his candidate for Supreme Court President Zlata Đurđević's programme is not the reason to reject her candidacy and that the HDZ should exempt itself from voting on her appointment as the party is in a conflict of interest, having been convicted of corruption.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Milanović said that nobody had read Đurđević's programme and that it was more serious than anything Plenković had ever written but that that was not crucial for her appointment.

Plenković will come up with another reason (to reject her) tomorrow, he said.

Plenković said on Monday that Đurđević would not be backed by the ruling majority also due to her "populist political programme."

The premier said that the programme was designed to restore the system of election of judges as existed at the time when politicians appointed judges, recalling that she had failed to apply to the first public call for the position.

Milanović said today that he expected the Supreme Court President to be strict, have high criteria and, if necessary, launch disciplinary proceedings.

If a "completely inexperienced" politician like Plenković could have become "such a brilliant prime minister", then Ms Đurđević can do a job that is still less complicated than that of a prime minister, said Milanović.

The HDZ should exempt itself from the vote on the Supreme Court President because the party has a case pending before the Supreme Court, he noted.

To the extent the Supreme Court President will have minimum influence on the case, the HDZ is in a conflict of interest, he added.

Milanović also said that Plenković had started entertaining plans to have him replaced.

Plenković said yesterday that he received a report from Albania, where "Milanović's friend (PM Edi) Rama" was initiating a no-confidence vote in President Ilir Meta for interfering in elections and inciting to hate speech and violence.

"He is talking about the Albanian no-confidence vote instead of phoning Rama and congratulating him, like most European leaders. By the way, the Albanian president was elected by the parliament, and I was elected by Croatian voters," Milanović said, adding: "He should take care that that does not happen to him."

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